Sunday, 17 June 2012

Piranha 3DD

One year after a devastating attack from prehistoric piranhas, Lake Victoria, a once bustling spring break vacation spot, is a ghost town, abandoned by everyone. Meanwhile, in a town which is somewhere far away but not too far away from Lake Victoria, Maddy has returned home for the summer to oversee the running of the water park she part owns with her step father, Chet. To her horror, he has transformed it into a garish, adult themed park with 'water-certified strippers' instead of lifeguards and an adult pool with built-in 'cootch cam'. Chet's biggest change though is the illegal water pump supplying water to the park from an underground lake, where the prehistoric piranhas are waiting... And evolving...

Remember when Piranha 3D came out in the summer of 2010? Everybody loved it. It became one of those 'must see' films amongst teens and casual film goers because of how much fun it was. Piranha never took itself too seriously, it was self-aware grindhouse at its finest with a host of celebrity cameos (including THAT scene with Kelly Brook) and more than a handful of blood, guts, and gore, all tied together with some cheesy, laughable dialogue. More importantly, it made a surprising amount of money for Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and plans for a sequel were immediately put in place. However, it retained none of the original writers, nor the director. Instead, the writers of Saw 3D wrote the film to be directed by the man who brought the Feast franchise to the screen. Can you not see this going horribly wrong already? Well, it did. Drastically.

Piranha 3DD had a lot to live up to, to be fair, but it falls down on pretty much every point where Piranha 3D excelled. It's far too self-aware and loses its charm, the nudity is gratuitous and not sparing in order to keep the audience wanting, the gore is disturbingly sparse, losing its humour, and there aren't any shocks, surprises or tension-building moments. I'll give it this, Piranha 3DD is funny, but unintentionally so. The dialogue isn't 'self-aware bad', it's just plain bad and, at times, ludicrous. When one of the lead characters comes out with the line "Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina", it's funny for all the wrong reasons. It's lines like that that just seem to exemplify the attitude of the writers. There was so much potential for higher thrills, better and gorier deaths, and the chance to do something different in this, but they've just gone ahead and made a sloppier, lazier version of the original, and that's probably the most disappointing aspect of all.

Probably the best thing is about this film is the appearance of David Hasselhoff, and that speak volumes in itself. He (shockingly) plays a washed-up, self-obsessed, fictionalised version of himself well, and comes across as genuinely apathetic in the face of the chaos and terror happening all around him. Elsewhere, Danielle Panabaker as Maddy is cookie cutter in this, given a typical role of the heroine who tries to stop everything happening but fails, leaving her to try and save everyone, though she's not helped by some poor dialogue and lack of character development, something which blights everyone in this. Her two romantic interests are typical bad guy and good guy, nothing special at all. Katrina Bowden gets the worst of it though, having to play the scream queen when she's clearly not cut out for it. Her dialogue, in particular, is atrocious, including the aforementioned line about something coming out of her vagina. David Koechner makes the same kind of appearance he now makes in every film; playing a more evil, worse version of Champ Kind from Anchorman. Christopher Lloyd's cameo is just a reminder of how good he is at playing an eccentric scientist, and Paul Scheer and Ving Rhames make a welcome return, though it's never explained why exactly the two of them are now friends in this, and their appearances are fleeting at most.

The biggest problem with the writing of Piranha 3DD is that the writers seems to have acted like a bunch of frat boys. There are SO. MANY. BOOBS in this, I actually started to get bored. And I love boobs. They also included as many crude double entendres as possible, and substituted those in for actual dialogue. There was no tension built throughout, there was no inventiveness in either plot or story: Water-based scenario established, piranhas come back, major bloodbath at water-based scenario, piranhas defeated. No surprises. It also comes in at a shockingly short 71 minutes. That's not a film, that's an episode of a TV series. This film has direct-to-video written all over it and yet it managed to score a wider release and more publicity than the better original. Nice try, Weinsteins, but no-one's buying it. The box-office should tell you that.

Overall, this is just a bad film. The original had charm and got the balance of everything just right. This one is all over the place. It would have been bad enough if this was just a copy, but somehow they managed to make a real hash of recreating what was a winning formula. I was really looking forward to this after the first one, and this has disappointed me so badly. If you liked the first one, don't see this, save yourself. If you didn't like the first one, definitely don't watch this, you'll want to tear your eyes out. If you didn't even see the first one, still don't watch this, go back and watch Piranha 3D, it's s much better than this money-making exercise. Oh, and the piranhas look crap this time.

Rating: 1/2

Thursday, 14 June 2012


In the late 21st century, a group of scientists led by Dr Elizabeth Shaw discover a star map, similar to those already found, all painted by different and unrelated civilisations. Their belief is these maps are an invitation to seek out mankind's creators, or "engineers". So, funded by an ageing Peter Weyland and his corporation, Shaw and a team of scientists have the trillion dollar vessel Prometheus bestowed upon them in which to travel two years through space to reach their destination: LV-223 and to try and find the answers to the creation of mankind. However, they very quickly realise that they may not find what they're looking for. God doesn't build in straight lines...

This is it. The film over 30 years in the making. The Alien franchise, one of the best known, best loved movie franchises of all time. The history of the franchise is impressive: Alien, the 1979 original directed by Sir Ridley Scott (with only his second feature film) is an instant classic. Everyone knows the story. Aliens, the 1986 sequel, is just as good and was helmed by James Cameron in only his third feature film. 1992's Alien 3, though looked on unfavourably, gave David Fincher his directorial debut and still stands up today. Finally, 1997's Alien Resurrection was written by the legendary Joss Whedon and was the only English language film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Finally, the series gets its prequel film, with Ridley Scott, the man who created it all, back at the helm, explaining everything Alien fans could ever want to know about facehuggers, chestbusters and space jockeys. Except it's not. And it doesn't. And it shouldn't. Prometheus is its own beast with "strands of Alien's DNA". Yes, it's a prequel, but it's not a direct prequel. This is a back story about the beginnings. And what a story it is.

Let me start by saying this: The sheer scale of Prometheus is incredible. The visuals are stunning, beautiful and grand. I guarantee this film would look epic on an IMAX screen. The sets are massive and give the film a grander, more event-like feel. The attention to detail and intricacies in the mise-en-scรจne make this film feel a little bit more special than it already does being associated with the Alien franchise. It shows just how much care and attention to detail has been paid by Sir Ridley, Damon Lindelof et al. Also, the 3D in this is totally justified. Scott's experimentation with the format has paid off, as his entire world becomes immersive. The 3D also achieves something which I believe it should be solely used for. Instead of making it feel welcoming, the 3D makes the audience feel uncomfortable, with things flying towards them and getting covered with goo and falling metal. It's like a cinematic ghost train, but in a good way. Also, the subtle references to Alien and the franchise made me happy, and by the sounds of things made a lot of other audience members happy as well.

From there though, things start to fall apart. Well, not fall apart, but become decidedly dodgy. There are a few scenes in the film which are completely unnecessary. They don't go anywhere, they don't explain anything and are surely only there to satisfy Ridley's appetite for filming erroneous footage. The main problem with this film though are the various sub plots. Some of them make no sense. Some of them are introduced and then forgotten about. Some of them reach a conclusion which is either unsatisfying or plays no part in the overall plot or both. The main crux of the story is good, and there's a lot of tension built up, but it's when we're diverted to a side story that things get confusing and illogical. Believe me, there's a huge amount of 'movie logic' at work in this, too many moments where you end going "What? No. That's not how science works. What?? Why are they doing that? Who would say that? Why go there?! Why are you trusting him?!" many, many times. In particular, the sub plot with Peter Weyland makes no sense in the context of the film, and the 'shocking twist' at the end of the 2nd act is illogical and is never revisited. Bad writing. As for the dialogue, 90% of it is natural and flowing, but there's a definite 10% margin for awkwardness, though I wonder whether or not that's the writing's fault.

I bring to your attention the performance of Logan Marshall-Green as Dr Charlie Holloway, love interest of Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw and surely the most athletic, good-looking and unlikely archaeologist of all time. Indiana Jones makes sense, this one doesn't. Marshall-Green is, for lack of a better word, terrible. He has no on-screen chemistry with Rapace even though they're supposed to be lovers, his choice of line delivery is questionable at best and even his movements are forced and unnatural. Having said that, he's the only bad actor in a crop of good ones. Charlize Theron has got the 'ice queen' thing down, and she delivers again here as Weyland's representative on board Prometheus. Idris Elba plays the cool, bad ass captain with his usual swagger and style. Michael Fassbender is creepy as hell as the humanoid android David, delivering a perfectly emotionless performance. This guy is money. However, the best piece of casting by a mile is Noomi Rapace. Sometimes her Scandinavian accent slips in, but aside from that, she's perfect. Her motions are natural, her reactions realistic, her delivery near-perfect, and as a side note, there's a scene which takes place in Vickers' cabin *cough cough* where the scenario she's placed in, her performance and her look (mainly her look AFTER the action in the scene) make her seem like a carbon copy of a young Sigourney Weaver from Alien. Seriously, it's uncanny, and it's a really nice touch.

Overall, does Prometheus answer every question the fans wanted answered? No, and it wasn't meant to: Prometheus was designed as the first of three prequels leading up to the events of Alien, so the plot and the conclusion of the film make sense when you look at the bigger picture. However, if you ask whether Prometheus answers every question it raises by itself, the answer is no. So many things are illogical, forgotten or left unresolved,, it's disappointing. I understand leaving some things open ended for future films, but you still need a satisfying conclusion and I don't feel like Prometheus ever achieves one. Having said that, the film is beautiful to look at and an uncomfortable joy to watch. Just don't judge against the Alien films: Prometheus is its own goo-dripping, face-hugging, chest-bursting creature just waiting to jump out at you.

Rating: ***1/2