Sunday, January 28, 2018

Independence Day 2

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

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Set twenty years after Independence Day, a film which I only foggily remember and did not re-watch to prepare for this review, all the nations in the world have united and live in peace following the original alien attacks. But then the aliens come back and they're like way more powerful than they were in the first one and they wipe out Earth's defense systems and it's up to Will Smith's son (Jessie Usher), the former president (Bill Pullman), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to figure out a way to stop them. And, like... they do. Hooray!

Like I said, I don't really remember that much about the first movie - most of my memories of it got replaced with Mars Attacks! and the first half of Starship Troopers. Thus I was kind of confused that a lot of the characters were introduced with the assumption that I know who they are. Sure, I remember Jeff Goldblum and Jeff Goldblum's dad, and I remember Bill Pullman, but I completely forgot that Bill Pullman had a daughter, Will Smith had a son, and Brent Spiner was in the movie. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure there were some characters dropped in that weren't in the first movie at all but still were presented as though I should know who they are. Given that it takes a full thirty-five minutes of preamble to get to the resurging, the utter lack of any character development is unacceptable.

I was fully prepared to hate this movie as soon as I started watching it so, in the interest of being fair, I did my very best to try to find thing about the movie that I enjoyed. I still ended up disliking the movie, but it had a few good elements and moments.

One of the things that I liked was that alien technology from the first movie was integrated into human technology in this movie. That gave the movie a cool, near-future sci-fi look to it which I found aesthetically pleasing.

The effects were good, so the destruction of major cities was satisfying. That being said, the only reason anybody watches these movies is to see shit getting exploded, so there definitely wasn't enough destruction. An awful lot of time was wasted on talking and emotional stuff (more on that later) that would have been better used showing buildings falling down and people screaming and stuff.

There's one really cool part where Will Smith's son, and Bill Pullman's daughter's boyfriend (Liam Hemsworth) for whatever reason fly on to the alien mothership and then get stranded and find out that the inside of the ship is a fully functioning ecosystem where the aliens live. They then have to evade the aliens on, effectively, their home turf, which is a super cool idea for a movie but, unfortunately, gets chopped down to a single part in this turd because, you know, they have to go back to Judd Hirsch driving a school bus full of kids around.

So... those are the good things. The rest of this review is just going to be a list of reasons why this movie is terrible.

Firstly, all of the characters, about which we are supposed to care, are so one-dimensional. I get it, there's like, nine million characters in this movie so it's really difficult to make any of them in any way realistic but there's a solution to that - don't have so many characters in your fucking movie. Make it about one person for fuck sakes. It's not that hard, most other movies manage to do that without too much difficulty.

Secondly, this movie seems to not understand that today's audiences are cynical as fuck. To be fair, maybe that's just me. I can't be the only person who felt nothing when Vivica Fox is trying to save a LADY who just had a BABY and the ALIENS ARE COMING  and THINGS ARE EXPLODING and she's rushing them to a HELICOPTER and she SAVES THEM but she SACRIFICES HERSELF while her SON WATCHES. Like, first of all, the baby-lady never shows up again in the movie so who gives a shit about her. Second of all, apart from a brief "nooooooo" from Jessie Usher, the emotional impact of watching his mother fall to her death is never addressed. Third of all, people aren't completely stupid, we know when a movie is going out of its way to be emotionally manipulative and we will not stand for it. In fact, the only thing more cynical than today's audiences is the people who wrote this movie and were like "yeah, put a chick with a baby in danger, that'll make people care".

My next problem is of a more scientific nature. It turns out that the reason the aliens have come to Earth both times is to drill down and extract the planet's liquid core to fuel their space ships and "advance their technology" (whatever the fuck that means). The question I pose to this movie is, why would that be at all efficient? It's a pretty good way to fuck up your enemies' planets, that I will grant, but if an alien race had space ships that ran on liquid iron-nickel alloy, would it not be easier to find uninhabited planets and asteroids and stuff that were made of iron and nickel and just... melt it? That would save all the trouble of drilling down through the rest of the planet, because that has got to take a phenomenal amount of energy to do. Also they can't possibly use a whole core all in one go, therefore they must be able to keep it at a high enough temperature and pressure that it will remain liquid for them to use so I ask again why couldn't they just melt chunks of iron and nickel? I know the whole thing is probably a metaphor for oil use or something but still, make your shit make sense, movie.

Supplemental to that point, our heroes manage to stop the aliens seconds before they reach the core with their drills, and there was much rejoicing. But, like, wouldn't there still be a gigantic hole drilled through the mantle? That has got to cause some problems. I'm talking massive - fucking massive - tsunamis and other sorts of geological unrest. They said that the hole being drilled was one mile in diameter, and the outer boundary of the Earth's liquid core is 1800 miles beneath the surface*, that's what, like 1400-ish cubic miles of material displaced? Where did that go?

The movie introduces another race of aliens and hints that there are many, many more, but tells us next to nothing about them. I want more aliens, damnit. Furthermore, the movie ends exactly when it's getting interesting, with Brent Spiner announcing that the friendly alien is going to help the Earthican people take the fight to the bad aliens, which just gives me such a huge lady-boner and guarantees that I'll watch the next turd this franchise craps out.

The worst problem with this movie is that it's actually really boring. Honestly, I didn't mention some of the other stuff that I couldn't make sense of because I wasn't paying attention to most of the movie and it's entirely possible that I missed some details. I can't even say that I hated it because that implies an emotional response and I didn't have one. This isn't a movie that you watch, this is a movie that just happens. I almost turned it off halfway through because I was so fucking bored but I made a commitment to you, gentle reader, to watch this boring excuse for a movie and tell you why it's bad.

- Jeff Goldblum appears in the film (+1)
- William Fichtner appears in the film (+1)
- Explosion! (+1)
Total: (+3)

- Too much chat, not enough splat (-1)
- Will Smith unceremoniously killed off screen (-1)
- Vivica Fox unceremoniously killed on screen (-1)
- Ann from Arrested Development got replaced (-1)
- Horny character with no game (-1)
- Wormholes. Were there wormholes in the first movie? Why was nobody making a bigger deal out of the wormholes? (-1)
- 25 minutes before any aliens show up (-1)
- 35 minutes before the main aliens show up (-1)
- Who the fuck are all these people (-1)
- Aerial battles are convoluted, and remind me of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a movie I would rather forget (-1)
- Core-drillin reminded me of The Core, another movie I would rather forget (-1)
- Psychic bullshit (-1)
- Science problems (-2)
- All earth nations are united in peace but America is still in charge (-1)
- And yet Bill Pullman wasn't made supreme ruler of Earth at the end of the last movie (-1)
- I want to know more about the other aliens (-1)
Total: (-17)
Final Score: -14 points

Directed by: Fucking Roland Emmerich.  Written by: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devil, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt.  Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Maika Monroe, Jessie Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Deobia Oparei, Nicolas Wright, Travis Tope, Angelababy, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox

*I don't know why I'm using imperial measurements here but bear with me

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Babysitter

The Babysitter (2017)

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One of my favourite activities of late is what I like to call "plumbing the depths", and it is just watching random movies on Netflix. Today, I watched this movie. It's a Netflix original, and directed by somebody called "McG", and surprised me by not being absolutely terrible.

A nervous, sheltered boy (Judah Lewis) is left with a babysitter (Samara Weaving) for the weekend while his parents go on a trip. At the urging of his neighbour (Emily Alyn Lind), he spies on the sitter to find out if she's having sex with teenage boys after he goes to bed. Turns out she's the leader of a Satanic cult and murders a dude for a ritual. The kid must then defend himself and kill off the Satanists in his house.

Both of the main characters - the kid and the babysitter - are super likable, even though he's a whiny dork and she's a homicidal lunatic. The acting is reasonably good on both parts too - Judah Lewis is not the best or worst child actor I've ever seen, while Samara Weaving is lots of fun.

Her character is also probably the best babysitter in the world, holy shit. I didn't get babysat very often as a kid so I don't really have a whole lot of reference for this, but like, I'm pretty sure swimming, screening old movies on the side of a barn, pizza, and shooters are unusually awesome for a babysitting experience. Okay, yeah, so she steals his blood for their Satan thing at one point but, like... shit. What's a little blood, right?

Speaking of blood, this movie has plenty. It's like a grizzly Home Alone, which is definitely something the world needed because, real talk, Home Alone kind of sucks. Plus it has a few tense moments and hardly any jump scares. The movie leans more towards horror comedy than straight up thriller most of the time, which is unfortunate because the thrilling parts were way better executed than the "comedy", and I will get back to that soon.

The most interesting thing about the movie is its subversion of the horror movie babysitter trope. Typically in horror movies, the babysitter is the victim (see Halloween, When A Stranger Calls, House of the Devil, and others). In this movie, she's the antagonist. The members of the cult are all slasher victim archetypes (jock, goth, dumb cheerleader, nerd, blonde last girl, and black guy) and they die in the appropriate order, which is pretty clever. Sure, it's been done before, but it's still different than the norm.

The movie's main failing is that it is not actually as clever as it thinks it is. A whole lot of time is wasted trying to be "stylish", whatever that means. There's lots of rapid cuts (like an Edgar Wright movie), and titles which tell you the names of characters I don't care about (like Feast) and also I guess what the characters are thinking? Maybe? I don't get what the point of that was. All of this stuff is executed by a person who obviously is better suited to making, like, normal movies because instead of slick and sexy it comes off as frenetic and abrasive.

The writing suffers from the same problem. It's mired in pop culture references and "buffyspeak", which is great when utilized by a skilled writer, but in this case stuck out as trying to sound funnier than it was. The hip and sassy dialogue also clashed with the sappy overall tone of the movie. At its core, The Babysitter is a very earnest coming of age story about a boy getting over his unrealistic crush on his babysitter and falling for the girl next door, while becoming a man. Stuffing it in a glossy, snarky party dress doesn't change that.

The movie goes out of its way to set up everything that happens later. From the toy car sitting at the top of the stairs, to the kid overcoming his fear of driving, everything is staged early on. Some movies pull this off by setting stuff up in a subtle way (Near Dark and Satan's Little Helper are excellent examples of this) but The Babysitter painstakingly makes sure the viewer's attention is drawn to things that will be important later. Which makes it super predictable and annoying to jaded assholes like me who've spent way too many hours watching movies.

Another big issue is that I was never totally clear on what exactly the Satanist characters wanted. So they're doing this ritual that will grant them whatever they want. Later in the movie the jock mentions he just wants to kill people, the cheerleader says she wants to be a journalist, and the babysitter expresses a desire to be "confident" or some shit. But like, they're all obviously high functioning, attractive, and successful teens. The babysitter has a sweet job... babysitting, and the jock guy is a star quarterback. What could the Devil really grant them that they can't get on their own? Are North Americans so desperate that turning to black magic to get stuff is a perfectly logical thing to do and requires no further explanation? I don't know about you, but I've often considered dabbling in the dark arts and I've never come up with anything I want badly enough to make a deal with some demonic entity. Kids today, I swear to god.

Overall, this movie isn't great, but it's not bad either. It's a watchable post-slasher horror comedy, and in better hands, maybe the hands of somebody not named "McG", it could've been decent.

- Samara Weaver is delightful (+1)
- Lotsa blood (+1)
- Trope subversion (+2)
- Satanists are surprisingly nice people (+1)
Total: +5

- Just because one of the characters says "This ain't Home Alone!" doesn't make it not Home Alone (-1)
- The movie tries way too hard (-3)
- People keep running upstairs instead of out. The Open. Fucking. Front. Door (-1)
- There's no way that kid survived flipping a muscle car and crashing it into a house without wearing a goddamn seatbelt (-1)
Total: -6
Final Score: -1

Directed by: "McG".  Written by: Brian Duffield.  Starring: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Emily Alyn Lind, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Andrew Bachelor, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino.