The Lawnmower Man -1992-

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Directed by Brett Leonard. 107 mins.

Worth my time? Eh, yeah. (Watched on Blu-ray)

Seeing Transcendence reminded me that I had never watched this sorta Singularity-themed CGI extravaganza from the early 90s. I remember seeing ads for a SNES game based on the movie, and all I could think was, “That weird golden cyber-dude hardly resembles a lawnmower.”

As most CGI-laden films of its time (except maybe The Abyss), Lawnmower looks its age, but the virtual reality sequences are aesthetically engaging in spite of their technical shortcomings. The storyline never makes clear how VR could improve the biochemistry of the human brain, but I’ll give it a pass. After all, no one complains when the sensory-deprivation chamber in Altered States morphs William Hurt into an ape-guy.

Like most high-concept sci-fi, the film doesn’t live up to the fascinating premise. There’s the idealistic, workaholic scientist (Pierce Brosnan) and the obligatory shadow organization (led, surprisingly, by Dean Norris) that wants to militarize his findings. Your eyes will roll when the climactic explosion occurs, and you’ll be able to guess the final scene from a mile away.

Still, I’d see this over Transcendence unconditionally. If you haven’t seen it, and you want a reminder that Jeff Fahey was once relevant in film.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-19)

The Cornetto Trilogy -2013-

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Directed by Edgar Wright. 99 mins. (Shaun of the Dead), 121 mins. (Hot Fuzz), 109 mins. (The World’s End)

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Real LA Live Stadium 14)

Last night’s marathon of Edgar Wright’s screen collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was probably the best time I’ve had at the movies all year. Wright’s films and his leads’ performances have a gleeful, crackling energy along the lines of early Spielberg (only Wright cranks up the mayhem much higher). It’s such a joy to watch these films because it’s clear that everyone involved is not only very good at what they do, but they are also delighted to be doing it. Nearly every frame of the Cornetto Trilogy has an air of “Holy fuck, I still can’t believe we get to do this for a living!” about it.

I first saw Shaun of the Dead in theaters when I was 15; loved it then, still love it now. Wright and his chums are far beyond the tired old spoof-game. Shaun pays homage to past zombie films but is a top-notch example of the genre by itself. It has one of the best laughs-per-minute ratio of any comedy of the 2000s (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is also a contender).

Hot Fuzz is the weakest of the trio, but it’s pretty damn good. It treads further into spoof territory than the other two, and a few segments drag on (it is the longest in the trilogy), but the contrasting small-town sensibilities and extreme blood and gore is expertly handled. Plus I like Jim Broadbent in pretty much everything.

After a few years of screenwriting and taking on a more mercenary directorial project (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, also very good), Wright returns to familiar territory that still feels fresh. The homage are there, but it’s hard to pin a specific genre the film is sending up. The World’s End has a wide array of influences – Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Big Chill, the books of Stephen King, the films of John Carpenter, Dr. Who – and the script is the most unpredictable of the bunch. Frost is refreshing as the straight main (a role usually reserved to Pegg) and the supporting work by Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike, Paddy Considine, and (my favorite) Eddie Marsan is wonderful.

I wanna see it again tonight.

(Seen on 2013-08-22 written on 2013-08-23)