Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Movie Reviews: Battle Los Angeles, Doomsday, Season of the Witch, Battle Royale II, Primer, Moon, Lost In Translation, eXistenZ


A friend of mine was trying to get me to watch Battle: Los Angeles the other day. Independence Day meets Black Hawk Down, he said. I didn't tell him that both movies rubbed me the wrong way for the same reason: AMURIKA! FUCK YEAH! But I decided to give the movie a shot.

Battle: Los Angeles, I found out, is the story of the most awesome fighting unit in the U.S. of A. (FUCK YEAH!) and how they went toe to toe with dastardly alien invaders. Or maybe it's the story of the universe's most idiotic aliens who, despite being light years ahead of humans in terms of technology, still haven't figured out yet that when enemies are shooting at you, you have to find cover.

And this is all the time I'll waste commenting on this movie.


2008's Doomsday is Mad Max 2: Road Warrior but set in Scotland and with Excalibur thrown in. That's not so bad. It's been a really long time since we've seen mohawk-wearing feral psychopaths driving deathmobiles. And the intensity of the fight scenes, especially the climax, was delicious. My problem with it though is that it takes all these great elements but doesn't push them to their full potential. The tight budget is painfully evident. The story leaves ridiculous plot holes. This movie could have been great with a better story and a better script (something written by a better writer than director Neil Marshall) but you might like it mainly because there's a dearth of 80's-style post-apocalyptic mayhem in the theaters.


2010's Season of the Witch could have been the Dark Ages' answer to From Dusk Till Dawn. Unfortunately, it took itself too seriously. And it has Nicholas Cage in it.


Battle Royale wasn't what you would call a realistic movie. It wasn't supposed to be. It was a fable. And that's why it worked. End of story.

The problem with Battle Royale II: Requiem is that it was trying too much to be all gritty and real. Chief of all the issues is: how can a terrorist leader as emotional and prone to histrionics as Wild Seven's Shuya Nanahara have survived for three years blowing up buildings when he flips out, weeping and smiting his breast, each time a comrade gets killed? Even Jesus wouldn't weep as much. The entire movie is all about explosions and bullets and blood and bucketsful of tears. Stay away from the movie and read the manga instead. It's much much better.


One of the most mind-boggling movies I've seen in my life is 2004's Primer. Compared to this Gordian Knot, Inception is a snotty bastard who just entered kindergarten and started learning to mindfuck. Be warned, though: Primer is not for the those who want to tune out by watching a movie. This is not a Marty McFly type of time machine.


2009's Moon stars Sam Rockwell, was written by actors Mark Bowden and Nathaniel Parker, and was directed by David Bowie's spoor, Duncan Jones. It's hard science fiction, a category of SF that works stories around currently available science. So, no, there are no lightsaber duels. What you get though is the question: What is it that makes us human? SF movies that pose questions like that always sucker me into watching them. If you put the tagline "What is it that makes us human?" to Little Fockers' posters and then put some elements that suggest there are clones and computers with sophisticated AI in it, I'd probably have watched that movie. Anyway, Moon is great. Something Philip K. Dick probably would have watched.


Much has been said about the themes of melancholia, culture shock, alienation, and ennui in 2003's Lost in Translation. Yet what seemed most remarkable to me is that the movie is a modern tale of courtly love. For those unfamiliar with the term, courtly love is a medieval European concept of chivalrous love, where a knight-errant (who may or may not be married) and a married lady express love, admiration, and desire for each other but do not consummate such feelings with sex. Love, longing, and sexual repression: the greatest love stories are tragedies.


I've always been a fan of body horror, also called venereal horror, which bites down on our fear of wounds, dreadful bodily transformations, and infections. I think that it's a shame the market for that in this country isn't very profitable. Philippine TV and movie horror, you may have noticed, is limited to spirits, curses, and mythological monsters. I'm convinced that's the reason why Philippine horror isn't evolving.

I've also always been a fan of director David Cronenberg. I loved Scanners, The Fly, The Dead Zone, A History of Violence, etc.

That said, I don't know whether to love or hate eXistenZ, Cronenberg's 1999 body horror movie about virtual reality and video games. It's got great ideas like the gristle gun (a pistol made of bones and which shoots human teeth as bullets) and the Meta Flesh game pod (a video game console/controller that looks like a pale liver with nipples and which plugs to the user's spine via an umbilical cord). It also explores the nature of reality, wired culture, free will, and other heady stuff. On the whole, though, the movie would have improved a lot if it took itself a little bit more seriously instead of acting like the classroom jerk.

Suffice to say that it's worth watching if you have a strong stomach or a masochistic streak. I just hope someone someday takes the great ideas from the movie and makes an improved version of eXistenZ. And throw away the title. Yes, I know that the "Isten" between the X and the Z is the Hungarian word for God. I just don't find it as clever as the Cronenberg thought it was.


  1. Very nice read, thanks! I've read a lot of mixed reviews on Battle: LA; a lot saying the gist of what you did, but in the end I'm still very interested in seeing it. I was intrigued by the trailer when it first came out but never got a chance to see it in theaters, so thankfully my TV provider/employer DISH Network is offering this movie and others for the holiday for only 99 cents on PPV or VOD, so I'm for sure going to be taking advantage of that. Check out the details here http://bit.ly/m8YxLA. :)

  2. I love "Moon". I always have this strong bias for sad stories that CAN'T make me cry. It makes the experience more painful, I guess.