Thursday, September 30, 2004

Alien vs. Predator / * (2004)

The creature in John McTiernan's "Predator" was a hunter for sport, preying on anything and anyone with the chutzpah to put up a commendable fight, but to see "Alien vs. Predator" tell it, they were also revered as Gods by ancient Earth civilizations, and were directly responsible for teaching our ancestors how to build great structures like the pyramids. Quite remarkable, if you think about it - in one fell swoop, a screenplay not only manages to build back-story on a famous movie villain, but also solve one of the biggest mysteries of our planet's historical past. If you think that's amazing, then just imagine the surprise of several of the movie's characters, who are recruited at the beginning of the film to be the first men and women to explore the ruins of a newly-discovered multi-cultural pyramid buried beneath hundreds of feet of ice in Antarctica. Some are ecstatic, others are bewildered; but none of them, needless to say, are aware that this hidden fortress is actually an active hunting ground for the Predators themselves, who revive it every hundred years and engage in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with humans as the puppets. How fortunate for the film to make this great discovery just as the fortress is being revived for another round of bloodshed.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Cellular / ***1/2 (2004)

Colin Farrell discovered last year in "Phone Booth" that Alexander Graham Bell's nifty little invention could be just as much a weapon in daily life as it can be a communication asset. Now comes "Cellular," in which Chris Evans plays a beach-going guy named Ryan, who answers his cell-phone and meets a woman on the other end who is in quite a predicament: she is a victim of abduction. As the recipient to this bizarre incoming call, he is naturally skeptical and contends that a practical joke is being played on him. But poor distressed Jessica (Kim Basinger) insists otherwise, going so far as to explain that her contacting a total stranger instead of law officials comes down to the fact that her only line of communication is a busted telephone with no dialing pad. The explanations are a nice touch, but not until Ryan actually hears a direct threat against her life does he finally accept the situation as legitimate. And by that point, of course, he is already so involved in the conflict that he can't simply hand it off to some random law official. Here, the cellular phone is not simply a device that assists this unlikely hero in undertaking whatever tasks are required of him; it is the one thread of hope of keeping this woman (and maybe even her whole family) alive.