Archive for the ‘Sam Neill’ Category

MOVIE: Daybreakers (2009)

May 19, 2010

This movie surprised me by not being nearly as terrible as I was expecting it to be.  I love it when that happens!  Also: Ex-Boyfriend-of-the-Weekapalooza :  bonus!

The story begins ten years in the future, when most of the humans on the planet have been infected with some sort of plague, turning them into vampires.  The few humans that remain are being hunted for food (their blood), as more and more people are converted, tipping the population too far in the vampiric direction.

As supply-and-demand problems heat up, a pharmaceutical company (Bromsley Marks) decides it’s high time they cash in.  Company researcher-slash-vampire Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) has been tasked with the job of developing a synthetic blood substitute, one he hopes will end the genocide of humans and make it possible for the two races to coexist peacefully.  But the pharmaceutical company’s CEO, Charles Bromsley (Sam Neill, NOT sucking in this, for once of late) has a different agenda — he wants to get vampires hooked on his stuff so he can make a fortune.

Meanwhile, the company has hired a bunch of bounty hunters and sent them out in search of humans they can bring back to HQ, where they’ll be sedated, hooked up to machines, and then “farmed” for blood.  But the blood shortage quickly hits critical mass; vampires are starting to starve and, when deprived of blood for long enough, begin to suffer brain damage that makes them devolve rapidly into crazy monsters.

This fractures the vampire race, causing the creation of an army of sorts, tasked with keeping the derelicts down.  But Dalton, horrified by what he’s seeing around him (especially the farming of humans for food), teams up with a small band of humans who have stumbled across a “cure” for vampirism.  Determined to right the vamp world’s wrongs, Dalton begins helping the group’s leader, “Elvis” (Willem Dafoe), figure out a safe way to administer the cure (which involves using sunlight to set a vampire temporarily on fire) hoping it will ultimately reset the balance of humans and blood-suckers on Earth.

I really liked the overall concept of this film — it’s one of the few monster movies I’ve seen where the monsters are the majority, first of all, and while I found it a little bit heavy-handed about its various messages (evils of corporate greed, dwindling natural resources, animal rights, the perils of eating processed foods instead of organics, etc.), I was definitely 100% along for the ride.

The problem hits about twenty minutes from the end, though, when the movie suddenly shifts into standard action/horror mode.  Instead of carrying the whole “cure” thing through to an interesting finale, it pretty much just drops all the science balderdash and replaces it with a gory series of shoot-outs and exploding bodies.  I thought it was headed in one direction (Edward stumbles upon another “cure” for vampirism that looks like it would work much better and be sort of self-perpetuating as well), but instead of really pursuing that “twist,” it seemed to me like the writers got bored with their own ideas and decided to throw in the towel and start blowing shit up instead.

ALSO, and this has nothing to do with the film itself, but is more a general beef about DVDs:  this DVD has a really, really annoying root menu that asks the user to select whether they are “human” or “vampire” before opening up the playback options.  Not having seen the film, I didn’t really get the joke, and I was confused — often a DVD that starts with two options like that is asking me if I want the widescreen vs. standard display, or the theatrical version vs. the director’s cut.  I had no idea what I was being asked to select here.   And so, Dear DVD Production Companies:  Please do not confuse me with meaningless options on your DVD menu.  It’s not cute.  It doesn’t amuse me.  I don’t want to have to sit through animation or gimmicks — I just want to start the damn film.   God.

Minor complaints aside, however, I really enjoyed this one.  Overall, a good experience and definitely a flick I would recommend to anybody who likes a goodish-badish monster movie.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Horror, Vampires
Cast:  Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Mungo McKay

MOVIE: Dune (1984)

March 22, 2010

You know that YouTube video that features the five year-old girl describing the movie Star Wars?  This one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBM854BTGL0 (“The shiny guy ALWAYS worries. . .”). Brace yourselves, because that’s probably how I’m going to sound trying to explain the plot of this movie.

I’ve never read Dune (Frank Herbert, 1965) and, to be honest, until recently, I’d had very little interest in seeing the movie.  BUT, the recent discussions about it in the comments here and here got me thinking maybe I was missing out on something, if not brilliant, at least infinitely quotable.   Having never read the book, though, clearly put me at a distinct disadvantage.  And the filmmakers seemed to know it would, too, as this movie at times seemed to feature more voice-over exposition than actual action.   Try as they might, though, I still got to the end credits somewhat befuddled.

The good news is, I was so thoroughly charmed by the copious, gooey amounts of cheese that it hardly mattered I had no idea what was going on.  Oh my god, this movie is the ultimate 80’s film, isn’t it?  Starring everyone from Jurgen Prochnow (the grizzled captain from Das Boot) to Sting, and featuring music by Toto?  TOTO?!  You can’t not love it.  You just can’t.  I defy you.  And the costumes!  The special effects!  The worms!  That blobby guy in the portable jar!  When I wasn’t tipping my head muttering, “Huh?” I was laughing my sweet can off.  If ever there were a movie the term “awesome” was born to describe, this would be that movie.

I will now attempt to explain the plot, more for your amusement than anything else.

Okay, so, like, there are these four planets that are currently embroiled in a big conspiracy thing: the home of the emperor of the galaxy, the home of the House of Atreides (the good guys), the home of the House of Harkonnen (the bad guys — you can tell because they have lots of acne), and finally, the planet Arrakis, also known as “Dune” (or, by Virginia Madsen, as “Dewwwwn”).  Dune is the planet that houses the world’s most valued substance, this stuff called the “spice melange.”  Not only does the spice seem to have some kind of psychotropic effect (we’re told in one voice-over that it “expands consciousness”), but it’s also the stuff required to “fold space,” the fastest way to travel through the universe.   Instead of flying from one point to the next, the spice lets you bend space in half so the two points are suddenly right on top of each other.  This is a cool theory, and one nicely demonstrated by ex-Boyfriend Sam Neill using a sheet of paper in the movie Event Horizon, should you be interested.  (“F*ck layman’s terms, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?”)

Apparently, the Emperor has decided that the key to his staying in charge is to take out the House of Atreides, which he’s decided has way too many charismatic potential leaders (the Duke of Atreides, for one, and his son Paul (MacLachlin) in particular).  His plan is to put Atreides in charge of the spice, to lure them to Arrakis, and then to have the Harkonnen attack when they least suspect it.  The Harkonnen will then take control of the spice, and the Emperor will get to stay in charge.

BUT, what he has failed to take into consideration is the fact that the people of Arrakis (the Fremen) have this centuries old myth about a “savior” who will come to their planet one day and rescue them from their lifetime of servitude.  Or whatever.  And anybody who has ever seen any movie EVER knows that if there’s a savior myth involved, somebody’s plan is going to go all foo-fah.  Paul is the savior, naturally (because he’s the cutest), and frankly, if you’ve seen Avatar, you know how this will play out.  He’ll team up with the locals, learn how to ride their giant animals (in this case, enormous deadly sand worms that come up to eat you if you make any vibrations — like the ones in Tremors), become their hero, and save the day.

Throw in some kissing, some funky blue eyes, a lot of crazy fight scenes, and a whole bunch of cheesy sci-fi speak (Kwisatz Haderach!  Thufir Hawat! Muad’Dib! Sardaukar! The “weirding way”!), and what you have is a hell of a movie.

The problem with the story is that it’s about a thousand times more complicated than this.  And at least 999 times more complicated than it needed to be.  I would imagine, however, that fans of the novel probably reacted to this film with horror, ballistically going off on all the myraid subplots that got left out (for example, I would guess the romance element of this story — Paul falling in love with one of the Fremen — got more play in the book than it did in the film, and I bet his little sister, who seemed to be important but had little to do here, did as well).  That said, had I been in charge, I would’ve cut the story down even more than it likely already was, because even with the incessant voice-overs, I don’t think I quite got everything.

Nevertheless, any film where characters say things like, “Remember the tooth!  The tooth!  The toooooth!” is going to be one I really enjoy.

Now, nerds.  Should I read the book?  Let me rephrase.  MUST I read the book?  Hie thee to the comments to make thine case.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Science Fiction
Cast:  EVERYBODY ALIVE IN 1984! Especially:  Kyle MacLachlan, Max von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Jurgen Prochnow, Sting, Patrick Stewart, Linda Hunt, Brad Dourif, Sean Young, Virginia Madsen, Dean Stockwell, and director David Lynch himself!