When your eyes hate you so much they bleed
I may have finally reached my limit for “how many awful movies can I see before my eyeballs explode” on Saturday. Saturday night, after seeing both Battle: LA and Red Riding Hood a blood vessel ruptured in my eye and turned my eyeball red and disgusting. I was barely out of my seat after Red Riding Hood when the burning started and my eyeballs rebelled. The upside was it sidelined me for most of Sunday and I finally got to watch ESPN’s fantastic 30 for 30 documentary on Michigan’s Fab Five. The lesson of this review is 1) yes, your eyeballs actually can explode after viewing too many bad movies and 2) even if you don’t like basketball (I don’t), that ESPN doc about Chris Webber et al is really good. Dual review!
Battle: Los Angeles
Aliens hate LA. I mean, they really, really hate LA. Whenever aliens invade, the first thing they do is blow up LA. While I was in college I spent one year working in downtown LA right next door to the US Bank Tower, which was so famously obliterated in Independence Day. It made me nervous, knowing I was in the shadow of the building aliens hate the most, in the city they detest more than any other. During Battle: LA there are a couple shots of downtown LA on fire and one of them included the husked-out shell of the US Bank Tower. Man, aliens really hate Los Angeles.
This movie sucked. And when I say “it sucked” I mean “it was made with no regard to logic, quality or your physical comfort”. It is so loud your ears will ring after it’s over. It’s the loudest movie ever made. And none of the noise makes sense! It’s not even “Saving Private Ryan D-Day invasion scene” loud where the sound effects and shouting create a replica of the chaos of war. Battle: LA is just assaultingly loud. Like the noise is going to assault you. And the visuals are so messy, so overblown and crammed full of rubble that your eyeballs will explode. Literally, this movie may make your eyeballs explode. It did mine.
I didn’t think it was possible to make SFX sequences more baffling and headache inducing than Transformers 2, but Battle: LA found a way. Mostly this involved an overuse of overly shaky shaky-cam and lots of screaming. And I was completely thrown by the alien’s “command station” which they somehow managed to get underground without 1) anyone noticing or 2) tearing up the street above. Was it there all along, like in War of the Worlds? How did that get there? This took up much of my concentration for the last part of the movie.
The aliens were an incomprehensible mess of machine guns and goo. In one scene the main “character” Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart who must be poor because there’s no reason for him to be here at all) starts cutting into a not-quite-dead alien in order to find out how to kill it. The poor alien is crying the whole time and he’s just slashing and slashing until he finally just jacks what looks like a jell-o sack and declares the alien dead. We’re supposed to hate the aliens because they’re exterminating humanity and all, but really after watching Nantz slice and dice that poor half-dead alien thing, I kind of wanted the aliens to win.
I found myself rooting for the aliens because I had no connection to the human “characters” in the movie. The marine unit headed by Nantz includes every soldier stereotype—virginal newbie, young lieutenant just out of Officer Training School, redneck sharpshooter, tough-as-nails female, etc. And just to make sure we care about the people, the marines hook up with some civilians, including children. Because as The Roommate proved, when you can’t organically make us care about the characters, you just take something helplessly cute like a kitten, or children, and put in peril. Unfortunately I didn’t care for the kids—I was never given a reason to beyond the fact they’re children—so I didn’t care when they were in peril.
I’m trying to think of something nice to say about Battle: LA. I’ve been sitting here for several minutes now, trying to come up with something and all I’ve got is: Aaron Eckhart is very handsome.
Red Riding Hood
When advertising for Red Riding Hood started rolling out and it looked like Twilight with red capes, everyone was thinking, What is Catherine Hardwicke doing? The woman who made a name for herself with Thirteen and went on to direct the serviceable Lords of Dogtown and the forgettable Nativity Story became the most commercially successful female director ever with Twilight. She parted ways with the franchise and then follows up her biggest success with its sexy werewolf cousin? I figured she was out to prove that Twilight’s suck wasn’t her fault, but if that was her objective, she failed. She actually proved that Twilight’s suck was entirely her fault and that what fun did exist in Twilight is owed to the cast.
Red Riding Hood starts off with two kids frolicking in a forest, killing rabbits. You know, normal non-future-serial-killer stuff. We then see the kids grown up, Valerie (Oatmeal Seyfried) and Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, who Wikipedia tells me is a Gossip Girl twat), have become star-crossed lovers. Star-crossed because Valerie’s parents have promised her to marry Henry (Max Irons), the son of the iron forger instead of poor woodcutter Peter. This makes Oatmeal sad, which she expresses by fractionally widening her eyes and frowning in a way that still seems smug (Seyfried’s smugface is provoking an irrational hatred in me). Generally I think Oatmeal is a good, if boring and increasingly smug-looking, actress but she was phoning it in on Red Riding Hood. Maybe if she had any chemistry with either of her suitors she would have engaged more but Oatmeal, Irons and Fernandez did not produce any chemistry in any combination.
On the Potential Heartthrob Scale between Irons, son of sexy beast Jeremy Irons, and Fernandez I’d definitely go with Irons. He was not good in this movie and his screen presence didn’t impress me but then, he didn’t have a whole lot to do and I at least believed his earnestness. He wasn’t as revolting as Fernandez, whose sneering attempts at a sexyface made me shudder and laugh in combination. Put it this way—I’d take a chance on Max Irons again but I will avoid Shiloh Fernandez like the plague. He’s on my strike list along with Zac Efron and Ed Westwick.
The plot of Red Riding Hood is basically that Peter and Oatmeal are trying to flee their village before she has to marry Henry but a werewolf attacks just as they’ve decided to go. The village has been plagued by a werewolf for two generations but this is the first time in twenty years since a villager has been killed, in this case it’s Oatmeal’s sister who was not-so-secretly in love with Henry. The village priest (Lukas Haas—WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!) calls in a professional werewolf killer played by Gary Oldman—the only person not delivering his performance via pod person. But first the village men go forth and slay a wolf, declaring it their werewolf. Despite Gary Oldman’s advice, they have a party and the werewolf ends up mauling everyone during the celebration.
Amidst this mess Peter attempts to leave Oatmeal, Henry promises to be true, and Oatmeal learns she can talk to the wolf. Because, of course. The problem with the love triangle is that neither guy is a bad option and because Oatmeal doesn’t have chemistry with either of them, you just don’t care who she picks. As for the werewolf…well it’s the worst thing ever. When it first showed up, I laughed out loud. It’s so anatomically incorrect it shouldn’t have been able to stand up. And it’s “voice” when speaking with Oatmeal was ludicrous. As for who was the werewolf—it’s easy to figure out as it’s the one person the movie didn’t try and convince you was the wolf.
Hardwicke’s direction consisted mostly of aerial shots of a foggy forest and breezy pans of Oatmeal in her red cloak. There was one fantastically funny scene of Oatmeal and Peter in a medieval dance-off, doing some kind of version of a Renaissance partner dance. I think it was supposed to be sexy but it was just hilarious. There’s no tension or angst in this movie—the two things that saved Twilight from itself—and the cheapsies SFX and bored, disinterested performances from the cast killed whatever moody emo vibe Hardwicke was trying to evoke. I’m putting Hardwicke in director jail—she isn’t allowed to make any more teeny movies or use foggy forests as a location for eight years.
Tomorrow I promise to write about good movies.