January 6, 2007

The VampireNomad: Watching bad movies so you don't have to.

Why did I watch Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold? Maybe I was inspired by the news about Indiana Jones 4. Maybe I'm a sucker for anything Sharon Stone does. Either way, you can now add Lost City of Gold to the growing list of Crap Movies I've Watched For You.

Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold

A VampireNomad Review

I wonder if it would make any difference to my viewing experience to have been able to find a copy of King Solomon's Mines first. I seriously doubt it. Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold is the inexplicable film sequel to King Solomon's Mines; inexplicable because after viewing this I can't image how Solomon's could have been so spectacular, even by 1985 standards, that a sequel would have been called for. Both are loosely based on the Allan Quatermain adventure books and apparently live up to the age-old tradition that says anything based on a book is better off read than watched.

The story of Lost City of Gold, or "story" if you will, initially centres on the titular Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) searching for a legendary city of gold where he hopes to find his lost brother. He is joined by his young fiance and fellow archaeologist Jessie Huston (Sharon Stone), an African tribal chief presumably from the first film (James Earl Jones), and a character called Swarma who is a con of a holy man seemingly created for comic relief. A series of misadventures befall the group en route to the golden city including encounters with hostile natives, a cavern whose floor opens to swallow them whole, random lion attacks, and a wall of flame emerging from an underground lake. An hour into the film the plot seems to lose its way as the group suddenly finds the mythical city of gold and Quatermain's brother who, it turns out, is fine and dandy and has been living in the city all along. Having achieved the initial goal rather too quickly and, let it be said, anti-climactically, the script then stumbles around trying to find footing as a tale of adventurers-turned-saviors fighting to purge oppression from the lives of good citizens. The new direction feels forced and cliche and only serves to turn our attention to the action and acting, neither of which can stand up to such scrutiny. Or any, really.

There are moments of "so bad its kinda good" in the film but mostly I found myself wishing the Lost City had never been found. The movie is cheesier than it has a right to be and not in a good way, either. It has questionable production values at best; from Trek-reject polystyrene city sets to the stilted action sequences it feels like a bargain basement version of Indiana Jones. I have to wonder why they bothered shooting on location in Africa at all if this was the end result of that expense.

And Sharon? She who can do no wrong in my eyes but frequently does anyway just to test the resolve of my fandom? Well she'd probably like to forget this film was ever made and who can blame her? Her character could be excised entirely from the script without altering a single scene or affecting the movie at all. She over-acts dreadfully and comes off as shrill and obvious, the sort of shrieking and useless damsel-in-distress that Catherine Tramell would probably have gutted without a second thought. Every so often there are moments where you can see hints of promise in that sudden level gaze or so-subtle smirk but they're scattered and buried under a heap of bad acting and, it must be said, terrible direction. The blame for the sheer awfulness of this film is hardly Sharon's alone to shoulder. Nobody is at anything close to their best here. Chamberlain comes off as an insincere swashbuckler with nary a second thought to danger or even a second thought at all. James Earl Jones is cast in the most thankless and racially-stereotyped role this century. And everywhere in the golden city there are what look like Hitler Youth holdovers and nameless locals mashed together in a sort of 'harmony through united segregation' fantasy. The word 'cliche' doesn't quite sum it up. The scene where Sharon's Jessie strips off her fancy dress and tosses it to the wind before turning the car around to return to Quatermain was obviously intended as metaphor - the stripping off of her American dreams to return to the safari reality she can't escape - but putting bash-you-in-the-head-with-my-subtlety metaphor in a film of this quality has the end result of making the audience collectively nauseous. "Dude," the director probably thought, "that's, like, DEEP." The river rafting scenes in the cave reminded me very much of Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride except that the ride is more realistic. Gold bars should not be hefted by blonde chicks as though they are polystyrene. Nobody actually believes that African caves house rabid alien-snake hybrids. And the brunette 'evil' queen in the drag-porn costumes countered by the blonde 'good' queen in her flowing gowns of pale blue... please, just stop... I can't take anymore...

"This kind of death. It's the price we pay for living this life of adventure." So says Quatermain upon discovering the skeletal body of an old friend in a pit. Which is exactly how I felt while watching Lost City. And punishment unfortunately didn't end with the film. On my way to the kitchen afterwards I found myself humming the theme tune. Kill me now!

January 4, 2007

Indiana Jones 4 will finally be made.

The good news is that George Lucas is not writing the script.

This guy has written a script that the three amigos - Harrison Ford, Steven Speilberg, and George Lucas - have all agreed upon. At long last. David Koepp also wrote the screenplays for Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, and The Paper. Of course he also wrote The Shadow and Zathura but we'll let that slide. He looks alright. We will now be spared the inevitable Lucas-penned scene where Sean Connery tells Harrison Ford that his lips "are still burning from the kiss you never should have given me".

The bad news is that Harrison Ford is 64 years old and his last bona fide movie hit was 2000's What Lies Beneath. Or, if you're pickier, 1997's Air Force One. And George Lucas' last bona fide movie hit was 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Or, if you're generous, 1999's Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, Jar-Jar notwithstanding.

So on the one hand we get our beloved Indiana Jones back for another magical adventure. But on the other hand, it could go the way of Star Wars and be ruined by CGI abuse or... well... hip replacement surgery mid-shoot...

I'm torn. Thoughts?

January 3, 2007

On the topic of New Year's resolutions, I think Torch's initial decision to not have sex with monkeys in 2007 was fair. Mrs. Torch's objection to every resolution being about sex forced Torch to change the resolution and instead decide not to play tennis with any monkeys all year long which isn't as potent but is still fair. Either way, monkeys are out. Which includes Pat Robertson. (Do it for the baby seals, Pat! Think of the baby seals.)

What about the rest of you? And that includes you lurkers out there. I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE! What have you resolved? And make it good. I don't want any Angelina Jolie wannabes telling me they've resolved to adopt as many foreign orphans as possible while donating to charities and birthing the Messiah this year. That's great and all but my memory isn't so short that I can't also recall a time when she wore a vial of Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck and told everyone she wanted to be a mortician growing up. Yeah, I'm pretty sure Mother Theresa could claim those things in her past too.

So spill. Share your resolutions with Torch and I.

January 1, 2007

I've been waiting for this with bated breath.

Pan's Labyrinth.

It will give new meaning to the word "magical". Just wait and see.

December 31, 2006

Don't look now but another year is upon you.

2006 was really fucking great to me so I expect damn fine things from 2007 in turn. Listen, 2007, you have a lot to live up to. So... you know... get busy.

One of these past years I started my semi-annual tradition of making resolutions I intend to break because I inevitably break all resolutions whether I want to or not. I'm not good with rules and motivational guidelines. But saying "I don't believe in resolutions, I believe in living every day to its fullest" sounds like total bull regardless of how true it may be. Hence, the Made-To-Break Resolution.

This year's MTB Resolutions are as follows:

1. I will spend less time thinking about Sharon Stone.
2. I won't show photo albums of my cat to everybody I meet.
3. I will totally participate in a triathlon!
4. Running for office without citizenship? Simple. Watch me.
5. Yeah, yeah, less chocolate, blah, blah.

Success is mine, mwhahahaha! Since New Zealand is a day ahead of all you North American slackers I've been in 2007 for about fifteen hours now and I've already broken #1 and #5. Yes, I'm that good.

Happy New Year, slackers! Catch up, would ya?

P.S. Tinfoil jumpsuits are rather itchy. But flying cars really are the bomb. I kid you not. (I'm not afraid of you, Chaos Theory! I will leak secrets of the future in defiance of your threats!)