My, What Big Box Offices You Have
by Tina Leahy
I know, you guys have been pining away, waiting for a new review. Well, suck it, this kid has skirts to chase and hell to raise. But in between I did manage to see two new movies that were released to home video in the U.S. this past Tuesday. Battle: Los Angeles and Red Riding Hood. There are spoilers. If you don't care, read on…
Imagine the following: Disaster strikes your town, city, hamlet, whatever. Disaster so great that there is only one way to keep it contained: Nuclear strike from government forces. Which means you are going to have to lead a group of rag-tag survivors to the last helicopter evacuation out of town. Sound familiar? It should. It's either all or part of the plots to Cloverfield, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, and most recently, Battle: Los Angeles. Of course, they all end the same way: You get there and the helicopter crashes, and you're still in deep trouble. Relax, this is not how BLA (blah, indeed) ends. I enjoyed the action, and this is exactly what this film is: An action movie. It felt like a war film that happened to have aliens sprinkled about. Which is disappointing, because while I love action films, I love science fiction more. I first described this movie as the bastard child of Terminator and Independence Day, but I'm going to have to downgrade Battle: Los Angeles to the bastard child of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and let's say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Battle: Los Angeles is the fourth from director Jonathan Liebesman. His filmography is notable for the terribly unscary Darkness Falls (2003) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006). After watching BLA, it left a feeling like I've been watching echoes of other films, which is the same feeling I had after watching the aforementioned horror films. Trend here? I think so. This kind of track record leaves me completely unexcited for his sequel to 2010's Clash of the Titans.
Now, time for a game. Guess if the following plot points came from Independence Day or Battle: Los Angeles. Asteroids are heading towards planet Earth, but they start slowing down, baffling scientists, oh wait, turns out they're aliens! In which movie are the aliens coming to harvest Earth's resources by first destroying the native population? Which film did the mothership have to be destroyed or weakened before the whole alien fleet could be destroyed? Finally, after that happens, the call goes out from the Americans to forces around the world, saving planet Earth from alien destruction. Ready? If you guessed that all these things happened in both films, congratulations, you won nothing except a smug sense of self-satisfaction.
Of course, Battle: Los Angeles is cinematic genius of the first water when compared to Catharine Hardwick's Red Riding Hood. Haven't heard her name before? Well, maybe that's because you're not a twelve year-old girl. Yes, she directed some critically acclaimed films, such as 2003's Thirteen (which was marvelous) and 2005's Lords of Dogtown. And then there was Twilight. So if you're a fan of poorly written teen melodrama, Red Riding Hood is for you.
Red Riding Hood is an adaptation of the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, where the title heroine goes through the woods to Grandmother's house. There, she encounters the big bad wolf and is only saved by the intervention of the woodcutter (sometimes called the woodsman). Personally, fairy tales are always a good source for horror film adaptations just because fairy tales teach some really fucking scary lessons. As always, it's not the ideas that are bad, it's all in the execution; and Hardwick certainly executed this story.
The film had the feel of a very well-funded high school stage production written by an ambitious fourteen year-old girl (imagine me, as a high school freshman). Every scene looked like a shot that was intended for merchandising. Amanda Seyfried's bug-eyed prettiness fell flat as the main character, Valerie. The woodcutter, played by Shiloh Fernandez, looked like a modern teen idol rather than a period piece woodcutter (Seriously, what did they use for hair gel, witch fat?). As it turns out the actor was actually a front runner for the role of Edward Cullen before it finally went to Robert Pattinson. It's hard to get away from the Twilight universe in this film. The casting was expected, except for the witch hunter played by Gary Oldman. My only consolation is the thought that an actor has to eat (I had the same rationalization watching John Cusack in Must Love Dogs).
The only saving grace for Red Riding Hood was the fact that they didn't make a bunch of American actors in an American film do British accents just because it was a period film. You'd get better scares reading the classic from the Brothers Grimm.
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