Tag Archives: tv

The X-Files: Fight the Future – Review

7 Dec

On September 10, 1993, the pilot episode of The X-Files aired on Fox and over the years has become one of the most iconic television shows of all time. Over the first 5 seasons, viewers saw the relationship between FBI Agents Mulder and Scully build, secrets and dangers arise, and many different creatures and entities you saw in your nightmares later that night. To bridge the gap from the cliffhanger ending of season 5 to the beginning of season 6, show creator Christ Carter and long time X-Files director Rob Bowman created The X-Files: Fight the Future. This film was met with some good reviews and some not good ones, but I want to believe that it deepened the lore of the show in ways that weren’t done before, while answering a few questions and raising many others.

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After the X-Files are closed, Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are reassigned to other projects. After a federal building is blown up in Dallas and the bodies of a couple of fire fighters and a kid are discovered, the two agents are blamed for breaking protocol. Mulder isn’t satisfied with this responsibility so along with Scully, they begin investigating and find the people were dead before they even arrived in Dallas. This investigation stirs the attention of a mysterious doctor named Kurtzweil (Martin Landau) and also forces the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) to come out of hiding to assist the Syndicate to help cover up this incident and make sure no one out of their reach learns of the work they’re doing with the recurring threat of the black oil and what they are trying to achieve with hidden extraterrestrial colonists.

When this movie first came out, Chris Carter said that he wanted it to appeal to fans of the show and give them more than what an average episode could, but he also wanted the movie to attract new audiences and work well as a stand alone story. While it can be argued that it succeeds in doing that, it really works best for fans of the show. There are so many really cool nods and references to the show and by this point the lore is so deep and twisted that it would be hard to dive right into the movie and expect to get everything. That being said, fans of the show should really enjoy this movie because favorite characters are brought back for an adventure on a much bigger scale and we finally get some answers about the black oil and what’s really going on with the alien colonists. Don’t expect all of your questions to be answered by the end, however. There was still a lot more show to come at that point.

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Like I said, one of the main reasons to watch The X-Files: Fight the Future is to see your favorite characters standing up to another adventure. Duchovny and Anderson prove that they have what it took to be big screen stars, and this wasn’t the last time they would star in a big budget X-Files movie. They would return to theaters once again in 2008 for the film The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Mulder and Scully have become beloved characters over the years and their partnership one of the strongest on t.v. Not only do we get two of our favorite agents, but also William B. Davis, John Neville, and Mitch Pileggi return as The Cigarette Smoking Man, The Well Manicured Man, and Walter Skinner respectively. That would have been enough to please me, but throw an actor like Martin Landau into the mix in a completely new role for the story, and you got yourself a great and memorable cast.

A lot of people have said that this film felt underwhelming because it played like a long episode of the series. Since this isn’t the big finale, I’m fine with it feeling like an extended episode. Of course, there are scenes that are a lot more impressive than anything you’d see on the show. A couple of examples include a helicopter chasing the agents through a corn field and a U.F.O. flying high over the heads of the agents. What this movie does is tie up the cliffhanger that ended season 5 and also get the audience deeper into the lore for their journey into the show’s sixth season.

The X-Files: Fight the Future is a must see for any fan of the show. It shakes up the lore while also tying up loose ends and throwing in some twists that you never saw coming. It features all my favorite characters from the show and offers a lot of new questions and directions the overall plot may be heading towards. For people new to the world of The X-Files, it would probably feel more confusing and unfulfilling than anything else, and that’s really the only negative thing I can say. It felt like a great extended episode of the series with a huge budget and a lot of talent working behind the scenes and onscreen.

Final Grade: A-

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Starship Troopers Series – Review: Part 1

15 Sep

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres of film, and when you add the themes of war and militarization along with the enemies being giant bugs from another planet, I’m completely on board. This makes the Starship Troopers movies right up my alley, but not all of them have gotten much praise. Based off of a 1959 novel by Robert Heinlein, the story of humanity in a utopian, yet oddly fascist, world in the 23rd century who go to war against a race known as the Bugs provided a lot of heavy handed messages that the author believed in. It seems pretty ripe for feature film story telling, and in some ways it worked. This series, like many others, certainly has its fair share of ups and downs.

Let’s start with Paul Verhoeven’s original cult classic from 1997, Starship Troopers.

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By the 23rd century, the Earth is now classified as a federation that is ruled in a fascistic and militaristic way. It’s a strange utopia that condones violence to survive and the only way to become a citizen is to serve in some branch of the military. That’s exactly what Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) intends to do once he graduates high school. Along with his friends Carl (Neil Patrick Harris), Carmen (Denise Richards) and Dizzy (Dina Meyer), Rico joins the military and is assigned with Dizzy to Mobile Infantry. After a race of giant insects called the Bugs shoot an asteroid across the galaxy and completely wipe out Buenos Aires, the Mobile Infantry and the Federation’s air fleet mobilize to the Bug planet of Klendathu, where a bloody war begins for the survival of the human race.

When it was first released, Starship Troopers was not met with too much success critically and the box office return was less than what was expected. Over the years, however it’s gained a status as a cult classic. When the film first begins and a lot of time is spent at the high school and basic training, I was worried that this would be an uneven mess with a disappointingly low amount of action. The first 45 minutes seemed to drag, but when the action does begin, I became thankful for all the time setting up the characters’ personalities and relationships. This makes the war scenes all the more impactful, and when someone gets hurt or is killed, I really felt like something was lost. Believe it or not, this is not a mindless movie and does evoke some real emotion, even though the acting is less than stellar.

Let’s face it, though, this is a sci-fi war film, so let’s get into the real nitty gritty. Paul Verhoeven may have had some missteps as a film maker, but it’s much easier to remember his films like Starship TroopersTotal Recall, and RoboCop. This movie stands as one of his achievements. The special effects are out of this world for the time and were even nominated for an Academy Award. When the Bugs swarm the soldiers, the movie gets so intense and action packed, which is where it really shines. There’s also lots of what I like to call “Verhoeven gore,” which, if your like me, adds some fun to the movie. He just seems to love blowing people up. Finally, this film works great as a satire of fascism and blind love and devotion to the military. The 1959 novel this film is based on got a lot of flack for seemingly glorifying a Nazi-like utopia. Verhoeven used this, flipped it on its head, and created bitingly funny satire that’s the backbone of this entire movie.

While I was planning on not really liking this movie when it first started up, I ended up loving it as the credits began rolling. It’s such a fun movie loaded with action, great special effects, and hilarious satire that starts in the very first scene. I was even surprised with how much I cared for the characters, despite some rather tone deaf performances. This is a movie I wish did better when it was first released so Verhoeven would have returned for a sequel. Nevertheless, it is what it is and this particular movie is a total sci-fi blast.

Final Grade: A-

I feel like I was just talking about direct to video movies with my review of the Darkman films, and here I go again. The original Starship Troopers was the only film to make it to theaters, and all the sequels went right for the home viewers. Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation premiered on Encore (now known as Starz Encore) in 2004, and then went on DVD a few months later. The reasons can not be more clear.

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The war against the Bugs has been raging for nearly 5 years, and while the humans are victorious in many places, there are fronts where the Bugs have the clear upper hand. On one such planets, a group of troopers are overrun by a swarm of Bugs and are forced to retreat to an abandoned outpost called Hotel 1-8-5. With their commanding officer, General Shepard (Ed Lauter), missing, the squad is under the new leadership of psychic Lt. Dill (Lawrence Monoson) and Sgt. Rake (Brenda Strong). As the Bugs find the outpost and prepare to attack, Pvt. Sahara (Colleen Porch) releases an imprisoned officer, Captain Dax (Richard Burgi), in the outpost to help fight against the swarm. What these troopers don’t know is that the Bugs can now infect people and infiltrate squads from within, which spells danger for these soldiers confined to this small area.

With Hero of the Federation, we go from the knock out action, special effects, and satire from the first one and just downgrade it to what comes close to the lowest it can possibly get. I understand that a t.v. movie isn’t going to have the budget of a Hollywood feature film, but my goodness this movie looks hideous. Aside from the fact that it was shot on HD video, it’s just a dark and colorless film. All of the exterior shots are filmed at night with only a small area lit or sand completely covering up any scenery that could’ve given me an idea of where everything was taking place. Once the soldiers get into Hotel 1-8-5, things remain dark and colorless, but everything now just looks old and gross. I give the film makers credit for the claustrophobic feeling, which is nailed really well, but this is just not an easy movie to look at.

Phil Tippett, who is known for his special effects work on Jurassic Park and the first Starship Troopers, returns to direct this film which helps in a lot of ways. For one thing, for a t.v. movie that’s then released right to DVD, the special effects are really good. They aren’t stunning, but there are some scenes that had really impressive practical work. I can’t really say the same about his work with the actors. The acting in the first film really wasn’t anything special, but this is a different story completely. There are some line deliveries that made me either cringe or burst out laughing. The fact that this isn’t a big budget film really isn’t much of an excuse since I’ve seen t.v. movies with impressive performances. I feel like the ambition of this project just didn’t meet the standards of what was actually possible in making a good movie.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation is more than a disappointing sequel. It hardly even registers as a sequel. Not only was it released almost 8 years after the original, but it was also a t.v. movie that loses a lot in translation to the small screen. The acting is subpar, the cinematography is bland, and the only saving grace is some cool special effects and an action filled ending. If you want to watch a movie with close to the exact same storyline, watch The Thing, or forget this storyline and just put on the original Starship Troopers.

Final Grade: D

So far we have a one great movie and one that really bugged the hell out of me, pun definitely intended. We still have a few more movies to go with this series, but that review will be coming soon. For now, stick with the original.

The A-Team – Review

24 Sep

In 1983, Frank Lupo and Stephen Cannell created a show called The A-Team, which was about a crack commando unit who are sent to and escape from prison for a crime they didn’t commit. They then survive as soldiers of fortune working out of L.A., mostly specializing in helping people who can’t defend themselves against a bigger enemy. While this show it definitely silly, it’s still a lot of fun because of the chemistry between the team, the writing of their characters, and the fact that there’s plenty of action in every episode. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Joe Carnahan’s 2010 adaptation, a film that almost lives up to its source material, but unfortunately falls flat.

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While on a covert mission in Mexico, John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) and Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper) meet two other Army Rangers, B.A. Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley). Over the course of eight years, they become one of the most essential military units in Iraq, but are unfortunately are tricked into a mission by CIA Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) to reacquire U.S. Treasury plates taken by Iraqi insurgents. The mission is a success, but this unsanctioned mission and the mysterious murder of their commanding officer lands the team in prison. It doesn’t take long for them to break out, reunite, and begin their new mission to clear their names and take down Lynch and whoever else may be responsible while evading capture by Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel).

Now I understand that just because someone is making an adaptation of a novel, or a television show, or an older film doesn’t mean that it has to be an absolutely perfect recreation of its source material. The A-Team, for that matter, does stay pretty close but the compromises that are made were kind of weird and things just didn’t fit together properly. I’ll get to that later. There are parts of this movie that I definitely did like. The action, for one thing, is awesome and perfectly captures the over the top mayhem that you would see in the television show. Murdock flying a helicopter upside down, B.A. running from containers falling off an exploding ship, and the team trying to “fly” a tank are just a few memorable action scenes. This isn’t too surprising since Joe Carnahan was behind one of my favorite action movie, the chaotic Smokin’ Aces.

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It’s a pretty heavy responsibility when actors have to step into the shoes of such beloved characters. The whole point of the original t.v. show wasn’t necessarily the action, but how the four soldiers got along together and functioned perfectly as a team. The characters were each very rich and unique, and that being said, the actors in this movie sort of get it right. Bradley Cooper as Face and Sharlto Copley as Murdock are the best choices for those characters and they nail it. It was the closest you could get to the real thing. Quinton Jackson does fine as B.A., but never really reaches the same humorous intensity as Mr. T. Finally, Liam Neeson is poor as Hannibal. He’s far too stoic of an actor and pretty much takes all of the joy out of the character. Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson seem completely out of place and also give in some stale performances. In fact, some of the lines written for them combined with their delivery is worthy of a good, hard cringe.

While most people (myself included) watch action movies for the action and can forgive a bland plot, it still helps if the plot makes sense. The story of The A-Team made sense, but you really had to think about it and try to put it all together. Everyone’s getting backstabbed, and then backstabbed again and all these ulterior motives make the plot hard to follow. This is The A-Team we’re talking about here. Why does this have to be such a confusing mess of a story? The formulaic good guys vs bad guys routine of the source material made it easy to focus on the characters, but now I spent most of the movie just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Not only that, but the villains were just poorly written cartoon characters that are hated simply because they’re written so badly.

The A-Team isn’t an awful excuse for an action movie, nor is it a total letdown to fans of the television show, like myself. As I was watching the movie, though, I wish they’d just remove the A-Team, call it something else, and call it a day. The action is fantastic, and makes the movie worth a watch at least once. What sucks is that there really isn’t any good chemistry between the actors, which makes their tight knit relationships fall short. The story is also way too confusing for its own good and the side characters are stupid. While it’s cool that they tried to go for a modern approach to the characters, it doesn’t quite make, which, ultimately, makes The A-Team a failure.

Videodrome – Review

7 Feb

David Cronenberg. What can I say about him? It’s pretty indisputable that he’s the master of body horror, and thinks of some crazy ways to creep us out with putting the physical body through some of the most bizarre situations a human being can ever think of. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with Cronenberg. I was very excited than immediately disappointed with both Scanners and A History of Violence, but I was blown away by Eastern Promises. In 1983, Cronenberg released Videodrome, one of the strangest movies I think I have ever seen.

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Max Renn (James Woods) is the sleazy president of a UHF television station called CIVIC-TV. Renn believes that it’s his job to give the people what they want, mostly concerning shows that feature violence and softcore pornography. Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), the operator of the station’s pirate satellite dish, discovers a strange show called Videodrome, a program that has no plot to speak of, but instead just seems like some sort of snuff film, which Max automatically thinks is fake and decides it’s perfect for CIVIC-TV. Max also begins a relationship with radio host Nikki (Deborah Harris), a sadomasochist who is turned on by Videodrome, and decides to audition for it. When she fails to return, Max begins inquiring about the show, but everything begins to spiral as he starts having the most horrific hallucinations imaginable and his body starts mutating out of control.

This only is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Videodrome. There’s a lot more I’d like to mention in that summary, but unfortunately it would go on for a while and I would also be ruining some of the experience. Trust me on that one, this movie is quite an experience. Like I said, I’m not always a fan of Cronenberg’s stuff, because despite every movie I’ve seen of his being incredibly strange, but the story and the plotting have to be set up nicely. So far, Videodrome is my favorite of Cronenberg’s work, because not only is it ridiculously strange, it was very much ahead of its time when it was made and the relevance of the movie may even seem more important in our present technological situation.

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By saying that the movie is more relevant now than it was in 1983 isn’t stretching it too much. A lot, if not all, of the technology in Videodrome is completely outdated, from VCRs, Betamax tapes, and cathode ray tube televisions. But what Cronenberg is saying about technology, the media, and the public’s desensitization to violence are now heated issues discussed heavily today.  All of these themes really come across very strongly and are very hard to miss, but I’m still not quite sure I follow everything Cronenberg is saying. All of the trippy insanity, that really makes the viewer question what they’re seeing, sometimes fogs the messages of the movie. I can at least say that about me because sometimes I really couldn’t believe what I was looking at.

Videodrome also reinforced my opinion that the animatronic effects used in the 1970s and the 1980s will always reign supreme because of how they look and the skill it takes to create them. While I really didn’t like Scanners and thought The Brood was passable at best, I have to admit that the effects in both of those movies are outstanding. The effects in Videodrome beat both of them out, and are only rivaled by Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. There are some totally disgusting scenes using crazy looking animatronics and awesome make up effects by Rick Baker, who worked on Star Wars before this.

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is a movie that inspires me as someone who wants to make film his career. The story is and outlandish sci-fi horror with themes that not only still hold up, but have become more important. This is a sick and twisted kind of movie that will run your brain in circles as you try to keep up with what’s going on. It isn’t a puzzle film, but it’s so strange it’s almost too weird to fully comprehend until you really let it sink in. Videodrome is now one of my new favorite movies.