WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 12

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my twelfth WWW:

1) Universal Soldiers:
This movie was so not what I thought it would be. I'd say it had the production value of an internet fan film, but that would be an insult to internet fan films everywhere. A group of soldiers makes their way through some underground base where something has gone wrong and they need to find the “professor.” Something is hunting them, but all we get are quick glimpses and the occasional spear through one of our protagonists. We finally do meet the professor in a field, who talks about these genetically enhanced creatures that are rebelling before he meets his inevitable post-exposition demise. When we finally do see the enemy, they look like someone wearing cheap homemade Borg costumes rather than anything from the completely unrelated Van Damme flick. In horror movie fashion, our human soldiers with guns are picked off one by one by the sharp stick throwing titular foes, until the last few survivors make it to a computer in a building in some field where they can enter a code the professor gave them that will shut down the creatures as long as they're still wearing their faceplates. I don't know. The happy ending is shortlived when a badly animated robot skeleton endboss arises to chase the last soldier girl. So they manage to rip off Terminator in that whole mess too, except theirs is 50 feet tall. And the whole thing takes place on an island, so there may be a LOST reference in there as well, beyond one overt one made in dialogue. Skip it. Avoid it. Don't make the same mistake I made. Run in the opposite direction as fast as you can, and never look back.

2) The Razor's Edge:
Bill Murray takes a surprising turn in a mostly dramatic role about a man who returns from WWI so changed that he ends up leaving his life in America behind in order to seek meaning and enlightenment, first in a coal mine in France and ultimately in the mountains of Tibet. His fiancée moves on, and as tragedy after tragedy befalls those he left behind, he gains the clarity he sought. Murray's comedic talents come in to play a few times during the film as his character lightens some tough moments for his friends, but this is definitely no comedy. An adaptation of a novel, its only fault is that it sometimes feels like events are condensed. At times there are great leaps between scenes, and suddenly two characters are married, or one woman is the sole survivor of a car crash that claims her family, or man's father commits suicide, or another character is on his death bed. The blows keep coming, which may be the point about life. Murray puts on an outstanding performance, and even gets to share some scenes with his brother, whom I would not have recognized save for his trademark gravelly voice. It is a classic film both depressing and hopeful, and one certainly worth seeing at least once.

3) Saturday Night Fever:
No, I had never seen it, save for a few of the more famous clips and of course the NIN remix. Of course, there's a lot more to the movie than Travolta cementing his fame as an actor with serious dancing skills. 19 years old and working in a hardware store, his Tony Manero has little ambition in life other than to make enough money to buy clothes and go hang out with his friends at a disco club on Saturday nights. He has a magnetic presence with women throwing themselves at him, further cementing my belief that my life might have turned out much better had I ever learned how to dance. But it's a coming of age story, as Manero begins to slowly question what it is he and his friends are doing. His older brother, whom his family always held in high regard, leaves the priesthood. He tells Travolta that the key to life is to do what you want to do, not what other people think you should do. It's a movie in which people do some pretty stupid things and make mistakes, which is what people do at that age. Drugs. Rampant sexual activity. Racially motivated violence. Dancing on the side of a bridge. It all has consequences, and some learn while others are doomed. The movie held its share of surprises for me, from a young, hot Fran Drescher(not a typo) to a small part for Robert Costanzo(an Italian-American character actor who's done tons of television, including playing Joey Tribbiani's father and voicing Harvey Bullock). There's a surprising amount of violence, some nudity, and at least one death. It's all cushioned by a disco soundtrack with a major concentration of Bee Gees. It was great to see what New York and Brooklyn looked like over 30 years ago too, to see how much had changed and how much stayed the same. It's a classic not to be missed, and one to be appreciated by people who've gone through that reckless transitional period before figuring out who we want to be and what we want to do with the rest of our lives.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Anonymous Krispy said...

I think Saturday Night Fever is a very good film. The performances are great. I like that ...


... that the movie ends with the major characters realizing that they need to change but showing no signs of actually having done any changing, and unlikely to really move in a different direction. I see the movie's end as a realistic downer. Other's see it differently. It's all good. A movie that can be meaningful, and in different ways to different people, has acomplished something.

10/11/2009 1:02 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

I got kind of the same reading. Epiphanies are easy; I have them all the time. Taking action is hard, and I could see the possibility that Tony would still be living at home and working in the hardware store for some time. The ending is pretty open since just because a character SAYS he's going to do something doesn't make it so. I liked the peeling back of the girlfriend's facade as well, how she seems to be a together older woman but you see how the guy whose apartment she sublets treats her, find out she's only a year older than Tony, and begin to see her celebrity namedropping as BS. She's as adrift as Tony or anyone else that age.

The film works as a snapshot of that time. I've got the sequel sitting here as well for later viewing; by this time next week I'll have a review and thoughts as to whether the sequel took the characters in a logical direction or was even necessary. The first one seemed open-ended, but life is open-ended, and there was nothing wrong with that.

10/11/2009 9:19 AM  

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