A treasure hunter, Daniel (Sean Patrick Flannery), is searching for the legendary cache of Genghis Khan but it’s guarded by the famed cryptid, the Mongolian Death Worm. The creature’s nest is disturbed by the drilling of an American oil company that has set up shop in the Gobi Desert for an experimental project. Miles away, villagers are plagued by sickness and the only people to help them are Steffi (Jon Mack) and a few other nurses/doctors. They desperately await medicine and supplies from Alicia (Victoria Pratt) and Philip (Nate Rubin) who, en route to the makeshift clinic, cross paths with Daniel. All three of them are seized by token badass and outlaw, Kowlan (Billy Blair), and his thug posse.
Like most of SyFy’s productions, this has cheese galore, piss poor acting except for Pratt and Rubin, and crappy special effects but my biggest qualm is that the story takes forever to unfold. Most scenes take place at the oil drilling plant where the worms are scarce. This movie is called Mongolian Death Worm, right? Am I missing something? Yeah, the Mongolian Death Worms! Perhaps they were hiding from the cameras, embarrassed to be a part of this hideous movie, until the last 20 minutes when they sprung from the earth out of sheer curiosity or out of duty to the production company. The conversation probably went something like this…
Frank: Are they still up there?
Gordo: I think so. Let’s go check it out.
Frank: For $35, they’re getting one shot, that’s it.
Gordo: WTF? I only got, like, $20. All they’re getting from me is my tail.
Frank: Wow, dude, that’s harsh, sorry. What I wouldn’t give to eat one of the bastards.
Gordo: Victoria Pratt looks yummy.
Frank: On three?
Gordo: On three.
Frank: One… two… three!
When they finally decide to make an appearance, the Mongolian Death Worms are as threatening as common backyard earthworms. Even when they gobble someone up, all you see is the person’s legs and, weirdly, zero blood. Clearly, no humans were harmed in the making of this film. Being an extremely low budget flick, they poured what little cash they had into CGI and had none left over for make-up, not even for bruises (which a person usually ends up with after being sucker punched in the face). And who else was expecting a cameo by Genghis Khan after the ominous tale of his treasure trove and his Mongolian Death Worm protectors? I was disappointed. Very, very disappointed.
A couple of British comic book geeks, Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz), are in America for a science fiction convention and a subsequent RV roadtrip to the famed Area 51. En route, they meet an alien Paul who has been inhabiting a top-secret military base for the past 60 years. Desperate to leave Earth, he convinces the duo to help him get to the mother ship’s landing area. They soon find out that Paul is being chased by a relentless government agent, Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who enlists the assistance of two inept feds, Haggard and O’Reilly.
They end up kidnapping Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a sheltered, unyielding religious zealot, which prompts her father to join in the pursuit. Along the way, they visit Tara (Blythe Danner), the human whose dog Paul crashed his ship on six decades earlier. After years of ridicule and harassment, she’s relieved to see Paul does indeed exist. Graeme, Clive, Paul, and Tara flee the premises after Zoil, Haggard, and O’Reilly raid her house. With the agents and Ruth’s father hot on their heels, can they get Paul safely to his mother ship in time?
Fans of the zany U.K. pair will relish this sci-fi/comedy collaboration featuring the voice talents of Seth Rogan as Paul. It’s directed by Greg Mottola who also directed the rude, crude Superbad and Paul follows in its footsteps with a lot of swearing and vulgar humor. Not as laugh out loud funny as Shaun of the Dead but it has its moments of utter hilarity. Sci-fi nerds will appreciate many of the references to movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., to name a couple. The CGI Paul blends seamlessly in with the flesh and blood characters. I loved the cameo by Sigourney Weaver – she’s still kicking ass and looks beautiful and cool doing it.
I do have to warn Christians and other religious types to avoid this movie if you can’t take a pretty harsh mocking of your beliefs. Ruth’s entire life is measured by her strict moral code, only for her faith and Bible instructed principles to be shattered by the knowledge of the universe that Paul telepathically shares with her. She transforms from a wholesome girl (although, wholesome may not be the right adjective, considering she wears a shirt that has Jesus shooting Darwin) to a cussing, pot-smoking, sin-seeking fugitive. Just a warning.
After the last war between vampires and humans, the Church sets up a walled off society where the people are oppressed and controlled by the constant reminder that “to go against the Church is to go against God”. After learning his niece, Lucy (Lily Collins, The Blind Side), was abducted by a vampack, Priest (Paul Bettany) disobeys the Church by traveling to the wastelands to rescue her. Her boyfriend, the town’s sheriff (Cam Gigandet, Pandorum), accompanies him on his quest, along with Priestess, who defies the Church’s orders to bring him back dead or alive.
The three of them go on a mission to track down Black Hat, another Warrior Priest who was believed to have been killed in Mira Sola, but turns out to have been turned into the first vampire/human hybrid by the vampire Queen. He plans to dispatch an army of vampires via train into the Church’s city and destroy all inhabitants there. Priest, Priestess, and Hicks are now saddled with two missions – save Lucy and stop the train before it reaches the city.
Priest is a fusion of western, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres very loosely based on a manhwa (Korean comic), Hangul, by Hyung Min-woo. The animated sequences in the start of the film are awesome. It’s a shame that it all turns to drivel once the real actors hit the screen. Paul Bettany, who will forever be the most perfect Geoffrey Chaucer in my mind, has certainly been choosing some, uh, interesting roles lately. But don’t get me wrong, I dig him as a vampire slaying action hero just as much as an English poet.
This is a fine flick to veg out on but, Hollywood, please stop with the crappy CGI vampires/monsters/creatures/animals already. The familiars (humans given a pathogen to make them subservient to the vampires) look cool. The vampires do not. Do vampires really need to be slimy looking airborne acrobats? No, high-flying stunts don’t make them more intimidating. The fights are stylishly choreographed but when the action dies down, it’s all too easy to zone out. Not surprisingly, the movie is visually stunning – from the dark, claustrophobic city ruled by the Church to the dry, barren landscape of Jericho.
Despite what you may assume, there isn’t a heavy or overbearing religious theme. Priest is nothing profound or cutting-edge but most audiences will probably enjoy it for what it is.