Collision Earth (2011)

The first shock that comes while watching this film is realising it’s not a SyFy Channel original movie, or one from Asylum Entertainment, king of the “mockbuster”. But if you can handle some company with no form in cheap sci-fi, then strap yourself in and get ready for the end of the world.

This could be the whole review, it's all you need

This could be the whole review, it’s all you need

The sun is all messed up, and turns into…hold on, I’m going to need to go and look this up…a “magnetar”…which is a super powerful magnetic thing. It sends Mercury off its orbit, Mercury starts heading towards the Earth, and we then get three separate stories (that gradually come together, natch).

First up is disgraced former scientist, James, who had a great idea for a planet-protecting weapon called Project 7. But the suits upstairs cancelled funding for it, and now he’s a teacher. We also get the crew of a spaceship which is badly damaged when Mercury goes off course and the gravitational wave from the Sun washes over them. They’re trying to get back to Earth, but the only people they can contact (that wave destroyed all the satellites) are two college students who have a conspiracy theory-based radio show / podcast.

I sort of feel bad about reviewing a film like this. In reading this, you’ve given it more attention than it probably deserves. I hope films like this are tax dodges, money invested by rich people and spent in places that give you benefits of some sort. Otherwise, I’m at a loss as to why anyone would bother getting out of bed in the morning to work on a film like “Collision Earth”.

But I’ll try and find something interesting to say about it. First up, there’s a couple of lovely women who’ve been in my favourite cheesy TV shows of recent years – Diane Farr, of “Numb3rs” and “Californication”, and Jessica Parker Kennedy of “Secret Circle”. Oh, and Kirk Acevedo who was in “Fringe” too.

Wow, I’m really struggling to find something positive to say. There’s a bit about halfway through where the two kids try to get to the government base to talk to the main scientists. The security guard does the whole “you kids need to get out of here” garbage you’ve seen a thousand times…now, I’m no genius, but if you’d seen the huge wave that knocked out all communication everywhere, and the meteors hitting the planet, do you not think you’d be a bit more receptive to an emergency? Besides, how many crazy people turn up at the front door of government bases with incredibly specific requests?

You know how it’s going to end, I suppose. The twenty people in the film, who appear to be the only 20 people on Earth (low-budget films don’t have any extras, usually), are mostly going to survive, except one of the government “I can’t believe this crazy idea, get off my base” types will get killed in some blast of poetic justice.

I’m sorry, ISCFC readers. I can only review what I have in front of me. But I’ll do my best to review something next that’s either much worse or much better. Or work harder on writing a bunch of jokes and asides about what my dog is up to to insert into the next one.

RATING: *shrug* out of 10

EDIT: I did a bit of looking, and it turns out this is a SyFy Channel movie. Whoops! Hands up if you’ve seen at least five SyFy movies but have yet to see any of the films of Yasujiro Ozu or Fassbinder?

Collision Earth on IMDB
Buy Collision Earth [DVD]

Donnie Darko (2001)

donnie

Directed by: Richard Kelly

The second day blighted by this runny nose, and I truly felt that a relaxing evening was in order. I had one outstanding DVD on my shelf to watch. It had sat there for over six months, and though I had seen the film before, probably a decade ago, my memories of it were sketchy. None of the scenes had endured in my mind.

‘Donnie Darko’ is one of the most well-known cult films of the noughties; it was also caught in the earliest winds of new media hype. Darko was fawned over, but at the same time failed to justify any of the praise it received in the commercial sense. In 2001 there were several what you might consider ‘cult’ films that stood out for me – ‘Amelie’, ‘Y Tu Mamá También’, ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, ‘ Freddy Got Fingered’ (seriously!), ‘Mulholland Drive’ and ‘Training Day’, each of which I have abiding memories of, recalling lines of dialogue and particularly prominent scenes, but though I can remember hardly anything about ‘Donnie Darko’ I do remember it being talked about by my contemporaries more than any of the movies I have just listed.

Why didn’t it stand out for me? When watching it for the second time, I’d forgotten Patrick Swayze was even in the film, I even forgot about the playful bordering on harsh banter between the Darko family, which was surprising in light of Donnie’s issues. The big bunny called Frank I could just about recall. Everything else is easily forgettable, dreamlike, it passes by, drifts, the pace as lackadaisical as the suburb the Darko family lives in.

Visually the suburb of Middlesex reminds me of a cross between Soundgarden’s music video for ‘Black Hole Sun’ and wherever it was that ‘American Beauty’ was set; a bland suburbia, where sunshine and smiles cover a secret darkness, hidden behind curtains and lurking only when the streetlights come on. As Donnie scoots through the streets on his bike, Echo and the Bunnymen serenading his progress, the opening sequence feels like an empty representation of artful direction, the substance and surprise lost in the mundane.

Jake Gyllenhaal has portrayed a mumbling, brooding young man several times post-Darko in films like ‘Moonlight Mile’ and ‘The Good Girl’, but it was his slumped shouldered, manically depressed performance as Donnie which carried the film superbly. It isn’t a stellar acting performance by any means and certainly not memorable, but it fits perfectly with the ponderous pace and bleak undertones of the movie.

Succinctly providing a synopsis for the film is surprisingly simple. Whilst Donnie is out on one of his night time forays a jet engine mysteriously crashes through his bedroom. Had he been in his room he would have died. As he sleepwalks his way through the rest of his days, he is visited by a giant bunny rabbit called Frank. The only person who knows about Frank is Donnie’s psychiatrist. Frank tells Donnie that the end is nigh and this leads Donnie to a path of deviancy and a peculiar obsession with time travel.

Yet, there is also something unnecessarily complicated about ‘Donnie Darko’. I tend to fog over when science is introduced into films, so whenever alternate universes, worm holes and vortexes are mentioned, I just glaze over. It made no difference to me that Donnie is considered to be the ‘Living Receiver’, and the supporting characters are the Manipulated Dead and the Manipulated Living that exist in a Tangent Universe created when Donnie avoids getting squished by a jet engine, it adds nothing to my enjoyment or understanding of the film. Can’t ‘Donnie Darko’ just be summed up as a clever, quirky movie with a brilliant soundtrack?

– RJW
7/10

Donnie Darko on IMDB
Buy Donnie Darko [2002] [DVD]

The Rite (2011)

the rite

Directed by: Mikael Håfström

My head is full of cold. I’m not sure if it is the Arctic winds that has dragged winter into its sixth month, usurping spring, meaning our seasons dwindle from four to three, or whether I’m truly beginning to believe that malevolent forces have taken over my immune system in 2013, shaking me to the core, guiding me wearily down to the local Co-Op to buy dozens of soup tins, in the hope vain that an overdose of vegetable broth will cure these ills. As I lay bedridden once more, on my day off no less, (my body has a remarkable capacity to function enough for me to get through my weekly shifts at work). I dwell drowsily in bed watching films.

This is the second Håfström directed film that I’ve reviewed for the ISCFC, the first being Scandinavian boarding school drama ’Evil’. ‘The Rite’ slots into one of my favourite sub-genres of horror – demonic possession. Though no film has managed to exceed William Friedkin’s classic ‘The Exorcist’ both in terms of scare factor, and mainstream notoriety, there is still appetite from horror fans for a good exorcism tale.

‘The Rite’ follows a young man called Michael (Colin O’Donoghue) who decides to back out of the Family business, walking away from a career which guarantees a job for life as an undertaker by picking the only other alternative open to him, which is to become a priest. Michael gets cold feet when preparing for a celibate lifestyle, and attempts to back out of becoming a priest; however a dramatic incident provides him with a curious opportunity to travel across to Rome and study exorcism.

When in Rome Michael serves as an apprentice for Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), and follows him about on his rounds. Partly based on a book by investigative journalist Matt Baglio, who attended a Vatican run university course that trained up exorcists, the film uses some elements of factual happenings from Baglio’s book, but changes it up rather dramatically. The film focusses mostly on the relationship between Father Lucas and Michael, and the journalist role is given to a token female love interest. Michael is the eternal doubter, and the majority of the film builds towards his date with the devil, and the question of whether or not he has believes in the power of evil, and deep down has faith in a higher power.

Unfortunately ‘The Rite’ covers no new ground and proves, alongside ‘The Devil Inside’ that there is currently a real struggle for Hollywood to come up with a fresh angle on exorcism, and though Hopkins carries the film by skilfully hamming it up, the other performances are pretty turgid, and there are disappointingly underutilized roles for proven acting talents Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer.

The two big exorcism scenes in the film feature the usual body contortion, multi-lingual profanity and a messy struggle involving the possessed person going a bit loopy and causing a ruckus. It is here where Håfström hedges his bets going for realism firstly with the pregnant Italian girl, and then later using far-fetched supernatural special effects as Hopkins succumbs to the Devil during the film’s finale.

Being caught in two minds seem to be a massive problem for ‘The Rite’, and some might say an apt one for a film about demonic possession. On one hand you have a drama about a sceptical young man’s search for identity; on another the film is riddled with the usual horror exorcism clichés. Had ‘The Rite’ stuck closer to Baglio’s book then we might have had something more palatable. In fact seeing this through the eyes of a sceptical journalist might have served us better story-wise, then again this didn’t work as an angle when used in the found footage case of ‘The Devil Inside’.

– RJW
5/10

The Rite on IMDB
Buy The Rite [DVD] [2011]

Silkwood (1983)

silkwood

Directed by Mike Nichols

Life imitated art. I found myself in the shower frantically rubbing and scrubbing. I felt infected and rotten, not to mention shamed. There are several scenes in ‘Silkwood’ that show workers from the nuclear power plant getting scrubbed down after being contaminated by plutonium, and I could relate to that. In my case I had spent twenty four hours in a feverish state battling gastroenteritis. I sought cleanliness, and by the end of my shower I smelt lemon scented.

‘Silkwood’ couldn’t therefore be appreciated in the conventional critical sense during my first viewing. Instead, as I found myself rushing for the toilet, and in the process losing over half a stone in twenty four hours, I could recall snippets and glimpses. For one thing I’ve been having these amazing dreams about Meryl Streep circa 1983 in the aftermath of my deliriously shitty spell. I also have a new found appreciation for Cher’s acting skills. I rewatched the film again last night to come up with a more comprehensive review.

Based on a true story, Meryl Streep plays Karen Silkwood, who worked at the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant. The early part of the film centre’s on Silkwood and the unconventional cosy relationship with her boyfriend (Kurt Russell) and lesbian BFF Dolly (Cher) as they live together in a rundown Oklahoman shack. All three work at the plant, and though they have little love for their jobs, they like many people in their town have no other options available.

A significant portion of the film is devoted to the blue collar plant workers, who regularly display their camaraderie, and gallows humour about the risk of radioactive contamination. There is constant pressure for the workers to meet deadlines, and cut corners as far as health and safety goes; yet despite being under the gun, they manage to maintain morale by larking about.

Meryl Streep’s acting performance as Karen Silkwood is a masterclass in realism, making the most of those little ticks that so many actors and actresses usually neglect to utilize, the finer attentions to detail. For example, how she is playful around food, how she puts on the safety equipment, her constant chain-smoking, how every other character Karen Silkwood engages with is touched in a playful way. This all works brilliantly alongside a solid supporting cast that excel in playing ‘everyday people’.

In some ways it is a shame when the message of the film gets serious, because director Mike Nichols created such a homely environment; it felt comforting to watch the workers daily interactions, and ‘Silkwood’ could almost have been an effective light-hearted melodrama. Yet Karen Silkwood personally developed to such an extent that when she joined her Union, and blew the whistle on the plant’s shambolic and downright dangerous practices, it almost felt like we were watching a different film, with a different lead. Silkwood became alienated in her pursuit of the truth, and Silkwood’s swerve takes the viewer by surprise, we almost react in a way that says “Hey, wait. This isn’t the Karen we once knew and loved”.

In real life Karen Silkwood died in a car crash. It has been suggested that she was the victim of foul play, but Nichols chooses to keep this one open, leaving us with a harrowing finale. The eerie scene where a tow truck pulls the remains of Silkwood’s white Honda Civic past the diner, as the plant workers look on through the window, is hard to watch.

‘Silkwood’ received five Oscar nominations, and did quite well at the box office; despite this the film remains a forgotten classic. I mentioned watching it to a number of my cinephile friends but none of them had even heard of the film. That alone tells me that more people need to check this film out. Heck, it’s got me curious about seeking out more of Meryl Streep’s work from the eighties, and maybe I’ll give Cher another look, perhaps revisiting ‘Moonstruck’.

– RJW
7/10

Silkwood on IMDB
Buy Silkwood [1983] [DVD]

Death Race 3: Inferno (2013)

This is an odd film to review. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a completely forgettable cash-in straight-to-video film, with its original star (Jason Statham, a man so magnificent he could break up my marriage either way he wanted) long gone, replaced by Luke Goss, who we Brits will remember from his time in 80s pop group Bros and very little else; and its original director, Paul W.S. Anderson, who also did the Resident Evil films, reduced to a producer and story credit.
 

In case you confused it with the old Death Race 3

In case you confused it with the old Death Race 3

But it, for no good reason, punches substantially above its weight. The cast, apart from Goss who’s a bit of a charisma vacuum, is strong – Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott chewing some scenery, and Danny Trejo still on a mission to be in the most films of any actor ever all show up, and the women hired as eye candy acquit themselves very well – Tanit Phoenix as the main love interest Katrina and Roxanne Hayward as Prudence stand out. There’s also a weirdly slavish devotion to continuity, but more on that later.
 
The original film, 1975’s “Death Race 2000”, was a low-budget gleeful skewering of the American way, where drivers in a dystopian future are awarded points for running people over in a transcontinental road race – my favourite scene is where nurses at a hospital wheel out terminally ill patients to be killed by their favourite drivers. This trilogy is pretty much based on that film in name only – there’s a character called Frankenstein, there’s cars in it, but other than that, not a lot. Prisoners are forced to race round a track, blowing each other up, and another nearby prison which appears to exclusively house errant supermodels supplies the navigators / co-drivers.

The first film is the last, chronologically. Jason Statham destroys the fabric of the Death Race and goes off to live a happy life. Part 2 is a prequel, and we see that way back when people got their jollies watching prisoners fight – however, we’re then told that people would rather watch vehicular murder than actual murder, something that current motor-racing v UFC ratings would seem not to bear out. We’re also introduced to a previous Frankenstein (because we already knew Statham wasn’t the first).

Part 3 is an interesting beast, though. Frankenstein (Goss) recovers from the horrible injuries he suffers at the end of part 2 and is then plunged into a bit of politics. Ving Rhames, the owner of the Death Race concept, is forced to sell to Dougray Scott, who decides to expand the concept from its sole location to a round the world thing – first location, South Africa. So the survivors from part 2 get sent there, where the prison is apparently inside some sort of mine. We’re given a nice big fight – seems unlikely that they’d jeopardise their celeb racers by having them injured or killed by a bunch of petty thugs, but whatever.

Their accommodation is hilarious – Frankenstein sleeps in a cell three inches deep in water, and the supermodels have bare cages with cockroaches everywhere. But never mind that, because Death Racing apparently makes everyone super-horny. Everyone is trying to have sex with someone, or actually having sex, to the point where it becomes a bit of a joke. Oh, they make the women fight to the death for the 10 co-pilot spots, which I suppose makes sense when you’re making a crazy-ass action film but not much sense when you’re running a business. Still, having identical twin serial killers and an IRA terrorist (for real!) chopping each other up makes for a fun time.

Never bring a knife to a flamethrower fight

Never bring a knife to a flamethrower fight

The race is cross-country this time, through the desert and what appears to be a real township / shanty. I really hope they paid to repair every bit of damage they’d done and did some improvements, or something, because I’m distinctly uncomfortable with Hollywood films doing stuff like this (Fast & Furious Five, I’m looking at you).

Dougray Scott decides that…well, he’s just generic villain no.1. He wants to kill Frankenstein to stop him from winning his fifth race, and therefore his freedom, but his motives aren’t remotely important – he’s evil! And he does stuff because his evil mind demands it! He’s also great and absolutely worth watching all the time.

At the end, we get a rather lovely bit of dovetailing with the beginning of the first film, so all three make a nice little mobius strip, or circle, or whatever it is (but I won’t reveal what the dovetailing is, in case you want to watch it yourself). I think there was no reason to make the film as good as it was, and to load the cast with big B-movie names and people from the previous two installments. Someone clearly gave a damn about this film, and it shows. Strap yourself in, get a bottle of some wicked strong booze and do a Death Race marathon. I think you’ll have a good time.

Death Race 3: Inferno on IMDB
Buy Death Race 3: Inferno [DVD] [2012]

A Shot at Glory (2000)

a shot

Great acting duos have often been the difference between a mediocre film and a great film, Paul Newman and Robert Redford combined to great effect, meshing their charm and zeal in The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton psychoanalysing each other in Fight Club, Robert de Niro and Al Pacino rubbed shoulders on opposite sides of the law in Heat and then there was Robert Duvall and Ally McCoist. Wait, what?

Yes, proper actor Robert Duvall (who has won a best actor Oscar don’t forget) agreed to make a film about a fictional Scottish football team alongside a footballer with no previous acting credits to his name and not only that but ‘80s Hollywood superstar (and former Batman) Michael Keaton is also in A Shot at Glory. Lopsided casting seems to be a major theme of this film as other footballing types Owen Coyle, referee Hugh Dallas and commentator Andy Gray are given roles while Brian Cox and Cole Hauser complete the professional actor credits.

Keaton plays the American owner of Kilnockie, a made-up struggling second division side and tasks the team’s manager, Gordon McLeod (Duvall), with winning the cup or he’ll relocate them to Dublin. It seems Keaton believes Dublin is aching for a struggling Scottish second division team but this isn’t really explored in much depth at any point during the film probably because it doesn’t make any sense. To double Duvall’s chagrin, Keaton also hires national team and ex-Celtic legend Jackie McQuillan (Ally McCoist) who just happens to be Duvall’s much hated son-in-law.

I don’t know what the producers were thinking by changing McCoist’s background and I don’t know what possessed McCoist to agree to it either, there’s even clips of him superimposed in Celtic kits and scoring goals for them. I mean it’s not as if the whole Catholic-Protestant thing is a minor tiff that’ll simply blow over and McCoist knows full well the levels of passion and hatred between Rangers and Celtic fans. It’s a massively baffling choice by him that one can only think was influenced by silver screen stardom and a fee to match. I do remember him apologising to the Rangers fans shortly after the film was released back in 2000 and luckily for him he’s a big enough hero at Ibrox to be just about forgiven however I do think there’s a small section of them who still bait him for it. Another odd thing is that McCoist was still actually playing when this was filmed, it was shot in 1999 and he was then contracted to Kilmarnock who, incidentally, get dumped out of the cup by Kilnockie in their shot at glory.

A Shot at Glory is an awfully titled underdog tale that overdoes the usual home dramas to an excruciatingly dull level, Duvall is estranged from his daughter and has to swallow his pride by fielding McCoist but rarely talks to him while basking in the glory with the rest of the team. Duvall’s performance is something to behold, he plays a Scotsman but struggles with the accent and this is highlighted as he’s surrounded by a predominantly Scottish cast. At times you can tell he’s lost grip of it and it seems he just gives up saying his lines and just starts growling ‘hey’ repeatedly, there’s a funny scene where he does this to his wife while they’re eating dinner.

Not only is he full of idiosyncrasies but the whole film is, it’s one big cliché after another. Water bottles and ice buckets are kicked and thrown around changing rooms with aplomb and there’s plenty of swearing which always sounds funnier in Scottish especially when it’s a squeaky clean sporting hero or someone putting on the accent. Duvall is given a nauseating rivalry with Brian Cox, the manager of Rangers, and they inevitably head for a showdown in the final which you see coming as soon as the backstory to their mutual disdain is explained. Cox channels Dick Advocaat and Walter Smith but isn’t given enough of a character or much screen time so doesn’t develop out of simply being a nemesis and Keaton is that distant it seems like footage was borrowed from other films he’s been in and simply spliced into the final cut.

The big surprise here though is McCoist, he’s arguably the best thing in it and shows up other sportsmen-turned-actors in a challenging role that sees him deal with personal demons like alcoholism, unchecked aggression and a failing marriage. His quick temper gets him in trouble on and off the pitch as he punches opposition players and fans alike plus he even gets a sex scene.

Looking more like an episode of Doctors, or some other cheap daytime drama, A Shot at Glory plays exactly like it would be more at home on a BBC lunch schedule to be devoured by bored housewives along with their weight watchers soup and caramel snack-a-jacks. Other than the bewildering casting it lacks originality and doesn’t have the heart of the superior When Saturday Comes which is an obvious influence so if you don’t want to see an Oscar winner get out-acted by a footballer then you’re better off just going to your local football ground for a far more emotionally involving drama.

– Greg Foster

A Shot at Glory on IMDB
Buy A Shot At Glory [DVD]

People who live in glass houses: Thoughts on ‘Heckler’

As someone who writes film criticism, I have to say that I believe my opinion doesn’t matter. So, why do I continue to write these reviews? Arguably, when I write a review about a film that was made donkeys years ago, what I am doing is pointless, and indeed harmless, because nobody is going to benefit from the review, even if my write-up only adds ever-so-slightly to the cumulative weight of mass opinion; and filmmakers and actors, their careers have likely progressed, or even regressed to the point that their careers will not be directly negatively affected in the slightest.

Most of my reviews reflect my own experience as a viewer. I take a bit of care, and don’t just go in swinging the axe. I’m just putting my thoughts out there into the great big nothing. Likely these words will swirl around, and if by chance somebody might stumble upon this very piece after a Google search, or by following a link, and that’s what I suppose I’m looking for, then I think that satisfies my ego, knowing that my words have been read.

It was always harder to write Music criticism. I devoted six months of my life trying to become the next Lester Bangs, and each review I wrote was written with an enormous amount of guilt, particularly when covering an up and coming musical act, because they tended to read the reviews. A bad review usually led to feedback from a disgruntled singer-songwriter or the bass player of a landfill indie boyband, and though I mostly decided not to respond, since this was after all my opinion, and nothing more, getting confronted did put me on the defensive.

heckler

‘Heckler’ is directed by Michael Addis, and features Jamie Kennedy, one of those comedy actors who seems to rub people up the wrong way because he has no real strengths as an entertainer/stand-up/actor/presenter. What I mean by this, is for example, you might say Russell Brand is a decent presenter who thinks on his feet, therefore he thrives in a chat show setting such as ‘Brand X’, and in the past his BBC2 Radio Show or ‘Big Brother’s Big Mouth’, yet as an actor he is appalling, and finds his natural tendencies shackled because he is unable to work with from the script. Jamie Kennedy doesn’t really excel in any field, but he seems to make the most of his limitations and has worked hard for the money, grafting against the hate.

‘Heckler’ features a lot of talking heads from those in the entertainment business who’ve been heckled and verbally bashed, but interestingly it also gives the critics and the hecklers a voice, offering them the chance to explain their criticism. The film begins by looking at hecklers, those goons who lurk in the shadows and chirp up; disruptive the flow of a stand-up comic’s set. Hecklers are an essential part of the live experience, and quite relevant in the development of a stand-up comedian’s career. If they can’t survive, maintain composure under the spotlight and deliver the jokes, then really they don’t deserve to progress onto the bigger stages. There are several examples during this part of the film where a stand-up deals effortlessly with the drunk idiot in row z, adding to the act, Bill Hick’s c-word fuelled rant being one of the highlights, but when ‘Heckler’ moves onto the critics, Uwe Boll is bizarrely held up as a paramount of virtue, beating up pale, scrawny scribes in a boxing ring, a few of the many who have dared to criticize his work.

Kennedy is put in a difficult position because you can tell that the criticism he’s received, particularly about his film work, genuinely infuriates him, he doesn’t come across as one of those guys who is impervious to sniping hackery. When sat next to a critic, he doesn’t seem able to be the better man, often coming off second best in the exchanges, and arguably justifying the critic’s initial views.

Online criticism has evolved into an even more ferocious beast since ‘Heckler’ was made, and with instant technology, including live blogging and Twitter, rationality is taken out of the equation, as people react before they can even think. That’s why I personally quite like the idea of leaving it for a bit, and looking at something after the hype has died down.

Aggregate scoring sites such as Metacritics and Rotten Tomatoes, and notable heavyweight critics, who most of us low level unpaid writers worship, such as Roger Ebert and Mark Kermode, have enabled a level of reliable opinion to continue into the internet age. It isn’t just millions of anonymous voices yelling “Your movie sucks”, there is a useful guide that assists the consumer as they contemplate what to see at the cinema. The online critic has a place, contributing to a wider consensus of opinion, and I suppose that’s a good thing, because it encourages idiots like me to keep writing.

– RJW

Heckler on IMDB
Buy Heckler [DVD]

Prototype (2009)

prototype

Directed by: Michael Reilly

The aftermath of disappointment; right now I can hardly move my fingers across the keyboard. Eighty minutes, which began with curiosity, quickly turned to boredom and then a sullen scowl filled my face as I looked into the bathroom mirror and noticed how much older I was since the last time I checked. I feel miserable, and despite this I have an unspoken obligation to comment on ‘Prototype’, a film which sucked the life out of me.

December 18th, and the location is Henderson, Nevada. Two men are talking about Alex; a guy who they say has a God complex. Mysterious. Three minutes of opening credits makes us wait for a while, during these credits someone is soldering a circuit board, trimming wires. They appear to be customizing a glove adored with flashing little lime green L.E.D lights.

Four days earlier, and Alex is in the confession booth, he talks to Father Bruce. There is no need for confidentiality in the booth as the two have known each other for years. Father Bruce gives Alex a crucifix for his birthday. Alex heads off to work at a warehouse, he’s late because he spent so much time at the church, he gets a stern ticking off from Rick, his smarmy boss. We then get introduced to Alex’s girlfriend Natalie who seems quite distracted. They struggle to find the time to see each other.

We’re made fully aware of how bad Alex’s life is, and every day is a struggle for the poor ducky. Alex goes around to a local scientist named Irving after getting socked in the eye by his step-father and rejected by his girlfriend. The scientist is an Atheist, and they have a predictable science vs. religion debate. Irving: “Can you prove that God exists?” Alex: “I don’t have to, that’s what faith is”. Hitchens vs. D’Souza this isn’t. Irving shows Alex the latest invention he’s working on. Gloves with little lime green L.E.D lights on them. But these aren’t just any gloves; they can make a granny smith apple explode through telekinesis. Alex is wowed by this vulgar display of power.

You can see where this goes from here. Alex gets his filthy paws on the gloves, and he, the lifelong victim, goes around putting his hands… actually no, that’s not quite right, he doesn’t need to touch his enemies, he merely wriggles his fingers like an office worker suffering from RSI and the telekinetic force takes care of the rest.

On his trail is Sheriff Don Loomis, a recently divorced man who has lost the custody of his child, he’s having a crisis of faith, and must work with Father Bruce to track down Alex and stop him from getting up to un-Christian mischief. Loomis works alone, perhaps because he’s a maverick, or maybe because they didn’t want to pay another actor to be his deputy. Don Loomis is the films conscious, but by the end he succumbs to the power of the Lord, and gets no closer to finding out the truth.

– RJW
3/10