Sunday, 31 March 2013

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

























First came Morticia Addams in the 30's from cartoonist Charles Addams, then along came Maila Nurmi and her classic B-movie/TV horror host creation Vampira, then finally in the 80's America introduced us to Elvira. It turns out 'Elvira' was actually used to host the TV show Fright Night after Maila Nurmi quit the show.

The Fright Night show bosses needed a new host in the same vain as Vampira so they simply put out a casting call for someone to fill the role. Cassandra Peterson got the part and created the new image for the Vampira-like host. Although another source says the bosses hired Peterson to play the new Vampira without telling Nurmi. Hence Nurmi quit on creative difference and tried to sue Peterson. Either way both creations are clear rip offs from Charles Addams original lady in black.

Elvira is pretty much the pinnacle of mid 80's American culture. That trashy Guns n Roses, G.I.Joe, Garbage Pail Kids, bubblegum MTV pop culture era where gory horror films were rampant, Freddy Krueger was virtually a national icon, gruesome toys like Madballs and My Pet Monster were the norm, whilst gruesome toys like Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch Kids were scarily suppose to be harmless brrr. Yes I lived in the US back in 87 so I know.

It always amazed me how things like Elvira got on TV, but I guess with literately hundreds of TV channels there's a place for everything. Something that kids (and adults) back in the UK at the time found astonishing, the thought of so many channels including ones solely for cartoons!!

This film was pretty much an extension of a very simple idea to simply push the franchise further. There really is no plot involved whatsoever, Elvira turns up in a typical squeaky clean wholesome all American town to claim inheritance from her dead great aunt. Naturally this makes all the bland dull good little housewives of the town jealous and upset of this slutty gothic temptress, can you see where this is going yet? Oh and Elvira's evil uncle is the local Warlock trying to take over the world by getting his hands on an ancient spellbook that Elvira has just inherited, simple.

So apart from the odd moment of cheesy rubber hand puppet horror and evil sorcery the film is mainly chock full of sexual innuendo's or dirty double entendres, pretty much revolving around Peterson's ample boobies or ass. She has her razor sharp sarcastic wit, well kinda, its not really funny, more predictable and catty if anything. The mansion she inherits is your typical Munster type establishment with complimentary interior, not a long shot from The Addams Family either of course.

The film is soft and hammy but good natured I suppose, there is nothing really threatening here as we all know the score. When I was a kid I found the sight of fishnet stockings and tight black leotards extremely interesting, I still do of course but the film definitely feels more risky and sexual to the impressionable young male mind.

One of those ideas that works much better with a regular TV slot. Not a horrible film but hardly something to remember, more of a fun history lesson in 80's Americana. The Vegas finale dance routine is slightly naughty with some revealing outfits but I'm not complaining.

6/10

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Jabberwocky (UK, 1977)

























A film purely based around the unusual poem by Lewis Carroll which in turn is set within the 'Alice in Wonderland' story. So a sweet classic source is corrupted and transformed into a dank musty set olde England, a time in the middle of the Dark Ages, so very dark.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.'

A stunning British cast of all stars and a style so obviously Gilliam mixed with classic Monty Python, all very familiar and reassuring when you watch. You know just what you're gonna get and you know its gonna be damn dark, grim, dirty, gross, unique and very creative. Gilliam is so good at creating Medieval/Dark Ages visuals with his sets, costumes, use of light, use of locations and wild imagination, plus without huge amounts of money. Yes it does look very much like 'Time Bandits' and 'The Holy Grail' which does seem a little similar/repetitive, but there are some many nice touches with that bleak eerie atmospheric look that you just can't help but enjoy it.

The characters do feel slightly cliched and again a bit too 'Python-est' but they are all fleshed out so well by the classic cast, helped along with brilliantly cheap yet effective costumes, props and sets. The story is your basic 'Prince Charming' or 'knight slaying monster' type fable, with some wickedly devilish twists. I love how the 'Princess' ('Griselda Fishfinger') in this is a fat ugly female who doesn't like Palin's character at all...until he becomes the famous monster slayer and then she wants his ass. The fact that 'Dennis Cooper's' (Palin's character) father hates him for being a wuss and the way 'Mr Fishfinger' treats him like crap, until he becomes famous. The character names are brilliant aren't they...'Mr Fishfinger' 'Griselda Fishfinger'.

There are other clever distorted fairytale elements here too, the way wealthy town merchants don't wish to help the King fight the Jabberwocky because it brings them much revenue. The local Bishop is happy to let the terror continue as it brings in lots of donations for the church and a local skilled tradesman can't find work so he cuts off his foot to become a beggar. This proves so successful he cuts off his other foot also lol!.

The film does feel a tad dull and strung out through the middle, perks up towards the finale obviously as we wait with baited breath to see the monster. Its all about the monster really isn't it, the quirky bits in between are fun if typically overused Gilliam type stuff but really you just wanna see how this creature will appear.

Some glorious gooey moments throughout are the highlight for me with some really nice makeup/effects using good old fashioned methods. The mauling and eating to death of a lonely pleasant in the woods at the start is fantastic stuff! very simply done but so effective and really gory. Love how Gilliam doesn't shy away from showing the gory remains. The Jabberwocky in the end is also nicely done, kinda like a large Muppet, the old man in a suit routine. Nicely designed but I'm sure will look hokey to some now.

The film is pretty dated now but its amazing how well it stands up today. Everything really does still look good and quite authentic in that typical 'Python-esq' way. I adore the dark gallows humour in this film, I'm sure all Python fans will do so too, its a style that isn't really seen anymore...at least not in comedies. Its all so very Monty Python, I realise I say this a lot but it is!. Gilliam never liked how his work is always compared to Python, sorry Terry. But kudos for creating a perfect gnarly misshapen fairytale of grimness n gloom.

7/10

Battlefield Earth (2000)




















Now this film wanted to be epic, it really tried, Travolta put millions of his own fortune into it and pushed people into helping him create it. These type of catastrophic alien invasion films were all the rage around this time after the success of 'Independence Day'. The films title alone sounds epic, a thundering statement...BATTLEFIELD EARTH!, it sounds like the ultimate sci-fi action film, so what's wrong with it?.

First and foremost it looks like, and for all intense and purposes, is an extended 'Star Trek' episode. The plot is very dull and plays out like a dull episode of 'Star Trek', one involving lots of dialog about mining for minerals (gold, for what reason? I dunno), slave trading and general alien politics. The mistake made with the alien race (with the rather stupid name of 'Psychlos', is that the best Hubbard could come up with??) in this film is that they are dissected too much. We hear about all sorts of trivial background stuff that isn't required, in the end they just seem like large humans, there is no mystery.

On top of the really overly laboured plot is the simple fact that these aliens look crap. Putting aside the obvious 'Klingon' like appearance, they look like huge platform wearing transvestites with dreadlock-like hair in campy goth space suits. As if they belong in some fetish club or one of those freaky bizarre goth circus's.

Then there's the simple question of why Travolta's face isn't the same as the rest of the alien race? why do all of them have devil/vampire-like faces but Travolta's is normal?. Is this because Travolta didn't wanna be hidden behind makeup?. Who's decision was it to let Travolta have/keep his little goatee? that kinda detracts from the whole alien design don't you think, a humanoid goatee. And who are these really old looking alien politicians with the flabby necks? is that what 'Psychlos' look like with age? why don't they look like the other 'Psychlos' facially?.

Other minor issues spring to mind also such as the fact these guys don't feel pain, Travolta's arm gets blown off yet it doesn't really faze him. Whitaker seems to be the only black alien in the entire race. Then there's the amusing observation that most of the cast clearly can't walk too well in the stilts they are on, no running by these aliens hehe.

Then we have the human element, or what's left of them. OK so humans are almost extinct and the 'Psychlos' have been ruling them for 1000 years apparently. So why has humankind completely forgotten everything about their past? the ability to use their brains, know what basic objects like glass or weapons are, names of places etc...they have forgotten everything which makes no sense. Mankind has been enslaved by aliens but why have they gone backwards to primitive cavemen? they don't know what a city is or what stars in the sky are, they worships Gods like ancient humans once did and they all scream and yelp like monkeys. But they still wear trousers.

The plot totally loses it once the rebellion begins, the last humans led by Pepper conveniently find apparent secret military bases still stocked to the gills with weapons, Harrier jets and power it seems. Little bit of training and many of them are now proficient in guns and even better...can fly Harrier Jump jets no probs!! just like that. So much so that they are able to engage alien ships in a fancy ass dogfight.

There really are so many plot holes and question marks I can't possibly mention them all or remember them all!. I do recall the effects being somewhat bigged up at the time, they were suppose to be pretty neat for the day. I guess they aren't too bad to be honest, some shots look nice, mainly ruined cityscape's, the alien ships are a reasonable design as is some of the ship flight sequences. Sets are pretty bland and uninspired, just faceless metallic facilities whilst the whole film has this quite ugly blue/grey/green tint/hue to it which is unusual.

So for a film called 'battlefield earth' there actually isn't that much in the realms of mega earthbound conflicts going on, its all based in one location. On a certain silly level the film can be enjoyable with its action sequences, it totally jumps on the 'Independence Day' bandwagon that's for sure, but it can still be minor fun.

Had this been a few half hour episodes of a TV sci-fi series then it could be looked on more favourably. I mean the film really isn't much better than a TV show, but I must admit to liking Travolta's wickedly evil campy performance. That and the 'Psychlos' females that we get a glimpse of, a kind of fetish wearing gothic Cenobite with very very long tongues, film highlight for me.

4/10

Identity Thief (2013)


















From the director of 'Horrible Bosses' but alas this isn't anywhere near as good. Simple premise, a woman steals a family mans identity and maxes out his credit cards causing him all manner of issues which involve the law.

This is one of those films that just didn't sit well with me, the whole idea made me feel uncomfortable right from the start. This bloke has a nice happy family life which is brought to ruins by some fat binge drinking female who you just wanna smack in the face. Now I realise the director probably wants you to hate this thief character but it doesn't work, at no point in the film did I like her or feel for her, even when you're clearly suppose to with the sappy friendship that builds during the film and the obvious fluffy ending.

The whole time I'm watching all I could think of was what I'd do in that situation, if this happened to me, I sure as hell wouldn't team up with the woman and do what Bateman's character does, screw that!. The film is kinda annoying and just gave me constant nasty thoughts for McCarthy's thief character and how I'd kill her if it was me. On top of that she isn't in the least bit funny, neither is Bateman, the whole road trip pairing is really laboured and doesn't gel and nothing much happens throughout the film which is funny either.

The whole film is just about screwing people over with the added obligatory car chase and obligatory nasty criminals trying to kill the main duo, there isn't even much point in that sub plot. What's so stupid about this is the fact that at the start of the film Bateman's character discovers what's happened to him and eventually gets backed up by the police, yet his boss still says he gonna fire him for shit that's been proved wasn't him!! huh?

Even the police detective doesn't fully believe he's innocent for gods sake! despite the fact its pretty clear identity fraud has been committed. That's like your bank calling you saying you've had suspicious activity on your account, you confirm the activity wasn't you but the bank doesn't believe you!. So no one at the start of the film basically believes Bateman's character is innocent, clearly he's done everything and no one believes in fraud. So to clear himself he goes off on this ridiculous road trip to find the culprit and bring her to justice! yeah like you'd do that, makes no sense whatsoever.

Literately nothing to recommend here, nothing funny about any of it, over worked, overly stretched, forced, awkward to watch with no redeeming qualities. Its like a wannabe 'Planes Trains and Automobiles' type vehicle but fails badly on every front. End of the day what is funny about something like identity fraud?!

2/10

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (AUS/US, 2001)





















Well I guess you know what I'm gonna say about this third sequel. The first film was great and the second was decent enough but was walking a tightrope in terms of how much further they could take the franchise. This final film falls from that tightrope right into a large vat of poo.

The idea is weak, so very weak. The intrepid bushman is back, this time in LA, why? because his love must go there to run the family newspaper business for a time. This of course equals lots of pathetic predictable visual gags that refer to LA culture and anything remotely well known in the area. For example Dundee goes to Paramount Studios for a tour, he ends up as an extra on movie sets and there is a hideous cameo by Mike Tyson, pretty much all the things you would expect from a comedy film set in the vile city of LA.

Its sad because it just seems that LA has nothing to offer in terms of locations or ideas that somehow don't end up revolving around the film business. I mean there are other tacky moments of course, you have the obligatory attempted drive by mugging by some stereotypical Latin American youths, dubious nightclubs, airhead blondes, fast food drive-thru's etc...but still the whole thing still ends up revolving around the movie business with most sequences taking place on movie sets.






















I get the impression that because the first two films were set in New York, movie folk in LA (the West) were jealous so they had to make another with Dundee in their neck of the woods battling with their cross cultural problems (gotta have something to do with LA it seems, can't not have that *groan*).

I mean really, the whole notion is such a waste of time, you could of made a much better go of it in another country at least. Try Dundee in Japan or Russia or Italy or where ever! sure the whole idea is still stretched and pointless but at least it would be more interesting, but no lets make it in LA, cos we can't possibly leave out LA.

Ignoring all rational advice we have this terrible result, a total cheese fest. Admittedly the continuity is again good with cast members returning, down side is Dundee now has a brat (son of 'Crocodile' Dundee? thank god not yet), luckily he is not involved too much which begs the question why put him in there in the first place?. Hogan still defies the laws of time and looks damn good as Dundee, his weather beaten tanned leathery face still looks youngish as does his body, makeup aside.

With US/Hollywood meddling this final chapter in the Aussie franchise is a by the numbers load of fluffy crapola that didn't even need to be made. Could of been reasonable with better imagination, maybe a new location instead of boring LA...and what the hell happened to his croc skin waistcoat?! Guess that wasn't very PC for nowadays.

3/10

'Crocodile' Dundee II (AUS, 1988)





















Well we're back in the land of the rising sun...no wait, well the land of the bloody scorching sun anyway. Yep, the inevitable sequel to the original hit and to be fair, I have no qualms about it. The first film was a breathe of fresh air and managed to capture the fun spirit of old fashioned adventures with a charming hero perfectly.

This film did well upon release but got bad reviews, I don't really see why to be honest. Sure the plot is a bit textbook, daft and over used, but the whole idea of the Aussie bushman still trying to find his way around the modern big city of New York with its cultural differences, lingo difficulties and his general ignorance of anything outside of the outback is still just about amusing.



Can't deny that there are moments when your thinking surely he's heard of that before! or seen one of those! When Mick fails to pick up on a Richard Nixon impression and then admits he's never heard of Nixon...yeah OK you've been living in the wilds of Oz but SURELY you've heard of Nixon! come on!

The main let down for this film is the stupid ass plot. Its basically your standard baddies kidnap Dundee's girl and he's gotta save her. This incorporates much silly nonsense involving kiddie street gangs dressed in awful 80's gangwear helping Dundee out, its lame.

The second half of the plot (two halves just like the first film) sees Dundee and Jane...I mean Sue Charlton back in native Oz hiding out from the bad guys who are now after them for revenge. All that way just for revenge? is it that important? Anyway we are then given an overly long series of chase/hunt sequences where Dundee uses his bushman talents to defeat the bad guys one by one.

Kinda got the impression that the despite the fact the first film was a big success it didn't involve any violence or bad guys for Dundee to kill, and this is why we have this bog standard sequel storyline. First film was a nice romantic Prince Charming type story, this is Hollywood action time...Aussie style.



What's even more off putting is both Dundee and Sue are in mortal danger during this time from the drug dealers hunting them yet they treat it like some kind of happy camping trip with lots of hugs n kisses. The director can't decide what he wants, remain a lovey-dovey romcom or venture into some proper jungle/desert killing action. Obviously it stays on the light side which equals some rather silly tame bad guy take downs which aren't really believable for the situation. The situation quite clearly shows that all the bad guys need to be killed off.

So yeah the story is crap and that's a shame because the franchise is fine for a sequel. There is just enough juice left in Mick Dundee to squeeze out another fun film. The visuals gags are still keeping afloat just about, Hogan still looks the part perfectly as do all other cast members (great continuity) and the imagery of wild Australia in all its glory with the adding of more Aboriginal folk is still very welcome and quite original. But most importantly, overall its still a fun film that just about delivers...by the skin of its teeth.

6/10

'Crocodile' Dundee (AUS, 1986)





















Like its star Paul Hogan this film was once big, real big, a force to be reckoned with, but has since completely disappeared into obscurity. There was a time when the slender blonde leather faced Hogan was everywhere here in the UK, mainly advertising beer and acting the gruff Aussie, it was very popular.

I think what is so endearing about this film is Hogan's character, his charm, lack of tact, surprising strength, rugged looks, Tarzan like abilities, gloriously over the top threads, blatant unknowing male chauvinism and the overall stereotypical rough Aussie masculinity bordering on rudeness we've all heard about. The epitome of the typical Aussie cowboy living in the merciless Aussie outback.

Yet despite all that he's still a decent man, good natured, bit of a ladies man and a very likeable fellow who does what's right (most times) or what he believes is right. He accepts who he is and we the audience accept it too, he's a bit of a lad (albeit middle aged lad).

I tend to think that the rather over board portrayal of Mick Dundee is kinda toyed with for the international audience. I'm sure there are folk like this in the depths of the outback but the extreme stereotyping going on I think is there to make people laugh, give them what they expect but bigger. Everybody has a perception of different people from different countries and this is what many countries probably expected to see (at the time) when it came to Aussie blokes living in the bush (or Aussie males as a whole).

The ragtag, scruffy, unwashed, unshaven, dirty shirt wearing bar patrons in Walkabout Creek pretty much some up the humongous stereotyping going on. Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe this IS how blokes in small desert towns of Australia's outback look and behave! Maybe all the sheila's are rather butch with cropped hair and work behind the bar...beats me, but it seems a tad forced.

The plot is pretty much your Prince Charming type affair really, but in the Aussie outback, a modern day Tarzan. The beautiful blonde Kozlowski goes walkabout with Hogan's Dundee, gets into dangerous situations, shown how to survive, meets local Aboriginal tribes folk and slowly falls in love with the athletic bushman.

The first half of the film is set in the outback of Oz and displays terrific scenery alongside some great visual gags and exciting moments, including Kozlowski's ass! The second half of the film is set on the streets of New York and again displays some genius visual gags (for the time) alongside more expected exciting moments...you just knew the pair would come across street punks at some point.

What is amazing is back in the day (and now even) this film was a fresh idea, it was quite unique and still is really. If you scratch beneath the surface it tends to have a kind of 'Police Academy' motif/theme really, lots of obvious setups for hero moments, love scenes, silly gags etc...But its such a slice of good wholesome cheer I really can't fault it at all.

You know what I'm gonna say...looking back this film is horrendously cliched, cheesy and predictable, seriously so. But back in the 80's this was a tremendous hit and rightly so, it has everything you could want for a great fun time with a lovely happy ending. Only downer I can see is this franchise totally typecast Hogan and pretty much ended his film career as he never bettered this, his best rough bluecollar Aussie charmer.

8/10



Friday, 29 March 2013

Warner Bros Classic Looney Tunes

Yep I gotta admit I LOVE these old toons, not all of them mind you, only so many, some are a bit poor really. My fave characters are easily Daffy followed closely by Marin the Martian and Yosemite Sam. Despite the fact they are kids cartoons they actually had slightly deeper laughs for older folk too, little touches and nods to various stars of the time and situations political or otherwise. Almost their own personal views snuck in quietly hoping no one notices, the kids certainly wouldn't.

The guys behind these toons are legends themselves now, the toons carried on after them but they were never the same, especially the artistic style. I love the style most of the toons are drawn in, a kind of simple sketch with blocks of colour yet with nice detail for certain scenes (in a room or depending on the toons setting). Hell even the older 60's style was nice, much simpler but still nice, hard to describe. The modern toons just don't have that same flair, it just can't be replicated.

Its weird to think most of the creators are now gone, such talent gone!  people like Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Warren Forster and of course Mel Blanc. In a way these weren't kids cartoons but more stylised art made by middle aged blokes who you wouldn't think would be interested in silly cartoons. There is so much of these guys in the toons, they are historic, a peek back into that era, a time when Bogart was the Cruise of the day.

Here are some gorgeous images from some of my fave toons ^_^

'Duck Dodgers in the 241/2th Century'


















'Robin Hood Daffy' 
Easily my favourite Daffy toon, a glorious parody of the classic Errol Flynn movie, its actually hilarious and of course looks stunning.

















Another top toon is 'Transylvania 6-500' with Bugs. I love this one as its right up my street with the whole Dracula/spooky castle thing going on. Love toons like this and this one looks fudging awesome, the Dracula type character is voiced amazingly also.






Few more images from some other great toons...'Deduce You Say' 'Water Water Everyhare' 'Bunker Hill Bunny' and 'Rabbit Fire'.
























Just a few classic Acme pistol pics for you hehe





Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012)





















I don't get Ron Perlman I really don't, the guy is a pretty big Hollywood star yet he still takes jobs like this! I know he does act in a lot of cheap sci-fi/fantasy and some of it can be good cult stuff but surely he could see how bad this was gonna be.

So this is now the sequel to the first film as we follow an older 'Mathayus' as events lead up towards what would happen before 'The Mummy 2'. Usual appearance for the film of course but its notably cheaper looking with lots of really bad background extras hehe if you watch the battles (of which there are many) most of them haven't a clue what they are doing.

The plot is all jumbled up and dull, its all about over throwing this king or that king and getting another for assistance or whatever...I dunno really, I wasn't sure who is wanting what but all you need to know is everything looks cheap, even the fights don't look convincing.

I just find it hard to believe they even got the well spoken Billy Zane and Temuera Morrison in this! Morrison does actually look the part with his shaven head and Zane as always injects some humour into the proceedings which is probably the best thing in the film, the Scorpion King is played by some guy I have never heard of.

Its all terrible, pretty wooden, obvious shell sets, a big fat oaf sidekick character because its funny when he burps apparently and some dubious 'Mortal Kombat' style magical characters at the end, I was not amused.


1/10

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)





















Right now this is a prequel to the first Scorpion King film showing Mathayus as a young lad and up n coming warrior. The lead for this film is a guy called Michael Copon and to be honest he does actually look like a young Johnson, credit where credits due the guy does pull off a reasonable young Johnson.

The same cannot be said for the dreadful Couture who can't act to save his life, the guy is a meat head and should only be used for fight sequences with his stature, why anyone would wanna use him for a speaking role is beyond me. The rest of the cast aren't too bad with a sexy young female, an intellectual Greek poet, a Chinese acrobat and a few mercs, quite a cute little band in a D&D or LOTR type way.

There are still some reasonably high production values here as the film just about looks OK, there is a battle against a Minotaur which could have been worse but has some good editing and a foray into the underworld which has some nice visuals. The finale is rather flat and does have a nasty CGI scorpion to deal with but overall I have seen much worse (this chapter is a bit more mythological), it still could have been much better of course, dealing with a young Scorpion King is good material to be mined but we have what we have.

4/10





The Scorpion King (2002)





















So oddly enough this character was actually loosely based on a real Egyptian leader which does make things a little more interesting, not a franchise saver by any means but its cool to read up on it. This spin off is set 5000 years before the events of 'The Mummy' which does seem rather a long time to me.

Great title, slightly dull execution, we all knew what to expect here, Johnson running around half naked killing endless enemies with no apparent fighting skills. I will be completely truthful here and say this film isn't too bad, if you squint at it its almost pretty good, the fights are solid along with the stunts, cast does the job for the type of film this is and more importantly it actually looks good without any silly CGI to spoil the broth.

If you took out the historical setting you could quite easily say this was a sequel/prequel to the Conan franchise really, its your basic swords n sorcery fantasy just without any monsters, its better than the recent official Conan effort. So yeah...this is not too bad, Kelly Hu looks lovely and Johnson is clearly learning the ropes showing promise.


6/10

The Mummy Returns (2001)




















The one thing I can say about this sequel straight away is kudos for the continuity, Sommers has managed to gather all the original cast to carry on and this does wonders for an otherwise very average film. Usually you tend to see the odd character played by someone else which always looks poor in my eyes.

Any who we kick off again with more nasty villains after treasure and power which we all know will end in tears...and probably some kind of horrible face melting death, there I go with my Indy comparisons again. This time we have the combination of Imhotep back for more punishment with his reincarnated love, the Scorpion King which doesn't really serve much purpose other than to give The Pebble....I mean The Rock a spin off franchise and a small group of nasty well spoken cads led by British thesp Alun Armstrong.

The main problem with this follow up is thus, they gave the now happily married heroes a son as baggage, this of course automatically equals a much kiddie friendly film with allot more slapstick, dumb humour and much much less horror. Of course the first film did very well so you can't blame them for opening up the film for an even wider audience but of course they lose a lot of integrity and faith from the more mature fans. I should really point out that they take the Indy comparisons a bit too far by actually dressing all the villains henchmen in the same type of costumes as in 'Temple of Doom'....really that was the last Indy thing I swear.

The entire film is much more of a CGI show this time around, that wouldn't be an issue but the CGI really has not dated well, even less so than the original film, hell even at the time this CGI wasn't too good. Add to this a lot more over the top action which becomes too silly, terrible bluescreen shots, a laughable effort at a CGI scorpion cross The Rock monster and almost the same sequences shot for shot from the first film in places...did I mention the horrific CGI?

Yes you get what you pay for here, you want more ludicrous mummy blasting action? you got it, you want action figure characters all dressed in desert coloured attire spouting the most idiotic, state the obvious exposition dialog? look no further. Unfortunately like many blockbuster sequels they just get carried away and completely lose your suspension of disbelief. Can't complain too much as you know exactly what to expect from this and it doesn't pretend to be anything else, personally I think it was just a poor glossy rehash which is more cartoon than film. The final 20min as the action all comes together is one of the biggest CGI messes I've seen ever, everything looks really very clearly artificial, but hey the Egypt setting was an enjoyable ride.


3/10

The Mummy (1999)




















After many many different ideas and approaches a final concept was agreed upon and this franchise was kick started, note...I really will try not to mention Indiana Jones too much.

A very loose remake of the classic Karloff horror film this was completely re-imagined and given the Indy treatment with minor horror aspects. To be honest the film is actually a little scary in places with a few jump moments, bugs eating people and getting under their skin and lots of decaying mummies with good close ups, like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' the film achieves the family adventure status despite actually being close to the bone here and there.

The film of course had dated now and the effects that were break through for the day now look pretty dreadful in places, the CGI on the main mummy is dire, bluescreen work is obvious, sets are obvious and the sand effects also look poor. This is of course looking at the effects now, as I said back in the day they were pretty neato, the best examples that still actually look good today are probably at the finale battle with a group of Egyptian mummy soldiers and some real time models, suits and makeup, the severed forearm crawling for the sword is a good 'Evil Dead' moment.

I always did hate the way Imhotep turned into a mini sand tornado for his vanishing act and kinda flew out the window, really nasty video game effects and idea there, looked dumb then...looks dumb now.

The plot is cheesy and simple as are most of the performances, you can easily tell who's gonna die right from the start because most of the character actors here are the usual cannon/monster fodder in other films. I know the film is suppose to be a kind of homage to B-movies and those old daring black and white adventure matinee flicks but the cast do really give the film a rough n ready feel, its almost as if they couldn't attract anyone else. Everyone is pretty well cliched to the hilt here with your toff sounding British accents, trigger happy yanks, the horrendous Kevin J. O'Connor, the odd but well cast Vosloo who plays it deadly straight and a nice little turn for British comedian Omid Djalili in a rather stereotypical role.

Its definitely one of if not the best period adventure type flicks that can hold a candle to old Indiana Jones. The only other few films that can challenge Dr Jones in my opinion are 'The Rocketeer' which would be a flying Indy and probably 'The Phantom' and 'The Shadow'. Looking back is was a good fun ride, nowadays its still fun but more like a bad video game of sorts. I think they tried too hard and went over the top with all the guns, stunts and stuck in too much slapstick, sure it was meant to be a blockbuster (and that's its problem really) but less is more right.


6/10

Monday, 25 March 2013

Commando (1985)





















'I lied'

I think its fair to say if you are asked to create a list of the best action movies ever it would/must include 'Die Hard' and this film. Probably one of the most over the top, ridiculous, continuous action set piece films ever committed to film. It stars Arnie, his character has a silly name and its fudging fantastico!

Lets be brutally honest here for a minute, back in the day this was the dogs bollocks, as a kid I LOVED it! When the film was made it was suppose to be a serious adult action thriller, 18 cert, plenty of swearing and plenty of violence, no mistake...this was the real deal. Looking back now its a very different story, yes it still rocks ass but boy is it cheesy, predictable and cliched, if this were made now it would be an over the top CGI filled homage to be laughed at.

Thing is people nowadays have gotta remember these classic action films weren't suppose to be stupid at the time, they were (semi) serious films for adults. This is why many modern action homages fall flat because they always go for the utterly ridiculous merely for laughs (and for a PG rating half the time), its not serious...yes I'm looking at a certain franchise Mr Stallone.

Yet despite how crappy the film actually is if we're honest about it, its a legend of an Arnie vehicle. Of course the main reason is because of Arnie, without him I'm sure this film wouldn't be half as memorable (sorry Sly), but its also the influence it had. How many action films can you think of that have pinched ideas from this film? even better, how many videogames have totally ripped off this film? a lot is the answer.

This film pretty much created the unstoppable one man army v hordes of bad guys genre, much like Eastwood pretty much created the rugged good looking silent lone gunman who takes out all the bad guys in a town genre. The tooled up rippled macho special forces super soldier that simply cuts through whole camps of soldiers and military vehicles, mowing them all down with a machine gun in each hand whilst the sweat glistens on his overly pumped body. Think of all the videogames where the main character/s are basically complete copies of Arnie in this film, just running around slaughtering enemies eg. 'Mercs'.

'Come on Bennett, let's party!'















Anywho we all know the plot here don't we, Arnie's daughter is kidnapped by the rather camp looking/acting Vernon Wells complete with chain mail mesh vest (oh yes), who in turn is being controlled by a hairy sweaty looking Dan Hedaya. This of course pisses Arnie off big time so he decides to go after his daughter and kill EVERYONE!!!

When I say everyone I mean every last bad guy and his dog (not really). This begins a long series of battles that involve Arnie kicking the shit outta henchmen one after another until he gets to the baddie base camp and single handedly destroys it. When I say single handedly I mean just that. Arnie runs around topless with rocket launchers, large knives, Uzi's, shotguns and the awesome M60E3, quite literately blowing lines of men away like there's no tomorrow.

The sheer magnitude of killing going on in this films is incredible, its mind numbing! yet its totally tubular to watch. Arnie looks buffed as hell, he's in his prime, the biceps are bulging, the veins are popping, he's tanned up and he's got that weird haircut he used to have where its cropped on the top n sides yet a bit long at the back, afraid of the clippers methinks. The man is a mountain, a tank...and once he's set in motion nothing gonna stop this guy...not even hundreds of heavily armed troops.

Like all Arnie films not only is the action big but so are the one liners, the dialog. This film doesn't disappoint with tonnes of memorable quips that are the stuff of legend now (I like to use the word legend now). Much of these witty snaps come up when Arnie must battle someone, no shortage of that here. Each and every henchman get his own chance to deliver some cool evil exposition and ultimately receive a timely last word from Arnie before he beats him to death, or guns him down, blows him up whatever.

'Let off some steam, Bennett'















The film is what you may call the pinnacle of 80's action fests, the prime example of pure 80's action gold in camo pants. The whole thing quite literately plays out like a videogame with end of level boss battles for the main henchmen, taking out vehicles and buildings for extra points and a roaring finale. It is incredibly dumb and cheesy now yes, not back then, but now yes. There are some nasty visual continuity errors throughout, hokey acting by dozens of soldier extras doing some of the most acrobatic deaths you will ever see, really wooden acting, a rather odd reggae/calypso type musical score and the most laughable bad guys ever.

I mean come on, what the hell is Vernon Wells character wearing and what does he look like, the fat tash and beer gut? really? David Patrick Kelly as Sully is a really annoying evil Michael J Fox looking clone and Bill Duke...is Bill Duke and his tiny ears. Altogether they are a funny bunch but memorable so job done I guess.

But still, despite all its flaws and with tongue firmly placed in cheek, the film manages to be one of the greatest action films ever. Not serious in terms of plot with the likes of 'Die Hard' but still violent enough to make your parents not let you watch it. All I can say is quite simply, if you are an Arnie fan you can't fail to enjoy this, one of his best films. Gun porn a plenty, bloody squibs, real stunts no CGI, Arnie never gets so much as a scratch during his ordeal and a small cameo for Bill Paxton. John Rambo always was a Matrix wannabe...or was it the other way around?

'I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I'm very hungry!'

8/10


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
















One of Errol's early films in a time when shooting wild cats or even pretending to was seen as fine and displayed with glee. I was surprised how much of the film is quite dark to be honest, the massacre at Chukoti (made up) is not bloody of course but its pretty graphic as is the final charge where horses are clearly throw all over the place (200 actual horses were killed during filming). The stunt men must have earned their pay, yikes!!

Yes an earlier time for sure, animal rights stepped in to halt filming with the horrendous horse massacre on location but the fact they still got away with it and were able to even start shows a different attitude which does cast a nasty spell over this film. The final charge sequence is very good for a film of the this time but its clear where horses have died for the screen, impressive stunts and action but is it worth it??

As for the film its pretty dull throughout, much loving between Havilland and Knowles, much war talk with Flynn and plenty of the 'stiff upper lip old boy'. The usual contracted players as mentioned, they all go well together and shows why Warner stuck them together for many more pictures. Despite the fictional sub plots and characters this does play well if you can take all the talking, as with modern films you are waiting for the final big push and charge. This is where it gets more exciting and our swashbuckling hero Errol begins to shine...but not for long.

Looks good, great garrison sets (actually built for real) amid the scorching heat, costumes are superb as expected and acting is solid from all the cast with solid direction from Warner stalwart Curtiz, its just a bit boring to be honest.

5/10

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

























Hadn't seen this until now and I was really surprised and pleased at the outcome. Being a story based around romance with much slow burning dialog I was fearful that I would be bored but this is very much in the same vein as 'Robin Hood' with its Technicolour vibrancy, lavish costumes and sets. When I say lavish I mean stunningly beautiful and bold right down to the last detail! its exquisite in some scenes, every set is awesome and looks pretty faithful to what it may have looked like, albeit a bit fantasised. The costumes are also tremendous, every man and woman is dressed in amazing period attire that makes you wanna try them on yourself, dem threads!
Much of the drama unfolds on obvious sets, beautiful as they are they still look like sets. Same with some location work...its all obviously Warner back lots with the odd walkabout in California state somewhere, but you can forgive.

As for acting its the usual stuff from Errol, kinda wooden and kinda basic but always looks good while doing it, though here he is clearly outdone by Davis as Elizabeth. Powerful, forceful and most of all believable as the tough female Queen, Davis was deep in her character shaving her hairline and eyebrows for that true Elizabethan look.

Flynn and Davis did not get on well as I have read and the scene were Davis slaps Flynn across the face in the courtroom was actually a genuine slap and Flynn's reaction is quite real. He was pissed big time! classic silver screen moment. Davis storms away with this film though, Flynn is a mere speck to her thundering performance.
Along the way we have Alan Hale again, this time against Flynn in Ireland. Check the beautiful swamp sets for the battles in Ireland, and of course the lovely Olivia De Havilland as the lady in waiting Penelope Gray. Lastly enter the great Vincent Price as Sir Walter Raleigh, looking the part in his beautiful outfits and adding a unique feel to the part with his classic vocal tones.

Its all Curtiz genius again as he produces yet another stunning epic technicolour masterpiece. Nowhere near as much action and excitement as 'Robin Hood' but it actually looks MORE lavish than Hood if that's even possible. Plenty of verbal but its not boring in any way, the smooth bright dream like colours and grand visuals keep you watching. But like all Flynn films its not historically accurate so there is a little fun to be had, Hollywood always uses a bit of artistic licence, yet its clearly one of his more sensible films with little to no swashbuckling or shooting.

9/10

V for Vendetta (2005)





















There's a definite Guy Fawkes motive running through this film isn't there, didn't notice at first (yes I'm being sarcastic). kind of a kinky dressing up as Guy Fawkes fetish thing going on. The plot is strange for sure, set in the future of the 2030's, its all about a totalitarian run UK and a certain freedom fighter (with the noted Guy Fawkes fetish) who uses the old 16th Century attempted terrorist act as his main influence for his own terror attacks...of freedom.

A curious blend of fascism set against anarchy with an all American style matinée serial/pulp magazine hero in the middle. What I have always found weird about this graphic novel creation is the obsession with Guy Fawkes. I understand the notion of using the terrorist act of blowing up Parliament as brilliant symbol/sign of rebellion against the dictatorship that governs this universes UK, but why the need to dress up like Guy Fawkes complete with silly period wig and quaint facial mask?. Why would someone in the 2030's idolise and copy a 16th Century criminal, despite his treasonous act which isn't actually much to celebrate really.

Anyway I can't deny that Weaving's smooth charismatic tones were prefect for the voice of 'V'. He played the character in full as we know but his polite charming well spoken mannerisms really sold the whole anti hero character and gave him this endearing Errol Flynn like persona. Its quite strange to actually think that he was rather dashing even though his face is hidden behind that mask, you tend to forget he's wearing a mask really, its a good looking mask.

The less said about Portman the better frankly, she is becoming more and more annoying as she grows older. She spends the whole time in this film looking distraught with her mouth hanging open and gasping for air! its quite infuriating.

Who better to use for the fascist regime leader than the main lead for the film adaptation of the Orwell novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', John Hurt. Hurt's performance is pretty much limited to simply being on a large TV screen/monitor, but the way he barks out orders in a menacing torrent to his subordinates is really a joy to watch. In fact the whole design and look of the fascist party is really well done with clear references/influences from history in certain scenes of addressing the nation. Black and red are the strong piercing colours of the 'Norsefire party', cliched but effective, much like their whole exterior appearance really but lets not forget this is a graphic novel adaptation where visuals are everything.

Its visuals that do bring this film to life like many other similar films. The dark grey tones, dark alleyways, dark rooftops, the darkly cloaked anti hero, shadows galore and the much required dark anti hero logo that will eventually Adorn most badly lit vicinities. In short this is very much your Batman type affair accept it has a more simple minimalistic feel or approach, remember its set in merry old England and not a forest of gothic skyscrapers. The visuals can be striking at times but oddly basic at others, almost verging on TV movie standards.

A clever film where the main (anti) hero is more a symbol of the people, the movement and less of an individual person with fancy fighting moves. The fact they managed to resist showing the face beneath the mask is amazing frankly, seeing as they couldn't resist the old slow motion martial arts stuff (you can see The Wachowski Brothers were here)...but that might be in the graphic novel, I haven't seen it. Its all here with this film, totalitarian fears, media cover ups, secret police, total anarchy, genocide, dictators, torture and the destruction of our beloved Big Ben and Palace of Westminster, oh the sacrilege!.

I also liked the lesbian/gay sub plot in the film set within the fascist regime. Now I'm guessing this is in the graphic novel as its a brave move to be so bold with this kind of content (but this is a UK film, and the UK is brutally PC). The whole idea works perfectly against the extremist policies of the 'Norsefire party' and really brings fresh emotions to the surface, clearly using the realities of Nazi acts during WWII.

I enjoyed the fighting sequences and I liked the masked avenger known as 'V'. The film is heavily cliched but has many undertones which can be looked at in different ways. Unsure how accurate it is to the original source material seeing as Moore didn't like it but none the less its a thoroughly fun action film that boarders on operatic at times!. Still don't really see the need for the the Guy Fawkes motive though, other than it simply looks kinda cool and original.

Final note, why can't henchmen ever understand that maybe shooting the hero in the face might be more effective.


7/10

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

























I was unaware that this film was based loosely on real soldiers, I had an idea it was close to reality but didn't realise the main characters were real, well Law's character. The film is woven into the intense Battle of Stalingrad and is solely about the duel between one Russian sniper and one German sniper.

I think this films suffers in the same way as some other historic films in the way they add a mushy love story. I can understand why they do this but it really does drag the main premise of the plot down, especially here. The setup is perfect for a real tense nail biter, the setting is a war torn Stalingrad and the effects/location teams have really done their homework here. Creeping in and out of bombed-out buildings, masses of rubble, skeletons of buildings adorn the landscapes, bodies strewn around, the whole city is a shell of a former existence, a former life.

Into this land of ruin we have Jude Law as real Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev who is pitted against German sniper (supposedly real) Major Erwin König. When you see either character on screen and lurking about it gets your heart racing, you wanna see what will happen, who will pick off who, predictably we know of course but the atmosphere is cracking. But my previous point, against this we have a droopy love tale which merely offers up sappy forced emotions to try and engage you further. Unfortunately all it does is kinda annoy you because you wanna see sniping action.

Being a film based on sniping and realism don't expect this to be chock full of explosions and mass action. What action there is is naturally slow but nicely nerve racking, well reasonably. It is a bit hokey because we all know damn well the main two won't possibly die until the end yet anyone else is fair game, sniper fodder.

The film captures the propaganda of the time well, the way the Soviets made Zaitsev a national hero and tried to scare the Germans. Vice versa with the imposing threat of the older German marksman brought in to defeat the Soviet. All roles are played well in the visual sense, what I mean is all the cast look like they belong in this era, especially the drawn gaunt looking Harris. The only issue I had was the fact no one really tried for authentic accents bar Hoskins (looking like an angry Russian Hobbit). Law still has his cockney accent, Fiennes sounds English as does Weisz and Hoskins has a muddled cockney/Russian thing going on...but at least he tries.

I didn't really agree with one action that the director makes Harris's character (König) carry out in the film, a grim scene involving a young boy he trusts. Unsure how accurate that is suppose to be, I dare say its completely crap, they shouldn't really add things like that unless its accurate.

A well paced film that does show the realities of war to a degree if somewhat glorifying or romanticising it a touch. The Russians tend to drink and be generally rowdy when not fighting which doesn't seem too right. Not as epic as the films poster designs make out but still a decent war film focusing on a very good tale. The silent stern cold ruthlessness of Harris as the German sniper stands out for me here, but you still feel for him at the end. After all its war and every man simply does what he needs to do to survive.

7/10

The Eagle (2011)




















Well I'm loving all these historical films being made these days, really interesting and gloriously epic and this film despite not being a huge Hollywood flick is really decent and worth the watch.
The plot revolving around the mystery of the Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana) has been passed around the history books for along time and no one really knows what happened to them but this film goes along with the safe bet that they were simply ambushed and beaten by local tribes (probably Picts) and all killed or executed.

Of course the film isn't totally accurate, the story that one Centurion (Aquila) goes behind enemy lines with a Briton slave to recapture the Eagle standard is pure fantasy, the way the film concludes is also pure fantasy and maybe should of ended in a more realistic fashion. Despite the obvious historical flaws, you can't blame the creators for a little artistic license, this film is excellent fun and really well made from the costumes and tribal speech right to the fantastic location work.

The real Scottish Highlands and Glens are used for the backdrop in this film and boy does it work, some of the scenes look tremendous, really barren n bleak with rain n clouds aplenty, also the use of native tongue for all the tribal scenes really adds to the epic quality and realism although I'm unsure if they looked as they are portrayed, they do have a kind of Amazon rain forest type of look to them, think 'Apocalypto' or 'Last of the Mohican's' Huron look. I'm also unsure if the local tongue used in the film is based on anything real, same with the 'Seal' tribe, never heard of them and its thought the Picts would of been the natives of the time.

Great fight sequences and a much more real feel to the film than the recent 'Centurion' which had a more blockbuster type urge to it. I'm unsure if anyone would really be that bothered about a flag standard that they would go through all that, not sure the Roman hierarchy would be bothered about it either as they would probably be more concerned about losing men and ground than the actual metal standard. Its all good and well acted from both the Roman front and Tribal front with Tatum and Bell looking quite similar to each other, and the tribal warriors of Caledonia also playing their parts really well.

7/10

Centurion (2010)




















Do you like lots of claret spillage? brutal warfare involving swords and battle axes? tribal women slaying faceless warriors? course you do, Roman Centurions v Pict tribal warriors, lets get ready to rumble!!

With an unknown cast really this film is damn fine as is most Marshall flicks, its fudging violent and chock full of death n blood but its historical so its OK. The plot is very simple but keeps you on the edge of your seat as a small group of Roman Centurions battle to survive behind enemy lines in the cold misty realms of Scotland/Northern England (well north of Hadrian's Wall).

I really liked this film for many reasons, the scenery and location use is stunning and well presented, costume, weapons, sets etc...are all perfect and look realistic, the history involved is of course mixed with artistic license but the basics are correct (the Ninth Legion massacre etc..) and more importantly the cast all work, no big name stars. Sure its predictable and we have seen the battle setups before in other historical epic's but the look, feel, scope and sheer cold bleakness of the film and its battles make this very impressive and a joy to watch.

Nothing particularly new here to be honest but its good boys adventure type stuff with tribal women slaying Roman troops (Marshall seems to like the fetish of women in tight gear killing men horribly) and plenty of blood and the hacking of limbs, decent stuff.

8/10

Troy (2004)

























Homer's The Iliad is the basis of this film and whether or not the actual Trojan War took place this film actually does the story/fable/myth great justice with its glorious lavish looks. For me the mystery behind this ancient Greek plot is all the more intriguing and boosts my favour for the film. From what I see and have read Petersen's film is quite accurate to what we know of the event, everything seems to play out as it should and there doesn't appear to be much Hollywood tomfoolery going on with the details, well not too much.

One Slight argument could be raised about a minor detail, Achilles relationship to Patroclus is not known for sure, where as here they are cousins. As for some other bigger issues...King Agamemnon wasn't killed in Troy but returned to Greece, Paris did actually die in Troy during the war and Helen of Troy was suppose to have been taken back to Sparta. So a little artistic license used it seems but not too bad, why it was done that way I don't know.

As for the film...well it looks gorgeous, the location work really sets this up beautifully as everything looks a soft sandy golden colour against the piercing blue Aegean Sea although not actually filmed against the Aegean Sea. The Walls of Troy are powerful and impressive looking as the Greeks attack them throughout, the battles are huge with vast channels of warriors facing off against the city walls and each other, some excellent battle sequences I assure you. The scope of the battles is probably the best aspect of the film really, a lot of historical films have good battles in them these days but you really get a sense of size here plus its all in broad daylight so its gotta look sharp.

The visuals, the costumes (LOVE that dark coloured Myrmidon armour, very striking, very cool), the sets and the battles can't be faulted but unfortunately one thing lets all this down badly and that's the casting. Pretty much every member of the cast is a bad choice and doesn't fit the bill at all, harsh but true. Brian Cox as Agamemnon is far too much of a villain in the film and hams it up atrociously...you'd think he was in the next ''Die Hard' flick! Gleeson looks the part but his Irishness keeps coming through, he's in the wrong time period and army. Pitt simply can't act too well I'm afraid, always his major downfall, plus he looks too buff and pretty for the part really which takes away any sense of realism. Yep Pitt looks too good, too super heroic for his own good.

Bana really puts in a poor show here for some reason, I just didn't feel the power he should have, the emotion just wasn't there plus his Aussie accent kept creeping in. The same for Bean with his Yorkshire accent which isn't covered at all!! so you have King Odysseus with a Sheffield South Yorkshire accent for Christ's sake! Then you have the very weak talented Bloom who somehow manages to keep getting cast in big films, yes he looks perfect for this role but he simply can't handle the weight of this type of epic film. Lastly we have the mighty Peter O' Toole who again like other cast members just doesn't seem to have the power or weight needed for the role, he came across as tired and almost reluctant to embrace the role, a stunning actor for sure but he didn't seem right here.

Its a damn fine film to take on Homers ancient poem but I just wish Petersen had used a cast that wasn't simply chosen for their big name status at the time. I would of thought he had more sense than that and as a result he lets down this film which could of been truly epic in every aspect. Its definitely a visually spectacular war movie that's for sure, very pretty looking ancient battle porn, but methinks that's all it really is.

8/10