Movie Review: Priest

Hi there!

The Summer 2011 movie season has started even though Spring in Colorado has been one of mixed wind, snow, rain, and sun so far. Thor was fun, and I was hoping Priest with Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, and Maggie Q might continue the trend. Let’s just say I almost walked out after 25 minutes and wish I had so I could have used that time more wisely.

Let’s set the stage before I rip this film up however.

Priest is set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world where vampires and humankind have always battled for supremacy. People moved to cities with high walls to protect them, but we were losing badly. That is until the Church started finding people with extraordinary abilities who were fast enough to actually battle vampires effectively. This small band of brothers and sisters eventually got them under control. Rather than destroying the vampires however, they decided to put them on reservations and keep them locked up for eternity.

The Priest referred to in the title of the film (Bettany) gets a message from the outpost where his brother is living with his wife and daughter saying that his niece had been kidnapped by the vampires, her mother killed, and Priest’s brother slowly dying. Could he help? Sure, but it would mean turning his back on the Church and going against orders. Sometimes a little disobedience is required, and Priest goes off to save his niece. The Church isn’t happy and sends out four more priests after him, including the Priestess (Maggie Q, TV’s Nikita). And Priest discovers that it’s an old friend who’s taken his niece (Urban, Red, Lord of the Rings trilogy)…

I’ll stop there because I wouldn’t want to spoil the story. Not that you don’t already know all of that from the trailers, but hey.

So what went wrong with this film?

It starts off with an animated sequence that tells a bit of the backstory of the war, the priests, and so on. It has to be the bloodiest animation I’ve seen in quite a while, but it was fine. Suitably dark with a bit of narration to tell us what we need to know. But it quickly became evident that the soundtrack by Christopher Young was going to be a loud, less well written homage to the Conan soundtrack by Basil Poleadoris. That annoyed me throughout the film.

Once we actually meet Priest, it becomes readily apparent that Bettany decided this character wasn’t going to have any emotions at all. Even Urban’s “Black Hat” character only really has one good scene and it appears in the trailers where he’s directing mayhem Joker-style. Christopher Plummer puts in an appearance as Monsignor Orelas, a humorless control freak with little redeeming value.

Honestly the only character remotely likable was Maggie Q’s Priestess. She had the most emotional range of any of the characters and hardly received much screen time for her trouble.

And the vampires themselves were kind of interesting. Eyeless with four legs and big fangs ready to rip a person to shreds. They looked a bit slimy, but hey – they live underground and in the dark. You’d probably be slimy too.

Let me tick off the other things that bugged me. The story is transparent and railroaded. The cinematography has two modes – washed out and white in the desert or salt flats or dark, whether dark outside or underground. When it’s washed out, it’s really washed out. And when it’s dark, it’s dark. The wirework was uninteresting, even as Priest and Black Hat duel on the top of a speeding train. The 3D effects were largely uninteresting and did nothing to advance the plot (such as it was)…

Ultimately I really think the vampires should have won. I highly recommend you avoid Priest and skip it even when it comes out on DVD unless you’re really bored. Let’s hope that the rest of the movie season improves.

I just wish I’d walked out when the first inclination hit. [sigh]

–Fitz

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What is RED? And what is Hellen Mirren doing with automatic weapons?

Bruce Willis at a Live Free or Die Hard (Die H...
Image via Wikipedia

Hey there!

This has to be the most hilarious idea I’ve heard for a while. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on the big screen. RED is coming out in October 2010 and features some amazing folks – Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon and Richard Dreyfuss. What a cast!!

Here’s the synopsis:

Based on the cult D.C. Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, RED is an explosive action-comedy starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren.

Frank (Bruce Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) used to be the CIA’s top agents – but the secrets they know just made them the Agency’s top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. To stop the operation, the team embarks on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history.

Here’s the trailer:

This looks hilarious. And the video of Dame Helen Mirren with the machine gun is awesome! I’ll have to add her to the same list of Dames I don’t want to mess with – it’s a short list. Dame Judi Dench is the only other person on it!!

RED hits theaters on October 15, 2010 from Summit Entertainment and DC Comics and I know it’s on my list to go see.

–Fitz

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Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

Hi all!

Star Trek: The Original Series will forever have a place in my heart. It was one of the few series both my father and I could enjoy together when I was growing up. As such, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for William Shatner‘s Captain Kirk.

When it was announced a couple of years ago that JJ Abrams would be making a new Star Trek movie, I viewed it with trepidation. Abrams has provided some worthwhile entertainment over the last few years, from Alias and Lost to Cloverfield and now Star Trek. And when the ads tell you that this isn’t your father’s Star Trek, after seeing the movie, I tend to agree.

Rating: ★★★½

Add to that the fact that Kurtzman and Orci of Transformers fame were writing the script and I was still frightened of what the result might be. Though the script would most likely be entertaining, would it have the social power of the original and honor Roddenberry’s memory?

But I started hearing good things. Yes, there were the images of the Cloverfield-type monster on the ice planet and the eclectic cast with the blockbuster director and writers on board… but what if the final product was actually good? Early reviews were positive. I began to gain some hope.

So on opening day, my wife and I went to the first show that morning and waited to see what would happen.

Lo and behold, we both liked it. Imagine that. It wasn’t the train wreck it could have been (like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) and it actually delivered on the promise of so much talent involved with the production. Amazing.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t some things I could have done without. And there were a few things I could have seen more of. But overall, I think it was a heck of a success and should spawn one or more sequels that should provide entertainment in the future.

So what did I like? First and foremost, the cast was awesome. Chris Pine had the swagger of Shatner’s Kirk without the speech impediment inserting pregnant pauses throughout his dialogue. Zachary Quinto did a fine job as a younger Spock. Karl Urban fit the role of Bones (more on him later). Simon Pegg did a hilarious job as Scotty. John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Checkov were respectable and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura was smokin’ hot.

The special effects, done by Industrial Light and Magic, were beautiful. Any time you get to pan across a Federation starship and can see the tiles being scraped off by a close call with a destroyed vessel in Earth orbit, I think they have just enough detail without going overboard. The battles were very reminiscent of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (arguably one of the best movies from the original series) and violently beautiful.

I was worried about Eric Bana in the role of the Romulan Nero. The trailers provided glimpses of the Romulans, but never really gave us much background about Nero’s beef with Spock and Kirk. He was a very sympathetic villain I thought, which gave him a texture that appealed to me in a similar way to Khan.

Overall I think they honored the spirit of the original series in many ways. Gene Roddenberry should be smiling. There will be a new generation of Trekkies after they see this film.

What didn’t I like? First of all, Urban’s McCoy seemed to have Tourette’s syndrome. Every other line started to sound like “I’m a X, not a Y” and I know it was supposed to be funny, but it became annoying for me.

And my two biggest complaints are the lens flares and the fact that they tried to cram too much into one movie.

This YouTube video sums up the lens flare issue quite nicely, applying the flares to footage from the original series.

But I think, though Kurtzman and Orci did a great job of rebooting the universe, they tried to get too much into this film. Why not break it up a bit? I don’t know how they’d pull it off, but it was a solid 2+ hours. I can hardly wait to see what they put in an extended version or what scenes got cut when we see the film on DVD. If this is the slimmed version, I’d hate to see a four hour version (not that they have another 2 hours, but you know what I mean).

Overall, I thought this was an amazing effort by all the cast and crew. Abrams, Kurtzman, and Orci deserve huge kudos for pulling it off. It’s the first movie of the summer I want to see again (sorry Wolverine).

If you have to make a choice between X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Star Trek, I’d choose Star Trek every time.

Let me know what you thought. Leave me some comments!

–Fitz

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