Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Trespassing Dragonballs

SASS*: April is the cruelest month. Get all excited by trailers for X-Men (May 1), Star Trek (May 8), Terminator (May 21), Night at the Museum (May 22), and Ice Age (July 1), then this is the “feature”?

Rating scale: 9 (superlative) to 1 (execrable)
Short story: 9-7, recommended; 6-4, up to you; 3-1, eschew
Ratings intended for: adult SF&F fans

This Week’s SF&F Movies

Alien Trespass (PG, 1:24) — 5 — 3rd string, formula

(opened last week, left town already)

This is the quintessential “up to you” movie. While Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse tried to recreate the 1950s double-feature movie experience (complete with bad framing, scratched pictures, and missing reels), this 2009 release tries to recreate an actual 1950s alien-invasion movie. And it does a fine job of it, if that’s your cup of tea, right down to the chintzy crashed UFO and the monsters in rubber suits.

There’s a scientist, of course. There always is. This one has his body taken over by Urp, a marshal from outer space, who’s trying to track down the monstrous, tentacled, sometimes invisible, huge-eyed alien ghota before it can start reproducing. After a bit, even the astronomer’s dolled-up, perpetually hot-to-trot wife notices something amiss. Meanwhile, the local teens continue their running feud with the cops, who continue to doubt the odd things they claim to have seen. Many of the scenes take place in the local diner, whose PM-shift waitress becomes the unlikely heroine.

The best use of a scientist I’ve seen in such a film was the tongue-in-cheek Tremors, in which we get the standard scene of all the townspeople standing around speculating where the giant worms might have come from. Space aliens? Radioactive mutants? Evolution run amuck? They all turn to look at the scientist, who says “How should I know? I’m a geologist!”. And that’s that!

The only bit in Alien Trespass that comes close to this is when the young hot-rodder wants to go scope out the new cars and his friends try to persuade him to go alien-hunting instead. “Edsels will be around forever”, they reassure him. Of course, that line might very well have occurred in an actual 1957 film.

Aside from that 1 bit, they play it absolutely straight. And, if I were reviewing it straight as well, it would share a 2 with this week’s other miscarriage. But I admit to a certain nostalgia for this kind of thing, so it ends up smack in the middle.

Dragonball Evolution (PG, 1:25) — 2 — 2nd string, crossover

I guess this was based on some manga epic that got turned into a video game or TV show or something. If you weren’t familiar with the original (as I was not), this flik doesn’t go out of its way to bring you up to speed.

The ton of money that obviously got thrown at the special effects can’t offset horribly trite dialog delivered in wooden fashion by semi-competent actors or the half-dozen el-cheapo sets that look like refugees from the collapse of the housing bubble. Chow Yun-Fat and Emmy Rossum (Christine from Phantom) evidently try to be good sports by acting down to the level of the cardboard cutouts around them. Randall Duk Kim (founder of American Players Theater and the Keymaker in The Matrix Reloaded) is good as Grandpa Gohan, tho.

The good guys (including 2 inexplicable Occidentals) are trying to recover all 7 of the ancient dragonballs that will keep the evil green-skinned Lord Piccolo from destroying the world. Piccolo and his henchwoman likewise use all sorts of skulduggery to claim the mcguffins for themselves. There’s a fair amount of martial arts, as everybody tries to 1-up everyone else with how good they are. Are they any good? Well, Chow obviously is, but everything else looks like quick-cut special effects.

There’s no need for anyone to issue spoiler alerts on this one, because everyone going into it knows exactly how it’s going to turn out.

Frenetic, hackneyed, and preposterous tripe.

*short attention span synopsis