Archive for the ‘Guy Pearce’ Category

MOVIE: Prometheus (2012)

February 6, 2013

[Another catch-up review from 2012 — one more of those left and then I start. . . catching up on reviews from 2013 instead!  Whee!]

So, having recently been going back through all my reviews from last year to prep my “Best of” lists for 2012 (sure, it’s now February 2013, but I’m sure you all still care), I feel like it’s safe for me to make this declaration officially.  I’ve reviewed all the reviews and it’s not even a close call:  Prometheus was, hands-down, the stupidest movie I saw all year (and people?  I saw a movie called METAL TORNADO.  So. . . you know.)

I’m not even sure where to begin witht his one, it was so rife with stupidness.  But I guess I’ll start with a quick overview, in case any of you guys managed to miss all the hoopla about it (luckies!).

This flick is Ridley Scott’s prequel (as much as he weirdly kept insisting it wasn’t) to his brilliant 1979 film Alien, a movie that holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first scary movie I ever saw (thanks to my uncle, who let me watch it when I was about 8 years old. Great babysitter, that guy!  I highly recommend him!).

It’s about two archaeologists — a married couple named Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) — who discover a series of ancient cave paintings they come to believe is a map to an alien planet, the original inhabitants of which created mankind.

Magically, they manage to convince an old rich dude named Weyland to fund a space expedition to the planet, despite the fact they have absolutely nothing of substance to back their theory up except for their love of aliens (Holloway) and pseudo-religious beliefs (Holloway).  Lucky for them, Weyland is looking for a fountain of youth, as all rich, old white guys in sci-fi movies do (feels like!), so he doesn’t ask too many questions (including, for example, why there’d be any reason to expect the aliens who created mortal man might hold the solution to eternal life).

Naturally, they get to the planet, they land on the planet, they do a bunch of really astonishingly stupid things, and they more or less all end up dead (SPOILER ALERT HA HA!).  For a good play-by-play of all the really astonishingly stupid things, check out this video, “Everything Wrong with Prometheus in 4 Minutes” (I was going to make a list for you myself, but why reinvent the wheel when there are, like, 86,000 other reviews of this movie that list all the same bullpucky?):

In theory, this should’ve been a fairly easy movie to make.   Despite the eyebrow-arching Creation concept, the rest of this movie sounds, well, a lot like (right down to the teeny tiny crew aboard the GINORMOUS space vessel, by the way — for some reason, the Prometheus, with its crew of about 7 people, is so huge it even has a BILLIARDS room).  It could easily have been an entertaining, fairly straight-forward sci-fi/horror flick, with lots of room for cool special effects, interesting character dynamics, and thrills and chills.

We know, after all, that Ridley Scott can make a seriously great goddamn sci-fi/horror movie about aliens, after all, right?

The problem, though, is that instead of going with a group of really smart, talented, and creative script writers, Scott went with. . . Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.  Spaihts, as near as I can tell, is mostly “famous” for writing a sci-fi movie that never actually got made.  And Lindelof — well, Lindelof is famous for creating the TV series Lost, which was similarly bogged down with overly “deep,” underly thoughtful spiritual and philosophical nonsense.

This movie is absolutely drowning in pseudo-intelligence, to the point where it’s hard to even be interested enough in what it was trying to say to complain about how dumb what it was trying to say actually was.  There’s a scene in the movie that kind of summed up the whole film for me, and I was surprised it wasn’t in that little video I posted earlier, because it’s also a pretty spectacular gaffe.  Here’s how it went:

Charlize Theron’s character to David (the android):  How long were we in hypersleep?

David (the android): 2 years, 4 months, 18 days, 36 hours, and 15 minutes.

Why does that sum up the whole film for me?  Because it’s SO DUMB.  This is a copycat movie, trying to ACT like an intelligent science fiction movie, right down to the android whose computer is so advanced he speaks alien languages his programmers have never even heard of, yet doesn’t seem to know there are 24 hours in a day (18 days and 36 hours??  Dude.).  It’s just dumb.  A dumb person wrote that line.  A person who wants to sound not dumb, but who is, in fact, really dumb.

I got into a discussion about this movie with a friend recently who really enjoyed it and she was saying my problem was that I wasn’t willing to suspend my disbelief (about Creation, for example — be it by God or by aliens) long enough to let the movie’s entertaining elements really take over.  Suspension of disbelief is key to enjoying science fiction movies in particular, she said — and I agree.

The problem is, I’m perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief of Creation for a sci-fi movie, but only when that sci-fi movie is actually making an intelligent case for its new idea.  It can be a completely invented case, based on futuristic stuff that’s all made up — that’s cool.  But it has to MAKE THAT CASE.

In Prometheus, the two scientists tell the crew of their ship that aliens created mankind, and everybody on the ship essentially responds, “Seriously? Awesome!”  And then there’s no attempt whatsoever to explain how that could be even remotely possible, given the enormous wealth of evidence against it (evolution, e.g.).  And sure, maybe the plan is to explain that down the line, in the inevitable sequel.  But in the meantime, I was left with a cast of characters who all seemed perfectly happy to accept without question the idea that all our science on the origin of man was wrong.  There isn’t even a DISCUSSION about it.  And that’s the number one sin crappy sci-fi movies can make for me — relying on my ability to suspend my disbelief and accept a radical idea without making any real attempt to convince me why or how.

Will I see that sequel?  Crap.  Probably.  But not in a theater, and not with any expectations whatsoever, that’s for sure (wait, no, that’s wrong, I do have one expectation:  that it’ll involve Weyland as a young man, since that’s the only reason whatsoever I can think of for casting Guy Pearce in that role wearing that much make-up in this installment!).  Should you see THIS movie?  Crap.  Probably.  But while I am usually quite fanatically against Internet piracy, I highly recommend you go steal this one from somewhere online.  It’s not worth the $4 it’ll cost you to rent it legally, and damned if I want anybody to keep rewarding filmmakers for making stupid baloney like this.


[Buy it | Netflix it]

Genre: Science Fiction, Crap
Cast:  Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

MOVIE: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

January 19, 2012

I have one question for Guillermo del Toro (who co-wrote and produced this stinker) and that question is:  WTBF?  (What the bloody frak?)

This completely awful movie is about a family renovating a big old house that turns out to have, like, a portal to fairyland in the basement.  The fairies eat children’s teeth.  And sometimes whole people.

Yes, it’s a scary movie about . . . the tooth fairy.  Which is to say, it’s a NOT scary movie about . . . the tooth fairy.

WTBF, I ask again.  Considering the fact del Toro clearly had no qualms about ripping off his own film Pan’s Labyrinth for a good portion of this movie’s first half, I would’ve expected it to at least LOOK good.  But though the creatures were kind of cute — you know, for evil teeth fairies — the rest of the film’s look was boring and stale.  Spooky old house, yawn.  Spooky old garden (complete with labyrinth), yawn.  Creepy dark basement, snooze.   There’s absolutely nothing original here whatsoever, the dialogue is pure crappola, and my god, I think Katie Holmes is actually getting worse with practice instead of better.

The one saving grace, for me anyway, was that I really liked the kid.  The kid is the best actor in the entire film.  Go, kid!  Here’s hoping your next movie does not waste your time the way this one did.  Life is short — trust me.  You’ll know what I mean when you hit your 30s.  Try not to piffle it away on piffle.  LIKE I JUST DID.


[Netflix it | Buy/Rent from Amazon]

Genre:  Horror, Crap
Cast: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Alan Dale, Jack Thompson, Guillermo del Toro

MOVIE: The King’s Speech (2010)

January 7, 2011

I spent last weekend at the movies, where I saw two films that had been showing up on a lot of critics’ top-ten lists for 2010.  I was really, really excited to see them both, which is, I believe, primarily where I went wrong.  (Lofty expectations:  almost never a good way to start a movie.)

The first was True Grit, a very, very good film (really!  I mean that!  stop acting like I hated True Grit, everyone!) but not, I’m sorry, a great one, and the second was this one.  Which, I’m afraid:  same-same.

While I was perfectly entertained by The King’s Speech, I’m sort of boggled as to why it made it, last-minute, onto so many of those film critics’ lists.  It’s funny, it’s nicely filmed, it’s very well-acted, but it’s not, again, what I would classify as a “great film.”

The story is about King George VI, neé Prince Albert (Colin Firth).  It’s the 1930s, and radio has just entered the realm of global politics, with leaders all over the world beginning to give addresses to their citizens en masse for the first time in history.

The sitting King, George V, is ailing, though, and which of his sons will replace him is a topic of much controversy.  The first son, Edward (Guy Pearce), is embroiled in a first-rate scandal — he’s in love with, and plans to marry, a twice-divorced American woman named Wallis Simpson, something that has the Church of England, no great fans of divorce, all up in his grill (so to speak).  When the king dies and Edward  takes the throne, his own government essentially gives him an ultimatum:  dump the love of your life or give us back that crown.

Edward, being both reckless and true to himself (neither thing much suited to politics), agrees to abdicate to his brother, Albert (who then changes his  name to George VI to sound more regal).

The problem is that for years, Albert has struggled with a terrible stammer that leaves him wholly unfit for radio work and speeches.  With England on the verge of war, the country desperately needs a leader who can inspire confidence.  But whenever Bertie opens his mouth, he sounds unprepared, unprofessional, boring, and difficult to understand — not to mention palpably painful to listen to for anybody, the film’s audience included, who knows what he’s going through.

Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a kooky speech therapist Bertie’s wife (Helena Bonham Carter) digs up after every other doctor has failed to help.  Lionel and Bertie butt heads immediately when it becomes clear Logue has no special respect for regal status.  But the more the two work together — Lionel holding fast to the theory Bertie’s stammer is essentially all in his head: the product of a difficult childhood and the anxiety and self-doubt it created — the more Bertie begins to realize he can do it.  Not just talk without a stammer, but, more importantly, lead a nation.

The film nicely both opens and closes with a speech, a full-circle structural technique I always appreciate in films, and there were a lot of visuals I found totally delightful as well (I especially enjoyed the way faces were often framed against broad, colorful walls — the muddied mess of the wall in the treatment room; the patterned wallpaper in Lionel’s sitting room; the blanketed wall in the speech room at the end of the film, etc.  In many shots, the walls seemed to be the important element, with the person’s head off in a bottom corner:  an interesting way to draw comparisons against the men themselves and the various incongruous settings they find themselves in).  Plus, the acting was inarguably superb; Oscar talk for Firth is completely justified, in my opinion, because he makes both Bertie’s stammer and lisp sound completely natural to him, which can’t have been easy to do.  And Rush is Rush — a little bit crackers, a blast to hang out with.

The problem is, the schtick, which primarily relies on the inherent comedy found in watching a prude let go of his morals and begin dropping the  f-word with abandon, got old pretty fast.  And overall, I didn’t think this film had much depth to it.  It’s a nice story, told well, but I wasn’t particularly moved by it.  It isn’t likely to stick with me in any significant way. It’s a good movie.  It’s very entertaining.   But it’s not a movie I’m likely to feel moved to watch again.

Definitely worth a rental, especially if you enjoy period dramas.  But you can probably skip the theater for this one.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Drama
Cast:   Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi

MOVIE: The Road (2009)

June 22, 2010

Movie’s fine.  Viggo’s good.  Book was about a thousand times better.

Man, I’m bummed out.

[Netflix it | Buy it | Buy the book instead]

Genre:  Drama, Post-Apocalypse
Cast:  Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams, Molly Parker

MOVIE: The Hurt Locker (2009)

August 10, 2009

[The following review is excerpted from the Boyfriend of the Week write-up on Jeremy Renner — I decided to make a separate blog entry for the movie so that it’s easier to find the review down the line if you’re lookin’.  Which you ought to be, because this movie is incredible.]

The Hurt Locker, set in Baghdad in 2004, focuses on three soldiers in an elite Army unit, the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). The movie opens with the death of Bravo Company’s leader, Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce), in a scene that will make your stomach clench into a fist-sized knot approximately fourteen seconds in.

Just so you know: it will not unclench after that for at least 12 hours. Longer if you’re me.

Brought in to replace him is Staff Sgt. Will James (Renner), whose leadership style is radically different from that of his predecessor. James immediately clashes with his number two, Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), a cautious, by-the-book sort of soldier who freaks out when James continually gives the metaphoric (and occasionally literal) finger to procedure.

It soon becomes clear that James has no apparent fear of death — an alarming quality in an EOD specialist, though one you’d also think would sort of have to be a prerequisite. He routinely walks into dangerous situations he doesn’t need to walk into, taking Sanborn and the third member of their team, a kid named Spec. Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), into that danger with him. He does things like take off his headset when he gets annoyed with Sanborn, whose job it is to keep an eye out for snipers or dudes with cell phones that look suspiciously like detonators (which is all of them, naturally); or strip off his protective gear despite (because of) the fact he’s surrounded by IEDs on all side. He stays at scenes long after the time he should’ve cleared out, putting both his own life and the lives of his company at risk.

At first it seems like he has a death wish. But it’s not really a death wish so much as it’s, like, death apathy. The movie wants us to believe that what drives James is an addiction to adrenaline — after all, it opens with this quote by war correspondent Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” But James is not a simple adrenaline junkie, and this movie, from my perspective, was not really about addiction to the rush of danger.

Instead, it seemed to be about the variety of ways soldiers, especially young soldiers, respond to danger and fear (for example, look at the differences between James and Eldridge, or even James and Sanborn), and the hardship and confusion that stems from being sent to a place like Iraq to live for an extended period of time — a place much more like an alien planet than simply another country — and then asked to return home and do things like shop for groceries with your wife, do the dishes after dinner, play with your children, work at a desk, etc.

Iraq, where everything seems upside-down: the nice people often the most terrifying, the children used as vehicles for bombs, the cats all three-legged and limpy (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one — what was up with all the cats?), the language completely incomprehensible, and your time on the job spent walking right up to the very sorts of things sane people run screaming away from.

When your every-single-day in Iraq is a clenched-stomach tale of impossible odds, how do you go back to picking out a box of cereal in a grocery store? Like it’s a task worth your time? Like it’s a task of any importance whatsoever? To me, that’s not addiction to adrenaline so much as it is PTSD. War breaks minds — it does it all the time, without mercy or discretion. And to me, that, more than anything else, is what The Hurt Locker is about.

Adding to the tension of this movie is the fact that though it’s shot primarily outdoors, often in large open areas of the city or way out in the enormous desert beyond, it’s one of the most thoroughly claustrophobic films I’ve ever seen. No matter how much the camera is pulled back in any given scene, your field of vision remains limited to James and about the first half-meter of the primary blast radius around him. Sometimes, it gets even smaller — smaller than James, even. Down to the exposed fingertips on his gloved hands and the inch or two that encircles the fuse he’s trying to defuse.

When working on an IED, James’s gear is almost spacesuit-like, which only adds to the sense of confinement. It’s a big clunky helmet and huge padded suit that not only weighs so much it makes him walk heavy and slow like he’s on the moon (not ideal for when it comes time to flee, I might note), but has absolutely GOT to be the hottest thing you could possibly wear in Baghdad, Iraq. Every time the face mask came clunking down over James’s eyes, I was immediately gripped by a feeling of sick enclosure. The knot in my stomach tightened. I shrunk down a bit more in my seat. And then every time time a bomb was disarmed, James would take his gear off, calmly walk back to the truck, sit, and light a cigarette. And as he’d inhale, I would too, often for the first time in what felt like forever.

As for Renner himself, wow. If I ever had any doubt about his talent, it was completely blown to smithereens by my second time through this film. He is aces, and always has been, at playing distant, emotionally cool characters. But in this movie, at long last, we get to see some cracks. There are several scenes when James just loses it, for one thing. Even more affecting, though, were the scenes in which he exhibited actual tenderness, striking not just because of his reserved character, but because tenderness in that place of violence and strain — it just plain stands out. Certainly that would include every scene with the little boy he befriends. But there’s also a scene towards the end that really stayed with me. A man has had a bomb strapped to his chest and it’s covered in half a dozen padlocks so that he can’t get free. James is struggling to figure out what to do, as the timer ticks down, down, down, but the man is freaking out, screaming and crying and it’s loud and mad and crazy. In the middle of all that chaos, James suddenly cups the back of the man’s head gently with his hand, like he’s a person, just a regular person in a regular place, and says soothingly, reassuringly, “You’re okay.” I don’t know why that stuck with me, but it did.

And don’t even get me started on that shower scene after one of his teammates gets shot. Covered in blood from trying to save his friend’s life, James climbs into the shower, gear and all, and we watch as the low-flow military-grade showerhead gradually washes away not only the blood drenching his fatigues, but the last remnants of his steely facade as well.

Goddamn. That, my friends, is what we librarians call ACTING.

Seriously, I could talk about The Hurt Locker all day, and I would, too, if I didn’t think it would drive you guys batty. I’ll stop now, though, and sum it up with this one last thing: if you haven’t seen this movie, GO SEE IT. It is a brilliant film — absolutely brilliant — and even though I don’t put much stock in the Academy Awards, if it gets shafted for a Best Picture nomination, heads will roll. (I’m starting with Joan Rivers and working my way in from there.)

[Pre-queue me at Netflix | Watch the trailer]