Tag Archives: Ron Perlman

Mutant Chronicles (2008, Simon Hunter)

Mutant Chronicles should have been better. I’m not sure it should have been good, but it should have been better. The film’s all digital, which allows for some post-production touches. Ron Perlman’s red robe, for example, appears to be done in post. I think the movie uses miniatures in combination with practical (though not many) and CG. It works to some degree… though I wonder if it would have looked better in black and white.

The reason for that musing isn’t just Thomas Jane’s presence, but also the first act’s setup of the film as a World War I picture. The opening, with trench warfare, owes more to that genre than anything else. As the story picks up–after a very British end-of-the-world section (though most of the dialogue is from John Malkovich, who manages to maintain some credibility even here, and Perlman, who affects a semi-Irish accent to decent effect)–it abandons that genre, going into a strange mix of 28 Days Later (the monsters in this movies are a mix of that film’s zombies and the Borg from “Star Trek”), the second Planet of the Apes movie and… I don’t know… something else. Maybe Hellboy, just for the giant machines.

Lots of the film is interesting to look at, even if the effects are more workman-like than superior, because of the steampunk designs. The coal-powered airships are pretty darn cool. And the special effects aren’t bad. The monsters in this one look a lot better than the video game ones in I Am Legend. The end of this movie does feature a challenge out of a video game for its characters though (I couldn’t help but think of Galaxy Quest).

I find myself referencing a lot of other films in this post simply because Mutant Chronicles is so derivative. There are a couple moments of storytelling ingenuity. Well, maybe one. The other really good moment is just because of the filmmaking. But the one well-conceived scene–no one can hear anyone, in a crisis situation, because it’s so noisy–works really well, establishing Mutant Chronicles–along with the filmmaking creativity–as a film not to dismiss outright.

The acting from Perlman, Jane (who could do better, but is solid) and Sean Pertwee is good. Benno Fürmann seems very underused. Steve Toussaint and Luis Echegaray are both all right. Devon Aoki and Tom Wu are atrocious. They have lots of lines together and trying to figure out who is worse does provide some amusement through a bad CG period.

The problem with the movie is the approach. The filmmakers go with an expository narration from Perlman, who can deliver narration just fine, but it’s stupid. It treats the viewer like an idiot… the details of the setting and the political yada yada behind it are sci-fi genre nonsense. The story’s a film standard (group of assorted people go on a suicide mission) and doesn’t require a lot of malarky attached to it. Had director Hunter–who can definitely mix film tools to decent effect, even if his direction of actors is poor and his composition is mediocre–kept with that war tone of the first act… it would have been something interesting.

Instead, Mutant Chronicles plays like something one would watch in a motel in the middle of the night, ignoring it the first time through the channels as a “Sci-Fi Original Movie” only to stop on the second time through because there’s something compelling about it….

Compelling enough for insomnia at the La Quinta anyway.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Simon Hunter; screenplay by Philip Eisner, based on the game by Target Games; director of photography, Geoff Boyle; edited by Sean Barton and Alison Lewis; music by Richard Wells; production designer, Caroline Greville-Morris; produced by Stephen Belafonte, Tim Dennison, Peter La Terriere, Pras and Edward R. Pressman; released by Voltage Pictures.

Starring Thomas Jane (Maj. Mitch Hunter), Ron Perlman (Brother Samuel), Devon Aoki (Cpl. Valerie Duval), Sean Pertwee (Capt. Nathan Rooker), Benno Fürmann (Lt. Maximillian von Steiner), John Malkovich (Constantine), Anna Walton (Severian), Tom Wu (Cpl. Juba Kim Wu), Steve Toussaint (Capt. John McGuire), Luis Echegaray (Cpl. Jesus de Barrera), Pras (Captain Michaels) and Shauna Macdonald (Adelaide).


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Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008, Guillermo del Toro)

Once I heard the concept for Hellboy II–Hellboy versus elves–I knew what was going on. Del Toro was going to make a (tonal) sequel to Pan’s Labyrinth instead of an actual one to Hellboy. As my wife said on the way home, there’s a big difference between demons and elves. It’s like del Toro’s psychic and was jockeying for his Hobbit gig before it was even announced.

It’s hard to identify the movie’s biggest problem. There’s the flushing of the original’s atmosphere for a fantasy one (it’s never scary or disturbing–Luke Goss’s villain is created from special effects, not a performance… he’s as intimidating as Bronson Pinchot on “Perfect Strangers”). Del Toro also fills the film with fight scenes in confined areas and he’s not particularly good at making the fight scene interesting. I mean, Hellboy’s never going to die, right? The one great “fight” scene is more an action sequence, with Hellboy trying to save a baby while battling a giant tree. That scene works, mostly because it’s more like the action in the first film.

As a sequel, Hellboy II compares terribly. It isn’t just the script, it’s practically everything. But the script’s lack of real development is problematic. The present action is short, probably two days, and the setup reveals the characters aren’t much different than they were in the first one (four years ago). Except del Toro has changed Jeffrey Tambor’s character completely (for the worse, he’s a babbling buffon and the idea of him holding an advanced degree is sillier than the elves), in one of the movie’s stranger moves. The other negative developments stem from del Toro’s direction… basically, he’s asking his actors to do things they cannot.

First, Doug Jones. Doug Jones cannot act. From the first moment he utters a sound, the absence of David Hyde Pierce is felt. Jones tries to mimic Pierce’s performance, but a) doesn’t sound smart and b) can’t really properly emote. Jones isn’t an actor, voice or otherwise. He’s the guy they dub over. Still, del Toro does give him some amusing scenes–most of the scenes not involving the elves are okay, even if they are just filler.

Worse is Selma Blair, though I almost think del Toro noticed how terrible she is doing a Ripley impression. She’s in it sparingly after a point and other times she’s just silent and background. Del Toro’s subplot for Blair and Ron Perlman is idiotic, mainly because it leads to him ripping off the end of Patriot Games (sort of).

Perlman’s great.

John Hurt shows up for a second and he’s real good. Seth McFarlane’s a poor choice for the headless German guy, because McFarlane just does his German accent from “American Dad.” I guess it’s fine, but it’s kind of stupid. The only other actor is Anna Walton as Goss’s sister and Jones’s love interest. Her character is terribly written, but I suppose she isn’t atrocious.

Besides the last shot, Guillermo Navarro does a wonderful job shooting the film. His lighting works well with del Toro’s frequent CG composite shots (del Toro’s an amazing fan of CG composites apparently). The special effects are good and the visuals are interesting and impressive and all… even if it is dark and claustrophobic. Hard to see why the elves are so great if they live in caves all the time. Danny Elfman’s score is terrible, derivative of his Batman work–and most everything else he’s ever done.

Hellboy II kind of reminds me of Batman Returns, actually. Del Toro got free reign much like Burton did on that film (del Toro even apes some Nightmare Before Christmas here). The difference is what Burton did with his free reign and the narrative pointlessness del Toro commits with his here.

Perlman makes the whole thing passable–and del Toro still is a fine director, he’s just become an insipid storyteller.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Guillermo del Toro; screenplay by del Toro, based on a story by del Toro and Mike Mignola and on the Dark Horse comic books by Mignola; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Bernat Vilaplana; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Stephen Scott; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Jeffrey Tambor (Tom Manning), Luke Goss (Prince Nuada), Anna Walton (Princess Nuala), Seth MacFarlane (Johann Kraus) and John Hurt (Professor Buttenholm).


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Hellboy (2004, Guillermo del Toro)

If I recall correctly, Mike Mignola never had Hellboy and Selma Blair’s firestarter get together (romantically) in the comics, even though Hellboy is flame resistant. That filmic development was all Guillermo del Toro’s. del Toro is responsible for everything successful in Hellboy and, subsequently, everything unsuccessful. Hellboy works, which is probably the film’s greatest achievement–it’s about a goofy, beer-drinking demon who hunts monsters. It’s got lots of humor–from David Hyde Pierce’s Niles-like observations to Hellboy liking cats–not to mention Jeffrey Tambor’s entire role is solely for humor.

Ron Perlman’s Hellboy performance is so unassuming, it’s hard to think of him standing there wearing fifty pounds of make-up or whatever. del Toro and his make-up team don’t just make Hellboy real, but also Doug Jones’s fish-man (who Hyde Pierce voices). These accomplishments are noteworthy, since no one’s really tried doing talking “alien” leads like Hellboy since the proliferation of CG in the mid-1990s. Fantastic characters suddenly became glossy synthetics, instead of tangible figures.

So it’s kind of too bad del Toro doesn’t set Perlman up as the lead until the very end. The rest of the movie is run first by John Hurt as his adoptive father and then Rupert Evans as his assigned caretaker. Hurt does a fine job, even if it’s just stunt casting (Hurt has almost nothing to do, never having a significant scene with Perlman). Evans, on the other hand, is fantastic. Without Evans, Hellboy would not have worked. While everything might happen to Perlman or hinge on the character, it’s Evans who leads the viewer through the film. I understand the narrative reason for this perspective, but it’s a Hollywood cop-out. Having it just be Perlman, in his forty pounds of make-up, doesn’t sell well as a mainstream narrative. Evans’s character is superfluous, but his performance makes him the most important element in the film.

del Toro saturates the viewer in the milieu–the creepy, the exciting–and it works. When Tambor’s stunned at the bad guys, it’s a shock–it’s hard to remember not everyone in the film is used to the oddities, since the viewer has to accept them from the first scene. The Prague shooting doesn’t help the atmosphere. While it all looks great, there’s an unreality to it. It’s clearly not Manhattan or New Jersey… it’s artificial. del Toro’s color schemes work great–director of photography Guillermo Navarro does a wonderful job (except one really jarring, apparently shot on video and cut in, moment)–and, for the first half, Hellboy looks so good, it’s hard to think about anything else. The narrative works, it just doesn’t pay off in the end.

One big problem is the villain–Karel Roden is no good. It’s like he’s out of a TV movie.

But for what del Toro’s going for, Hellboy pretty much does it all.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Guillermo del Toro; screenplay by del Toro, based on a story by del Toro and Peter Briggs and on the Dark Horse comic books by Mike Mignola; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Peter Amundson; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Stephen Scott; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy), John Hurt (Professor Bruttenholm), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Rupert Evans (John Myers), Karel Roden (Rasputin), Jeffrey Tambor (Manning), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Ladislav Beran (Kroenen), Biddy Hodson (Ilsa Haupstein) and Corey Johnson (Clay).


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Alien: Resurrection (1997, Jean-Pierre Jeunet), the special edition

Joss Whedon has never met a cheap, cheesy one liner he didn’t like. He also feels the need to revise future technology based on modern developments (androids with wireless modems, which they would have had in the first Alien movies… except the lack of that technological possibility when said films were made). The first problem is an exceptional one (especially since he can’t go two minutes without one of those awful one liners), while the second one is just stupid. Alien: Resurrection is the first fanboy-written film. Its failure means it isn’t responsible for what came next (the utter eradication of quality science fiction or “genre” films from Hollywood), but it’s perfect foreshadowing. Even when it’s really bad, it’s no worse than the crap coming out today. With the exception of the bad CG, it’s probably even better.

The film–I watched the 2003 special edition–is actually all right for a bit at the beginning. Accepting the idea such an extraordinarily useless, artistically-soulless commercial venture can be all right, anyway. Then Winona Ryder and the crew of “Firefly” show up. Whedon essentially turned an Alien sequel into a pilot movie for his characters. Fine, whatever, it’s 115 minutes and there are some occasionally interesting moments… but I don’t like watching movies and pitying the actors. Watching Alien: Resurrection, one just has to pity Sigourney Weaver. It’s just terrible in parts. The other interesting thing about the pre-Ryder moments is Jeunet’s direction. Most of the film just looks dirty and green, but the beginning has some real Jeunet flourishes–which the new opening credits sequence illustrate well, even if the CG is cheap. While Brad Dourif’s got terrible dialogue, he, J.E. Freeman and Dan Hedaya really look like they belong in the film.

Alien: Resurrection being an acceptable waste of a couple hours comes mostly from the cast (there’s some effective scoring too, I suppose). Weaver does have some good moments–though it wasn’t until I watched the film this time, my fourth time in ten years, I realized Weaver and Ryder’s relationship was supposed to mirror the Ripley and Newt relationship from Aliens or something (yes, Joss Whedon is that incompetent). By the end, the good ones even outweigh the bad and embarrassing ones. Dourif’s not good, but Freeman and Hedaya are both excellent. Ron Perlman and Gary Dourdan are both saddled with terrible lines, but they’re fine. Michael Wincott and Kim Flowers are both really good (Flowers’s death scene is fantastic, the only effective death scene in a film with a dozen or more).

Alien³ is a film incapable of supporting a sequel, certainly one with Weaver anyway, but Resurrection isn’t as terrible as it could be, I suppose. It’d be much worse if it were made today. I remember when it bombed–after Fox spent a fortune making it–I realized no one had been really asking for another Alien movie. Fox was just trying to jump-start the franchise, a slur I’d never use against the Alien films. But there were comic books and toys and–really, Whedon seems like he learned how to write off of comic books, with no real understanding of how dialogue plays out off the page.

It’s an interesting film in parts, the way it’s made, some of what Jeunet does, but it’s so idiotically written–and I think that aspect is what makes it most like Hollywood films today, the absurdity of the writing being acceptable to someone who… can read–it doesn’t really matter. Even if it’s interesting, it’s still a stinky pile of crap.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet; written by Joss Whedon, based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett; director of photography, Darius Khondji; edited by Herve Schneid; music by John Frizzell; production designer, Nigel Phelps; produced by Bill Badolato, Walter Hill, David Giler and Gordon Carroll; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Winona Ryder (Annalee Call), Dominique Pinon (Vriess), Ron Perlman (Johner), Gary Dourdan (Christie), Michael Wincott (Elgyn), Kim Flowers (Hillard), Dan Hedaya (General Perez), J.E. Freeman (Wren), Brad Dourif (Gediman), Raymond Cruz (Distephano) and Leland Orser (Purvis).


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