Scenes I Love: BioShock “Little Sisters: Rescue or Harvest”


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With today’s release of Irrational Games’ latest title, Bioshock Infinite, I look back with some fondness to the first game in the series: BioShock.

It was a game that blew most everyone away with it’s ease of gameplay, unique art direction and, most important of all, a story that made people think that gaming was close to reaching the level of art for the genre. It was a game that dared to use as one of it’s themes Ayn Rand’s own take on the philosophy of Objectivism. It was a game about choices. A game that put the player into making the moral choice of rescuing the creepy Little Sisters or harvesting them for a rare resource that meant killing them.

I’ve played the game so many times and have made choices both good and bad, but it was always difficult even knowing how things already turned out to make that first decision to either “rescue” or “harvest”. Below are the version of this very scene that fully sold the game and it’s story to me the first time I played it way back in 2007.

Harvest

Rescue

“Alienator” : Fred Olen Ray Gives “The Terminator” A Sex Change


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Give Fred Olen Ray credit — the guy’s a survivor. While his name has never been attached to a genuine B-movie classic — although Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers definitely has its fans — he’s found a way to remain, if not exactly relevant, at least employed for decades now and has , according to official IMDB totals, written 56 films, produced 80, starred in 143, and directed a staggering 128! Granted, directing 128 movies isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds when most have two-or three-day production schedules, but still —

Anyway, Fred seems to be settling comfortably into the tail end of his career now helming SyFy network made-for-TV numbers and “Skinemax” fare such as Busty Housewives Of Beverly Hills, but back in the late ’80s/early ’90s the straight-to-video market was  wide open territory for low-budget mavens such as himself and he was more than willing to help blaze the  magnetic tape trail once the celluloid one he’d been treading previously dried and crinkled up with the demise of the drive-ins and downtown exploitation houses that had helped put food on his table (and we’ll get back to gastronomic analogies at the end of this review, just you wait and see!). A true visionary never gives up, he just gives it his best in another venue, right?

Unfortunately, even Fred’s best was never all that great, and the movie in our proverbial crosshairs today, 1990’s Alienator is far from his best indeed, although you’d never know it based on its drop-dead awesome premise, to wit : a supposedly evil intergalactic criminal genius/madman named Kol  (Ross Hagen) is about to be executed on a distant spaceship-prison thingie but , of course, manages to affect a semi-daring escape in a shuttle that  eventually crash-lands in a forest on Earth. There he makes friendly with a  park ranger (who’s got  the park ranger-iest name you’ll ever come across),  Ward Armstrong (John Phillip Law) and a bunch of annoying teenagers, but little do Kol and his new-found comrades suspect that the spaceship commander (named, simply, “Commander,” and played by Jan-Michael “anything for a buck” Vincent) from whose deadly clutches he managed to free himself has sent a Terminator-esque super-tracker after him, the ultra-deadly — and titular — Alienator herself!

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Yes, I said herself — the Alienator, you see, is played by a female ( I think, at any rate, although it wouldn’t surprise me if she had some chromosomal issues going on, and I wouldn’t bet on her ability to pass an Olympic-style genetic screening test) bodybuilder who went by the snappy one-word name of Teagan at this, the apex (such as it was) of her career. She’s basically a cyborg — or maybe android, I never could tell the the difference — chick in a metal bikini who is damn hard to kill and displays, as you’d expect, the emotional range and affect of, say, a walnut. A single-minded killing machine with what appears for all intents and purposes to be a giant pair of binoculars on her boobs, arms that are thicker than my legs, and legs that are thicker than the trunk of the tree in my backyard. Are you afraid yet? You should be — but not so much of the Alienator her(him? it?)self as the unfortunate movie that bears her name.

I know, I know — you read about it on paper (or, as the case may be, your computer screen) and think to yourself “my God, how can you go wrong here?,” but trust me, friends, you can — this flick is a drag. All the actors play it disarmingly straight when by all rights they should be hamming things up, the pacing is dull as toasted rye, and the special effects aren’t good enough to be — well, good — but aren’t bad enough to be hysterical. In short, it’s all an exercise in sleepwalking, “get-it-in-the-can”-style movie-making, and can barely hold your interest despite the fact that by all rights it sure should given its appealingly blatant absurdity.

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Still, if you’re in the (entirely advisable under most circumstances) habit of ignoring me, you can check it out for yourself as Alienator came out last week on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of their new “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” two-disc set where it shares billing with another early-90s DTV number from Ray, the Heather Thomas (yeah, I forgot about her, too) “starring” vehicle Cyclone, as well as the pretty-decent-all-things-considered Gary Busey revenge flick Eye Of The Tiger and fan favorite Cannon actioner Exterminator 2. The technical specs for Alienator are as follows : digitally remastered (and darn good) widescreen transfer, remastered mono sound, and no extras. Which is fine, really, especially since this package retails on Amazon for eight bucks.

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Look, we might as well be honest here —odds are that if you’re gonna get this thing it’s for Exterminator 2 (I know that’s why I picked it up) so anything else is literally (okay, metaphorically — told you we’d get back to that)  just gravy, but ya know, sometimes turkey (or beef, or chicken, or whatever) tastes better plain, and Alienator is a cinematic condiment you can definitely skip and still get more than your money’s worth out of the main entree on offer here.

Which is kind of a  shame, really, because it sure sounded good on the menu.

Review: Bates Motel 1.2 “Nice Town You Picked, Norma.”


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Norman Bates has a brother?

Wow, who would have guessed?

That was the main addition that last night’s episode of Bates Motel provided to the Psycho mythology.  Played by Max Thierot (who was so good in last year’s underrated The House At The End of the Street), Dylan is Norman’s half-brother.  He was born when Norma was 17 years old and, as this episode quickly establishes, he’s a little bitter that Norma abandoned him and his father so that she could marry Sam Bates.

Actually, he’s more than a little bitter.  Bitterness appears to be Dylan’s only emotion.  From the minute that Dylan shows up at the Bates Motel, he’s angry.  Though he greets Norma with “Hello, mother,” (presumably so the slower members of the audience won’t be confused as to who he is), he spends the rest of the episode loudly refusing to call her anything other than “Norma” or “the whore.”

Dylan’s relationship with his half-brother isn’t much better.  About halfway through the episode, Norman reacts to Dylan’s taunting by attacking him with a meat cleaver and gets beaten up for his trouble.  “I told you not to do that!” Dylan shouts after he tosses Norman down to the kitchen floor.

To be honest, Dylan would pretty much be insufferable if not for the fact that he’s played by Max Thierot.  Much as he did in The House At The End Of The Street, Thierot is able to generate sympathy for a fairly unsympathetic character.  It helps, of course, that when compared to Norman and Norma, Dylan almost seems to be sensible.

Norma, meanwhile, has bigger problems than just her oldest son deciding to move back in with her.  She’s still trying to cover up the fact that she killed the previous owner of the motel.  It doesn’t help that Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has discovered the dead man’s pickup truck parked near the motel.

Norma handles the situation by flirting with Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel).  While Norman and Dylan are busy fighting in the kitchen, Norma and Shelby are at the town’s logging festival.  Judging from some of the feedback on twitter, I may be in a minority on this but I actually enjoyed the scenes between Shelby and Norma.  Vogel and Vera Farmiga had a very likable chemistry and I thought the scenes did a good job of establishing the town itself as a character.  Much as Lost had to leave the island, Bates Motel has to be able to tell stories outside of the motel and I think that tonight’s episode showed that it can.

Speaking of things happening outside of the motel, that’s probably where Norman (Freddie Highmore) should try to spend as much time as possible.  When he’s inside the motel, he spends all of his time looking at his little BDSM sketchbook and watching his mother while she undresses in front of him.  However, outside of the motel, he’s got a rather sweet relationship with a girl named Emma (Olivia Cooke).  Together, he and Emma research the origins of the sketchbook (“Don’t worry,” Emma says, “I’ve read lots of manga.”) and they even stumble across a local marijuana farm.

Norman ends up spending a lot of time with Emma because his other female friend, the oddly named Bradley (Nicola Peltz), spends most of the episode at the hospital.  Apparently, somebody set her father on fire.  However, as Deputy Shelby explains to Norma, the town has a way of taking care of trouble makers. That’s made pretty obvious at the end of tonight’s episode when Norma drives by another man who, in an apparent act of retribution, has been set on fire in the middle of the town square.

I enjoyed the second episode of Bates Motel.  It was full of atmosphere and Vera Farmiga’s performance continues to maintain the perfect balance between reality and camp.  Narratively, the story is still unfolding at a very deliberate pace but this episode provided enough intriguing clues to make me excited about seeing what happens next Monday.

That said, I still can’t help but feel that this show’s main weakness is the fact that , as opposed to being a stand alone series, it has to exist as part of the mythology of Psycho.  In many ways, Bates Motel reminds me of The Carrie Diaries, a prequel to Sex In The City that airs on CW.  It’s a well-acted show that’s full of a nicely observed moments but it’s still impossible for me to watch without thinking, “It doesn’t matter what happens because we already know Carrie’s going to eventually end up meeting and marrying Mr. Big.”

By the same token, I still find it next to impossible to watch Bates Motel without thinking to myself, “Eventually, regardless of what happens wit Dylan, Emma, or the pot farmers, Norman’s going to end up wearing Norma’s clothes, peeping on women in the shower, and killing them.”

Divorced from the Psycho mythology, Bates Motel is an entertaining and intriguing little show.  However, without the Psycho mythology, would a show called Bates Motel have ever made it to the air in the first place?

Random Observations:

  • The best scene, by far, was Norma’s alternatively friendly and creepy conversation with Emma.  “And what’s your life expectancy?”
  • How much do you want to bet that Dylan’s going to end up working with the pot farmers?
  • Speaking of the pot farm, am I the only one who was reminded of that episode of Lost where John Locke’s flashback dealt with the period of time he spent living on a commune?
  • I know I said this last week but seriously, how can you not love Nestor Carbonell?