Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Perfect Creature

From New Zealand, we get Perfect Creature, an alternative history, steam-punk, vampires as holy order movie. And it actually works and is pretty damn cool. The story centers around Edgar, a rogue vampire who's decided that killing people is okay. The vampire holy order dispatches Silius to quietly stop him. They're trying to keep the transgressions hush hush because they don't want humans to stop giving them yummy blood and go all Van Helsing on their asses. They're able to keep it quiet because there's a flu epidemic. People are dieing anyway. A few more bodies isn't that strange. Eventually though, the human police are told, but instead of being all outraged and self righteous about the vamps covering up the deaths, they're fully on board with keeping it quiet to prevent widespread pandemonium, which is so damn awesome for being so reasonable.

Silius is paired up with police captain Lilly for the vamphunt. I liked her character and the actress Saffron Burrows. She's understated, taciturn, competent, and has a quiet stoicism about her. It was also nice just to see a woman in a strong role without the inherent brashness writers feel the need to bestow on these sorts. Edgar and Silius do end up fighting over her, but Lilly proves more than capable of taking care of herself.

The film is rather slow at times and preachy. Genetic experimentation is the hot button topic. I'll sum it up for you: It's bad, we shouldn't do, or we'll all die. The whole genetic experimentation thing is the weakest part of the film because it's based on bad science. They claim vampires are a new species, but they're born randomly within the human population, and have not managed reproducing on their own. That means they can't be called a new species, even I know that. But Edgar's whole diabolical plan rests on this bad science. I think the main problems are in the fact that they try to make the vampires the holders of scientific discovery and religious figures at the same time. The two ideas don't really mix.

But the world itself is fascinating, from the steam powered cars to the Zeppelins in the sky. It's neat just to follow people down the street. And the characters are sympathetic. Dougray Scott, who plays Silius, is easy to root for. He's contemplative, humble, and strong. Lilly's team of cops are not introduced well and are left on the periphery, except for Detective Jones who is the "romantic" rival of Silius for Lilly. I put romance in quotes because there isn't any hearts and flowers or steamy interludes. Jones clearly has a major crush on Lilly, but she never acknowledges it, and she never shows any fancy for Silius. Silius is interested in her, but he's a priest so he's chaste. No hanky-panky going on with anyone.

This movie really surprised me. The DVD cover Netflix displays does not illustrate the movie at all. It's a red face with fangs. The one above is better, but there are no bats in this movie whatsoever. Don't let the cover art fool you. It's a good movie.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Go See this NOW!

If you haven't seen this, GO SEE IT NOW! It's only up and free until midnight tomorrow. It's funny, touching, and time is ticking!*

*The movie is no longer available for free viewing, but I still recommend it.

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Friday, July 18, 2008


I saw The Blair Witch Project in the theatres and thought, "That was a wasted $6.50." I would've thought the same if I'd gone to the theatre to see Cloverfield. It's not that either were awful movies, but they don't hold any resonance. Not even the last BW scene. They're experiments in a little done new film type, and they don't quite succeed. Or to put it bluntly, they aren't worth $6.50 to see.

But since I got Cloverfield through Netflix, I'm feeling much more lenient, though Cloverfield shares some of the same flaws as The Blair Witch Project. The anxiety and terror that is supposed to be expressed through shaky camera action and badly framed shots doesn't work in either. I think it's an inherent flaw of the medium. We know that the film's fictional, so handheld flaws that are supposed to make the film seem more real, only annoy us. Cloverfield does have a more robust story than Blair Witch. BW was a straight up documentary-like horror story. We didn't get any back stories with the WB college students. They were just conduits for fear. Cloverfield gives us flashbacks done in the manner of untaped over sections of an old tape. This was clever and can never be done again.

The problem with the back story is that the characters now supposedly have license to do some seriously stupid shit. Instead of running for their lives like any normal person would do when faced with a Godzilla-like monster, they run toward it to save a possibly not dead but badly hurt friend. Wait excuse me, some of these people don't even know the person they're saving. Why are they doing this then? I have no fucking idea.

Like Speilberg's War of the Worlds, Cloverfield focuses on some random victims of the catastrophe, instead of more important participants. I liked War of the Worlds because of that. I wasn't that enthused here.

I read one review that mentioned this would've been a more interesting movie if the camera had been handed off from survivor to survivor, and the story told from snippets of different perspectives. That would've been cool and would've kept me from wondering, as I'm watching, how this group that we're stuck with survived in New York before the monster because they're clearly suicidal idjits.

Drew Goddard wrote the script, whose work I liked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Lost, and this is his first movie, though I have a nagging suspicion that Cloverfield was originally slated to be a television pilot. From the beginning title card with the government mumbo jumbo, and the inexplicable information that Central Park has been renamed Cloverfield, we open on a going away party for Rob. Hud, his best friend, is filming it. There's drama with girls that goes on too long, and then finally, the chaos begins. No one's quite sure what's going on, but panic ensues, ushered in by the Statue of Liberty's head hurtling out of the sky. We get glimpses of the monster which are exhilarating, and the CGI is nicely done. The movie, for all it's shaky hand, badly framed shots, looks great.

Now the monster, we learn nothing about it except for the very basics. It's big, it's violent, and it has really nasty fleas. Don't know where it came from, what it is, or even if it dies. That's okay. I don't mind that, and it leaves the possibility open for a sequel.

But at the end, I'm left feeling hollow. The characters are not appreciable. The idea was good. The execution was good. But the heart is missing. I didn't care about these young New Yorkers like I cared about Tom Cruise and his family. I think it's the cohesion that was missing. The family unit is easy to recognize and doesn't need a lot of explanation. This group didn't have that cohesion. I couldn't understand why they were sticking together. Also Cruise's family was trying to get to safety, not go check out the aliens, except for the brother, who everyone thought was insane. If the Cloverfield gang had been trying to escape the city, I would've been more willing to get behind them, but their ill thought up quest to save the girl (who should've been dead by the time they got to her or died soon after. She was impaled, people!) didn't jive with me. For as realistic as the movie looked, the characters weren't. A pity, this movie could've been stellar.