Monday, 30 June 2014
(aka Remo Williams: Armed and Dangerous)
With a title like that its gotta be an 80's action flick, you just don't get titles like that anymore huh. Based around some popular pulp stories which are themselves quite dated now (early 70's), this film was apparently meant to be the first part in a franchise which never came to be.
I remember watching this as a kid and loving it, had it recorded on VHS and used to rewatch it over and over. Looking back now I'm not really sure why, despite the fact the film was released in 85 you'd think it was 75 because my God its so quaint and dated looking! The whole gist of the thing is pretty much your light-hearted James Bond angle mixed with a dash of 'The Karate Kid' really. A top NY cop has his death faked unwillingly so this undercover government agency can recruit and train him to be a killing machine. The funny bit is he is trained up by this 'Mr Miyagi' type character which you may think is me just using that cliche...but I'm totally not. Only difference is this Mr Miyagi is from Korea and is played by an American in heavy, yet very good makeup...racial issues cast aside!
Most of that humour comes from Mr Miyagi (yes that's what I'm gonna call him) as he behaves in the same uber spiritual, disciplined way with little dialog but lots of cheeky philosophical quips. That is countered by Remo, played with much swagger by Fed Ward, who at first is of course cocky, loud mouthed and rebellious to his instructions...whilst being clumsy accident prone and the butt of many Miyagi quickfire put downs and movements. Together they make a cute couple and it is amusing watching the absurd techniques used to train Remo...which he manages to conquer quite quickly. Dodging bullets huh we don't actually see how he is trained for that but he manages to do it in the end, ditto running on liquid or soft material.
Its a strange action film truth be told because it never really feels like an action film. Most of what we see is dialog between characters, either the good guys who are always snooping around and planning, or the bad guys who are always driving around in black limos and also planning. The action we get is very tepid and short lived, the only real thrill is seeing Remo fight against some construction workers atop the Statue of Liberty (did the bad guys actually just pay some blue collar workers to kill someone they don't know by booting them off the top of the Statue of Liberty?? who would accept that? surely you'd get the sack for gross misconduct lol!). The stunts are very good throughout the film I can't deny, its all very Bond-ish as said, but the film does rely on those stunts to get it through the run time, not much else going on.
The whole final act set within this forested military base is very dull, more dull than the rest of the film! Again there are stunts here and there which are reasonably impressive but its hardly epic, what the hell was that log on a cable thing? what was that?!. We never really see Remo using any of his special skills until right at the very end, we never really understand who and what CURE are suppose to be or do accept eliminate people they think are bad, plus there are only three members of CURE including Remo?!
I can't complain about how unbelievably old this looks (it is really really dated!), but I can moan about how boring and daft it is. I'm not really sure if it was meant to be an adult franchise, I don't know anything about the books but I'm kinda guessing its more for the older person? really can't tell with this film though. It swings from sweaty palm thrills (no don't even go there) to a sniff of actual possible visible violence to complete childish tomfoolery, all this set around some of the most mundane looking sets and locations you've ever seen (apart from Liberty Island). Plus points for Ward who is good fun as the bent nosed tough guy Remo, Grey as Mr Miyagi and a very early role for Kate 'Captain Janeway' Mulgrew who actually looks quite tasty.
Man I tried to enjoy this, believe me I did, it was a part of my childhood...but the rose tinted lenses have been sat on by a popcorn scoffing troglodyte.
Saturday, 28 June 2014
Ah now this would or could be called 'Where Eagles Dare' set in Africa, after all that was the full intention of its director, to make a start studded action adventure movie. I guess for folk of the current era you could say its a possible 'Expendables' for the 70's...to a degree, but back in the day they often made films with rip roaring cast line ups like this so it wasn't overly unusual. The film is based on a novel and apparently the Wild Geese were an Irish merc army of the 17th century, but why would a modern unit of mercs call themselves that? are they Irish? is it simply because they are also mercs? odd.
The mission is simple, drop into Swaziland and rescue an African leader who has been overthrown (I think) and due to be executed by his own men, then bounce back across the border before anyone knew they were there. The team are a hand picked bunch of mercs led by ex-British army officer Richard Burton, his main choices include Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Jack Watson. The rest are hired help all recruited for their skills and experience of course, on top of that they have support from the British government. The mercs are being funded by the ruthless Stewart Granger who (for some reason) wants this African leader saved and devised the plan.
The first thing that really hits you with this film is how charming everything is, the film is pretty old now (year I was born) but its all so quaint and olde worlde. You watch this now and look back at England and its incredible, the changes are VAST, the country is unrecognisable...but for the good or the bad? Seeing all the sets, props, outfits and military techniques its really quite amusing because you know at one time this was a slick modern action movie, but now oh my! I love how all the mercs wear that old British green camouflage getup with red berets! despite the fact they are in the barren dusty bush heavy terrain of Africa where they kinda stick out like...errr soldiers wearing green outfits and red berets.
What I really love (and miss) is the fact that all the main characters are just regular guys who happen to be good solid soldiers. They're not a squad of super roided up muscle bound Arnie wannabes posing for the camera at every given opportunity, they are average Joe's with average physiques and normal haircuts. There isn't any hyper martial arts or ginormous explosions with vehicles flying through the air or masses of bloody squibs bursting all over the bush floor or slow motion mega stunts or gun porn or destruction porn yadda yadda yadda. Its a very grounded action film that actually revolves around quite a bit of dialog covering planning, tactics, a bit of redemption, a bit of heart and some classic silver screen hokey ass acting from the likes of Moore who chomps on a cigar the entire time. I just love Richard Harris's hair in this film...its sooooo damn 70's its untrue, can you even imagine an action star with hair like that in a modern blockbuster! I wanna see it happen.
The score made me laugh though as throughout the action, no matter what happens, the score always seems quite upbeat and light-hearted. Some guy just got shot in the head, Roger Moore's eyebrow is in overdrive and Richard Harris's hair is flapping all over the show in a sweaty panic yet all the while the musical score chirps along to itself as though it were on a sunny Sunday drive. At no point does the score ever seem to fit the onscreen action! I have found this with many old films and their scores and its quite bizarre when you compare them to today's thundering rousing tear jerking symphonies.
The film does descent into very familiar territory as the team gets picked off one by one as they attempt to escape their predicament. It is fun to watch and I was never that sure who would actually make it as this is the first time I've seen the film and there were a lot of mercs to choose from. Clearly the suave Moore wasn't gonna kick the bucket and amazingly Burton also makes it out alive despite the fact he's clearly way too old to be there, has a mountain of makeup on to hide his age, can't run to save his life and looks like he's about to keel over from heat exhaustion. There is effort to make the finale emotional as important team members bite the dust but personally I found the whole thing too silly really, not in a bad way but its just an old film simple as that.
Must give kudos for having a homosexual merc on the team (especially for the era), hilarious as half the soldiers look like they should be drawing their pensions but lets not forget that's actually the point...still damn funny though. The films also touches on the treatment of black folk by the white mercs (this was the apartheid era), mainly the stereotypically blonde Nazi looking Afrikaner who unsurprisingly has to take care of the African leader they are rescuing, doesn't get on at first yet in the end they have virtually kissed and made up.
It is a great military adventure which isn't entirely realistic and isn't played that way. Its more like an extended episode of The A-Team with some slightly controversial elements of the time. It almost feels like a film for boys, like toy soldiers and playing war, its daft, hokey and artificial merely giving blokes/young men/boys a chance to see their favourite Hollywood alpha males kick some ass. Its just unfortunate they set this Hollywood war game in a location where serious things were happening and it didn't really feel very suitable. But if you can look past the awkward political aspects of the era, its a solid romp at a time when male Hollywood stars were real men's men grrrr!.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
The vigilante crime fighter is back only this time she is also back on the force. This however does not stop her double life as the kinky fishnet wearing crime buster as she is called into action once more to stop two villains this time...yes two. The original concept was clearly a homage to more easy going comicbooks and the classic fun camp TV show Batman and Robin starring Adam West...albeit with a slightly adult edge. This time the shameless Batman rip off goes into full force as we get a Joker-esque bad guy and a female that transforms herself into a supervillainess in her very own tight kinky outfit ala Catwoman.
A female scientist is creating a machine that can predict and stop earthquakes on the west coast of the US. This gets sabotaged by the naughty LA Mayor who needs earthquakes because it brings in vital revenue for him from various sources. At the same time the leading female scientist gets injured or shell shocked (unsure really) during the meltdown of her machine and transforms herself into the supervillainess 'Aftershock' to wreak revenge on LA and Black Scorpion, yet strangely not the Mayor directly. Aftershock hires the assistance of petty criminal 'Gangster Prankster' to aid her with her plan to destroy LA with a massive quake.
So this time around as I already said the film really goes down the 60's Batman and Robin route with overall campness and silliness. Gone is the slightly adult theme of the first film (although there is still a small hint of tits n ass) as its replaced with the kind of daft lunacy you'd expect in a cartoon. Its like a blend of DC character rip offs and a Saturday morning cartoon for kids. The two main baddies are clearly heavily influenced by certain DC characters (The Joker, Two Face and Wonder Woman) and their main evil plot is so stupid it stands side by side with Shark Repellent Bat Spray.
Admittedly I did quite like Gangster Prankster as a villain due to his freaky twisted visage, slutty stripper girlfriend and playhouse lair. The whole concept is totally cliched and just slightly unoriginal but it does work for this movie (when do twisted evil clowns ever not work?). The villainess is the head baddie but doesn't really have much impact aside from having a really nice ass sealed up in latex. Her outfit is much more basic and cliched along with many other standard superhero designs but the fact she's a blonde with thigh high boots is obviously for the young male audience. Aside from that its business as usual with pretty much everything else really...same transforming Scorpionmobile with the same poor CGI effects, same lame looking punch ups, same attempts at humour and visual gags but amazingly the same cast also which does deserve kudos.
The whole thing descends into the same dull predictable formulaic plot process you have come to expect from superhero/action flicks. A loved one gets kidnapped, someone gets blackmailed into doing something against the hero, tip offs, inept police, police still against the main vigilante hero despite the good they are doing and a big showdown where everything gets sorted out with a nice neat bow on top. Yet there are still some nice moments, the sequence where Gangster Prankster gets his comeuppance is actually quite well done on a clearly small budget, and lets not forget the odd semi decent car wreck too.
The only real reasons to watch this Corman gem are for the insanely silly characters on display, some cool tacky effects, tight ass in tight latex and of course Black Scorpion fighting Aftershock in a pre-teens wet dream of tight ass in tight latex (and fishnets)...hell it was good enough for me! Not to be taken seriously and of course everyone involved knows just that, hence the film does work as a fun wacky tacky piece of superhero fluff just like the first, although not quite as good methinks.
Monday, 23 June 2014
Ah a Roger Corman epic that actually spawned its own comicbook and TV series which would indicate that the film is quite good...wouldn't it. Well I'm pleased to say that the film is actually pretty good IF you're interested in incredibly cheesy cliched trashy low budget superhero flicks that combine the camp of the 60's Batman and Robin series and the sleazy visuals of something like Barb Wire. Yep its an all round winner for meeee!
The plot is an unbelievably stereotypical comicbook setup. A young woman's father is shot dead in front of her eyes which leads her to reinvent herself as the superheroine vigilante Black Scorpion. This happens just in the neck of time as a super villain who was once a hospital doctor that was accidentally shot dead by the Black Scorpions cop father when she was a child, has come back to wreak revenge on the city by using a toxic gas in the air supply (the cities air supply?). This villain is now encased within a metallic suit because he has major asthma...and facial deformities for some reason, from the injuries suffered from his near death experience. So naturally he has lots of henchmen and equipment to plunge the city into despair.
So like Batman the Black Scorpion fights crime and stands up for justice...especially justice for women naturally. At first she merely ekes out an existence on her own taking down pimps and muggers with martial arts in her tight scantily clad outfit and surprisingly expensive hot rod. But as the film goes on she picks up a cool cat sidekick that just happens to be able to supply her with neat gadgets and revamp her car. From there on the Black Scorpion flies around the city in a transforming American muscle car which is decked out with all sorts of hi-tech equipment...just like the Batmobile. When I say transforming I mean the car morphs into a completely different car in a dreadfully bad CGI/effects sequence, its impossible and makes no sense at all but I don't think that's a concern here.
The bad guy in his robot suit looks like something from an old Dr Who episode, its laughably stupid looking and still makes me wonder how a bullet hit to the chest would equal the need for this suit...and give him chronic asthma. The bloke inside this thing can hardly move which makes it even more amusing, lots of quick cut edits when he's involved in the action, but as I said luckily he has lots of expendable henchmen just waiting to have their asses kicked by a female in fishnets. As for the Black Scorpion played devilishly by Joan Severance, her outfit is bordering on softcore S&M with black thigh high boots, fishnets, long black elbow length PVC gloves, a nice black shiny PVC cleavage and a Catwoman style mask. I won't deny it looked good if a little vanilla for my tastes, no way she could do half the stuff she does in those boots though.
The actual film is an odd creation, like I said already it plays like a camp pantomime, like the famous Adam West/Burt Ward TV series. Yet at the same time its a very adult film in places, there are strippers and hookers with tits n ass and on show, a few revealing outfits, clear cut male fantasy sequences of blokes getting beaten up by a woman in BDSM gear and even a simulated oral sex scene which is pretty darn good. It may be a silly childish exaggerated homage to the comicbook genre but it certainly isn't for the kids. There isn't really any blood and gore though, the violence is pretty much on par with The A-Team. You don't see much, no squibs or bullet holes...just men throwing themselves around.
In the end the film is clearly meant to be a true over the top comicbook flick with larger than life characters and unrealistic scenarios. In no way is it meant to be taken seriously, the superheroine is not a realistic believable character in any sense even though she has no super powers and no bottomless bank account...just the muscle car. In a sense she is more akin to a character from the Kick-Ass universe I guess, being a vigilante with a ridiculous outfit. This film does remind me of the recent 'Green Hornet' movie actually, the ethnic sidekick and muscle car loaded with gadgets that is. A cool little mishmash of sordid tacky fun and camp goofiness with ass...well worth it.
Friday, 20 June 2014
Now this is a film long since lost in the annals of time. Much like the excellent 'Jabberwocky' movie by Terry Gilliam this movie has also been somewhat herded into the Monty Python film collection as a kind of extension to the Python universe. The same could also be said for the movies 'Yellowbeard' and 'Timebandits', unfortunately neither 'Erik' or 'Yellowbeard' are any good really and both fall flat, although this is better than the Chapman vehicle.
Inspired by Jones's own children's story book but strangely enough not following his own creation, the film revolves around Norse mythology although I'm unsure how closely, I doubt its that close. We follow Erik and his viking crew as they travel to Asgard so they may ask the Gods to end the age of Ragnarök. They all believe the sun has been swallowed by Fenrir the mighty wolf which has plunged their world into darkness. So its a travelling into the unknown type adventure which was very popular in the 80's.
I guess the main issue I had with this film (first time seeing it!) was the fact it felt like it was trying to copy various other movies in terms of visuals at least. The whole mystery voyage into the unknown and looking for mystical fabled items angle is cool but so very dated and to be really truly honest this film just felt like a combination of all of the films I mentioned above. The visuals aren't even that exciting really, most of the start is set within a drab dreary Viking village, then we move onto a drab and dreary sea sequence, then we get some exotic visuals but eventually its back to drab and dreary as they find Asgard. Most of the movie looks very cheap and cheerful too, the sea monster is quite nice and typically Python-esque but all sets and costumes (especially wigs) just look very tacky.
I realise Jones has gone for that simple dirty cheap look (classic Python look) but it comes across as a tired attempt. 'Time bandits' had the same kind of visual approach but it also had some good location sequences and an exciting story, this story of Erik didn't really grab me at all. I didn't feel anything for any of the characters, their journey seems too easy, they find their goal quite quickly without doing much, the Gods are just kids which was anti-climatic, nothing really happens during the adventure that is of any real consequence...no urges of pending failure and the finale is really very weak.
I can't even say any of the characters were good fun...the same old routines which have been seen before in better films. There is a strong element of forced comedy throughout the film which is never really that amusing. The silly goofy characters are just trying way too hard, a good example would be the entire sequence set on Hy-Brasil with Jones in a familiar high pitched speaking role. As for Robbins as Erik...he is miscast in my view, far too meek, not really good looking enough for the hero and with an American accent!...sheesh! what on earth was Jones thinking?! Not even the powerhouse that is John Cleese can help this dull tale, his portrayal of the evil 'Halfdan the Black' as a soft spoken good mannered pleasant seeming chap (basically Cleese playing Cleese or his Robin Hood character from 'Timebandits'), again just felt rehashed and out of place.
There are one or two nice visual moments like the Viking ship going over the edge of the flat Earth and as I said the sea monster (what you see of it), but that's about it. I found the whole thing rather underwhelming frankly despite the solid UK cast and alluringly cool little movie poster. Its pretty unexciting with little to care about and a terrible finale, there are better Python-esque fantasies out there.
Monday, 16 June 2014
Well this looks like a reasonably slick espionage mov...BANG! REBOOT! ugh! Yep Ryan's back in the fifth film of the Tom Clancy novel adapted franchise that really did seem like it was dead in the water. But guess what! this time they have abandoned the Clancy stories completely and gone with a fully original idea that just happens to be yet another fudging origins tale...Jesus H Christ! another flippin' origins reboot.
So we see how Ryan starts off his career, becomes a marine, gets badly injured, meets his future wife and finally ends up working secretly for old man Costner blah blah blah...its all of no importance. Bottom line Ryan is working as a covert CIA analyst and trying to snoop out suspect money transactions that could lead to terrorist attacks. Low and behold he finds one! a suspicious looking operation that stereotypically leads him to Russia where he must bring down the evil Kenneth Branagh with lots of hi-tech jiggery pokery.
What can I say? the entire cast of this film felt completely miscast in my humble opinion. Kenneth Branagh directed this film and conveniently gave himself the meatiest role as the main bad guy. The problem is whilst Branagh can do a marvellous Russian accent he can't really pull off the bad guy spiel too well and comes across as trying way too hard with his dastardly cool as ice persona. I get the feeling he's been watching Alan Rickman in 'Die Hard' too much, watching him slap his men around just came across as funny. Pine as the main protagonist Ryan was always coming across as 'Kirk' to me quite strangely, every time the action kicks in I just see him running around spaceship corridors. While he isn't bad as the main guy he isn't exactly thrilling to watch either, he does the desk jockey pen pushing angle well but in the thick of some realistic action he doesn't quite sell it for me. I think the problem being we've seen Jack Ryan as a young smart keen company boy already with Affleck and Baldwin, and this doesn't really feel any different, wash rinse and repeat. The less said about the awful Knightly the better frankly, she just doesn't look comfortable in this type of movie, stick to your rom-com's and silly fantasies dear.
I think in general this is a standard run of the mill espionage action thriller that combines elements from 'The Bourne Identity' and 'Mission: Impossible'. I'm sure you can guess what I'm getting at...this film offers nice sequences of standard hi-tech computer hacking gadget filled tomfoolery with some nice chase sequences and a bit of fisticuffs to boot. None of it is anything remarkably special, we've seen it all before albeit this time its inevitably slicker and glossier.
The whole rollercoaster sequence where Ryan must infiltrate Branagh's posh offices, hack his computer and download/upload files for the CIA is the main set piece and admittedly its done well. Think of the Cruise sequence in the first 'M:I' flick where he's dangling from wires...well that doesn't happen here but there's the same kind of high tension as Ryan must hack n jack within a time limit before his actions become noticed and the bad guys come running. Its the best bit of the whole film and it did make me sweat I won't deny, of course you know he will make it but still. Other than that its pretty much the same kind of stuff you've come to expect...car chases, damage porn, a few punch ups and a big explosion at the very end which really should of caused a lot of damage despite the film making it out to be a happy ending.
It all came across as a very tame safe sanitized action thriller with not much action or any solid brute violence. I'm not saying that violence makes a film but I think this needed some beefing up definitely. Branagh is a competent director but here he offers nothing new or anything to stretch the limits of our imaginations. There are many espionage franchises out there these days and at the end of the day this just doesn't cut the mustard if you ask me. Back in the day the older Jack Ryan movies fared better because there was less competition in this genre, these days forget it, this is going nowhere fast.
Friday, 13 June 2014
So despite this films title the plot isn't actually about a getaway no Sir, its more along the lines of someone having to complete missions in a time limit or his wife dies. Yep that's the whole plot in a nutshell, Ethan Hawke is trapped within a souped-up GT500 Super Snake Mustang and must do whatever the mystery voice on his phone says or his kidnapped wife gets it. There are two problems with this concept...1. its completely ridiculous and 2. Hawke picks up Selena Gomez along the way.
First off the mystery voice and lips we see are obviously Jon Voight, there is no mystery at all, its Jon Voight, moving on. The next massively glaring issue is the car, the actual idea behind this film isn't too bad despite playing out like a GTA videogame. The silly thing is the location for this action is Sofia, Bulgaria (for some reason) and generally in that country you probably won't see highly souped-up Mustangs. So the fact that Hawk is tearing around the city doing all these crazy things is completely idiotic because firstly the car stands out like a sore thumb so there is no way in hell you could disappear or be remotely inconspicuous...thusly you'd be spotted a mile away by everybody, and secondly the police would literately lock down the city. The fact Hawke is able to quietly drive around in his burbling Mustang with generally no attention is absurd.
That's the main issue which lets down the entire plot, it just doesn't work, but there are many others. I'm still not really sure why Voight goes to all that trouble with Hawke behind the wheel, surely he could do what he intended stealthily? the fact they cause so much mayhem just means there are tonnes of mobile police units around. On another point I see absolutely no reason why Gomez's character was required. Voight's mystery character sets her up with Hawke but there is no real need for her, she is literately just there to gain a wider audience.
The other thing that really made me giggle to myself was the poorly forced notion that Gomez's character is some kind of petrol head and the Mustang is actually hers...which she modded herself! as if!!. She reels off all this car jargon in a lame attempt to try and make you believe she's a cool cat and she may be of some use to Hawke's character in the film. Of course she is a nerdy techno kid so she does come in handy hacking into all the digital cams that have been fixed around the car and naturally she grows to like Hawke's character and wants to help him blah blah blah.
I'm not saying this film should be anything epic, the film was released under the Dark Castle Entertainment label which is basically a straight to DVD type get up so in affect you get what you pay for. As I said its not all awful though, the idea is sound and its directed well to be honest. Instead of regular filming we see the main two car occupants through the various in-car digi cams which Voight's character uses to watch them. Its nothing that incredible but it adds a nice touch of originality to an otherwise slightly unoriginal idea, it does looks good at times.
The other main hook is the car chases and car wrecks you see throughout the film. Think along the lines of 'Ronin' and you're not far off, its not as slick as that film and the fact its all at night means you don't see everything clearly but I can't deny some of it was impressive. Totally daft how these shitty old Bulgarian police cars manage to keep up with this hyper Mustang (or so we're lead to believe, it ain't no rice racer) and its utterly hilarious how this Mustang gets into so many prangs and collisions but suffers hardly any damage!! Its so obvious they wanted the car to remain intact for as long as possible, to remain recognisable, they were probably under instructions by the folk at Mustang. Unfortunately it adds even more to the already high levels of unrealistic nonsense and takes you out of the film completely. At one point Hawke's character slams the car bonnet first into a police car, shunting him off the road, yet the Mustangs headlights still work with no sign of damage!
Towards the end we do get some twists and turns which kinda work but leave it feeling a bit convoluted. Again in order to gain a wider audience they have cast a real duo of classic bad guys leading up to Voight...enter Bruce Payne and Paul Freeman. Their roles are so so small so don't get excited, like I said they're there just to add a bit of class but really with such small parts anyone could of played their roles. Them being there doesn't change anything or make the film better. Its a throw away flick which is a shame because it could of been much better if they ironed out some of the silliness. There really is so much stuff that just doesn't add up and we don't really learn who Voight's character is or what is overall game plan is, he's just pinching loads of money via computers in an extremely over complicated way it seems. If you like cars/car chases then this may grab your attention, otherwise it offers nothing really.
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Yep so here we are with this sequel/prequel/present day/aftermath errrr...sequel, to the original and far superior movie. Yep I've let the cat out of the bag right away. This time the plot centres on the real events of the Battle of Salamis but in that hyper glossy Zack Snyder way we now all know and kinda love? Oh and if you're easily confused, Spartans have red cloaks and Athenians have blue cloaks...just in case its confusing for you.
So I thought this was an outright sequel but as it turns out its not, in fact the film is virtually an entire flashback of the adventures from the last film and character origins. OK so I'm exaggerating a bit but seriously there are big chunks of flashbacks and origins in here! Its actually part of the plot (as in not sub-plots), the whole tale is told in part by narration by Queen Gorgo (Leonidas's other half from the first film) who tells of how Xerxes came to power with the help of Artemisia...so that's the first origins flashback. It seems Xerxes becomes a God King simply by submerging himself in some gold liquid?? and hey presto! he completely changes completely from head to toe, from a regular bloke into a huge muscle bound brute covered in shit he clearly nicked off Mr T.
From here we jump back n forth as Xerxes approaches Thermopylae, the start of the original film, and we discover how Artemisia came to serve the Persians. This once again involves origin flashbacks that also manage to crowbar in another character from the first film played by Peter Mensah (guy kicked down a well by Leo). It seems he found the young Artemisia after her family was killed by Greeks and she was used as a sex slave, he trains her to be badass...for some reason. This just felt completely unnecessary to me, bringing this character back.
The story eventually circles around the events of Thermopylae and Leonidas (bringing back various characters from the first film like the Hunchback) and continues on after that with the Greeks facing off against Xerxes forces at sea, its basically the first film at sea. So the film starts off as a prequel and eventually ends as a sequel, but covering the events of the first film in between kinda feels like filler to me. I know its important to the overall scheme of things but it just makes me feel that this whole project didn't really need to be made, why make a film which consists of bits and pieces around the original films plot? Typically for Hollywood they get both ends of the deal with both a prequel and sequel at the same time for an established franchise! bet they were wetting themselves with glee.
On the whole the film isn't a bad one, its actually good fun and of course offers lots more of what we all liked about the first film. Within the first five minutes we see there is extreme amounts of blood n gore this time round and extreme amounts of slow motion...oh boy is that a trend right now. Yep so you've got the two best things about the franchise boosted up big time for this new film...not loving it though. My reason? well the blood is all CGI and it looks hokey as hell, I mean really...it just looks like fake CGI blood, poor show. The slow motion is fine but again half the time you're thinking why??? you don't really need it this much!!!
The other thing I noticed was the slick highly stylised effects didn't look quite as good as before...to me. Most of it looked lush for sure with some lovely visuals sequences but then there were some that really stood out with bad greenscreen and obvious CGI. The fact its deliberately meant to look like a graphic novel lets its off the hook somewhat of course but the original still wins on visuals for me. The whole ocean ablaze sequence didn't look very good, the entire horseback riding sequence at the finale was an absolute joke and really let the film down in more ways than one, and finally most of the ships looked pretty hokey to me too, just way too obvious.
The film also tended to go down the stereotypical rehash route with the baddies being led by the obligatory uber bitch who goes around killing her men for failure or no real reason...as you would. The Immortals seems like faceless stormtroopers now that seem to have dreadlocks coming from the back of their helmets? plus how can they lose a fight with all that superb tough looking armour they have on! In a horrendously daft sequence we must endure Artemisia and Themistocles having hard rough sex as both try to dominate the other with their sexual positions...anal anyone? What really made me laugh was both of them could of killed the other at any time and ended the conflict, but no they just go their separate ways, as if!! Anyone else would have killed the bitch and legged it...after screwing her of course.
The film doesn't quite have the same va va voom that the first film did, its lacking punch. The first film really grabbed you by the balls and made you care about Leo and his men, plus the last man standing angle is always a great subject matter, the stuff of legends. This plot just felt very muddled and jumbled, lots of things going on, too many flashbacks, you aren't drawn to the characters and overall it just felt like a bloated action flick, Die Hard in around 480 BC. An example of this would be the sequence where suicide bombers loaded with tar are sent to attack the Greek warships. The Greeks kill virtually all of them accept for one guy who Artemisia magically manages to spot amidst all the chaos and hits with a flaming arrow. The final showdown between Artemisia and Themistocles is also completely stereotypical crapola. Themistocles can cut down hordes of heavily armoured Persian stormtroopers with ease but finds it hard to beat a skinny female? come on.
The film really tries to recapture the emotion of the first film but it just can't do it. There are a few strong rousing speeches before battles but none really convey anything much, they don't get you all pumped up with adrenaline or weepy eyed, they feel flat and strained. The main lead Stapleton doesn't really help I'm afraid, he can't hold the film up on his shoulders like Butler did. The ending is totally predictable, you can literately see it coming from the first moment Themis walks into Sparta. Yeah it all looks good and I like the artistic license taken with history plus the fact its actually based on real history, always interesting. But overall its just a silly action flick with swords and sandals, the pseudo 3D animation in the final credits actually looks better than the feature film! I'd like to see a film made in that style please.
Monday, 9 June 2014
The dreary sterile foursome are back...rubbery bloke, fat rock thing, the flaming flamer and woman with really obvious fake blue contacts and blonde hair. This time in a bid to actually make an interesting film they've added an actual antagonist...or have they. Oh no my mistake he actually turns out to be another good guy whom everybody thought was bad. So who is the bad guy this time?? well I guess its Doom again...oh no he's working with the Four...until the very end when we get one single battle and a large cosmic cloud, oh geez Hollywood.
Yep so we've had the obligatory origins part of the franchise that took up the entire first film, now things can step up a gear...right??!! Well no not really, this time most of the film simply revolves around the marriage plans of Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman...yes *deflated acceptance of the truth*. Yep as the two love birds are trying their best to get hitched admist the usual cartoonish childish tomfoolery of the other team members, the Silver Surfer pops up from outta nowhere.
So even though the rest of this film still generally looks as poor as the first film at least the Surfer does actually look pretty slick, no pun intended. Admittedly it shouldn't be too hard to capture the Surfer's look, how could you fudge it up?! (ahem!), but yes he does looks really nice here as does his board. That doesn't excuse some plot issues though, apparently the board is a beacon for Galactus the cosmic cloud, but why? does Galactus own the board and he loaned it to the Surfer? what connection is there between the board and Galactus? I did always think the Silver Surfer's people on his home world all had boards like it was their mode of transportation, but in this film things aren't really explained and I've no idea how accurate it is to the comics.
This leads to Galactus himself or itself. Yes in the comics we all know that Galactus is a big God-like humanoid with a nifty helmet, but in this film he's a big swirly cosmic cloud in space...he's been Bayformed. I understand the need to maybe conceal this mega characters true form to a degree (in his first movie appearance) so I can go with this myself, but I can also understand why some fans were upset with this way forward. Hollywood does this to some characters and it can be very frustrating I know, but leaving such a vast character to the last five minutes of the film doesn't help either does it. What bewildered me was the fact the Silver Surfer decides to wipe out or kill Galactus at the end...but why didn't he do just that right at the start before he was forced to destroy so many planets?! he could of done what he did (don't ask me what he did) ages ago for Pete's sake! eh? Oh and what were all those huge holes in the Earth in aid of exactly??
The actual main heroes (the Four) are completely useless and just as annoying as they were in the first film...so I won't bore you further. Where as Doom is!...just the same as the first film *groan*. Somehow he gets released from his metal prison because of cosmic rays from the Surfer? whatever...and naturally plans dastardly plans to get even. The utterly stupid thing is even when the planet is clearly on the brink of destruction by Galactus, Doom is still being a dick and refusing to cooperate trying to keep the boards power for himself. Yeah that will do you good when planet Earth gets obliterated you utter utter cock.
It all sounds exciting doesn't it, lots of action and CGI for the kids...yeah, great. Thing is just like the first film there isn't all that much action until the end again. We do finally get to see Doom have a proper battle with the Four and errr...lots of military blokes getting thrown around, one guy gets a hole blasted in him! But that's it really, the finale is just a big super powered energy explosion that makes no real sense but you just gotta accept it.
I admit this film is much more fun than the first and visually more thrilling but a lot of that is purely down to the Surfer. Without this one character the film would be just as pants as the original, and even with this one character its not exactly brilliant. The problem being most of the film is filled with rubbish and characters you don't care about, plus it all feels so very puerile still...they added more childish visual gags! They broke the wall of semi reality within this universe by having Stan Lee play himself and being recognised as the comicbook uberlord that he is. Cute moment but it takes you out of the film, it makes a mockery of the whole movie concept...if that's even possible. On top of all that they still go ahead and end the film focusing on that stupid flippin' wedding and the same 4 logo motif in the sky! originality anyone?
Saturday, 7 June 2014
Not THE Fantastic Four oh no...its simply Fantastic Four here, much cooler. So this is the first major production for the Four after the now cult Roger Corman B-movie effort. Team of clever people head out into space and get hit in the face by an interstellar cloud of space stuff and obtain super powers. Naturally one of them becomes twisted and evil with his new found powers and much fighting ensues, that's it, that's all there is.
Thing with this film is everything moves so fast at first. One minute the Four are discussing this space cloud, next they're discussing it with Von Doom, then they're all up in space in this space station, then they get hit by the space cloud and then just as quickly they're all back on Earth. The beginning feels so rushed so they can get to the fun stuff and silly special effects, and boy is there plenty of that. Most of this film really feels like a setup for the inevitable sequel, half the film is basically the team getting to grips with their powers and messing around.
Its all a rip off if you ask me, most of the time we only get to see Grimm and Johnny arguing bickering and pranking each other, whilst Reed tries to study their new powers. Alba as Sue Storm does literately nothing accept for flirt with Reed, regurgitate her new nudity/invisibility issue and look absolutely ridiculous with her fake blue contacts and fake blonde hair, she looks like a mutant from the X-Men. The real killer is the fact we don't actually see Doctor Doom anywhere until right at the very end! This film has no villain! its true, the first superhero flick I've seen with no actual antagonist. Then when we do finally get some Doom action its a blink and you'll miss it scenario plus it never feels like Doctor Doom, just the actor McMahon in a plastic mask (what's with the eyebrow makeup on that guy?).
The sole bit of action for the most part is a highway pile up on the Brooklyn Bridge which gives the team a chance to flex their new skills in complete CGI glory. I can't really moan about the CGI because its obvious from the outset that the film was gonna be heavy on it, but this doesn't entirely excuse how bad it looks. The only character that looks reasonable is the Human Torch, Mr Fantastic looks anything but fantastic...but his CGI effects sure do look plastic. The Invisible Woman just comes across as bland and completely uninteresting whilst The Thing is so very clearly a stretchy suit. I think its hard to translate this team onto the big screen though in all fairness, they have a more childish vibe about them, their outfits are hard to update...and basically they're just dull all round.
There is a very comical light-hearted feel to the film that borders on infantile at times. Now I can't say that's a bad thing because the film does adapt the comicbook atmosphere very well, what else would you expect with characters like this? But at times the film is just embarrassing to watch, there is some really cheesy ultra hammy dialog and gags, dumb visual gags...dare I say pratfall stuff and loads of quickfire quips and one liners. I mean yeah Johnny Storm is suppose to be a good looking cocky mouthy young astronaut but some of his scenes with The Thing are simply excruciating to watch. Does he really need to shout out 'flame on!' to turn into the Human Torch?
The whole film looks bad and highly fake, not much better than a TV series...hell the Roger Corman movie isn't far behind really. The performances are weak, there is no bad guy and virtually 90% of the film is about nothing more than origins and tomfoolery, literately padding for the sequel in a crafty money milking operation. On one hand they do admittedly capture the spirit of the comicbook genre with this guff but on the other hand it really is a typically terrible sanitised sterile Hollywood production.
Thursday, 5 June 2014
So what happened to the Nightcrawler? he was a good soft centred character with potential in the last film, what the Hadoken?? So yet again after the following smash success of the sequel, which may or may not have been a surprise, we get the trilogy bookend to the saga. Naturally we are pummeled with lots more characters, even bigger set pieces, even bigger action and various big deaths scenes, oh and Brett 'Rush Hour' Ratner takes over the reigns...which means it could well stink.
Plot time...Worthington Labs announce the cure to mutantism, well a drug that will suppress the mutant gene in mutants. This of course could be good news for certain mutants like the awkward Rogue (don't listen to Storm sheesh!), but for ultra cool mutants like Magneto, Wolverine, Iceman etc...it sounds like the worst idea since Brett Ratner took over the reigns for this third film. The 'cure' comes from the genome of a young mutant boy so obviously Magneto sets out to kill the boy with his alternate (not exactly evil in the evil sense) mutant army, only the X-Men can stop them.
I don't get the humans in this saga though, surely having people like this around with these powers would help mankind greatly. Sure there would be problems but on the whole if peace is kept as many want then the advantages for humans and mutants to work together would be astronomical! Plus aren't people amazed and in awe of these powers, hardly every day stuff is it.
So its back to more origins again and lots more exposition as we see how a young Jean Grey met up with Magneto and Xavier (I type Magneto because its easier than his human name) who have both had major CGI airbrush work done to their pretty faces. We then get to see a rather abrupt and brief origin for Angel which leads into some obligatory training sequences for the regular team followed by an intro for Beast and the steps being taken to find Magneto. Once the story skips through all this its back to Xavier's school again so we can have yet more origin chat as Beast visits.
One thing I noticed about Beast in this franchises continuity is way back in 'X2' we saw Beast as a youngish middle aged man in human form on the TV. According to comicbook lore (if we are picky here) Beast was actually one of the X-Men team from a young age I believe plus he was shaped like a gorilla. What we see of him in that brief cameo doesn't really match up although admittedly we don't see all of him. I would also hazard a guess that he would of been blue and furry by the age he looks in that cameo, like I say I'm just being picky.
This film feels more in tone with the original in the sense that everything is slowing building towards the finale. The plot is developed step by step in easy to swallow doses so each little story can expand and finally blend at the end. It does feel a bit slow admittedly but again it still manages to hold your attention well by slowly giving you more bang for your buck. Gotta be honest though some characters do feel squeezed in for no reason, Angel doesn't really do much, he's just there for visuals where as Multiple Man is around for one booby trap/gag moment.
There also seemed to be some tomfoolery with the Omegas group involving big visual changes and sexual gender alterations. Not that that's a problem as Omahyra Mota as Arclight was an inspired casting choice but the others felt very generic and bland looking. Not really sure how Kid Omega's power of being a mutant porcupine would come in handy unless you do the only thing he does in the film which is kill someone by hugging them. Its also these guys that start to mention mutants in class divisions depending on how powerful they are...where did that come from?
I find Pyro hilariously dumb in this film though. This guy goes around acting all tough and macho when confronting new mutants despite not knowing what they can do. For all he knows they could kill him easily with their unique mutant power, all he can do is control fire! geez dude don't be such a plum. Another stupid point was after Xavier gets obliterated Beast suggests the school close...eh?! why you big blue goon! surely the best way to honour him would be to keep the school going, no way Xavier would want it to shut down, go plait your hair sheesh!
In general everything is fine up to the big showdown where for some bizarre reason Magneto decides to detach and use the Golden Gate Bridge as a crossing to Alcatraz. I mean yeah it looks impressive and fancy in all its CGI glory but really? why not just use a large boat or fly...most of you all do that. Plus that may give you more stealth for the attack. The actual main battle is reasonably well directed and sorta utilises everyone but the fact the soldiers have the cure in gun form does make a bit of a mockery of it all. Yes many mutants get 'cured' but I don't really think any of them would stand a chance with all that stuff flying around.
Its all pretty much the same again but with nicer visuals. Beast looks awesome and is portrayed really well by Grammer, Grey in Phoenix form does look pretty good to me and her story fits OK as far as I'm concerned although I know some fanboys didn't like it. Wish we knew exactly what happened to Cyclops though. Everyone else is on good form and haven't varied from their previous performances so its all good in that sense (Juggernaut is a bit iffy looking though isn't he, not sure why they cast Vinnie Jones there) and as I said there are some big characters getting kicked to the curb throughout and towards the end which was very cool I can't deny. Not quite as classy as the previous two sure, but it does the job...what else did you expect?
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
So Toad and Sabretooth are dead and buried then it seems, guess they weren't that popular huh. Not surprising seeing as they were the worse characters from the last film. So after the unexpected smash of the original film we got this sequel adding more characters, more effects and a bit more much needed action.
Moving on from the first film we discover now that Magneto has been tortured into giving up vital information about Xavier's school for mutants by the nasty new bad guy William Stryker. Stryker and his team capture Xavier and plan to create another Cerebro so they can brainwash Xavier into wiping out all the mutants of the world with his mental powers. Now is the time...the X-Men and Magneto's naughty mutants must join forces to save all mutant kind.
Everything kicks off nicely with the cool introduction of new character Nightcrawler, who is performed with a likeable heartfelt sincere persona by Alan Cumming. Its a good start to the film because not only do we get a slick sexy Matrix style ass-kicking sequence courtesy of the Crawler, but this guy looks good, he's accurate to the source material and simply feels very fresh and original especially with that German accent. The one thing I don't get about this guy is the fact he can only teleport when he can see where's he's teleporting too. Surely when you teleport to anywhere you can't see where your going right? so what difference does it make?
This film clearly tries for the 'Empire' tone by making everything quite dark with lots of pending doom and gloom. As we all know the film also ends on a downer with major character Jean Grey kicking the bucket, new boy Pyro switching to the dark side and Wolverine discovering some of his bleak past plus having to fight another similar mutant. In general the whole team are feeling like shit come the end of the day plus they no longer appear to be safe in their 'Wayne Manor-esque' home.
But not only this we also get a much more violent film than the safe fast cut first flick. When Styker's men storm Xavier's mutant school armed to the teeth with automatic weapons we see Wolverine tear into some real hack n slash action as he rampages through the building slicing n dicing soldiers left right and centre (finally!). We also see a hint of mutant power from some younger students at the same time. Of course there is no blood or guts anywhere in the film but we do see Wolverine piling into bad guys impaling them pretty good with no cuts. This sequence to me shows another possible Nazi angle again as a community of 'different' people are invaded, rounded up and taken away from their home by armed soldiers, not even women and children are left.
I liked how the story develops Pyro Iceman and Rogue together as they come to terms with their powers plus adolescence. The scene where Iceman outs himself to his parents is a cute scene with very real message which some folk will relate to. Some nice little touches of humour admittedly but its all very tame and easy going. The fact Iceman is obviously the good guy and Pyro is obviously the quick tempered bad guy feels a bit too simple, amazed one isn't wearing blue and the other red whilst fighting over Rogue. I didn't really like the inclusion of Lady Deathstrike though, she felt unnecessary and merely there just for a showdown with Wolverine at the end...which she ultimately was as she did nothing else the entire time. She's in and out quick, a sidekick that's killed off neatly, only there for the visuals and adding to the character roster. The fight was also completely lacking in any excitement because we know neither of these characters can be hurt, this being a problem with these films at times, invincible people fighting each other.
Although I must admit I liked the concept of Stryker using his mutant son to control other mutants with a serum from his brain and the fact he induces Xavier into almost killing off everyone. OK sure the fact they managed to built another Cerebro seemed far fetched as I thought that was a special contraption that only Xavier and Magneto could devise but none the less it worked.
I don't deny the film is dark but maybe it tries a little too hard? I'm not trying to nit pick but it does feel a bit forced especially when Grey didn't really have to die as far as I can tell. The jet wouldn't start due to a malfunction, so Grey goes outside and protects the jet from the tidal wave of water whilst using her powers to start up the jet. Why didn't she just start the jet up from inside or am I missing something here? I think I am missing something aren't I...??? Anyway it kinda felt odd that she dies in this way as if to try and create this iconic emotional death which I didn't really feel, it just seemed like a daft waste (and to kick start the Phoenix plot).
Everything does feel a bit clockwork to be honest, there aren't any major surprises really (you can see things a mile off) but none the less it does hold your attention to the end. The visuals are on the whole much smoother and glossier than the first film, the actors are really getting into their respective roles, multiple characters are handled well by Singer and the film is also a highly positive encouraging shout out for gay people, teens, underachievers, outcasts, bullied people and any minorities on the whole. Although I still don't get how that highly advanced metal detector that scanned everything on and in the human body didn't pick up all that iron in the guards bloodstream, oh well.
Sunday, 1 June 2014
Well this certainly feels a bit dated these days, the very first X-Men film, the backbone of the modern comicbook adaptations craze, the one that started it all. Had this film not done as well as it did then we possibly wouldn't have all the superhero flicks we have today. Heck just looking at the films poster shows how far this genre has come, its positively awful, bland and extremely unimaginative, the two groups just standing there against a city skyline, eh?
I remember this coming out back in the day and I recall pretty much poo pooing it as an obvious looking lazy CGI filled cheese fest. Upon seeing the film I didn't actually like it all that much, mainly I think down to the lack of decent action. Low and behold yet again my personal tastes have changed with age and I find myself actually appreciating this film a lot more now. The plot naturally includes the origins of certain main characters and the introduction of the X-Men lead by Charles Xavier and his school for the gifted (mutants). We are also introduced to the bad mutants lead by Magneto and his dastardly plan to turn all the world leaders into mutants presumably so they know what its like to be a mutant.
'Storm? Sabretooth?...What do they call you? 'Wheels'? This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard'
The general plot may be simple but I do like the easy to understand similarities with real time age old issues such as prejudice discrimination and plain racism. Magneto's (Erik Lehnsherr) family were German Jewish and killed by the Nazi's during WWII, so he had first hand experience of the effects a madman can have in power, himself being a Holocaust survivor. Ironically though Magneto himself turns into the thing he once survived and fought against as here he wants to exterminate the human race to protect the mutant race. Whilst Xavier wants to gain peace between humans and mutants Magneto is constantly trying to start a race war between them, not too subtle but hey it works.
The main thing I notice with this first film in retrospect is how much dialog there is and how little kickass action there is. There is a heck of a lot of exposition to take in as we learn about the various characters and their individual flaws and powers etc...But that's not to say its boring, not at all, its actually delivered very well and you want to know more, meet more mutants and see their powers. The action is sporadic and not exactly top dollar in all honesty, we mainly see Wolverine getting into the odd scrap, mutants going up against the police but not killing any and the finale at the Statue of Liberty gives us some semi decent one on one action but the CGI and wire work is pretty hokey to be fair. Prime example being the scene where Wolverine does a 360 spin around a section of the Statue using his claw...looks real nasty.
Most of the characters are really well visualised and well cast there's no denying that, twas the worry at first, that these guys would all look ridiculous in their silly costumes. But no! almost every character is realistically designed and performed. The main three of course being Stewart, McKellen and Jackman all brilliantly cast adding such a classy authentic epic feel to the comicbook tomfoolery, Jackman being the main surprise as he was completely unknown. At the same time Marsden, Berry and Janssen also come across in a surprisingly believable fashion, none of these actors ever really come across as hammy which is some feat in this. The only characters that let the side down visually has to be Toad and Sabretooth both of whom look totally daft.
I'm not an X-Men fanboy so I don't know the ins and outs of the franchise but some things I do find a bit silly. For a start Toad is just a pointless character, his tongue, jumping and spitting green goo are his mutant super powers?? how is he useful? how does he crush a human by jumping on him? and why include him in this film?! The main main running quibble I have throughout has to be the invincibility thing going on. Wolverine especially is virtually unbeatable, you can't kill the guy so it seems pointless to have him fight at all, we know he can't die or get hurt. Then there's the fact that most mutants seems to be super strong...but why? OK they have unique powers but is a side effect to this automatically having super strength because they all have it apparently. How come Magneto can fly? he can manipulate metal but how does that enable him to fly? and how the hell does Rogue get through even one day without being able to touch another human? Her super mutant power seems utterly pointless and more of a curse than anything surely as she can kill real easy.
In the end the film does start to crack towards the finale as things do get a tad stupid, inconsistencies with mutant power abilities, the fact no one notices all the commotion going on at the Statue of Liberty, all the destruction, Mystique doubling as the Senator but showing her yellow eyes etc...I guess the main thing that made me think was simply...Magneto is kinda right, mutants should be very weary of humans, maybe not wipe them out but you can kinda see his angle, humans are a violent dangerous unpredictable species. On the other hand I dunno why he worries so much because in any war the mutants would win hands down.
The film isn't your standard comicbook flick gotta give it that, its not light-hearted silly kids stuff, there is a good solid serious tone to everything that does combine well with this material. Dealing with mutants as people who are treated differently because of their looks or abilities is a strong concept that many will relate to. Visually everything generally is quite realistic and doesn't look like a comicbook movie. The black leather outfits, big rich Wayne Manor-like X-Men school, fancy super hi-tech gadgets/equipment and big black super jet are all cliched sure but obviously you need some fun fantasy elements. Despite being 14 years old this film still holds up well today and even better it still blends in with the whole X-Men franchise which has since moved on big time.