Archives for the month of: March, 2009

(My apologies in advance for not doing my homework and watching the first Universal Soldier film, which would have given me a better understanding of exactly what The Return is, other than a desire to quickly put the DVD back in the red envelope and in a mailbox.)

The primary theme of Universal Soldier – The Return (1999) is one that has been neglected for far too long in Hollywood: Can zombies reproduce and become productive members of society?

Based on flashbacks in the The Return and information gleaned elsewhere, the U.S. Army, in conjunction with a private company called Ryan-Lathrop, took some frozen dead soldiers from the Vietnam War and reconstituted them into Universal Soldiers (their slogan is UniSols 2500: Dying to Serve), who are stronger and whose only requirement for R&R is time in a walk-in freezer. For The Return, they improved somewhat on the (beta) zombie soldiers with new 2.0 releases, but still encountered a few bugs to work out.

Our hero Luc, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, is himself one of the original beta versions of the UniSol. And he has an eleven-year-old daughter. So, yes, zombies, apparently, can reproduce with humans. Which is gross and should be outlawed. But, wait, there are more questions that need to be answered.
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Crips and Bloods: Made in America, directed by Stacy Peralta, opens with an aerial shot of an upside-down Los Angeles. As the shot rights itself, it zooms into the neighborhoods of South Central L.A., and the story jumps into the heart of the matter: the historical conditions of racism and inequality that have created a culture of inner-city violence. Using historical footage and stills, along with narration from Forrest Whitaker, the film traces both government policies and cultural biases that drove a community to turn on itself.madeinamerica_filmstill2_nikko_de

The script was well researched, providing a powerful punch in the opening half, culminating with the riots in Watts in 1965. But it is also here where the film spends too much time on a point that is made well but repeatedly. Police repression had reached a point where the residents of South Central had no option but to fight back with everything at their disposal.
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The blog Digital Poetics recently began a new approach to discussing a film by focusing on screenshots from the ten, forty, and seventy minute marks in the film. Since I have been meaning to post a review of 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet’s first feature film (1957), for some time, I decided to let the constraints of the 10/40/70 process start what will eventually turn into a longer review.

12 Angry Men had already been a TV movie prior to Henry Fonda taking it on as producer and star. The original story and script by Reginald Rose was expanded upon by the same, and Lumet, a director with TV experience, was chosen to direct. To his own credit, Lumet said he was naive enough to not know what would be problematic about directing a film that takes place almost entirely in one small room. The tension he was able to elicit from the cast, almost all from a TV background as well, provided a memorable start to what has been a long and interesting career.

The story is about one man on a jury for a murder trial who has doubts, although his fellow jurors are all ready to find a guilty verdict and be done.

The Ten Minute Mark

It’s fitting that juror #8, played by Henry Fonda, is not in this frame. Although ten minutes have elapsed, nothing has really happened, other than the jurors filing into the room to begin their deliberations. They’re trying to get started and are fetching the old man (juror #9) from the restroom. Several jurors have chatted with each other but #8 remained aloof, nay, even standoffish, when approached by others. It’s as if he were trying not be a part of the group, as if he were better than them. Did I mention juror #8 is an architect?
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