Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jason X

Whoever thought of the idea of putting Jason into outer space deserves a bloody high-five; and to give credit where credit is due, that man would be Todd Farmer. The Friday the 13th movies had long since gone stale, and if they were going to do another one, a radical new approach would be needed. Jason X is an original idea only as far as the franchise goes. It’s a twist in the concept, moving from horror, to science-fiction/horror, a combination of two great genres. Borrowing heavily from Alien, yet sticking to the formula of a serial killer offing attractive young adults, it delivers suspense, campy fun, action, and even a scare or two. The bottom line is that this film is enjoyable, and you won’t end it feeling like you just wasted two hours of your life. Let me clarify, at least you wont regret wasting two hours of your life. This is a slasher film, after all. 
The movie is filled with sci-fi clich├ęs to be sure, such as the android character’s curiosity about humanity, and the attraction her maker has towards her. Her requesting to have nipples put onto her breasts is actually quite touching, as her reason is simply because the other women have them. Why this movie works better than the previous seven in the franchise is through scenes like that where we get to know some of the characters as human beings, even though this one involves an android. By getting to know a character, we start to care what happens to them, which is an essential part of building up suspense. If we don’t care about a character, then we won’t care if they live or die. This movie gives us some likable characters, but it also gives us a few too many who are introduced, than quickly killed off. If I could’ve given Mr. Farmer some advice, it would have been to lower the body count. I know that seems contradictory to what a slasher movie is all about, but I’ve never been a fan of the excess. The security team on board the ship was not necessary, as they would not have been needed for the groups intended mission, and was only introduced to up the kill ratio. I also didn’t appreciate the pilot character, as he could have been combined with the engineer, and with more screen time, would have produced a more meaningful killing.  
The character that works the least is the villain, Professor Lowe. I have to differentiate between he and Jason as to who the villain is. Jason is the antagonist, and in this universe, sometimes the purveyor of justice. The professor is a greedy, lecherous, manipulative man, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t like disliking him. In fact, I didn’t even dislike this character; I simply found him annoying and repulsive and wanted him off the screen. Rooting for the killer is never a good thing. I’m rather uncomfortable with it, and when it happens, there’s been a blatant failure with humanizing a character. The actor who portrays him tries to approach the role with a sense of humor, but it only makes him more of a caricature than a villain. One of the common mistakes actors make is going over the top. It’s usually a problem with stage actors who haven’t learned to tone it down yet. I’ll put the blame on the director for this though, he should have recognized when things were getting stupid.
Two of the stars went on to work together again in the sci-fi series Andromeda, Lexa Doig and Lisa Ryder. Here, Doig plays the heroine, while Ryder plays an android. In Andromeda those roles would be reversed. The same casting agency must have been involved with both projects, as the filming of this movie happened almost immediately prior to Andromeda. Usually, the acting abilities of the cast are secondary to other considerations in these types of movies, but this group does show a decent level of ability. Ten years later, nobody in the cast has become a Kevin Bacon, but Hollywood is a tough place. Most of them have appeared to have continued working as much as actors generally do, with a higher than normal concentration in the sci-fi field. The guy who played Jason, Kane Hodder may be working the most out of all of them, usually answering the casting call for “someone big.”

I know that the budget for this film was not high, but you wouldn’t know it from the special effects. They aren’t impressive, but they work, and that’s all they need to do. We get some CGI nanobots and holograms, combined with futuristic sets and costumes, with old fashioned fake blood and body parts littering the area. It’s all enough to bring Jason into the 25th century.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Green Arrow Begins

When rumors of a Green Arrow show began circulating a few years back, I was excited. I’m always excited when a superhero comes to television. Back then, the show would have been a spin-off of Smallville, and would have starred Justin Hartley. But like the myriad of other ideas that the producers of Smallville proposed, it was rejected by the CW Network’s president at the time, Dawn Ostroff. Ms. Ostroff was not keen on superhero shows. She wanted her network to be for girls. It had something to do with the type of advertisers she wanted to attract. So instead of Green Arrow, Aquaman, or Lois Lane (they were all proposed); they gave us remakes of 90210 and Melrose Place. Dawn Ostroff was really hated by Smallville fans, and I conjecture that she hated Smallville. The only reason she probably kept it on was because it maintained high ratings, even after she banished it to Friday nights. But the Wicked Witch of the CW is dead (fired), and the new guy in charge isn’t a sexist, so we finally get a new superhero show. Now, with four-million viewers on premier night, Arrow is a hit, and that Ostroff woman can suck on it over at Conde Nast Entertainment, whatever the heck that place is.

The difficulty with starting a new Green Arrow show from scratch now is that the story was already told very recently on Smallville. The origin story for Arrow pretty much follows the mythos, with Oliver Queen being a spoiled billionaire who is stranded on a deserted island for several years where he transforms into a superhero. Playing around with a familiar character’s mythos is generally frowned upon, so I concur that it’s best to just retell the story, while adding a few tweaks here and there. The tweaks, as revealed so far, is that he still has family alive, and residing with him in their mansion, which could also mean that he doesn’t have unfettered access to the family’s billions in order to fund his superheroics. I doubt if the writers have considered that, but it would be an interesting challenge if he had to operate on a budget.

Stephen Amell is a different Oliver than Justin Hartley was. Amell is more intense, as the Green Arrow should be. While I liked Hartley’s portrayal, it was more light hearted, giving the character more of a mischievous edge. Amell’s version gives the character a degree of danger, someone who could step over the edge at some point. This guy is willing to kill, and he does, though he only kills the killers once they know his secret. They’ve made the decision to have his arrows actually pierce bodies, choosing to have them “just miss” the vital organs most of the time, which is not a reflection of any lack of accuracy on his part. It’s a bold move for a superhero, but one that is necessary when his weapon of choice is defined by a pointy head. I noticed that the actor comes across as stiff, but I believe this may be a character choice, as someone who is guarded, so it works.

The supporting characters consist of one Laurel Lance, Dinah Laurel Lance that is, otherwise known as the Black Canary. She and Green Arrow have a long history together in the comic book. They have even gotten married, though it’s one of those on again, off again things. She should be showing some superheroic moves relatively soon, hopefully in costume. It will be interesting to see if they include her supersonic yell known as the “canary cry,” as that would classify the series as science fiction, instead of just action.  His sidekick, Speedy is also around, but not the familiar one, whose name was Roy. They’ve opted for the girl version, and made her his sister. I’m going to hold out hope that Roy will be incorporated into the show somehow. It just doesn’t seem right to ignore the original. That would be like Batman skipping over Dick Grayson for, what was her name, Stephanie? Yes, there was a girl Robin for awhile. Maybe she can be the new Speedy’s BFF here.

The action sequences are well choreographed, and Amell appears to have been trained well in martial arts. The villains so far are normal thugs and gangsters, but it appears that the Green Arrow’s substantial, though not well known rogues gallery is expected to make appearances. I believe that this is a must. A hero is defined by his enemies. Without them, there would be no need. At this point, it will be the cartel that controls Starling City. That’s fine, but I’ll be looking forward to Deathstroke and the Dark Archer.