Posts Tagged ‘Samuel L Jackson’

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JUMPER (2008)

May 3, 2008

Jumper Review

Matt:

Length: 90 min

Taglines:
Anywhere is possible.
Anywhere. Anything. Instantly.

Précis: Shallow sci-fi/action tale about a guy who can teleport and the ridiculously-hair-styled religious nut who wants to eliminate him.

Review by Matt:

David Rice (Hayden Christensen) is a ‘jumper’. That means he is a special – and lucky – type of person who is able to ‘jump’ instantly to any place in the world just by willing it. Teleportation. A nice science-fiction premise. The slick new action film Jumper, directed by Doug Liman (who previously directed Mr & Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity) tells David’s story, provoking fascinating thoughts in its audience like “Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to teleport?” and… no. Wait. Actually, that’s as thought provoking as Jumper gets. It’s one of the weakest and woolliest films around, barely managing to articulate even its simple plot. Nope, teleportation is all you get. Fortunately, this is an inherently interesting concept, so with a bit of action jumbled around it, you might forgive Jumper as a semi-interesting piece of escapist nonsense. I can be no more generous than that, because films like Jumper keep making me have to try and defend science-fiction as a good and thoughtful genre (it’s true – just read some novels, ok?).

Just like Gyges, Plato’s original super-powered everyman, once David discovers his god-like power he cannot resist temptation. He lifts money from bank vaults and quickly sets himself up as an emperor of decadence. He spends his time ‘jumping’ from his flashy apartment to the world’s most exotic locations, drinking life’s nectar like a selfish jerk. This is problem one with Jumper – our lead man is thoroughly unlikeable. Hayden Christensen’s acting certainly doesn’t bring any charisma to his flawed character. To begin with, you think maybe he is portraying omnipotent ennui. You later realise that it is just dull acting. So why should we care when amoral Mr Jumper is suddenly threatened by a fanatic jumper-hating group called “Paladins”, led by the hilariously coiffured Samuel L Jackson? We don’t care really. But it’s a little exciting at least to watch David fill out the rest of the plot by jumping away from these pursuers, along the way getting a little help from Griffin (Jamie Bell), another jumper. David also has some time to try wooing his equally bland love interest, Millie (Rachel Bilson), and to try and protect her when she becomes entangled in the Paladin-pursuit.

Nevertheless, there are a few thrills and curiosities. It’s actually nice to see that Millie’s character is appropriately scared and angry at this crazy jumper’s unexplained behaviour – as anyone would be. Too many film heroines are unrealistically trusting of the outlandish behaviour of their protagonist friends. Secondly, Samuel L Jackson’s ridiculous snow-white hair is like a free trip to the freak show. And, of course, if you’re interested in sci-fi concepts such as teleportation, it is at least nice to see it manifested on screen with some fine special effects and some frenetic, nicely-styled action.

I’m stretching, of course, because Jumper is so shallow it’s almost empty. Morality is always the most interesting theme when it comes to human superpowers. Naturally there’s no attention given to it in Jumper. The deepest it gets is the reasoning of the boss-Paladin as he eviscerates his captured jumpers: “Only God should have this power!” The actual plot – when it finally appears – is simply this: will he escape? And there’s no embellishment of that simple story. Where does David even get his superpower? Who knows? A slight effort is made to introduce some themes about parental abandonment, but this ends up being one of the most underdone plots imaginable. Ditto to the film’s sloppy ending, which does not exactly give us a sensible resolution. Presumably, Jumper 2 will clean up the mess, but I wouldn’t put any faith in it.

I admit to experiencing some guilty pleasure watching this film. But you should know that I have not read the book by Steven Gould on which the film is based, so I didn’t have a pre-conception that could be sullied. You should know also that I took very low expectations to Jumper, so the mildly entertaining result was a pleasant surprise.

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SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006)

July 7, 2007

Snakes on a Plane review

Snakes

Matt: One and a half stars
Tracy:One and a half stars

Film length: 105min

Taglines:

Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the fright.
At 30,000 feet, snakes aren’t the deadliest thing on this plane.
Airline food ain’t what you gotta worry about.

Review by Matt:

Really, this is a poor movie. There’s pretty much nothing to enjoy here. I would have much preferred to see “Snakes on a Train” where, after 20 minutes, the passengers realise there are snakes aboard so they stop the train and all jump out. And we go home and watch something else. [edit – have just realised that “Snakes on a Train” is actually a real movie. In fact, by the looks of it, I probably would not prefer to see it instead of Snakes on a Plane.]

Good news is I can describe the plot in a sentence without leaving anything out: A man witnesses a crime committed by a notorious gangster and while he’s on a plane to Los Angeles to testify, the gangster opens a can of worms by unleashing a crate of snakes. Beyond that there is literally nothing except people being chomped by snakes. I can’t even recommend this to action-movie fans – the extent to which the audience needs to suspend disbelief will surely be too much for them as well. There are too many key moments that lack verisimilitude. You always want to jump up and say “But how could that happen?!” Check out the awesome landing of the plane at the end for example. Actually, don’t – it’ll just make you scoff.

Snakes is a fine study in one-dimensional characters. And that’s just the leads. Most others are just meaty sacks of snake food. It makes it impossible for the film to evoke any pathos for its endangered characters – and the silly thing is that the film obviously wants us to connect with them at times. You can’t care that the characters are in peril, or that they’re brutalised by snakes, except to the extent that you would care for any random person in that situation. To top it off, the computer-generated snakes look unrealistic, and are nothing but aggressive. Badly characterised snakes as well.

There’s also something a little distasteful to this film’s morality as it chooses who lives or dies in its fictional world. The handsome surfer will survive. The fat lady will die pathetically. The promiscuous woman will die by having snakes chomp her naked breasts – a sex object to the end. We know the short tempered man will die horribly as soon as we see him mistreat the pretty girl. There’s something sinister at work that we are supposed to unthinkingly identify with it. It’s like that hidden arbiter that pulls the strings in horror films, to punish the lustful and spare the chaste. It’s primitive and unpleasant.

If you’ve seen any publicity about this film you’ll know that Samuel L Jackson is at the centre of the reptile riot, playing the cop escorting the witness to the trial. I originally held a cynical view that this film was only made because Hollywood had snared Samuel L to star in it, and they paid him to forget about artistic merit for a few months. I was ready to use this review to rail at Hollywood’s marketing machine millions, paying to fool us into watching their trash. But, although it is true that the film was made only because of Samuel L, it wasn’t driven by Hollywood at all. It was Samuel L’s project, and he insisted it remain uncorrupted by interfering Hollywood editors. More interestingly, the basic plot for Snakes (ie the title) leaked onto the internet before the film had been made. Many of the scenes and ideas that appeared in the final film are apparently those thought up by the fans chatting about it in anticipation – “Wouldn’t it be cool if a guy’s bald head was sucked inside of a boa constrictor? LOL” etc. So, in fact I appreciate the unique way the film was made and its willingness to absorb the ideas of the people. Just a real shame the result was a jumbo full of nonsense.

On the plus side however, we do have Snakes on a Plane to thank for that handy and adaptable complaint: I’ve had it with these motherfucking [blanks] on this motherfucking [blank]!  For Samuel L the complaint was obviously about the snakes on the plane.  But people can put on their best exasperated voice and adapt the phrase to any vexatious situation.  Domestically (I’ve had it with this motherfucking dust on this motherfucking bookshelf!), politically (I’ve had it with these motherfucking subsidies for these motherfucking polluters!), or even gastronomically (I’ve had it with these motherfucking pickles on this motherfucking burger!).  Obviously the options are endless.

This doesn’t redeem the movie of course. Ultimately, I can see Snakes being one of those films screened on TV in a few years time at 11.30 on a Saturday night for people who are too tired or lazy to move from the couch for a couple of hours (I’ve had it with the motherfucking drivel on this motherfucking station!). Perhaps only then you should stay there and watch it – but only if you really can’t reach the remote.