Sunday, June 24, 2012

Liam and the Wolves

It's no secret that Never Cry Wolf is one of my favorite films from my childhood, perhaps due to my love of Alaska (lived there in 1st/2nd grade), and certainly due to my love of dogs, huskies, and certainly wolves, but also because it is an accurate portrayal of what the mysterious wolf is really like...the whole film's purpose and story centers around a scientific study of wolves in the wild, proving that they are not ferocious killers of man (Just look at this list on wikipedia, granted, very incomplete, to see a list of fatal wolf attacks form the 2000's; most which are attributed to rabies, to get a sense of how few attacks there are) but healthy predators, vital to so many ecosystems, and that much of their diet is made up of small rodents and such.  In any case it's a great movie and very honest, and quite sad too...

Then we have Liam Neeson's latest action thriller, The Grey, which came out earlier this year and I caught on DVD last of the WORST MOVIES I HAVE EVER SEEN.  Okay, I wasn't expecting much, not at all...I guess I was hoping for The Edge meets Taken, with Liam kicking the ass of man and wolf alike.   What I got was a movie that was slow, prodding, pick-em-off one-by-one, cold flat blizzard walk in the snow full of completely wrong wolf behavior that even a child would not believe.

 Let me count the ways in which this movie is just plain terrible:

-Firstly, after the plane crashes, the Liam keeps saying that to survive, they have to build a fire (okay makes sense) and that they have to get food.  I mean they have been crashed for a couple hours, and food is the #1 priority?  I'm pretty sure that most people can go weeks w/out eating, no one wants to, and yes, you need energy, especially when it's cold, but this food thing keeps being brought up.  WE HAVE TO FIND FOOD!  It has been a whole day, we are all going to starve to death tomorrow if we don't eat!  The only thing they end up eating over these 3 days is one wolf.  The only one they actually kill.

-One weapon they create is to tape shotgun shells on the end of sticks, a "boom stick".  Okay, maybe that could theoretically work..but they only use it once (on that one wolf they manage to kill) after like 10 minutes of discussion around a fire if it's a good idea in the first place.

-Wolves don't hunt humans.  Really, they don't.  Attacks and kills are usually a result of rabies, or a cornered animal, etc.  Wolves will flee their own kill if a human approaches.  Liam keeps saying that if they are near the wolf den - then the wolves will be aggressive and attack them.  Probably true, if there are pups there, but the plane crashed in the middle of a huge flat plain, not exactly prime wolf den territory, and wolves wouldn't give birth till early spring, but it's clearly the dead of winter.

-speaking of dens.  Wolf packs don't all have one den, the mother wolf will have a den, and the mating pair will hang out around it, but the pack roams, not always staying together.

-speaking of packs, Liam's concept of the Alpha wolf and the Omega wolf leave something to be desired - an Omega wolf is a male that is ostracised from the pack, is my understanding, that has to go make it on it's own.  It's not the bitch wolf that the pack sends into the middle of a camp of humans to sacrifice itself and test how strong the humans are, as described in the movie.

Then we have the plot and characters of the film...

-Firstly, do we need 17 flashbacks of the very same I'm loving my wife in bed but she is taken away from me, scene?  Barf.

-the only black character is overweight and he dies of altitude sickness, and then exposure, except that they didn't crash in the middle of the Andes, they are in the timber line of central Alaska, where at most, it might be a few thousand feet.  Certainly the blizzard could kill one, though.

-they create a "rope" line out of tied together sweatshirts to cross a raging river.

-they are never seen boiling snow for drinking water, or drinking water of any kind, which would be the #1 survival problem in this situation.

-Only 7 survive the flight, and every one of them is killed by these wolves, who follow them for what appears to be a good 50 mile slog....basically it's just a sad, boring cold death walk.  Not exactly the action romp one is seeking with a Liam Neeson flick.

-Oh and speaking of what could have been a great romp....the trailer's best scene for this movie is when Liam Neeson tapes broken bottles to his hands to clearly fight a fucking's the only thing that looked baddass about the movie, and really the sole reason I put it in my queue but guess what...


It fades to black right after we see him tape up his hands this way.  We do NOT GET TO SEE THIS EPIC BATTLE.  FUCK THAT SHIT.   Presumably he dies, and thus the wolfs win.  But the whole point of this movie was to see Liam wrestle and kick wolf ass with those broken bottles taped to his hands and we are denied this simple pleasure.

I think I figure it out though -  this story was missing the prelude, when we learn that the gov't had been experimenting on wolves in central Alaska to breed killer wolf assassins. 

Perhaps all will be revealed in The Grey 2 where it turns out that Liam kills the Alpha wolf, and then becomes leader of the pack, and they go on a murderous rampage killing all the gov't agents who did the genetic testing on these wolves, and also rescue Liam's daughter in the process.

The Grey 1 Molo
Never Cry Wolf (1983) 4 Molos

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Alien vs Whimsy

I somehow managed to drag myself to the theater twice this weekend, for the highly anticipated Prometheus, and less than highly anticipated Moonrise Kingdom

Before we discuss these films, let me warn you, there will be a some spoilers here, so let me say this...if you are at all interested in seeing them, I think they are definitely BOTH worth seeing in the theater.  Then again, I'm of the opinion that any visually striking film is worth seeing in the theater, if you can afford the $15.

So where to start?  At the beginning?  When the ripped bald guy visited Iceland and dissolves himself into a bunch of DNA to kick start evolution?  Ummm....I'm not going to bother trying to explain the plot of Prometheus, it's best explained here....  We all know, going into this movie, that it's not going to be a happy romp on an alien planet where the visitors find exactly what they have been looking for and everyone had a gay ole the film is going to rely upon strong characters, reasonable premise, and a visually striking world.  For the first hour, I'd say it at least gets the visually striking world thing right, and those other two points, are fair enough....then, the whole thing goes to pot.  I'm not sure what happened, is there a missing reel somewhere?  Did the studio executives chop the thing up like mad fools?  Was Ridley on crack at some point?  It's like there's Chapter 1, then Chapter 3...but what happened to Chapter 2? 
       Look, here's the thing....the movie is totally are with it for a while, and then it's just gone...none of the characters you want to see get developed get more than a few lines, some of them even barley that.  Some characters are complete throwaways and there are mad inconsistencies all over the place.  I could tear this thing to pieces, but let me tell you all this -

This is one of those movies that you almost have to see just so you can talk about how absurd it is.  And, at the same time, it's filled with such artful shots that you almost want to forgive the sloppy story, and absurd plot.  So, in short, 2.5 Molos

Now, we have Wes Anderson's latest opus in whimsical delight of dark adorableness, Moonrise Kingdom.

This photo is probably the least cute I could have chosen from the interwebs, but it does show the narrator, that guy from Alias!  (and Waiting for Guffman, etc...)  I forget his name, but he's good.  In any case, I had my reservations about seeing this, after all, Wes lost me at some point way back during The Life Aquatic, when things just became toooo Wes Anderson.  He started to almost be parodying himself.  Cute and Whimsy, sets and style seemed to become far more important than plot and actual human characters that we could believe in, and while fun to look at, those last few movies didn't do much.  They had not the greatness of Rushmore.

So we come to Moonrise Kingdom and find Wes again, being oh so Wes, and you know what?  It works this time.  It's no Royal Tenebaums or Rushmore, but Moonrise Kingdom is a sweet, lovely, interesting little flick that only a more cynical man than myself wouldn't enjoy (if such a man exists).  Again, we have movie stars in quirky, offbeat roles (Ed Norton, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand) but they all fit in.  There is certainly that silly novelty of it all, but it's more sincere this time.  Maybe it's the use of brand new child actors that pulls the thing off (my understanding is that neither of them are trained actors at all) or maybe it's just the simpleness of the plot (2 misunderstood kids run away together)...but damn, it works this time.  It feels more sincere, like Wes got his sincerity back.  Or maybe Roman Coppola did, his co-author.  In any case, I've talked a lot about this movie but not said a damn thing.  Except that I liked it.  3.5 Molos.