Well here we go. We have three reviews, from about 19 that I received. Five positives, eight middle of the roads, and six negatives. Astoundingly balanced with a slightly negative hint to the whole. This was the case last year for CON AIR. So, I've taken the review from each category that best suited the category, a sampling if you will. Two are from known spies, and one wasn't from a consistent spy. So read them, see who you agree with. However, remember that this is a test screening, specifically with a temp track, which basically means the final sound of the film isn't here. And McTiernan will undoubtedly make a few changes here and there. So this is like a temporary indicator of where the film was.. tonight. The spies are the Big Bad Wolf, Goldfinger and Joe Hallenbeck. So here we go...
I'll start of with the positive review by the Big Bad Wolf. He huffed and he puffed and he bleeeewwwww El Nino away for the day, allowing him to travel to the house containing something finer than swine in his opinion. Milk Duds, Gummi Bears, Coconut- oiled popcorn, etc. A movie theater! And well it was Eaters of the Dead showing! There are spoilers, but if you've read the book then none of that matters to you. So go on and read...
Capitalizing on a break in the Wrath of El NiÃ±o, I ventured up to the UA La CaÃ±ada for what we were told to be the first test screening of John McTiernan's new film "Eaters of the Dead."
First of all, let me say I haven't read the book and knew virtually nothing about the story prior to seeing the film -- all I had seen was that dark and cryptic trailer.
Overall, I liked it very much. It wasn't orgasmically great, nor was it painfully bad...not even close. It was a solid adventure film, well-told and beautifully staged, and that, in and of itself, makes it a worthwhile film.
Shedding his annoying penchant for e-nun-ci-a-ting e-ve-ry damn syl-la-ble and dropping his laughable T-1000-style glare, Antonio Banderas turns in a good, likable, even laid-back performance that nicely balances out the darker tones of the film. Sort of a cross between Matthew Broderick in "Ladyhawke" and Morgan Freeman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
But Banderas' kick-ass Viking comrades steal the show. All newcomers to my eye (except for the crazy Irishman from "Braveheart, if I'm not mistaken), I'm not familiar enough with them to single each out for praise, but suffice it to say they were all wonderful, and most them looking like survivors of a casting call for a movie version of "The Mighty Thor." The chemistry between Banderas' initially-pithy Arab politician and these Nordic war machines is the true backbone of this film.
Without a doubt, the most impressive sequence was the final battle between the Vikings and the, uh, "bad guys." Deliciously constructed through slow motion, no sound effects and rhythmic battle music, this climactic scene was an all-too-brief orgy of war that could make Conan and William Wallace turn white with fear -- that is, if they extend it a bit longer, letting it develop more. This is the final showdown, after all. But then again, better to leave us wanting more than bored. But seriously, you could barely tell the geysers of blood from the rain storm they were fighting in.
Temp-tracked with music from "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Crow," "The Postman," "Braveheart" and others, I can't wait to hear the credited Graeme Revell's final score. And the locations and production design were absolutely amazing -- a thoroughly believable world.
Perhaps the only annoying filmmaking element here was McTiernan's now- trademark Sloppi-Cam™ shot design. His love of handheld camera has degraded from viscerally-thrilling to accidentally interesting to, now, embarrassingly amateurish -- but hopefully, McT can cut out some of the more awkward shots before release.
Audience reaction was lukewarm (and that's being polite.) Only a smattering of applause at the end and several walk-outs throughout the film. Considering the audience was filled with pot-smoking gangsta-wannabes (yes, that was Mary Jane's perfume making the rounds from the left side of the theater), I'm not surprised. This film will, sadly, probably not hit a home-run with the "kids." And it's a damn shame. I was so pleased with the film, I went out and bought "Conan The Barbarian" on DVD to maintain the mindset.
On the way out of the theater, I passed Michael "Redwood" Crichton, John "Noriega" McTiernan and Joe "Ho-Hum" Roth all intently discussing (read: "worrying about") the screening. Matters weren't helped by a moronic loud mouth not five feet away from McT boasting about how HE would have directed the film. I'm surprised McTiernan didn't turn around and "McClaine" his sorry ass.
In a nutshell, "Eaters of the Dead" -- a fine film for a limited audience.
Boy, I tell you. How hard can it be to spot the blonde fat germanic looking fellow in the brown suit with the oriental bowler wearing sidekick? I mean, sheesh, Goldfinger got into this one to, and while thinking it was a 2 and a half star movie, he liked it. Read to find out why....
So once again, I, Auric Goldfinger, managed to buy my way with gold bullion into a test screening.
The place: La Canada, CA.
The film: Eaters of the Dead
I met up with Joe Hallenbeck and Flunky Sidekick, and we covertly made our way into the screening. Just before the lights dimmed, I noticed the man himself, Michael Crichton, sitting in the back row - how very cool!
The film was exactly as it read in the script. I have not read the book, so I can't make any comparisons. But I have a problem: the movie was okay (2.5 stars) but for some reason I liked it. I can't explain it. Joe had the audacity to suggest that it was because I was "a fucking idiot". But he's chained to a table and dealing with my laser beam now. (Poor fool.) So let me tell you a bit about the film, and maybe you can figure out what I liked about it.
Antonio Banderas plays Ibn, a Persian ambassador who ends up joining a bunch of Vikings on some bizarre quest to find out what is killing people in their villages. I was surprised with his acting ability in this film - although that isn't saying too much. Why a Persian has a Spanish accent is beyond me - just as much as Gerard Depardieu was beyond me in 1492 (a Frenchman playing an Italian from Spain speaking in English?? Ummm.... no.) The other actors were good, but unfortunately unknown - meaning I couldn't tell you their names if you handed me the credits.
The story was decent, although a bit slow at points. I found myself looking at my watch twice - once when I was just curious what time it was, and the second when I wondered if this film was ever going to end. (See, it reaches what in most movies WOULD be the end, but then keeps going for just a little longer.)
The sets are what I really want to talk about. The scope of this film succeeds where (I think) the Postman failed. It successfully transports the audience to a different time and culture, and perhaps my fascination with that idea is why I enjoyed the film. This is where Wolf Kroeger ("Last of the Mohicans", "The Edge", "Ladyhawke") deserves credit. We see huge REAL sets - a Norse lodge/camp, the enemies camp, etc. All big, and all there.
As for the editing, I think it was done reasonably well - according to the editor (whose name I don't have, sadly), it was filmed and edited towards a PG-13 rating. The violence is there, but I think that with an R rating we would have had a bit more fun in the film - I mean, how can you have a modern telling of a Viking story without body parts flying all over the place?? (sigh) Perhaps it's my bloodlust speaking here.....
Hallenbeck and Flunky Sidekick hated the film. They thought it was slow, boring, and just plain yuk. (As you will no doubt read in Joe's review.) Perhaps I am a "fucking idiot" for liking the film. Most likely not, but I just can't come up with a reason right now.
After the film I had the fortune to chat briefly with Crichton, who admitted he was unable to tell me what book he is working on now. Perhaps I should prepare a table and laser for him..... but I don't have enough material (the guy is TALL!!!). I'll just have to make do with Joe.
The major disappointment of the film was that I did not have the opportunity to hear Graeme Revell's score. The movie was temp tracked with Waterworld, The Mission, The Crow, Apollo 13, and Braveheart, among others. Unfortunately, the usage of Braveheart seemed to cheapen certain "romantic" scenes... which brings up another point. Why did they bother having a half-assed romantic interest in this film? It seemed totally out of place in the story, and didn't fit Banderas' character.
And then there is Joe Hallenbeck's review... well, I can say I don't agree with his Die Hard With A Vengence problem, both Glen and myself love that film completely, and Glen's one of the biggest DIE HARD fans around. So there is a chance I won't agree with Hallenbeck. Usual warning about Hallenbeck's language use and offensive scale. You could be offended, some will smile and others will laugh till mead pours from between their ribs. The scariest statement he makes is when he says this makes KULL watchable. I can't believe that...
That's it. I hate to say this, my fellow geeks, but John McTiernan is dead in my eyes. A man who I once thought of as an Action Movie God no longer exists in my World. He started to die with Medicine Man and continued on being gravely ill with Last Action Hero. He recupperated somewhat with the first hour of Die Hard with A Vengeance then went into cardiac arrest during the second half. While in a comatose state, John managed to make Eaters of the Dead. I'm afraid to report this to you, but I think they pulled the plug. John McTiernan is no more. We can now only fondly remember him for such masterpieces as Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October(let's not forget Nomads...just kidding).
I, The Mighty Joe Hallenbeck, have just returned from the final nail in Mr. McTiernan's coffin...Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead. I'm feeling so down right now that not even a lap dance by Jennifer Connely could cheer me up. One of my idols has let me down for the last time...2 Strikes and one ball. This movie was strike three and, unfortunately, HE'S OUT!!!
Now, let I, Joe Hallenbeck, tell you what's right(very little) and what's wrong(just about everything) with EATERS OF THE DEAD(I don't know about you, but that sounds like a cool title for a Porn Movie. As a matter of fact, I have a theory about what makes a good title for a legit movie...if it sounds good as a Porn Movie or can be parodied(ie Forrest Hump) then it's a good title. Example: Dante's Peak(Good)...Volcano(Bad). Try it out sometime. You'll have loads of fun with your friends!).......
The Plot - Arab Diplomat has to join 12 Vikings in a battle against some "Inhuman" force(s). Stranger in a strange land kind of story. At first he's not excepted, but slowly but surely he becomes one of them. Supposed to have taken place during a four year period, but felt as if it took place in 4 days. Really boring. The first hour dragged on forever. Felt like 3 or four. Nothing interesting or exciting occured. The only thing that was half way cool was the "Learning the Language Scene." McTiernan has a knack for converting foriegn languages into English very cleverly(ie Red October). It's sad to say this, but that's the best damn thing about the movie...Banderas learning the Viking language. Pretty pathetic, huh? There's also some lame romantic subplot going on that's as pointless as most of my reviews.
The Writing - The source material sucked(a rarity in my eyes. I've enjoyed all of Crichton's books except this one). I really can't blame the screenwriter's William Wisher(and some other dude...sorry, can't remember the name) because it's difficult to turn shit into silver. If it ain't there in the first place then it's hard to put it there later...especially if the original author is the Producer!
The Direction - Now, I heard a rumor that this puppy is going to be rated PG-13. After seeing this POS, I think that rumor is true. I knew the film wasn't going to be too hot because the source material sucked, but at least I thought the action would kick ass. I expected Conan(as in, "The Barbarian" ...not the "King of Late Night") meets Braveheart. I wanted to see some Vikings kicking some major cannibal booty. Instead, I got a lot of ridiculous slo-mo and tons of bloodless battles...Cut-aways left and right...Slicing and dicing with little to no blood...And worst of all, no Viking debauchery!!! WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING?!!! THEY'RE MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT VIKINGS BATTLING UNGODLY "THINGS" FOR CHRIST SAKES!!! While the story may have sucked, the action could've rocked. I thought it was so cool when John signed to direct this movie. I thought, "Wow. We're gonna have a Conan for the 90's." Instead, we get a movie that makes Kull the Conqueror look watchable!!! Johnny boy...what happened to ye? Come back! PLEASE...FOR THE LOVE OF THE MOVIE GODS...COME BACK!!!!(as I type on my now tear stained keyboard).
The Actors -
Antonio Banderas - adequate, but didn't have much to work with.
Diane Venora - Why was she in this movie? She's much more talented then this dribble(same thing goes for Jackal).
The rest - they all blended together. None of them had a personality or much of a presence. They were just scenery.
The Music - all temp tracked(Crow, Braveheart(mad me laugh every time the romantic cues were on), Postman, Waterworld and The Mission). Fits the action, but I doubt Gramme Revelle's final score will help the movie( as a matter of fact, most of his scores hinder the movies their in).
The Climax - It has one of those, "What the fuck just happened here?" kind of climaxes. All in slo-mo and completely boring. You have practically bloodless slicing and dicing going on and you feel bored watching it. What's up with that?
All I can say about this disappointment is:
I MISSED FRASIER FOR THIS?!!!
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