A few quick words on “24: Legacy” (2017)

I hate to say it, but “24: Legacy” (2017) was mostly average stuff; I’d give the 12-episode arc a 7 out of 10 for being a mildly engaging thriller, but nothing more than that.

I was one of the few people back in the day who opined that “24” could continue even without Kiefer Sutherland.  As priceless as he was in his role as anti-hero Jack Bauer, he wasn’t the only star of the show — the show’s gritty universe and its unique format could carry on without him.  I even thought, during the early years, that Fox was grooming Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) to be a viable lead if Sutherland departed.

I still think the show could manage without Sutherland.  The real culprit behind “Legacy’s” failure to stand out was its somewhat average writing.  It wasn’t bad, exactly … it was just average.  (Alright — for a little while, it was bad.  We see a key subplot/cliffhanger repeated three times, consecutively, in the same season. I’m surprised that major redundancy made it past the editing process.)  But mostly, it was average — we see thin staples of characters, and a plot that seemed largely reminiscent of … well, every other season of “24.”  (Admittedly, it must be tough after nine years to think up an original story for a serialized contemporary terror thriller in real-time format.)

The sad part is this — during the show’s final two or three episodes, it started showing more promise, with truly original plotting and unexpected conflicts.

The show got disappointing ratings.  We won’t know until at least May, but I think most viewers are guessing it won’t be renewed for another season.

 

A baffled review of “Lucy” (2014)

Everything you’ve heard about “Lucy” (2014) is correct — it’s exactly as trite and nonsensical as its multitude of unfavorable reviews have described it.  Maybe this was intended as some sort of weird, meta, inside joke by writer and director Luc Besson … after all, it’s a movie about increased “brain capacity” that is, ironically, really dumb.

I can’t imagine why Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman would sully their reputations by starring in this film.  Although, sadly, even the wonderful Johansson is not at her best here.  She seems to try to portray increased intelligence by delivering some of her lines like a robot.  (Seriously, she reads some of her lines like a speedy automaton, and it’s a bad creative decision for her performance.)

I could go on and on about the silly things in this movie.  So could you, if you’ve seen it.  But it’s a lot more fun listening to the surly wise-asses over at Cinema Sins.  Their trademark “Everything Wrong With” video for “Lucy” is particularly harsh.  At one point they call it “an aggressive dickhead of a movie.”  Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3rZmnJ66Po

There is one overriding problem I need to address myself … and that’s how its premise seems to relate so little to the events of the story.  We begin by understanding that the titular Lucy is affected by a drug that increases her brain capacity.  Before the movie reaches its halfway mark, she appears to gain omniscience.  (She doesn’t need to actually learn anything — she simply knows virtually everything already.  This is evinced by her ability to translate foreign languages instantly, with no books or instruction at all.)  She also appears omnipotent by the film’s end.  Her powers become literally godlike.  And I’m not talking about Thor or Odin from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — we’re talking the all-powerful,  Old Testament God of Abraham.

Why?  Why should increased intelligence, no matter how incredibly vast, give her power of matter, space and even time?  If she were as smart as a thousand Stephen Hawkings, she still shouldn’t be able to do the things she does in the movie.

Believe it or not, I’d rate this movie a 4 out of 10.  (That’s far kinder than the other reviews I’ve read.)  I managed to have fun with this movie by rewriting some of it in my head while I watched.  Instead of Lucy benefiting from a drug that increases her brain capacity (which borrows a bit from 2011’s excellent “Limitless,” anyway), I pretended that I was watching a movie in which Scarlett Johansson became God.  (Think of 2003’s “Bruce Almighty.”)  Honestly.  I swapped out the plot device in my head, and imagined a different movie.  That made it fun — watching Scarlett Johansson as a wrathful God was strangely satisfying, especially when she wreaks havoc on the bad guys.

And speaking of bad guys … that is actually one thing that this otherwise clueless movie manages to get right.  No, I’m not kidding — the Taipei gangsters that serve as the story’s antagonists were performed to perfection by their actors.  The villains were repulsive and terrifying, and they aroused more interest in me than the good guys.  Min-sik Choi was terrific as the homicidal patriarch of the Taiwanese crime syndicate.  Even better, though, was Nicolas Phongbeth as the cherubic-faced, vaguely androgynous, sociopathic lieutenant.  If they were vanquished in this brainless movie, it’d be nice to see them resurrected in a James Bond film or a season of Fox’s “24.”  It’s weird seeing a movie so bad do one important thing so successfully.

There are really only two reasons why anybody should see “Lucy.”  One is morbid curiosity.  Two is if they are a learning to be a screenwriter, and are looking for a feature-length example of what NOT to do.

 

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A quick review of “Re-Kill” (2015)

I want to give “Re-Kill” (2015) more than a 5 out of 10 rating.  I do.  It’s an ambitious post-apocalyptic independent zombie film that earnestly and unpretentiously tries to give fans of the subgenre everything they’re asking for: great action, decent makeup effects, gore, good scares and lots of creative world-building, all culminating in a nifty little sci-fi subplot that isn’t stupid and isn’t too forced.

There’s a wealth of fun ideas here — the original story was obviously developed by people with a love for zombie tales.  We follow a “COPS”-style reality-TV program documenting a”Re-Kill” unit, a squad of specially trained commandos who repel brushfire outbreaks during a global, stalemated war between the living and the dead.  They “rekill” the “re-ans,” this universe’s slang for re-animated dead.

We see the entire program, complete with commercials from this fictional world: PSA’s to encourage people to have sex (in order to repopulate the world), and drug companies opportunistically pushing drugs for PTSD and depression.  My favorite was an ad for a Desert Eagle sidearm marketed to protective mothers, “for the children.”  We get wicked-cool peeks into a fairly detailed fictional world, including the activities of the police, the military, the media and civilians.

This would have made a fine book series, in the manner of Max Brooks’ “World War Z.”  Or it would make a terrific TV series … like a far faster paced and more expansive equivalent of “The Walking Dead.”

Tragically, though, this movie’s execution is too often lacking.  The acting is sometimes poor (but not from the always awesome Roger Cross, who you and I know as Curtis Manning from “24.”)  The script has problems.  And worst of all is the absolutely unnecessary shaky-cam directing.  This movie could have been a fantastic action-horror flick … if only we were able to see the action a little better.  The style of shooting here was a disastrous creative decision.

Oh, well.  It’s still a fun watch for hardcore zombie fans.

 

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“Fright Night 2” was an average night.

I submit that the direct-to-video “Fright Night 2” (2013) is the paragon of average horror movies.  It is neither great nor terrible.  You don’t immediately call your friends to recommend it, but you don’t bemoan its $1 rental price at Redbox either.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10.

The movie suffers greatly from an insufferably irritating iteration of protagonist Charlie Brewster.  He’s uncharismatic in every scene, including those showing his weaselly entreaties to the girlfriend who left him after he cheated on her.  (He is played blandly by Will Payne; she is played rather well by Sacha Parkinson.)  Entirely absent is the charm and likable innocence that Anton Yelchin brought to the role in 2011’s “Fright Night.”  (Kyle Reese fought vampires in 2011, then aided John Connor in the future to fight terminators, evidently.)

The lackluster Charlie here is compensated for by a terrific villain.  Jaime Murray is a fantastic female equivalent of Dracula.  She’s a strong actress, she’s a quite tall brunette who looks the part, and she knows how to both sex it up and scare us.  I love her as a bad guy (gal).  I’d love to see her play a conspirator on one of the nerd community’s most anticipated upcoming revivals: “24” or “The X Files.”  I’m told she has a role on that … medieval show that people watch.  “Shame of Thrones?”  “Dame of Thrones?”  I’ve never seen an episode.

“Fright Night 2” benefits from Romania as a wonderful shooting location, and it’s captured nicely by the talented eye of director Eduardo Rodriguez.  What is the deal with average or mediocre horror films being filmed on location in Romania?  Is it just really cheap to shoot there, like Prague?

Anyway, this movie’s title is a misnomer.  This movie isn’t a sequel to the terrific 2011 film.  It is actually a remake — we again meet Charlie Brewster and Peter Vincent (the very cool Sean Power) for the first time.  It’s confusing.  I’m guessing that this was a rejected script for the 2011 film that they decided to shoot anyway?

And here is my requisite exposition to silence the pedants in advance — of course we are all aware that this is a “remake of a remake.”  The 2011 film is a nice update of the 80’s classic.  (And wasn’t that fun flick the talk of the neighborhood back in the day?)

Sooooo, seeing how average this film was, I really can’t recommend that you ether watch it or skip it.  I guess I can just offer a neutral “hmm.”  I’d suggest that it is acceptable fare if you’re an especially ardent vampire movie fan who has already viewed the classics that are easily available.

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DAMN IT, this is good idea!

Soooooo.  Yesterday’s July 4th marked America’s 239th birthday … next year will be its 240th.  That’s 240 years.  Or 24 decades.

THIS WILL BE NEXT YEAR’S NATIONAL THEME SONG:

I propose that every American citizen endeavor to kill or capture at least one terrorist on July 4th of 2016.  In the event of failing this objective, he or she will be responsible for yelling “DAMN IT!!!” at least five times over the course of the day.

Bucket List Addition: Mandy, the Boba Fett of “24”

1)  Find “24” actress Mia Kirshner’s home address.

2) Show up outside her home one evening holding a boombox overhead, like that kid in that John Hughes movie.  (I don’t watch them.)

3)  Play Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” for her, thus winning her affections.

(I love this actress and character so much.  Mandy is the Boba Fett of the “24” universe.  The character of Ari Kirshner in my novel is named after the actress.  I so want her to reappear in Season 9.)

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Spy vs. Spy (DAMMIT!)

Remember that friend in the intelligence community who I turned on to “24?”  He’s hooked.  He did at least half of Season 1 yesterday.

Spy Guy via text: “this wasn’t the right show to watch when I have things to do!!”

But it got funner when he “dammitted” me: “DAMMIT DUDE I NEED TO TURN THIS OFF.”  (Because spies have an abhorrence for commas.)

Wouldn’t it be funny if an intelligence professional were late for work because he stayed up watching “24?”  I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of irony.

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