Posts Tagged ‘war’

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

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In a nutshell: Implausible, forgettable but reasonably entertaining action yarn

Popcorn rating: 3/5

I like a good unintentionally homoerotic, old school action adventure as much as the next girl. In fact, in my humble view, there isn’t enough fit men ripping off their shirts and exchanging meaningful glances on the silver screen nowadays. Luckily, The Eagle has come along to redress the balance with lots of masculine moodiness, hand to hand combat and general silliness all wrapped up in the mystery of the disappearance of the Ninth Legion in Roman-ruled Brittania.

Channing Tatum continues his line of rippling muscles masquerading as men playing Roman centurion Marcus Aquila, a young commander in chilly looking Britain living under the shadow of his father – the man who led the legendary Legion and their gold Eagle emblem into unconquered Caledonia, never to be heard or seen of again.

Honourably discharged from the army and with nothing better to do than emote meaningfully, Marcus decides to regain his daddy’s lost glory by heading across Hadrian’s Wall into Caledonia – aka no man’s land – in pursuit of the Eagle. He takes along for the ride, his young British slave, Esca (Billy Elliot sorry, ahem, Jamie Bell) whose life he saved in a gladiator bout (where else?), thus earning Esca’s apparent lifelong allegiance.

This is when the real adventure begins as the brooding duo begin their quest, along the way bumping into a Ninth survivor (a so-serious it is actually a bit funny turn from Mark Strong) as well as the hard-as-a-rock natives (they’re very scary because they wear mud and live on the coast in mud huts, oh-er). But with Esca back with his people (kind of) and the Roman master now the slave, will Marcus fulfil his mission to return the Eagle to Rome? Do you really care? Well no, probably not, but never mind.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, The Eagle is best watched with a giant pinch of salt. Yes, its implausible (ridiculously so in parts), yes, Esca’s allegiance is inexplicable (especially after Marcus shows his willingness to off enemy children at the drop of a hat), yes, you are likely to want to scream “Oh, for f*ck’s sake, get over it” at the screen several times and yes, Donald Sutherland (as Marcus’ uncle) does look like he can’t help but chuckle at getting a wad of cash merely for showing up for any old role nowadays.

What The Eagle is, however; is a throwback to the Boys Own adventure’s of yesteryear, a diverting action adventure that won’t win any awards but may, just may, mildly entertain you for 90 minutes or so. The other 24 minutes, to be fair, could have been cut.

Reviewer: Curlyshirley

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