Posts Tagged ‘Forest Whitaker’

Movie Reviews 286 – Battlefield Earth (2000)

February 4, 2017

Battlefield EarthMaligned by the masses. Ridiculed by the critics. As certain as I felt it would provide little entertainment or satisfaction, Battlefield Earth, the adaptation of Scientologist founder L. Ron. Hubbard’s novel has always been a scab that I knew I would have to peel back at some point in my life. That time has come.

As implied by its full title, Battlefield Earth: A saga of the year 3000, a millennium in the future Earth has been invaded by aliens who are mining the planet for gold. The Psychlos are nine feet tall, natty dreadlock haired, warrior like invaders that have decimated the human population on the planet. Of the few humans that remain, those that have not been captured by the Psychlos are now living in isolated tribes far from the Psychlos having regressed to a primitive state. The free humans have only the legends of gods that made their presence known to their civilization and are now punishing them for their sins. One savage among them, Jonnie (Barry Pepper), defies the tribe elder to forage for better resources and also answers to his questions about those reputed gods.

Jonnie is soon captured by the Psychlos and is brought to their massive enclosed base city in which there are many human captives. The Psychlos need a breathing apparatus when not in their base as exposure to Earth’s atmosphere can be deadly and reciprocally the humans need a similar filter while imprisoned there. The Earth is just a resource colony for the Psychlo home planet and ruthless head of security Terl (John Travolta) finds himself continually denied a return home because of some past indiscretion. When he discovers that his underling Ker (Forest Whitaker) had planned to keep a newfound gold deposit to himself he takes over the operation himself. But Terl cannot mine the deposit himself. He realizes that the recent captive Jonnie is smarter than the other vermin humans and subjects him to ‘learning machine’ hoping to get information out of him. To Terl’s surprise, Jonnie learns the Psychlos’ language and convinces Terl that he can lead a band of humans to mine the gold deposit for Terl without arousing suspicion from the Psychlos’ leader But Jonnie uses the opportunity to work outside to mount a rebellion with both the free humans still roaming about and the current captives.

If you combine the flaccid acting, moth-eaten dialogue, and cavernous plot holes, you begin to get a sense of the fiasco at hand. As I haven’t read the 1000 plus page novel (I guess we can no longer apply the ‘phonebook’ adjective as those are relics of the past), I can’t comments on how the adaptation adheres to the source or the quality of the source for that matter. But the journey from novel to film does shed some light. I refer to this film as Barbarino’s Folly, as Travolta, a devout Scientologist, was the one who flogged this movie to the movie studios for years, only to finally make a deal with Franchise Pictures, then a ‘studio of last resort’ catering to such vanity projects and also with him footing some of the bill as one of the producers.

Not quite making the ‘so bad it’s good’ list, the movie does have the cool looking Psychlos, and while the effect is not done perfectly, the oversized aliens set against normal sized humans does work at times. But the groan moments are to numerous and head slap inducing – what the hell was an actor as fine Forest Whitaker doing in this mess – for me to recommend even one mock viewing. I have no idea if the movie espouses Scientology doctrine as I suspect was Travolta’s goal in making it. But if that were the case I’m sure the list of people wanting their money back was longer than any new recruits to the cult.

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Movie Reviews 40

January 20, 2012

Otis (2008)
Up until the mid point this movie appeared to be a run of the mill story about a idle brained man named Otis who kidnaps young girls and keeps them hostage in a hidden bunker under his home. Pretty boring and conventional until he kidnaps one particular girl from a very dysfunctional family. First get to see an inept and uncouth cop bumble the investigation as he deals with the girls family as they await a phone call from the abductor. But he movie takes a definite uptick once Otis’ latest abductee manages to flee and makes contact with her family. The girls mom (Illeanna Douglas) makes one request to her daughter before letting the cops know of her escape and coming to her aid. She requests that the girl not reveal any information about her abductor or where he lives. It is immediately evident that her mom and family plan to avenge the crime themselves rather than handing over Otis to the bumbling cops and the justice system. And as soon as the family make it to Otis’ house the fun and gore really starts. Sure you can see where this movie is going every step of the way. But who cares? Getting there is not half the fun, it’s all the fun.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
I loved this somewhat obscure movie when I first saw it years ago. On the face of it, it is comprised of some the oddest of combinations you could ever imagine. It’s a mob story in which one of their ‘go to’ hit men is a young black apprentice samurai practitioner (Forest Whitaker) who can only be contacted by carrier pigeon from one of the mobsters. He is in league with the mob as a result of being rescued by one of mob guys while being beaten up on the streets as a young kid. Pledging allegiance and loyalty to that one mobster, he finds himself at the mobsters beck and call while maintaining his identity secret from the others. It also helps that his devotion to learning the Way of the Samurai makes him one hell of a crack shot. But when a particular hit goes awry and crosses mob allegiances the head mobster (Henry Silva) has to put the cross hairs on the young hit man. But first they have to try to find out who he is. Part of the beauty of this film is that the mobsters are depicted as bumbling old time mafioso gang reinforcing every stereotype and cliche imaginable. Our young hit man however is a docile, thought provoking, well read neighborhood philosopher whose best friend is a uni-lingual french speaking Haitian ice-cream vendor. It’s comedy, drama, a sprinkling of Samurai philosophical quotes and a whole lot more I’m not even going to begin to explain. Jim Jarmusch directed this underrated title, which explains a lot if you‘re familiar with his other movies like Down by Law and Coffee and Cigarettes. But you’ve gotta see it to believe it.

Brotherhood of Blood (2007)
A group of vampire hunters are on the heels of a vampires clan (natch!) as the try to get back one of the group members brother who’s been nabbed by the clan. The brother, an archaeologist had stumbled upon some Egyptian murals that tell the story of some ancient battle between a vampires and the Devil. But the Devil was was ‘confined’ either during or right after that long ago battle. That is until he was supposedly unleashed into the body of the archaeologist. All very convoluted and I barely figured it all out towards the end at which point the ‘surprise ending’ wasn’t a surprise at all. Sid Haig and Ken Foree, both veterans of much better horror movies star in this one, but neither are really the prime roles and put in screen time only slightly above a ‘cameo’ category. I’ve certainly seen worse movies than this, but it certainly could have been a whole lot better as well. Actually, the directors, two guys who I will mercifully not name (look them up yourself) also teamed up again the following year for Alone in the Dark II, a movie panned even more than this one. I think they finally learned their lesson as the have not returned to direct again. Stay on the sideline boys.

Thirst (2009)
A unique J-Horror vampire tale in which a well meaning young priest volunteers to be part of an experiment in which doctors are trying to find a cure to a deadly disease. He becomes the only test subject to survive the trial drugs and in doing so becomes something a holy symbol to all manner of people seeking cures to their ailments. But all that is minor flotsam as the more evident outcome of the experimentation has made the priest a vampire, although still a good person. But the movie really kicks into high gear as the priest falls for a young woman who, once an abandoned child, has been adopted by an elder woman friend of the priest. The elder woman’s son has also ‘married’ the young girl, who seems more a prisoner and servant to the elder woman and her ‘husband’. At first the priest and the young girl have a simple affair but nothing in such a convoluted relationship remains simple for long. Things take an abrupt turn for the worse when the young woman learns of the priest’s true nature after the priest tries to ‘save’ the girl. Part comedy, part tragic, part drama, part horror, this has a little bit something for everyone.