Thursday, March 26, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - angels and dei ex machina running amok

*** Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead *** 
Though... not nearly as major and spoiling as the frakk..., no, screw this, FUCKING series finale.

This show is a perfect example of what happens when the writer-to-be is actually more of a salesman. The guy (one Ronald D. Moore) managed to make SciFi channel bite the bait and I have no doubt the treat lacked all the bullshit that started to pile in towards Season 2. However, a good sales pitch is not enough and sooner or later the channel execs want to see something for their money. The free lunch has been eaten and a script must be delivered - now. Hilarity ensues, as the guy has no idea what he's doing and can't write for shit, so he starts writing piecemeal and desperately trying to weave in something that will keep the audience hooked and tangling unimportant plot sublines to a ridiculous degree. Ultimately that results in blatant contradictions that can lead to a brain hemorrhage. Some of these are mercifully left unresolved (probably in the hope that no one will notice) or maybe just forgotten. However, the horrors lie in those addressed, because the bullshitometer scales get forced to tip. 

Examples? Be my guests. I don't have to go far to fetch an unresolved one - already in the second episode we have Boomer obeying her Cylon programming and sabotaging the water supply. So no, they are machines and they have no free will. Now compare to the last episodes - we are repeated ad nausea that they make their own choices and therefore are blah-blah masters of their own destiny. The conclusion? They may have or may not have free will, but that depends on the stage and severity of the writer's creative diarrhea. What about Kara 'Starfuck' Thrace unexplained resurrection? And no, I don't take the angel bullshit, because she in turn was seeing ghosts, angels or whatever (her piano-playing father), wasn't she supposed to recognize one of her own kind? Still, I will keep in mind that if an angel turns suddenly into (of all things) a pigeon, I can get rid of it by ousting it with a broomstick, that's good to know. What the fuck was all the music about and how did it end up on Hera's drawings (not even mentioning the bold assumption she managed by some coincidence to make them in scale with the note paper)? 

However bad the unresolved ones are, the resolved are much worse because of the means chosen. Yup, I'm talking about the Earth that was named Earth after Earth because Earth was devastated by a nuclear war so they had to settle on Earth instead. Half of the frayed plot ends were brushed under the carpet with divine intervention. Cancer coming or going, prophecies, temples, relics, cult followings - whatever we can't explain or find a plausible excuse for, gets attributed to a higher power. The whole mystic shit was a horrible hodge-podge of Roman, Greek and Jewish myths, and as it turns out, these civilizations have yet to appear, but hey, who will notice anyway? We are expected to be too busy sobbing during the series finale (which by the way instead of tying the loose ends has more sappy endings than the fucking 'Lord of the Rings'), not asking questions.

Under all the layers of pseudo-mystic shit and action sequences, 'Brainfart Galactica' is essentially a soap opera. It's been one ever since the only source of inspiration (the original script) was exhausted. The introduced resurrection of the cylons provided the writer with the Latest and Greatest in the soap opera techniques, leaving far behind outdated methods (still used in Latin America's TV series) as twin siblings or clones. It's like watching a giant breeding experiment that tries to cover all combinations between male, female, human and cylon. So most of the screentime is taken by cylons resurrecting and trying another match. Of course, the recurring faces of the regular models don't allow for too much recycling, so Ronald D. Moore gets a brilliant idea - why not hold several of the Cylons up his sleeve and use them as trump cards whenever his talentless writing sticks him into a dead end? It's a cheap trick, but it works - it dragged him through four seasons, the respective pay checks and landed him new deals. 

There's something terribly wrong with both an audience, that has its standards set so low as to admire this puddle of goo, and the TV executives, who give it a green light, while shows like 'Deadwood' or 'Firefly' get shelved in spite of being superior in every possible aspect. However, in the future I personally intend to avoid like fire anything written by this Moore person.
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Twilight. Stunning.

You know the paperbacks with cover illustrations showing a muscular man with a chiseled jaw and longish hair who holds a curvy woman and stares in her eyes as if wondering whether to fuck her or strangle her, with gold lettering and only minor variations in characters' names and hair and eyes color? Yep, that's what 'Twilight' is - an over hyped corny romance novel, that served as a basis for a just as over hyped and corny movie. Be warned: possessing a Y-chromosome and/or adult common sense is a counter-indication and overdosing on pink may lead to severe nausea and irreparable brain damage. The whole story is nothing more than the wet dream of a virgin girl who is already feeling the urge to go out and mate with the biggest baddest male out there, but wishes for him to be also nice, gentle, tender and caring. Of course, in real life women quickly learn that the bad boys get too much female attention and tend to fuck everything that has a heartbeat, so they are anything but tender and caring, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming and the author from going unimaginable lengths in order to make the Chosen One acceptable. I'm still having both good laughs and hard time trying to wrap my brain around the ridiculous concept of a family of vegetarian (sic) vampires who gladly accept guests for dinner. I mean, for having a dinner together. Hey, what about the Masquerade? Anyway, we get vampires that don't drink blood, don't die in the sun, reflect in mirrors and go to the local high school. Really. 

And voila - we get our shy 'girl-next-door' cutie and her seemingly impossible (therefore Romantic) True Love™ story, chockfull of contradictions. I almost feel bad for thinking it, but doesn't the guy's bad circulation (or lack thereof) mean that his hands are not going to be the only cold part of him? Reproduction between different species can pose certain challenges as well, says the Cynic. And I'm leaving out unimportant details as my suspicions whether baseballs are designed for supersonic flight or what would they do to a baseball bat. 

We get a large helping of dialogue that is cheesy to the point of being instant mind killer. It took me a lot to recover from the 'What a stupid lamb. - What a sick, masochistic lion' exchange, for example, but my ribs still echo with pain. And I think there should be a ban on voice-overs in anything that is not explicitly Noir. Especially when it's high school grade poetry (hello, Mr. Malick!) or pseudo-philosophic remarks (the observant 'Death is easy. Life is harder' statement was the reason for the first ever sub-orbital vomit launch).

I guess the director (Catherine Hardwicke) was painfully aware of the quality of the screenplay she had to work with, so she tried to alleviate the pain with some beautiful scenery. The leads visually are a welcome break from the regular Barbi and Ken pairs, so typical for the romances, but their acting was uninspired and bleak. As was the movie as a whole. If you want an unorthodox take on vampires, go and rent 'The Wisdom of Crocodiles' and don't waste your time on this... thing.

Oh, I almost forgot - there was a hint the local Indian tribe were really werewolves. Do you still have doubts Stephenie Meyer suffers from graphomania and her books are actually symptoms? 
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Sleep inducing and boring.

There were two main reasons I stayed awake through this movie. The first was the realization that this is 100% CynicalReview material and that the creators of this piece of boredom must not get away with it. The second were the huge stripes of duct tape I had to apply to stick my eyelids to the forehead in order to keep them open. It was that bad. And I wouldn't compare it to a Uwe Boll movie because that would be doing Uwe Boll injustice.

I doubt anyone sane would say either of the first two movies in the franchise were some kind of masterpiece, but they were entertaining and spectacular. The third installment however is neither. It is the first attempt of Patrick Tatopoulos at full feature film and it's, in a nutshell, crap - which is a shame, he's got a long and impressive resume, mostly in the areas of creatures design, special effects and make-up, so one would expect from him to know his trade. Contrary to what would make sense, the Underworld prequel is notoriously bad in his areas of experience - lighting, make up, special effects, design. 

Let's start with the lighting. The previous parts had this crisp blue and white moonlight-like look that made their eery imagery so impressive. Obviously, an attempt has been made to achieve the same look here, but it's so overdone here that everything seems as if shot through a thick piece of bluish glass. However, that doesn't hide the cheap props - the whole castle has this unmistakingly styrofoamish appearance with no attention to detail whatsoever. Make-up? Yeah, there was a lot of it, the poor Bill Nighy looked like someone with severe eye infection with the purple smears under his eyes. Special effects? Yup. Scarcely used (probably for financial reasons) and bad CGI. Creatures design? There was a bunch of fellows strolling around in what seemed to me as leftover gorilla costumes from the 70s King Kong with werewolf heads attached.

Still, it takes more than a low budget to make a bad movie. There are plenty of independent and under funded good movies out there. But bad as it may be in Mr. Tatopoulos areas of expertise, the third 'Underworld' a complete disaster in those of his obvious inexpertise. There is a major plot problem with all the movies in the series - they all deal with the confrontation of two fantasy races, vampires and werewolves, both feeding on humans. The main difference lies in their preferences to chew top-down, starting with the neck, or bottom-up, starting accordingly with the ass. Well, I can only speak for myself here, but which one would you think I'd root for? Exactly, I don't give a fuck for either. So the previous movies had to rely on intense and clever action sequences and interesting (well, in comparison to this one) plot to keep the audience interested. The 'Rise of the Lycans' offers neither. The story is so predictable and boring I twisted my jaw yawning - moonlight-sensitive unkempt Romeo and goth-chick Juliet plus a rebellion against an oppressive tyranny. The inconsistencies with the mythos are huge and abundant (vampires using candles is just one example). But the few and short action scenes are where this movie leaves the plane of boredom and really hits bottom. Throughout the whole movie it was apparent that no one on the crew had been initiated in the long lost art of storyboarding - there are no transitions between the frames, angles change randomly, but in the fights this turns into a chaos. That is probably intended to hide the complete lack of choreography and further aggravated during editing. 

No one on the cast seemed to take their job seriously and I can't blame them with a script like that. I admire them for not laughing at their own lines, which vary from pompous to hands down cheesy - I know I would. Bill Nighy, an incredibly good actor, was reduced to sitting on a throne and goggling his contact lenses out. Oh, and he got most of the cheesy lines. Michael Sheen in turn delivered most of the comedy (unintentionally so, I'm afraid) with some ridiculous speeches in the veins of "This is Spartaaaa!". Rhona Mitra was in only as a stand-in for Kate Beckinsale minus the latter's black leather-clad butt and offering nothing to compensate (why the fuck else get a boob job?).

In theory the soundtrack should be pretty impressive with contributions from 'Puscifer', 'The Cure', 'Deftones' and many more, often remixed by Danny Lohner and Wes Borland. In reality the songs in the movie are cut and toned down beyond recognition, so no, nothing good in this movie. Get the soundtrack separately and use the movie as a sleeping pill.
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