Monday, October 27, 2014

Everybody Walk the CGI Dinosaur

Seeing The Asylum logo at the start of a film typically promises a few things. The movie you are about to watch has been made cheaply. It has been filmed incredibly quickly. If the title includes a 'Vs.', you can probably bet on seeing an '80s pop icon or two in the cast. If the title is suspiciously similar to a recent, fairly successful mainstream film, the odds are high that the movie you are about to watch will not be particularly good (with the occasional Paranormal Entity-esque exception, of course).

Now let's say you see The Asylum trademark but do NOT see a Vs., an '80s pop icon, or any clear and obvious connection to a modern blockbuster?

Well sometimes, those are okay. Not great--never great. But here and there, a studio that prides itself on low cost and high quantity can, with a thoughtful writer or director on board, produce something of genuine entertainment.

Quick Plot: A tense (just kidding) prologue gives us a full-on Jurassic Park-ish intro as we see a bunch of expendable science types slaughtered by a dinosaur puppet. Just when you get excited by the idea of puppets in an Asylum film, our credits roll and the threat of bargain-priced CGI becomes real.

Treat Williams, a man for whom my lust has never waned (Hair's Berger then, Handsome Dad In Asylum Movies now), is Gabe Jacobs, a widowed firefighter with a teenage daughter named Jade. As you would expect from any Asylum movie where a teenage daughter to single dad is a character, Jade spends the majority of her screentime rolling her eyes and texting because, you know, TEENAGERS.

Gabe's brother or friend or daughter's former babysitter or something is a security guard at a fancy high school auditorium/Biotech company of sorts hosting a black tie presentation. CEO Ronny Cox is proudly announcing to a whole bunch of extras that in addition to curing burn victims, his research company has now brought dinosaurs back to life. Naturally, this leads to a bunch of terribly rendered CGI creatures breaking out of terribly rendered CGI glass cages.

The moment I knew I kinda liked Age of Dinosaurs was quite clear. As chaos reigns inside the theater, what with the virtual dinosaurs leaping and biting and hundreds of spectators yelling and dying, the action cuts to the lobby where Jade has been sitting in order to text (TEENAGERS!). When a dinosaur leaps at Jade, she lets out an understandable scream. Cut, of course, back to the loud, death-filled interior of the auditorium where Gabe immediately stops, his brother/friend/security guard/friend not quite explained in the film screenplay makes eye contact and shouts "I heard it too!"

As an owner of four cats, I know whose meow is whose, at least most of the time. Is it wrong of me, however, to assume that it's hard/impossible to identify an individual's scream, particularly when there are a whole lot of other shouts/dinosaur roars/bodies being crunched by roaring dinosaurs noises going on?

Asylum is not a studio known for its quality, but it generally understands its audience enough to know what they need. When it's going for high profile concepts, I usually find the style a little too obvious (sorry, Sharknado) but some of its quieter output can be rather fun. In the case of Age of Dinosaurs, director Joseph J. Lawson isn't working with the best material and resources (you know there's a problem when even the news reporter character stutters) but he finds the right light-but-not-obviously-ridiculous tone to make the 90 minute running time what it should be: dinosaurs amok.

This is the kind of film that has Treat Williams earnestly beg a helicopter pilot to "Step on it!" and, even better, "aim for that pterodactyl!" Naturally, his zinger when the aiming pays off? 

"Bye bye birdie."

And that's not even The Winning Line!

High Points
This is also the kind of movie that has extras flee a theater, only to focus on a large chubby man when a shrill female scream sounds. I approve

Low Points
Sadly the energy of Age of Dinosaurs withered away once it rounded the hour mark. Maybe it was the clear budgetary limitations that became more obvious once the action moved out of a confined space (observe the 'dinosaurs are hunting humans in the mall!' which really just turns into 'people run out of a mall/now a dinosaur is running through an empty mall!' effect), but the film just kind of flatlined after its main novelty wore off

Lessons Learned
Scientific intellectuals really like their Jameson(s)

Guns don't kill dinosaurs. Axes and hockey sticks kill dinosaurs

Never drive on a quarter a tank of gas. You'll come to regret it when chasing dinosaurs on the streets of LA

When a teenager passes through your bar and shouts "Run!" you should listen

The Winning Line
"Now there's a woman who has curves in places most women don't even have places!"
I think this is a compliment, but gentlemen, a word of advice from a lady: don't ever use it to impress one

As you would expect from anything produced by The Asylum, Age of Dinosaurs isn't actually very good. That being said, this is a fun enough time killer that could easily make you smile here and there while folding laundry or reorganizing your DVD collection. Hit it up on Instant Watch the the moment strikes.


  1. That's as much of a hilariously awful pickup line as 'hot pussied little whore' from Cannibal Ferox! I imagine THAT particular line is a one-way ticket to a violent death should any man be foolish enough to use it!

  2. By the way, on the subject of Treat Williams, have you ever seen the zombie buddy cop movie Dead Heat? It's suitably awesome!