Thursday, July 15, 2010

Double Team'd: My Brodacious Weekend

It's good to have a second-run cinema in my city. The cheap tickets make it possible to catch a matinee of a second-run film and a new release for about the same price as an evening show. Last weekend it was fortuitous that Adrien Brody's June flick, Splice, resurfaced at the cheap theater on the same weekend Predators opened. Was that too much Brody for any moviegoer? You'll have to read to find out.


Release: 07.09.10
Rated R
1 hour, 46 minutes

Full Price

Ever have those dreams where you're falling? You wake up and all is okay. Well, the mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody, The Thin Red Line) has it worse. He wakes up to find himself in a freefall over a jungle. His chute opens automatically just as he plummets through the canopy. He lands next to an enforcer named Cuchillo (Danny Trejo, Desperado). After a series of awkward icebreakers, seven of the baddest mofos from Earth and one spazzy doctor (Topher Grace, Spider-Man 3) band together on an alien planet to defend themselves from being shredded by a group of Predators.

You would think a small group of highly-trained killers armed with a variety of weapons would be unstoppable, but the Predators' massive size, hunting skills, and advanced tech makes these folks look like children with slingshots. Surprisingly, the underdogs turn out to be quick learners, surviving far longer than you might expect. That, in large part, is due to Royce and his super-mercenary skills. For a lone gunman, he quickly brings the group under control, guides them through the foreign terrain, and even identifies the many hunting techniques being employed against them. The only ability he didn't have was using that ginormous bill to sniff out the cloaked creatures.

Like any diverse array of victims, um, I mean characters, they won't all go down in a shining blaze of glory. I was mostly pleased by each person's encounter with the Predators. The first casualty totally pissed me off; not in execution (pardon the pun), but in the executed. My only major qualm with the choices of director Nimród Antal (Vacancy) is that he fails to capitalize on one particular character in earlier scenes. Had this character been better established, it would have made for a stronger climax. Sorry for being vague, but I'm trying to not ruin anything for audiences.

Dirty Undies
Tense and violent, Antal really captures the hunted vibe of the original Predator. The creatures look amazing and if anything has changed from their original look, it's that they are more menacing. I have to agree with Walton Goggins (TV: Justified); Alice Braga (I Am Legend) does have an awesome ass. She can also kick ass with the best of 'em. But, of all the gun-toting, ass-whooping humans on the planet, nobody beats Goggins's portrayal of death row inmate Stans. Had the man actually had a firearm, I can only imagine the hurt he would've put on those aliens.

The Money Shot
Predators is not without its problems, but did anyone seriously expect it to be a masterpiece of cinema? No. I went in expecting Predators to kill some folks, but also get what they had coming to them, and somewhere along the way, see some shit explode. It achieves all three while staying true to the heart of the original concept. What more can you really ask for?


Release: 06.04.10
Rated R
1 hour, 44 minutes


Clive (Adrien Brody, King Kong) and Elsa (Sarah Polley, Dawn of the Dead) are hipster scientists on the cutting edge of gene splicing at the pharmaceutical company, N.E.R.D. (yes, seriously). Their success with creating a new animal hybrid give sthe duo the itch to throw a little human DNA in the mix. Though the company denies their request, a few test tubes, basters and incubators later, Dren (Delphine Chanéac, The Pink Panther) is born. When emotions interfere with scientific methodology, Clive, Elsa and Dren's relationship becomes life-altering.

Though it's been nearly a week, I still find myself rolling the concept of Splice around in my mind. I'm fairly certain the writers and writer-director Vincenzo Natali (Paris, je t'aime, segment Quartier de la Madeleine) had something prolific to say, but I'm also fairly certain the message got scrambled along the way. The shifting dynamic between Clive, Elsa and Dren is thought provoking. In many ways she is their child, but equally she is an experiment that should be carefully monitored in case things go awry. As "first-time parents," Clive and Elsa should expect to make mistakes, but as scientists they should recognize that mistakes can be detrimental.

Having waited so long to see the film, I'd been told things kind of go left in the final act. Thankfully, no one divulged the details. I'm not sure if I wasn't that shocked because I was waiting for a shock, or if I understood where the movie was coming from (if you're curious about my take, see my Spoiler Addendum below). Honestly, the twist bored more than bothered me. Once the premise of the third act is revealed, Splice degrades into a movie where audiences have to wait for characters to play catch up. What did bother me was the whole hipster-scientist motif of Clive and Elsa. Clive's checkered suits and the ironic, iron-on patches on his lab coat bugged me. Maybe if they spent less time worrying about how not-cool they were, and reviewed the data logs, they might have been on top of their geek-game.

Dirty Undies
The creature effects are pretty amazing. Dren went from a TMNT Mouser-looking beast to a pretty sexy, genetically engineered species (if you can look beyond the multi-jointed legs and forehead crevice). Chanéac and her exotic look deserves most of the credit. This is obviously pre-Predators since Brody is his usually bony self. The bulk of the violence is backloaded into the final act and then it's off-screen. Depending on your sensibilities, Splice could be considered too depraved. I know I found Fred & Ginger to be a little too "scrotesque" for my tastes.

The Money Shot
Splice is a movie that will keep you talking; I'll give it that much. Two-thirds of the movie is absolutely worth watching, but the jury's still out on that final act. If you're the adventurous type, give it a shot, but don't say you weren't warned.

Splice Spoiler Addendum: I can't really fault Clive for succumbing to Dren. There was obviously some unexplained pheromones at work even before she presented her plumage to him. With Elsa being cold and distant, any geek worth his salt would instinctively follow the Kirk mantra; if it's human-ish, screw it. Spread those wings and ride, all in the name of science, of course. One could argue he was like a stepfather to Dren and that's just creepy, but that's not nearly as taboo as the Oedipal issues Elsa had to endure.

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  1. Totally agree with you about Predators. I think many of the overly critical reviews miss the point of the movie or were expecting some character-driven deconstuction of the hunter-gatherer group dynamic. It did what it said it was going to do on the tin. The original film is great but you could criticise that in the same way you could criticise Predators. I think they did a great job on this update and if they make a sequel I'd see it.

  2. I'm looking forward to a sequel, too. As long as they keep the kill or be killed, man vs Predator dynamic, I'll be satisfied.

  3. I enjoyed Predators but it needed a little work. It did capture a lot of the spirit of the first film.

    Goggins was funny.

    What character was uncapitalized on in the earlier scenes?


    That no one was monitoring the first experiment in that lab was crap. With all of those people there how could that happen.

    I actually had part of Splice ruined for me but am glad I saw it in theater. I was nice to see a decent scifi film in theaters once again.

    That third act, woo. Twisted and daring. The hollywood add-on scene at the end was take it or leave it though.

  4. @Film-Book: In Predators, they should have capitalized on Topher's Doctor earlier on. It would've been stronger had he and one other xter gotten separated. Edwin could have killed the guy and said it was the Predators. Then audiences would wonder when he was going to strike again instead of him randomly "flipping" at the end for the shock value. Maybe that's just me.

    In Splice, the younger bro did tell Brody the first experiment results were "off" but someone should have stepped in on theta clusterfuck.

    I'm glad I caught it in theater, but I didn't like the "Stay Tuned" ending either. In the sequel, you could take all of two minutes to recap/explain why this new installment exists. The obligatory sequel setup is SO tired.