Day: August 1, 2018

Monolith – tape 2327

Here’s something I honestly can’t remember much about. In my mind, it’s occupying a similar space as the Kris Kristofferson/Cheryl Ladd SF time travel story Millennium. But beyond that, I’ve really no idea.

It features, among others, Bill Paxton, John Hurt and Louis Gossett Jr, so it’s not going to be a complete loss.

The presentation here is partially letterboxed, but the titles are hanging right off the screen so clearly they’re cutting the edges off.

Paxton is Tucker, a detective. I presume undercover, certainly plain clothes. And like all detectives, in lieu of a personality, he loves his chilli dogs.

The title sequence sees a panicky young woman speeding in a car, with a gun on the passenger seat.

From the editing she looks like she’s chasing a school bus, and specifically a little boy.

He gets off the bus and the woman catches up with him. He runs off and the woman gives chase. In the car. And this chase takes several minutes, during which she never manages to catch up with this little boy. If Murder She Wrote hadn’t already ruined car vs foot chases for me, this movie certainly would have.

Detective Tucker is also on foot, and his partner Flynn, played by Lindsay Frost, is driving to meet him. They have banter. There’s a lot of banter in this film, not all of it terrible. But there’s a lot.

Eventually the woman with the gun corners the kid in an alley, as Tucker and Flynn catch up with them. They try to talk the woman into putting down her gun, but she shoots him, saying he’s already dead, and warning Tucker not to touch him.

She’s taken in by the pair, and they talk to their captain, Lou Gossett Jr.

Flynn thinks there’s more to it, that the woman (who turns out to be Russian) knew the boy, but she’s not saying anything. Then a group of men in suits turns up, led by John Hurt. He tells Gossett that he’s from the Department of Historical Research, and they have a higher security level than the President. They want to take the woman away, and when Tucker and Flynn get in their way, there’s a lot of the usual dick-swinging dialogue.

Flynn and Tucker decide to do some digging of their own, and they follow the van carrying the remains of the boy, and people in hazmat suits. As they follow the van, they begin to suspect something is amiss when it bursts into flames.

As the van plunges down a hill, most of the men are on fire (clearly they aren’t fireproof hazmat suits) except one of them who’s taken his suit off, and who can shoot fireballs from his eyes.

So Tucker and Flynn decide to visit the Department of Historical Research. There’s the oddest scene, as they talk to the security guard on the desk to try to get into the building. It’s a scene with a fair amount of dialogue, lasting a minute or so, but we only see the security guard. There’s no reverse angle or any other angle, and all Tucker and Flynn’s dialogue is heard from out of shot while we’re still looking at the security guard. In fact the shot continues until we watch her watch Tucker and Flynn head towards the lifts, then we see the lift door closing at the end of the same shot. No sign of either Tucker or Flynn in shot.

Now, there’s no story reason why we didn’t see them in that shot. It’s not like there was a reveal of them wearing strange costumes or disguises or something that might have needed us not to see them. I can think of a few reasons why the scene was like that.

1: They did shoot the reverse angles, but the negative was lost or damaged and they couldn’t afford to reshoot.

2: They forgot to shoot the reverse angles, or they just ran out of time and couldn’t afford an extra day – it’s a low budget production.

3: The shot the reverse angles but they forgot to edit them in and nobody noticed.

4: The scene with the security guard was added later in production, and (again) they couldn’t afford to have Tucker and Flynn on set for the extra shooting, so they made do with looped dialogue.

None of these explanations is really satisfying, so I’d really love to know the real reason. Maybe it was a conscious choice, but it just doesn’t make much cinematic sense.

Anyway, back to the story, and Tucker and Flynn find their way to an office, and a swanky touch screen keyboard – one that has an Enter key on the left hand side where Caps Lock should be. And an Alt key above that. No wonder John Hurt is so cranky in this movie – it must play havoc with his muscle memory.

They find references to Project Bluebook, the old government investigation into UFOs from the 40s.

Tucker and Flynn are caught, and ejected from the premises. And this proves that they were both on the same set as the security guard at least for this shot, so it can’t have been a scheduling issue. I’m sorry to keep on about it, but this is about the most interesting thing about this movie.

Tucker and Flynn sit in their car, bantering some more, until they are interrupted by the body of the Russian woman falls onto the windscreen of their car. It’s another great example of how a low budget can hurt your shots, because this is cribbed straight out of Die Hard, but we don’t get the great low angle shot of the body falling towards the car that that movie managed, just a sudden close-up from the ground angle. Without the actual falling, it’s not even clear they she fell from a height, so that has to be said in dialogue.

But their trip to the DOHR wasn’t a complete waste, as Flynn found an address for one of the scientists working there. At the address they find a journal, with references to something ‘awakening after a millennium’ and saying that Hurt’s character is insane. But their investigation is cut short when the men in black turn on the gas taps, then shoot a matchbox with a laser sighted rifle to blow the house up. Tucker and Flynn just escape, jumping into the house’s pool. We get a brief flashback of Tucker’s tragic back story, as he’s in his car with his wife and a man with a shotgun is outside, and it’s all in black and white.

There’s a tip-off about the survivor of the Burning Van, and an action sequence on top of a high building. Not that it moves the story along. It feels like action for action’s sake.

Hurt and Gossett have another stand-off in the police precinct, and Gossett basically tells him to fuck off. These scenes are interesting because you get the feeling, with slightly better material, this would be so much better, given the calibre of the performers. But the dialogue doesn’t really sing.

Gossett meets Tucker and Flynn in a penthouse apartment belonging to a friend of his, so he can look at the diary they found and decide whether the case should get approval from higher up. I got the feeling they weren’t shooting all of this front projection just for a static cityscape backdrop.

Sure enough, just as the Captain give the go ahead to escalate the case, a helicopter appears, and starts shooting. It’s the Deep Blue Sea Sam Jackson scene all over again.

The Captain’s a goner, but Tucker and Flynn are able to blow up the helicopter with just a rifle and a handgun. But not before the bad guys have fired a rocket propelled grenade at the penthouse. For a low budget film, they’re getting good value out of their pyro budget.

They capture one of Hurt’s goons when they show up to make sure the grenade did its work, and rough him up to get information, and there’s a strange scene where Tucker says he’s going to kill the guy, so Flynn tells him he’s on his own and leaves. Then Tucker opens the lift door, pushes the guy in so his head is inside the lift shaft, and waits for the lift to descend. The guy is begging to be pulled back, and Tucker does, just in time. Then, out of the lift steps Flynn, saying “Good Cop, Bad Cop”. All very quippy, but they haven’t actually got any information from him at all. Another scene that doesn’t move the story.

It’s doubly noticeable because, moments later, as they’re taking the man to the car, another of Hurt’s goons opens fire and shoots him dead. Then there’s another firefight and Tucker and Flynn end up killing that goon too.

Then, we cut to them driving along, and swapping stories about the recently deceased Gossett. A strange lurch in tone.

Meanwhile, some cops spot the possessed alien guy with the fireball eyes, but when they catch up to him, he’s dying. And the tramp he was approaching just before they caught him has gone, so whatever he is, he’s switched bodies.

Somehow, they guess (correctly) that he’s gone into the sewers. And when the alien/wino attacks them, they shot him a lot. But of course he’s not dead, and he spits out some orange lightning at Tucker, which unfortunately means he’s now possessed by whatever it is.

Tucker gets away, so Flynn grabs the nearest hazmat guy and gets some actual information. Tucker’s not dead. Yet. There’s a two hour safe period, and if the alien being switches bodies again before that time, Tucker will live. I shudder to think what kind of experimentation went on at the DOHR to pinpoint that timescale so accurately.

Tucker has gone back to the DOHR, taking the direct route, which makes you wonder why none of the other host bodies bothered to go straight back. Flynn follows, and because of the general eyeball fireball mayhem, she doesn’t find it difficult to get back in. She also seems to know where to go, deep down under the building where there’s something in a huge underground chamber.

Flynn confronts Alien Tucker, and tries to get him to fight the influence he’s under. We get another flashback to his tragic back story, which is interrupted by John Hurt himself coming in and ranting about how important the alien ship is. “I deserve this moment” he says in a moment of blinding entitlement. But then he shoots Flynn in the arm, leading Tucker to finally complete his black and white memory of his wife being brutally shot to death, so he can regain control and shoot the orange lightning at Hurt, transferring the alien influence to him.

Hurt doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the alien, or maybe it’s because Flynn shot up a bit of the spaceship, but now everything is going a bit mad, and the spaceship is actually taking off. It’s not clear how it’s able to get out of its underground lair, but I probably missed that detail. So Flynn and the not dead and no longer alien Tucker have to take their chances and jump. Good thing the ship was over a large body of water. And as a final bit of banter, Tucker has to admit he can’t swim.

Now, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this film. Most of that, though, comes down the Paxton effect. I don’t think it’s a bad film, but neither can I truthfully say it’s a good film. Most of my problems with it come down to script and direction. The dialogue has the appearance of being smart and snappy, but it isn’t really. Every line feels like it’s one polish away from being good. And the tempo of some of the scenes seems off, as if the editing could have been a bit tighter. But what the heck do I know?

After this, recording continues, and after a short behind the scenes for Quiz Show, there’s an animated version of Ben Hur. I’ve never seen the Charlton Heston version, classic though it’s supposed to be, so I watched this one as it has the virtue of being much shorter.

It’s not as good as Monolith.

Jesus is in it, though.

The tape ends just after this film finishes. During a behind the scenes piece on another Paxton starring vehicle, Twister. Another film I like quite a lot despite not being very good.

Adverts:

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