DVD Review: Legion (2010)

Hi again!

When Legion hit theaters in January 2010, I understood from the trailers what the movie was about. The angel Michael (Paul Bettany) has come to Earth to countermand an order from God to kill all of humankind, including the child that might bring about its salvation. Still in the womb, the child’s mother – a girl named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) – is working as a waitress at a diner in Paradise Falls, a speck in the middle of nowhere. Michael must save the kid from an army of angels and God’s wrath, or mankind is doomed.

Ah yes, our extermination. We, like the cockroaches we abhor, have spread across the Earth devouring resources and abusing our gift of free will. As Michael says in one scene, “The first time God lost faith in Man he sent a flood. The second time… he sent what you see outside.” Like our world is a giant Etch-a-Sketch and God wants to shake things up to erase us from the planet.

And, like cockroaches, we’re not such an easy race to erase off the map.

Though largely panned by reviewers far and wide, I liked Legion. It doesn’t have the philosophy of The Prophecy from back in the mid-90’s. But it takes a simple premise (The Apocalypse), a chance of redemption (an unwanted child), an interesting battleground (a diner in the middle of nowhere), and shows us angels like we haven’t quite seen them before.

Plus, if you add in the interesting cast of characters – Michael (Bettany, Iron Man 2, The Da Vinci Code), simple mechanic/protector Jeep Hanson (Lucas Black, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), inner-city tough guy Kyle (Tyrese Gibson, Death Race, 2 Fast 2 Furious), unlikely mother-to-be Charlie (Palicki, TV’s Supernatural), Dad simply trying to get to Christmas Howard Anderson (Jon Tenney, TV’s Brothers & Sisters and The Closer), bitchy wife Sandra (Kate Walsh, TV’s Private Practice), bratty wild child Audrey (Willa Holland, TV’s Gossip Girl and The O.C.), ex-military fry cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton, TV’s Roc, Alien 3), diner owner Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid, Pandorum, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)… and one ticked off angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand, Robin Hood (2010), X-Men Origins: Wolverine)…

Honestly there were so many different demographics represented by the population of the diner and its visitors that it was the perfect place to stage a heavenly battle. Anybody who thinks America isn’t diverse hasn’t been watching our movies I guess!

Now I know there are those people who didn’t like this film. I get it. It’s certainly not perfect. And it does get a little preachy and take itself too seriously from time to time. But this is an extremely visual film co-written and directed by a visual effects guy – Scott Stewart. Stewart has been involved at The Orphanage and ILM doing visual effects since the mid-1990s on such movies as Mars Attacks!, Sin City, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Superman Returns, and others. So it came as no surprise to me that this would be an effects-heavy film.

What did surprise me was how old school many of the effects were. Yes, we had scenes where peoples’ faces were vibrating as they were possessed by angels and where characters like the Ice Cream Man (played beautifully and far too short by Doug Jones – Hellboy, Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Pan’s Labyrinth and many others) transformed into grotesque beings attacking the diner. But then you had more subtle scenes with lightning and fog where you’d catch brief glimpses of the hordes of possessed beings in the dark and simple explosions as gunfire, gasoline, and vehicles met briefly to light the night.

Is this a film for you to think deeply about your own mortality? No. Definitely not. Is it a film to enjoy as you learn bits and pieces about the battle and watch as cool effects grace the screen? Yes. Definitely. If you’re looking for deeper spiritual or philosophical discussions, I recommend you check out The Prophecy and its sequels.

Included with the DVD are three short extras – “Creating the Apocalypse,” “Humanity’s Last Line of Defense,” and “From Pixels to Picture.”

“Creating the Apocalypse” provided a great segment about how they made Jones into the Ice Cream Man. What a process… With four prostheses, Jones ran from the ice cream truck towards the diner and jumped into the air. How he was able to pull that off is beyond me. Hearing Jones talk about the preparation alone was worth watching. The cast and crew seemed to appreciate his efforts even though he was just in that one scene. I have to admit to being more freaked out by the mechanical baby that was built for the film than the Ice Cream Man. At a bit more than 23 minutes, this is a very detailed look behind the scenes at how they did some of the movie magic.

Where the last feature dealt with the effects, “Humanity’s Last Line of Defense” focuses on the ensemble of actors. It’s quite obvious that the director and crew wanted to have the best group of actors they could get for these roles. It’s kind of fun to think that Bettany really wanted to be in an action film and fire machine guns. The mutual respect and admiration between the cast and crew was obvious as you hear Quaid, Bettany, Gibson, and others talk on set.

And in “From Pixels to Picture” you get a better understanding of the amazing efforts that went into the visual effects not only in post-production, but during the production on set. These visual engineers had some serious challenges integrating live action stunts with computer generated effects to create a number of seamless scenes. Between Gladys, the crazy possessed old lady on the ceiling, and the swarm of flies as they try to drive a character to the hospital, they did a great job in merging old school matte paintings, light, and shadow, with CG for the film.

Legion is definitely not for everybody. It’s rated R for bloody violence and language. But I found it to be an entertaining mix of religion, horror, and story. Be sure to check it out on DVD and VOD today!

This article first appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver SurferImage via Wikipedia

Hi all…

To round out the four movies I said I’d go see over my break, I saw the latest Fantastic Four movie this morning… Rise of the Silver Surfer

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486576/

[rating:2/4]

What can I say but… I’m glad I didn’t see this one opening weekend. The first one was bad, but this one is worse.

I have to say that I’m in love with Jessica Alba — have been since Dark Angel — but I don’t think I can see any more of her as Susan Storm – aka Invisible Woman – because she just looked horrible as a blonde with blue contacts this time. The rest of the cast did about the same as last time — which wasn’t horrible, but definitely wasn’t good.

The plot is straight out of the original Fantastic Four comic books. Silver Surfer has been a star in that universe forever — and Galactus should strike fear in the hearts of any F4 fanboy. But it didn’t do anything for me. I stayed to the end, hoping it would redeem itself, but it never really did.

What’s good? The Silver Surfer effects. Doug Jones was the physical essence of the surfer. He’s simply amazing and the effects they did for the Surfer were very cool. But Lawrence Fishburne did the voice and that didn’t jive for me. I like Fishburne as an actor, but I always thought the voice would be more like Abe Sapien from Hellboy (another Doug Jones character, though voiced by another actor I believe, though I can’t find out for sure on IMDB — anyone know for sure?).

What’s bad? Pretty much everything else. It’s all contrived. And though you know going in that it’s a comic book movie, this one was more like Catwoman (bomb) than Spiderman (cool).

I’m going to give it 2/4 stars. If you really must see it, rent it. Fast forward to the parts involving the Surfer.

Anybody else have an opinion? Share it!

Until next time…

–Fitz

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Pan’s Labyrinth – Wow

Pan's LabyrinthImage via Wikipedia

Hi all…

I have to say that I’d been looking forward to watching Pan’s Labyrinth since my birthday in May. It’s the Del Toro-directed foreign film that garnered so much great press at the end of last year. And man was it worth it, with one disclaimer…

[rating:4/4]

It’s rated R for a reason folks. This is not a faery tale for your kids. There’s a war on… The Spanish Civil War to be exact… And there are things going on (including more than one very violent scene) that you’re not going to want to explain to the kiddies.

IMDB’s link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/

The movie has a truly magical story centered around a little girl named Ofelia and her mother going to live with her mother’s new husband, a Captain in the Spanish military who is fighting the resistance in a forested area of Spain. Set in 1944, it captures the rustic qualities of a place not quite made modern by the world’s standards of the time. It’s left to the viewer to decide whether Ofelia is escaping the cruel real world that she’d fallen into by literally escaping into a faery tale world OR if it’s all in her fertile imagination.

Film-wise, it was beautiful. The transitions were amazing and seamless. The colors bright where they needed to be and washed out for effect in certain places. The acting was believable from all of the main characters, especially from the little girl who plays the main role of Ofelia. For a young actor, she did an amazing job.

The movie is subtitled, but that didn’t take away from the feel of the story at all.

And I’d comment on the music, but it blended artfully into the background so as to not be noticed.

Doug Jones is another actor in the film who actually played dual roles — as Pan (the Faun) and as the Pale Man. Both were amazing to behold. The makeup and costumes for these characters was as if they had both stepped out of a faery tale into the world — one to teach, the other to scare.

There were places in the story where I could pick out bits of faery lore, such as not to consume faery foods while in the faeries’ domain, or how the “truth” that a faery might reveal might not be the entire truth.

But again — this is not a faery tale for children. This is an adult movie with adult violence and themes.

I give it a whole-hearted 4/4 and wish that it had won MORE awards.

Give it a look — I think you’ll like it!

Thanks and until next time…

–Fitz

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