Tuesday, 22 March 2011

There's an ALIEN in my movie screen!

So this one is going to be a bit different, in the fact that I’m going to look at 2 films – both have something in common – Aliens

Battle Los Angeles

This is the film that war films really ought to make more often. Why? Well the film has a different take on the whole movie idea. It knows the audience wants to see action, cool sequences which sound great, and they don’t really give a rat’s ass about the story too much. This about sums up the approach Battle LA takes here.

We open on a beach and see a man running, who is then passed by a bunch of other guys we find out he is in the army, he curses under his breath as the group passes at speed leaving him behind. We then move to the next scene where we find him slumped against his car applying an ice pack to his knee (Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon line should now be mentioned but is rather more implied). These short burst scenes go on for about 15 minutes of the film as we are introduced to the unit we will spend the next 2 hours with.

After the rounds are done a story about meteors is mentioned with some mysterious activation of military personnel being placed on active duty and vollá we turns out the meteors are aliens, and they’re not friendly at all as they open fire on a beach in Santa Monica. Now we roll into 1 hour 30 minutes of action and what the audience wants.

That’s pretty much it for story, it’s no Inception but it’s certainly not a “fire and forget” film. The aliens look really good visually while their ships are very much junker ships and look superb on screen as you can see each section as it is put together. Overall the camera work suits the film with the day shots working well and the night shots with look great and pick up some good details of LA in both the night and day.

My only faults with the look lies in two areas:

1) the fog – seriously don’t put too much of this on screen or the audience has no idea what the hell is going on, and when you have a squad of about 15 characters on screen who are new to the audience we have a lot of confusion (unless this was intended to make the audience feel like this? Or I could be seeing things which are not there).

2) Camera shaking - this feels a little “after effect” and doesn’t quite do it as good as Saving Private Ryan. The audience does not need to feel sea sick when sat in a movie theater no matter how cool it looks in the editing room!

Acting wise Arron Eckart pulls off the old solider quite well for the most part but it feels phoned in other parts. On the other side of the coin Michelle Rodriguez fits right at home here and for once does not die at the end of the film. Ne-Yo is a surprisingly good performer in this film and he doesn’t get off lightly, he matches it blow for blow with the more experienced actors. The rest of the cast are bit like background noise – they’re there you just don’t notice them that much.

In a 140 Review (A Tweet Review) of the film I said: Independence Day + Black Hawk Down + District 9 = Battle Los Angeles. This is true but needs a little expansion. Take the action and pacing of Independence day + Black Hawk Down Setting and style + District 9 aliens type = Battle LA. Really this is a good action film and worth a go, however don’t expect a District 9 where you walk out questioning the motives and are really thinking about the films message – here the message is simply “USA kicks ass and finds a way no matter what” – this comes from a Englishman!


So let’s start this off with a point – this is not a follow up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (the cornetto trilogy) nor does it have anything to do with Edgar Wright (he was busy making the awesome Scott Pilgrim). This film is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost having a go on their own making a movie.

Paul is sort like a more “South Park” ET – in the way that this alien isn’t nice or charming. He’s rude, smokes, and makes fun of most things as a know it all – but then he has been here for 50 years or so. Paul see’s two English best buddies fly over to San Diego to head to Comic Con and then see some of the big UFO sites along the way – this was until they met Paul.

Coming into see this movie I had seen mixed reviews about the movie, with most saying it was short to that of what we would expect from Simon and Nick. To be honest I enjoyed the film and found that having a CGI alien who is crude but also has a heart good to see and the characters were typical of the English geek in the USA at one of these big conventions (speaking from personal experience here). The film is littered with references to other movies and even get a cameo from none other than Steven Spielberg (no doubt a favour to the lads as they worked on TinTin), while Sigourney Weaver makes an eventual onscreen appearance as the film’s villain.

The acting is good, the camera work is fantastic when it comes to the road scenes and we even manage to avoid the Who Framed Roger Rabbit moments when people interact with Paul. The humour fits with the tone and I feel that it more relates to an English sense of humour with some of the jokes. I wouldn't say that it is so funny I split my sides, however I did find that in moments I was laughing out loud at the jokes.

This is quite a good comedy film to see in a light hearted way. It’s not as crude as say Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s work but it’s at heart a buddy comedy movie. To anyone in two minds about seeing it, it’s worth going just to see Seth Rogan pull off a superb performance without having to appear on camera.

In the words of Paul - "That's Jenga!"

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