PROFESSOR RÖAR'S MOVIE REVIEWS
Alien vs Predator: Requiem
Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Screenplay: Shane Salerno
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Kristen Hager
Twentieth Century Fox & Davis Entertainment
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is the 8th installment in the
long-running 20th Century Fox Alien / Predator franchise... and it is about time
to lay it to rest. Both series alone were top notch action/sci fi fare, but when
someone at the Fox decided to throw both together, things began to go downhill
(actually, the idea was born out of a comic book series of varying quality).
This time a Predator spaceship carrying Aliens crashes on Earth and the
acid-blooded fiends, among them a dread-locked Alien/Predator hybrid,
immediately begin to kill off the population of a small Colorado town. A
Predator in pursuit of the Aliens is soon at hand to fix the mess and
exterminate the Giger breed … and humanity is caught in the middle.
The idea of having Aliens run loose in a small town sounds appealing and might
have been a pretty nice idea, but the final product is not at all satisfying.
Screenwriter Shane Salerno relies on movie stock characters such as the teenage
loser pizza delivery boy in love with the school beauty whose boyfriend likes to
beat up teenage losers, the courageous ex-con with a heart of gold who looks
after everyone including his teenage loser brother, the unwitting small town
sheriff who might not even grasp what is going on when Alien facehuggers point
him in the direction of the nearest Predator spaceship, the heroic Ellen
Ripley-type war veteran mommy who knows better how to handle big guns than
everyone else, including the half-wit sheriff, some sewer-dwelling homeless people
destined to become Alien food, and so on and so on… none of them are given any
background story since their only purpose is to share the destiny of the
sewer-dwelling hobos and to end up in bloody pieces. And the audience could
not care less because these people’s stories are so utterly uninvolving (or
non-existent) and everything they say is either stupid or pointless or both.
least there is a lot of slicing and dicing going on here. Unfortunately most of
the killings are not particularly inventive or spectacular, mostly due to the fact
that everything happens in complete darkness making it mostly impossible to
out what or who is getting killed. Whether this was done in order to conceal a
low budget or just a result of the inexperience of directors Colin and Greg Strause, whose previous job was doing digital effects for big budget Hollywood
movies, will remain obscured forever. Hopefully they will quickly return to
doing effects because this mess of a movie surely does not qualify them for any
more directing jobs (except maybe Sesame Street).
Prof. Röar awards Alien vs Predator: Requiem 2
out of 10 bloody chest bursts (three for ruining two of his favourite franchises minus one for
neither bringing back Lance Henriksen nor Arnold the Oak).
I Am Legend
Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman & Mark Protosevich
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga
Warner Bros. Pictures
|This is actually the
3rd adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend",
the better-known being 1971's Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston as a gun-wielding
In this version Will Smith is the scientist Robert Neville who seems to be the
only survivor of a global epidemic of a genetically engineered virus. By day he
and his dog Sam roam the streets of New York, trying to make the best of
fate. His daily routines include playing golf in the harbor on an aircraft
carrier ship, hunting deer in the deserted streets of the city, driving a sports
car at full speed or talking to display dummies at his local video store.
But at night Neville
barricades himself in his house to be safe from the other human survivors of the
plague: they have become zombies hungry for human flesh, who only can come out
of hiding under cover of night because their skin and eyes are extremely
sensitive to sunlight.
What keeps Neville going is the hope that one day he will find a cure for the
terrible plague and undo what science has done to mankind…
I Am Legend is an extremely effective movie. The scenes of deserted New York
streets in particular are eerie and totally frightening, despite (or even
because of) the fact that they are set by daylight. They depict a wasteland that
once was a megalopolis and has been re-claimed by nature: plants grow on buildings
and in the streets, herds of deer run abound, and the only sounds to be heard
are the distant noises of animals. Most of the time there is not even a music
score, just complete silence and Will Smith talking to his dog.
The scenes taking place at night and in the dark are equally good: they are
full of tension and when the zombies finally appear they are just among the most
effective movie monsters, despite being 100% CGI creations. Unlike "traditional"
movie zombies, these undead move frighteningly fast, climb walls easily and seem
so much more dangerous than the creatures from George Romero's films. They pose
a real threat, unlike the caricatures in many other horror films. A particularly
tense scene involves Will Smith's character hanging upside down, while a pack of
undead dogs wait for the last sun beams to disappear.
Director Will Lawrence, whose previous credits include the superb Constantine
and - even scarier - music videos for Britney Spears and J.Lo, surely knows how
to create tension and horror.
This totally unusual blockbusters deserves to be seen, if only for Will Smith's
excellent acting. I Am Legend only loses some of its
effectiveness in the final chapter. But that can be forgiven, when the first two
thirds are so absolutely amazing and genuinely frightening.
Professor Röar hands
down 8 out of 10 cans of Spam for scaring him shitless…
Screenplay: John Logan, based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron
Dreamworks SKG/Warner Bros.
|Sweeney Todd is Tim Burton's latest journey into the world of Gothic horror and
fantasy. Re-united with long-time collaborators Johnny Depp as the titular
barber and Helena Bohnham-Carter, Burton has applied his trade-mark quirky
film-making techniques to a Broadway musical about the famed London serial
killer Sweeny Todd.
Benjamin Barker, a London barber is married to beautiful Lucy , who has
attracted the interest of villainous Judge Turpin. He has Barker deported and
imprisoned under false accusations, in order to take claim on his wife. On a
party Turpin rapes Lucy and she supposedly commits suicide, while Turpin takes
her daughter Joanna and she becomes his ward.
Who would not trust a barber with a winning smile like Sweeney Todd's
Many years later, Barker returns to London, according to him "a great black pit,
filled with people who are filled with shit". He now calls himself Sweeney Todd
and soon befriends Ms. Lovett, who bakes London's worst meat pies. Todd is
driven by the wish to take revenge on Turpin and to get back his daughter
Johanna. He sets up a barber shop in Ms. Lovett's house, where he kills off
members of London's high society, who then end up in Ms. Lovett's meat grinder
to be turned into mince meat for her pies.
that musicals are terribly unrealistic – 60% of Sweeny Todd's dialogue is sung –
Tim Burton was probably the best choice to direct this movie. Here he revels in
his trademark gothic style, a kind of Marilyn Manson land of Oz: everything
looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale or an Edgar Allen Poe story,
there is a constant atmosphere of darkness, even more so than in his version of
Sleepy Hollow. The streets of London, lined by black brickhouses with gargoyles
at the front door, are crowded with dirt-ridden people and all kinds of beasts –
horses, rats, cats and roaches. Burton's London is by no means a real place,
just as Sleepy Hollow and the town of Spectre in Big Fish are not real. And the
characters are equally removed from reality: Johnny Depp's Todd looks like a
demonic version of Edward Scissorhands, another character from Burton's gothic
parallel universe. But unlike Edward, who is careful not to hurt people with his
deadly digit-extensions, Sweeney Todd, a sort of Edward antithesis, takes
sadistic pleasure in cutting the throats of his upper class customers. There is
no comic relief here (besides some dark humored song lyrics), Todd's work is
terrible, he murders people because he hates mankind, and he hates them from the
bottom of his dark soul.
If you expect Sweeny Todd to be like your average kitsch-ridden musical film,
then be warned. Here you will not find cute sing-alongs, no catchy chorus to hum
and no dancing to merry melodies. This is a gore-drenched fantasy about deeply
demented characters, who all pay a bloody price for their unspeakably
despicable crimes. And the few positively-connotated characters – young lovers
Joanna and Anthony and orphan Toby - end up losing at least parts of their
sanity. And even worse – the final resolution of this infernal chain of errors
and misunderstandings is no relief either, when Burton
leaves us with a grotesquely distorted image of a loving family, united in blood
will surprise with its utterly bleak atmosphere and shock with its graphic
depiction of murder and mayhem. This bears more resemblance to the Texas
Chainsaw Massacre than to the Phantom of the Opera. But maybe this is the only
way how musicals can be done nowadays, by radically refusing to go along the
lines of traditional musicals, instead breaking with most of its conventions.
Röar slashes 8 out of 10 throats for making musicals accessible to people
who normally would never bother with anything only remotely resembling dancing,
singing people on a stage.
30 Days of Night
Screenplay: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson, based on the
graphic novel by
Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston
Producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert
|Based on a comic book
series by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night is
the latest cinematic entry into the vampire genre, which has regained
some popularity over the last 10 years, thanks to Blade and
Buffy. Every year the remote Alaskan town of Barrow experiences a
30-day period of night. On the last day of sunlight strange things start
to happen: someone burns all the towns mobile phones, the only
helicopter is sabotaged and all the sleigh dogs are brutally killed.
When the sun finally sets, it soon becomes obvious what is going on: A
band of vampires have chosen Barrow as their perfect holiday
destination. Not having to fear the threat of sunlight, they intend to
feed on the helpless population, who have no chance of getting any help
from the outside world.
Don't they know guns are no help when you confront a
century-old evil? But Josh Hartnett and Melissa George will
soon find out...
group of locals, including the sheriff (Josh Hartnett), his wife (Melissa
George) and his 15-year old brother (Mark Randall) manage to escape the terrible
slaughter and hole up in the attic of a deserted house. There they want to wait
out the month of darkness, but soon they have to face the vampires and engage in
a final fight for life and death against the creatures of the night.
vampire saga may well be one of the best flicks about bloodsuckers in a long
time, ranking alongside such genre-defining achievements like Kathryn Bigelow's
Near Dark, which mixed vampires with road movie and western.
The most distinguishing feature of 30 Days of Night is its premise that
the vampires can freely go on a rampage in this little town. They are fast
moving creatures, that drag people out through windows, climb roof tops, tear
out their victim's throats and move swiftly like animal predators. The vampires
speak in an ancient tongue, a mix of growls, shrieks and other eerie sounds
(thankfully subtitled) and look genuinely frightening with pointy piranha teeth,
distorted facial features and blood-smeared mouths. Where they come from we do
not know. And exactly this lack of a background story makes these monsters even
more frightening. They just appear out of the blue for one reason: to feast on
human blood. One particularly scary moment is a camera shot of the town from
high above, that shows
the vampires hunting and feeding on the town's people. It perfectly expresses
the nightmare that has befallen Barrow, when dozens of people are killed off,
leaving pools of blood in the white snow. Such stylish moments add a certain
quality to 30 Days of Night, just as Guilermo del Toro's masterful
direction made Blade II a much better film than it actually deserved to
|What makes this film
work so perfectly is the constant atmosphere of isolation, coldness and
unbearable tension, very much like that in John Carpenter's The Thing,
a claustrophobic horror classic that made similar use of its arctic
setting, and which, I have to admit, ranks among my all-time favorite
horror films. This atmosphere is underlined by Brian Reitzell's
effective music score, throwing in the occasional industrial noise and
electric guitar, but without the seemingly inevitable pop songs, that
every film studio nowadays tries to force into a soundtrack, with the
only purpose to work as an excuse for just another CD compilation with
mostly below-average songs from artists nobody needs, bearing the
tagline "inspired by the movie".
Someone should tell them to wipe their mouths after drinking...
of Night does not cater to the teenage clientele - its approach is serious,
brutal, uncompromising and (spoiler ahead!) happy-ending-free: there are no
funny one-liners, no cheap laughs, no teenage hero to identify with. Instead we
witness a group of desperate adults while the movie does not shy away from
chopping off heads of vampire-turned kids. Yet, 30 Days of Night never
uses its outbursts of gore and violence as a means of gratuitous entertainment,
these are short, sharp moments of shock that add to the film's constant
atmosphere of helplessness against an overwhelming, inexplicable threat.
Of course writer Steve Niles and director David Slade do not turn the vampire
genre upside down, which is in its premise very limited, much more than the
zombie or Frankenstein/mad scientist genre. But Niles and Slade manage to move
inside the genre's confines while adding enough variation and new ideas here and
there to insert the well-needed breath of fresh air into a genre that has
recently lost its scary edge, thanks to action-heavy fare like the Blade
franchise or soap opera trash like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let's just
hope 30 Days of Night does not spawn too many bad sequels, usually a sure
ticket to movie mediocrity.
Anyway, Professor Röar is pleased to donate 9 out of 10 gallons of fresh
human blood to 30 Days of Night.
© 2008 Andreas Rohrmoser