What I've Been Watching...

Some thoughts on some stuff that's been clogging up the DVR, the DVD player and those darned synapses...

Battle Los Angeles (2011) let me down. A decent bit of good early exposition for Aaron Eckhart's Sgt. Nantz was squandered when paired with a series of brief, sterile glimpses at the rest of his platoon. It felt like Jonathon Liebesman might have wanted to tell a human story, but was pushed by his producers into more of the shooting and the explosions. The trailer showed some compelling footage of surfers on the swell, watching in awe as the mysterious meteors morphed into human-killing annihilation squads.

Unfortunately, that shot never made the final cut.

Instead, we are left with a series of inconsequential fighting scenes. No tension. No pathos. No real reason to care. A decent cast tries to spice things up, but even the normally good Michael Pena and Michelle Rodriguez can't breath life into their characters. They show up on screen and they run and say stuff.

The special effects were silly, the aliens themselves far less than menacing. This film was a D+ for poor execution, poor storytelling, and a lack of any compelling reason to care.

The special effects in Doghouse (2009), on the other hand, were pretty darned good for what must have been a scant budget. Just get a look at that grand dame below and tell me they cheated us on the good stuff!

This film left me entertained, despite a series of early stumbles. The set-up is good. A bunch of buddies convene in the creepy British town of Moodly (great name for the place, by the way) to help their friend get over a nasty divorce. The six (!) of them arrive after a long trip from London and the madness ensues from the get-go.

It turns out that a military experiment gone awry has turned every woman in the village into a murdering, man-hating cannibal. The gender bashing goes both ways, and it just drips off the screen, but never in a bad way. The film keeps its tongue firmly in cheek, and it makes for a fun viewing experience (B). Thank goodness for the IFC!

Director Jake West creates a highly stylized series of character introductions, complete with stop-action, lens filter, and text graphic, that seems out of place. It also, like many British films in recent years, seems to lean on the requisite jangly British score a little much early on, and then not at all in the second and third acts. That kind of imbalance just struck me as odd, but was a minor deal once the action started and the comedy kicked in.

These femmes are part zombie, part Tarantino gonzo character. The main cannibals all have a gimmick--the hair dresser and her scissors, the butcher and her cleaver, the newlywed and her bloody wedding dress. It's a fun take on the zombie/military trope, to be sure.

Get a sixer of Harps and give this one a look.

Falling Skies (2011) is a B-, thus far. The skitters aren't terrifically rendered, and the commercial breaks are awkwardly spaced. They stop any momentum this earnest series has dead in its tracks. Noah Wylie is good as Tom Mason. He does a fine job as the father trying to keep his family in tact in the aftermath of an alien invasion.

The threat of real danger in this show, that sense of dread or tension, is what's missing. It would definitely benefit from less running and more conflict. Still, it's been a fun summer diversion and I'll try to keep up with it...

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