random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Snakes on a Plane (2006) **1/2

Snake on a Plane (2006)



R for language, a scene of sexuality and drug use, and intense sequences of terror and violence.
1 hr. 45 min.

written by: Dave Delassandro & John Hefferman & Sebastion Gutierrez
produced by: Craig Berenson, Dave Granger, & Gary Levinsohn
directed by: David Ellis


"Snakes....why did it have to be snakes?"

- Indiana Jones

The virtual match that struck up the heat on this movie happened about this time last year, methinks. It may have started with the curiousity that surrounded the film's title which I'm sure must have started as a movie execs joke or fatigued brainstorm. How many times do you see a movie summed up in it's title....I mean, there's "Scary Movie" but that's an obvious parody. But, here's a movie with all intentions and purposes intact. I mean the story and characters are playing this serious but the director is laughing along with you. So is Samuel L. Jackson who the producers can thank for ever getting this movie to the big screen. He supported this movie even when there were thoughts about changing the title. I figured a stupid action/suspense/horror film with a dumb title starring Jackson has gotta be worth a look see. I knew its hype was overblown last August still I knew I'd see it on DVD at some point....

The movie starts with surfer named Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) driving around Hawaii on his dirt bike and sucking back some Red Bull when he comes across a gangster named Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) in the midst of killing someone who got just a little too close for comfort. Kim sees him and sends his cronies after him – they can't leave any witnesses alive, of course. Sean heads back to his apartment (which is stocked with more Red Bull) and just as he hears someone breaking in through the front door he heads out back and meets Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), an F.B.I. agent who has somehow managed to find out what's happening and arrive just in time to save him from certain death. Yeah, if they plane had as many plotholes as the story the movie would end real quick.




Tygh Runyan in New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane




Flynn and his partner convince Sean to testify against Kim and decide to fly him back to LA where the trial is goin' down. They commandeer the second level-first class section of a big ol' jetliner and, with the rest of the supporting cast tucked firmly away in coach and a witty pilot named Rick Archibald (the great David Koechner) in the cockpit, they leave Hawaii for the lengthy trip over the Pacific Ocean. Where there's nothing but, yes, water....and you know snakes are gonna be on this plane and there's nowhere to go! Kim has somehow managed to get a gigantic box of poisonous snakes on the plane and has had all of the lei's that the passengers were given by the airline doused in a pheromone that is known to make snakes unusually aggressive. Once they're up in the air, the snakes are unleashed and Agent Flynn has to take charge of the situation to make sure that he gets Sean safely to L.A. while trying to save as many innocent civilians as possible.







Julianna Margulies in New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane




Thankfully, he's not completely alone – there are four members of the flight crew: Grace (Lin Shaye), Claire (Julianna Margulies), Tiffany (Sunny Mabrey) and Ken (Bruce James), a rapper named Three G's (Flex Alexander – a great name for an action figure!) and his two body guards Troy (Kenan Thompson) and Big Leroy (Keith Dallas), a ditzy Paris Hilton (Rachal Blanchard) type chick with her annoying tiny dog (you know that dog's fate), a snooty English dude (Gerard Plunkett) who doesn't like Americans or the ditzy chick's dog, and a young foreign lady (Elsa Pataky) and her newborn baby. Oh, and there's a competitive kickboxer (Terry Chen) on the plane too, but he doesn't really do much. If this cast of characters seems over the top or crazy just remember those Airport disaster movies from the '70's and all the various victims they had on those planes. That's pretty much the same deal here.






Passengers are surprised to discover that there are, in fact, snakes on their plane in New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane


Jackson's screen presence and penchant for chewing through even the thickest of scenery are reason enough to give this a look, the best part of the movie is the creativity and complete stupidity of the snakes themselves. Wanna see a couple who smoke a doobie and try to join the mile high club get attacked by snakes? You got it. Wanna see a guy take a leak and have his ding-a-ling get attacked by a snake that jumps out of the toilet? You got it...they thought of that too! Snakes are all over this plane, biting women in the eyes and fat dudes on their heiny with reckless abandon. You've got big snakes, small snakes, in-between snakes - snakes of many colors, shapes and size are all here, and they're all biting people like crazy. There's even a burmese python that somehow got in the lights and crashes down to squeeze to death the snotty English dude. After a while you're cheering for them reptiles....way to go snakes!






Kenan Thompson in New
 Line's Snakes on a Plane



Let's be real....if you're the type of viewer who wants realism in their cinema, this one ain't for you. Even if you're able to suspend your disbelief easily enough, it's hard not to scratch your head wondering why certain characters do what they do or even how exactly the snakes got on the plane undetected in the first place. There are so many flubs in the film that it's hard to keep track of them all, and nothing really happens for any logical reason either. The characters are all stereotypes of some sort (with Jackson even playing the stereotype of himself) and the dialogue and actions of these stereotypes play exactly as you would expect them to. That being said, the movie is a lot of fun! Its' big, dumb, and it knows it. It works in elements from disaster movies, horror movies, and action movies with plenty of darkly comic touches. The end result is a sort of tasty can of cheap genre stew. Not something you'd order at a fancy restaurant, but a tasty meal of a movie that warms your belly and which satisfies your hunger....for venom in the sky! High art it's not, but it's a great beer and pizza movie.






Samuel L. Jackson in New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane










Special Features:



There's a pretty impressive selection here starting things off with an audio commentary featuring director David Ellis and the man himself, Samuel L. Jackson. Also here are visual effects guru Erik Henry, producers Craig Berenson and Tawny Ellis, and second unit director Freddie Hice. I only listened to some of the commentary which is, of course, pretty humorous with Jackson cracking jokes left and right. Along the way they talk about how the project came together and point out interesting facts along the way. They cover how the movie started as a project called "Venom" with MTV/Paramount, then how it finally wound up at New Line. They talked about how Samuel Jackson stood by the "Snakes On A Plane" name, with Jackson elaborating on why he felt that it was a good name as it tells you exactly what you're going to see in the movie. They explain how snake vision (yes, you read that right. Hey, snakes gotta see too!) was used and elaborate on little things that pop up in the movie, but generally they just seem to be having a good time watching the film together.






Samuel L. Jackson and director David R. Ellis on the set of New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane
I watched the hilarious Gag Reel which features some flubs with the snake trainer, with the rapper and his bodyguards, with the pilot, and with some of the effects work. Then there was the Deleted/Extended Scenes, ten of them in total: None of these really alter the movie as it was shown in theaters very much and most (though not all) were trimmed for pacing reasons if the optional commentary from both Ellis', and Berenson is anything to go by. Up next were a series of featurettes starting with Pure Venom: The Making Of Snakes On A Plane which features some fun behind the scenes footage and interviews with most of the crew members as well as the writers and some of the cast members. They explain where the idea came from and how the project came together as well as how Jackson came on board. Jackson himself talks about his character and what he liked about the movie while a lot of the other actors talk about what it was like working with him and what it was like working with snakes. It's fairly generic and self congratulatory as these things usually are but there are also some refreshingly honest moments like when they discuss how they tried to work in a lot of pop culture with some of the characters, the rapper specifically. The behind the scenes footage that concentrates on the effects and how they accomplished them is pretty interesting as are the all too brief instances where we see some of the production art. We see how some of the CGI was used and how many of the scenes with the snakes in them were shot.






Snake handler Jules Sylvester and director David R. Ellis on the set of New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane


The second featurette is called Meet The Reptiles and, as you could probably gather from the title, it's a segment where most of the people who were in the first featurette show up again to talk about snakes. Sigh. Jackson, Shaye and a few of the others discuss the unpredictability of working with snakes and how they were incorporated into the movie. It's not a big time science piece, but it is fairly interesting. This is followed by a VFX Featurette that shows how big a role computer animation played in creating the interaction between the actors and the snakes that we see in the film. There's some interesting behind the scenes and raw animation footage in here that makes it worth a look.

Up next is Snakes On A Blog and it examines the internet buzz that propelled the film long before it was even seen by any one. There are some great clips here of the fan films that were made around the time that the hype was peaking and this does a great job of documenting how it all spiraled out of control starting with a mention on Ain't It Cool News. There's some fun fan art in here as well as footage from the premiere and the blogger after party that New Line held.


Rounding out the extra features on the disc are a music video (complete with an optional making of documentary), a soundtrack info text screen, five TV spots and two original theatrical trailers for the film, trailers for other New Line DVD releases, animated menus and chapter stops. For the DVD-Rom equipped, New Line has also supplied the disc with some 'Interactual' content that allows you to watch the movie with some interactive content and which features some exclusive web links. There's also an Easter Egg found in the TV Spots section that plays a mock airline safety warning.






The Skinny:




  • The story is credited to Mr. David Dalessandro, a University of Pittsburgh administrator and first-time Hollywood writer, who developed the concept in 1992 after reading a nature magazine. Dalessandro said: "I read about the Indonesian brown tree snake climbing onto planes in cargo during World War II." He originally wrote the screenplay about the brown tree snake loose on a plane, titling the film Venom. He soon revised it, expanding upon the premise to include a plague of assorted poisonous snakes, then—crediting the film "Alien"—revised it once again to include "lots of them loose in the fuselage of a plane."
  • Dalessandro's third draft of "Venom" was turned down by more than 30 Hollywood studios in 1995. However, in 1999, a producer for MTV/Paramount showed interest in the script, followed up by New Line Studios, which took over the rights for production.
  • Originally, the film was going to be helmed by Hong Kong action director Ronny Yu. Jackson, who had previously worked with Yu on "The 51st State", learned about the announced project in the Hollywood trade newspapers and, after talking to Yu, agreed to sign on without reading the script based on the director, storyline and allegedly the title.
  • Surprisingly, the film's title and premise generated a lot of pre-release interest on the Internet. One journalist even wrote that Snakes on a Plane is "perhaps the most internet-hyped film of all time". Much of the initial publicity came from a blog entry made by screenwriter Josh Friedman, who had been offered a chance to work on the script. The casting of Jackson further increased anticipation. At one point, the film's working title was altered to "Pacific Air Flight 121". In August 2005, Jackson told an interviewer, "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title." On March 2, 2006, the studio reverted the title to Snakes on a Plane. New Line hired two additional writers to smooth out the screenplay.
  • Over 450 snakes were used for filming to represent thirty different species of snakes. The different species include a 19-foot boa constrictor, a Scarlet Kingsnake (the non-venomous double for the coral snake), a milk snake (which attacks the couple having sex), corn snakes, rattlesnakes, and mangrove snakes. About two-thirds of the snakes seen throughout the film were either animatronic or computer generated.
  • On June 13, 2006, comic book writer Chuck Dixon announced on his web site that he would be writing the comic book adaptation of Snakes on a Plane. DC Comics has since released a two issue miniseries on August 16, 2006 and September 27, 2006 under their Wildstorm imprint. In January 2006, Wired featured the film as "The best worst film of 2006", based solely on the title and concept of the movie.
  • Snakes on a Plane: The Complete Quote Book was released by HarperCollins on August 8, 2006.
  • Some radio stations have noted the hype associated with the movie in their broadcasts, creating fake promos for supposed sequels such as Dinosaurs in a Cab, 'Whitesnakes on a Plane, and Trouser Snakes on a Plane. Many have also been using the voice message of Samuel L. Jackson, which is found on the film's official site, for promoting their stations.
  • Several independent T-shirt manufacturers made T-shirts with graphics illustrating various humorous representations of the movie. One, created by Jeffrey Rowland, depicts a frontal exterior view of a plane cockpit, with the pilot and co-pilot depicted as snakes themselves. Another uses vintage road signs to formulate "Snakes + Plane = Snakes on a Plane". A third showed a cartoon representation of Samuel Jackson's Mace Windu character from the "Star Wars" film series cutting down snakes with a lightsaber. It was pulled, presumably for copyright reasons.
  • Many of the early fan-made trailers and later other viral videos and commercials circulated via YouTube, and captured media attention there with such titles as: "Snakes Who Missed The Plane", "All Your Snakes Are Belong To Us" (a spoof of the All your base are belong to us phenomenon), and "Steaks on a Train". Several websites also held contests about the film in fan-submitted short films and posters. On July 6, 2006, the official Snakes on a Plane website started a promotional sweepstakes called the "The #1 Fan King Cobra Sweepstakes". The contest makes innovative use of the publicity-generating potential of the Internet, requiring contestants to post links on forums, blogs, and websites and collecting votes from the users of those sites. The winner was Max Goldberg, owner of YTMND, who opted to split the prize with the second place winner.
  • In August 2006, Varitalk launched a hilarious advertising campaign in which fans can send a semi-personalized message in Jackson's voice to telephone numbers of their choosing.


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