Saturday, 29 June 2013
Friday, 28 June 2013
The second collaboration between Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer with the Sinbad franchise/fable. The first being a rollicking good yarn with some great actors (Thatcher) and the usual Harryhausen animated goodness, could this keep up that trend? (Personally I think Schneer had an Arabian fetish).
Once again the plot is much the same as before with Sinbad sailing off into the wilderness to find an ancient mythical artifact of some kind. This time he's basically trying to find the fountain of youth amidst other various problems like needing three pieces of a puzzle to find its location. The usual soft core fantasy elements you come to expect.
To cut the chase, in all honesty, this film kinda sucks. Yep I did just say that I'm sorry, let me tell you why. The problem is quite simply that nothing happens for almost the entire of this film until they reach the mysterious island of ideginous Hulk people. Yep that's right, all the natives are green coloured like the Hulk, with Lou Ferrigno type wigs but minus the muscles.
Once we have sat through the high of Kali things do get a bit flat again, the natives are revolting and Tom Baker's eyeliner grows weaker with each frame. As the story progresses we finally get a bit more action as a centaur pops up, albeit a rather sorry excuse for one, again with the cyclops idea? Things perk up as this centaur must do battle against a griffin which is very well created, definitely a lifesaver for the film as so far only Kali looked any good. Now although this mythic battle isn't exactly epic it still manages to raise your interest, its animated well and the griffin looks terrific, just a shame the griffin is killed and everything goes back to being dull once again.
I did quite like the design of the golden mask worn by the Grand Vizier of Marabia, actually kinda cool in a '300' type of way. The moment when he removes his mask to reveal his burnt head is also a good moment, some pretty good makeup work there I must say, more gruesome than expected, a bit Jason Vorhees-like.
So yes this voyage for Sinbad was disappointing and rather unadventurous really. You do start to get the impression these Arabian tales don't really have anything else to offer other than the small Harryhausen sequences. There is quite literatly nothing on offer here accept for the two main battles involving animated Harryhausen creatures. The cast is great and the visuals all round look nice and atmospheric but overall it really is very daft (green Hulk natives) and bland (constant traveling sequences).
Monday, 24 June 2013
So here we are with the sixth and final adventure with the legendary old classic crew and by far the best film of the six in personal opinion. Yes I will say it now, this film is my personal favourite out of all the Trek films including the next generation crew and the recent reboots.
Its strange really, up to this point the previous films have been average to poor with visuals and in some cases bland in plot, but this last entry really comes back with a bang. It does feel as if everyone really came together and pushed for the best send off possible for both the fans and the original cast...and boy did they get it right.
Being the last movie for the vintage crew it feels appropriate and traditional that the enemy facing off against them be the Klingons (again with the Klingons). The old enemy, the vicious pirates of space that have caused problems for the Federation since day one...well if you don't count those pesky Romulans of course, they must feel left out. Its time for a truce and its up to Kirk and his old boys (and girl) to break bread with the war mongering Klingons...but only because their home planet is under threat after its nearby moon blew up shattering its ozone layer. So the Klingons are forced to make peace with the Federation but naturally some are not so happy with this. Cue assassinations and the framing of Kirk...the adventure begins.
First up, visuals, what on Titan happened here? all of a sudden this franchise looks delicious. The sets look polished and realistic with actual depth and slick control panels, costumes maintain the naval militaristic feel looking devilishly sharp, models glide through space with ease rivaling some Star Wars work (would you believe they reused old models?) and all technical electrical effects actually appear realistic this time. Hardly any dodgy bluescreen shots anywhere folks! I've never seen such a bold flurry of sexy looking starship fire. Admittedly there are a lot of CGI effects going on here and they do indeed look like CGI. The morphing effect used for the shapeshifter also looked pretty obvious but you do tend to expect that from Star Trek, its never perfect.
The whole film is packed with colour and flare making it an absolute joy to watch. The colour schemes are perfect, I loved the purple coloured shock wave that engulfed the Excelsior, pink Klingon blood in CGI (an eye opener for the time) and the neon blue interior of the torpedo bay. That might seem minor overall but its the little things that make the difference. It really is a complete departure from all the previous films and such a victory for all involved.
As said I think it was a wise move to use the Klingon's as the enemy in this final film. The Klingon's are the classic enemy (Romulan love?) and what better way to go down in a blaze of glory than kicking some Klingon ass (I think the Russian cold war theories/allegories can be laid to rest now). Of course by the end everyone is supposedly friends and at peace (or on the way towards that) which is a bit wussy but I can see what they were aiming for. The plot is really a very simple murder mystery basically, no frills and no silly whales or God-like entities, this is a political...errmmm...action thriller.
Talking of Klingon's, who'd of thought Chris Plummer would make a brilliant Klingon huh? Some righteous casting there my friends, a sterling choice. Plummer is a Klingon badass in this despite the fact he actually does nothing other than spout Shakespeare...in Klingon. The mark of a great actor there, he merely struts around and throws out the bards work in his pitch perfect speaking voice yet at the same time he looks imposing, threatening and powerful...absolute badass! I loved the little touch with his eyepatch being bolted onto his face, literately bolted into his Klingon skull (badass).
There really wasn't a foot put wrong here in my opinion, lets not forget about Warner as the Klingon chancellor Gorkon. The man wasn't involved for very long but again he made his presence felt with a great Klingon character performance. Just like Plummer as Chang he looked every bit the complete warrior with his tusk cane and weathered facial hair, he also looked pretty tough and imposing too. Clearly both characters are remembered due to the actors that made them, both really gave the film a proper epic vibe.
This final outing really had it all, great space battles, quirky jokes and even a good old fashioned alien filled prison on a snow planet, every sci-fi needs a good Mos Eisley cantina type moment. I loved that whole idea and seeing all the odd aliens (who wouldn't), just a shame it didn't look quite as good as it should of but there are some glorious location shots later on which really sell it. Easily a classic original TV series homage with that whole segment, its corny but charming, bordering on B-movie territory.
Very much in tone with the first new prequel/reboot if you ask me, in fact that movie borrowed the snow planet idea briefly methinks. An extremely fun film to watch which has all the hallmarks of an epic space opera, the typical good humour we all know and love plus bright vivid visuals that really heighten your enjoyment and add an almost comicbook feel to the proceedings.
To mark the very end a stirring send off with all the team inscribing their signatures across the screen whilst a beautifully re-rendered version of the classic Star Trek theme plays in the background. It was a beautiful way to go seeing the casts names emblazoned across a space panorama, it almost brings a tear to your eye...OK it did bring a tear to my eye. The final film, the best film and the perfect finale.
I remember when this was released many people thought it was the old crews final film due to the title. Then once people had seen it most thought that maybe it would be best if it was their final film...zing! But seriously they did.
This fifth adventure starts off on a good note with some nice sequences. A short intro with the main antagonist on the sandy world of Nimbus III which looks good (sandy desert like worlds always seem to look good in sci-fi films). Then its straight into some good old fashioned soppy Star Trek humour courtesy of Kirk, Spock and Bones as they enjoy their leave in Yosemite National Park. I can't deny that rock face climbing sequence was pretty amusing and virtually the highlight of the entire movie!
Following that we get a brief intro back on board the Enterprise where everything is in the process of being fixed as its not working too well. Obviously this is the cue for Scotty to huff n puff with frustration at the circumstances yet we all know full well he will fix absolutely everything with time to spare. God bless that light-hearted Star Trek nonsense.
After this pleasant start which all point towards the beginning of a good fun film things take a bit of a nosedive. Basically there is no real plot here and little explanation for anything. Oh OK, Sybok wants to hijack the Enterprise and use it to find the mythical planet of Sha Ka Ree...yes you read that right and I spelt it right. This planet is at the centre of the galaxy and is supposedly where all creation began...highly doubtful I would imagine seeing as there are millions of galaxies beyond our own. Why don't the crew ever venture outside our Milky Way galaxy and explore another? now that would be exploration alright.
Renegade Vulcan Sybok isn't really explained at all unless you count Spock's brief flashback where we are given more big news that he and Spock are half brothers. We have no reason for his religious crusade, where he came from or how he ended up on Nimbus III.
There is also no explanation for Nimbus III, its inhabitants, its name (the planet of galactic peace?), why there are horses from Earth on it and why exactly everyone is on Sybok's side. Beats the Dinks outta me!
It also kinda amused me that originally Shatner wanted Sean Connery to play Sybok but for whatever reasons he declined. Thusly we have the mysterious Laurence Luckinbill who just happens to look very much like Sean Connery with a beard. I mean really Shatner...OK you wanted Connery and he said no, you didn't have to use another actor that looked like a poor mans Sean Connery, surely it wasn't that necessary.
Of course the main issue here is the fact they all run off looking for God at the centre of the galaxy. Personally I really can't think of a more risky idea than this! apart from possibly alienating a huge amount of the audience who will have their own religious views and beliefs that are sure to conflict. The flip side is you know straight away they won't actually find God as how could a sci-fi film proclaim what God would look, sound or behave like. How could the film makers preach or force their own beliefs and ideals of God on a world where there is such religious diversity.
So right away you know the plots outcome and thusly the film becomes pointless. On top of that the obvious alien creature/power (that isn't God) which they come across is not explained. No idea what it may have been, what it wanted, how it lead them to believe it was the one true God etc...
The actual models are sound and are clearly well made but it just looks as though the act of putting them on film has been rushed. From what I've read it does appear things were done as cheaply as possible and without the best folk available. To be honest you expect a lot more from a huge franchise and its fifth sequel.
So a very silly choice of plot which could of completely back fired (amazed it didn't), plus it has too many similarities to the first Star Trek film with the V'Ger story. Dull pacing, poor effects, weak characters and the rather creepy and definitely un-sexy fan dance by the aged Uhura was also a bit ewww.
Not much really happens in this film after the events on Nimbus III in my humble opinion. Its a very mediocre outing throughout with a very predictable anti-climactic finale which almost killed off anymore adventures for the original cast for good. Striving for glory clearly...but alas a supreme failure on all accounts truth be told.
This was the first Star Trek movie I saw at the cinema, and to top that I think I saw it whilst in the US of A too. So the story continues from where it left of in 'The Search for Spock' with Nimoy again at the helm. What can one say about this Trek outing, it certainly took a different route and clearly went for a more comedic approach. I believe this was the first movie to be set on Earth in the present day (at the time, 1986), I think that might also count for the TV series too.
Was this the right approach? well maybe, I can't deny that the film is very entertaining with some well crafted family fun moments that make all the veteran actors even more endearing in their now historical roles. How can anyone fail to love these guys? look at Spock in his hippy outfit...hilarious right?...right?!! Quite literately old age pensioners in space (with Shatner and Doohan getting fatter by the sequel and Koenig's hair piece becoming more obvious) and still saving the Earth, what a team! So yes kudos for the alternate direction and some lovely amusing moments which can't fail to make you smile but...
On the other hand did this film really do much to bolster Star Treks sci-fi rankings within the sci-fi hall of fame? I'm not so sure really, we all know Star Trek has that little niche of semi-serious logical sci-fi mixed with blatant fantasy but for me this plot just took one step too far. There is really only so far you can go before you have to step back and say hold on, and I think the whales went over that mark.
Earth is in trouble (again), oh geez! A weird object in space that looks like a black cylinder connected to a football by a beam of intense white light is headed to Earth. Note the rather blatant '2001' obelisk clone conveniently changed to a cylinder...well that's what I think. Unsurprisingly this foreign object is draining everything of its power as they usually do. When in orbit around the Earth the object knocks out the global power grid and starts tearing the planets weather system apart...inadvertently. This alien thing is seemingly calling to humpback whales which are currently extinct in the year 2286 so the ageing crew simply decide to use a time warp into the past to casually pick up some humpback whales and bounce back to the their present before anyone knew they were there.
Now is it me or is this premise just a tad beyond the realms of a reasonably sensible film? The last film saw a main character resurrected because they needed to keep the franchise going after the surprise blockbuster and now they can jump through time to fix problems...with whales, these guys can't be beaten!
The story is indeed an ingenious creation (they do tend to come across a lot of unknown energy sapping problems don't they), a good message about the environment and endangered species but for me the time travel thing just never sat well. Its too convenient and renders the Enterprise crew almost insurmountable in any given situation. Problem? well we'll just pop back in time with a time warp and hocus pocus every things gonna be OK. Don't even get me started on how they managed to somehow transport these massive whales in massive tanks of seawater...Jesus!
All that aside its a completely new breathe of fresh air to have the film set almost entirely on a planet surface, especially our own. This does infact render special effects almost obsolete for most of the film...almost. Being set on present day Earth (1986) Nimoy was able to do a lot more without worrying about the confines of space limitations and real science. This movie really felt like a far out comedic fantasy where anything goes and Earthbound visual gags were a tour de force. Naturally being set in the 80's you can't not have a gag utilising a stereotypical 80's punk...that's virtually an obligation.
Alas there are still many many typically nasty Star Trek bluescreen shots, hokey sets, some hideously obvious whale footage crowbarred in and pretty obvious matte paintings. On the other hand you do still get a solid array of decent looking starship models and the ever lovely Earth Spacedock. We also get to see much more interior of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey ship which up to this point had never really been explored much. On the whole I did actually like the misty atmosphere of the ship, the dark green colour palette set against various red LED panel lights, it looked mean and aggressive.
I can see why this did well upon release as its a fun film with a good message and happy ending. True it does feel like a long tourism advert for San Francisco and the humorous side makes the entire feature come across like something as daft as 'Crocodile Dundee...in space'. For me the plot has gone from generic in the last two films to completely outlandish in this film, such a sweeping change in concepts and tone! much suspension of disbelief required here.
Yet much like the previous two films I neither overly dislike or overly like this fourth effort. Its a movie of its time, I accept it for what it is and the movie itself knows what its aiming for, so to that degree I can't really moan. It is a typical Star Trek plot...but one of the more stupid plots, the classic TV series always did have good and bad plots. I can't really score this very high because apart from the childish funny moments that are indeed sweet the rest is pure dodgy hokem that still doesn't really look any better than the last two movies (the original still looking the best at this point).
Friday, 21 June 2013
The second reboot of the all American (slightly Kryptonian) superhero to beat all superheroes. Straight away we are plunged into a new world, a world we have never seen explored before, Krypton. Straight away I was disappointed when I was presented with a world that bared many similarities to other sci-fi films with large flying dragon type dinosaurs, a huge embryo harvesting facility and the all too common nasty sci-fi hokem of laser guns and silly battle armour.
In all honesty I was expecting more on Krypton actually, that is what I was lead to believe anyway, I think they could of handled that better really. Less formulaic punch ups and laser guns and a bit more on the actual destruction of the planet and other citizens perhaps. I thought the original 1978 film actually played out that section far better, it was less complicated, more grounded and much more emotional. Sequences like banishing Zod into the phantom zone was just overly done, didn't need to be so stupidly flashy. I also hated the fact we have faceless soldiers just there to be blasted in this new film, that's generic sci-fi crapola.
The film on the whole was sketchy for me, I really couldn't nail it down completely and found myself liking bits n pieces. I did actually enjoy the first half of the film, pretty much right up to Zod arriving on Earth. Up to then I thought the origins of Supes was played out really well, it could of been quite dull and repetitive but the random flashbacks worked well spaced in between the present day plot. I must also say I found myself liking Costner's performance which amazed me, I like how his character teaches Kal-El restraint, composure and inner strength although it does seem a bit preachy at times, you'd think he was the second coming or something geez (yes I get that with all his powers he kinda almost is to us weak humans...but still). I thought the school kid angle was a nice touch also, all his power and sense problems, kinda like Kryptonian puberty.
One issue I had early on was the death of John Kent (spoiler alert?). The new approach is indeed a fine one and it is a strong emotional sequence for sure, but I just feel the more simple original route of the heart attack was even more powerful. Why? simply because Supes can't save him, all those powers but he's unable to do anything, Superman isn't God, he can't stop everything.
So yeah, everything up to the arrival of Zod is pretty sweet. How the Superman suit in the scout ship just happens to fit Kal-El perfectly is odd, why is his suit in that classic red n blue design when no one on Krypton seems to wear that kind of thing, shouldn't it be armour-like as with the other suits? and what on earth is that Jor-El computer programme about?! The crystal hologram thingy in the 78 classic was spot on, this new idea is ridiculous. So we are suppose to believe he somehow stuffs his 'soul' or essence inside the computer prior to everything kicking off...or something like that, how? is he a computer programme? a ghost? is he even dead?? The fact he is able to answer any given question and act as though he is alive seems like a cheap trick to keep Crowe in the flick for easy plot escape routes (which is exactly what happens).
Once Zod arrives that was it for me, we then enter into the realms of complete videogame in-game sequences, hyper CGI. Zod and his cronies all look uber cool that's for sure (they did 'Prometheus' better than 'Prometheus' with those space suits), but Shannon and the other one were useless as the main villains, no bite at all. The classic Donner sequel far outstrips these two on all levels, Stamp and Douglas were awesomely evil in their roles, they were genuinely unnerving if you ask me. Shannon merely shouts and grimaces a lot and that's it, his female sidekick does nothing much accept raise her eyebrow trying to be somewhat sexual, at no point was I ever actually intimidated by either of them, unlike the gaunt unbalanced Stamp and slinky feline Douglas (remember the astronaut slaughter at the start of 'Superman II'? I rest my case).
I also found it funny that Zod's plan isn't all that bad really. If you think about it his plan is actually commendable because he is only trying to save his race, he is very dedicated to all his people, a true leader. This leads you to think quite simply...just use another planet where there isn't a massive amount of intelligent life dude! There are billions of planets out there, surely you can find one which is suitable and won't cause you so much trouble sheesh! Leave Kal-El and Earth alone and just do what you wanna do elsewhere, he's not being exactly bad, just dumb.
This leads me to the action..oh boy! way to make this into a 'Transformers' fest Snyder. I've said it before like so many others, why would Superman fight Zod in the city (Metropolis) which inevitably would simultaneously wipe out millions of innocents?! Plus he doesn't seem to care! makes no real attempt to limit the damage or try to take it elsewhere, in fact he uses the city as a tool to try and defeat Zod!! There are buildings coming down all over the shop, masses of debris, explosions you name it, the city is being reduced to rubble and clearly MASSES of people MUST be getting killed or horrendously injured (you can't evac a city that fast people).
Yet conveniently Lawrence Fishburne and the other two Daily Planet characters manage to be virtually the only survivors as ash rains down from the scorched sky amidst the senseless carnage. And all the while Superman is on the over side of the world, sure he's battling evil but Jesus Christ mate aren't you suppose to be protecting the puny humans??! But hey as long as Lois is safe huh.
In terms of effects this film is utterly epic yes, kudos to the computer whizz kids and costume designers for sure. I can honesty say I haven't seen a film as impressive for some time (even beats 'The Avengers' at times), but I still feel most of it was not required, just done simply to show off what can be done and please the masses with slick glossy CGI. Did we really need Superman fighting those 'Doctor Octopus' tentacles?
So to sum up the first half with Supes origins was fine, Krypton was over the top and of course so was all the latter half of the film with the inane heavy action. There was more I disliked than liked I won't deny, and at the end of the day I still do think they made this into some kind of Bay/destruction porn pleaser flick. I can't deny I missed John Williams classic score and I hated the fact that Lois Lane pops up in almost every scene! what the hell was that about?! every scene she pops up! even in the aircraft cockpit when they're off to airstrike Zod's ship! why would she be there??? Military personnel only lady, surely.
Funny thing is Supes is sent to Earth to save and protect humans (according to Jor-El) yet humans didn't actually require saving until Supes turned up and brought all his issues with him.
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
To this day it still seems a funny choice to have cast Chris Lloyd as a Klingon. Such a wiry guy with a weak parched voice and definitely more of a comedic actor. I'm not sure he pulled it off really, I can see his other amusing film characters shining through every time he's in shot and he's not really very threatening. There isn't really any reason for him to be involved either, he's just there, in space, for no reason and decides to go after the Genesis data, no background at all.
So despite a slightly weak villain the main plus point is that the continuity carries on nicely from the second film with everyone present and correct accept the character of Saavik (no longer Alley), of course the plot carries on nicely also. It actually feels very much like a huge film cut in two (this and the previous movie) or back to back filming, not much difference between the two.
The story does feel rather contrived with a major U-turn, Spock had been killed off in a grand heroic manner to end the film franchise or so we all thought. The second film did well (unexpectedly) so they had to think of a way to bring him back to life so the franchise could be milked further. Or as I said in my review of 'WoK' it was all a cheap tactic to get bums on seats for this third sequel. This does equal much spiritual Vulcan jiggery pokery which is interesting but at the same time a bit heavy and tends to drag the sci-fi down into another realm or genre even. Personally I didn't like that side of the story, it just didn't really work for me and its all too convenient...and convoluted.
The whole idea of Spock being reborn on the Genesis planet due to the Genesis device felt kinda stoopid and very convenient. Oh and he managed to transfer his spirit (or Katra) into McCoy, which was also kinda convenient (there's that word again), before he died apparently. So now if the aging crew can nab Spock's rapidly growing body (which stops growing at the exact same age he died at it seems...convenient) they can stuff his Katra back into it from McCoy, easy (but dumb).
I have always thought that the story behind David being Kirk's son was never really explored properly either. We discover this revelation in 'WoK' but its so subdued I would of thought we might get more in this third film...but no. Even in death Kirk's son gets no real epic send off, the whole thing from start to finish is glossed over pretty lazily really, oh well.
Everything else within the film is pretty much the standard look and feel of the second film simply carried on, nothing much to rave about really, its all quite average. Effects are still rather average to be frank, the starship sequences look a touch neater but still relatively similar to the previous movie. There was a new design for the Federation starships with the Excelsior which had sleeker lines and was overall much more curvy. Its still the same design essentially but I guess it does look more modern, of course this shape served as the first in a long series of similar designs as the franchise continued.
The other flashy new toy for the franchise was the big Earth Spacedock which was admittedly pretty sweet looking. It had a nice sensible and expensive looking design and more importantly it looked realistic, not at all hokey. This one model gave the whole Star Trek universe real gravitas, a real grown-up science fiction vibe and of course again served as a role model (no pun intended) for the rest of the franchise outings.
Unfortunately the planet surface of Genesis has some nasty obvious set work accompanied by some even worse destruction effects as the planet disintegrates. Kirk and company even remain in the same uniforms for this continuing adventure! Both the second and third films have one other plus point in their favour and that was Horner and his instrumental score. The first film lacked a good score but this is fixed with gusto by Horner as he provides much needed emotion and vigor to the films. That was one reason the first film seemed a bit limp at times.
Its all a bit hokey in all honesty, almost like a young teens comicbook film. It does seem like this story idea could simply be a small chapter in the Trek universe that could of been explained within a TV episode, there really aren't any outstanding movie moments at all. Speaking of hokey...don't you just love seeing Shatner in fist fights, the finale fight between Kirk and Kruge really was pretty dire to say the least sheesh! Talk about fluffy theatrical fisticuffs! never at any point does it look real or remotely intense, lets face it neither actors are the athletic fighting type. Absolutely terrible yet probably close to the classic Star Trek series of the mid 60's. I did enjoy that scene, its a guilty pleasure for sure.
The whole film does feel very much like a made for TV movie and only slightly less cheaper looking than the second. The acting is wooden but that is part of the charm admittedly, we expect that, but the film just doesn't have any cinematic impact whatsoever. Funnily enough this film does also feel closer to its TV origins than the semi serious sci-fi of the original (as did 'WoK'), I put that down to the low production values of pretty much everything...cardboard cut out effects and hokey-ass sets.
End of the day you just can't go wrong with a good old fashioned adventure with the old crew of the Enterprise. This film is easily worse than 'WoK' but it still manages to be fun in a very silly quirky way whilst remaining faithful to original source material. Its just a shame it looks so bad for the most part...but I can't deny its a reasonably good romp if you lower your expectations. Keep an eye out for the small cameo by Miguel Ferrer as a crew member onboard the Excelsior.
I never did understand how this film was so much more successful and popular than the first. Quite clearly the film has gone for a slightly more silly plot losing a lot of the straight laced sci-fi from the first. I suppose you could say they lost the aspiring '2001' type sequences and went back to the more well known cardboard cutout type effects of the old Star Trek show...shame.
Now I realise the slow building straight faced Star Trek we got in the first film was frowned upon but its hard to see what the fans actually wanted in a big screen version. There were complaints that the original was just an outstretched TV episode with fancy visuals, yet this sequel (in my opinion) was even more of an outstretched TV episode with lousy visuals. As we all know this movie is a sequel or follow up to the original TV episode 'Space Seed' where Kirk and co battled against the deadly super strong Khan and his boy band of super studs.
I've always thought this idea was a brave one personally. Although the original TV episode did do well when it was first shown that was way back in 1967, who knew if anyone would take to seeing an old Khan doing the same kind of thing he did once before. Obviously the gamble paid off as we now know but wow talk about risky...if you ask me.
So you gotta give it to the creative teams behind the film. I mean lets face it, if you hadn't seen the original TV episode then you would be a little stuck as to what's going on. So technically the director has already, possibly, excluded most of the target audience as I'm sure many would not have seen it being too young. Of course many would have but back in the old days you couldn't just catch up on an old TV episode and watch it easily, so if you wanted to watch 'Space Seed' again back then you might have been stuck.
The models were still solid visually don't get me wrong (although they were reused from the first movie), but they were set against some really bad bluescreen space backdrops. Its such a shame because they are very obviously models with stark black lines around their edges giving the game away, plus they clearly looked exactly the same as the previous movies models which was dull. I think the effects team struggled throughout with this movie as you can see various methods used to create the entire illusion which kinda looks like a muddle at times. For the time these effects were decent and did the job but these days its quite shocking how dodgy they can appear but I guess that's to be expected.
The whole production was a cheap affair really with so many props reused or cannibalized from a cancelled sequel TV series idea (sequel to the original series). Whilst certain sets such as the Enterprise bridge were redressed and reused as was the Klingon bridge set. Heck even the old costumes were kinda Frankensteined and reused to save money! but admittedly the new naval inspired look was perfect for the franchise. On the flip side Khan's people were kinda dressed like a band of warriors from the Mad Max universe...or any group of savages you'd see in any apocalyptic sci-fi movie really.
For me the franchise went backwards in terms of visuals with this outing, it was kinda cool how they explored and expanded an old TV episode but the whole thing is so basic looking. I liked the slow strategic galleon/submarine type starship battle between Kirk and Khan in the nebulae, this was obviously the highlight of the movie and created perfect tension. Sure it was basically submarines in space but it worked well. Apart from that there was nothing really that stuck out for me as a big kickass moment (apart from that raging scream courtesy of Kirk).
There is of course the small subplot of Spock's death which at the time stunned everyone. Yet this was clearly a setup for the next sequel, to turbo charge emotions and get people back into the cinemas again. It was pretty clear that Spock would not die for good and he would come back in the next movie, no way they would let one of the most popular characters get killed off. So in all honesty that shocker never really affected me, sure it was sad seeing Kirk choke up at the funeral, a real tearjerker I'm willing to admit...but it was also kind of a cheap tactic really.
Of course a sneering seething Ricardo Montalbán really helped the film with his portrayal of the dastardly Khan but he doesn't do much does he. I still don't really understand why he blamed Kirk for the death of his wife. In the TV episode after Khan is defeated he happily agrees to be marooned on Ceti Alpha VA to rule as a king on his own planet. OK so things went tits up with the neighbouring planet causing massive troubles but that's got nothing to do with Kirk. Khan was happy with Kirk's original decision so...you can't blame Kirk surely, you agreed Khan.
The movie is really all about the main trio of Spock, Kirk and McCoy, everyone else is there of course but they don't get much screen time. Even back then it was clear that the team were cracking on age wise with Shatner at 50 years of age. Despite that the movie is most definitely a solid Star Trek entry offering thrills and spills of a nautical theme...dare I say Hornblower in space. Its nowhere near as visually epic as the first movie and I did miss those Kubrick-esque shots as I've already said, but it does have that classic Star Trek feel even though its somewhat missing the classic technical babble. I still think its a pretty basic and generic concept overall but I guess the original TV series had both action based plots and thinking based plots to cover all angles.
To think this this film came out when I was just one year old, just like Star Wars which came out a year before I was born, makes me think...my God Jim...I'm old!
I've never been a huge Star Trek fan and never will be in all honesty. I did always enjoy the films with the original classic crew but never got into any of the TV series, especially the new stuff. I always preferred the Star Wars franchise for many reasons but mainly because it always looked so superior in virtually every department. This first Trek movie really does show the difference between the two franchises which both appeared in the same era, not taking anything away from Star Trek but it always did look more fake and plastic looking.
The effects in this first movie are a mixed bag really. The sequences towards the finale inside V'Ger don't look too bad (nice 2001-esque fantasy lighting effects), various spaceship shots look nice throughout and the costumes although drab don't age too badly. For the most part this film has aged badly if we're brutally honest about it, I don't wanna keep comparing it to Star Wars but there is a clear difference in quality which still stands to this day.
I do like the way Wise gave the film a slow pace. Lots of character and background building alongside plenty of mission dialog and technical problems that might occur in reality for such a scenario. Its all classic Star Trek as you would remember from the original series but on a sexier scale with props that actually do look kinda real. In fact there's even more politically correct...goody two-shoes...prime directive...Federation type babble than you can wave a stick at, and Shatner loves his speeches.
The film was criticised for this slow unadventurous style but personally I like it, its one of the more realistic Trek movies offering exactly what you got with the original TV series...but prettier. I still to this day don't really understand why some folk (even Trek fans) don't like it. The main aspect of this film I like is the plot, yes the plot. Seems straight forward enough as the team are sent to intercept a mysterious alien phenomena heading towards earth, but I liked how the plot has its intriguing twist at the end. Again just like the classic show you get the danger and mystery with a cute little twist to keep you on your toes. Its not groundbreaking but it just makes you think a little, right up to the very end you're unsure what the hell will happen. How Kirk will save the day and what's the deal behind the alien cloud thing, that's good story telling right there methinks.
The continuity from the TV show to the big screen was handled well I thought although I'm no Trek expert. You have all the crew doing what they are best at of course, some new crews members (redshirt fodder perhaps?), plenty of well known typical Trek visuals and sounds, the crew handle most of the action from the ships bridge via the good old big screen on the wall and the Enterprise looks slick with a bit of spit n polish to tart it up for the big screen.
Sure its not an in your face phaser fest with hand to hand fights against large lizard men but I for one thought the serious route was a good way to go. The film is more of an exploration adventure, it takes its time, slowly builds up, lots of space jargon...you don't know what their on about half the time but it just sounds good...I use my realism card again. It feels like a point n click strategic adventure game for your PC...I guess?
One of the oddest things when you think about it was the fact Wise directed this. You tend to remember Robert Wise for the Hollywood epics 'The Sound of Music' and 'West Side Story' which are two of the greatest musicals ever made probably. So its kinda funny to think he directed the first Star Trek movie, then again he did direct 'The Andromeda Strain' and 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' so he did have some good sci-fi experience.
Overall the special effects look fuzzy in places, lots of beige colour schemes going on with the ship and crew, plenty of nasty bluescreen evident I'm afraid...but its still very enjoyable sci-fi. Star Trek has its own little niche of being semi-serious and approaching everything logically but still utilising just enough fantasy to make it a charming pleasant ride.
So I kinda thought this was your typical Dwayne Johnson action vehicle, judging by the menacing poster for the film you'd be forgiven for agreeing with me. The Rock standing there fists clenched, looking angry, sweaty and buff, whilst in the background a large rig is powering through cars causing mayhem and destruction. Its all true but that particular moment of excitement isn't until the finale, before that you gotta sit through a whole load of factory line guff.
So Johnson's teenage kid is wrongfully banged away as a drug dealer (a set up) and his only way out is to stitch up another drug dealer hence the films witty title. Of course the dumbass kid won't play ball so its up to Dwayne to go out and bring down a huge cartel all on his own. Myself? meh I would have let the kid rot.
Now as I already mentioned you assume this is gonna be an ass kicking flick with Johnson in revenge overdrive mode but no!!. Against cast Johnson is actually playing a regular Joe here, a father who doesn't kick ass but actually is rather meek, timid and normal...in other words he gets his ass kicked, despite looking like the offspring of The Hulk and He-Man (seriously he couldn't throw any punches at all?!). This time Dwayne Johnson is actually using his real acting chops and his brains to get through this sticky cinematic problem.
The film is really really trying to be some kind of serious crime drama, the type of thing you'd see Pacino or De Niro in. The problem is the casting, why use Dwayne Johnson for a role like this? sure he does a reasonable job but you're just expecting him to snap everybody in half and break out some massive hand cannons. Its obvious Sarandon has been drafted in to inject some heavy weight acting but it fails to save the day, she ain't that good.
Everything is so very bland and generic here to be honest, the film only comes alive for a brief 18 wheeler, car chase sequence which while good is still totally generic. Up to that point its pretty low key with no intensity, no action, no interesting characters and a daft plot if you ask me. I don't know anything about US law but why would one persons jail time be reduced if someone else decides to help out the law by becoming an informer?. That just sounds like a very odd decision, this criminals friend/family member helped us bust this dealer so we will reduce his sentence out of thanks despite the fact he did actually commit a crime, eh?.
So what do we learn from this film? apparently in the US law abiding citizens can assist police in MAJOR drug busts to reduce some other criminals jail time. Terribly formulaic and by the numbers, there are attempts at strong emotion but it didn't work on me, it just reads like a checklist of cliches.
Monday, 17 June 2013
'Fe-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman'
Yet another famous children's fairytale gets the bigscreen treatment but can you make a entire film out of a rather short and rather simple fable? The other question is which fable is this film supposedly based upon? Jack and the Beanstalk? or Jack the Giant Killer? Both are very different yet this film merges the two or so it seems. At the same time the films animated intro felt very much like a rip of the 'Hellboy 2' intro, whilst the entire plot about this magical crown felt like a rip of 'Lord of the Rings'.
This whole idea felt very much like a one trick pony to me, that trick simply being the excuse to show huge CGI giants eating people and going on a rampage, and that's it. The rest of the film felt so utterly pointless it was almost laughable. Half the film seems to be based on the beanstalk fairytale with the second half based around the giant killer fable but at the same time neither are remotely accurate to the original sources. So why not just make a completely independent giant fantasy?
Everything about this just felt like a misfire to me. The casting was poor, Nicholas Hoult is just a very average actor with a very odd haircut (what is going on with that parting?! had the same stupid cut for 'Warm Bodies'). Eleanor Tomlinson as the Princess was so very bland, not particularly attractive and not particularly useful in any way, whilst Ewan McGregor seemed to be doing his weak ass Jedi thing all over again. Only decent performance came from the ever reliable Tucci. Overall the characters weren't really developed much and there was a distinct lack of a really bad baddie.
On top of that the effects weren't even that good! the giants looked exactly like what they were, big CGI giants. It looks like they're trying to make them appear realistic but not entirely, but they look awful. Especially the two headed giant leader with that shitty Gollum-like head, what the hell! giant fail there folks (see what I did there heh). Plus why are most of the giants Irish? am I missing something there? and why aren't there any female giants? how does this race keep going? am I being too picky?
Even the beanstalk looked pretty naff frankly. The only thing that looked good was the CGI landscapes and the giant island in the sky, but as usual way too much reliance on CGI. There seemed to be many giant waterfalls going over the edge of the giant island, where exactly does all that water go??
Bottom line this just feels like a jump on that fairytale action flick bandwagon we have seen recently. All the usual big CGI battles, stunts, camera angles etc...the same recycled crud we've seen over and over again. Predictable as usual in that boring modern Hollywood cookie cutter fashion. The plot is thinner than a catwalk model after she's just stepped out of the toilet and to make matters worse the CGI effects are pretty terrible. So you can't even call this a sharp looking updated piece of crap, its just crap.
Oh and the final twist at the end is useless. I mean really, is that suppose to be clever? gee errr genius. And while I'm at it, the films title is 'Jack the Giant Slayer', many giants get killed here but I believe Jack only kills one, so he doesn't slay much then.
Sunday, 16 June 2013
We've had Arnie's come back vehicle and now its Sly's turn in this very Hong kong sounding action flick. Whilst the Austrian oaks come back flick turned out to be a rather silly, almost parody type action flick, Sly's offering is much more violent resembling the good old days. So yes this film is highly retro and a typical slice of hokum courtescy of action maestro Hill.
So despite the John Woo-like title the film is acutally an adaptation of a French graphic novel believe it or not. This still doesn't mean the plot isn't predictable as hell, featuring the usual 80's cliche of a mismatched pair having to help each other out in order to bring down the bad guys. One is a cop (that really poor 'Fast n Furious' actor) and the other is contract killer (Sly), both are trying to bring down the big boss, add to that the standard big muscle bound nemesis for the obvious big sweaty fight at the end.
Take note of the films title as this is what you get throughout, plenty of people getting shot in the head, novel huh. So yes the film does hark back to the good old days of the 'straight to the video shop' action flicks, plenty of mindless violence in a cookie cutter plot. But this is the problem, this film is or would be a straight to DVD film if it wasn't for Sly being in it.
There is virtually nothing memorable in the entire film. Nothing that made me sit up and pay attention and nothing that would make me come back and watch it again. Stallone (like Arnie) is clearly too old for this shit with his sagging chest and extremely tight looking pants (girdle?). Yes he looks good for his age sure (the odd nip n tuck aside of course), but he's a millionaire movie star people, what do you expect!.
On one hand I fully endorse any adult retro action flicks in general to get away from the modern age of the wider audience pleasing 12A and PG-13 ratings. On the other hand they still have to show a little bit of thought and at least try for some originality. This film is exactly what it shouldn't be, a simple vehicle for an aging action star to try and get back on his horse and nothing more. Just like 'The Last Stand' its virtually pointless and should have used a younger star, it still would have been a throw away action flick but you expect that.
I hate to have a go at these iconic stars I really do, but the time has come for both Arnie and Sly to call it a day in my view. This film is sooooo by the numbers it was dull, the only thing I can possibly give plus points for was the finale fight with Momoa and the fact its an adult film. If anything this film shows how good Momoa can be in action/fight sequences, maybe he should of been in Stallone's role.
Friday, 14 June 2013
I don't think this concept could fail to be popular with kids back in the day, cowboys and dinosaurs, what more do you need?! I also wonder whether or not this film concept may have had something to do influencing the unique Cadillacs and Dinosaurs franchise that spawned comics, cartoons and a Capcom videogame.
Again this is the first time seeing this adventure and to be really really honest I felt disappointed. Once again the plot just seems to have been lifted from 'King Kong'. A group of cowboys down in Mexico end up finding a hidden valley full of dinosaurs, they capture one, bring it back to civilisation for their show/circus and low and behold it breaks free and goes on the rampage. It really is quite blatantly copied, I felt a little let down.
Of course the film is complete fantasy and not to be taken seriously in any way but there are some major plot holes and questions that do arise. This bunch of cowboys, the token brainy professor and the token attractive female find this hidden valley, yet its not really a valley, it looks more like one simple canyon. So you have to ask yourself how on earth dinosaurs would live and breed in this small enclosed area AND not get found.
When they are inside the 'valley' and getting attacked by all manner of creatures they hole up in a cave as if they are trapped, but why? they could leave the valley at any point and do so eventually. But the really amusing thing is the fact most of the group are obsessed with their show/circus and using any dinosaur they can get for display. None seem to realise that simply capturing and presenting a living dinosaur to the world would make them rich and famous beyond belief, they don't need their crummy show.
Plus when they set out to take this beast back to civilisation where on earth did they get that rather handy dino sized wooden cart from?!!
We also see a Pteranodon which is nicely animated, the sequence where it grabs a young boy is impressively done. Plus there is a small cameo for a Ornithomimus which was a nice pink colour and had the honour of being chomped up by Gwangi in a quick cool surprise death sequence that has been used by modern films many times. The small miniature horse which initially forms the basis of the plot is well done also but not exactly thrilling, we're all here for man eaters aren't we.
Interestingly this is also the first time we see actual life size rubber models of some creatures which the cast grapple with. It works quite well for the odd close quarters shot and doesn't detract from the stop motion. Looks a bit better than just pretending although the models don't look great as would be expected.
If you've seen 'King Kong' then you already know what happens in the end, but not before Gwangi fights an elephant. Yep the minute I saw Harryhausen's animated elephant I knew it would be fighting the big mean dinosaur. Now don't get me wrong its a great looking scene, not the best I've seen by a long shot but its solid. The problem is it does feel somewhat overused, in short the battle between the 'Ymir' and an elephant was much much better, they should have done something else.
For some reason the whole film feels a bit on the cheap side and just doesn't look as crisp as previous Harryhausen flicks. Obviously production values must have been lower yet the acting is actually pretty good, James Franciscus looking like a young James Coburn and Laurence Naismith really adding some sturdy class as the professor.
I hate to say I was disappointed, the films poster looks epic! like some kind of Indiana Jones adventure with Dinosaurs, how could it miss? 'Cowboys battle monsters in the lost world of forbidden valley', sounds pretty darn cool doesn't it, its just such a shame it doesn't really live up to that, plus the film is set in Mexico so you don't get that true American western feel.
A slow rather uninteresting start (merely waiting for dino action) and an all too predictable ending which is made slightly worse because the whole story is basically Kong all over again. Not too sure where the name Gwangi comes from, must be a term in local dialect for the creature? everybody calls it that but no apparent origins for it...meh.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
That film with that poster, of course you know what I mean. Actually a remake of a film with the same name from 1940 and keeping many sequences the same. In turn this film does also seem to be the influence behind big Roland Emmerich flop '10,000 BC'.
This was my first time seeing this Hammer classic and I must say I was completely surprised. The film starts out kinda like the sci-fi classic '2001' accept we don't have ape men but cavemen. A tribe of cavemen running around fighting, squabbling and hunting mammals, there is no dialog accept for grunts and basic gestures. I did actually think this was just the opening of the film showing a flashback/setting the plot or something, at no point did I think the entire film was gonna be like this haha colour me shocked!
So yeah straight away I must give kudos to the creative team behind the film for the hugely bold and brave move of making an entire film in 'native caveman' grunts. Just the occasional caveman name is all you get here folks, followed by lots of ug's.
This film NEVER pretended to be realistic, not in the slightest, its a complete fantasy from start to finish with maybe the odd spot of realism touched upon (locations seem quite realistic). There are many issues of course that are completely stupid but is there really any point in me referring to them? It did amuse me how almost every cavewoman is hot, not just Welch (And since when do cavewomen wear fur bikin...never mind). Most of the young ones are firm, fit, slim, clean looking, big bosomed with long flowing hair. Where as the men are all ugly, overly hairy, a bit porky and rather dirty looking, god knows what the women see in them.
Dark haired tribe are bad/primitive, blonde haired tribe are good/civilised, typical fantasy stuff really, black being bad, white being good...colour of costumes normally I mean. You could almost say the dark haired tribe were like trolls and the blonde haired tribe like elves.
Strange how the film incorporates two sequences of real creatures superimposed onto the live action. Didn't like that idea (looking at you Ray) as it mixes two types of fantasy flick concepts. Usually these films are either one direction or the other for their creature effects, real or stop motion. To use the two makes the film seem a bit messy to me, as if there was indecision, plus the two methods simply don't look right together. A small gripe but not too much of an issue...accept for the giant tarantula, eh?
This could of been quite a smart sensible realistic epic had they taken the more accurate approach. Instead they opt for the outlandish fantasy element which is cool don't get me wrong, but at the time this film was made this genre was pretty heavily flooded with similar films. The plot can be hard to follow in places due to the fact there is no spoken English and it does feel as though some ideas weren't fully developed (the hairy ape men sequences spring to mind).
Not without its flaws that's for sure but still a unique film, I think without Harryhausen's skills the film would have been incredibly dull. Pure overblown comicbook fluff that has gone down in modern pop culture much like other fantasy films 'Flash Gordon' and 'Barbarella'. I don't think we'll ever see another film where a cavewoman has as much makeup and hair products on as the gorgeous Welch. Utterly ludicrous of course, but holy Stegosaurus turd Batman!...she was damn cute back then.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
The second H.G. Wells story to feature encounters with alien lifeforms after his most famous sci-fi story The War of the Worlds. Obviously a more fantastical story from Wells and this British made film certainly has that outlandish angle that's for sure. Although it seems this film isn't as surreal or fantastical as the original story surprisingly.
The whole story is narrated by the main character as an old man. It tells the story of how his eccentric inventor neighbour creates a substance that defies or eliminates gravity thus allowing them to fly to the moon in a homemade space sphere. There on the moon they encounter insect-like aliens hungry for knowledge.
Interesting to note that this film was of course made before man actually reached the lunar surface (1969). This of course doesn't mean people in 64 thought there were aliens running around up there but back when the original story was published in 1901 I'm guessing people could of thought it possible. The whole idea that the two main characters in this film use deep sea diving gear on the lunar surface is cute.
Whether or not this was an actual belief of the era or just Well's fantasy I don't know (I'm not even sure if this is accurate with the original source material). I think its fair to say back in the early 1900's the knowledge on resources/materials required for space travel/space crafts in general was probably very limited and underestimated, so what we see in this adaptation could well have been real concepts of the time (maybe not the moon bugs though).
The alien creatures known as Selenites are bug-like in appearance, bipedal and live underground like ants. These guys are mainly men in rather cheap basic looking rubber suits but some of the main aliens are animated by Harryhausen including the wonderful lunar centipedes.
Visually the whole film is very striking offering some lovely matte paintings, sets, models and that typically smart dapper 50/60's sci-fi attire. Even the inside of the space sphere is lined with that diamond shaped leather upholstery effect, I think that concept was started by the 1960 film 'The Time Machine'. The small space flight sequences at the start of the film are a joy to behold, so dated but so good (not too far from reality either), surely everyone can appreciate them.
The only downside to the film for me was the bland characters. Bedford (Edward Judd) has that stereotypical male chauvinism about him but comes across as rather unfriendly and rude in this film. He's always shouting at his fiance Kate who does pretty much nothing accept look pretty and shout back. Then you have the main character of Cavor played quite oddly by Lionel Jeffries. His performance was a strange one as it comes across as though he's improvising, it doesn't feel like he's in character or simply he can't act too well.
At the time this film was made space travel and reaching the moon was not far away, so to go backwards and make a film so 'medieval' must have been hard to sell, despite being an adaptation. This film is pure and utter silly fantasy (no further explanations required for that), its not a film for actors and its not really about the characters either. Its a visual spectacle, an effects film, an early 60's blockbuster if you will. Take all the gigantic scientific plot holes and complete lack of realism as part of the fun (as was intended) and you can't fail not to enjoy.