Thursday, 28 November 2013

Army of Darkness (1992)

























I remember very clearly when I saw this film on the shelves at my local videoshop all those years ago. The films poster/art cover looked a bit scruffy, there was only one lone copy and I recall thinking to myself what tacky cheesy B-movie guff it looked like. It kinda looked like a grotty seedy rip off of 'Willow'.

Following straight on from 'Evil Dead II' we now find Ash in medieval times, an age of knights and Kings...for some reason. Yep Ash crash lands in 1300 AD which I'm guessing is in our past? not an alternative dimension or anything I presume?. Not overly sure about that one as it clearly isn't the rolling hills of merry olde England, although the King or Lord is called Arthur but that's not the King Arthur, so perhaps an alternate Arthur or maybe just a less heard about Arthur. The time period isn't accurate either or even close but maybe I'm just delving a little too deep here.

Of course the main reason why the land looks as it does is probably down to the fact Raimi and co couldn't afford to actually go to England and film there...if its suppose to be medieval England that is. This leads me to my first tiny issue I have with this film, the era/setting and visual effects used. I do like the setting ideas and the dark middle ages type approach but it also does tend to invite the cheapness to shine through on occasion. The reason for this I think is because some of the film is in daylight and it just doesn't look as it should, its not dark obviously, not eerie or creepy...its errr daylight. It highlights the joins in the special effects as it were.



The other issue I had with the film was the fact it looked too cheap in places for me. We all know the film/franchise is suppose to be a low budget schlocky affair but over the course of the three films the budget got better and so should the effects to a degree. You look at 'Evil Dead II' and its cheesy as fuck, but the effects still have a great look about them in that classic 80's tradition, looks both good and bad at the same time. This film at times does look really really cheap, maybe a bit too cheap. The skeleton hordes at the end are just extras in basic costumes with plastic skeleton bits stuck on them, really didn't like that. A sequence where Ash is fighting skeleton warriors, the skeletons are clearly just being thrown at him one by one by crew members...actually it is a deliberately hilarious little moment.

Some of the effects are a sheer joy to watch, use of classic stop motion animation on some of the skeletons and a bit on Ash look terrific. Its just a shame all the skeletons couldn't be stop motion, a big stop motion battle at the end. Like the previous film effects are covered by every trick in the book, some glorious makeup jobs, masks and prosthetics alongside some ultra hammy bluescreen work on the mini Ash creations. Loved Evil Ash's design and makeup job, really top notch work there, when Ash splits in two is a brilliant sequence as we see the crazed delirious Ash running wildly through the misty moonlit night, loved the sets for most night scenes and the odd deadites we saw had that classic Raimi look about them, nice.


In this film Ash has also completely converted into a fully fledged iconic fantasy hero with his chainsaw hand and shotgun. The character has the look of a comic book character and is totally different to previous incarnations in the last two films. This is bolstered by the snappy dialog, quickfire quips, plenty of hero posing with the shotgun, a bit more muscle on show and the classic damsel in distress to save. I do like this aspect very much but at the same time I felt it got a little bit out of hand at times much like the overall comedy aspect.

'Gimme some sugar, baby'

There are moments where I really wince because its just too goofy, when Ash is getting some Three Stooges treatment from the skeletal hands coming up from their graves is one such example. Another is when Ash has two heads and we get more Three Stooges tomfoolery, was that really needed? Also there are odd bits of dialog from the bad guys which have been edited in and are just too silly for me, that and some really hokey skeleton prop moments...yikes!

Another discussion builder is the two ending sequences, which do you prefer? Myself I'm not sure, I liked the apocalyptic ending but I don't really get how that is suppose to have happened. Its a bit of a Tim Burton 'Planet of the Apes' ending that one, makes no real sense. So I guess I must go with the cornball ending where Ash becomes or continues on as a one liner spewing, shotgun wielding demon/deadite slayer. I think that ending does fit more inline with the character and plot. All those cool one liners do feel very much like a precursor to 'Bubba Ho-Tep' if you ask me.

'Hail to the king, baby'

I tend to think of this film as a twisted Harryhausen flick, a dark surreal vision of his work, just a different spin. It is an oddity indeed, its not really horror, not scary at all, its outright fantasy really, much like 'Krull' 'The Beastmaster' or 'The Princess Bride'. The film is such a drastic move away from the original concepts of the first two films its quite unusual. I do like the film very much, its a great little dark bizarre fairytale of sorts but I just don't think it fits in with the Evil Dead franchise really, its so different from the first two. Great to get away from the cabin location of course, the grim medieval setting is fine and the dark humour is fine...I just feel a bit more gore, a little less slapstick and maybe a touch more jumpy in the horror department and it would have been perfect.

7.5/10

Evil Dead II (1987)


















Sam Raimi already gave us one of the most iconic horror films ever devised by man so what does he do next? he gives us the sequel which is even more iconic than the previous film! 'Gimme some sugar baby'...oh wait that's the third most iconic horror film ever.

So up to a few years ago I was a little confused by this sequel. The plot appears to show Ash venturing back up to a remote cabin with another girlfriend, was this the original cabin or a completely new one? I asked myself. As things progress (very quickly) Ash discovers yet another recorder which he plays and inadvertently sets the dark demonic forces free again. It was at this point I was thinking why on earth Ash would do that? didn't he learn from his first cabin experience? and when you think about it why the hell would he go back to a remote cabin?! dude seriously!

Twas then I found out that this sequel is actually a reboot of the first film, yet Raimi called it Evil Dead 2 as though its a continuation of the first. The plot is exactly the same as the first film because its a remake basically, a remake with better effects, more action and less build up...essentially more game time. Ash is even wearing the same outfit he had on in the first film! So yes that is a bit confusing if you're not in the know but somehow it doesn't matter, the film is so damn fun you let it slide. Myself I think he should of avoided the 2 in the title and tried to make it follow the first but hey.

As I said there's no messing around in this film, no sooner has Ash arrived at the cabin he's released the demons and all hell is breaking loose. This is good as we know the basic outline from the first film, everybody simply wanted to see more of Ash kicking undead ass. And that is exactly what we get with much sweeter looking effects.

The effects are much the same type of thing as in the first but due to success and extra mula they are simply better. Of course by today's standards they aren't that good, a bit basic, any fresh faced kids are gonna laugh at most of it truth be told. But again its the old adage that with little money and tech you've gotta work to make your film look good. You've gotta be inventive and once again Raimi and co excel with their visuals. A nice blend of classic makeup, mask work, models, stop motion, bluescreen, miniatures, puppets etc...the full gamut of special effects to bring every creature alive in the best possible way.

Personally I loved the sequence where Linda's corpse rises from the grave and then dances around in the swirling bleak mist as Ash watches in horror from the cabin. The whole scene is using classic stop motion and even though it of course looks a bit hokey the atmosphere is just so flippin eerie. It could almost be a Tim Burton moment. There is so much to enjoy here, chock full of tasty visual kookiness, the severed hand that scrambles around, the excellent possessed makeup jobs on the survivors, Campbell especially, and then there's the huge demon head/face thing at the end. Corny as hell but so much fun.

Its also no secret that this sequel was taken down the horror comedy route. The first film was suppose to be an all out horror but this started down that surreal goofy route which has now become so legendary. Not for the most part though, most of the film is still very dark, some of the demonic sequences are clearly more slapstick but its still evil looking. Its only when the last female survivor crafts Ash's chainsaw onto his bloody stump along with his shoulder mounted shotgun do we finally cross over fully into the comic book/graphic novel genre. Its at this moment that Ash becomes a superhero of sorts and enters into the world of merchandise.

Does this mood swing cause any problems? no, no it doesn't, in fact it just makes the film even more awesome and gives it a whole new scope. We go from classic horror gore with Ash being the victim in all manner of slapstick tomfoolery, to action man gore and violence with the start of ice cool witty quips and full on hero posing.

It is strange how this franchise developed no doubt about that, plus the oddity of rebooting/remaking his first film virtually scene by scene and calling it a sequel. Like the first its not really scary but this time it was never meant to be scary, its a wild ride bordering on fantasy that happens to have a lot of blood and goo. Its one of those perfect 'sequels' where everything is just right, it all works...even the bits that kinda don't work, work. There are moments of great horror and moments that are almost childish in nature, you could even say its a satire of certain grotty horrors. End of the day Campbell can simply make these things work.

No excuses here, its a balls to the wall, hyper demonic blood n ooze frenzy with typically gritty low budget ferocity and absurd creations. A completely cheesy turbo charged B-movie of diabolically hellish proportions, you wanted it you got it...and its groovy baby.

10/10
                                                                                                                                                                 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Evil Dead (1981)




















The biggest cult film ever? well maybe. Back in the good old days of the 80's this film was seen as the biggest splatter fest flick ever here in the UK, it was banned in some countries and labelled the number one video nasty, top of the hit list. There was just no way in heaven or hell you would get to see this as a kid back in the day, it was just as bad as porn...if not worse! will someone please think of the children!!

Well those days are long gone now and the film is looked upon as jokey and tame! a horror comedy with an iconic central character and bucket loads of hammy gory visuals. What is interesting for me is the fact this first film wasn't suppose to be a horror comedy, its not a horror comedy at all. Its only since the sequels that the franchise kinda leaned that way, this film was an all out horror which was suppose to scare people, and back in the day it did just that.

The main hook with this film is obviously the effects, its a horror film, ergo its effects are the main crux. The effects in this film are in places bad, they look cheesy, badly animated with dodgy editing. But the key thing to remember is this was because of budget restrains and limits on technology...but mainly lack of money. All the effects were made as best as they could make them, using every penny, every drop of fake blood, every piece of material gathered and utilising as much imagination as possible in both camera usage and illusion.

This ultimately makes the effects terrific despite the fact they do look very dated and highly dubious now. The films visuals are a success because of the fact Raimi and co had to be creative to get them done, they had to think out of the box with little money. This is why some older films work so well as they couldn't just sit back and rely on CGI to do it all for them, they had to really work and show real craftsmanship to make it work. All the blood, bone and goo may look corny in places but its real, its really there and basically that will always look better than CGI.


Of course back in the day the effects were seen as reasonable slick to a degree but still hokey, they weren't groundbreaking by any means. But the flair, creativity, ingenuity and sheer amount of gore was groundbreaking. Worst bit in the entire film for me? when a possessed Cheryl stabs Linda in the ankle with a pencil, oh my god that sound effect when the pencil punctures her foot! I think it was the sound of an apple getting pierced? Then the fact she twists and pulls on the pencil opening up the wound!! that always makes me wince.

The plot is so damn basic it hurts, plus what we see half the time is so stupid you can't help but laugh. Why would anyone want to spend time in a tiny remote cabin like that firstly, secondly when things get creepy why does one girl wander off into the dark dark woods alone? errrr hello?? and then there's dumb ass Ash falling for the old 'help me I'm OK' trick from his possessed friends. Did I mention continuity errors like Ash's hair? Have to remind myself this film is very dated and was the first of its kind of sorts, this is the original horror in the woods.

For me its not as strong ever since the comedy themed sequels but its still a powerhouse of originality no doubt. The gore isn't shocking these days but more of a really good example and lesson in how to go about creating your own special effects. See what can be achieved with a little thought. Its not even particularly scary these days either, that ship has sailed now for most adults methinks, but its not about that, its just the cornball horror ride you get out of it, the thrills and the fact its such a classic now.

8/10

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)





















Once again the films poster is really really good but completely false advertising, because the film isn't as good. The third film after the quite disastrous original with big hitters Irons and Payne and this time its a UK production. Does this mean its better? well it does mean we see British soap/drama actors in the film which does actually give some class to it.

The plot is totally nonsensical to me, there is a nice animated sequence at the start to give you the background but it lost me, I dunno maybe I should of paid attention. Basically there is a bad wizard type guy who wants to sink the world into darkness or something. The bad guys kidnap this good looking guys dad for his blood or something, so its up to the good looking guy to save his dad. He does this by joining a band of other bad guys covertly to get to the main bad guy? something like that.

Plot aside the film isn't actually too bad, acting of course is drab from most accept for the odd British actor. Anthony Howell plays a sorcerer type fellow and does give a sterling performance, he may look stupid but he plays it for real. The characters on the whole are quite good really, a small band of warriors in typical D&D fashion. We have a female warrior (very sexy), a sorcerer, the good looking warrior, a big musclebound warrior and a slimy untrustworthy warrior, a cliched bunch for sure.

Visually they do look a bit terrible and hokey, lots of obligatory spiked armour, the female warrior is scantily clad, each warrior has their own special skills and weapons and there is a strange obsession with tribal markings/tattoo's. The female character has lots of crappy looking tribal markings on her face which look like a child has scribbled on her with a felt tip. The big musclebound guy is merely covered in body paint like a cheap Star Trek alien. The untrustworthy warrior has more tattoo-like markings on his head (hes bald) which are equally poor looking.

So yes they all look a bit ridiculous but as a team they do work well. The added bonus with this film is I believe they have gone down the route of the actual D&D game this time. There is a sequence in a store where they buy items I'm sure are from the game, the plot also seems quite heavy with D&D lore...I think. The films title itself, although it sounds awful, is from D&D lore (sounds a bit Evil Dead-ish too).

Amazingly this film is actually far superior to the first two, yes its true! The story is cliched and the characters are stereotypical fantasy fluff (what do you expect), but it is a lot more faithful to the famous game and there are also some really nice CGI landscapes too. The actual CGI dragon and general magic/sorcery effects are a bit poor but the landscapes and skylines are impressive, look a bit 'LotR' in places. The undead child sequence is actually very good too, the effects on this zombie kid are excellent for such a small production, pretty creepy looking too, kudos.

So ignore the films poster as its not that exciting but believe me its not that bad either. If you want a true D&D adventure this is you're best bet in my opinion. Forget the other two, this is the film, which I still can't get my head around, who'd of though it!

5.5/10

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005)





















Not really much better than the first film, are you surprised? in fact the effects are less impressive and less frequent also making the film rather dull to say the least...again would this be a surprise?

Payne reappears in this sequel despite seemingly being killed convincingly in the first film (minus his blue lipstick) but this time he's up against a team of five challengers. These five challengers/adventurers are the most boring and unimaginative looking set I've seen in an adventure film. Surprisingly female orientated the team look drab and silly yet admittedly close to D&D lore but uninspiring none the less.

The whole film is pretty dull really with nothing much happening right up until the end where there is some decent dragon action, I think D&D followers will get more of a kick out of this but newcomers will be less enthralled. I have seen worse but this isn't quite as cheesy as the first, now that must be a surprise. Nice poster art though.

4/10


Dungeons & Dragons (2000)





















Hmmmm what to think of this little gem, I saw this at the cinema on release (yes) and at the time I kinda liked it for some reason, now upon a rewatch I can't see why I thought that.

I guess at the time the effects were a little more impressive than today's standards of course plus there wasn't the huge amount of fantasy films that there are these days so this was quite a special little event. Looking back now it really is a terrible film, the acting from everyone is just abysmal and full O' cheese. Irons goes beyond taking the piss really with his rather queer hissing, cackling and facial expressions whilst his second in command played by Bruce Payne is just the campiest guy I've seen for ages...oh and he has blue lipstick on too.

The film revolves around the cliched to max partnership of Wayans (doing his best Eddie Murphy impression) and Whalin trying to be heroic and cool. The pair are just awful together and completely lacking any sense of comedic timing, there is of course a lot of attempted humour throughout but it all falls flat on its face hard.

There really is nothing to recommend here other than to laugh at, the effects are the worse CGI you will have seen for a major release (even though its an old film yes I know), tonnes of obvious bluescreen and even the costumes, makeup jobs and props all look cheap and tacky.

I still can't understand why Irons would agree to this, ditto Richard O' Brien ('The Rocky Horror Picture Show' and quite the cult name here in the UK). I suppose its because his scenes were a homage to the classic Crystal Maze he once hosted, almost a homage to him really, the guy is legend but this brings him down.

The film was indeed mauled upon release but at the time (twas much younger back then) I gave it some leeway, it kinda reminded me of the Mortal Kombat film and how, even though it was weak, it still had a glimmer of quality. But now I simply cannot allow that leeway anymore, the film may be enjoyed by younger kids but basically its crap.

3/10

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Prince of Darkness (1987)




















Another minor horror flick from Carpenter that has gained cult status over the years. This is actually the first time seeing this film for me and like other Carpenter horrors I found it familiar, not really scary, but nicely creepy with something to think about after.

I was surprised how similar the plot is to his other films, a group of people stuck inside a building, trapped, fighting against an evil force. A few of Carpenter's films follow these sorts of themes, always fighting an evil supernatural force or gangs of zombie-like bad guys. You can tell its Carpenter a mile away although that's not a bad thing, its always pretty comforting to see his recognisable visual style from way back.

I'm sure you all know what I mean, the filming in widescreen/anamorphic, stark lighting contrasts, his now legendary synthesized musical scores, handheld cam/steadicam, the fact you never really see the evil the good guys are fighting that much, plots with hidden meaning, strong individual lone characters, opened ended finales on occasions etc...Everything is present and correct in this horror tale and its enjoyable to see.

Alongside all of that the cast are mostly recognisable too, hot off the heels of 'Big Trouble' Dennis Dun and Victor Wong are cast again, Pleasence is back as another lone force of good to try and stop the force of evil and character actor Peter Jason pops up again here with a meatier role.

To be honest I would say that is the one problem with the film, its too familiar from Carpenter. The plot is bordering on his other works, he uses many of the same actors again when they don't really fit the bill (Dun and Wong here) and it kinda looks and sounds the same as his other works too. The score could easily be from any of his films frankly, its good and atmospheric but you could stick it anywhere, any one of his films. In all honesty this film is virtually 'Assault on Precinct 13' but with possessed people instead of criminals.

The devil is never mentioned I believe, but I'm assuming the 'father' was suppose to be the devil? and the dreams of the future are showing this evil force to have taken over the world?? hence the warning in the dream I think. Not too sure how this evil became trapped within the cylinder, or how it was placed into the basement of this church, or where the evil actually comes from originally and its goal etc...but lets just overlook that a bit shall we.

That said I did enjoy the film and I thought the finale was a good thinker, a bit creepy, dark, wraps up quick and open ended, nice. Makeup and special effects are decent and created with thought, the film has a nice spooky pending doom vibe about it and the story is interesting if a little bland.  Not quite as good as other Carpenter tales but still solid.

6/10

Friday, 22 November 2013

Dead In Tombstone (2013)




















Not really an original film title is it, mind you its not really an original film lets be fair. But should you go expecting anything fabulous from a straight to DVD western starring Danny Trejo and Mickey Rourke?.

A badass group of outlaws rob a bank...as they tend to do. After they achieve this the group turns on their leader Trejo and guns him down...right down to hell. Yep that's right, just when you think it might be a simple cowboy flick you get a supernatural twist thrown in your face. So Trejo makes a deal with the overweight devil Rourke, the deal? to come back to the world of the living and kill the six other outlaws, six souls for the devil. He must do this within 24 hours to regain his soul and life otherwise he must endure a tubby Rourke torturing him forever, and that's along time.

The plot just doesn't make much sense to me, why would the devil allow this one guy to have a chance at killing his murderers?. Surely in that age in the west there would be hundreds of deaths at the hands of bad people, does he allow everyone this deal? or was it just for his own amusement because he liked Trejo's character?. I just don't see why the devil would be that bothered about six souls when he probably gets ten times that every day, I guess I'm thinking into this too much.

The plot is pretty similar to 'The Crow' really but lets be frank its a generic commonly used theme in most genres. The best thing about the film is the visuals I guess, it does look quite authentic with good locations and the town of 'Tombstone/Edendale' is actually quite big and impressive looking. It looks like they spent all their budget on the sets and costumes if you ask me. Gun slinging wise the action is crude and a bit hokey really, there is plenty of that old 90's John Woo style nonsense going on with no shortage of explosions...big explosions. Its also a bit too dark at times for me, way too much shadow as they clearly attempt a more dramatic artistic look, hey kudos for trying.

I find the whole thing swings in appearance from TV movie level visuals to full blown movie level visuals. The horse/carriage chase sequence looked stupid simply because you can easily tell nothing is moving very fast, in fact they are all 'galloping' very slowly behind a very slow carriage hehe. Sometimes you can see the pistols aren't really doing anything and the actors are whipping them around a bit unconvincingly, oh and I love how they keep on shooting way past their six bullet limit. The devils lair of hell seems to be a simple medieval stonewalled basement with an open fire and the devil himself in Rourke looks very errr...normal but fat.

Its definitely better than your average trashy flick and it could become a bit of a cult western thriller for sure. The acting is good enough, reasonable amounts of claret on display, decent atmosphere and some nice eye candy. It is of course completely cheesy, corny, cliched and somewhat artificial throughout.

5/10

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Zombie Hunter (2013)





















A curious blend of a few ideas and genres here, foremostly a clear cut grindhouse approach which appears to be all the rage these days. The film stars Danny Trejo which should give the game away as to what grindhouse type flicks this capitalises on. You only have to look on his filmography (and co stars) to see how many of these flicks are getting churned out!

The plot is simple and highly unoriginal. An addictive drug has turned some people into flesh eating zombies which has in turn spread. America appears to be an apocalyptic wasteland where The Hunter roams, he kills zombies. He comes across a small settlement with other survivors and together they plan an escape by air to islands in the Pacific. Its your basic flee the zombie plague fare.

What is interesting about this film is the combination of ideas. The main character of The Hunter is basically Max Rockatansky with a classic Clint Eastwood 'man with no name' vibe just for good measure. I mean look at his name for a start...The Hunter/The Road Warrior, close huh. But mainly he drives an all black dirty modified Pontiac Trans Am (I think) which looks identical to the Interceptor in 'Mad Max'. But wait there's more, he even dresses like Max in all black with shades and handles a similar shotgun too, only thing missing is a pet dog. I might also mention the guy in the role (Martin Copping) is Australian too! what are the odds?!


















So yes the main heroes look is a bit of a rip off but it works, he's cool, grizzled and dispatches
zombies with aplomb. You have the main theme of a 70's/80's Mexican grindhouse approach with a Mad Max main lead fighting zombies in a Resident Evil setting with an actual Resident Evil monster too (not sure where they came from though). Trejo is playing Machete again but with an axe, oh and there's a clear cut 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' homage/rip off too...got all that?



Being a low budget affair the effects are average, the blood n guts look fine but the CGI monster things aren't. That said the low budget does work for the film giving it that gritty-ish look, as what tends to happen with limited resources. The cast are a mixed bag with Copping coming across pretty hokey with his over macho posturing but he's a fun character. Of course there are a couple hot chicks in the survivor band too, one clearly being some ex-stripper/model/porn star type who is bad at acting but good at being slutty (I liked that). Hated the fact that our hero doesn't take her up on her offer of guilt free sex, dude are you mad?!

The film is also amusing in places too, intentionally? I don't know, doubt it, but it is. The last three left alive find a locker chock full of machine guns/sub machine guns etc...the zombies are beating the door down, the last sexy chick remaining declares 'there's too many, they're too strong!'. You have just found Rambo's toy chest, are you serious right now? zombies aren't bullet proof.

I actually found myself liking this film mainly because of Copping's hero character, I'm not really a fan of the grindhouse genre/approach but the use of other styles and ideas worked well. Its not fresh and new, we've seen this type of thing a billion times before but I personally liked this films style, the cut of its jib. Gotta love that dialog and the end credits soundtrack has a pretty sweet electronic 80's style rhythm.

'Don't worry about me babe'

5.5/10

Monday, 18 November 2013

Uncommon Valor (1983)



A straight basic plot that doesn't mess around with complications. This flick is more of an action flick really, its set after the Nam war and not within the actual war. I did kinda expect a Nam war flick given the films poster but its not really, whether or not its actually based on any truths again I'm not really sure. I guess its possible, I think there were many US soldiers held after the war had finished and there certainly were many soldiers MIA. Whether anyone actually tried this idea without proper official backing I don't know, possible though.

Lets not beat around the camouflaged bush here though, this premise is ripe for a ripping action flick, a real Rambo style emotional rollercoaster. I will give the film its due it does exactly that, you get exactly what you'd expect, it doesn't try to sugarcoat anything or be overally flashy, its cliched and corny at the best of times but its a real crowd pleaser if you ask me.

Gene Hackman's son is MIA in a remote area of Laos ten years after the Nam war, he believes he's still alive and wants to rescue him but the government aren't interested. So off he goes to find a team of Nam vets to dive into Laos, rescue any POW's and bounce back across the border before anyone knew they were there...oh and kill a whole load of natives.

Cue your obligatory recruitment sequences as Hackman snoops out soldiers from his sons platoon and other war torn troopers. Then cue your obligatory training sequences as the men are brought back up to scratch. Then cue your standard drop into Laos and preparation for taking out the POW camp. Its all very easy and by the numbers plus you have seen this kind of thing many times before. One could almost say its an 'A-Team' version of 'Predator' when Arnie and his boys take out the hostile camp at the start. You know what I mean by that...there's plenty of friendly fire, action is violent but you don't see anything, lots of cuts, little specks of blood and lots of extras leaping through the air.

What makes this film so damn fun is the cast, oh boy what a cast! its a classic character actor line up. Under Hackman we have Tim Thomerson playing another Nam vet chopper pilot (before 'Air America'), Fred Ward in his year of recognition with two other major film releases, Harold Sylvester as the typical 80's token black character, Captain America himself Reb Brown, Randall 'Tex' Cobb surprisingly trying to act being a good guy and a very young Pat Swayze. Naturally each man has his own skills for individual moments in the action...Cobb would be the wild strongman type in case you might not have guessed it.


But lets put the action man gung-ho action aside for a mo, its not an all out ham fest by any means. There is a lot of actual emotion and heart in this film, its based on reality, real events and probably struck a cord with many real vets. The action is a bit hokey and tame by today's standards sure, not overally realistic or well coordinated at times but it tries to be gritty and accurate. I do wonder how they didn't all manage to get killed really, they were hardly an example of special ops but hey never mind. The ending is weepy, its gets you, but the most important thing is you care about the characters, the film gets that right, you want them all to make it back.

The whole thing feels very much like a TV movie really, it has moments of good production values with some nice explosions in the finale but overall it felt a bit restricted. The musical score seemed very cheap to me, as though it was a selection that you can rent and has been used in many action films. Hell Hackman's character looks like he's out for a good hike in the Alps when we see him in the jungle for the showdown. Still I can't deny I really enjoyed this film, I got hella pumped for the finale POW bust out, that got me going. I really wanted to see the guys succeed, really liked that team and the film is so heartfelt and sweet. Yeah i know that sounds pathetically lame but its true! such a pleasant Nam war flick.

7/10

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995)




















Another dodgy film title and arguably Mel Brooks last decent spoof after a long career in film led to a brief spell in the theatre as things started to wind down. In fact this was Brooks last major film in which he starred and directed.

Now I must admit that when I first saw the film I didn't really like it much, the whole thing looked cheap, tacky and wasn't overly funny. But the strangest thing, like with other Brooks films, I have found myself appreciating it a lot more over the years.

Like his other spoofs this has pot shots at various classic vampire films over the years but the main target is of course the Lugosi gem. Its a real blend of styles which kinda works and kinda doesn't. Naturally the film is created with an old time appearance reminiscent of the 1931 film, but at the same time it has those great cheesy cardboard cutout visuals of Hammer horrors.

I personally think the film has a lot in common with 'Spaceballs' in the fact that it looks hammy but at the same time it also has some neat effects. The main negative aspect of the film in my opinion was most of the sets are obviously sets which is a bit off putting I can't deny and there is a distinct lack of scenic spooky landscapes or creepy castles which is a real shame. I realise the film is suppose to be low rent as it were but all Dracula flicks need some nice eerie real locations and spooky castles. Despite that there are some nice touches here and there, the low budget bat transformations of Dracula are kinda cute, lots of little homages and visual gags, everything has been over done, forced and blown out of proportions on purpose which is amusing, costumes are suitably stuffy and set the mood well, plus the casting is actually quite good.

Now I know you can't expect top rate acting in a Brooks spoof but there are still some nice little performances here. The best for me being MacNicol as the whimpering stir crazy 'Renfield'. The character does get a bit too loony tunes as the film progresses but initially I really like his stiff upper lipped Englishman when he first travels to see Dracula. The best scene must be when Renfield sits down with 'Dr Seward' for tea and ends up eating bugs. Not only that but the pronunciation of raspberries by Harvey korman in this sequence is hilarious.

Even though he has top billing the late great Nielsen wasn't the best thing here (the combination of him and Brooks together in films came too late in the day unfortunately). Bottom line Nielsen is miscast as Dracula, he doesn't look the part and he doesn't sound the part, but that's why he is perfect in the role. The fact he's completely wrong for the role makes it work, its just funny that he doesn't come across as a Dracula kind of guy and I think Nielsen knows that and uses it. Whilst watching I can't help but think Leslie is actually trying in certain scenes bless him, he does appear to actually go for it and really put on his best Lugosi/Dracula performance just for the hell of it, he's enjoying his chance in the role. End of the day only Nielsen could get away with this kind of deliberate miscasting, he was (and still is) such a popular lovable guy.

Brooks himself enters the fray as 'Van Helsing' and fits the role pretty well with his mock German, Jewish accent. In a sense he's playing the same characters as 'President Skroob' and 'Frederick Bronski' with similar facial hair but not as dumb. Yeah sure we've seen it all before with Brooks but if you're a fan then you won't complain. His best scene must be the stake through the heart sequence, simple but effective.

I do get the impression that Brooks is merely working his way through every genre he can and this film simply ticks a box on the list...pretty much like 'Men in Tights'. I also get the feeling he is trying to recapture the same level of success he achieved with 'Young Frankenstein' and the gothic horror genre. To be brutally honest most of the jokes have been used before in previous works but at least its not as childish as 'Men in Tights' and does offer some adult content. I won't say this parody is a great film, it doesn't really come close to previous Brooks films but its still mildly amusing and a must for fanboys.

6/10

Friday, 15 November 2013

Escape from L.A. (1996)





















So the first film was set in the distant future of 1997. In this sequel a massive earthquake hits LA and practically wipes it out in the distant future of the year 2000. And now in the present day of the year 2013 Snake Plissken is brought back to once again rescue the USA. I just find it amusing how these now old films are out of date with their 'distant future' dates. Also on a personal note it sorta affects the films impact for me, dunno why, I guess it doesn't hold the same futuristic feel obviously.

Snake is back! he's still bad, he's all in black and grunts more than ever (did he really need that heavy full length trench coat?! oh wait...it was for the coolness factor wasn't it). Was this specific adventure required? no not really, the plot is exactly the same as the first film, swap a President for a black box. I think the problem here was everyone wanted to see more from Snake and we all knew damn well it had to go down the same route really. I mean sure we could see any kind of action thriller with Snake but it had to have that same kind of lingering dread, the same countdown threat for Snake to feed off. In that sense the film works well and does offer another nice apocalyptic atmosphere.

Yet despite Snakes awesomeness we all know how badly this film turned out. I think the main issue was the fact the film simply plods along from one set piece to another like a videogame, accept the plot in between is very thin. It also comes across very obviously that Carpenter wanted to include as many extreme sports/situations for Snake as possible with no real reason for them, just to boost the coolness levels. We see Snake surfing on a tidal wave!, hang gliding whilst using a sub machine gun, riding a motorbike (although admittedly that was uber cool), playing basketball like a pro etc...Like many sequels/reboots/remakes Carpenter makes the classic mistake of going totally totally overboard with everything when he didn't need to. The first film didn't have all these extravagant set pieces, it was just Snake being the epitome of a badass in that epic Clint Eastwood/man with no name kind of way.

From the very beginning the film just follows the first film too closely. Plus the initial narration makes little sense, the President seems to know about the pending quake yet no one else does? no one does anything? It conveniently leaves LA as an island...like the President said it would? wut? how did he know?? Why didn't they just create their own area for the unwanted instead of waiting for a quake which may or may not do what they were waiting for?...or so it seemed.

The other main poke in the eye was the absolutely horrific CGI and bluescreen work all the way through the film. I saw the film when it was first released in the cinema and I do recall thinking even back then it looked a bit hokey, of course at the time it was fine but looking back now its dreadful!. The sequences of CGI look amateurish at best, the underwater sub sequence is bordering on the kind of B-movie trashy CGI you'd expect from The Asylum...if not worse. Lets not talk about that hideous Universal Studios homage with the 'Jaws' appearance. Coupled with that you then have some awful bluescreen work throughout which just sticks out like a big red sore thumb.

The casting in the film is good, again don't get me wrong not everything was bad, but it just wasn't utilised correctly. Did we need government men being all gruff like Van Cleef from the first film? Bruce Campbell and his plastic surgery nightmares were a good touch but all too brief and again highly campy, Pam Grier is in the dictionary under cult movie star but her role here is just plain lame and not fully realised, Fonda's character is pointless and the main bad guy Cuervo was like an old campy Bond villain...plus he has been clearly modelled after Guevara.

It really is such a shame as everyone wanted more Plissken badassery and this film was like a bit of an insult really. There are some nice touches dotted around don't get me wrong, Snake on the bike was cool, seeing an old Snake was cool, the brief showdown with Bangkok rules was nice errr...I'm struggling. Carpenter pretty much rehashed everything from the first film but made it more campy, the grittiness was gone and replaced with lame characters from a panto. Name of the game...campy.

Its a strange mix really, a blend of top ice cool imagery and quips alongside watered down camp hi jinx, with a small small smattering of blood. The film seems to be almost parodying the genre yet at the same time going along with it and trying to be semi serious. Myself I do like it to a degree mainly because of Snake but I just wish there was another chance to make up for this damp entry. The film does end with a good setup for 'Escape the Earth' or maybe how about some Snake Chronicles? we need to see Snake once more before its too late (and no new casting with reboots thank you very much).

5/10

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)




















The whole notion of the film has that cult comic book vibe and feels like a silly spin off from something else. It does sound like one of those cool ideas that you've heard about from the comic book world, that you'd think would be awesome as a film...but it probably won't ever get made, a bit like 'Freddy vs Jason vs Ash'.

Yet despite that this is one of those ideas that reads well on paper, would work well in comic book/graphic novel form, but for some reason hasn't translated that well onto film. The plot is fast n loose and unfortunately doesn't really give you much info. An aged Elvis living in a crappy retirement home (he swapped places with an Elvis impersonator to escape the limelight) must do battle with an ancient Egyptian mummy who is sucking the old folk dry of their souls. I use the word battle loosely.


It sounds friggin' awesome, then you read it stars Bruce Campbell as Elvis and things just get better and better. This could almost be some kind of weird alternative dimension for his Ash character...if you really really try to think of it that way. It sounds ultra cool and seeing Campbell as an old Elvis (and young) is ultra cool, even though he kinda looks like Kevin Costner's Elvis impersonator from '3000 Miles to Graceland'. Its not an accurate depiction of Elvis of course, more of a comic book version with added Raimi-esque spice n dialog. Yep Campbell will forever be associated with his quirky Evil Dead hero character...especially in quirky horror comedies such as this.

The problem for me with the film is how slow it is and the fact nothing much really happens. There is a lot about Elvis and how he suffers in his old age, he reminisces about his fame and youth and generally moans a lot. At times it is amusing for sure but there comes a point when I just wanted something to actually happen. When it does it kinda feels unexplained and a bit of an anti climax really. The fact Elvis needs a zimmer frame (walker) to walk all the time restricts the films excitement potential also. The whole mummy side of it just isn't laid out right frankly, no real reasons for its occurrence, no proper closure, no reasons for its actions etc...its just there and dressed as a cowboy for some reason.

The film is also kinda drab looking throughout which is a bit depressing. I know that's part of the films story but I did yearn to see some brighter visuals and a bit more colour. I think they downplayed Elvis's room and the retirement home, it didn't need to be so shitty looking, old fashioned sure but not so shitty.

Eventually we come to the showdown at the end and I was kinda expecting something a bit special, it sorta builds up to it. But alas!!! its very weak and pretty mundane despite Campbell's verbal quips. Two old men, one in an electric wheelchair and the other who can hardly walk without a zimmer frame, both take on a mummy who also walks very very slowly and does not a lot (doesn't even look that good either). It doesn't sound too great does it, and in all honesty it isn't, its unique and quirky but ultimately a let down. The finale is sombre and acceptable but feels right admittedly.

This is how the entire film feels for me really, its a wicked idea and probably works much better as a graphic novel. Campbell looks good and sounds good as Elvis and saves the film completely, without him it would be B-movie trash, well the film is a B-movie really, a B-movie with Bruce Campbell in it. Overall I can see how this has become a total cult classic with its Evil Dead-esque cheap looking visuals and theme and I will give it plus points for that. On the other hand I do think director Coscarelli is riding on the coattails of the Evil Dead/Raimi franchise a bit too much.

'Don't make me use my stuff on ya, baby!'

6/10

Friday, 8 November 2013

Behind the Candelabra (2013)




















Oh my shame on me, I actually thought this was a parody or spoof comedy about these extravagant Vegas performers like Siegfried and Roy hehe. Turns out this is actually a biopic of the ultra extravagant piano performer Liberace. The film is based on a book/memoir written by the young man Liberace fell for, Scott Thorson, and dissects his close relationship with the homosexual pianist. You may need sunglasses for some sequences within this film...high levels of glitter and sparkle warning!.

Spoiler alert (of sorts), if you're uncomfortable with homosexuality on screen then this film might not be for you. I was actually surprised at the level of gritty realism this film portrays, I wasn't expecting it, but sure enough Soderbergh doesn't beat around the bush. In all honesty you can tell straight away its gonna be edgy, the question is can you handle seeing a skinny makeup laden Michael Douglas and a chubby tarted up Damon going at it? oh and there's also a highly gay Scott Bakula looking like one of his 'Quantum Leap' characters...remember that?.

I know nothing of Liberace, I grew up when he was still around and big and I do recall seeing him on TV here and there as my folks did like him for his classical skills. After a a little research I was stunned to discover how accurate and well portrayed everyone was in the film. Douglas should be in line for an award of some kind for this performance, its only when you see the real Liberace and then you see Douglas that you realise how damn good he is. Of course he is imitating the man but his mannerisms, body movements/gestures and general overall idiosyncrasies or quirks are brilliantly conveyed. I won't deny it is kinda creepy to watch Douglas at times, his wiry, leathery reptilian-like looks covered in tonnes of glittery makeup whilst clad in some cringeworthy flamboyant attire that a fat Elvis wouldn't say no too...its enough to make you gag at times. Must say he looks terrible with the bald cap on and his aging flabby torso, yikes!.

Quick point: I have no idea how they did the live piano sequences but trust me it looks damn good. I'm sure Douglas isn't playing the piano but blimey it looks like he is! very impressive scenes.


At the same time Damon is also fantastic in his role and looks just like the real Thorson. I'm unsure if his mannerisms are the same as I found no real footage of the man but he looks the ticket. Again its creepy to watch Damon at times, the lavish makeup, camp behaviour, full blown kissing and tight sparkly revealing underwear...its all very errrm...homosexual. Not that that's a bad thing of course, its just an extreme eye opener to see these two fellas going at it and acting this way.

I did enjoy seeing how Liberace carried on I must admit, to see his previous bit of fluff whom he gets rid of for Damon's character. The way the previous bit of fluff knew exactly how Liberace behaved because he'd seen it all before and knew his time was up, he was old hat. I liked the rather camp house boy Liberace had around the mansion and the fact he knew about Liberace's devious ways, Dan Aykroyd's rather blunt and gruff manager character and a round of applause to Rob Lowe as the seedy slimy plastic surgeon/drug dealer.

'Hey Scott, why don't you stay outta my fuckin business, now give me back to Lee'

The level of narcissism shown by Liberace to actually have Thorson's face altered to look more like his own was pretty eerie really. The fact that Thorson agreed and the way everybody carries on about it in the film is like a car crash, you just can't look away!. Its in these sequences where Lowe really shines plus it shows us the indulgence and vanity shown by all involved. Yet despite that you do feel Liberace cared very much for Thorson, there was true love there. Unfortunately being involved in show business meant real feelings could get smothered very easily with egocentric behaviour...as displayed by Thorson at the end.

I think lavish and flamboyant are the key words here, everything about the film (and this man's life) is just that. The sets are tremendously well created and really show how this man lived, more eye openers folks!. All the costumes and props seem to have been recreated to the tiniest detail, not only that but sequences from his real shows appear to have been recreated too. If you check some of Liberace's You-Tube clips out you'll see how pinpoint these sequences have been made, I really can't falter anyone involved with this production.

The story is very familiar really, it could be any relationship between any two people male and female, a simple tale of mistrust, lying, promiscuity and wealth. Towards the end the film does become quite sad in all honesty, you do come to like Liberace and his squeaky tones, you know Thorson did care about him deep down and at the very end the gifted performer is given a nice send off and rightly so. You can see what will happen a mile away its very easy to predict all the way through, but the ride to get there is undeniably a show stopper.

9/10


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)




















The rebooted crew are back and this time they're going into darkness? trekking into darkness? how does this title fit the story? moving on. The first film in this new era reboot was a huge success and rightly so, it was an exciting sci-fi romp, does this remake/re-imagining of 'The Wrath of Khan' work just as well?

We kick off admittedly with a very nice looking yet clear Indy rip, all that was missing was a giant rolling boulder. Instantly you can see this film is gonna be a treat visually, modern films have gotten to a point now where they do (can) look extremely polished and slick, and this film is easily top of its game in the effects department, its beautiful. I do especially love futuristic London and the look of future Earth in general, so much detail, so much going on, the newer Star Wars trilogy pales in comparison. I could of course mention the immense use of lens flare but I think everyone knows that now and it merely blends into the background, some looking very nice.

Lets get down n dirty here, the plot, the main issue of the film is the badly written, disjointed, confusing plot which makes no sense. I'm still not sure what exactly was the point of half of it. Marcus finds Khan and his crew floating around in space I believe, but where exactly? why was Khan in suspended animation in the first place? whose ship was he on? etc...nothing given away there. Now I think about it once Khan was discovered how did anyone know he and his mates were genetically-engineered superhumans? and why awake just one? Anyhow Marcus wants Khan to develop advanced technology and weapons...but the guy is 300 years old, surely he's gonna be slightly out of touch with modern day tech? right?? guess not.

My point is does this new movie follow on from the original Star Trek episode 'Space Seed' as did 'Wrath of Khan'? Did that happen in this rebooted alternate timeline? if so then fine, most of my questions are answered. If not then there are some mighty plot holes here...or we would need to see that alternate version of 'Space Seed'.

There doesn't appear to be any real goals or reasons for anyone in this film, Marcus wants Khan to create new advanced gear and then...? start a war with the Klingon's, why? He intends to start this war by getting Kirk to fight missiles at Khan who is hiding in an uninhabited area of the Klingon homeworld, but how did he know Khan would hide there? what if he hid on another world? Why exactly are Khan's crew stuffed in these missiles?? risky place to smuggle them isn't it?...well isn't it?! And no one suspects the fact there are 72 missiles exactly, not maybe 10 or 20 but 72! odd high number isn't it? well isn't it?!

The character story arcs are just all over the place with little sense or connection, its all so vague. The only reason Khan doesn't set off the bomb in London by himself at the start is so they could introduce his super blood into the plot. There is no other reason for that entire sequence with the black man and his daughter. Oh and an exploding ring? eh? wut?? On the subject of Khan's super blood why does everyone tear around trying to get his blood, why not use some of the blood from his crew? surely theirs is super too, isn't it?


























On the subject of Khan I really must say I don't understand what the fuss was about with Cumberbatch. Now I'm not saying the guy did a bad job, not at all, but as far as I'm concerned his performance on the whole was just very average, his entire range boiled down to over pronunciation of his words. As a character he wasn't particularly interesting either, a very bland generic looking bad guy (or was he? he just wanted to save his crew) who blended into the background, accept when he's killing everyone like an unstoppable superhero (Khan never did that in the original second Trek film).

I also think Cumberbatch is miscast in the role frankly, he's so dull looking, so uniform, that it destroys the character of Khan. There is nothing special about the guy anymore, no flair, no razzle dazzle, its just a bog standard looking white guy. Why didn't they cast a man from South Asia or at least someone with a clear ethnic background. Old Spock calls him by his full name in the film, Khan Noonien Singh, but he's white!! clearly white British with a British accent for Pete's sake.



And while I'm on the subject what exactly is Khan's game? save his crew...check, errrr...and then? What is his goal? old Spock reckons to kill everyone inferior to himself, but Khan never says that I believe, I don't think we ever get told what he actually wants to do...after saving his crew.

On the whole there is so much badly written plot in here it just ruins whatever it was they were trying for...and I'm not sure what really. Khan's super blood cures death and they have him captured so that means no one will ever die in this universe now? there is a cure for most death related injuries and a good supply of blood if they can keep Khan alive. As said old Spock turns up AGAIN!, whenever they are really in the shit he just pops up and tells them everything they need to know almost like a videogame cheat. Yet how the hell does he manage to get in contact with them? its like some kind of Jedi trick. There also seems to be interplanetary transporters now...sooooo doesn't that do away with the need for spaceships? oh and cold fusion doesn't...ah who cares.

The idea of a cure for death brings me to the death of Spock in the classic film. That was a shockwave for everybody at the time, I don't think people saw it coming, no one really knew if he was gonna come back, could he come back? was that it for the lovable legendary Spock? In this film we see Kirk get killed in a silly play on that iconic sequence. The difference is we know for a fact he won't really be dead because he is the main flipping character and we've only been given two films in the new reboot franchise, so of course he will come back. This makes the entire scene completely devoid of any emotion, in fact its pretty pointless, utter fail of a scene.

That of course in turn leads me to mention the iconic 'KHAAANNNN!' moment. We all know of the classic version of course but what of this regurgitated version? Well its kinda silly really, the fact is these two guys have only known each other for a relatively short period of time (two films), so again the emotions don't really bubble much when Spock blubbers over Kirk, zero emotions in fact. Plus of course as I just mentioned we all know that Kirk will definitely be back from the dead somehow (oh wait, where did they find a Tribble?) so the whole thing is just plain dumb. These moments are in the new film purely to get the hardcore old school Trekkies wet and a rather weak attempt to be clever simply by reversing stuff when in fact its more of an insult to the 82 film. Spock died in the original so lets make Kirk die here, Kirk screams out Khan so lets...you get the drift, genius writing huh.

I feel bad giving this a poor write up because there are elements in this I like, loved the new look Klingons and their Predator-like masks, nicely aggressive and intimidating and I enjoyed the space jump sequence. The main problem is this isn't a Star Trek film, its not a proper Trekkie flick, its merely a generic action flick set in space that just happens to be the Star Trek universe. You could quite easily replace the Star Trek crew with John McClane and call it a Die Hard film. Long gone are the slow moving, character based genuine science fiction Trek films, its all shooting, death, explosions and the obligatory destruction porn which seems to be a complete requirement these days.

As a stand alone film the first Trek reboot was a fine film, this sequel is simply loud messy action folly with lavish visuals. There isn't really much I can recommend here if you're a true Star Trek fan, regular film goers may enjoy it of course but that's only because this isn't proper Star Trek (which is what they were aiming for). All I can say is I really hope they don't try and reuse more of the classic films, why not try and make you're own classic cinematic moments instead of copying some one else's. A reasonably entertaining watch no doubt but hardly memorable or groundbreaking, wholly average, very lazy, very jumbled, half a mark up for visuals.

5/10

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Heat (2013)





















Aaaah the old buddy cop action flick, there has been so many, what could they come up with to make the genre a bit more fresh?. Well not much...accept this time the cop duo are female so that's a bit new...right? well kinda. This time one half of the duo is an uptight, virginal, jobsworth that does everything by the book, the other half is a slobby, foulmouthed, loose cannon that does everything somewhat haphazardly. Wait...ha..have we see this type of thing before?? nah must be me.

So the fat ugly bird and the thin wet bird gotta work together to take down a drug lord. Thing is they both hate each other and how they each go about their duties so there's gonna be a whole lot of fighting and bickering going on. Spoiler alert! they both manage to get on and eventually end up working well together and sticking up for each other, tell me you saw that coming.

Wow this film was annoying! I mean really, this is the second film I've seen with McCarthy in it and both times I've hated her character. I've come to the decision that she's probably like this in reality, loud, rude and annoying (dare I say typically American hehe). She just comes across as a completely unlikable person, I see what the aim is here in this film but geez I just wanted her to get shot in every scene. There was only one moment in the entire film that made me laugh, when they're both in the nightclub and she buys a drink at the bar only to discover it costs $14.

As for Bullock, I've never been a fan...ever. Every role she plays she is the same type of person...a wet, floppy, sappy drip who looks exactly the same with that dull hair style. In this she merely boosts that dreadful stereotype she has tenfold and is so utterly unfunny, unsexy and useless. Of course I realise this is the role she is playing but the fact they cast her in it just shows how closely the character matches her.

We get the usual load of typical cop movie cliches throughout, hell we even get the exact same sequences from other films. How many times have we seen a perp hung out of a window for comedic affect?. There isn't much action going on, mainly a whole lot of swearing in grimy sequences involving seedy people and the family of McCarthy's character. I believe these family scenes are suppose to be funny? cos they came across as aggressively uncomfortable and again annoying. The kind of people you watch from your house window as they make total fools of themselves in the middle of the street. Again I realise you could say that's good acting and film making but I just found it unlikable.

On the whole I liked how they didn't beat around the bush and have made an adult comedy thriller instead of a PG fest. Its just a shame they cast who they did and couldn't really divert from a very tired old formula...a really tired old formula. Nice soundtrack throughout but overall it didn't stop me feeling rather low the whole time, until it perks up for the predictable soppy ending.

4/10

Monday, 4 November 2013

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

























Judging by the title this must be the follow up to the mildly original animated supervillain flick...by jove it is! Now that first film was cute and reasonably fresh, fresh in the sense that the main character Gru was quite a nice design and voiced nicely by Carell. Also the 'minions' were a neat little invention that did garner the bulk of the giggles and kept the film afloat. The down side was it was yet another superhero/supervillain/super spy parody/spoof type flick which has become a saturated genre.

The big question for me was simply...did we really need this sequel? my answer to that is no. Yeah yeah I know I sound like a Scrooge but come on, really, this film has been so padded out its painful. The plot is so damn linear, supervillain up to no good, someone has to stop him, that someone is Gru. The first film had the neat little twist that the main character was a villain and becomes a goodie, switches sides. This time its just you're bog standard run of the mill superhero/super spy flick.

The problem for me her was nothing really interesting happens, there is nothing to explain, no reason for anything at all. Gru is now a good guy, he's got out of the villain/hero/spy game and he's looking after those sickeningly cute kids which he adopted from the first film. That's it! there is nothing more, did we really need a new film to show us this? oh yeah Gru gets a call to help the 'Anti Villain League' to stop some other villain blah blah blah who cares. The point is none of this was needed, the first film was a reasonably decent quirky animated film that worked well on its own, there was no need to milk it Hollywood sheesh!

What I wanna know is what are these minions exactly? what do they speak? where do they come from? and how many of them are there?! In this film there appears to be like...hundreds n hundreds of em! Yes its just a kids espionage cartoon and its not important as such but its just something I'm curious about.

I mean sure the film looks great as do all animated films these days, but there is just nothing on offer here that warrants the sequel. One or two new characters amongst all the same visual gags, visual action, childish minion tomfoolery, gadgets and general super spy-like jiggery pokery. OK call me a misery but none of it felt worth it to me, it all fell totally flat, lifeless and stale.

One thing I will mention is actually how scary it could be for kids. When those little yellow minions get turned into purple monster zombie minions the film does take a turn to the slightly eerie side. Especially the sequence where one of them is chasing the kids, Jesus its almost like a homage to 'Alien'!

End of the day it doesn't really matter how eye blisteringly good the CGI is, if its all the same stuff trundled out all over again from the first film it will just feel like a cheap merchandise machine to me. The finale isn't too bad and ups the excitement somewhat but it still can't detract from a very anti climatic ending. The very final sequence with the kids right at the end is so disgustingly sickening I virtually gagged...good grief (mental note...its a kids film, its a kids film). 

Anyway no originality whatsoever anywhere, but bottom line if you liked the first then you'll like this I guess. I thought the first was reasonable but nothing overly special, so for me this has gone downhill. Am I being too hard on a kids film? well maybe but the film is so revoltingly sweet n sugary at times with zero originality I just can't sit back and not say it out loud.

4/10







Sunday, 3 November 2013

Grown Ups 2 (2013)




















Really? a sequel? by now I'm sure we all know what happened and how this film somehow managed to sail high in the charts beating 'Pacific Rim'. Obviously Mr Sandler has a strong core fanbase that will endure anything he throws at them, and boy does he throw some stuff!.

The plot is errr...geez I dunno really, there isn't a plot, this film is virtually one skit after another much like SNL. We are still following Sandler's character and his hectic family life, alongside him we are also still following the lives of his best friends too...and that's it. The only thing is there isn't really any point to what happens throughout, its just one set up for a silly childish joke, then on to the next silly childish set up.

I guess this wouldn't be too bad if the jokes were funny, you look at classic spoof films like 'Naked Gun' or 'Airplane' and they are merely a collection of visual gag set ups. This film is the same accept the gags are tired, unoriginal and infantile, basically your standard toilet and sexual functions humour.

Believe it or not but I actually found this sequel slightly enjoyable in places and better than the first, yep that's right. The main reason for this was the quite horrendously cringe worthy performance by Taylor Lautner and his snobby frat pack which was pure parody excellence. The other reason was the party finale where everybody dresses up in fancy dress, yet they all looked really good haha. Seriously they just looked really good, especially the guy as Tom Cruise from 'Risky Business'. Plus I must also give kudos for the big punch up in the finale which is completely farcical but a definite guilty pleasure in terms of sheer lunacy.

Must also just mention the other hideously embarrassing sequence with the skimpy cheerleader attired young lads that proceed to wash James' car in a sexual manner. The whole thing is a corny gag which simply swaps sexy female cheerleaders for blokes in very tight outfits showing lunchboxes over boobs. Its so so so sooooo dumb and feels like a Farrelly brothers moment...but undeniably amusing for sure.

I guess it gives you what you pay for, its not like anyone won't know what they're getting themselves into when they go to see this. You see an Adam Sandler film for certain reasons and this film delivers those reasons. So on one level it does its job, the problem is, it is pure pointless garbage in all honesty. The fart and belch gags with James were the worst thing in this film, I mean really Kevin...I thought you were a better comedian than that.

3.5/10