Attack on Darfur

Released: April 2010(Germany)

Director: Uwe Boll

Run Time: 98 Minutes

Rated R

Kristanna Loken: Malin Lausberg
David O’Hara: Freddie Smith
Noah Danby: Theo Schwartz
Matt Frewer: Ted Duncan
Hakeem Kae-Kazim: Captain Jack Tobamke
Sammy Sheik: Janjaweed Commander
Billy Zane: Bob Jones
Edward Furlong: Adrian Archer

Genocide:  The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group.  Throughout human history, entire groups of people and civilizations have been completely annihilated to serve the demands of another group.  Millions upon millions of people have been murdered for what?  Resources, religion, racism?  All of the above, sadly.  While Hitler’s extermination of Germany’s Jewish population is among the most notorious during the 20th century, we have to remember that our erstwhile allies at the time, the Russians, were just as guilty of slaughtering millions of their own people during Stalin’s regime.  There have been multiple movies over the past decade which have helped bring attention to such crises.  Black Hawk Down covered the events in Somalia in 1993, Tears of the Sun dealt with the civil war in Nigeria, and Hotel Rwanda recalled the events in Rwanda in 1994.  I generally try not to end up on a soapbox on this site, because it’s about entertainment….mostly.  Sometimes, however, an exception must be made.  Especially when it comes to genocide.  That word is going to be used a lot in this post.  I’m going to be reviewing Uwe Boll’s film: Attack on Darfur, which is set during the actual war happening right now in Darfur.

Attack on Darfur begins as a group of Western journalists, under the protection of the African Union, are embarking on journey that will take them to Darfur, where atrocities are being committed by the Janjaweed terror group.  After making a slight detour to a mass grave in which human bones, both adult and child, are discovered.  Then they reach a nearby village where they bring food and water.  It’s here that the journalists, lead by Malin Lausberg, interview some of the villagers about the crimes that have been committed against them.  After a couple of hours, they leave only to see that a group of Janjaweed militants are on their way to massacre the village.  Facing a moment of crisis, two of the journalists make the decision along with Captain Jack Tobamke to go back and try to persuade the commander of the Janjaweed unit to move on through the village peacefully.  The story here is actually quite compelling, because it does deal with real horrific events and surprisingly, Uwe Boll gives a face to these people.  It’s an emotional and gut-wrenching story that really tugs at the heart-strings.  That’s all thanks to some very fine work by the actors.  Everyone here is fantastic, even Edward Furlong, who really doesn’t do much.  The people they got to play the villagers are astounding.

The first half of the film is basically the setup.  It allows the audience to meet the journalists and the people who are escorting them.  But where this film truly shines is when they get to the village.  We see people who are trying to survive from day to day.  The journalists are providing food and try to make a difference.  We see Malin give some children some balloons, and the smile that shows up on their faces is heartwarming.  The stories that are told by some of the women and men are extraordinarily powerful, despite the film being fiction.  We are drawn into this world and we connect with these people.  We care about these people and whether or not they live or die.  That makes the attack on the village that much harder to watch.  Uwe Boll has never been a subtle man when it comes to violence, and he certainly doesn’t pull any punches here.  As far as the effects go, I noticed very little if any use of CG.  So, what you see is what you get.  The violence is brutal, merciless and unrelenting.  Unfortunately, that is where the film started to fall apart.

The violence is brutal, but some of that power is lost because the camerawork is absolutely nuts.  I understand the use of the shaky-cam technique in war movies, it adds to the realism.  But here, it’s incoherent and it’s happening all the time.  The violence is heavy, but the use of rape in the movie is used excessively.  I understand that Boll wanted to show the reality of the situation in Darfur, but I don’t think he really needed to be so heavy-handed here.  The other big issue is that two of the journalists and the commander demanded to go back to the village to try and save these people.  The situation in that village is almost hopeless, so having two people with handguns and one with an assault rifle aren’t going to make much of a dent.  That’s about as unrealistic as it gets.  That being said, I’m very surprised at the level of competence on display here by Uwe Boll.  This guy is known for some notoriously bad movies, but Rampage was a pretty good film.  Attack on Darfur is also a really good movie.  It’s very clear to me that Uwe Boll cares a lot about the subject and the amount of effort that he put into the film shows.  He’s good when he chooses the right project, as a director.  The film is scored by Uwe Boll regular Jessica de Rooij.  It gives the film a very solid emotion core, and it’s amazing.  This is a movie that needs to be seen.  While I think Uwe Boll could have handled the attack a little better, the film does bring attention to a very serious third-world problem.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I usually try not to preach or otherwise soapbox on a particular subject.  When it comes to genocide, this is a serious issue facing our world today.  We as a species and an international community need to do more to prevent and prosecute these crimes.  When our children ask why so many people have died for no logical reason, what are we going to tell them?  What will they tell their children?  That we sat on our hands and did nothing because it shouldn’t concern us?  I’m sorry, that’s not the message that we should be sending to future generations.  We can make a difference, and Attack on Darfur is a movie that tries, as does other movies that try to expose these evils.  Whether it’s genocide or slavery, it’s our duty as human beings to denounce and condemn these evil people.

Morality message aside, I can honestly say I can recommend Attack on Darfur based on its technical merits and acting alone.  It’s a well-made film about a very important subject.  I should warn you, though, that the DVD case features Billy Zane wielding a gun.  He does not, he wields a camera.  Attack on Darfur is not an action movie, nor should it be misconstrued as such.  It’s a very solid drama and powerful film in its own right.  Uwe Boll has really outdone himself with this one.  It’s been praised as one of Uwe Boll’s best films ever and I absolutely agree.  I’m giving this one a very respectable 8.5/10.  It’s worth watching at least once.

Proper Marketing

Making a movie is no small feat.  It’s expensive, time-consuming, and there’s no way of telling if your film is going to be successful or not.  It’s a gamble.  Every movie that has been released has been a bit of a gamble.  A sizable chunk of them have been very successful, but some of them have not.  A film is expensive, because not only do you have to hire the cast, but also the casting director, producer, director, composer, visual effects artists if that applies, screenplay writers and marketing people.  It’s time-consuming because not only do you have to write the script, sometimes with re-writes, you also have to shoot the picture, then there’s the post-production which is the editing, visual effects, music and marketing.  All these are extremely important in the art of film-making.  But the one aspect that can actually make or break a movie is how it’s marketed.  By proper marketing, I mean posters, internet campaigns and the old tried-and-true movie trailer.  The purpose of a film trailer is to show the potential audience a small glimpse into your film, giving people a small taste of what’s coming.  The best trailers don’t give away major plot points or twists, and give you just enough information to get curious.  That’s how good marketing works.  Sometimes, however, the people behind the marketing of films end up giving too much information away in the trailer, therefore robbing the film of some of its potential power.  The reason I bring this up is because there has been some controversy surrounding the final trailer for the new Terminator: Genisys film which releases tomorrow, on July 1st.  I’m going to post both the latest trailer for Terminator: Genisys and Terminator: Salvation because there are major issues in terms of how much they put into the trailer.  Too much.

As you can see, both trailers end up giving away what seem to be very major plot points/twists for a major character.  I don’t know why the marketing folks screwed up so royally when it came to advertising for these Terminator films, but these aren’t the only movies that have been sabotaged by their own marketing campaigns.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still planning on seeing Genisys when it comes out, so I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen the final product.  But I definitely understand people who get pissed off when a film trailer inadvertently gives away a potentially universe-changing plot point.  For me, bad marketing rarely keeps me from enjoying a movie, but it’s always in the back of my mind.  See, you want to keep your audience in the dark long enough so when that plot point hits, BAM!!!  It’s like it came out of nowhere.  With the trailers like what I have just shown, audiences are going to be looking for it.  You don’t want that to happen.  You want audiences to be surprised.  For action films, I would say this kind of marketing, while an issue, is not necessarily fatal to a movie.  Certain genres of film require a certain amount of discretion when marketing those films.  Horror movies are one genre where you HAVE to be absolutely careful, because the twist is vital to how the film turns out, and if you get anywhere NEAR solving that twist, the whole film will fail.

So, yeah, marketing is an invaluable tool for film-makers, but it is also a double-edged sword.  As I said before, a movie can live or die by how it’s marketed.  So, let’s take a look at some other trailers that have essentially ruined the movies that they were trying to promote.

Cast Away

While this is a pretty intense trailer, it does give a lot away, particularly towards the end when Tom Hanks’ character is trying to escape the island.  I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a major spoiler.  Now, the film came out years ago, so the impact of what I’m showing you is little to none, but I’m using it as an illustration.  You definitely want to show the character in some kind of jeopardy, that’s a great tool for getting people excited, but you really don’t want to show him actually getting off the island.  The audience is smart enough to know that’s the direction the film will go, so they don’t need a trailer to hold their hand.

The Island

I’ll be the first to admit that I absolutely enjoy Michael Bay’s movies.  They have a certain kind of kinetic energy that’s hard to ignore.  Say what you will about his movies, few people know action the way he does.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for his ability to market a movie.  While most of his movie trailers are mostly spoiler-free, they end up leaving little for the imagination.  The Island is probably one of the more egregious examples of how not to do a movie trailer.  About a minute in, you hear Ewan McGregor’s character yell, “There is no island!”  Then you show Steve Buscemi basically telling them that they are clones to be harvested.  That really takes the suspense out of the whole damn thing.  The film ended up being one of Michael Bay’s worst-performing movies ever at the time, and the trailer may have had something to do with it.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was: A modern-day Logan’s Run.

Those are some of the trailers that generally don’t do the film any favors and spoil the final product.  I’ve already done a list of trailers that were fantastic, so I’m going to post a link to that particular article here.  Proper marketing for a film is absolutely a must if you want your movie to succeed.  Audiences aren’t particularly stupid, so you can’t get away with showing a major twist without consequences.  Film-makers: If you want to put people in movie theater seats, get your marketing right, otherwise it will bite you in the ass.

News Bits

I’ve got a couple of pieces of news for you fellow space cadets today.  1st is that the sequel to Independence Day finally has an official title: Independence Day: Resurgence.  This is the first of two sequels to the 1996 blockbuster smash starring Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum.  According to Variety, what we know of the plot is that the nations of Earth have come together after the events of the first film to collaborate on a massive defense program to help defend the planet from any further invasions.  The planet comes under attack from the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force.  Seeing as how the film is still a year off from release, I still find it baffling that ID4 would get a sequel at all.  Now, I’ve read a couple of the books that were released after the film, but they really weren’t that good.  The confirmed cast at this point is Sela Ward, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Liam Hemsworth, and Vivica A. Fox.  Not returning for the sequel is Will Smith, who apparently demanded too much money to reprise his role.  That’s a shame, because he was the lead in the first movie, and it made him a major star.  Roland Emmerich is attached to direct, as he directed the original film.  Say what you will about Emmerich, he knows how to destroy the world.  Independence Day, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow are some prime examples of how he destroys the world.  He’s really good at it.  Lord knows what would happen if he and Michael Bay were to team up on a movie together.  I think it would rip a hole in the fabric of reality.  But as it is, Fox Studios released the title reveal for Resurgence:

Here’s the link to the Variety article I mentioned: Fox Titles Independence Day Sequel

The second piece of news comes as a major shocker:  In a tragic turn of events, a plane being piloted by famed film composer James Horner crashed in a remote area  60 miles north of Santa Barbara.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, Horner’s death has been confirmed by his assistant Sylvia Patrycja.  This is a major loss not only to the film industry, but also the music industry and his fans including me.  James Horner has crafted some of the most memorable music in film.  Some of his most notable soundtracks include Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Aliens, Braveheart, Cocoon, and The Rocketeer.  His music helped tell stories and elevated movies to something extraordinary.  A talented individual, James Horner had over 150 credits to his name, making him one of the most accomplished film composers ever.  You may not recognize his name or his face, but you will remember his music.  The music which gave voice to so many excellent films.  He was a frequent collaborator with director James Cameron on Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar.  Of all the composers that I truly respected, James Horner is right up there with John Williams and the late Jerry Goldsmith.  His passing is going to leave a lot of holes in people’s hearts including mine.  His music has touched millions in ways that I can’t even begin to describe.  Only a handful can say that they’ve had a career as prolific as James Horner.  The Hollywood Reporter article can be found James Horner Dead.  I don’t know if they will read this, but my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Horner in this difficult time.

R.I.P. James Horner

August 14, 1953 – June 22, 2015(Age 61)


Jurassic Park

Released: June 11, 1993

Director: Steven Spielberg

Run Time: 125 minutes

Rated PG-13

Sam Neill: Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern: Dr. Ellie Sattler
Sir Richard Attenborough: John Hammond
Jeff Goldblum: Ian Malcolm
Bob Peck: Robert Muldoon
Joseph Mazzello: Tim
Ariana Richards: Lex
Samuel L. Jackson: Ray Arnold
BD Wong: Henry Wu
Wayne Knight: Dennis Nedry

Okay, hands up:  Who here doesn’t like dinosaurs?  No hands?  Fantastic.  I love dinosaurs.  Always have.  I grew up reading about these magnificent and legendary beasts.  Over 65 million years ago these incredible animals ruled the world.  Tyrannosaurus Rex, triceratops, brontosaurs and the like have been a part of our imagination for decades upon decades since their first official discovery during the mid-19th century.  While the fossils have been known for millenia, we really didn’t get into studying these creatures until towards the end of the 19th century as we uncovered more and more fossils belonging to creatures of unbelievable size.  As a kid, I was absolutely fascinated with the subject.  I’ve been to several museums and read hundreds of books.  The movies were also a great source of entertainment when it came to dinosaurs.  In the early days of cinema, one of the first movies to feature dinosaurs was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in the 1920s.  Since then we’ve seen many movies with dinosaurs in them, including one of my all time favorite classic monster movies, Dinosaurus!.  In 1990, a small science fiction book written by Michael Crichton was published: Jurassic Park.  This was the book that the 1993 film of the same name was based on.  And what a movie it was.

The film begins on a mysterious island with a group of people awaiting a large cage.  The cage, containing unusual creatures, accidentally opens and one of the workers is killed.  Later, in Montana, we see two scientists, Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler uncover a new dinosaur skeleton when they get a visit from their benefactor, John Hammond.  Hammond is experiencing some legal issues and requires some outside opinions on a new kind of park that he’s built.  Being offered funding for 3 more years, they accept his offer to take a look at his park.  When they land, they witness the impossible: Live dinosaurs roaming the fields.  At this point, everybody should know the story by now.  But it isn’t the story that makes Jurassic Park so special.  It’s the dinosaurs.  What makes them so special in this movie?  It’s the way they are presented.  Over the past several decades, dinosaurs were depicted as these gigantic, ugly lumbering morons.  It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that we learned that dinosaurs weren’t exactly the way we had anticipated.  The way they actually moved was vastly different than how they were presented earlier films.  Jurassic Park made them realistic and graceful, not the lumbering monsters that we first imagined them to be.  They are portrayed as actual animals in Jurassic Park and that makes for a far more compelling experience.  With the aid of famous visual effects artists such as Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett and the late Stan Winston, Jurassic Park reinvigorated interested in dinosaurs and broke new ground on visual effects.  The combination of puppetry and CG, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park came to life.

All the visual effects in the world don’t mean a thing if the rest of the film isn’t good.  Thankfully, Jurassic Park is more than up to the challenge.  The story is absolutely fantastic, as the film was adapted from Michael Crichton’s book which had some basis in real science, so that makes the ideas presented in the movie even more believable.  The idea of cloning an actual dinosaur is fantastic. Is it possible to do?  Scientists have been talking about it, but I have no idea.  The characters are fantastic and believable.  Led by the fantastic Sam Neill as Alan Grant, these characters come across as real human beings caught in extraordinary circumstances.  Richard Attenborough is wonderful as John Hammond, the eccentric billionaire who had a dream about a dinosaur park.  Jeff Goldblum nearly steals the show as Ian Malcolm.  Everybody in the film steps up to the plate.  We even get a decent performance from Samuel L. Jackson, who would go on to be a major super-star himself.

The moment you first see that brachiosaur, you knew what kind of movie this was going to be.  It is an incredible action-adventure film filled with incredible chase sequences.  Jurassic Park is one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen.  There’s a palpable sense of danger to every major sequence.  It also doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There’s plenty of humor here.  Grant’s reaction to Tim and Lex is absolutely hilarious, but as the movie goes on you see that relationship change.  Every aspect of this movie came together perfectly.  The music by the legendary John Williams is absolutely iconic.  22 years later, it all still stands up perfectly well.  It takes a very special kind of movie to pull that off, and Jurassic Park is by far one of the greatest achievements in film.  It broke records and is heralded as one of the best adventure movies ever made.  It was so good, that it got several sequels.  The Lost World: Jurassic Park was also based on Michael Crichton’s book of the same name, and was released in 1997.  Jurassic Park III was released in 2001, but wasn’t received very well.  Fourteen years after that, we get Jurassic World.  This one I have already reviewed, and it was pretty decent, but pales in comparison to the original film.  Jurassic Park’s tagline is “an adventure 65 million years in the making.”  It was definitely worth the wait.  If you haven’t seen this movie…..why the hell not?  Jurassic Park is the kind of movie you go to the theaters for.  10/10 is my final verdict for this movie.  It’s a movie that truly captures the imagination and wonder of anybody who sees it.  Because of Jurassic Park, interest in dinosaurs skyrocketed.  We’re still discovering new species, so there’s potential for new stories.  With the runaway success of the latest film, we can expect more dinosaurs in theaters.  I can’t wait.  Jurassic Park is a classic film in every sense of the word and I will stand by that until the day I die.  I can’t recommend this movie enough.  It’s a must-own.