DNA SchmeeNA

DNA is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Act 1 & 2 rip off Jurassic Park, Act 3 rips off Predator.



DNA (1997) – Rated R

Scientists find the skeleton of a strange creature in the jungle, and expert Ash Mattley is called in to re-create the creature by extracting its DNA. The experiment is a success, but one scientist turns the creature into a fierce killer.

DNA is not the most shameless non-Asylum ripoff I have ever seen. That title belongs to the Roddy McDowall howler, Unknown Origin which lifted entire snatches of dialogue from other, far better movies. DNA is a close second though.

The first two acts of DNA rip off Jurassic Park, Alien, and Terminator 2 in a rather incomprehensible mess. Jurgen Prochnow  does his usual – i.e. “okay I’ll play your cardboard villain, where’s my check?”.

Martial artist and perennial direct-to-video star Mark Dacascos just can’t win. At least he has one plum role in his resume. He played Mani in Brotherhood of the Wolf. Please go rent/buy that as long as you don’t mind subtitles. DNA is just garbage.

The third act of DNA changes movies to ape Predator. In Predator, Arnold jumps into water to avoid creature. Creature splashes into water just after Arnold exits. Arnold spreads stuff on his bare chest. Creature has strange enhanced (read less useful) vision. Arnold builds traps including one with a huge log (insert joke here) but the creature avoids them. Replace Arnold in the above sentences with Dacascos and you have DNA.

People Watch: Mark McCracken, who plays Sergeant Reinhardt here, had previously been buried under makeup as Pumpkinhead in Pumpkinhead II and Mant in Matinee.

The Keep

The Keep is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Keep (1983) – Rated R

“Director Michael Mann’s visual artistry is highlighted in this 1983 horror outing starring Jürgen Prochnow as Capt. Klaus Woermann, whose German soldiers are slain by an ancient spirit after they commandeer a Romanian castle during World War II. Jewish scholar Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen) is forced to investigate and wants to unleash the demon to decimate the Nazis, but an enigmatic wanderer (Scott Glenn) intends to keep the evil contained.”

“Why are the small stones on the outside and the large stones here on the interior? It’s constructed… backwards. This place was not constructed to keep something… out. “

I have a terrible soft spot for Nazi villains, particularly in the horror genre. Ian McKellan is fabulous as the tutor in Apt Pupil. Dead Snow is a riotous Nazi Zombiefest. I love Peter Cushing in Shock Waves. The military horror movie, The Outpost is quite good. Gregory Peck is fun as Dr. Mengele in The Boys from Brazil. I have even been known to watch The Madmen of Mandoras aka the shorter, better version of They Saved Hitler’s Brain!

I love The Keep. The Keep is a complete mess. The Keep is a terrific horror movie. The Keep is a terrible horror movie.

Michael Mann is an incredibly stylish director. After The Keep, he would start Miami Vice (1984), change Miami for Chicago and make Crime Story (1986), make the first Hannibal Lecter film (Manhunter, 1986), and make the best film about the French and Indian War (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992). He launched the careers of Dennis Farina, William Peterson, James Belushi, and Robert Prosky – and that was just from his film Thief.

Mann assembles a nice cast here. Jurgen Prochnow is good here in what is essentially a retread of his good German soldier from Das Boot. Gabriel Byrne is the flipside and pretty nasty as the villainous Major Kaempffer. The always excellent Ian McKellen plays Jewish historian Dr. Theodore Cuza. Scott Glenn is the mysterious stranger. Alberta Watson plays Eva Cuza, Theodore’s daughter.

Mann wrote the screenplay himself from F. Paul Wilson’s 1981 novel. I would love to see Mann’s original cut which was reportedly three and a half hours long. The Netflix version runs 95 minutes (96 listed on imdb) and is a choppy, incomprehensible mess.

The special effects run a wide gamut. There are great atmospheric effects such as the wall crosses and fog. The castle setting is absolutely wonderful. The climactic light show looks awful – as if this were from the early days of CGI. The device looks like a flashlight with fins attached.

The score is fantastic and done by Tangerine Dream. Tangerine Dream did some marvelous soundtracks in the late 70s and early 80s, notably for Sorcerer, Risky Business, Mann’s Thief and The Keep.

Final scorecard: marvelous atmosphere, good story, great location, nice acting (mostly), and wonderful score marred by incomprehensible plot, choppy editing, some poor special effects, and some sub-par acting.

The good news is that The Keep is available on instant Netflix even though it has never received a U.S. DVD or Blu-Ray release. Mann has disowned the film and squashed any release. The bad news is that the visual quality is pretty terrible, almost as if Netflix had copied it from an old VHS tape.

Air Force One – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Air Force One is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Air Force One (1997) – Rated R for Violence.

“Harrison Ford stars in this high-stakes thriller set in the skies aboard Air Force One, in which Russian terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) conspire to hijack the aircraft with the president and his family on board. The commander in chief finds himself facing an impossible predicament: give in to the terrorists and sacrifice his family, or risk everything to uphold his principles — and the integrity of the nation. Glenn Close co-stars.”

Wolfgang Petersen is an excellent director. He made the classic Das Boot – a film that wonderfully detailed the harrowing and claustrophobic life of a U-Boat crew. He then came to Hollywood and then made the thrillers In the Line of Fire and Outbreak. While Das Boot is clearly his best, this film is probably his second best. Unfortunately he has had some misfires recently (Troy, Poseidon).

As with any good modern action movie, this one begins with an action setpiece. In this case, we have a rapid high-tech snatching of General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow, star of Das Boot).

It is quite difficult to discuss this film without mentioning the obvious influence of Tom Clancy. This thriller is exciting and full of action without being dumbed down. It features (then) state-of-the-art technology and its use by both heroes and villains. These are all Clancy hallmarks.

In addition the film is extremely jingoistic, another Clancy hallmark. Go America!

Harrison Ford is just right here. He is old enough to carry the gravity of the President of the United States while being young enough that his heroics are not outside the realm of possibility.

Gary Oldman chews up the scenery as the hijacker trying to trade for General Radek. He is quite fun to watch. I am quite glad that he learned to tone down his performances when he portrayed Gordon in the two most recent Batman movies.

Glenn Close plays our first female vice-president (Sorry Hilary!), Kathryn Bennett. I know, I know that is as unrealistic as the thought of our ever having a person of color in the White House (they do not call it the White House because of the paint job).

She and Dean Stockwell (as Defense Secretary Dean) have a fun time sparring both with each other and Gary Oldman.

Backing the President up on the plane are Paul Guilfoyle (Captain Brass from CSI) as Chief of Staff Shepherd and the always wonderful William H. Macy as Major Caldwell.

Air Force One was nominated for two Oscars. One was for sound (Con Air was also nominated) and the other for film editing. Titanic won both of them.

Unlike Con Air yesterday, I have no qualms about recommending this intelligent exciting thriller. For those of you watching this on set top boxes, Air Force One is in high definition.

People Watch: Look for Xander Berkeley (George Mason on 24) as Secret Service agent Gibbs. It is a little funny to see him in this as a fair amount of the plot here is recycled later in 24.