Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Righteous Kill (2008)

Director: Jon Avnet

You know how it is when you’ve been a cop in the NYPD for over thirty years: “Most people respect the badge. Everyone respects the gun.” You want to protect 99% of the population from the 1% of “degenerates”” who prey on the innocent and you watch paedophile priests, swarmy yuppie rapists and white trash child killers go free because of the “lawyers.” You see young club skanks snorting “primo” cocaine or “blow” which is what they call it in the streets, and they are doing that shit in public toilets in fancy big-time clubs and you have to “flip” cute female legal cokehead secretaries to “rat” out their supplier who looks a lot like 50 Cent. You arrive at a crime scene standing over the dead body of Rambo the Skateboarding Pimp (that's a street name for all you not from the street) and the first thing you think to say is “We gotta find out who did this!” like the wizened professional that you are. Anytime you see a brother officer in uniform at a crime scene, you always have to ask, “How about those Mets last night?” You also have to contend with your Brian-Dennehy-sized chief, the weasel IA officers (that’s Internal Affairs for all you people who are not from the street) and a hot Carla-Gugino-shaped forensic specialist who always wants to have sex with you (Sheesh, can’t an old cop near retirement get a moment’s rest around here?!). Then there’s someone out there playing vigilante, murdering all the criminals who got away with it and they are making a RIGHTEOUS KILL and it is also the name of this cop movie that I watched, which is also funnily enough a RIGHTEOUS KILL of your time as well as your faith in the acting abilities of co-leads Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Boy, it’s been over a decade since Michael Mann paired together the two finest Italian-American actors together for the epic cops and robbers film, Heat, with that classic diner scene discussion between the two of them, finally uniting in the one scene two thespians often mistaken for each other. Well, neither actor have been doing much decent work since then, so why not pair them together once again? So, we have De Niro and Pacino playing two old partners in fighting crime, introduced in a title sequence montage where they shoot off rounds at a firing range while a remixed generic rock guitar tune underscores that these Old Dogs still got it. Yes, in a surprising casting move, De Niro plays a gruff, irritable cop who is seen throwing a tantrum coaching little league and in an even more surprisingly acting choice, Pacino plays a gum-chewing wise-ass who is seen beating an egghead at a twin game of time-clock chess. Yeah, so there’s a vigilante bumping off bad guys who our heroes wanted to see put in bars and once again the line of dialogue is heard, “I don’t know whether to arrest these guys or give them a medal!” which we haven’t heard since Magnum Force or Death Wish or every other movie that put together cops and vigilantes. A calling card is left behind on the dead bodies, written poems found at the scene of the crime and circumstantial evidence points to the fact that a cop is most likely doing it, compounded by the video footage of De Niro offering a confession of his “crimes” to the camera. The younger dogs, John Leguizamo and Donnie Whalberg as another set of partners eventually come to think De Niro did it too. Oh boy, this movie is leading me down one path, I don’t suppose SPOILER ALERT AS IF YOU CARE that they might switch it up and offer a plot twist, particularly with such clues when the grizzled old police chief has both cops in his office and says ‘The killer might be right in front of you and you wouldn’t even know it’ and then we see a scene start with Pacino at a crime scene speculating ‘I’m the killer and I walk into the apartment...’ Hey, I’m no detective but I think someone else may have made those RIGHTEOUS KILLS... wink-wink, hoo-hah, and who cares? Cue a re-run of the climax to Heat but with the roles reversed and there you have it.

Now I love cop movies, even the most cliched cop movies, but by those standards, Righteous Kill is quite the boring cop movie, featuring standard issue stuff that wouldn’t look askew in an episode of CSI or Law & Order or any other cop show in the last ten years. What really sinks it is its sole attraction, which is De Niro and Pacino together again, both wearing faces that look like beat-up catcher’s mitts and neither displaying much of the fire that gave them the recognition of high calibre actors. Take me down to Mugging Central because that's what we're dealing with here. I can only imagine actors like Gugino or Leguizamo or 50 Cent signing up to this film so excited to work with Taxi Driver and Scarface and then being stuck acting opposite guys who look like they are sleeping with their eyes open, delivering weak and forced banter such as the extended discussion of Wonderdog as a metaphor for drug-taking that would put Jim Belushi sitcoms to shame. I would have preferred this film more if they had starred two professional lookalike impersonators of DeNiro and Pacino, strutting around alternating between standard lines like "What am I, alone in this world?" and "Hoo Haa!" ad nausem, or even if they stitched together outtakes from the countless other films where these two played leather-jacket wearing cops stalking the streets of New York; Sea of Love and 15 Minutes partnered together to solve the mystery of the plot from a thousand movies!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Steam Experiment (2009)

Director: Phillipe Martinez

The Steam Experiment is where a fat Val Kilmer plays a loopy college professor genius who has locked six people in a steam room because of global warming. Why? It’s an experiment, you see, to determine what will happen to humanity when the Mayan Calendar is proven in 2012 and the apocalypse will turn ordinary people into panicky idiots. It’s also a hostage situation with Kilmer imploring a local newspaper to publish his cockamamie theories about global warming or the six people who were lured into the steam room by Kilmer posing as an online dating service will all die from the rising temperature of the steam room. Basically The Steam Experiment is Saw but with semi-nude hostages and Val Kilmer hamming it up like Jim Morrison in a turtleneck sweater. So, it’s clearly better than Saw.

Talk about exposition: the film’s first act is basically a lot of characters repeating the details of the high-concept plot to each other. Kilmer tells the local news editor about his nefarious plan, then the local news editor tells detective Armand Assante about Kilmer’s nefarious plan, then Assante asks Kilmer to explain his nefarious plan, Kilmer than explains his nefarious plan to Assante, and then Assante asks Kilmer, “Let me get this straight: you’ve got six people locked in a steam room... because of global warming.” (Hey, why not repeat the plot ad nausem, it was the reason why I rented this Direct-to-DVD movie alongside Val Kilmer's expansive face on the cover) All the while, Kilmer plays the mad professor as a coy intellectual who is able to notice that the local news editor’s clock is five minutes fast and utters pithy, pseudo-philosophical lines like “If you want to play trivial pursuit, it’s on your head” and “We’re a nation of sheep.”

Even though Kilmer is top-billed, I think he only had three days of shooting on this project since he is only in it for approximately thirty minutes of screen-time. We have some surreal images of him at the start standing in front of a carousel at night, which I guess is supposed to signify how "nutty" he is and what a "thrill-ride" this movie will be. Then there are close-ups of his fat face with a thousand yard stare. The best stuff though is Kilmer being interrogated with Assante who basically mumbles his dialogue through his flappy-lips, the lower-class man of the streets up against the intellectual master-mind. Yes, there are lots of bits where Kilmer psyches out Assante by asking him questions like “Have you ever been to Italy, detective?” or commenting on his cheap cologne and insulting him in a high and haughty manner, “Your vulgarity is pathetic! It annoys me!” We also see Kilmer turning the tables on the ‘bad-cop routine’ by slamming his own forehead against the interrogation table and then takes everyone out to acting school with his performance of crazy with twitchy eyes and rambling about his father (About his controversial theories on global warming, “I could take the humiliation but he couldn’t...”), bugging out like nobody’s business. With such scenes, one can glimpse the mannered charm of Kilmer adding a bit of business to a dumb role and proving Chuck Klosterman’s pronouncement of Kilmer as an example of “advancement” – that is that Kilmer as a performer is so advanced that we might not understand his acting genius in such trash for years to come.

The majority of the movie takes place in the steam room with the hostages who includes Eric Roberts with a wavering Southern accent, Melrose Place’s Patrick Muldoon, a neurotic brunette, a neurotic blonde, a slutty waitress type who takes her top off in an extended slow-mo sequence to ‘Bolero,’ and then this Matt Dillion lookalike who plays the most over-the-top Italian-stereotype you could think of with scenery-chewing dialogue like “I’m from Booklyn, born and bred...” and “I love everybody, you know what I mean, forget about it!” (Naturally he’s the first one to crack and go kill-crazy in the steam room). Tensions escalate as the director desaturates the visuals with an orange lens flare and people start turning against each other – a stabbing here, a few nails to the forehead there, a suicide and a death match. The result of all this huffing and puffing is that we find out that Kilmer is actually a mental patient and all of this was possibly a fabrication in his twisted mind. TWIST! That would be too easy though. Big spoiler alert (as if you care): Patrick Muldoon is actually Kilmer’s doctor! Muldoon and his wife (the neurotic blonde hostage) actually volunteered for this experiment, which actually happened and Muldoon found that he and his blonde wife surviving the steam room was a profound life-changing experience (you know, like Fight Club but in a Steam Room... Steam Club). TWIST TIMES TWO! Final scene has the blonde wife standing by Muldoon’s study and discussing Kilmer:

“You don’t control him anymore. He controls you. Kill him and come home.”

Muldoon turns off his lamp very slowly. Ominous music. The End. Hmmm... What the hell? Way to blow my mind, movie. If I wanted to waste more of my time, I could extrapolate all the plot-holes from this last-minute development, but ah, much like the Average Joe’s response to global warming, I’ll leave it there as an impending problem that I won’t think about until I have to. Instead, I’ll stick to the basic pleasures that this movie offers – a fleeting glance of some boobs and a fat-faced hambone Val Kilmer. Hey, the movie even puts them in the same frame together!

Monday, 23 November 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Director: Stephen Somers.

The box office success of a live action Transformers movie consequently made the green-lighting of a live action G.I. Joe movie inevitable. When I was a child I used to have a small collection of G.I. Joes, a line of toy soldiers that were all blessed with individual personas expressed in cool code-names, weaponsm and costumes that were unique to them; the army man as super hero. However, I can’t profess to any great nostalgic love for G.I. Joe (the only Joe I can really remember is Sgt. Slaughter and that’s because he was also a WWF wrestler); I mean I didn’t even remember that there was a difference between Destro (silver-face) and Cobra Commander (sounds like Skeletor). So, after having endured G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I won’t be using any silly phrases like ‘This film raped my childhood!’ That’s unnecessary. The film is pretty appropriate to the franchise since it’s basically an extended cartoon, but made with wall-to-wall CGI rather than cheap Korean animation cells.

Film kicks off with a strange Alexander Dumas opening set in France, 1841, where a Scottish arms dealer named McCullen is imprisoned with a burning hot iron mask that sears itself to his face. Then we get a the title card “In The Not Too Distant Future,” which is always a promising sign in any motion picture since it always says ‘Hey, things are pretty much the same, but we use advanced technology that could only ever be invented in THE FUTURE.” Former Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston makes a bad career move in sinking himself into this franchise, playing the Scottish heir to the McCullen line of arms dealing and treachery, selling the hot new weapon to the U.S. Military. What is this new technology? NANOMITES! Green CGI beetles that EAT TANKS! The Not Too Distant Future is NOW!

Now we meet our heroes charged with transporting the Nanomite missiles: Duke, a thick-looking white-guy hunk (played by Channing Tatum), and Ripcord (played by Marlon Wayans), his wacky black-guy comic relief sidekick. Yes, this is the Not Too Distant Future and we have moved on from questionable racial stereotypes! Now Duke and Ripcord are trading lame quips in their humvee when they are attacked by a spaceship that shoots electro-pulse lasers in Matrix-slow-mo. While every other soldier protecting the Nanomites is obliterated, our two heroes survive the multiple explosions and confront the alluring visage of the Baroness (Sienna Miller) who steps out of the spaceship looking like a model on the runways of Milan (dark long hair, tight skin-suit, and shades) and who also shares a mysterious back-story with Duke (yes, they know each other so it’s like a meet-cute on the battlefield). Then some mysterious super-soldiers drop in and defeat the mysterious bad-guys. There’s the silent killer-ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park), another hot model type in skin-hugging bodysuit but this time with red hair and is thus appropriately named Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), and a cockney guy built like a brick shit-house named Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agaje a.k.a. Adebisi in Oz). Who are these guys? Well, out pops a Dennis Quaid hologram, announcing that he is General Hawk and explaining everything with a voice that sounds like he’s swallowed a frog.

Duke: “What’s your unit?”
Hawk: “That’s classified!”

Cue to rocking Linkin Park styled music as the camera flies over the pyramids in Egypt for our introduction to the G.I. Joes. “The top men and women from the best units in the world,” croaks Quaid. “The Alpha Dogs!” As we see sexy female soldiers put on body suits that make them invisible, Quaid quips, “When all else fails, we don’t!” In no time at all, Duke and Ripcord have signed up to become G.I. Joes and grab back the stolen Nanomite technology. Before that we’re gonna need a montage set to an awful cover of T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’ as the two dunderheads suit up in Iron Man styled fighting gear (“Fully self-controlled fire power,” says Heavy Duty. “Perfect for a couple of cowboys like you two.”), shoot practice targets under Scarlett’s sexy gaze, and then are trained in hand-to-hand fighting by an unexplained Brendan Fraser cameo (Director Stephen Somers did the Mummy 1 & 2, so it’s like “Hey, Brendan, appear in my new movie and say ‘Go Joe!’ a lot”). Anyway, if you think this is ridiculous, the bad guys a.k.a. Cobra are also up to the task of equalling such over-the-top bullshit with a masked madman scientist injecting Nanomites into muscle-brained soldiers so that they “feel no fear, feel no pain, feel no concept of morality” (much like the people who produced this movie). All of this nonsense feels like you’re watching a James Bond movie but without the comfort of James Bond starring in it.

Now remember in Mission Impossible when they really pushed it with the one trick of spies pulling their faces off to reveal they were CGI masks? Well, G. I. Joe overloads on holograms – Eccleston appears in the G.I. Joe squadroom but it turns out he’s a hologram or Miller appears in Ecceleston’s jet but it’s like ‘Oh shit, she’s actually a hologram!” What’s the matter with the Not Too Distant Future? Are phones not acceptable forms of communication anymore? Another great technique that the film cannot get enough of is to introduce a character in close-up and then suddenly cut to a flashback that explains all their limited back-story and motivation. For example, evil ninja Stormshadow (white pyjamas) faces off against good ninja Snake Eyes (black pyjamas) when Cobra raids G.I. Joe HQ for the Nanomites. They face off, swords clash, and then Stormshadow says, “Hello, brother.” Cue flashback that shows them as little kids fighting each other for about ten minutes and making it clear that this film is targeted to children. The flashbacks help explain why the Baroness went from being the blonde airhead finance of Duke to his dark-haired heartless nemesis: Duke didn’t protect her dipstick brother played by Joseph Gordon Levitt who is quite a good actor (see Brick and The Lookout for evidence of this) and his presence is a puzzling sight, particularly when he’s top-billed in the credits but only appears in a total of three scenes (spoiler: he turns out to be the masked mad-man scientist who becomes Cobra Commander).

The action sequences are weightless. There is an abundance of CGI special effects, particularly in the extended set-piece where Cobra goes to Paris to blow up the Eiffel Tower, which they do in a scene that is like the opening of Team America: World Police but taken seriously (Consider this a live action remake pretty much). You see that they filmed a bit of location work in Paris (actually the Czech Republic masquerading as Paris) but used the old silicon chips to stick in flying super-soldier Iron Man suits and fast cars that whizz by unconvincingly through real French traffic. Oh, and Marlon Wayans puts on his million dollar super-soldier Iron Man suit and falls out of the team van with the quip, “My bad!” (Ahhhhhhh, the one-liner that never stops being funny! Thank you, Hollywood!)

What else can we mention briefly? Well, there’s the cat-fight hand-to-hand combat scene between Scarlett and the Baroness that had me thinking “Hello nurse!” and makes sure all those geeks watching this film have something to fantasise about. You also have Arnold Vosloo as Cobra’s Master of Disguise who is like Mystique in the X-Men movies but not female, naked and blue. There is the Marlon Wayans one-liner with regards to a Nanomite filled corpse, “Dead guys don’t breakdance!” Character actor favourite Kevin J. O’Connor pops up in the film for five minutes as a freaky scientist. There is also Eccleston turning into Destro in the climax with a silver metal face that makes him look like Kryten in Red Dwarf. The climax of the movie is an underwater version of the Star Wars Death Star attack with Quaid sounding the order, “Release the Sharks!” (the Sharks being the Joe’s vehicles but when he said that line without the context explained, I did laugh). In the end, G.I. Joe is a pretty dumb action film, but after awhile I was pretty bored, which is the worst crime that any movie can commit. At least I could use some semblance of imagination when playing with the figurines when I was younger, more so than what the filmmakers could dredge up from their bankrupt mind-tanks.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

2012 (2009)

Director: Roland Emmerich.
I was challenged by my friends Gabby and Zak to see Roland Emmerich's latest environmental disaster opus, 2012. Thankfully I sat next to Gabby as to hear her comments throughout the two hour and a half epic.

1. Danny Glover appears as the President of the USA:

Gabby [re: his slurred speech] "Did he have a stroke? What's wrong with Danny Glover?"

2. Close-up on a fake Mona Lisa's smile (the real one saved in storage for the upcoming apocalypse) and then cut to the title "2012"

Gabby [laughs] "Alright... bring it on, movie!"

3. John Cusack appears as the weary protagonist:

Gabby: "John Cusack? I thought Nicolas Cage was in this?"

4. John Cusack continues to perform in 2012:

Me: "Is John Cusack even in this movie? I know he is physically, but I don't know about the rest of him..."

5. As another character remarks in astonishment at signs of the impending apocalypse...

Gabby: "They should have really called this movie "My God!" as that seems to be what all these characters say."

6. On the mannered actor playing the bow-tie wearing background scientist with a crutch:

Me: "What an eccentric performance. This man should win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor."

7. Thirty minutes into the exposition:

Gabby: "Would something blow up already?!"

8. As John Cusack drives his limo through a crumbling L.A.:

Gabby: "Everything is exploding!"

9. Cusack looks in the rear view mirror as they outrace the devastation:

Gabby: "Watch out! The apocalypse is right behind you!"

10. Russian characters are introduced who help Cusack and his family:

Gabby: "This movie is packed with bad accents!"

11. Danny Glover continues to act as the President of the USA:

Gabby: "Man, what happened to Danny Glover?"
Me: "He's too old for this shit."

12. Sparks fly between the concerned scientist and the president's daughter:

Gabby: "Ah, they're going to be repopulating the species!"

13. The Vatican implodes and crushes all the praying Italians:

Gabby: "What is this? A snuff film?"

14. More people are swallowed up by massive tidal waves:

Gabby: "This movie is becoming really unpleasant."

15. During the mass exodus, a dog saves itself:

Gabby: "Oh, fuck you!"

16. During the tension-free climax where the USA ark is almost colliding with Mount Everest:

Gabby: "Okay, that's it... I've got nothing. This movie has drained the funny right out of me. This movie broke me. You win, movie."

17. During the end credits, Woody Harrelson's name appears:

Me: "Hey, remember when Woody Harrelson was in the movie?"

Gabby: "Yes, that was when I could still laugh and enjoy the movie, all those many days ago..."

Friday, 23 October 2009

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

Director: Uwe Boll

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale or ITNOTK:ADST as I like to refer to it (saves time) is based on a video game, a cut-and-slash RPG that I have not played, and it feels like a two hour collection of interstitial cine-scenes from the video game. So, you feel impatient watching it, like you want to press ‘Skip’ on the controller and start playing, but oh wait, this is not a game, it’s a movie, so that’s both impatience and frustration you will feel watching it. Then Matthew Lillard swings onto the screen like a big leg of ham, spitting all over the scenery as the cowardly Duke Fallow, and then you can add murderous to the feelings stirred inside of you while watching ITNOTK. The film was directed by Uwe Boll who has developed a great reputation as a master of shit-films, which are mostly based on video games. ITNOTK also feels like it was based on the Lord Of The Rings films as every second scene strikes a familiar note to Peter Jackson’s trilogy, but just shot in Vancouver instead of New Zealand, and the CGI is really shit-house, and the armour everyone wears looks plastic. Boll even goes so far as to poach John Rhys-Davies who goes from playing Gimley to playing the Gandalf/Obi Wan of this film, sounding like Sean Connery and looking like he’s wearing a fan-made Darth Vader costume sans mask. ITNOTK makes the recent Star Wars trilogy look like it’s overflowing with sophisticated special effects and intriguing plotting by comparison.

So, yeah, the picture starts off with no exposition, just some scenes of Ray Liotta and Leelee Sobieski sucking face intercut with sweeping shots of the Magic Kingdom that they all live in. Moving on we find Jason Statham ploughing turnips, farming with his son on the farm and then we find out his name is Farmer, which is brilliant. Statham also has a CGI boomerang in a holster that he uses to scare away pesky crows, which he will use later to smite his enemies. Then Ron Perlman shows up and says, “Hey.” Hey, Ron Perlman. Then we cut back to the Kingdom with a bored-looking Burt Reynolds sitting listlessly on a throne, like he’s in a dinner theatre production of King Lear, and then he says one of the film’s best lines, “This is some sort of... sorcery.” You said it, Smokey and the Bandit. Then we cut back to Statham alone in a field, looking menacingly over his shoulder with a trademark glare (basically earning his pay cheque), before some rubbery-looking mud-face monsters jump out of the woods, making the creatures in 1970s era Dr. Who look super scary in comparison; it’s Troll 2 quality basically. The mud-faces are called Krug or Krum or Krud or something like that as it is difficult to tell with all these actors mumbling their lines all the time amidst the overbearing Wagnerian score. These Krud-faces attack Statham’s village, kill his son and kidnap his wife, Claire Forlani, who is costumed in a Victoria Secret’s corset that proves cleavage was an inescapable part of life back in Middle Earth.

Now Ray Liotta is controlling these Krud monsters from a shadowy, smoky room where his eyes go blue and with his Liberace-styled wardrobe he resembles nothing more than a Las Vegas Magician (whoops, sorry, not magician, it’s Magii!). Then LILLARD stinks up a few more scenes, acting like a petulant member of Entourage, and he really should have been wearing a Court Jester’s hat with all his useless manic energy. You really want to see an axe thrown into his face but unfortunately that never happens (in fact, his fate is left a mystery by the end, which is annoying – a character this irritating requires a death scene!). Then we have Statham, Perlman and some blonde-haired Legolas dude hiking together from Stonebridge to Woodtree or wherever and they meet some wood nymph babes who dangle from vines like they are from Cirque de Soleil. Then Ray Liotta poisoned the sliced fruit that Burt Reynolds the King and Matthew Lillard the Stooge were eating, but he gives Lillard the antidote because they are in cahoots. Then there is a super long battle sequence in the woods where some ninjas jump out of nowhere and the Krud bust out of the ground like zombies. Statham runs through another scene like it is Crank: The Middle Ages (this time he has a ticking wooden clock for a heart!), jumping on the shoulders of bad guys, hanging off the side of horses and killing everything he can with the same pissed-off glare. Oh yeah, and Lillard sits on a horse surveying the battle and turns to an underling next to him:

Lillard: “They fight like dogs.”
Extra: [pause, unsure] “Uh... yes, sir.”

More shots of Ray Liotta with his trademark cackle in his Criss Angel room. By this point, you might think the film is ending, but no, only an hour has passed and there’s still another hour of this shit to go, even though it feels like two and a half hours have passed already. Then Liotta says this line, which feels as if it is addressing the audience of ITNOTK, “You’ve lost nothing but time.” Should I also mention that all his dialogue is delivered in a Joe Pesci accent, one of those wizards who emerged from Brooklyn even though it wasn’t even around in this alternative time period of the past? Then we find out Statham is actually the King’s son and he hangs out with Burt Reynolds on his death bed as Burt Reynolds tells him some stuff about farming and seafood. Melodramatic music, a close-up of a horrified look on Statham’s face and then cut to Reynolds looking like he fell asleep on set (oh, the pathos!). The King is dead. Long live our cockney geezer replacement! “Pity,” says Statham, or he should have said as this is what I think his action-hero catch-phrase should be after hearing him say it once in Death Race.

As King, Statham’s first order of duty is to run through the woods again, conscript Sobieski to help (she’s turned into a Joan of Arc again with some sexy armour and some magic powers) and Kirstina Lokken (the leader of the forest babes), and they walk up some snowy mountains just like in Lord of the Rings. Then Liotta and Rhys-Davies have a wizard duel in a tall tower just like in Lord of the Rings. Rhys-Davies bites the dust but downloads his magic into Sobieski and Statham follows Liotta to his magic study and they have a long duel with lots of Matrix Slow-Motion Moves while another army fights more Kruds in the darkness of the rain that Liotta has conjured. Then we have some Harry Potter shit with flying books attacking Statham and then Clare Forlani remembers she is in this piece of shit film, stabs Liotta in the back, but then Statham stabs him again because no woman is going to have the Final Death-Blow in this epic. The Krud are no longer under evil mind control and they wander off in a day that will be remembered for the day when Human Beings and Mud-Faced Krud People were united in solidarity. Statham and Forlani embrace – did I forget to mention she’s pregnant, so don’t worry about their son who died, the circle of life continues – and as they kiss, I wish Statham had winked to the camera, like ‘Ha ha, what a fucking joke this was, eh?’ But no, the credit ‘Director by Uwe Boll’ pops up and then we hears some medieval metal from Hammerfall rocking out over the end credits, which is maybe the best part of this whole film.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Firebirds (1990)

Director: David Green

Starring Nicholas Cage, Sean Young and Tommy Lee Jones, Firebirds is one of those pro-American forces, gung-ho, flag-waving, bullshit movies that feels like it was sponsored on military payroll. What other type of movie opens with a quote from then President George Bush Snr about the war on drugs without any irony and with total sincerity? Bullshit propaganda about cowboy military pilots that rips off Top Gun but trades in the jets for gunship helicopters. The action is well-shot, but the film spends too much time trying to establish character during close-ups in the cockpit rather than on the aerial dogfights audiences came to see, which in their representation arouse absolutely no suspense or even boys-and-their-toys coolness. Like Days of Thunder and other bullshit movies from the 1990s, Firebirds does not contain much substance, only scenes required in the Top Gun regulation hand-book (love interest – check! father figure commander – check!). To illustrate how lame it is, Cage’s Goose, the guy whose death he must avenge happens in the first five minutes before we even get to know the guy (or remember his name for that matter). All the way through, I kept thinking maybe Tommy Lee Jones might be the next Goose, as he gets scenes with his wife and a surprise birthday party, which usually spells certain death in a war film. However, the movie is so lame and pro-army, that Tommy Lee Jones is still alive at the end after a near-fatal injury, still cracking jokes with his legs broken into bits. Even funnier is the bad guy, who supposedly works for the South American drug cartels (a reliable enemy in the post-cold-war context of the film), but looks Russian and is discussed by military superiors with 'menacing' photos that look straight from a promotional agency with their staged, head-shot aesthetic (example, one photo of the villain’s eyes only, looking sinister).

The reason to possibly check out Firebirds is the over-the-top performances by Cage and Jones (forget Young, she’s dull as dishwater). There are no real other characters in the movie, so most of the time is spent with the three leads. The irony is that though Cage’s character is against the drug cartels that threaten the American way of life, Cage the actor was probably high on the best cocaine of his acting career. He’s so over-the-top, acting like a cross between Elvis and Napoleon Dynamite to combine in the portrait of an unlikable, vain, cocky asshole! The most bullshit scene is when Jones puts Cage in a computer simulator (think Project X) to test him, and the movie cuts between a bad helicopter video game and close-ups of Cage, with his helmet and aiming monocle, shouting as he hits each target,

"I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I AM THE GREATEST!"

With all this showboating and over-the-top acting, you expect the no-nonsense Jones to eventually kick Cage’s ass into some fucking humility and respect, but no, except for a brief stumble over his eyesight, Cage remains a cocky asshole from start to finish. On the other hand, you have Tommy Lee Jones. He’s awesomely over-the-top in comparison. I mean he gets handed a role like an over-the-hill gunship commander and plays it right to the fucking tee. The greatest bullshit scene occurs near the climax where the squad has moved from their base in Arizona to South America (which looks remarkably the same in the film). On the morning before battle, Cage wakes up, sees Jones standing in a field and walks over for some male-bonding. They start telling each other how good they are, Cage calling Jones "the best", Jones calling him "better" – you know, usual military ego-stroking. Anyway, Jones starts chewing into a monologue that I still cannot believe he delivered with a straight-face:

"You know, I joined the army for the same reason you did. That’s to kick
ass. Just like in the old war movies. You know, to be a hero [pause] That’s what
I’m looking for in you [pause] First class all-American hero with his heart and brain wired together, cooking full-tilt boogie for freedom and justice… okay?"

Then bombs blow up behind them and the action kicks in, but I was too busy laughing my fucking ass off. “… FULL TILT BOOGIE…???” And the way Jones delivers that classic line in his trademark Southern monotone drawl makes it sound like this, "First-class-all-American-hero-with-his-heart-and-brain-wired-together-cooking-FULL-TILT-BOOGIEfor-freedom-and-justice." In the end, such All-American G.I. Joe Asshole antics enliven an otherwise generic pro-military Top Gun knock-off.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Extreme Ops (2002)

Director: Christian Duguay

Remember those two Bill and Ted type yahoos in the fluoro-coloured jumpsuits from Cliffhanger who loved to base-jump and said stuff like ‘But we like it extreme!’? The movie, Extreme Ops, would seem manufactured for their benefit since it basically replicates the plot of Die Hard for the zillionth time, but sticks some EXTREME snowboarding footage as a shiny clock-radio addition to the well-worn genre. Basically it’s about a team of thrill-seeking adventurers making a commercial in Austria when, what do you know, they stumble upon a Serb-Croat war criminal long thought dead who has the very convincing name of Slobovan Pavlov. Woah, radical, dudes. Time to hit the slopes and snowboard the fuck out of those awesome mountains before that bogus grey-haired foreign dude shoots us from his helicopter! Make sure that The Crystal Method tune ‘Keep Hope Alive’ is playing non-stop as that is the unofficial theme of EXTREME activities! Yes, Extreme Ops is the type of movie where no-one can enter a scene without doing something EXTREME and having some observer provide the time-honoured punch-line, “You guys are crazy!” Y’all, woo-hoo and shit, yeah! Unfortunately, those EXTREME-loving comic-relief dudes from Cliffhanger would find Extreme Ops kind of boring with the plodding two-thirds of narrative it spends on plot and would throw on a DVD of Best of Blizzard Base Jumping Action Vol. 4 instead.

So, our heroes are people who make commercials (advertisers are hip!) and they are over a barrel trying to film an advertisement for a digital camera; their investors are naturally inscrutable Japanese stereotypes. There’s British actor Rufus Sewell as the cool-headed director who knows how to get the right shot of a white water rafting consumer throwing a digital camera in the air. How cool-headed is this guy? He’s trying to converse with an estranged off-screen girlfriend on the phone while he sits in a canoe hanging precariously from a steep waterfall, telling her, “Yeah, I’m just hanging around.” EXTREME. Then there’s his trusty lieutenant played by former teen heartthrob Devon Sawa who looks really bloated and is inflicted with that dreaded disease known as Stephen Baldwin Hair (definition: frosted blonde tips in a short doofus cut). Then finally another British actor Rupert Graves with a fucking awful American accent playing a phoney producer who promises to his investors that their rad ad will be even more EXTREME with a real shot of a consumer racing an avalanche! Graves blurts this out in a boardroom meeting, which pisses off Sewell and so he and Sawa dangle him from a rooftop by his ankles to teach him a lesson. EXTREME and COMICAL. Oh yeah, I forgot there’s a tough-guy German dude played by Heino Ferch (he played Albert Speer in Downfall) and he gets to say the line, “I’m German. I’m never comfortable.”

Skip to them assembling some more EXTREME nitwits to help them film their ad. There’s a hot Beatrice Dalle punk-rocker chick played by the attractive Jana Pallaske whose voice sounds dubbed throughout and is so hot that even her pants break apart during EXTREME scenes of action tension later in the piece, so we can have some skin amidst all the snow (Thanks, Hollywood!). There’s also Bridgette Wilson Sampras (she played Sonja Blade in Mortal Kombat) and she plays a Champion Skier who won a Gold Medal in the World Games and her boring character motivation is that she’s bummed out that she can’t be as EXTREME as everyone else. She has a deep and meaningful conversation later on where she admits this: ‘I thought for once in my life... I could ski for fun.’ The punk-rock chick tells her, ‘Let the mountain tell you what to do.’ Seriously we should have heard the off-screen cry of a distant eagle during that moment of motivational inspiration. But my favourite is Silo (Joe Absolom) who has the most EXTREME introduction shot where we see him skateboarding on top of a moving train... just for fun! Then if that wasn’t enough to make you understand how radical he is, we have another scene where the crew wait around for him in an airport. ‘Where’s Silo?’ There he is skating through the airport like a dick and then cut to a close-up of him with the wisecrack, ‘Wassup, bitches?’ SILO 4 PRESIDENT OF RADITUDE!

I’m spending too much time on these characters, let’s fast forward to the plot where they stay at a half-built mountain-top resort after Silo and the Punk Rock Chick get them all thrown out of their hotels for snowboarding off a roof, down a bar of flaming alcoholic shooters and then through the hotel window. Sawa starts filming things left and right with a video camera, even when he and the girls hit the spa with some beers and some zany Truth and Dare games, providing some lowbrow titillation when he dares the two girls to kiss each other! EXTREME and TASTEFULLY DONE! So, then, they cross paths with this Slobovan Pavlov and Sawa accidentally films him and then Pavlov finds out. He wants that footage proving his alive since the world thinks he died in a plane crash and so he sends his creepy son to kill them, but he fucks it up by being a sleazebag who wants to see the two girls kiss again and he gets killed in a Reservoir Dogs type standoff with his henchman who objects to all this mucking about, “I’m a soldier, dammit!” So, yeah, they shoot each other and Pavlov thinks the American commercial film crew are CIA and then you can cut to the last half hour, which is a long chase scene basically where our heroes snowboard down the mountain while Pavlov tries to shoot them all. THESE GUYS ARE SKIING FOR THEIR LIVES. By this time, I was pretty bored watching Extreme Ops and the only moment of interest was the lame moment when Devon Sawa cracks onto the punk-rock chick while they are hanging off a cliff with the terrorist shooting at them: “Does this mean you’ll go out with me now?” Yes, comedy is still able to scale these high altitudes, particularly with my favourite exchange earlier in the piece:

Graves: ‘Nice Austrian trailerpark.’
Punk Rock Chick: ‘G’day, mate!’
Silo: ‘Put another shrimp on the barbie!’
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras: ‘He said, “Austrian, not AUSTRALIAN”’

Zing! Never forget to underline a joke – people’s minds are too busy being blown by these thrilling stunts, they need reminding of what humour actually is! The tough-guy German throws a cord that twists the helicopter’s motor, killing the terrorists, while Sewell and Wilson-Sampras outrun an avalanche on their skies, finally able to get their advertisement money-shot of her catching a digital video camera. Commercial sold and that’s a wrap. What better way to celebrate than by all skateboarding on top of a moving train! EXTREME... and I don’t mean that band from the 1990s!

Okay, I’m done and now you don’t have to watch this movie.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Over The Top (1987)

Director: Menahem Golan

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to respect Sylvester Stallone more and more. Now I never was a big fan of his work growing up; maybe I could just sense his embodiment of Reaganite era values with his reigning characters Rambo and Rocky. However, Stallone is a firm believer in the the underdog. I remember a bit from his own reality show, The Contender, basically a boxing version of The Apprentice, where he cast a vote for a contestant on that very basis – “He’s an underdog.” It’s a philosophy that has basically guided his career since the first Rocky and I guess when I was young he was still a bankable star with hits like Cliffhanger and having enough studio support to ruin a comicbook franchise like Judge Dredd. Stallone seems to be at his best when he himself is an example of the underdog ideal, particularly in recent years when he made pretty decent films out of what seemed like silly ideas when they were announced (Rocky 6 and Rambo 4). However, this doesn’t excuse the fact he made some shit films during his reign as a box office superstar and 1987’s Over The Top is another fine Golan-Globus production of bullshit, co-written and starring Stallone.

Taking a break in between Rocky sequels, Stallone decided to vary the formula a tad and stretch himself by not playing a rising underdog boxer. Yes, Over The Top represents new territory for the man since it’s about a rising underdog arm-wrestler... Big, big difference (boxing you use your fists, arm-wrestling you use your wrists). Yes, arm-wrestling was apparently a sporting craze tearing across America with a subculture of truck drivers gambling on dudes arm-wrestling in the back of local pit-stop bars. There’s even a World Championship Tournament held naturally at Las Vegas where contestants from all over the world with freakishly huge upper bodies and fat necks wrestle to win prizes and cash, readymade for our movie's finale. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves as this film isn’t simply about bulging veins in the forearms of muscled meatheads. No, it’s Stallone as the underdog once again, an estranged father trying to bond with his snooty military schooled estranged son over the course of a road movie. Over The Top was Stallone’s stab at the family friendly market and when you think about it, this is basically a remake of E.T. but instead of finding an alien in your backyard you find out that your long lost father is actually a mumblely, duck-mouthed, muscle-bound, short-arse, arm-wrestling champ big rig trucker named Lincoln Hawk (Lincoln like Abraham Lincoln, Hawk like the mighty hawk...). This is the predicament Michael Cutler (David Mendenhall) finds himself in when he graduates from Summit Crest Military School. He doesn’t throw his hat in the air like the rest of the toy soldiers because they have families and he is sad and stuff, but then he finds out his dad is lower class trucker and that makes him angry. Of course, it’s no Swiss picnic for Stallone when he discovers his son has been turned into an upper-class snob robot who says things like “Sir, there’s no need to make conversation on the road.” When Stallone suggests father and son chow down a steak, naturally the son is all “blah blah cholesterol, order me a tuna salad and spring water with lemon.” Warning: military schools turn your children into yuppie vegetarian mutant! Never fear, because when the kid discovers his old man is a champion arm wrestler after some barbarian with a blonde mullet named Smasher challenges him to a duel of forearms, the kid soon becomes a student to the way of Lincoln Hawk. Tight close-ups magnify what is essentially two idiots gripping their hands together into a veritable Clash of the Titans and we get what we pay for with Stallone yelling like grizzly bear with a buckshot in his butt. Then in one of the many scenes that unfortunately bristle with paedophilic overtones, a bald mountain of muscles with a handle-bar moustache and dark shades, approaches Michael and grunts, “What are you doing with that guy?” Don’t worry though, it’s just the villain who WANTS Stallone and his name is BULL and he’s played by Rick Zumwalt in a magnificent performance that is one step away from twirling his moustache and threatening to tie his son to the tracks: I AM A VILLAIN, his presence screams with every appearance. When Stallone refuses a challenge from this arm-wrestling champ, Bone cracks-wise, “Too bad your old man’s yellow, kid. See you in Las Vegas, Hawk!”

Stallone begins the interminable process of deprogramming his son of being an uptight stiff and teaching him cool stuff like how to drive a truck and a questionable move of parenting how to arm-wrestle ugly video-gaming punk kids for money in order to fully understand the teachings of Hawk with pithy maxims like “The world meets nobody halfway” and “If you want it, you can take it.” Yeah, there are also some creepy overtones with Stallone pulling the truck over and telling the kid they are spending the night in the truck and that “if your neck gets sore, use my shoulder as a pillow.” I know, I know, it’s father-and-son Cat Stevens time and all perfectly innocent, but I guess it’s the fact that Stallone wears overalls and muscle tees and has a set of weights in his truck so he can improve his arm muscles and everything is so OVER THE TOP 1980s style that such Todd Solondz-styled perverse overtones seem very natural in such a context. Oh yeah, they also have the occasional phone call to Susan Blakeley who plays Stallone’s separated wife and Michael’s mother, bed-ridden in hospital with Ali MacGraw disease. Then there is also Robert Loggia, father to Susan Blakeley’s character, a rich, tanned businessman who lives in Scarface’s old mansion and wants Michael for himself as he doesn’t have any family left and Stallone is a no-good lower-class loser. This is the TV Movie of the Week conflict that drives two-thirds of the film’s narrative unfortunately. Mendenhall is an unlikable brat who can’t act, performing with a dimpled grin that bespeaks of great talent in fast food commercials but no great shakes as a naturalistic thespian. Maybe this was an intentional move as placing Mendenhall next to Stallone makes Stallone look like he is Robert Duvall with the soulful underplaying on display. Now Stallone co-wrote this sucker with Stirling Silliphant (who also wrote The Swarm) yet it doesn’t seem a lot of time was spent on dialogue as the film can’t last five minutes of screentime without throwing in another montage of father-son bonding with a cheesy Giogrio Moroder-produced soft-rock anthem (the musicians involved are a Murderer’s Row of Middle-of-the-Road 1980s Pap like Eddie Money, Kenny Loggins, Asia, Sammy Hagar and of course Frank Stallone).

Now the reason you should watch Over The Top is the climax as it’s a hilarious nightmare orgy of arm wrestling. Under the glitzy lights of a packed Vegas arena, we get contestants who are all basically grotesque ogres with beards and tight muscle t-shirts and giant shoulders. My favourite was the one named John Grizzly who is a mass of crazy hair and wears a military single with ‘Fubar’ written on it and munches down on a cigar before he faces off with Hawk. All these tight shots of grown men face to face with each other in eye-popping, forehead vein emphasising, muscle quivering pain, arms bulging from the exertion, it’s like a 1980s approximation of Dante’s Inferno, particularly when Golan goes for a slow-motion arty vibe at certain points. It’s pure art, totally in the spirit of Francis Bacon, what with all this flesh and rage flying at you, especially manifested in the showdown between Bull and Stallone, “or should we say David and Goliath” as the announcer helpfully informs us, with Goliath, I mean Bull, continually bellowing threats like “GET IN HERE!” and “I OWN YOU!” I mean, this is why cinema was invented basically. Oh yeah, there is also some time for characterisation with fake TV interviews with these arm wrestling titans and Stallone informs us as to why he seems to turn his cap around before he wrestles: “I turn it around and it’s like a switch that goes on, it’s the switch... I feel like another person. I feel like... a truck, a machine.” Improvisational brilliance worthy of Cassavettes! Eventually, in the spirit of Rocky, Stallone climbs from despair into victory, suffering a few setbacks from Bull’s rage (the dude even clocks him one in the nose with no penalty from the ref!) before overcoming the odds with the power of his son’s love and his own trusty winning move where his fingers slip over the opponent’s hand, basically going OVER THE TOP. Cue another inspirational 1980s soft-rock anthem over slow-motion re-runs of the Rocky finale but this time with a stupid kid instead of Talia Shire and crusty old Robert Loggia moved to tears by the combination of man-flesh wrestling and father-son bonding. The message is clear: respect the pumped wrist of a honourable trucker in a ripped t-shirt who has the love of his son on his side. Nobody puts Stallone in the corner.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Future Bullshit: Legion (2009)

I watched Terminator again the other week (once again, it's brilliant) and it did make me wonder when they would remake it but with angels instead of robots and with a diner full of TV actors and worn-down character actors: HD widescreen trailer here.

Y'know if I was a fallen angel, I'd need to use machine guns too.

Flatliners (1990)

Previously a costume designer and set designer in Hollywood during the 1970s, Joel Schumacher began helming his own movies and entered the pantheon of directors widely disparaged as ‘hacks.’ Some of his films are considered classics, particularly for evidence of 1980s gloss and absolute cheesiness (The Lost Boys) and occasionally he has offered a flawed film that contains some substance (Falling Down). But of course, he’s also made a lot of shit... St. Elmo’s Fire, Batman & Robin, The Number 23, etc. Arguably where he was most interesting was during his successful years in the 1980s where he had money to throw around on-screen in the aim of being the successor to Stanley Kubrick’s work on The Shining, only with Kiefer Sutherland as his leading man. So after The Lost Boys earned money with teenagers wanting to see the two Coreys stake punk vamps in beach locations, Schumacher must have thought he was the new Master of Horror and reunited years later with Kiefer for another horror film, Flatliners, in 1990. Now this film really scared me when I was like thirteen and watched it on television late one night. Popping it into my DVD player on a whim, I wasn’t that surprised to find out that time had not been kind to Flatliners and that it worked as a bullshit morality tale with a lot of creepy gloss.

Basically it’s another round of young maverick doctors playing at being God with Kiefer introduced to us in an elaborate tracking shot across the river up to his pug-nosed baby-face sneering, “Today is a good day to die.” Yes, he and four other medical students decide to embark on an experiment where they self-terminate by flatlining, experiencing brain death in order to see what’s on the other side. So, the film’s repeated set-piece are these five Brat Pack actors taking turns being on a make-shift medical cart while everyone else stares intensely at the heart monitor then the EKG read-out and then yell out ‘CLEAR’ and zap their dead comrade with the defibrillators, etc. Kiefer goes first and brings back with him memories of how when he was a kid he accidentally killed this kid, Billy Mahoney, by chasing him up a tree, throwing rocks at him until he fell to his death. However, these memories turn into creepy scenes where a kid in a red hoodie beats the shit of him, which if it wasn’t for the MTV-styled blue-toned lighting would look quite hilarious (it still is, to be honest). Then William Baldwin flatlines and has a black and white montage of sexy women but realises what a bad boy he has been, cheating on his fiancée (Hope Davis in her film debut!) by videotaping all of his sexual conquests at college, which then begin to haunt him as he sees black and white videocam footage of him boning broads all over the place. Then Kevin Bacon – who we are first introduced to being suspended for four months for SAVING A WOMAN’S LIFE without approved authority (stupid medical board dunderheads) – experiences death and wakes up to say the Sioux word for ‘Today is a good day to die’ and then finds himself being called swear words by this little black girl (best one is that Bacon’s character is named Labraccio and she calls him “Fellatio”) who turns out to be this girl, Winnie Hicks, he teased a lot in the schoolyard, which makes him feel guilty and stuff. Finally, Julia Roberts flatlines too and remembers that her Vietnam Vet father was a junkie and committed suicide, which also makes her feel guilty and stuff. As Kiefer helpfully sums it up for the audience, “Our sins have come back in a physical form... and they're pissed.” Oh yeah, Oliver Platt also hangs about being Oliver Platt, wearing a bow-tie and making wisecracks into his Dictaphone (“Good thing I didn't flatline. My 350-pound babysitter would be chasing me for the half-eaten pastrami sandwich I stole from her”).

First thing, you notice about Flatliners are the locations. Joel Schumacher is the only director I can think of who makes films where the sets steal the scenes: from the apartments these stressed out students lived in, which are all have high-ceilings and artistically arranged clutter and even striking street graffiti on their outside building walls, to the abandoned museum that they all get together in at night to perform their flatlining experiments, which has ornate classical paintings and sculptures of man and God and angels and demons and all that other atmospheric shit (all due respect to the combined efforst of Production Designer Eugenio Zanetti, Art Director Jim Dultz and Set Decorator Anne Kuljian). All of these elaborate backdrops helps to heighten what is really a silly Twilight Zone episode re-do. Even though the poster copy says something like ‘some lines shouldn’t be crossed’ and the after-effects of playing with death seem really terrifying and punishing in the first hour, basically as long as you forgive the demons that haunt you and learn to forgive yourself, you’ll be okay and won’t be haunted by little boys that beat you over the head with hockey sticks (That’s Kiefer) or women who treat you like a piece of meat with seedy pick-up lines (That’s Billy Baldwin). Then there’s this weird vibe where some of their problems strike historical analogies with America so Julia Roberts is asked forgiveness by her Vietnam Vet suicide dad and they hug and it’s all like ‘We’re sorry, Vietnam Vets.’ And then Kevin Bacon makes an effort to apologise to the little black girl grown up to be recognisable character actor Kimberley Scott and he is sorry for calling her ‘ugly’, which has an undercurrent of apologising to Black America for racial vilification without bringing in the topic of race (maybe I’m reading too much into this... Curse you, Cultural Studies! Allow me to enjoy my Joel Schumacher film in peace!).

When you actually think about it Kiefer’s great suicidal experiment that he predicts will make them famous and earn them a place in history and is applauded by his colleagues ("You walked on the moon, buddy" says William Baldin) – basically intentionally killing themselves only to revive themselves through medical science – is pretty stupid from a scientific point of view. All their evidence is first-hand, subjective accounts of what they felt when they were ON THE OTHER SIDE and their decision to film their experiments with a black and white camcorder will not obviously capture all the cliché sublime footage Schumacher uses to depict the inner voyage to death: tracking shots of a snow-covered mountains or a gigantic golden field captured by D.O.P. Jan De Bont before he would direct Speed and Twister. Then also dig on how this Brat Pack of Flatliners are portrayed like a bunch of maverick renegade jocks when it comes to wanting to flatline, challenging each other to go under longer and suffer brain death for two minutes in total. “Two minutes and twenty,” Julia Roberts counter offers. Somehow in the climax, Kiefer dies for ten minutes but is successfully brought back without too much brain damage. I guess maybe there is a God after all; is that the message, Schumacher?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Demolition Man (1993)

Schwarzenegger and Stallone were the titans of the action movie genre during the 1980s because both of them were muscular, spoke in impenetrable accents, and both served Regan-era America by killing drug dealers, ethnic criminals and evil communist in all of their films. I was more of a Schwarzenegger fan myself and as the early 1990s began, Schwarzenegger seemed to be the clear winner with sci-fi blockbuster epics like Total Recall and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, as well as more importantly ingratiating himself with mainstream America by branching out into comedy successfully, sending up his own screen image with director Ivan Reitman for Twins and Kindergarten Cop. However, Stallone’s attempts at showing he could do more than be Rocky and Rambo failed miserably with the John Landis mob comedy Oscar and the unrelentingly terrible Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! The end seemed nigh. Then Cliffhanger was a box office hit and there was relief for Sly. He then took a page out of Schwarzenegger’s playbook and made Demolition Man with producer Joel Silver, a film that combined science fiction and comedy to bullshit effect.

Opening like a cross between a James Bond film and Tim Burton’s Batman, the film throws us into the middle of an action climax where Los Angeles is a pitch-black war-zone as signified by the fact the Hollywood sign is on fire (APOCALYPSE IMMINENT!). We find our hero Sylvester Stallone, wearing a nifty Special Forces beret (taking a page out of the Steven Segal playback), zip-lining from the ass of a helicopter into a hostage situation where a crazy ass criminal played by Wesley Snipes has like forty civilians inside a building wired to explode. Stallone quips, “You’ve got to send a manic to catch a manic,” which is like a 1990s remix of that old Rambo maxim, “To win a war you’ve got to become a war.” Snipes doesn’t really have much of a character, just being a crazy dude. The main thing that distinguishes him is his Vanilla Ice hair-do (as my friend Adam remarked, “A black dude with white hair goes against the laws of nature”). Oh, and he’s also named Simon Phoenix so that someone later in the film can say with a straight face, “A Mr. Phoenix has risen from the ashes.” And before, I forget, Stallone’s character is called John Spartan, also satisfying bullshit action movie heroes with ridiculous surnames espousing their heroic character (up there with John Matrix from Commando). Back to the film where Stallone and Snipes kung fu each other around this smoke-filled building amongst tons of barrels with “C4” stamped on the front, which caused my friend Dan to state, “I wasn’t aware that C4 was a liquid?” Anyway, they both fall out of a window or something and the building EXPLODES, collapsing into rubble, following the template that Lethal Weapon 3 set, which is that if there’s a building about to be demolished in L.A., hold on everyone at City Planning and let Hollywood set its cameras up to catch that shit for their next outlandish action epic. Turns out the unseen hostages were killed on account of the explosion and the Police Chief yells at Stallone, “Try to remember a little thing they call Office Police Procedure” and is blamed for their deaths. So, we have Stallone playing Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, lowered into a cryogenic freezing device, which is how we decide to imprison people in the near-future of 1996.

Fast forward and its 2032, which is the future to us mere mortals, and the film proceeds to establish its main satirical thrust in imagining an ordered society where political correctness has gone mad! Yes, everyone wears Japanese-styled kimonos, sports strange vertical haircuts with the sideburns removed, and speak like robots with sentences like “Attitude readjustment... Info assimilated” or “the lack of stimulus is truly disappointing.” The do-gooders have had their way and everything is really peaceful and no one has been killed – sorry, Murder Death Killed as they call it in this movie – for over twenty years or something, which really does stagger belief in the idea that murders have been eliminated, even without a Pre-Cog System in place of preventative psychics floating in pools. Sandra Bullock plays a restless police officer who finds all this peace SO BORING and loves the 1990s as evidenced by the paraphernalia all over her office with a Lethal Weapon 3 poster and a Blood Sugar Sex Magic poster, causing Dan to remark, “This is such bullshit! No one in the future is going to have nostalgia for the 1990s!” Back to the plot, Snipes is let out of cryogenics but is able to speak Mexican and unlock codes and basically escape by killing everyone, even gouging out a scientist’s eyeball to pass a retinal scan in a sick twist. All the Future Police can do is watch on their security cameras as Snipes wastes everyone the 1990s way, which includes soundtracking his martial arts fighting with record scratches and ‘Bam’ horn samples, las if Terminator X from Public Enemy was hired to Mickey Mouse his every move (nice appropriation of black culture, Hollywood). Thankfully, Bill Cobb, a kindly old black cop remembers the good old days of the 1990s, remembering that maverick renegade they called ‘The Demolition Man’ and that they need ‘an old fashioned cop.’ So, they thaw out Stallone and he’s like ‘Take me to Planet Hollywood!’ but they are like ‘Sorry, your wife and everyone you knew is dead.’ Before Stallone can get too weepy, he remembers his old warrior instincts and hunts after Snipes across Muesuems that feature wings dedicated to Violence and Weapon stashes, all the while reacting to the madcap zaniness of the future where cigarettes are banned, sexual intercourse is relegated to virtual sexing, bad language is always being fined by ticketing sensors, and as my friend Dan remarked, “even their high fives have no balls!”

Demolition Man satisfies as a Joel Silver produced action flick as all the clichés are in full swing from scenes being swathed in smoke machines for atmosphere, gratuitous female nudity (minimal really, but yeah Stallone gets a wrong number video call from a naked woman for no reason aside from showing some tits), people firing off handguns and machine guns with volcanic sound effects, and even corny one-liners. Our favourite was the pay-off to a running gag involving the farewell phrase that everyone in the future uses, which is “Be well.” Later in the film, Stallone realises that Cocteau (Nigel Williamson from Yes Minister), the leader of this Brave New World is duplicitous, having released Snipes/Phoenix in order to kill a dirty rebel leader who lives in the sewers, Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary). CONSPIRACIES OCCUR IN THE FUTURE. So they have one of those scenes where Stallone punches a lot of television screens and angrily accuses Cocteau of his evil-doings, but he’s the leader of this Brave New World and he tells Stallone that he’ll be hunted down by the police and put in cryogenics. Stallone, pissed, moves to leave.

Cocteau: “Be well.”
Stallone: “Be fucked.”

High fives for the screenwriters! They must have taken the day off after coming up with that spectacular punch-line. There is also obvious product placement masquerading as comedy where in the future fast food is now upscale cuisine with Cocteau asking Stallone to dinner at “Pizza Hut.” However, this was great as though his voice said “Pizza Hut”, his mouth clearly said something different, a really obvious example of ADR post-production overdubbing. Turns out it was originally Taco Bell as Adam explained to us after having done some pre-film research. They have a scene in the restaurant where the signs are replaced and there are two more examples of characters saying “Pizza Hut” while their mouths say “Taco Bell.” We all thought that it was because Taco Bell didn’t want to be associated with Demolition Man. Turns out it was more the fact that Pizza Hut had an international reputation while Taco Bell hadn’t quite hit the global market yet. Purchase your John Spartan and Simon Phoenix action figures next time you are at Pizza Hut, gang! (Note: sources inform that Pizza Hut and Taco Bell were owned by the same megacorporation so greedy capitalistic product placement wins again!)

What else do viewers have to contend with in Demolition Man? You have Rob Schneider during his SNL years being an annoying cop offsider. You have Sandra Bullock pre-Speed fame being quite attractive in her police leggings, well, the most I’ve ever found her potentially sexy. You have Sandra Bullock in awe of Stallone’s ability to kick ass with the line, “You’re better live than on LaserDisc.’ You have a silly virtual sexing sequence where Stallone gets angry that he was given a towel and computer headgear instead of being able to get physical. You have really sub-par Robocop-styled satire where things like commercial jingles are referred to as “golden oldies” by the air-head citizens of the future. You have a lame running joke where Sandra Bullock always incorrectly utters standard tough-guy lines into malapropisms like ‘You really licked his ass.’ You have another relic of the 1990s, Denis Leary, cast as a grimy resistance fighter who champions his cause in a speech that is basically his rant from the middle of his one-hit wonder ‘Asshole’ repeated for mass consumption. You have Jesse Ventura in a bit part as one of Snipes’ unfrozen henchmen and he is not given any dialogue in the film! INCORRECT, MOVIE! You’ve also got a car chase where Stallone drives off a bridge into some water and the car fills up with protective foam because it’s the future and that’s how airbags work now, and he quips, “What happened? This car suddenly turned into a cannoli!’ ZING. Anyway, fast forward to the end where Stallone sprays Snipes with some liquid nitrogen and karate kicks his head clean off. Then we hear a Sting cover of ‘Demolition Man’, which apparently was a song by The Police that this movie took its name from. End of movie. Yet, this exchange was often remembered when Schwarzenegger became Governor of California:

Lenina Huxley: I have, in fact, perused some newsreels in the Schwarzenegger Library, and the time that you took that car...
John Spartan: Hold it. The Schwarzenegger Library?
Lenina Huxley: Yes. The Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Wasn't he an actor when you...?
John Spartan: Stop! He was President?
Lenina Huxley: Yes! Even though he was not born in this country, his popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment which states...
John Spartan: I don't wanna know. President...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Commando (1985)

An action classic that my parents taped off television and that I watched repeatedly as a child, Commando was and is still one of my favourite action films of all time. Back when I was growing up under the influence of such demented action films, I even had the Commando action figure with a little plastic Arnold Schwarzenegger figurine that came with a comic-book re-telling of the movie though sanitized of the movie’s violence for the under-13 year old market for the toy, which is funny as the movie is totally made for 13 year old boys. It’s an awesomely bullshit action movie that doesn’t mess around with complex characterisation or plot (i.e. a minimum of “boring” scenes). It’s basically 87 minutes of Arnie running around in on a race-against-time to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Alyssa Milano) from some bad guys who want him to assassinate the president of a tin-pot country. Y’see, Arnie led a Special Forces squad that made enemies all over the world and the pre-credit sequence has his ex-men being picked off one by one. As soon as Arnie’s former commander, General Kirby helicopters to his isolated mountain home with two men to protect him and then leaves after this warning, the bad guys strike with excessive machine gun fire. This movie doesn’t mess around! Now a disposed Latin American dictator (Dan Hedaya) wants to reclaim power and is using Arnie’s daughter to do this (great scene where he asks her “Wouldn’t it be nice to see your daddy again?” and she says “Yeah, when he smashes your face in!”). Arnie escapes the clutches of his foes by breaking the neck of his guard on the airplane, makes it look like the dead guy is sleeping by sticking a blanket over him (quipping “Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired!”), and then jumps off the wheel of the plane. Before long, he’s grabbed an airhead stewardess (Rae Dawn Chong) to help him, joining his quest of fucking shit up in the name of fatherly love. The rest of the movie is Arnie running around, punching dudes out, throwing them off mountains, robbing a gun-shop with a bulldozer, and then invading a small island in the climax where they are keeping his daughter hostage and where he massacres an entire army single-handedly.

This is back in the good old days of the 1980s where Arnie was still making viciously violent movies in the period after Terminator made him a star and before he became a warm and cuddly mainstream icon with Twins and Junior and Jingle All The Way. Produced by Joel Silver, Commando is a prototypical 1980s action movie where all the bad guys are minorities, all the women are beautiful bimbos, and the one-liners are memorably corny, with even room to include Arnie’s catch-phrases like “I’ll be back” and “Trust me.” Not to mention the tell tale sign of a bullshit action movie... unbelievable hero names! Did I forget to say Arnie’s character is called John Matrix. I guess John Grenade or John Supersoldier would have been too obvious.

Classic bullshit scenes come thick and fast throughout this flick. The title credit montage has one of the greatest images ever, conveying the happiness Matrix and his daughter live in, with the postcard image of Arnie kneeling, smiling like a goofball, helping his daughter feed a young deer! HEARTWARMING! Then you have the aforementioned dialogue such as when Arnie gets the drop on the bad guy sleazeball Sully (David Patrick Kelly of The Warriors) who Arnie holds over a ravine in the attempt to obtain information about where his daughter is:

MATRIX: “Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?”
SULLY: “That’s right, Matrix, you did!”
MATRIX: “I lied.”

Then Arnie drops him to his death. Then he busts into a hotel room to have a fist fight with another bad guy, the bad-ass named Cooke (Bill Duke of Predator):

COOKE: “You scared mothefucker? Well, you should be, because this Green Beret is going to kick your ass!”
MATRIX: “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now I’m very hungry!”

And then Arnie punches him into another hotel room where a young couple are fucking (gratuitous nudity is a Joel Silver staple). The action sequences throughout, from the attack on Arnie’s home where he rushes off to his secret shed filled with automatic weapons, to the brawl in a shopping mall where eight security guards rush him and he throws them all off at the same time like’s he the fucking Hulk! Then the sequence where Arnie crashes into a surplus store and loads up on shells, grenades, weapons, and flip-flops is like Gun and Ammo porn for all the Soldiers of Fortune subscribers out there. Every now and then there will be a scene with General Kirby at the aftermath of all this destruction with some dialogue that testifies to Arnie’s brilliance:

SOLDIER: “What can we expect, sir?”
KIRBY: “World War III.”

World War III is what we get when Arnie and Rae Dawn Chong steal a two-prop plane and land near the island where Arnie blows away every swarthy military man extra in sight, which is a total massacre that Arnie only receives two superficial wounds after having killed two hundred soldiers, never missing with the dozen machine guns he has. There’s even a scene where he gets trapped in a shed and uses garden implements to decapitate and maim more soldiers. HANDYMAN ACTION!

Acting-wise, Arnie is Arnie. You know what to expect. Alyssa Milano is basically Punky Brewster in this. Rae Dawn Chong is hilariously annoying, a woman who whines constantly after being kdnapped by Arnie, comes to believe in his cause and helps him to the point by becoming bait to sleazeballs that Arnie fucks up. Dan Hedaya plays the dictator with an accent that makes him sound like Peter Sellars in The Party. However, the movie is stolen by Australian’s own Vernon Wells (of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) who plays Bennett, a bad guy who must be seen to be believed. A former member of Matrix’s unit but was kicked out because he liked the violence too much, Bennett looks like Freddie Mercury with a thick moustache, close-cropped hair and a penchant for wearing chain-mail over his flabby gut. Now Vernon Wells is hilarious enough with his Aussie accent (when Matrix says “I’ll be back, Bennett”, he replies wryly, “Oi, John... I’ll be waiting, John.”). However, everything he says is tainted with this blatant homoeroticism as if Arnie was his former lover. This reaches boiling point in the climactic fight between Bennett and Arnie in a boiler room basement with Bennett holding Arnie’s daughter hostage after having shot Arnie in the arm. So, Bennett has the drop on him, but Arnie wisely convinces him to engage in a knife-fight instead:

MATRIX: “You can beat me... You want to put the knife in me. Look me in the eyes. See what’s going on in there while you turn it. That’s what you want to do to me, right? Come on, let the girl go. You and me. Don’t deprive yourself of some pleasure. Come on, Bennett: Let’s Party!”

Through this speech, the film keeps cutting to Bennett quivering in sadistic, orgasmic delight at the concept of sticking it into Arnie. And if this wasn’t enough, did I mention that Arnie kills Bennett by throwing a pipe into his body, stabbing him into a pressure cooker. “LET OFF SOME STEAM, BENNETT.” This homoerotic quality is a testament to the action genre’s assertion of right wing dogma, characterising the bad guy as a leather-wearing stereotype of 1980s Gay Culture, but then letting the camera fawn all over Arnie’s oily muscles whenever it gets the chance, producing a thoroughly confusing if not compelling comment on sexual difference. Anyway, daughter is reunited with father after witnessing such a shockingly violent sight and along with the airhead stewardess they walk into the surf with the cheesy end credits anthem by Power Station, ‘We Fight For Love.’

Sit back, turn off your brain, and strap yourself in for a perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger Joel Silver action special.

Bullshit Movies Extra Features: A group of us screened Commando once again for the benefit of someone who hadn’t seen it and here are some memorable comments made throughout.

1) Scene of Arnie carrying a log on his shoulders
ERIKA: ‘Is that a real log?’
DAN: ‘No!’
ERIKA: ‘Why would you carry that?’
DAN: ‘Because he can!’

2) Scene of Arnie teaching his daughter how to perform martial arts in the credit sequence
DAN: 'Yeah, we get that he loves his daughter.’

3) Scene of Bennett walking around with his chain-mail on.
SEYMOUR: ‘Look, he’s wearing it in public!’

4) Shot of Bennett in leather pants.
DAN: ‘This really is a gay movie.’

5) Scene where Bill Duke says to Arnie “fuck you” and Arnie replies in a camp fashion “fuck you, asshole”
ERIKA: ‘That’s so gay... [shot of naked women in the next hotel room] Oh my god, look at the size of her tits!’

6) Scene where Arnie rips open a chain lock on a fence
DAN: ‘Yeah, we get it, guys. He’s fucking strong.’

7) Shot of Arnie putting the brake on the bulldozer he’s used to smash into a gunshop
SEYMOUR: ‘He put the handbrake on the bulldozer... Didn’t want it roll away and make a scene’

8) Shots of Arnie taking lots of guns into a shopping trolley
SEYMOUR: ‘This is some Reaganite shit’

9)Scene where Arnie sets a C4 claymore that explodes a building into a gigantic fireball.
SEYMOUR: “Those claymores have a few ball bearings in them.”

10) Shot of Bennett chasing after Arnie’s daughter
DAN: “He’s so fat and weird.’

11) Many shots of soldiers being wasted by Arnie.
ERIKA: ‘These guys suck.’

12) Arnie hides behind a statue during a shoot-out.
SEYMOUR: ‘I’d love it if it was a statue of Jesus.’

13) Shot of Bennett during Arnie’s speech about sticking the knife into him.
ERIKA: ‘Oh my god! He’s actually having an orgasm!’

14) Scene where Arnie throws a pipe into and through Bennett
SEYMOUR: ‘There is no way that could have happened. The laws of physics are pretty against him.’

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hackers (1995)

I like William Gibson as much as any other wet-wired meat-machine, but cyberpunk seriously has a lot to answer for. For one thing it allowed those involved in computers to portray themselves as cool and hip in a really annoying way, uttering things like “We are the samurai, the keyboard cowboys.” I’m not saying hackers and citizens of the online community are not important or skilled as I have little to no idea of the kind of smarts it takes to program code. Skilled like mathematicians and mathematicians helped break codes during World Wars like the whole Enigma thing, but that doesn’t mean I have to buy a math nerd as James Bond with a calculator. And when cyberpunk prompted a new subculture to be adapted and consumed into popular culture, Hollywood would strike, attempting to invest the mundane task of using a keyboard and perceiving data into a visceral, cinematic experience. Case example: Hackers, directed by Iain Softley, an attempt to translate the world of computer piracy into a hip and edgy and rebellious teen movie, where hackers are upstarts who rollerblade and tap keyboards with lightning dexterity while The Prodigy’s ‘Voodoo People’ continuously plays over the soundtrack.

Hackers attempts to blow your headspace in the opening sequence where SWAT team swarms over a white picket suburban home, kicking down the doors for a suspect, and then there’s a court case with the Public Enemy Number One they’ve captured. A young Felicity Huffman reads out the charges where hundreds of computers on Wall Street were crashed simultaneously through the power of hacking and there was a financial crisis and the camera pans to the right and finds dead air, but wait a minute, pan down and WHAT, it’s an eight year kid named Dade! Wargames wasn’t an effective warning obviously as our investment with computers has turned children into super genius rebellious criminal masterminds – Damien 2.0. The parents are sentenced to fork over thousands of dollars in damages and Dade is sentenced to not use a computer until he’s eighteen as obviously he would no longer be interested in defying authority or anything like that because teenagers follow the law to the letter, so nice thinking there, movie judge. Anyway, time out as I still need to recover from this concept that children can control the flow of society through hacking. Cue the Law & Order sting – DA DUNK. Fast forward to when Dade’s turned eighteen and is now Sick Boy from Trainspotting (Johnny Lee Miller) but with Matthew Boderick’s accent and his mother is knocking on his bedroom door asking,

“What are you doing?”

“I’m taking over a TV network.”

Mind explosion control alt delete. Hack MTV, please! No, instead Dade uses his hacking talents to interrupt a Rush Limburagh conservative talk show host with an episode of The Outer Limits, basically turning over the channel but using the magic of computers and fooling dimwitted guards who don’t know what a modem is (a strange new world was 1995...). His user name is Crash Override and he meets another hacker named Acid Burn online and they have a hacking duel, which is portrayed cinematically with the director dropping in stock TV footage for a shoot-out montage while the trance megamix score is notched up a couple of levels. Sample text: “I will swat u like the fly u r.” BURN. Then there’s some Parker Lewis Can’t Lose shenanigans when Dade hits his new high school (see, his sexy single mother has moved them to New York, which Dade is annoyed about as you can’t do anything in New York apparently, NY = BORING!) and he meets some other hackers who don’t know he was that famous outlaw hacker child, but then he also meets Angelina Jolie in one of her first star roles, being sexy and full-lipped and not emaciated as she is currently. Jolie’s lips play a prank on him by telling him there’s a pool on the top floor but he gets locked out when it rains and there’s no pool. Dade uses his hacking powers to make the school computer turn on the fire sprinklers wetting everyone while he opens an umbrella because he is radical, woot. Then there’s a hip new club where the hackers meet and rollerblade and exchange illicit books of government code and the nerd fantasy is indulged that you can impress a girl with your video-game playing prowess when Dade beats Angelina Jolie’s score on a first-person race-game in a mind-numbing scene that makes none of this look very interesting.

The plot eventually kicks in when a corporately sponsored hacker named The Plague creates a Leonardo Da Vinci themed virus in the corporate Oil corporation super-network that embezzles money but throws off everyone the scent by a threatening plot to drop oil into the world’s oceans; the ethos of the 1960s is resurrected with the ecological concern displayed here (I have a dream and it involves hacking the planet to save the whales!). The authorities believe that it was our hero hackers who are responsible, all because of a floppy disc with the evidence on it, which falls into Dade’s lap eventually. First fundamental problem of this movie is that the villain of the piece, The Plague, is played by Fisher Stevens, the rubbery faced character actor who played the Indian professor in Short Circuit; Martin Short must have been busy. I had no idea what they were going for here because The Plague is neither threatening or funny and in the end is quite embarrassing particularly his introductory shot where he skateboards into the main computer network with a goatee, a fur coat and a grim look. The result is the question, “Wait, isn’t he the comic relief to the main bad guy, you know, a corporate boss played by David Warner or someone with... presence.” Warning: your movie needs a reboot, preferably the Alan Rickman version 2.0 villain program, please. And The Plague’s philosophy? “There’s no right or wrong, there’s only fun and boring.” And you, sir, are the latter. Also: the femme fatale of this movie is Lorraine Bracco in a blonde wig, which is neither sexy nor funny to watch. FAIL.

Speaking of things we are supposed to take seriously but cannot take seriously, here is some of the dialogue from Hackers:

“You could sit at home, and do like absolutely nothing, and your name goes
through like 17 computers a day. 1984? Yeah right, man. That's a typo. Orwell is
here now. He's livin' large.”

“You want to be the elite, you want to do a righteous hack.”

“Hacking isn’t a tool, it’s a survival strategy.”

“Has a killer refresh rate.”

“We have just gotten a wake up call from the Nintendo

“It isn’t a virus, it’s a worm!”

“Hackers of the world unite!”

Yes, as Dade and the ragtag group of rebellious nerds on rollerblades are pursued by the Feds (headed up by Bunk from The Wire) and ‘Voodoo People’ is played once again, but they find themselves working together, particularly once Dade discovers Angelina Jolie is a secret hacker nerd who says things like “I want to triple my RAM” (nerd fantasy number two: sexy girls actually dig on this software bullshit!) and is actually Acid Burn (Hackers is the You’ve Got Mail of hacker movies then). Two Asian dudes who run a Wayne’s World public access show and are named Razor and Blade help them out, televising the union of hackers to log onto their laptops and hook up their cables to public telephones and defeat The Plague from realising his nefarious plan that seriously lacks any tension or interest. More Mission Impossible style break-ins into the corporate buildings, please, like Sneakers, thank you. We don’t even have any polygon avatar battles like Johnny Mnemonic or The Lawnmower Man in the climax and instead have arty shots of the hackers in telephone booths spinning in slow-motion. LAME. Give me a dated CGI hacker battle next time, Hackers, that is if you were like a video game and could possibly change at all when next experienced (Paging Tron!).

The worst thing that Hackers has to answer for, however, is the introduction of Matthew Lillard to the world of acting. While all the characters in the movie are spectacularly annoying, Lillard should get a special Mork From Ork Award for Achievement in Annoying with his character, Cereal Killer, a whacked-out, grandchild of Woodstock (or Hackstock, LOL) with pig-tails and suspenders and acts like a hyperactive tit. Then again, Lillard may be providing the movie’s sole smidgeon of truth, which is that hackers are actually rather irritating sorts who you wouldn’t want to meet in person and would rather read about in a Wired article. While he might not be the coolest Hacker in the movie, Lillard can rest assured with the data that he certainly is a Hack, ROFL. Oh yeah, HACK THE PLANET!