August 27, 2013

Red Dawn/Olympus Has Fallen

It's hard to be a hack action filmmaker these days. In this era of global harmony and peace among nations, there aren't any dastardly villains anymore for Buck Plankchest to shoot at the end of the movie just before he kisses Anorexic White Woman (with Collagen-Enhanced Lips!) as the credits roll. Since the fall of the Evil Empire deprived us of the Russians and their subsidiaries in Eastern Europe as go-to bad guys, bad action movie producers have been on the hunt for the next great enemy of 'Murika. We used Muslim terrorists for a while, but since one of their hare-brained schemes actually worked in real life (Nevar forget!!!1!11oneoneone), they can't be goofy movie psychos anymore. We can't shoot Europeans because they more or less do what we say. We can't shoot the Japanese because they make us stuff. The Chinese keep our currency afloat, the Indians take care of us when we're sick and build our bridges, the Arabs sell us oil. Oh sub-Michael Bays of the world, where can you turn for a true threat to freedom, democracy, mom, and apple pie?

To North Korea, of course, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Democracy Republic People, or the DPRK, or That I'm So Ronery Country.

They're nonwhite, they hate America, they don't make anything or have any money, and they have no minority presence within the Empire to protest their negative portrayal in Hollywood. They're perfect! Plus, their leadership is a series of doofy fat guys.

So we have North Korea, a country so poor its people are losing relative height due to malnutrition, trumped up into a Dire Threat to the Empire Itself. We're talking about a leadership so inept there remains doubt that their nuclear bombs actually work. When North Korea declares war on the South, people in Seoul don't even look up from their lattes, yet we're to believe Kim Jong Un is just one fit of pique away from conquering the western half of the Empire, or storming the Imperial Palace and taking the Emperor captive.

People, when the Swayze died, so did your Red Dawn remake that nobody asked for and nobody wants. Remaking Red Dawn without Pat's Power Mullet is like nabbing Princess Vespa's empty Mercedes: All you're left with is a nice-looking and rather expensive hollow shell. In Red Dawn: The Real One, the Soviet Union launched a surprise attack on the Empire and seized the West Coast, and since the rest of the country sorta shrugged and muttered "Best thing, really", only the Swayze and his merry band of high school football players could resist the iron-fisted rule of the dastardly Commies. The producers of the remake decided to replace the bygone Soviet Communists with the in-name-only Chinese Communists, but China said no, so the producers re-cut the film to transform China into North Korea. It's movie magic!

So North Korea conquers the West Coast of the Empire, despite having a population significantly smaller than the state of California alone and lacking the facilities to deliver weapons, troops, or supplies to the theater of conflict. (Lip service is paid to this fact with a single throwaway line that Russia delivered the DPRK's troops, so why they didn't just make the Russians the enemy in the first place is anybody's guess.) Anyone who doesn't toe the Commie line gets locked into a giant prison on the edge of town. That means our old buddy Thor has to take up Mjölnir and go forth to do righteous battle with the million man army of mighty North Korea. Many shootings and explosions ensue. The North Koreans are pretty stupid and easily fooled by the plucky "teens", so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when the film ends not with the original's realistic downbeat ending (eventually the resistance is discovered by the Soviets and wiped out) but with the Wolverines liberating the prisoners and re-taking their town as triumphant music plays, an eagle sheds a single tear, and an Imperial flag waves in front of the camera.

As stupid as Red Dawn is, Die Hard in the White House is even worse. King Leonidas stars as John McClane and charisma-free Rick Yune is Hans Gruber, with that unappealing guy from The Dark Knight as the Emperor who gets kidnapped by North Korean commandos after they take over the Imperial Palace. In a highly realistic sequence, a four-engine prop cargo plane that couldn't possibly make it from North Korea to the Imperial homeland shoots people at random while our own TIE fighter pilots defending the capital look up and wonder where all the gunfire's coming from. Okay, that's not fair, two American fighters did scramble to intercept the bogey when it was maybe a couple miles from the Imperial Palace. Of course, they flew right into the path of the enemy plane's fixed sideways-firing guns instead of, I don't know, planting themselves on his six to acquire a missile lock from safety, so they're quickly disposed of. Ah-ha! All this was a ruse, for no sooner is the enemy plane is finally shot down than the North Korean commandos dressed as tourists start mowing down Secret Service agents in their ground assault on the Palace. Of course they waited until the plane crashed to launch their little attack, thus negating the whole "distraction" thing, but since the movie only allows Leonidas to actually hit the North Koreans with his gun, the evil Commies fairly quickly and easily manage to dispose of the Secret Service and stormtroopers defending the Palace.

Now I know what you're asking: Why is Rick Yune's Korean still so goddamned bad? No, I'm sorry, you're asking why Rick Yune has taken the Palace. Answer: He wants to destroy the Empire's nuclear arsenal. I'm not kidding. That's the goal. Yune needs three codes to activate Cerberus, a program that will cause all of America's ICBMs to self-destruct in their silos, leaving the Empire defenseless before a Russian first strike. (Of course 2/3 of our nuclear weapons are missiles on submarines which wouldn't be affected, but why start with logic now?). Leonidas has to rescue to the Emperor's son because threatening the kid is the only way Yune can get the Emperor to reveal the third activation code. Leo rescues the kid an hour into the movie--though sadly without screaming "This is AMERICA!" and kicking a colored man down a well--and so Yune is defeated. The movie then refuses to play by its own stupid rules when Yune activates Cerberus even though he doesn't have the third code. Somehow this means the ICBMs themselves will utterly destroy the Empire even though self-destructing an ICBM wouldn't cause its warhead to detonate and ICBMs are located in remote areas just so their nuclear destruction would cause the least possible harm. Goddamn, this is the laziest big-budget script I've seen in a while.

Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett sit in a room somewhere and recite their lines in that voice that actors use when they're just in it for the paycheck. This is the first time I've ever seen a Freeman performance that could be described as "phoning it in", and by God I hope it's the last time. I know this movie didn't deserve a genuine Morgan Freeman performance, but he looked so unhappy to be there that every time he appeared I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything's going to be okay. And of course it was okay for him, since neither he nor Bassett had to suffer through watching this crap. If you guessed the movie ends with Leonidas disabling Cerberus with just one second to spare on its bright red countdown display, then you watch too many shitty action movies.

God it pains me to say this, but Behind Enemy Lines II had North Koreans that were more recognizable than either of these big-budget travesties had. When you can digitally swap one country's flag for another and re-dub a few lines from one language to another and thereby completely change the identity of your movie's villains, exactly how much thought did you put into your movie? Lines sucked donkey balls, but at least its creators attempted to incorporate the culture of its cardboard villains. These Hollywood studio crapfests can't even be bothered to do that. Interchangeable villains in a paint-by-numbers plot add up to a bland miasma of mediocrity.

I've got to stop watching these snooze-inducing blockbusters and find something truly godawful, something to get royally pissed off about. Hmm, let's see what I've got in my stack of $2 DVDs....

August 1, 2013

The Host

No, not that one, this one.

That's right, it's the new awful film adapted from the latest female disempowerment classic of the greatest setback to women's liberation since Ann Coulter, our own Stevenie Meyer.

The world of The Host is a peaceful paradise, with no suffering or want or discord of any kind. Everyone is perfectly nice and beautiful and healthy. According to the opening narration of Jeb Stryder (A Wooden Plank), "there is no hunger. There is no violence. The environment has healed. Our planet has never been more at peace." I knew it! Mormonism wins out and converts the planet. You heard it here first.

No, it turns out that nearly all of humanity has been wiped about by parasitic clouds of glowing sperm. These aliens take over host human bodies when surgically implanted into the back of the neck while the hosts, after a certain amount of time spent trying to win the psychic war for their own bodies, just "fade away", which sounds suspiciously like "die" to me. Think of a Trill symbiont, only instead of a slug that melds its memories and personality with yours, it's luminous ejaculate that kills you

Just when you thought "Bella Swan" was embarrassingly hamfisted in its symbolism, Meyer tops herself by naming this story's protagonist central character "Melanie Stryder" (Waify McBlankexpression). Get it, strider, because she goes on a journey? (Never mind that Meyer's characters never grow or change in any way.) We meet her fleeing in terror from the aliens as she leads them away from her younger brother (Typical Child Actor) so he can escape. In accordance with the most noble feminine virtue in the Meyerverse, Melanie sacrifices herself by leaping from the building to her death. She doesn't die because if she were killed by a seven-storey plummet to the concrete below, the movie would be over. Instead, she's captured and implanted with an alien that calls itself Wanderer. No, I don't know why the aliens exclusively use English and even give themselves English names like Wanderer. Oh wait, yes I do, because coming up with alien-sounding words is, like, hard, and if there's one consistency of bad writing, it's laziness.

Our Bella Melanie is able to resist Wanderer's mind mojo, so she spends the rest of the movie talking in voiceover while Wanderer talks back to her out loud. Why does Wanderer have to speak to Melanie aloud instead of communicating through thought, as Melanie does? Because having the same actress doing both roles in voiceover would be impossible to follow. Instead, Melanderer just comes across as a girl with severe schizophrenia, and the voiceover only gets more annoying as the film drags (and I do mean drags, Oh My Brothers and Only Friends) on, especially since 90% of Melanie's dialogue consists of her mentally shouting at Wanderer not to do something which Wanderer then proceeds to do. Yeah, the alien ignored you the first 300 times, but if you keep shouting at it to stop, no, don't, STOP!, it might actually listen the 301st time!

Wanderer has access to all Melanie's memories, so it reveals the name of Melanie's boyfriend (Trunk Slamchest) to the chief antagonist alien (Diane Kruger). I don't know what position this alien has, if it has any. It just hates and pursues Wanderlanie through most of the film. Later Kruger tells us that this information has been of great help in crushing the human resistance, though I have no idea why. All the aliens wear godawful blue contact lenses, making humans identifiable on sight, and there appear to be no humans who aren't part of the resistance (i.e., collaborators). Nor do the aliens appear to care to spare human collaborators if there were any. So why would the spermaliens need to know Trunk's name?

Wanderer starts to sympathize with Melanie and the humans, and so it steals a car. (Well, it asks a passing motorist if it can just have the car. Being Mormon an alien, the motorist happily hands over the keys and wishes Wanderer on its way.) It drives toward where the human resistance is hiding, until it realizes Melanie is leading it the wrong way. It turns the car around, but before it can head back, Melanie uses her ability to control her body whenever it's convenient for the writers and intentionally crashes the car. Wanderlanie gets up and wanders (hey!) randomly in the desert until she/it/they are found by her/its/their uncle Jeb (the aforementioned Wooden Plank, making its first appearance onscreen) and a small group of humans. Everybody wants to kill Wanderer because of its ugly contact lenses, but Wooden Plank overrules them because if they killed it the movie would be over. He gives it some water and they take it back to the humans' little community hidden under desert rocks. So I guess Melanie was leading Wanderer to the humans, since she let it get more or less within walking distance of the resistance settlement before deciding to wreck the car.

And now the movie gets weird. In the humans' spacious and idyllic underground desert caverns, where they have a river of rushing water complete with bathing pools and a towering waterfall and an entire field of planted wheat, Wanderlanie reunites with Melanie's boyfriend Trunk Slamchest, but Wanderer finds itself falling in love with Another Guy (Smoke Manmuscle). Come on, it's a Meyer work. You knew there had to be a love triangle with absolutely no tension or drama because a brain-damaged centipede knows exactly who will end up with whom.* And do I even need to say that, like Jacob, the "loser" of the triangle gets a happy ending deus-ex-machinaed to her? (Well, it.) In fact, as soon as it became clear that Melanie wanted Trunk and Wandererererer wanted Smoke, I guessed that Kruger's "bad" alien would be removed and Wanderer transferred to its host body, because she was the only other hot girl in the movie and that would wrap everything up in a nice neat bow with no negative consequences whatever. That's how things work in the Meyerverse, where the good guys never really get hurt and no true sacrifice is ever made. The joke's on me, though, since that doesn't happen. No, what Meyer pulls out is even dumber.

But first we have to have some fake drama that we know will immediately be resolved with everybody happy and loving and with no bad things ever XOXO hearts unicorns. Melanie's brother Typical Child Actor is with the survivors, and he gets an infection. Everybody's worried because Doc (Token Black Guy)--come on, you've got to have an older, somewhat grizzled guy called "Doc" in these things--doesn't have the medicine to treat him. Of course Wanderer likes humans now because...erm, right, and she deliberately injures herself so that she can be treated by an alien healer and their magical "fix any disease or injury" device, which she steals as soon as the healer leaves the room. Wow that was...too close. There isn't even a scene where the alien equivalent of cops (yes, they have such, even though they've established that the vastly superior alien race has no crime or disease or bad things of any kind, apart from the deliberate and systematic genocide of entire sentient species for the sake of their own self-empowerment) appear and the audience worries if she'll be able to get the medicine past them. In fact, since the aliens don't use money (we see Wanderer go into an alien store and simply take what she wants and leave), can she even be said to be stealing the medical doohickey? Of course, Wanderer, despite not being a healer, knows both how to operate the thingamabob and how to implant an alien parasite into a human host, the only two things we ever see these "healers" do. So what the hell does it mean to be a healer when the other aliens are just as capable of doing their jobs as they are?

Later there's a highly silly scene that has Wanderer having a fit at discovering the humans have been removing the alien parasites from infected people, effectively killing both alien and whatever's left of the person. Err...what did it think we'd do? Wanderer implies the aliens have conquered at least 12 planets. Has there never been an attempt by conquered species to combat them? And it's okay for the aliens to kill us, but not for us to kill them?

I'm not saying Wanderer should be okay with people killing the aliens or that it shouldn't be angry or upset, but I am saying it shouldn't be so omg SHOCKED! and HORRIFIED!. Let's see, we invaded their planet and murdered literally billions of them, and then when I see two or three of our guys dead, I can't believe it's happening! And this from an alien that has supposedly lived for more than 1000 of "our" years. Why do all Meyer's characters come across as mentally stuck in middle school?

I'm not even going to get into how Meyer once again can't separate herself from her characters. They're all the same as each other, and so are the same as all the Twilight characters, because Meyer doesn't create actual characters, who have their own personalities that emerge in such a way that they move the story in ways she didn't expect it to go. She invents ciphers to march her story to its predetermined conclusion.* This naturally means the characters in this film know things they couldn't possibly know from what we've seen onscreen, but they know because Meyer knows, and having people just know things when they need to know them sure makes the whole writing thing a lot easier.

Let's just get to the end. Kruger gets captured by the humans and her alien parasite is removed by Wanderer in a way that doesn't cause harm. (Wanderer coaxes it out by directing loving thoughts at it. I so wish I were joking.) Kruger, like Melanie, turns out to be resistant to the mind mojo, too, but since this is the Meyerverse, she exhibits no psychological trauma from years of her will being subjugated by an alien presence that invaded her very mind and controlled her own body while she struggled futilely against it, to say nothing of being completely cut off from communication with anyone but her controller, if it ever bothered to communicate with her at all. But with Kruger the human saved, there's no hot young white women for Wanderer to inhabit so it can be with its man Smoke Manmuscle! Oh noez, mild disappointment!

As it turns out, Doc didn't kill all the people he de-parasitized. He's got one braindead human left. (So they can't treat an infected wound, but they can perform invasive surgery and keep a braindead person on full life support.) And that human just happens to be a young, attractive white woman! Just like Melanie! What are the odds? At least 3 to 2 against, gotta be.

So Melanie gets back with Trunk, and Wanderer can be with Smoke without any clutter, like her being in the body of, say, a man, or an old lady, or *gasp* a woman with a high melanin content. And so The Host just sort of limps off the screen, letting everything intriguing about its premise go utterly unexplored, its major characters all blissful and happy (a couple of humans died, sure, but they weren't major characters and are quickly forgotten), safe and consequence free.

Supposedly, Stevenie Meyer doesn't want to write any more Host novels because that world is "a dangerous place" and she doesn't want any of the characters to die. I don't know what's more absurd: that Meyer is so attached to her "characters" that she'd rather not write about them at all than see anything bad happen to them,** or that Meyer actually thinks anything bad would happen to any "characters" in one of her stories.

Forget it, Jacob. It's the Meyerverse.

* Meyer claims that Another Guy (the one played by Smoke Manmuscle) had a small part in her original workup of the novel and that his "character" demanded additional attention, including involvement in the romance stuff. I find it hilarious that this "character" who supposedly had his own voice such that she had to alter the story led her to exactly replicate the Bella-Edward-Jacob triangle.

** I mean, not everybody has to be George R.R. Martin, but yeesh.