Monday, 30 March 2015

Short Circuit 2 (1988)




Back in the days when you didn't get too many sequels (imagine that) we actually got this surprising follow up. Most of the original cast are now long gone as we focus on Fisher Stevens Indian character as he tries to eek out an existence in the big city (NY) selling toys of Number 5. Before you can say Number 5 is al...Number 5 returns  for his next adventure, out of the sticks and into the Big Apple.

It would be very easy to assume this sequel would be a lazy cash grab, after all the big stars are gone and they have promoted the sidekick character of the first movie to lead role status. Well yes and no, yes this obviously came to ride the coattails of the original which means basically the same hijinks as before but set in a city environment. On the other hand they do expand on what came before and evolve Number 5's character pretty well, he now wears a red scarf you know. Now christened Johnny 5 (typical cool sounding 80's nickname), his metallic body has been modded and adorned with cool stickers and whatnot, he has more knowledge, he's a little more street smart and a little more human smart.

This time the plot revolves around Johnny 5 helping Fisher Stevens character build a small army of Johnny 5 toys to sell to this big company. They are doing this inside a warehouse which also just happens to be in use by some crooks trying to tunnel their way into the nearby bank. Of course one main angle of the story is once again seeing Johnny 5 interact with folk in the city, he's not suppose to get out of the warehouse for his own safety but naturally does and goes on an input rampage. Now even though I'm very sure many of you can guess the type of antics Johnny 5 gets up to, its still actually very amusing and entertaining. 5 goes up against stereotypical  80's street hustlers and beats them at their own game, he reads a gazillion books in the local book store, goes for a bit of hang gliding, goes to church, gets arrested, wears some human attire and helps out some stereotypical 80's street trash in pinching car stereos. A nice slice of easy going predictable hokem much in the same realm as Mick Dundee's adventures in Nu Yawk.

The whole sequence where 5 gets manipulated by the street gang sums up the whole theme of the plot really. Its all about poor little Number 5 getting taken for a ride, he's out of his depth and his innocent good nature is exploited by various slime-balls. The entire main plot is actually a twist on this notion as you discover towards the end, didn't see it coming gotta admit. This is where this sequel does improve on the original in my opinion, it takes 5 out of the relatively safe countryside and plops him in the concrete jungle, a deceptively dangerous environment for any outsider/foreigner. 5 isn't the young child he used to be but more of a brash teen, over confident, eager, hopeful and alas still very gullible, the city setting really brings out those emotions with great effect.

The most heart crushing moment of course being the sequence where Johnny 5 is beaten half to death by the bank robbers. Now this one scene is still easily one of the most heart wrenching moments in cinematic history, even E.T. has a tough time beating this. After 5 realises he has been tricked by a very close friend (throughout the whole film) he makes a run for it. The henchmen go after him, eventually catch him and attack 5 with iron crowbars smashing him to pieces before your eyes! Battery fluid sprays like blood, they rip his arm off, his caterpillar tracks are destroyed, metal debris goes flying and in the most shocking moment for any child...they batter 5's head destroying one eye completely. I think the agonising sound of Tim Blaney's (5's voice) cries for help in this sequence really make for an emotionally scarring scene. Johnny 5 pleads for them to stop as he is slowly destroyed, begging them not to disassemble him. What you see will ruin your day even now, hell it almost ruins the movie its so distressing! as a child it ended you're world.

Towards the finale things start to get a bit silly admittedly as the main bad guy goes on the run. Johnny 5 manages to repair himself with a little help but he's pissed and out for revenge, so to get that point across he tacks a load of extra metal junk onto himself giving a heavy metal punk orientated appearance complete with eye patch and DIY mohawk. We then get a sequence where 5 captures the henchmen who wrecked him and proceeds to give them a good beat down, well a goofy childish cartoonish beat down. We then get this quite farcical chase sequence between Johnny 5 and the main villain in a speed boat...oh yes. 5 manages to eventually catch up to the very fast speed boat (beats me) and captures the main villain in an impossibly hilarious way. All this accompanied to the tune of I Need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler I might add.

To top it all 5 even gets the C3PO treatment (errr copy much?) right at the end when he appears to have been fixed up in gold plated metal from top to bottom. This makes him look like a large trophy or a large piece of bling which would require sunglasses to look at, oh and he becomes an official US citizen too...hey who am I to judge huh.

Its all so chucklesome because Johnny 5 literately moves at a snails pace and speedy agility is not on the cards. In reality the bad guy would of gotten away by a good country mile and 5 would be trundling along like an OAP in a mobility scooter. But we overlook all that, all the obvious flaws, plot holes, impossibilities, unbelievable coincidences etc...after all this is still a movie for kids just like the first film. I do think this sequel is actually better than the first mainly because it offers more thrills and spills, more laughs and a much greater scope with clearly better production values. Sure its more preposterous and hokey with extra layers of good-natured schmaltz for good measure, despite missing Sheedy and Guttenberg, but you simply can't fail to love little Johnny 5 and his zest for life.

7/10

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Short Circuit (1986)





















Way way before the likes of Wall-E and the recent Chappie there was Johnny 5 (Number 5), a prototype military robot built for use in the Cold War against the Ruskies (not really of course). This all sounds really serious and high-tech but in fact...it wasn't, no this movie starred the ever lovable Steve Guttenberg and the wholly 80's Ally Sheedy. It comes as no surprise that much of this idea came from the success of Star Wars and the vast array of droids featured all over its universe. I do recall this movie coming out and it was quite a big deal, very popular, quite an original idea and following on well from things like 'Flight of the Navigator' and of course 'E.T.'

This was possibly one of the first movies to use this concept where a robot featured as the main character with humans mainly as secondary characters. The plot follow the creation of Number 5 at NOVA laboratories along with four other robots. Whilst being prepped for a demonstration Number 5 is hit by lighting and is suddenly...alive! (Frankenstein's monster homage noted). Naturally Number 5 is curious of his new surroundings and runs (drives) off leaving the military base getting lost in Astoria, Oregon. The happy little robot finds his way to Ally Sheedy who eventually takes care of him whilst convincing Guttenberg (another scientist from NOVA who is after 5) Number 5 is indeed a living errrm...entity? creature? Together the brave pair must battle off the other naughty scientists from NOVA who want to recapture Number 5 and reset him or shut him down and fix him.



One thing is clear from the outset and that's the fact that all the budget went on the robot. The entire production does look cheap accept for Number 5, as if they shot most of it in and around the local area quickly without permission. But considering this movie is pretty darn old nowadays Number 5 does still look really very good and totally holds up. The fact that Pixar clearly copied this classic design for their own creation shows the overall concept was still looked upon favourably. Obviously 5 was designed to look appealing and kinda cute for kids to enjoy, hence the easy to recognise simple binocular eye design, eyebrow type flaps for basic emotions, an E.T. like alien body, cool looking caterpillar tracks and his bubbly chirpy voice. It all still looks quite authentic to this day really, maybe the support coaster at the rear being rather impractical but the simple eyebrow flap emotions work nicely. Matter of fact if you look at 5 from the side he bares a striking resemblance to the Hunter Killer tanks from 'The Terminator' which came out two years earlier.

Number 5 is clearly the movies selling point because without him it has virtually nothing else going for it. There is literately nothing of interest to look at or get stuck into in this movie other than Number 5. The military base is your typical 80's military base with hordes of military police running around all packing. At least I assume they are military police of some sort, I actually think they were just company security guards that had their own arsenal of weapons, jeeps and min tanks! It made me chuckle when 5 escapes and this security force span out to find him in various vehicles, 5 must be moving at less than 5mph yet they still can't catch him up.
Of course all the company men wanna destroy Number 5 naturally, typical Americans wanting to kill kill KILL! Although admittedly the main scientist played by Austin Pendleton wants 5 in one piece, head of security played G.W. Bailey wants to nuke it. In fact Guttenberg and Bailey pretty much resume their roles from 'Police Academy' with Bailey virtually repeating all his old lines to boot! The whole chase aspect in this movie is really ludicrous frankly as I'm pretty sure they would have caught little Number 5 in about ten minutes, all the goofiness is so very 80's.



Sheedy plays the same type of accepting kind-hearted character that we saw in so many 80's flicks and beyond. We the audience are meant to connect with her and root for her (same with Guttenberg in time, we all know he always played a goodie) but its all so vomit inducing and infantile...these days anyway. She lives in a very large house typical of Astoria (which also kinda reminds you of 'The Goonies'), its probably the best bit of background eye candy in the movie really. Lastly we then have Fisher Stevens playing an Indian scientist and sidekick of Guttenberg. He actually plays this character extremely well because I always thought this character was actually an Indian actor. Not sure why Indian though, I kinda get the impression it might be for cheap laughs at the accent? hmmm.

Gotta be honest, most of this film is kinda dull now, not in a bad way but more of a very dated and unfunny way. Essentially its all about the silly antics of Number 5 and how he interacts with the world like a young child, he is a young child basically, learning for the first time. In that you do feel for him and you can relate to him which gives the film a lot of heart, but watching these days it really is very very mushy and cheesy. The whole sequence where Sheedy and 5 are getting closer and end up dancing is pretty corny to the max, laughably so. On the other hand when Number 5 learns of morality and what will happen to him if NOVA capture him, shows a much deeper side that does tug at your heartstrings. I will say that Tim Blaney does do a terrific job with Number 5's voice, he's so innocent, naive and trusting whilst at the same time starry-eyed with wonder and pure untroubled joy with everything he learns. It really is a superbly moving little performance that actually really came into its own with the sequel.

Its all very predictable and horrendously hammy these days, all the visual tomfoolery as Number 5 larks around getting into mischief whilst being oddly adorable at the same time. You do actually forget this character is a robot, by the end of the movie you do look at him as a real person, a little bug-eyed alien that you don't wanna see get harmed. Anywho its a by the numbers science fiction yarn with ample amounts of sweet doughy charm littered with lots of sickly good-natured visuals, dialog and humour. I don't think there is anything here that could upset, fun for all...mainly the kids.

5.5/10

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Final Countdown (1980)



A movie that bears a similar resemblance to the legend of the USS Eldridge and the Philadelphia Experiment flick of 1984, in some aspects. That movie saw an experiment on board the US warship to try and make it invisible to radar. Of course it goes wrong and two crew members are sent into the future of 1984. In this time travel adventure the USS Nimitz is on training operations in the Pacific when a mysterious storm comes out of nowhere and sends the ship back to 1941.

The casting is impressive with this old sci-fi, Martin Sheen is a civilian observer, a systems analyst who is on board for reasons unknown frankly. Charles Durning plays a fictitious senator back in 1941 and the epic Kirk Douglas is the USS Nimitz Commander. All three of these actors add much needed impetus to the project as lets be honest...this is total B-movie fluff. Although I still can't for the life of me work out why Sheen's character is required, and here lies one of the plot issues.

In this movie the USS Nimitz was designed by an aged Mr. Tideman who we don't see. Now this chap has made sure that Sheen's character gets on board the Nimitz for its training run. The reason being because what happens on board the ship and in the past (when the ship gets there) will effect the future. You assume Sheen's character will obviously somehow effect someone or something that will cause a time ripple, but he doesn't as far as I could see. Sheen doesn't really do anything throughout the whole movie accept stand around and offer the odd bit of advice. The only thing I can think of is the fact that the Nimitz was delayed by two days waiting for Sheen's character to arrive and board (according to Douglas' character the Commander), by order of the mysterious Mr. Tideman. So maybe that delay was required so all the following events would be set in motion at the right time.

Naturally time travel paradoxes may arise in a story like this and I'm pretty sure the main twist in the tale here doesn't work. Basically it turns out one of the officers on board the Nimitz is a younger Mr. Tideman who gets stranded back in 1941. Tideman helped design the Nimitz because he served on board her as an officer up until the point he gets stuck back in time. So it was the older Tideman back in 1980 who wanted Sheen's character to travel on the Nimitz for her training ops...although I don't get why as I already said Sheen does nothing.
















So here is my issue. Young Tideman goes back in time and gets stranded (in 1941), he then must pretty much relive his life through to the present of 1980. Thing is in the present of 1980 with Tideman now an old man, at some point many years earlier, another younger version of Tideman must be born so he can join the Navy, join the Nimitz and eventually go on the training ops mission back in time. So this would surely mean there would be two versions of Tideman living in the same time, is that possible? I'm sure the older version would know not to try and meet his younger self so maybe it would be OK?

There is much that isn't really explained in the movie, whether that's because its left up to your own imagination or not I don't know. The mysterious storm is never explained, the fact it seems to be aware at one point because it tracks or homes in on the Nimitz when they try to outmaneuver it. The whole event is simply written off as a mystery or freak of nature. Also I noticed that when the Nimitz goes through the time portal, even jets that aren't on board her go through too. At the end there is an entire strike force of jets up in the air and nowhere near the Nimitz when the storm time portal thing catches the ship and they go back through to 1980. So even if these jets aren't on the ship and not even close to either the ship or the portal...they still go through? Is that because the ship goes through and they just materialise along with it? maybe they are foreign objects in time and time knows they don't belong there?

Admittedly most of the run time is taken up by military prowess and military hardware porn, put it this way if you like big guns, jets, aircraft carriers, warships, old planes, helicopters, flybys etc...you're gonna have a field day. Its basically a US Navy recruitment campaign combined with a training video showing you all the cool fun stuff, life on a carrier and errr...all the cool fun stuff. You could also say it was a long homage and love letter to one of the USA's best supercarriers, one of the biggest warships around. A day in the life of the Navy at sea and how it runs. I can't deny it all looked very impressive though, very slick, very cool, it gives 'Top Gun' a good run for its money...and this was 1979! imagine what they're like today.

Anyway back to the movie, it was fun, an enjoyable little Twilight Zone-esque escapade which I find agreeable on most days. I knew there would be problems along the way with this, you can kinda tell, but it doesn't detract from the fun too much. Very well put together, nice effects for the time, cool aerial camera work on various military toys and it keeps you thinking.

7/10

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)





















The seventh installment in this now long running franchise! who'd of thought it...not me. So as far as I know, the original trilogy got buggered up after number 2 and then there was the X-Men Origins failure, things looked pretty grim. Then we got 'First Class' which was a prequel to all of it and it worked, nuff said. Then we got another stand alone movie in 'The Wolverine' which followed on from 'Last Stand' (the original trilogy) and I think eliminated Origins from the franchise? not too sure there. Now lastly we have yet another X-Men movie which is a sequel to 'First Class', 'Last Stand' (the original trilogy) and 'The Wolverine' (Jesus!).

The funny thing is (and I'm come out and say it right now) because this movie is a time travelling adventure, what happens effectively erases everything after 'First Class'. Yep the original trilogy, 'The Wolverine' and 'Origins' are all now basically defunct and pointless, all undone, all redundant, complete franchise reset! Gotta be honest...that took balls, big balls, Bryan Singer has super big brass balls. On one hand I think to myself...what a waste! you just eradicated five movies! are the studios happy about that?? Holy shit they only just churned out 'The Wolverine' and you unravelled it Singer!! you literately pissed all over their picnic! Yet on the other hand I gotta give major kudos for having the guts and bowling ball sized cojones to do it!

Right so...its just 'First Class' and this, everything else obsolete...errr thanks? Anyway don't get carried away Hollywood, just because its worked this one time that doesn't give you carte blanche to go ahead and do...oh wait too late.

So good old Wolverine is back in time (mentally) to try and stop Mystique assassinating this guy called Trask. This dude invented the Sentinels which are huge robots capable of adapting to any mutant power making them unbeatable, a problem for mutants because they are set to destroy all mutants to protect mankind...kinda. The assassination gave the world a reason to use the Sentinels against mutant kind plus Mystique's DNA gave the sentinels the much needed mutant power...power ups. So in short the whole idea has a very Terminator-esque vibe about it. OK its pretty much 'Terminator 2' for Pete's sake...there, you know its true, accept it.



Everything follows on from 'First Class' very well, all the locations, outfits, vehicles, set props etc...all look perfectly 70's, I have been consistently impressed with the dated visuals in both movies. The characters in general all look great and spot on continuity wise, although I have a few comments. Beast...is it me or does this guy look worse in this movie? in 'First Class' he admittedly looked a bit slim and scrawny but that's understandable with his age plus he was more animal-like facially. In this movie he has lost his animalistic facial features and kinda looks like a blue shaggy caveman. This also seems very out of place when we get the neat little cameo surprise at the end because this new Beast look doesn't fit if you ask me, his blue hair is completely different in this, its all curly. The main issue I had though was the fact Beast now 'Hulks out' into his Beast form...just like whatshisname, the big green dude. You can't do that! there is already a character that does that but in green...you know...whatshisname.

It also annoyed me that throughout this movie Mystique never listens to anyone, including Xavier. I can understand why I guess but come on, if there's one thing most of these characters should have learned by now its always listen to the bald guy (Xavier). OK sure she's conflicted big time but come on, all these people telling you the same thing over and over, maybe its true? Staying with Mystique what the hell was with that end twist? you think its Stryker with Wolverine (you know, taking him off for adamantium surgery), but its really Mystique? So does that mean Wolverine will no longer have metal claws? I don't like knobbly bones claws. I'm sure they will sort it out but wow talk about leaving question marks.

It was cool to see some more new characters plus a bit more of classic ones, to a degree. The present day scenes gave us some nice battle sequences showing Colossus, Iceman and Storm alongside Sunspot, Warpath, Bishop and Kitty Pryde. I would have liked to see these guys more involved as it does get a tad boring watching the same regular X-Men trio (Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine), but what we get does suffice with some cool trademark mutant power effects. I did also like the new look for Toad, much better than the original Ray Park version. Of course the highlight (for most it seems) was apparently Quicksilver looking very...odd...with his grey hair and natty sparkly outfit.
His big sequence where we see how time looks for the character at his breakneck speeds was indeed cleverly done and looked great but somehow I wasn't as thrilled as everyone else it seems. Yeah sure it captured the essence of the character perfectly and the musical track (Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce) was a nice touch but did it make me wet my pants in awe? no. The scene was a quirky break from the usual type of action and showcased another character very well but I wasn't blown away by it. Personally his very brief cameo-like appearance just felt out of place because he virtually pops up to solve a problem then leaves, it felt a bit cheap really. And I gotta say his attire didn't appeal to me, yes its the 70's but silver sneakers and jacket? and why would his hair be like that seriously? I know his comicbook counterpart looks a bit silly but sheesh! should of made his hair light blonde or ginger maybe.



The grand finale was indeed grand in every way, how could it not be showing every character getting killed off, but it was still a cliched concept. As the music swelled things slow down to a crawl with both time lines seemingly on the brink of going tits up, in the present/future the X-Men are getting whacked one by one in a very emotional slow motion manner...just like many war movies before it. Whilst at the same time back in the past everyone is trying to stop that stupid blue female mutant from killing the President and at the same time wiping out mutant kind. It is sad to see the main heroes getting killed yet at the same time...kinda cool? or is that just me? The most touching easily being old Xavier and Magneto together with Wolverine's body at the very end, friends again, as it always should of been, going out together.
Although this armageddon sequence did raise a small query. The Sentinels are suppose to be nigh on indestructible yet we see Bishop shooting a few down quite easily plus a few more getting blown up. Don't they adapt to anything thrown at them or do they need time to evaluate the attack or something.

I did really like the final scenes showing all the old cameos which was great continuity on Singer's part, kudos. It wouldn't have been the same if the original cast couldn't have been reconvened. At the same time it also bookended the entire idea nicely going way way back right to square one virtually flawlessly...whilst obliterating all the other movies as already mentioned, still on the shelf over that massive swift move. On the whole the special effects are very good but still not as outstanding as other sci-fi movies I've seen, the Mystique transformation still looking hokey and some characters looking a bit...cosplay-ish (yes I said it). But I can't deny the movie had me from start to finish with its thrilling rollercoaster plot and authentic 70's visuals. Its clearly the best X-Men movie thus far although there isn't too much competition in that field lets be honest.

8/10

Monday, 23 March 2015

X-Men: First Class (2011)



The one problem that instantly popped out at me when this movie came about was the fact that it seemed way too soon after the original trilogy and 'Origins' for something that almost felt like a reboot. Yes it was a prequel to everything that had come before but with a new cast line up it all seemed like a new vision and game plan for the future, especially after 'Last Stand' and 'Origins' had disappointed. Was that it for the older cast members? were we destined for teenage X-Men movies? it did feel like a big risk at the time, I'm still surprised it worked out to be honest.

As I'm sure anyone can guess the plot revolves round the early days of both Magneto and Xavier and the creation of the brotherhood of mutants, the X-Men. We see how various characters meet, choose their names and eventually join forces against an evil mutant called Sebastian Shaw who wants to kick start world war III so mutant kind can ascend as the dominant race. So once again its the same spiel accept instead of Magneto trying his luck its Shaw with his little band of naughty spawns. Of course this being a prequel its all set way back in the 60's which plays heavily on the fear factor of a normal vanilla society against people that are viewed as different (spot the semi-hidden meaning).

The era of the movie does help greatly as it adds a fresh new flavour to the proceedings, a kind of old fashioned James Bond vibe. This is pretty evident in the way the main villain Shaw seems to be this smooth talking well dressed wealthy rogue that has his own luxurious submarine, oh and he has a sexy female and two freaky male henchmen in tow (Oddjob eat your heart out). But its the 60's setting that obviously gives that classic Connery Bond vibe and to be honest I think its being created well. Have to point out that the fact this submarine can receive a perfect black and white TV transmission seems pretty laughable, remember its the 60's. Hell TV reception was pretty crappy when I was a kid in the 80's!

Whilst it does make the characters look cheesy the costumes, general hair styles/facial hair and set designs are period perfect with plenty of detail. The later yellow outfits worn by the team are actually a decent retro hybrid of the classic comics and this movie adaptation, they work nicely giving a hint of the traditional colours and style fused with a more modern approach. That modern approach of course being the 1960's so quite a tricky little task but they pulled it off well.

















On the whole the effects here are solid but still a tad rough around the edges, there is just something about these X-Men flicks that never looks  quite right. Everything looks a lot better than the previous movies sure but it doesn't look genuinely authentic, the X-Men's Blackbird jet looks obviously CGI and the entire action sequence at the end looks obviously CGI throughout. Everything still has that fake plastic look about it whilst the X-Men power effects range from semi-decent (some Magneto tricks) to down right tacky looking (all the young X-Men jiggery-pokery). Same could be said for the makeup and prosthetic work on characters, while some look proper and believable (the more regular looking characters), others do look kinda stupid. I love Azazel as a character but on film he just looks like an iffy makeup job (bit like Nightcrawler did), Beast is also a bit questionable but at least he still has animalistic qualities, Angel was just a crap CGI job and nothing more but I was impressed with Darwin's special touches and his death scene actually (why couldn't he adapt to whatever Shaw feeds him?).

In truth its the younger cast members that let the movie down at times, its sounds corny and cliched but the whole thing does have this Harry Potter-esque feel to it. Expected of course, I mean its a prequel, a prequel of the young X-Men so duh! but I just didn't really like the younger characters, I didn't in the previous movies. Bacon, Fassbender and McAvoy all add a much needed element of class to the film which is sorely lacking from the younger cast. These three main actors save the film with solid straight stoic performances which are believable, the various other character actors and teen stars just seem lost on their own, hence why one of the big stars is usually not far away.



Whilst the movie is a fun time I do have issues as it concluded, the side swapping bugged me. Why does Magneto suddenly decide to go against Xavier at the end? why does Mystique go with Magneto when she clearly loves Beast? why did Angel go with Shaw and betray her friends? and why at the end does almost everyone just go off with Magneto dumping Xavier? At the start when a very young Xavier discovers a very young Mystique in his home, he tells her she can live with him...but he's just a child, did his parents allow that? I also have to ask why Shaw wanted to start a world war when he and his mutant buddies can easily kill humans. Azazel killed a entire base full of armed soldiers single-handedly without getting tired sooooo...why don't they just carry on doing that? Kill all important leaders etc...sure its more work but I get the impression they would enjoy it, meh I guess its quicker with big bombs.

The first half hour is solid stuff with good character building, especially with Lehnsherr/Magneto, and there's a nice little recruitment montage with a neat cameo, always a winning move. The real key to this multilayered plot has to be the real emotion involved and the real interwoven era history which was well handled. Whilst Shaw is just a typical ice cool bad guy we get some proper emotion from Magneto and his crusade for revenge along with some real mutant struggles with Beast and Mystique. Sure we've had this type of thing before but this time it felt a lot more serious, less like an action extravaganza and more adult.

Considering what came before the outlook wasn't great for this...but Vaughn pulled it off. This isn't just some silly summer blockbuster laden with special effects and explosions to fuel the chocolate coated, popcorn stuffed, sugar rush of prepubescent kids. This movie actually has a lot of heart combined with some excellent action that hasn't just been tossed on the screen randomly. The movie is pretty much grounded in reality, the characters are mutants with powers but at the same time they are still vulnerable, still human...to a degree. In short this isn't a simple merchandise machine for toys and this certainly isn't a kids movie, its an actual proper film...with superhero characters. Just don't expect this film to blend in seamlessly with the original trilogy and 'Origins' because the discontinuity from different directors is clear.

8/10


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Hummingbird (aka Redemption, UK 2014)


Jason Statham is an ex-special forces veteran...oh Christ! how may times have we seen and heard this before. I'm starting to think Statham is the British equivalent of Steven Seagal always playing servicemen. Believe it or not this isn't a balls to wall action flick with lots of death, oh on not entirely anyway. Come on seriously, you think you'll ever see a Statham movie where there is no killing?

This film centres around a homeless ex-special forces soldier (Joe) who accidentally manages to break into a wealthy business man's home to escape some thugs. Straight away this does actually lead me ask why he didn't just beat up the thugs seeing as later on we find out he can fight really well (surprisingly). Again by accident Joe discovers this rich dude is travelling so he decides to stay and kinda pretends he knows the guy, well he says he's his gay lover actually.

The film starts off and continues down a very thoughtful and emotional route for a while at least. We see how fragile and vulnerable Statham's character is, he has a drinking problem, he doesn't know how to handle money that well, he lives in terrible guilt over the loss of some fellow soldiers whilst he was in Afghanistan plus he feels bad for letting down his young daughter and ex-wife. He finds solace in a young nun whom he starts to fall in love with slowly. This nun helps out at a homeless shelter/soup kitchen where Joe would go for food and help, so he knows her (but she only starts to feel for him when he comes into money?). At first Joe is doing wrong by taking money, clothes and possessions from the house where he broke into to but he tries to better himself with it. He wants to help his fellow homeless friends and provide for his ex and daughter and he does this by getting a job in a Chinese restaurant. He kinda has to though because he was using a stolen credit card from the rich guys house and that could easily attract attention.

Oh and the films title refers to the hummingbirds Joe seems to hallucinate about or dream about when he's having nightmarish visions from his military days. Not sure if its because he's drunk or mentally broken and I'm not sure why hummingbirds but there you go.

So what we have here is a sentimental looking drama with Statham. Well it was until he starts working in the Chinese where for some reason, some how, he got the owners attention with his fighting skills. So now every time the restaurant has trouble with louts they call on their rockard dishwasher. I still don't get how working in a Chinese restaurants kitchen would enable a person, at some point, to show their clout in a brawl, how would that ever come up? Anyway this Chinese is run by a crime syndicate, naturally, and Joe becomes their top enforcer. All of sudden we're back in Statham country and beating the shit outta everyone.
















So basically Statham starts off as a good character who gets a break and a bit of luck. He is doing illegal things by living in this guys house and using his clothes, car and gear but he's being respectful with them, he's not abusing anything, he looks after the man's house and he's bettering himself by working. So even though he's doing bad things he's still a good guy, you still see him as a good person who's trying to do right in an alternative way. He now has this honest job but eventually becomes a bad guy by accepting illegal work for the syndicate doing anything for money, getaway driver, delivering drugs, collecting payments and even human trafficking! We learn he has no morals...but he's saving all this money for his ex and daughter, he buys food for the homeless shelter, he gives money to the nun and in general helps the less fortunate (he doesn't kill anyone, doesn't hurt innocent folk).

So really you could say Statham's character is a bit of a Robin Hood type, taking from the rich to give to the poor. But he should know better really because of his military background, a soldier should have strong morals, good ethics. But when faced with the horrors he has seen could that in turn make him harder? maybe less emotional and more robotic in certain situations? Dealing with the crime syndicate seems to be an everyday job for Joe, he just does his job and never questions it, so is that down to his military experiences or simply because he wants to help certain people before the inevitable happens?

There are a lot of moral implications  in this story, decisions, redemption, revenge and consequences. There is also a reasonable amount of head bashing and fisticuffs which is Statham's forte, but its not mindless violence, there are reasons behind it. The sub plot about an aristocratic playboy going around beating up and murdering escorts flows into Joe's story and provides the catalyst for his rage and subsequent final decision between love and friendship. Its actually this sub plot that fuels Joe's reason in the end to help out the crime syndicate doing an unpleasant job (human trafficking) in order for important information on the killer. So again even though we know Joe will still do a highly illegal and immoral task, we know its still for a good reason.

This is definitely one of Statham's better films and performances in recent years...even though it still involves ass-kicking. There is a touch of artistic license being used though. Joe manages to break into the rich guys house very easily and there aren't any alarms? its amazing how this blokes clothes fit Statham perfectly, he does use the blokes credit card withdrawing quite a lot yet that is never flagged?? And I'm still not sure why local thugs would ruff up and mug homeless people, what could homeless people possibly have of value? Bit of a slow starter admittedly and the ending feels too anti-climatic, nice tension building but then falls flat on its face. Where on earth were the police and how was he not picked up when drunk in the street?!

6.5/10

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Lucy (2014)





















What have we here, a Luc Besson movie about an invincible female who just happens to be relatively sexy and carries guns, stop me if you've heard this before. I guess when the movie is written and directed by Besson whilst produced by his wife we gotta accept the fact that originality isn't gonna be on board. But wait! this isn't a simple rehash of virtually half of his previous creations...although it kinda looks it from the outside...no stop thinking that.

Johansson is tricked into delivering a suitcase full of drugs to a Korean crime syndicate on the notion that she will collect some money and go. Unfortunately for her she is soon forced into a drug mule operation with a pouch full of a synthetic drug sewn into her abdomen. This new drug is very valuable, untested and will supposedly unlock the potential to use the full capacity of ones brain. Whilst held in captivity by the nasty Korean criminals she is beaten and the pouch inside her breaks open flooding her body with the new drug. As the drug kicks in Lucy slowly becomes stronger mentally and physically, the race is then on to reach a professor (Morgan Freeman) who might be able to save her life.

Alas the entire concept for this part sci-fi adventure is false, even though I'll admit I thought it was true that we humans only used a small portion of the brain generally. With a bit of research it turns out we all use every part of the brain on a daily basis. Admittedly the brain isn't firing on all cylinders constantly and not all at the same time, but apparently in general over the course of one day we do in fact use around 100% of our brains. So that does tend to dip a fly in the ointment here somewhat, the whole concept that you could be some kind of super human X-man/woman when your brain is completely unlocked is a fun romantic idea...but no.

That is basically what happens in this movie, Scarlett Johansson pretty much becomes a member of the X-Men. Temporarily you could say she becomes a mutant with super powers, a new subspecies. As this new drug pumps through her body she gains powers of telepathy, telekinesis, the ability to switch off pain as well as other emotions and she can somehow mentally go back in time. No idea how using 100% of brain would allow these powers truth be told. I understand the fantastical idea here but it still leaves you pondering why you'd be able to perform these things. How the flip would you be able to travel back in time through the power of your mind?! and how the hell could you interact with living physical people and creatures??!!

Johansson's character can knock people out with the wave of her hand, she can tap into any electronics both physically and mentally, she feels no pain, she can control people and animals with her mind, all her senses...her all round perception is off the charts etc...she's a super Jedi. Yet despite all that she does at times still feel the need to have hand to hand fights and gun battles with blokes, even though she can make them unconscious with her mind. Well everyone needs to keep fit I guess.

The movie is suppose to be a science fiction of sorts, which it is, but it never really feels like you're watching a sci-fi. There are elements stuffed in here which Besson tries to manipulate you with into thinking its an intelligent sci-fi. There are sequences which clearly go down the '2001' route which do look impressive effects wise but in no way had me thinking this was on the same level as said film. For the most part its quite simply a chase movie with errmm...X-Men powers on display, I really don't wanna keep saying that but it is.

There are also various silly plot points that just don't add up, Lucy is able to just walk into a hospital and then an operating theatre with a gun. She shoots a patient and forces the doctors to operate on her...and no one alerts the police or comes to check on the commotion?! There never seems to be any security anywhere in this movie, rarely any police. Also I honesty don't get why the Korean bad guys are so obsessed with this drug. I understand its new and they wanna sell it but can't they just make more? surely they know how and if you're gonna sell it to Europe then what's four small bags going a miss? Was it really worth flying around the world to try and get back? Lastly the finale is such a combined rip-off from a few cult sci-fi movies its not even funny. Lucy becomes one with the matrix of life...or universe as it were, as we get her final cold blunt statement.

There really isn't anything new here...once again. The idea about unlocking the brains full potential is kinda cool but it only results in things we've seen a shittillion times before in various comicbook movies (whilst pinching concepts from others...'Limitless' much!). Johansson is good as the leading protagonist but kinda acts like a Terminator, and because she can incapacitate people with her mind that kinda limits the possibility of solid action. So what you're left with is an emotionless female Terminator that merely looks at people or waves her hand to stop them. Obviously there is some proper action but that doesn't even make any sense because of her powers. So really this movie kinda checkmates itself, its devoid of any real thrills, danger or suspense.

5.5/10

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)





















Following on straight after the events of the first movie we are back alongside Rama as he is once again lured into another mission, or should that be used in another mission. The last three members to survive the tower block raid are seen here together again, albeit briefly, as Rama is now wanted for an undercover job. Expect betrayal, blood, broken bones and a whole load of very similar looking characters.

Right away this is the problem with this sequel, the plot, its meh. The whole reason why the first movie was so explosive was the excellent story. A special team of elite cops enter a tower block in the slums of Jakarta to bring down a crime lord. They start at the bottom and must work their way up floor by floor taking out scum, the whole premise was solid, tight, tense and claustrophobic, the perfect storm. This sequel sees Rama going undercover to expose a corrupt police official (Reza) who is tied in with criminal gangs, this means getting friendly with a crime bosses son (Uco) in jail and working for the enemy (Uco's father Bangun).

Things get complicated when another crime Boss Bejo, obviously wanting power and control, teams up with Bangun's son to try and start a war against a rival Japanese crime syndicate, this act being against Bangun's will. The only reason for this mainly being Uco wants to show his father how strong and dependable he his, to prove himself. The other reason being Bejo thinks the Japanese are trying to sway Reza against the Bangun syndicate. Jesus I had to think about that just writing it! and this is the problem, the plot is really convoluted in my opinion with characters coming out of the woodwork. I've not even mentioned the betrayal twists involving gangs killing their own and then faking reprisals to kick start this war, not to mention corrupt police gangs  and undercover cop twists on top!

I genuinely had some trouble following what was going on from scene to scene, so many characters all kinda looking the same whilst scenes popped up outta nowhere with little reasoning (Prakoso the assassin I'm looking at you). Its only later on down the line I realised what that previous scene had been about and why, I had to rewatch scenes and read up on sections. It is good that the continuity is there from the start, they had the same two actors from the last movie briefly and it all smoothly crosses into this story which was cool. Alas at no point did I ever really feel the same adrenaline shot that I did for the first film, this could of been any action movie, its a generic plot that's been done before many times and I was actually bored periodically.

Of course the movie is all about the fights, this is the movies forte, its reason for being. Does that disappoint? errr...kinda, in all honesty it did in places yes, let me explain. There didn't actually seem to be as many fights in this film, probably because its not set in a confined space, what there was became so outrageous and so long I again found myself getting bored. Yes the first movie had awesome fights that were ridiculous and long but this movie does seem to go that little bit further. You still have tonnes of faceless henchmen getting their asses handed to them on a plate which is standard procedure and fun. But the boss fights almost become a parody and just go on and on and on, the main fight towards the end in the kitchen especially. I realise that's because both characters are highly trained fighters in their art but you get dizzy watching this shit, the director just doesn't know when to stop, less is more guy!

The blood and violence is sky high I might add it really is, non-stop bloodbath of epic proportions. Yet again I have to say its too much, less is more, there comes a point when the blood and gore is so extravagant that it loses all impetus, it becomes dull and non-engaging. I really found myself yearning for some good old fashioned fisticuffs that didn't involve various weapons that naturally result in gallons of claret everywhere, and I really disliked the assassins with their specific weapons. Seriously Evans are you trying to be the Asian Robert Rodriguez here? well don't, it ain't a good move. Don't any criminal gangs use guns in this world? would be easier.

We all know what this movie offers, you know what to expect and it certainly delivers on that. I can't complain about the violence because the movie is all about pure violence...and a traditional practice involving mental, physical and spiritual development but anyway. My main issue is the fact it just feels like a run of the mill action fest that offers nothing new (accept another look at a newish martial art). The first movie worked really well because of the cracking story, setting and close quarters action, this has none of that, its just a gangster flick with lots of stereotypical stuff in it. Hell even the car chase looked crap, you can clearly see the cars are going quite slow with high speed sound effects dubbed on top. Yes it looks good, yes the fights are impressive when not drenched in blood and yes its a solid achievement for an Indonesian production...but it lacks the quality of its predecessor and just left me numb and weary.

5/10

Friday, 13 March 2015

Non-Stop (2014)




















What does this title even mean? seriously I know most action flicks have ridiculous names simply to look and sound cool (Rush Hour, Maximum Force, Sudden Death) but this is meaningless. I guess it means the action and suspense is...non-stop, good golly that's some good thinkin' right there, what's wrong with...Airplane...oh wait I see. Anyone else notice that some action flick titles are getting really obscure these days, especially Liam Neeson action flicks. I mean seriously...what the hell is 'Unknown' suppose to be?

So anyway Neeson is a recovering alcoholic whose young daughter died from cancer years ago, oh and he also lost his job as a cop...wow. Now he's an air marshal flying from New York to London which he doesn't really enjoy doing. What I initially found amusing was all the stereotypical passengers which are automatically racially profiled, the main target naturally being a Muslim (or at least someone of Middle Eastern descent), a black youth and just a bunch of random looking white people. But as we all know the terror suspect (yeah its that kind of flick as if you didn't know) could be anyone.

A plane load of civvies, one on the edge air marshal, one love interest and one obligatory cute little girl. Then all hell breaks loose as Marks (Neeson) starts getting threat texts on his special air marshal smartphone thingy. The whole premise does seem quite ridiculous really, in reality if this happened I'm sure they wouldn't do anything and just land the plane. As they say in the film it would be hard and obvious eventually if someone did start murdering folk on a plane. What also bugged me was the attitude of the passengers on this flight. Marks starts to take control and needs people to cooperate with his instructions and everyone starts whining and bitching. Oh you can't do this, you don't have the right, who put you in charge?? Errmm...he's the fecking air marshal you cretins, he's basically a police officer on the plane, if this dude has reasons to do something then it would be advisable to follow his instructions for your own safety, sheesh!

I'll be honest, this film had me, I genuinely was unsure who would turn out to be the bad guy. You know to suspect everybody of course, in flicks like this we all know half the time its the heroes partner or person he made friends with on the plane or the nerdy guy that comes across as useless and weak (ahem). But yeah I went through everyone thinking ah its gotta be him or her, but I was totally wrong so kudos there. I also didn't know that flights have a special closed wi-fi network or secure line for air marshals, unless of course that's a movie thing. I know wi-fi on international flights isn't really a proper thing yet.



Again I'll be honest, this film did have me on the edge of my seat for the most part. The plot isn't overly original but the slow building tension as things are amped up and Marks is seen as the actual threat does work nicely. I felt quite uneasy during the run time, I found myself really wanting Neeson's character to just explain from the start what has happened. The fact that everything has been recorded on his special smartphone thingy (all the serious threats) puts him in the clear so no worries. It frustrates you how Marks seems to keep everything shrouded in mystery and eventually you do begin to side with the annoying passengers. The stupid thing is towards the end he has to tell everyone what's going on anyway to get them on his side and for their help. Naturally everyone does end up believing him so you kinda wonder...why didn't you just do that in the first place Marks!

What I didn't get is the fact that the villains plot only seems to work out by pure coincidence, the threat is someone will die every 20 minutes until this amount of money is transferred into this account blah blah blah. Yet this only happens because the villain is counting on Neeson's character to actually kill someone in his game of tricks...for the most part. So when things seemed to go awry it turns out it was all in this villains master plan anyway...pfft! So if Marks had just ignored it and fallen asleep...would anything had happened?? The villain was depending on Marks and his current unhinged state, without that...I dunno was there a plan B?

Its nice to see Neeson actually play a character who isn't just some uber awesome badass with a halo on his bonce. Despite the fact he is actually an uber awesome badass he is also a bit of an A-hole too. I mean seriously Marks, you're stampeding around this international flight and scaring the bejesus outta everyone. OK sure the passengers are a typically annoying bunch of moaners but dude...a tad of diplomacy surely, you're not walking your beat here.

So in the end everything turns out OK...what you didn't think it would? Are you suggesting they might leave an open ending so Mr. Neeson can take to the skies again in 'Non-Stop 2: Please Stop' and maybe even 'Non-Stop 3: Why Isn't This Stopping'?? Nope everything gets sorted out and wrapped up in a nice pretty little bow...phew! Can't deny the film was a solid blast of entertainment though, no doubting that, don't watch before flying though...well that goes without saying surely.

6.5/10

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Equalizer (2014)





















A movie based on an old late 80's American TV series but only very thinly. It is in fact more of an origins plot showing how the main character becomes a vigilante for hire...or The Equalizer. The actual story we see here and the main character are nothing to do with the original TV show (unless this plot is similar to a certain episode I don't know).

The premise is a very simple one. Retired black ops government agent McCall (Washington) is friends with a hooker called Alina (Moretz), Alina is working for the Russian mob. One night McCall witnesses some of the gang members abuse Alina and a few days later she turns up in hospital badly beaten. This upsets McCall so he visits the head of the local Russian mob and offers to buy her freedom, the bad guys basically laugh at McCall...so he kills them all. Thusly a war is started between McCall and the Russian mob.

This movie bears a striking similarity to another glossy revenge thriller...'John Wick', very similar in fact. There Wick goes on the warpath over his dead puppy, here McCall goes on the warpath over a rather sleazy looking lady of the night. The puppy I can understand because everyone likes puppies/dogs, your pet is your best friend, part of the family. The sleazy prostitute on the other hand I'm not so sure. How do you even know if this girl isn't a druggie, if you'll ever see her again, if she'll even be grateful...who can tell, risky gamble if you ask me.

So I guess McCall sees something special in this rather young prostitute and decides to put his whole life on the line despite the fact he doesn't even know her that well (from what we see). From this point on its your predictable, cliched, stereotypical one man army job with Washington killing everyone...EVERYONE! This movie is all about giving the bad guys payback so expect lots of slow motion highly impressive fight choreography that looks slick as fuck but you know damn well would probably get you nowhere in a real scuffle. Washington has obviously been trained in various techniques that we've all seen before (errr...John Wick?) and executes them flawlessly against various stereotypical Russian baddies.























Its not all about fisticuffs though, there is plenty of gun play naturally, some high-tech gadgetry and spy stuff and even some good old fashioned A-Team-esque DIY take downs utilising various objects. Actually the entire finale is set in a large Homebase (UK only) styled warehouse so obviously you know things like drills, nail guns, wire etc...will be used to snuff the villains out. I've always wondered how cool it would be to play war games in a place like that, now I know. Everything looks super stylised and well shot, lots of interesting camera angles, great lighting with lots of shadow usage, moody facial closeups, excellent gun porn, expensive cars, expensive sets etc...all the usual stuff.

As for the bad guys well its business as usual of course, these guys are tattooed Russians. Cue lots of ultra short haircuts and facial hair, big bald guys, bling, made to measure outfits and holding your gun in the coolest way possible whilst looking twitchy. Its the usual stream of henchmen cannon fodder basically, the only highlight being the main bad guy flown in to hunt down McCall...Teddy. Yep lets give him a silly soft sounding name, that's really clever of us because in fact he's a nutcase and very tough. This character (in my opinion) is simply a poor man's Agent Smith (Weaving) from 'The Matrix'. He dresses in a suit of course, he looks the same, same type of hairstyle, same type of grimaces and even kinda talks the same to a degree, Russian accent aside.

Again this movie is engaging but its not particularly good. We know McCall is a badass but he does things that seem impossible. When he kills the Russians at the start he manages to enter and leave their busy club without anyone noticing or hearing the commotion. When he sets up two crooked cops where the hell did he manage to get the CCTV of them threatening the restaurant owner originally? He pops up at locations outta nowhere and vanishes just as easily. He takes down an entire money laundering operation way too easily single handed. He manages to blow up an entire cargo ship at the docks single handed. Lastly when he had another crooked cop trapped in his car whilst flooding it with carbon monoxide why didn't the cop just break the glass or stop the window closing...its just an electric window!

Yes this is a lean mean kickass machine, its very sleek, well made and well directed, but its just too damn unoriginal. How many times have we seen this?? aside from the fact that 'John Wick' did the exact same thing around a month after this came out!! (and a bit better). The main issues...its too long and the movie is trying way too hard to be serious and gritty when basically its nonsense. McCall manages to eradicate the entire Russian crime syndicate in Boston...and then he goes to Russia and wipes them all out there too! the fuck!! If he's that good he could erase more crime syndicates single-handedly all over. You gotta ask yourself why he hasn't been used to do this before, or why he hasn't decided to do so himself if he can so easily. Seriously, he's just one retired black ops dude, imagine what a whole team could do.

5/10

Saturday, 7 March 2015

John Wick (2014)





















Holy shit! excuse my French but...holy shit!! what has happened to Keanu Reeves?! Ever since 'The Matrix' he's kinda turned into this cult action man starring in a few kickass action movies. First it was 'Man of Tai Chi' then '47 Ronin' and now this! I think Reeves has one of the most topsy turvy filmographies around, up and down and from one end of the genre spectrum to the other. To top it all despite Reeves doing all this gung-ho stuff he never actually looks fit, he always looks like...well, a couch potatoe.

So what's going on here, well its pretty simple really. Reeves plays John Wick, a retired assassin who was quite literately the best of the best, a one man army who took down entire syndicates of bad guys. One day some dumb Russian mobsters follow him home, break in, beat him up and wreck his place, all to steal his hotrod Mustang...oh and they kill his adorable new puppy too. Thing is Wick's wife had recently passed away leaving him the puppy, so this little dog meant a lot to Wick...A LOT! Plus the little thing is so damn cute and nobody likes to see doggies get hurt or abused. So what happens next you ask...well Wick goes off the deep end and methodically takes out every one of the Russian mobsters as he searches for the one who killed his dog. He basically goes to war against the mob.

OK so when I first heard of this I had no idea what this movie was about with its obscure title, it could of been some Dickensian tale for all I knew. Of course now we all know...its a videogame, OK that's being a bit harsh but lets be honest here this is a very simplistic story of revenge that caters for one thing. That's totally fine of course, the reason being because the movie knows this, everyone involved knew what they were making and knew who the target audience would be. The movie is a balls to the wall shoot em up with lots of hard core fisticuffs and plenty of brain splattering which makes no excuses. I might add that almost all the blood splattering appeared to be CGI I'm afraid, they still can't break that habit.

There is nothing new to see here as I'm sure most will have already guessed. Reeves looks super slick in designer made to measure suits, he drives super slick muscle cars, the bad guys drive black BMW's, every character appears to be very very rich, there is a token sexy female assassin, a token old mentor assassin, loads of faceless henchmen and lots of highly super slick fight choreography with shit loads of gun porn. Been there, seen it, done it, vomited on the t-shirt. But of course we all knew this, that's what you paid for when you saw the movie, hence I can't really knock it for that.



Apart from the usual shenanigans there were one or two things that stood out. The hotel Continental was a nice touch, a hotel that caters specifically for assassins (wealthy ones) and has a special code of honour. You are not allowed to carry out any business on the premises, if you do then you get executed apparently. I liked the quiet calm demeanor of the place, the unassuming yet lavish appearance and the well spoken (and again very calm and quiet) hotel receptionist. Although when they give Wick a free super slick, super black brand new Mustang just like that, it felt a bit too...superhero-ish. I liked how the whole movie had this graphic novel vibe to it, it felt much more solid and well put together than your average silly action thriller and the fact that Wick is vulnerable and gets injured.

On the flip side the unoriginal, stereotypcial, cliched moments really made me groan despite the fact you know to expect that. As said Wick does get injured but it never really stops him, he gets some nasty cuts and bruises yet carries on because he's basically a super dude. Some of the locations for the action sequences were so unbelieveably cliche and the main reason why it made me think I was watching a videogame adaptation. The obligatory neon lit uber wealthy nightclub shootout scenario with lots of half naked ultra hot women meandering around (thank you 'Blade').
Then of course you have the obligatory capture and torture of Wick, the main boss has the opportunity to kill Wick right there but instead decides to talk and walk off leaving it to his henchmen (thank you Bond). I already mentioned the token sexy female assassin in tight clothes, throw in some car chases in expensive cars, the fact its all at night...oh and the fact that despite the main boss character explaining how lethal and invincible Wick is...he continuously antagonises him! even after Wick lets him off.

Its all about the fast paced kinetic action obviously, the movie aims to throw that in your face and it does so perfectly. Is it any good other than that? well no not really, like I said its cliched to the hilt and very formulaic, its been done before. The film is engaging for sure, you wanna see that Russian asshole nailed for killing that cute lill puppy...but I wouldn't say its a good film. It does what it does well, it does what you (the target audience) want. Its a throwaway popcorn flick that is merely much more glossy than most.

On a final note I have heard about a franchise springing up from this. I will go on record now saying I believe that to be a bad idea, this is clearly a one shot deal flick, lightning in a bottle, a one off rollercoaster. Making more of these will most probably result in failure because the idea doesn't require it, its a simple silly flick that doesn't need a franchise. How can you expand on this anyway? have Wick killing yet more hordes of bad guys somewhere else because they stole his newspaper? The initial surprise and awe has been used on this first movie, you won't get that again, recent example easily being 'Taken'.

6/10

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Vigilante (1983)





















First and foremost I am still shocked this is an 80's movie, I genuinely thought this was a trashy 70's flick at first. OK in all honesty I kinda thought it was a blaxploitation movie because Fred Williamson was in it and the whole thing looks so grungy and cheap. Just look at the movie poster...it looks like an old videogame advert. Kinda like a third rate advertisement for a Double Dragon clone or any other scrolling beat em up involving punks on the streets when the sun goes down.

This is your standard revenge thriller, the type of movie that most probably influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and led to the various slick revenge action thrillers today ('The Equalizer' and 'John Wick'). Eddie Marino (Forster) is a happily married man with a young son in New York. In a brief encounter with a violent gang, Marino's wife slaps a Che Guevara looking gang member across the face. Later that day the gang turns up at her door, breaks in, trashes the place, kills the young boy and stabs her badly. Unfortunately for Marino the law is corrupt, the system doesn't work and the gang member gets off, you know what happens next.

This movie could only have been made in this era really, New York in the late 70's and early 80's was a dirty crime ridden place. You only have to look at the cities suburbs/locations whilst watching the film to see how different it was. Its quite interesting actually, seeing all these beat up cars running around, street trash, dilapidated buildings and stores on every corner, movies like 'Taxi Driver' and 'Serpico' back this up, its not movie magic. Noo Yawk was a hard dangerous place and the law enforcement was known to be...dodgy, this movie uses all of that to good effect.



Yeah sure it seems a bit tame in places these days, the street gang looks ridiculous in their punk attire. God knows what some of them are wearing, the main bad guy seems to have some kind of native American thing going on with a headband and feathers...I think it was. All the other guys are decked out in typical biker duds and covered in shiny studs, badges and spikes. Most of them are black dudes and Latinos (Mexicans?) with big thick sideburns or tashes (naturally), and they have one blonde female in their ranks, basically your stereotypical street gang from the 80's.

The violence is actually quite shocking and graphic, some stuff you see and some is implied yet still pretty horrific. The only sequence where you do see a lot of blood was the street gang shooting up a police car in a hail of silenced gunfire. The scene where Nick (Williamson) shoots an armed (baddie) female inside one gang members abode is pretty shocking to be honest, I knew he was gonna do it but the way she is flung back into the bath tub was quite unexpected to say the least. The most shocking scene by far is of course the murder of Marino's young son, you don't see it but you know exactly what happens. Again this did surprise me greatly as I did not expect it at tall, didn't think the punk would be so evil! The rest of the fisticuffs is pretty tame and quite amusing at times, especially seeing Forster naked in prison trying to fight off two other horny inmates.

Yep that's right, Forster's character winds up in jail for thirty days because he tried to assault the judge after the gang member got let off the charges. The police, judges and lawyers are all dirty in this movie. If it wasn't for action man Woody Strode then Forster's character would have been the meat in an inmate sandwich. Actually most of the prison scenes are slightly amusing really, its all so cliched as I'm sure you can guess and seeing old man Strode beat up this gigantic inmate is both awesome and hilarious.

The one thing I don't get is these vigilantes that clean the streets of scum and eventually end up killing off some people including a corrupt member of the mayor's office, don't get caught. How on earth they manage to get away with killing these people is beyond me, I realise the theme of the movie is corruption with everyone looking out for themselves but it seems unrealistic. On the other hand we never actually find out what happens to every character so who knows. We don't even see what happens to the whole gang as only the two leaders are dealt with so...

Nothing overly special these days but obviously back in the day this was pretty hardcore stuff. Its still entertaining, clearly a tad similar to a certain Bronson movie and its fun to see Williamson swing into action with his kung-fu. This most definitely still packs a punch.

7/10

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Nemesis 4: Death Angel (1996)





















Holy enhanced nipples! Sue Price's nipples are like chair legs! and that's about all you'll learn from this fourth movie sequel. How can Pyun even justify these errmm...movies, the last film was made almost entirely from flashback material (unused footage), but this time it appears to be all new! wow hold the phone!

The plot continuity seems to have been ejected here (?) and we are seeing what Alex is up to after her previous adventures. I am literately guessing at this point because I genuinely have no real idea, Sue Price is back as Alex sure but other than that this appears to be a fresh story of sorts. I say that but it only seems to revolve around Alex assassinating a target and killing the wrong person. Naturally she has been set up and now has a bounty on her own head, her boss played by Andrew Divoff seemingly betraying her for some reason. I'm just not really sure what is suppose to have happened here. The last two films show Alex as more sensitive, more of a heroine, here she is a killer who gets high on killing her targets whilst screwing them.

Sounds exciting no? yeah errr no, this would be half exciting if there was some actual action or thrills involved but amazingly there isn't. Believe it or not but the whole movie seems to simply show Price's firm bronzed body in the nude, in various poses and locations with tonnes of aimless dialog, and that's it. When I say the whole movie I mean the whole one hour and nineteen minutes of film...that's it, and most of this time is spend showcasing tanned nipples. I can understand why that might sound awesome but trust me this isn't a good soft porn excuse, if you wanna watch good porn its easy to find, there is no reason to watch this.

Now I will admit that Sue Price is gentle on the eyes even though her body is kinda macho, it still looks yummy. Pyun takes advantage of this by having Price kill guys in sexy ways that would indeed earn the title of a hotass futuristic femme fatale...and then there's the whole naked nipples just in case. Unfortunately Pyun forgot to include anything that resembled action because nothing happens other than talking in a few different locations interspersed with Price being naked. Oh and the locations vary from inside an old classic looking car (whilst having sex), a blacked out indoor set which is completely black and lots of scenes around what appears to be a rundown European town of sorts.

The only positive things I can think of here are the very small hands-on special effects moments which show Price's engineered body (and other android bodies) with protruding robotic parts that either kill or give sexual pleasure (typically). Price is hot no doubt and I'd have no trouble being her pet on a leash (oh yes), Divoff has a solid South African accent, there is one good car stunt...and errr that's it. No real sci-fi thrills or spills to talk of, at least the previous three movies had some neat sci-fi elements here and there, this has absolutely zero.

2/10

Monday, 2 March 2015

Silent Trigger (1996)





















Judging by this films poster you'd half expect this to be some kind of future set science fiction action fest. Dolph is looking very serious holding a massive hand cannon with a string of massive bullets attached to the side...it couldn't be more badass if you tried! In the background stands the skyscraper where the action is set, again to me this looks highly futuristic and reminds me of the main OCP headquarters building in 'Robocop'. Like most older action flicks the poster is somewhat misleading although not totally.

The story does indeed unravel within this huge oddly shaped skyscraper yet its filled with flashbacks to an earlier time. Dolph plays a sniper hitman who is hired by a mysterious agency to assassinate a specific target. His spotter is a sexy female (of course) who just happens to be the same spotter that accompanied him on a previous mission many years before. Together the duo must overcome bad memories and work together to finish the job, unfortunately they also have to content with an unruly drug addicted security guard who gets in the way...kinda.

This really is an odd movie, first off the director (Mulcahy of 'Highlander' fame) has clearly tried to mould this into some kind of hi-tech noir thriller. The visuals and lighting within the skyscraper sets are soaked in darkness and very moody, the colour palette mainly consists of dark blue, metallic greys/gunmetal and hints of yellow. This is enforced with the seriously tech-noir style of the interior sets which look really very nice but don't fit this movie premise. In fact the sets looks way too good for such a schlocky action B-movie.
The exterior of the skyscraper is very slick and as I've already said very futuristic looking. I did like the strange building design, its very eerie and foreboding with that huge single oval window, especially when set against the night sky. I'm guessing this was a model bluescreened against a real American city skyline, truthfully it does look very well composited and quite realistic. The various skeletal structural sets of the building (both interior and exterior) again I'm guessing were a combination of real worksites and fabricated ones, all in all I was very impressed...didn't expect such glossy sets in this movie.



So on one hand you have this very sexy, shiny almost Orwellian cyberpunk looking building that looms over everything where the main duo are holed up waiting for their kill. On the other hand we get flashbacks to their previous mission which appears to be set in some rustic old eastern European town (as always). These flashbacks are a very different style to the films present day, they have a gritty apocalyptic vibe to them that kinda borders on WW1 in places. We are shown how the mission goes wrong and why Dolph doesn't take the shot which of course cues the arrival of faceless bad guys to terminate them.



This failed mission does make me wonder why Dolph is still hired by whoever to carry out his present mission. Why does he not still have bounty on his head? or does he? We don't find out who the mysterious agency is that hire him for his current mission and we don't find out who the mysterious agency was that hired him for the failed mission. So we are left in the dark really. Its also kinda mega convenient that the same sexy female spotter is his partner again, makes you wonder that they are both being set up for their previous failure. Well I did until Dolph once again fails to take the shot so a backup team do it for him, so it appears that Dolph puts himself and his spotter back in the shit again. I'm genuinely still not sure if Dolph and co were set up for their previous error or he just froze again and they were attacked for not carrying out their kill, the story isn't that clear.

The other odd thing about this movie is the sub-plot involving the deranged security guard based in the skyscraper. This guy starts off perfectly normal but seems to descend into madness after meeting the sexy female spotter when she arrives (posing as some kind of IT technician). There is literately no reason why this dude goes nuts...he just does, the plot required him to do so for thrilling reasons. Just to make sure this character is made out to be a druggie as we see him sniffing it...but that's well after he initially goes all weird. He initially tries to rape the female spotter, fails and goes crazy because...reasons. I still don't get why he actually tries to rape her, does working the night shift in security do this to you? So next to this dark emotional assassination plot there is this oddball sub-plot about a lunatic security guard that Dolph ends up having big fisticuffs with...it literately feels like they just crowbarred it in for a solid fight sequence.

The other bizarre thing is showing us Dolph placing small explosive devices in strategic places in the building, mainly the lift. Why would he do that?? he has no reason to think anything will happen in the building, especially the lift. It really does seem to be a very lazy easy way for the main bad guy (plot twist) to get killed off. He just happens to use the lift that Dolph has booby trapped, did Dolph know a top level bad guy would show up and use that lift to escape? apparently he did.

Not sure if Dolph was the right person for this role but he does look awesome wielding his ginormous sniper rifle...kinda get the impression that's the only reason he was hired for the role. Gina Bellman is the sultry spotter and she is just that...alluring, seductive, sensual and smokin'. Again I couldn't help but think she doesn't quite click with Dolph, they didn't look right together.

A film of two halves is an understatement here, its pretty much two different movies and the half set in the skyscraper is by far the more intriguing. Definitely one of Lundgren's better action flicks seeing as most fall straight into the abyss of oblivion but like I said I think he was miscast here. Lots of sniper porn for gun freaks and an interesting score too I might add.

6/10