Posts Tagged ‘aliens’

In a nutshell: By jingo, it’s Battleship!

Popcorn rating: 3.5/5

I remember the Battleship board game from when I was a kid. I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t a fan. I certainly wasn’t a player. If anything, Battleship seemed to be an interminably dull game, one that people who liked grey cardigans and thick, dusty books on military strategy might play. Not the type of people I wanted to be consorting with, you understand. And, because I presumed the game itself so be yawnsome, I also presumed it had a series of complex and lengthy rules, like chess. In other words, dull, dull, dull.

Battle ship the movie, on the other hand, sounded right up my street. Dull? As if! Complex and intelligent? As if! Who you kidding cardigan boy? I take your stuffy old game and I give you Rihanna in fatigues and tattoos, I give you big explosions and even bigger specials effects, I give you scary aliens in massive, f*ck off spaceships. I give you Battleship, reimagined.

In many ways, I was right. About the movie that is. The game? Well, let’s just say, I’m still not a fan. On any medium.

So, what’s the movie about? Well, in brief, a naval fleet at Pearl Harbour must battle alien invaders, thwarting their presumably evil intentions and saving the world. That’s it really but, because this is “Hollywood”, selected (and beautiful) humans must also find inner strength and learn some moral lessons, before becoming heroes.

Director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) serves up a slice of typical Blockbuster-On-Sea. There are plenty of eye sizzling explosions and big action sequences to keep any eight–year-old happy and they do work, they really do. Our trusty group are likable enough, slacker turned navy man Taylor Kitsch has a certain sweetness, Rihanna and her pal Ordy (Jesse Plemons)  are peppy, while everyone else plays their own version of strong, military type. Oh, and we get to see the aliens in the flesh too, which is good, though they are strangely human, and their motives remain unclear, especially given how reluctant they are to kill people one-on-one yet wreak devastation on a grand scale.

On the downside, and as with so many blockbusters, the actual story is almost laughably bad, from stereotypes (I already mentioned the slacker turned hero but we also have the nerds, the stoical old navy men, the mean daddy/commander, the beautiful girl….I could go on) to cheesy twists, dreadful dialogue, unbelievable coincidences and, yes, some really wooden acting. It’s all in there as we lurch from scene to scene, waiting for the next big bang.

But, to be honest, even with all the cheesiness and the ardent US jingoism which abounds, Battleship still kinda works. It’s stupid yeah but it’s big, it’s flashy and it’s a lot of fun. A guilty pleasure that’s best seen on the big screen.

Reviewer: CurlyShirley

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In a nutshell: Alien invasion meets soap opera

Popcorn rating: 2.5/5

Think of aliens from outer space and you’ll probably picture a sweaty, shaven headed Sigourney Weaver battling xenomorphs; or perhaps you’d focus on the softer tales of aliens interacting with humanity favoured by a young Steven Spielberg; or maybe you’d chuckle at the idea of a terrified 1950s radio audience panicked at how real a fictional ‘we’ve been invaded’ news announcement can be.

Falling Skies is very much in the Spielbergian camp, offering a story focusing on the human toll of an alien invasion. As an added credit, the world famous, cap wearing director even signed on as an executive producer. Of course, in retrospect, he probably wishes he hadn’t bothered as, quite simply, Falling Skies just doesn’t cut it.

Like The Walking Dead, Falling Skies is set after a catastrophic event and focuses on mankind’s last hopes at fighting back. The story centres on a band of survivors, based within the army’s ragtag 2nd Massachusetts division who have made their camp at John F. Kennedy High School. We quickly learn mankind is not alone. Hulking mechs roam the streets and highways eliminating everything in their way, while six-legged alien “soldiers”, known as skitters, enslave human children.

The aliens and their weaponry are eye catching, interesting, thrilling even, but when the aliens are nowhere to be seen, the American series doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. This is supposed to be an apocalypse, a last ditch attempt to survive, and yet the characters aren’t broken; they’re clean cut, optimistic. It is almost like a soap opera.

The humans are led by Captain Weaver (Will Patton) who attempts to look vaguely haunted by his past and Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) who is completely wooden throughout the 10 episodes, during which he repeatedly ‘heroically’ insists on undertaking the most dangerous missions.

This makes it incredibly difficult to feel any empathy for the humans, and therefore any anger towards the aliens. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the final battle of the series goes out with a fizzle rather than a bang.

But to be fair, once Falling Skies works through its teething problems there are some interesting twists along the way. The aliens attach ‘harnesses’ to children which basically turn them into willing slaves – and possibly even worse, which is an interesting twist (though the survivors don’t seem to pick up on massive clues hinting at the symbiotic device’s darker purpose).

All in all, not as good as I had hoped but it offers some reluctant promise for a better second season.

Reviewer: David Morgan

In a nutshell: Inner city kids kick some nasty alien ass. Trust.

Popcorn rating: 4/5

Every now and then a new Brit flick comes along which is universally lauded as the movie to watch, the movie to reinvigorate the British film industry, the movie that wannabe film makers will ape for the next few months. This year that movie was Attack the Block, and, pleasingly, Attack the Block really, honestly is a stellar little low budget movie that is well worth a-watch.

We all know inner city kids are tough, smart arse little tykes, their brains addled by violent video games, telly and general capitalist greed, running round in packs of scary knife toting gangs, looting the middle class and despising the rich.

But, as director and writer Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block depicts, those nasty little youths not only have a secret heart of gold and sometimes have it tough but, when they have to, they are capable of protecting their own. So what else would they do when their community is attacked by crazy alien monsters from outer space? Kill or be killed of course. Believe.

It is the kids who, unsurprisingly, are the stars of this tight tale of urban warfare. From the two determined little ‘uns (Probs and Mayhem – Sammy Williams and Michael Ajao) taking on one of the beasts with their fuel-filled super soakerl to the smart mouthed, hip hop clothed central gang, each actor is spot on in their portrayal. Leading the pack is John Boyega, bringing a charismatic stoicism beyond his tender years to the role of Moses. An actor to watch for the future.

The language is too is excellent, enlivening the street patois of the kids and adding humour to what is, essentially, a fairly dark tale. Attack the Block is no sugar rush. People die, or fight, or fight and die. No one’s safety is a given, nothing is certain, adding just that edge of tension.

The monsters themselves have come in for a bit of stick critically and it is easy to see why; budgets constraints no doubt making the other world beasts seem a little too CGI at times. It is not a major problem though. Sure they aren’t perfect but they are different to other alien imaginings of late and, somehow, in this harsh, grey landscape they work; their animal ferocity and hunting instincts evoking the necessary fear.

A killer movie that you gotta watch, straight.

Reviewer: CurlyShirley

In a nutshell: Snoring your way through the Wild Wild West.

Popcorn rating: 2/5

Someone somewhere had an idea. ‘You know what’s great?’ perhaps they thought. ‘Cowboy movies. You know what else is great? Aliens. Man, how cool would it be to like, you know, put cowboys and aliens together in a movie and then, like maybe, throw in Indiana Jones and Bond and that guy outta Apocalypto and that sexy bird from Tron Legacy cos she looks kinda sexy, like a sexy alien cowgirl. Wow, yeah and everyone aged from 10 to 90 would just love it. High five.’

For some reason I thought it sounded like a good idea too. I was looking forward to the Jon Favreau directed Cowboys and Aliens like a five-year-old looks forward to Christmas. See, I love Westerns. Real Westerns, like the Shakespearean filth of Deadwood or the raw elegaic beauty of True Grit. I like aliens too. Hell, District 9 is one of my all time favourite movies.

Cowboys and Aliens, however, is none of the above. In fact, when I was leaving the cinema, I heard someone describe Cowboys and Aliens as “good, honest fun” and I can only presume they were talking about when the older lady close to the front row started choking on her popcorn.

The premise is surprisingly complex but as it is also somewhat pointless, we don’t need to go into it in detail here. Suffice it to say that the story centres round a small town somewhere in 1873 Arizona which is mysteriously attacked by people-stealing aliens. Mildly perturbed by the arrival of aliens from outer space, the townsfolk calmly band together into a posse to go hunt the “demons” and save their people, with the help of some injuns and 30 or so outlaws.

Guess who’s going to win? Go on, guess. I won’t ask you to care of course. To care would require a few ingredients, like good dialogue, some character development and a script which offers something different from the same old good V bad plot.

What Cowboys and Aliens does have is a bucketload of saccharine, one dimensional characters, a frankly ridiculous twist even for a film involving cowboys and aliens and, worst of all, a boring script.

Oh, it’s not all bad. There is the odd smattering of humour, which works well, there are a few good, scary jumps along the way too, and at least the aliens have the decency to look different from previous imaginings. That’s it though.

Don’t get me wrong. I like mindless fun as much as the next kid – Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Men in Black are all great examples of movies which mix laughs, action and storytelling successfully. Cowboys and Aliens doesn’t, and its a shame really, because it was a great idea. It really was. It just didn’t quite match up to the dream.

Reviewer: Curlyshirley

Disclaimer – This may seem like a harsh review but, true to the ethos of Let Me Eat Popcorn, it is my honest opinion. I would, in the interests of fairness, like to point out that my 12-year-old nephew Malachy loved Cowboys and Aliens and even went as far as to describe it as “brilliant”. So there.

In a nutshell: A worthy throwback to the blockbusters of the 80s

Popcorn rating: 4/5

Watching Super 8 is like experiencing time travel. The clothes, the haircuts, the way the film is shot and even the plot points to a more innocent time when the world was enjoying its first blockbusters.

It is blissfully reminiscent of the excitement of the 80s and films like The Goonies and ET.  Super 8 is a clear tribute to that with the basic premise that a group of kids witness a train crash that is at the centre of an alien conspiracy.

But it is more than a love letter to the 80s. Modern filmmaking brings a new dimension to the old school – there are almost as many explosions as a Transformers film.

Yet the children’s innocence and reaction of sheer panic to a situation out of their control is convincing and charming.  Then again what else would you expect when the best of the old generation meets the new?  Steven Spielberg produced the film while Lost creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams was the man behind the camera.

The story centres around Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) in smalltown Ohio. His mum has recently died in a disastrous industrial accident and he is attempting to get over it by helping his friend create a zombie film for a school competition.  But then his home becomes swamped by the military who are ruthlessly efficient at keeping the Government’s secret just that.

As you might expect, all hell eventually breaks loose but clever camera work means you only get a true glimpse of the alien at the end of the film. It builds a tremendous and old fashioned sense of suspense.
And it’s satisfying to know an alien presence in a film can once again be fascinating and mysterious rather than world conquering.

Essentially this is a movie about friendship and community and how something so catastrophic can affect those bonds.  In truth Super 8 does go off the rails a bit towards the end but in terms of the experience and nostalgia it is definitely worth your money.

Reviewer: David Morgan

In a nutshell: Aliens attack, shit gets blown up, random bunch of US marines save the world. Seen it, done it, played it, bored of it.

Popcorn rating: 1.5/5

If you think the plot of Battle: Los Angeles sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This kind of battle story has been doing the rounds since before I was born. The only difference this time, being that Battle: Los Angeles is utterly and uncompromisingly shit.

It opens within the midst of a battle, attempting to whet taste buds with lovely big explosions and scary “meteors” searing through the sky. And it all looks like sterling stuff, the action nonsense fanboy wet dreams are made of in fact.

But just as quick the action is over and we skip back 24 hours to meet the main protagonists – the same old group of Marine stereotypes you have seen (and probably liked) in numerous other military flicks. You got your ethnic minorities (including the de rigour mouthy Latino), your soon to be married bloke and his best bud, your fresh-outta-college  lieutenant, your virginal newbie and your jaded, battle scarred Staff Sergeant. There’s even a feisty military bird. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Are we seriously supposed to give a flying f*ck about these people? The only reason I didn’t want the aliens to win was because they were actually more pointless and derivative than the humans.

Anyway, after being dropped into Santa Monica for no apparent reason, the Marines are tasked with simply getting to safety. Tactical. On the way they chance upon the last remaining civilians in LA (which got evacuated incredibly quickly but hey, who am I to judge, what with my damn logic and all). This motley crew then proceed to the safety zone by battling rubbish aliens, defeating airborne drones, emoting embarrassingly (“He was a fine Marine and he was my friend.”) and whooping self congratulationarily every time someone successfully ties a f*cking shoe lace. Whoop, yeah, wow, thanks man, you saved my life, whoop, whoop. Puke.

As if the shoddy script wasn’t bad enough, every single piece of this film unfolds via nausea-inducing close-ups and shaky camera work, trying and failing to make the audience feel like they are “really there”.

The only reason I didn’t give Battle: Los Angeles a big fat zero was for the final battle which, while the premise is as laughable as everything else in this piece of puff, did at least have the decency to look like a video game.

If you want to see a good on-the-ground war flick, watch Black Hawk Down or The Hurt Locker, or, if you have a few days to spare, Band of Brothers. And if it’s aliens you like, then District 9, instead of this utter pants.

Reviewer: Curlyshirley

In a nutshell: Just another blah blah blah teenage movie

Popcorn rating: 2/5

*spoiler alert*

Unashamedly aimed at the Twilight generation, I Am Number Four is filled to the brim with teen flick stereotypes:

*Ugly, sociopathic baddies in big boots and long black overcoats chasing a…

*tall, dark and handsome hero, freshly arrived in Middle of Nowhere America complete with chiselled biceps, sexily dishevelled locks and a BIG secret, which makes him REALLY moody. He develops a healthy interest in the…

*beautiful, artistic, loner love interest who is ..

*adored to obsession by the local, slightly psychotic jock who gets his kicks bullying…

*the school nerd, who is befriended by the tall, dark and handsome hero…etc

And that’s the plot really. Except to give it a BIG TWIST, in I Am Number Four the hero schoolboy (who looks about 24) is actually an ALIEN. And not just any old alien – a “special” alien, one of nine super fighters who are destined to save his planet or mankind or whatever.

Throw into the mix a few obvious plot devices (your dad? The one who knew all about aliens and stuff, is missing? Wow) and lurch from scene to scene with no rhyme nor reason (your guardian just died and we’re being chased by crazed aliens? Time, methinks, to nip into the darkroom so we can share a “very safe romantic moment looking at some arty photos with no mention whatsoever of sex or anything icky like that). What’s not to love?

Plenty. And it’s a shame really, because even with the stereotypes, I Am Number Four could have been so much better, if it had had the nerve to stray from the beaten path of teenage movie cliche. As it stands, not only is it predictable and fairly patronising to its target audience but it’s boring – spending too much time focussing on a yawnsome romance and following the non-exploits of beautiful, well off people who are about as engaging as a dead salmon.

In fact the only plus points are the action scenes. The opening of I Am Number Four is wonderfully riveting, belying the boredom to come with a thrilling and explosive chase through a forest with suitably shocking results. Unfortunately, we have to sit through the rest of the emo dross before we get to the second high point, a strong action climax, complete with monsters, baddies, big guns and even a hot bird on a motorcycle.  Then, its quickly back downhill with our hero saying his “sad” goodbyes to Nowhere USA and leaving the story wide open for a whole new franchise. Sigh.

Reviewer: Curlyshirley