Postmortem: The Core (2003)

Jon Amiel’s The Core wasn’t a success at the time, which is a pity because it’s pretty engaging. It plays very much in Irwin Allen wheelhouse, except on a greater scale.

What’s also important is that Amiel brings a humanity to his characters typically missing from such movies, so despite a pretty ample amount of CGI–it gets heavy about a third of the way through–it’s not at the cost of the performances.

And what a cast!  Actors like Delroy Lindo, Hillary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci and Tchéky Karyo elevate material that would under most circumstances come off a bit schlocky.

Due to unforeseen circumstances (another way of saying that due to the United States military meddling with things they shouldn’t causes the problem in the first place) the molten metal that surrounds the Earth’s core has stopped rotating, which according to the logic of the movie–which may or may not be true, I have no idea–is creating all sorts of freak weather occurrences, such as lightning storms beyond anything seen before, and issues for animals that rely upon the planet’s electromagnetic field for navigation, like birds, whales and dolphins.


I forgot to mention that the electromagnetic field that protects the planet from lethal solar radiation is also powered by the rotation of the molten mantle, so if it stops, the protective envelope will eventually dissipate as well.

So the Military finances the creation of a submersible named the Virgil that, instead of water, is designed to penetrate the Earth’s crust.

The mission ends up greater than any member of the craft, and I understand that; though the movie is particularly quick to sacrifice certain crew members when the script requires it–though Lindo isn’t the first to do so, which is something, I guess.

As I implied, there’s a logic, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating though overall The Core is a pretty fascinating movie.

 

Postmortem: Avalanche Sharks (2013)

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If I were to tell you that Keith Shaw’s Avalanche Sharks–despite the poster proclaiming ‘Snow Sharks’–wasn’t a very good movie, you’d probably say something to the effect of ‘Duh, it’s about sharks that ‘swim’ though snow, devouring skiers.  What about that scenario screams Academy Award to you?’

And I get that, though the movie doesn’t do itself any favors by skipping over what should have been the most interesting part, which is the curse itself.

The sharks aren’t real animals–which is fairly obvious–but a manifestation of a Native American spell cast hundreds of years ago against the people who were trying to take their lands.

The movie ignores this aspect of the story–it’s mentioned as a legend occasionally, but nothing in-depth.  It’s almost as if the producers of the movie forgot that film is a visual medium, and what you can’t see might as well never have happened.

And speaking of ‘visual,’ visualize this:  An old shaman, hidden away in a cave and defended by his tribe’s greatest warriors, crafts a spell that would summon these ghost animals to defend his people, who are under attack by soldiers.  He’s seemingly betrayed by someone he trusts, and their position is overwhelmed, costing the shaman his life, as well as that of his guardians.

Though the traitor is allowed to live, though he too is betrayed and he receives nothing and lives with the memory of his crime, till the day he dies.

The spell to summon the Avalanche Sharks is never completed, and the members of the tribe that aren’t killed outright are scattered all over the country in the event known as The Trail of Tears.

Back in the current day, distant relatives of the Shaman’s tribe are compelled to return to the mountain.  With so many of his blood relations on the lands which used to be theirs, the Shaman grows powerful enough to reach out to any individuals of the same bloodline with a Bloodsong, which compels that person to do the Shaman’s bidding

This being, his name forgotten, is known simply as the Shaman and being unable to let go of his pain, and seeks to inflict it upon others.

He compels this individual to complete the ceremony he began thousands of years prior, summoning the spirit animals known as Avalanche Sharks from the Great Beyond, who then go about slaughtering anyone that isn’t linked to the tribe by blood.

That’s a lot more complex that anything that happens in the movie, and could have potentially turned Avalanche Sharks into a horror classic as opposed to a campy trifle.

 

Postmortem – Kristy (2014)

Screenshot 2016-02-24 22.01.43Olly Blackburn’s Kristy is one of the better home invasion thrillers, except in this instance the ‘home’ in question is an entire college campus, empty but for a skeleton staff and Justine (Haley Bennett), who’s planning on staying on campus over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Unfortunately for Justine and everyone else, a cult of religious zealots have targeted Justine in the belief that by killing as many Kristy’s as they can–the name apparently means ‘follower of Christ,’–that somehow they’re killing God (as far as motivations go it’s a bit nutty, but then again taking up serial killing pretty much implies that you’re a few cans short of a six-pack anyway).

You also probably noticed that ‘Justine’ isn’t the same name as ‘Kristy,’ though that’s actually a brilliant detail on writer Anthony Jaswinski’s part in that they’re targeting women not because of their name more than them fitting a certain archetype that works with the cultist’s delusion.

That her name isn’t Kristy is irrelevant (to the victim), which is a pretty smart touch.

Though not everything about the movie is so clever, especially when it shows the tendency of the filmmakers to create unrealistic situations that exist only to bring about a certain outcome, as opposed to feeling organic.

In the scene in question, Justine/Kristy is on the run from the killers–they have already dispatched the two security guards on campus–and she manages to reach the house of the groundskeeper.

Now here’s when things go (mildly) awry.  The groundskeeper not only has a huge rotweiler, but also a shotgun, while the killers just have an assortment of bladed weapons (axes, knives, etc).

It’s worth mentioning that there are at least four of them, but by my math a huge dog and a shotgun more than even up the odds.

And speaking of the dog, this thing probably weighs somewhere in the ballpark of 50-60 pounds; the point being, that’s a lot of pissed-off animal to dispatch with just a knife.

And I’m calling bs on that.  I am not saying that they weren’t capable of killing it, what I am saying is that there’s little chance that at least one of the four wouldn’t have been mauled before it happened.

Then there’s the matter of dispatching the groundskeeper.  When his dog runs outside, he sees something, and fires.  Someone then grabs the barrel of the shotgun from the side, and pulls him with it.

The next time we see the groundskeeper, he’s being hung from a children’s swing.  Now, why there was even a children’s swing there in the first place–they’re not too common on college campuses–but that he was disarmed seemingly with such ease in the first place is also a tad unbelievable.

Though those are relatively minor quibble, ones which most people will probably not let get in the way of their enjoyment of a clever home invasion thriller.

Postmortem: The Fury

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I am mystified why Brian DePalma’s The Fury (based on the novel by John Farris) hasn’t been remade because not only would the movie benefit from a more timely interpretation (in these days of government programs we often don’t completely understand, but fear a reboot could potentially find a very receptive audience) and a more modern esthetic.

Which isn’t to imply that it’s a bad movie, only that it appears, especially visually, dated.

What I imagine is a welcome thing is that–unlike in many reboots–younger actors would actually fit the story.  In fact, based on the dialogue, I get the feeling that Andrew Stevens (Robin Sandza) and Amy Irving (Gillian Belllaver) were older than the characters in Farris’ novel and screenplay).

The movie revolves around the agents of an undisclosed government agency–in the vein of the CIA or NSA–that seeks out telepaths to use as weapons.

Loyalty apparently isn’t particularly strong among this group because Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) is betrayed by his best friend, Ben Childress (played by Ben Cassavettes)–which is oddly close to ‘childless,’ apropos considering what he does in the movie when he learns that his best friend’s son, Robin, has telekinetic abilities.

What’s particularly interesting about the movie is that in the third act Childress blows up in all its gory glory–three years before David Cronenberg’s groundbreaking Scanners (coincidentally I assume)–which is very similar from a story point of view.

Besides the direction by Brian DePalma, the score’s by John Williams, and if all you’ve heard of his work is from Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Fury is worth watching to hear some of his earlier work, which is tonally different from what most are accustomed to hearing from him.

I found it at times reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein’s work composing the music for Saturn 3, though perhaps not as experimental.

Postmortem: Catwoman (2004)

If you’re expecting me to say something to the effect that Pitof’s 2004 super hero movie Catwoman is some sort of lost classic then you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree…because it’s not.

And while the buck usually stops with the director, I don’t think that that’s entirely fair in this case, mainly because the writing is so bad that not even Orson Welles could have saved it. Theresa Rebeck, Michael Brancato and Michael Ferris (the latter two are quite prolific writers for movies and television, though it’s telling that they also wrote Surrogates, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and Terminator: Salvation.  And as not-so-good as those three movies are, they also wrote The Game, which is awesome).

That being said, the pseudo-mystical angle the writers took is sort of clever in that it doesn’t necessarily invalidate other versions of the character, though it’s a perfect illustration of what happens when you don’t have knowledgable people overseeing development of a property.

That’s exactly why, no matter how much flak Kevin Feige gets from various quarters, no matter what you think about Marvel Studios or superheroes in general, having a unified voice as far as your characters go is pretty useful.
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Postmortem: Pacific Rim (2013)

Screenshot 2016-01-01 14.04.32.pngWelcome to the first post of the New Year!  I figured that I’d go back in time to rewatch Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots versus monsters epic, Pacific Rim.

If you ask me the true test of whether or not a movie is a good one is that of time, namely if it can stand up well to repeated viewings.

And despite the fact that del Toro’s Pacific Rim underwhelmed domestically–the bulk of its $400 billion dollar box office was due to its popularity internationally–it’s damn enjoyable and stands up to revisiting very well.

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Postmortem: The Thing (2011)

With John Carpenter’s The Thing–based on Christian Nyby’s 1951 movie The Thing From Another World and the original John Campbell short novel, Who Goes There?–we got to see a director at the peak of his powers.  Carpenter was able to combine Rob Bottin’s extraordinary creature effects with a taut story of an otherworldly threat that had the ability to mimic whomever it killed.

So you can imagine that when Universal Pictures decided to do a sequel in 2011–without Carpenter’s input–that fans would probably not be too keen on it.

And that’s a bit of an understatement, with many–myself included–hating the movie on general principal.

Having recently re-watched Matthijs van Heijningen’s prequel, it’s actually pretty good.  And while I wished that it had more in the way of practical effects–though as far as I can tell the CGI is based on designs from Alec Gillis and Bob Woodruff (who are credited) and while it’s not as innovative as the practical special effects of Rob Bottin, They’re okay.

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