Thursday, 30 April 2015

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)




















Holy silhouettes the sequel finally arrives, a cool nine years after the original hit. A direct sequel that follows on from the original with all the characters we know and love, two stories from the original comic/graphic novel, and for some reason two entirely new stories. This time Tarantino does not direct anything leaving it to Rodriguez and Miller, whilst Rodriguez leaves the writing entirely to Miller...if any of that matters or you're interested.

The movie is a jumbled mix of both sequel and prequel storylines which hark back before the original movie whilst tying up loose ends. The first tale called 'Just Another Saturday Night' follows on with the deeds of Marv who still looks out for Nancy. A very brief introduction which merely showcases Marv taking down some punk frat boys in his old neighbourhood.

'The Long Bad Night' is the first new tale which sees the young cocky card shark Johnny taking on his corrupt father (Senator Roark) at cards and beating him badly. He is warned to flee the city but shrugs this threat off and goes out on the town with his new blonde floozy Marcie. Roark and his goons catch up with him, severely beat him, take back their money and dump him.

'A Dame to Kill For' is a prequel that is set before the original story 'The Big Fat Kill' in the first movie. It shows Dwight as a private eye, trying to be a decent man, but is lured back to the dark side by the rich and sexy Ava Lord. Basically Ava wants Dwight to kill off her rich husband so she can claim all his fortune, naturally lots of double dealing, back stabbing and trickery ensues.

'Nancy's Last Dance' is the second movie exclusive tale which is set four years after 'That Yellow Bastard'. Nancy is still suffering from depression after Hartigan killed himself back in the first flick. Eventually sick of suffering in silence she asks (tricks) Marv into helping her kill Roark, her thirst for revenge must be quenched.

So this is Sin City and we all know what to expect after the fantastic original movie back in 2005. Naturally this sequel gives you exactly what you crave with slightly bigger doses. The visuals are of course the movies selling point and they don't disappoint with those gorgeous bleak black and white comicbook-esque panel shots, the only things missing are the speech bubbles and text. Everything is once again mainly cast in shadow and silhouettes with only the odd hint of colour from various items, objects or body part. So amidst the bold stark blacks, whites and grey scale you might see a bright red classic car, or a splattering of red blood, or a pair of green eyes or a red item of clothing, red being the popular colour used more often. But seriously I don't need to talk much about the visuals, you all know why this franchise looks so lush, well wash rinse and repeat here, but that's a good thing.



The small short stories are also just as good as before (they should be seeing as they are continuations) offering some great interweaving plots. The fact that we get a prequel mixed in along with the sequels/present day stories was a surprise to me, not being a fanboy of the franchise, and I liked that. At first I found myself struggling to figure out what was going on and this did require me to do a bit of quickfire homework on the older stories from the first movie, but once I had gotten my head around all the U-turns and twists I found myself enjoying it.

I think the problems with this movie stem from the fact its been so long since the first movie. People's enthusiasm has understandably died down since 2005, not because the franchise is no longer any good but because the first movie was such a fresh and original blast which hadn't really been seen before. The visuals were amazing to see back in 05, a real graphic novel/comic come to life! of course since then special effects have improved and this visual style no longer has the wow factor it once did.
The space between movies has also meant casting no longer retains continuity unfortunately. Most of the main characters are played by the same stars but many are not. Manute is now played by Dennis Haysbert who really can't and doesn't hold a candle to Michael Clarke Duncan, Bob is played by Jeremy Piven instead of Michael Madsen and Miho is no longer played by Devon Aoki. While this isn't the end of the world and most of the other players are still present and correct it did let the film down in my opinion. Had this not taken so long to be made then I'm confident the cast would have remained the same 100% which always feels better. Honesty I have always hated it when they recast a character for a sequel, even if it works, I just prefer continuity.



Not knowing anything about the original yarn, at first I thought the casting of Brolin as Dwight was a horrendous cock-up because he looked nothing like Clive Owen. I have of course since found out his character origins and now know the character was suppose to look completely different for the prequel story. Alas the change of casting still has a negative effect because when we see the new Dwight with his new face that is suppose to be the face we know from the first film, it very obviously looks nothing like Owen.

Speaking of the cast I must also add that I really don't understand why the awful looking Ava Green was cast in this, I'm guessing mainly for her period looking looks (the 50's). People are saying she can act but I just don't see it, plus I really don't find her attractive with her many body moles yeesh! I preferred the original choices of Selma Hayek and Rose McGowan.

Even though I did enjoy the movie for the most part some things still did bother me, much like the first movie. As we get towards the climatic finale the action does become even more outrageous and reality bending. In fact much of the violence in this movie is like that, yes I realise its a comicbook flick adaptation but the thing I did like about this franchise (other than the sweetass visuals) was the fact the violence in general was gritty and semi-realistic (at first at least). Unfortunately both movies do descent into ridiculous action mode much like 'Kick-Ass' and other Rodriguez nonsense 'Machete'. Rodriguez's violent action style is very clear and in all honesty I don't like it for the most part, it has its place and can work but too much of it is not good and he uses it in virtually everything he does.

This movie didn't quite have the same sense of grandness or scale that the first movie had, the cast isn't quite as impressive either, but I don't think it was ever gonna beat the first one. It tries to be sexy but in my opinion comes across as terribly vanilla half the time with laughable, apparently sexy outfits for the ladies and some rather limp strip club dancing to boot (what's sexy about a girl in cowboy attire?). Easily picks up top marks for artistic style and sticking to its adult orientated guns (always a plus these days). I love the trashy seediness, the period setting and some of the characters, although the excellent main score from the first movie is missed greatly. Its cold, its kinky and its dark, all agreeable ingredients which in my humble opinion gave us a reasonably solid followup.

7/10

Monday, 27 April 2015

Flash Gordon (UK, 1980)



Created by a New Yorker in the 30's, an all American comic strip character thought up to compete alongside another American creation Buck Rogers. Yet somehow the only movie adaptation of this character is a completely British affair with the epitome of British rock for its soundtrack. Its like...taking Superman and having Edgar Wright direct a movie version complete with his usual roster of acting mates. Simon Pegg as Superman, Nick Frost as Jimmy Olsen, Bill Nighy as Jor-El etc...The soundtrack being covered by Keane or Muse or whoever, but I digress.

The movies plot is basically the same kind of space opera hokeyness that we saw with 'Star Wars'. The ruler of planet Mongo (not mango), Emperor Ming, has decided to play with Earth by causing natural disasters and then destroy it...for reasons. On Earth a scientist believes these natural disasters are being caused by powers coming from deep space which are pushing the Moon towards the Earth. So he lures Flash Gordon and his bird into a rocket and blasts off into space, oddly enough the rocket ends up going through a space vortex and crashing on planet Mongo, convenient. From this point onwards its up to Flash to battle Ming and save Earth from his evil clutches...oh and he gets some help from other alien races too...and saves them also, what a guy!

Now the important thing to remember here is the obvious in your face camp factor. The movie was intentionally made this way to capture the pure colourful and fun essence of the old comic strips and film serials in the 30's (yes I know the film serials were black and white). These days most people will recognise this style being that of the old classic 60's Batman TV series with Adam West, and yes again this movie was made with those specific visuals in mind. The only difference of course being this movie was to be taken relatively seriously or as serious as possible. There are no silly word gags or puns or visual tomfoolery, this was not a spoof or parody, it was a straight up fantasy action flick that just happened to look very vibrant and...errmm camp.



I still find it amusing that Flash was originally a polo player and Yale University graduate because that doesn't seem to fit his character. The guy is suppose to be a superhero-esque figure and...a bit flash, but he plays polo? and he's a snobby top uni grad?? is his alien fighting attire a top hat n tails? Its obvious why they altered this to him being an American football player thusly giving him a much more manly vibe and suiting his rather silly name. Gotta ask...did his parents actually name him Flash? and in this movie why would he wear a shirt with his own name emblazoned across the front? (ego much!!).

That's not to say the film doesn't take liberties with the plot, there are still lots of stupid story holes and ultra convenient circumstances that play along with the frilly gay visuals. The entire beginning of the movie is so ludicrous and convenient its laughable. For a start we're not really told why Ming wants to destroy the Earth, he just kinda wants to for fun, plus how can he control the weather? Then the whole idea of Flash and his bird crashing into Zarkov's lab (their plane is brought down by a hot hail) at the exact time when Zarkov is about to blast into space wreaks of plot convenience. The following idea that Zarkov then tricks and kidnaps the pair to go into space with him is odd to say the least. He actually needs one person to assist him with the launch by stepping on a pedal or something, beats me. He didn't actually require both of them but they all end up going after a bit of fisticuffs, its a very stupid scene frankly. Why not just explain the perilous situation the Earth is in and maybe they would have just agreed to go.

Its also kinda funny how this Zarkov bloke can build a huge space rocket in the comfort of his own greenhouse. He apparently has the funds, the equipment and strangely enough the space! it all fits nicely within his greenhouse. I'm not entirely sure if his space rocket actually finds its way to planet Mongo by accident or intentionally. They go through this space vortex, again very convenient how they fly straight into it, and end up slap bang at planet Mongo...how very convenient! Oh and they happen to crash land right outside Mingo City too! pretty lucky considering they could landed anywhere on the entire planet...I'm being picky aren't I. The movie is filled with these kinds of highly fantastical conveniences and plot holes, its best to try and not think about them really, just enjoy the ride.

As many know this is all part of the fun with this movie, its a semi-serious fantasy but at the same time you're not suppose to look in depth at the tiny details. Much of this universe makes little sense and nothing much is explained, like how come Flash and co are able to breathe the air on planet Mongo? is it identical to Earth? and surely the space trip they undertook would have killed them due to all manner of real time scientific issues...stop!! This film has flying birdmen for flips sake!

















Its all about the visuals, bringing the comic strip to life, an early attempt at what 'Sin City' achieved basically. To that end they do a great job and it looks terrific considering how old this is. Production values were solid and you can tell with a vast arrange of lovely sets, costumes and props. Everything is clearly custom made to perfection and with great care and attention to detail, its so nice to see old fashioned model spaceships set against old fashioned model planet surfaces and matte paintings, glorious sight. In fact the special effects do look very much like the model effects seen in British comedy 'Red Dwarf', that gives you an idea of the visual quality and style, obviously fake but really beautiful to see. At the end of the day handmade real time effects may look hokey at times...but oh so charming, and what's more they are real thus providing atmosphere.

The cast is another famous part of this films overall appeal. Its clear to anyone that Max Von Sydow steals the show with his scenery chewing and evil use of eyebrows and goatee. Despite everything going on around him being really quite farcical Sydow sticks to his guns and delivers an epic hard-nosed lavishly dressed ruler or dictator (he looks and dresses very Russian in some scenes if you ask me). He doesn't actually do anything in the movie, no laser battles, no lightsaber fights etc...he just swans around looking ornate and splendid, grimacing at everyone and making them obey. At the same time Sam Jones shows he can't act very well but looks every bit the part of Flash with his golden locks and all American attitude (doesn't actually have much of a muscly physique).



Other stars include Timothy Dalton doing what he does best, playing a dashing dueling cad with an Errol Flynn-like pencil tash. Mariangela Melato as the quite sexy yet evil General Kala complete with black catsuit, Ornella Muti as the stereotypical Princess Aura, Robbie Coltrane is in there, Kenny Baker, Deep Roy and the marvelously creepy Richard O'Brien (look out for Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan in a small role). But wait! who could forget the gaping bearded maw of the great Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan...wearing a Roman-seque metal skirt. Next to Sydow Blessed performance is probably the most remembered here with some corking dialog and being the only character to actually add some silly comical relief.

The final part of this cult jigsaw that everybody knows and loves is of course the soundtrack. I think most folk will recognise the famous Queen track with cries of 'FLASH! A-AAAH!!'. I love how the opening credits show sections/snippets of the original classic comic strips with the Queen track roaring at the same time. Very much a precursor to what Marvel do now, showing various original comicbook art flickering over credits, and their logo even (Marvel probably pinched the idea). This move was highly original at the time and still is really, you don't often get bands writing exclusive songs for a movie and then use it virtually through the whole movie with little else. The only other music was a small orchestral score by Howard Blake which actually sounds too good for this movie. It does remind me very much of 'Blade Runner' with its deep ethereal tones, it should of been used in a better more serious sic-fi movie methinks.



Sure most things you see here are very cliched, they use every fantasy/space adventure cliche there is although much is taken from the original source material. Anyone young seeing this now would probably groan at the use of jungle worlds, fighting to the death in arenas, ancient Greek looking winged warriors, Princesses, a blonde all American hero, a racist Fu Manchu-esque villain and hordes of faceless Stormtrooper-like soldiers that may or may not be robots or monsters. Naturally the movie rides on the coattails of 'Star Wars' but at the time that was a fresh approach so it all felt new and original. Looking back its clear to see this cult has influenced many films that came along after it, classic British fantasy 'Krull' for one.

By today's gleaming special effects extravaganza laden standards this now looks very hokey at times admittedly. Some model/matte painting shots work beautifully, others which include bluescreen look a bit crap truth be told, even more so in Bluray. Still you can't really complain firstly because the movie is very old and secondly because the cheesy camp style along with dated visuals do combine to homage the original comic strips and early film serials nicely. Its a lively, flamboyant, dazzling ride full of imagination, quirky casting, familiar sci-fi fantasy traits and with colour very much at the forefront of the visual assault. This movie is very much a British institution.

7/10

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Mortdecai (2015)




















Far be it from me to jump hastily on the negativity bandwagon like some ravenous nitpicking whiny movie critic, but by Jove this movie is shit. Yet another adaptation of a novel I've never heard of but the general premise is very familiar. Whether or not this film is close to the original source material I don't really know, but what Koepp offers here is Quintessentially a very British affair that has clearly been lifted from various sources. British characters from the mid 60's era (the Carry On franchise), possibly a dabble of The Pink Panther franchise (American movie based around stereotypical continentals), maybe a hint of Basil Fawlty and the Fawlty Towers franchise (in this movie at least, the books turned up before that TV series) and of course the one and only British gent Terry-Thomas.

Well lets not beat around the bush here the author of these original stories has presumably based his main character on Terry-Thomas. The first lines of dialog spoken by Depp in this movie immediately made think this was the official Terry-Thomas movie...action movie. You can quite clearly tell Depp is doing his best pompous aristocratic British accent which just happens to kinda sound like an attempt at Terry-Thomas. Of course he also looks like a typically well groomed, old fashioned dapper, debonair gentlemanly toff with his posh suits, slick back hair and walking cane. The odd thing is a lot of the plot and consequent jokes revolve around his facial hair, its like a character.

The strange thing is I'm not overly sure what the point of his tash was, it seems to somehow be important to his character but never really adds anything to his character or the plot. All we know is his wife played by Paltrow hates it and makes her gag, which in turn makes Depp's Mortdecai gag also. This is one of the main visual jokes in the movie, its repeated often and is played up as though it were a stroke of comedic genius...which it most certainly isn't. The whole truth of the matter is Johnny Depp spends the entire movie prancing about trying his best with a John Cleese impression with physical comedy whilst at the same time trying his best to be funny with childish facial expressions. His one key weapon is a nasal/back of the throat grunt which he often lets out in frustration, that with plenty of tash stroking, raised eyebrows and in general some of the most wussy, namby pamby, wishy-washy slapstick ever.



There's nothing wrong with a good bit of slapstick of course, it can be very clever and very difficult to pull off. This on the other hand is the most childish crapola ever! there is literately nothing going on in this movie other than infantile nonsense of the highest order. Its not funny nonsense either, its painfully bad, awkwardly unfunny and genuinely makes the cast look ridiculous, I felt embarrassed watching them at times, I actually felt bad for the cast. Other than terrible physical comedy the action is completely nondescript, its utterly garbage and not even remotely exciting or thrilling. Never at any point do you feel a rush of adrenaline fearing for any characters life or getting sweaty palms over a solid stunt. The car chases are clearly slow, the fights are clearly fake, the bad guys are laughable, the stunts are average at best and what's more...the whole thing is so so boring!!

Its all basically about stealing a valuable painting or trying to recover it from thieves...whatever. I totally zoned out for the most of it because it simply wasn't interesting in the slightest. You are literately watching Depp mincing around trying his best to make us believe he was the right casting choice (we all know he wants to be European more than anything so he's lapping it up). Paltrow does nothing, McGregor does nothing and Bettany plays some cliched cockney tough guy who every now and then loses his cockney accent. Bettany's character babysits Depp's character so whilst Depp runs around like a fairy Bettany is beating bad guys up in a U rating kind of way.

Some of the locations are lavish and lovely looking, the movie on the whole is very glossy and slick, costumes are obviously highly expensive and tailor made and of course the cars are super duper. Its clearly trying to be a cross between 'The Pink Panther' with a dash of James Bond and maybe 'The Avengers' (60's version). The lead character as said is clearly a Terry-Thomas type chap who has bumbling inept Inspector Clouseau tendencies. Every now and then they might chuck out the odd swear word or adult sexual double entendre to try and spice things up a bit for the grown ups but then straight away the movie loses its target audience, which I'm guessing is youngsters?

The whole thing is absolutely dreadful from start to finish, there wasn't really any highlight I could think of. Its like you go back in time watching this, it feels like an early 90's movie. Honesty had this come out in the 90's I reckon it would have done OK, the entire movie is so dated, so out of touch with modern cinema even for a bad movie. What's worse and very evident is this was a factory line Hollywood cookie cutter product which was intended to kick start a franchise. Everything about it screams franchise bait, its sickening to watch. This is also proof that Mr Depp is in fact quite a limited actor who has actually been surviving off his quirky, eccentric performances for too long. His shtick has been well and truly milked and exhausted. Change your game Depp, you can't keep rolling out that one performance anymore.

2/10

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Three Musketeers (AT/US, 1993)



Yes that's actually the abbreviation for the country of Austria you see above there, this movie was a collaboration between the US and Austria curiously enough. This was an extremely loose adaptation of the famous Dumas novel which has of course been adapted many many times now. In fact the reason this was so loose was mainly because it was following hot on the heels of the successful Kevin Costner movie 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves'. It was (I believe) Disney's first rock n roll historical family flick with a made to measure hit rock song as the main theme to really lure in the young teenyboppers...and women.

Everything about this production was a big pre-planned, hopeful franchise and merchandise spewing machine, that might not sound too surprising these days but back in the early 90's it was. Movies weren't really handled like that back then, like they are now, but the wham-bam in your face, rock n roll, romance rollercoaster with Costner changed everything. Sure using rock tunage and not being historically accurate in movies wasn't new but somehow, with that mullet, and that American accent, Costner turned this concept into a near-guaranteed massive money spinner. Disney saw the chance and jumped on-board with this French period adventure, and what better way to top Costner than using the old brat pack of the 80's...well two of them.

Yep its errr...the young guns using swords and riding horses...again! Sheen and Sutherland team up with Oliver Platt who magically fits into this team beautifully. Along for the ride is the fresh faced Chris O'Donnell as D'Artagnan who actually does pretty well considering he's a pretty hokey actor truth be told. The entire movie hinges on the cast naturally, more so the main trio of Musketeers who, we the audience, have to like for this to take flight. Luckily the casting of Sutherland and Platt is inspired as they both are charming and highly likable in their roles, especially the chunky Platt. Sheen on the other hand doesn't quite fit the bill here and I'm not so sure how he got the call for this movie. Obviously reuniting of ye olde brat pack again...duh! maybe they wanted to get Emilio too? I can see what Disney wanted to do here and I applaud the effort, for it is a sweet idea, but Sheen just doesn't fit into 17th century France too well.























It really is so very obvious that Disney wanted to copy the success of 'Prince of Thieves', look at the bad guys. Good old Tim Curry chews up the scenery perfectly with his big eyes, red flowing attire and devilish goatee doing his best to try and beat Alan Rickman's dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham. But not only that, Disney really takes the biscuit by actually reusing the same actor for the main henchman role. Yes Michael Wincott played Guy of Gisborne in 'Prince of Thieves' and here he plays the main henchman Rochefort! Holy du pain Disney! at least try not to make it so clearly evident sheesh!

Never the less despite the blatant idea stealing the movie does look really good with decent production values all the way through. The scenery is stunning throughout with various locations used in the UK and Europe, the sets are amazingly lavish, highly detailed and very authentic looking, costumes look period perfect and again very authentic and weaponry, armour, horses etc...all look spot on. The movie does show how good Disney are at creating worlds, they don't skimp at all and it shows. They might be fast and loose with the facts and original source material but at least it always looks terrific and extremely atmospheric, so big kudos there.

As for the action, set pieces and generally 17th century hijinks...well its solid, its exciting for sure...but of course its dumb. Just like the Costner adventure and Disney's later Pirates of the Caribbean[ flicks the action can get a little out of hand which does spoil the atmos at times. I believe director Herek has clearly tried to copy (or maybe homage) the old Lester Musketeer movies (1973, 74 and 89) with plenty of sword fighting slapstick and stunt tomfoolery. Its not quite as goofy but you do have the obligatory bounding around, jumping off things, dueling on top of things...usually high places, dodging cannon fire, knocking people over with things, knocking people off horses with things, drunken jollifications and generally swinging around from objects. Its not horribly violent of course, no blood, no gore, but bad guys do get killed, you just don't see it or they edit away from the kill. Its that acceptable level of comicbook violence you'd expect from Disney and it works for the movie.

Alas the movie does lose impetus because they have played with the story a bit, changed some things, left stuff out and messed up here and there. One such minor but silly mistake I noticed was at the start when all the Musketeers resign their posts as Musketeers, they then proceed to burn their blue tunics. Then at the end of the movie as the Musketeers are summoned to fight they all somehow have their blue tunics back...but they burnt them, did they make new ones just in case they got their jobs back. Another glaring question mark was the fate of Cardinal Richelieu (Curry). The main trio of Musketeers rescue the King from the Cardinals boat, the Cardinal gets punched in the face, falls overboard, and...? That's the last we see of him, no clue if he drowned, went to jail, got executed, got away...nothing.

I'm sure by now you get the angle this movie is aiming for, the other movie examples clear that up. The whole entity is more of a fast food, factory assemble line product than an actual proper movie. The director and Disney clearly wanting to sell the romance, good looking boys n girls and light-hearted action rather than tell a proper solid story. End of the day...we all knew that, you could see it, you could smell it a mile off when it came out and you can still tell today. To that end it does at least do what it says on the tin, it offers fun thrills, heroes and villains and a good old fashioned sense of adventure which everyone can enjoy. It still can't beat the Richard Lester movies though, they were flippin' epic!

6/10

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)



The original movie turned out to be a big success so the inevitable sequel came along, this time they primarily went for an out n out spoof of 'Rambo III'. Most of the same cast members are back from the original in the same roles accept for Ryan Stiles who reappears again but as another character oddly (I guess we didn't see him properly in the first flick). As for the title...deux is obviously French for the number two, so was this suppose to be a funny alternative to simply having 'part 2'? bit lame.

So everything you got with the first movie you get all over again with this...accept this time the belly laughs are much greater and the visual tomfoolery is much better. The plot follows along the lines of 'Rambo III' with the obligatory changes and simplifications here and there, again this is a complete story and not just a collection of jokes or skits tied together. Once again its directed and written by Jim Abrahams so the quality is still on par with his previous offering.

The comedy angle in this movie is much more politically satirical in places with a slightly more grown up vibe. The film starts off with a brilliant sequence showing the dastardly Saddam Hussein (the 90's remember) getting ready for bed in his lavish palace. The entire scene is chock full of brilliant little visual gags, childish gags and some genuinely clever comedy, naturally it all ends in a farcical bit of slapstick but its all really well directed. Jerry Haleva who portrays Hussein really hams it up perfectly giving a great little dialog free performance whilst looking quite authentic. I watch today in amazement that they got away with such blasphemy, these days I'm sure there would be some nasty backlash.



From that sharp controversial lampooning we move onto the next big sequence involving the introduction of Sheen's character Topper. Topper is now a buffed up Buddhist living in a small Thai village where he fights for the sheer pleasure of manly violence. Here we see a quite ingenious fight sequence littered with many great visual moments such as Topper's candy coated hand wraps, Richard Crenna's pig snout sub with running mustard, a crowd member getting his head kicked off and the fight ref getting his head squashed between the two fighters flying kicks.

It sounds horrific at times and lets not beat around the bush there is some heavy Tom & Jerry style violence in here. But as before the effects are so cheap and tacky looking, so utterly ridiculous and hokey, its quite clear no one (including kids) is gonna be upset by anything here, its a complete cartoon once again. That's not to say the effects are purposely hokey everywhere, far from it, there are also some quite lovely little touches dotted throughout the picture. Who can forget the excellent freezing and shattering of Saddam ala 'T2', the enemy soldier splattered across the side of a hut and Saddam getting crushed under the grand piano. Some of the makeup effects are really nicely done too, clearly the budget for this was much beefier than before.

What did impress about this movie was how action packed it was, one exciting scene after another. The attack on the enemy camp as the plot reached its climax is probably the most iconic although the riverboat attack sequence was pretty sweet too. Sheen looks pretty darn good all buffed which was surprising really, he actually went to a lot of trouble to actually look ripped just for a stupid spoof. Anyhow this is where Sheen shines as he runs around this enemy camp doing a Schwarzenegger ('Predator' if anything) and gunning down hordes of armed soldiers without getting a scratch. The videogame high score text that pops up on screen telling us the body count and what other ultra violent adult movies the movie now equals and consequently tops, is totally inane but admittedly clever. I love how completely bonkers the action sequence gets trying to lampoon classic action set pieces...even to the point where Topper just grabs a handful of loose ammo and throws it at a bunch of enemy soldiers  causing them to drop dead in overly theatrical ways. The action sequences in this movie literately lampoon the classic action man flicks to pieces...and it works.

Stand out performances again go to Bridges who just gets better as he goes, some of his scenes are fecking hilarious and the way he whips out some of his dialog is monumentally montorific! Richard Crenna has a small part but his send-up of his Rambo character is super sweet, love his prison cage escape scene with Sheen. I've also gotta throw out a kudos to the small role of the Iraqi Captain played by Greg Sierra. I loved his little performances, he looked the part and has some great facial expressions. He's the bad guy who Crenna's character spits at and a huge bucket load of water hits him in the face...brilliant stuff.

What I personally loved about this sequel was the fact that its crammed with so many little visual gags, there's lots going on both foreground and background, even more so than the original movie. Not only is there a lot of lampoonery going on its all of high quality, pretty much all of the jokes still hit their target even to this day. From the political jabs to the movie parodies to the out n out dumbass visual gags, like the now infamous bow and chicken firing scene. Even Rowan Atkinson in one of his first major film roles was pretty good. So yeah...I prefer this over the original any day of the week, its much funnier, wittier, visually more exciting, better effects and with much better in depth performances.

'We'll settle this the old Navy way, first guy to die...LOSES!'

7.5/10

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Hot Shots! (1991)





















Back in 1986 there was a movie called 'Top Gun', you might have heard of it, it did quite well. During casting the young Charles Sheen was considered for the main role in the movie (later taken by Cruise), his brother Emilio turned down the role! Well later on down the line we got this spoof which really does seem like Sheen's late audition for the real deal. Its odd because in a way you could actually see him in the role of Maverick, its not a stretch, and here you do feel he's making the best of it to show us all just that (my thoughts).

There have been many spoofs over the years but this franchise is generally considered to be one of the best alongside 'The Naked Gun' trilogy. Its of course no surprise that all the best spoofs have been written and directed (one or the other) by Jim Abrahams, the dude has a knack. Everyone knows the drill here, you can tell from the movie logo alone, as said the film sends up 'Top Gun' from start to finish whilst including the odd pot shots at various other movies. The difference with this movie unlike newer spoofs was the fact this actually had a proper story and mainly parodied one movie, it wasn't just a collection of silly skits.

The plot isn't entirely scene for scene the same as that Scott movie though, it differs of course but in general much is the same right down to the main soundtrack. Sheen plays the dark haired, good looking, brash young pilot Topper, his arch nemesis is the blonde haired, good looking, by the books Kent (Elwes), and they are both after the frizzy haired Ramada (Golino). I never really understood how Golino got this part because she isn't much of a looker in my view but hey. Other pilots are a cliched bunch highlighted by Jon Cryer as the near blind Pfaffenbach (he has wall-eye vision) but the stand out performer for the movie has to be Lloyd Bridges as Tug Benson. This guy nailed every scene he's in, he clearly knew how to perform comedy and it shows, his visual skills were just as good as his verbal skills. Bridges has to be one of the two best spoof comedy actors ever, the other being Leslie Nielsen.

The best thing about these movies was obviously the humour, some of it was childish, some of it clever and witty, yet at times some was also surprisingly adult. But it wasn't just the easy visual gags that made this hilariously smart, it was the hidden gems, the tiny visual nods n winks that you may have missed the first time around. The film has many (sort of) secret Easter eggs strewn throughout which some folks will pick up and others might not, depending on your country of origin and how much of a movie buff you are. Even now I can read about this flick and find things out I never knew. Of course other than that there are the blatant movie parodies and cheap slapstick gags that cater for all ages, some being very good with excellent levels of detail (Rocky sequence), others just being dumb and maybe even somewhat cringeworthy these days (Superman sequence).

Like most spoofs the movie is a product of its time with many gags, visual or otherwise, referencing issues of the time or current pop culture (of the time). Although this does still work to a degree it has waned over time which is to be expected. Its now very odd to think that Saddam Hussein was once such a threat and iconic figure...so to speak. So much time has passed since the 90's and the Gulf War it felt strange watching a movie where Saddam was the villain and parodied, not sure why but I guess because it doesn't seem that long ago and I was a young teen at the time. Its only watching now you realise...holy hummus! it was along time ago! Christ I'm old!

By the predictable finale the movie has well established itself as a solid spoof with some classic moments of comedy no doubt. The jet fighter aerial sequences are a clear montage of real footage, other movie footage and some highly dubious model work, but the film embraces the cheesiness with open arms. At no point does the movie try for spectacular effects, its all hokey as hell and looks like a cartoon, although there are some neat tricks to be seen. Personally I enjoy segments of this, some stuff works really well, others don't, back in the day I kinda felt the same truth be told. For me the movie heavily depended on the brilliance of Bridges' rubber-faced versatility and the small hints of Cryer, but overall its still a highly accurate spoof of the hefty testosterone infused 80's.

'you risked the lives of some damn fine pilots...and that's my job'

6/10

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Barb Wire (1996)





















Back in the days when comicbook movie adaptations were generally wankadoodle and shrugged off within days of release, we got this. The ultra sexy, ultra tough female Dark horse character that is a bar owner by day, umm...and a part time bounty hunter by day also, naturally all set within a war ravaged dystopian future Earth (2017 people! we're almost there!). Now I bet you're thinking I'm gonna say this movie changed the game and set comicbook movies on the right path...well you're wrong.

Now I knew nothing about the original Dark Horse character (still don't), like many at the time I only found out about her when this movie came out, after which there was a feverish scramble to find out more. Why you might ask, well its simple, this movie was basically a soft porn flick for Pamela Anderson (check wet strip tease at the films start), heck even the movies poster looked like a cheap porn flick image. Sounds crazy I know but back in the day Anderson was the biggest blonde bombshell since Marilyn Monroe (probably bigger) and this was her vehicle. Whether or not the movie followed the original comicbook source material I don't know but that simply didn't matter back then. This was a chance to squeeze Anderson into a skintight fishnet clad dominatrix outfit and have her gun down lots of faceless bad guys...with the odd bit of crotch crushing with her black thigh high leather boots (I'm actually turning myself on right now).



The plot...what plot?? this was all about sex guy! But seriously the plot kinda ripped-off the classic 'Casablanca' believe it or not. Set during the second American Civil war in the only free city of Steel Harbor, a former government scientist is trying to escape to Canada with the help of a freedom fighter. The reason being they have information on a secret new bio weapon in development by the Nazi-like Congressional Directorate (the bad guys that overthrew the old democracy and started the war). The only reason Barb Wire is involved is because she has these special contact lenses that enable people to pass through the Nazi's retinal scans which would allow the fugitive pair to escape the US. Thing is Barb is a bitch, she doesn't play by the rules and she's on no ones side, or is she? The plot is wafer thin, had Barb just cooperated at the start the movie would have been over very quickly, and there's no real reason for her not to cooperate frankly.

In typical 90's fashion this movie is visually just like all the other sci-fi action flicks of the 90's. You name it, 'Johnny Mnemonic' 'Freejack' 'Strange Days' etc...they all have a very similar bleak industrial future Earth vibe going on. Lots of steel structures usually battered or shiny, deserts, scrap yards, computer monitors everywhere, Mad Max-esque vehicles, skimpy outfits for females and generally in that typical barbaric apocalyptic setting. Yet despite its incredibly cheesy overused visuals I can't deny the film does look good for the most part. You could easily think this might be an early Michael Bay movie with all the glossy closeups of ass, sunsets, dust shots, gleaming metal, biker porn and glorious extreme usage of explosions and gun play. There are actually some nice shots here and there, some good use of sci-fi technology in an imaginative way and some well choreographed sequences. One gun battle between some thugs and Barb is actually quite decent, the gun shot sound effects are very effective with solid booms and thuds.






















I must also give kudos to the fact that they went with an adult rated movie and kept everything nice and...errr adult. Lets be honest with someone looking like Pammy Anderson you could hardly make a PG-13...not with those perfectly large, fake, round boobs bursting from their tight restraints. Again I don't really know how accurate everything is here but the grimy, rain soaked, heavy metal, leather-bound biker theme is pretty prominent and who am I to say that is wrong. Sure its cliched and kinda redneck-ish but bugger me if Pammy doesn't fit in so well, she's the perfect blonde biker chick from hell and she does admittedly look stunning, slutty but stunning (slutty is good mkay).






















All the acting is pretty terrible throughout from everyone involved obviously including Anderson, but we all know why she's here and its not for her thespian skills. A B-list of semi-famous character actors (for the time) make up the other characters, Xander Berkeley, Temuera Morrison, Steve Railsback and cult star Udo Kier who is easily the best thing here. Its actually funny watching all the male actors in this movie because I swear they're all doing their best manly swagger acting to try and impress Anderson, like moths to a light, not that I blame them. Berkeley especially seems to be trying some kind of Clint Eastwood impersonation half the time, the quickfire one-liners really don't help him either, its all very cringeworthy at times. Gotta admit Railsback is actually quite good as the Nazi-esque leader with his stormtroopers, clearly enjoyed chewing up the scenery with his evil snarls.

Things do go downhill towards the end I must say, all the stereotypical, steamy, neon lit bar/club scenes with goth rock chicks and bondage clad females was pretty darn sweet at the start. As the film climaxes it all gets too silly with stupid shoot-outs, a car chase and somehow all the characters ending up fighting at the top of a massive crane...can you guess how it might end? I'll be honest its not terrible, I've seen much worse, at least this film knows its a silly booty-fest for males to leer at and doesn't try to be anything else. In that sense the film does work, its lives up to expectations and gives you exactly what a comic/graphic novel would (in some cases), overblown violence and ass. Lets be brutally honest here, Anderson might not be the best actress but she certainly looks the part of a hardcore badass femme fatale, can't deny her that.

Much like 'Tank Girl' at no point was this movie ever really going for gold, you know what you're gonna get from it so you know what to expect. Being a fan of the source material might help but in general this was simply a movie for blokes to get hard watching Pammy Anderson kick ass in tight revealing attire, mission accomplished movie.

6/10

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Fury (2014)

I do believe this is the first war film I've seen based around a tank crew...yep! The movie is set in the final days of WWII as the Nazi's are retreating back towards Berlin and the Allies slowly take back Europe. The story is fictional but based around a few actual events and people such as Lafayette G. Pool and Audie Murphy (so I've read). It follows a small five man tank crew as they push deeper into Germany taking control of a small town, dealing with prisoners and locals and eventually being handed orders to defend a set of crossroads for a vital supply route.

OK so this being a modern war film it doesn't skimp on the blood and guts no sir. War films these days are a far cry from when I was a kid as I'm sure many know. There is no holding back as bullets blow soldiers heads off, rip through their bodies with blood spurting everywhere, limbs and corpses strew around, people hung from street lighting, bodies being bulldozed into mass graves etc...in short this film is very graphic. To be honest this is a good thing because it really does show what these conflicts were probably like, its not like a videogame with multiple lives and power-ups, war is real shit and scary shit at that.

The first engagement sequence where the five Sherman tanks are attacked by heavy artillery and trenched troops really shows what it would be like to have high powered weapons (MG42) firing bullets in your face. The sound effects are incredible here as the bullets seem to zing past your own head but it also shows how insanely easy it was to get blown away in the first five minutes. Another sequence that really brought the danger crashing home is when the Allied regiment takes a small German town. As the troops and tanks slowly crawl through the streets clearing the buildings one by one they are hit by hidden snipers and more MG42's from windows high up and cellar openings. The powerful MG42 machine gun fire from one cellar blows one soldiers leg clean off as it wipes out a group of men in seconds. Its truly heart stopping as the gun fire gives your speakers a good pounding and bullets zip through men like a hot knife through butter, alas we still cannot break away from obvious CGI blood.



Yes the visuals are top notch all round with accurate weaponry, uniforms, vehicles, buildings and locations, its very highly polished production of course. As for the story...weeeeell not so much really, its a predictable slightly generic affair truth be told, it lets the project down really. On the other hand what else would you expect I guess. But come on...they use the oldest most cliched trick in the book, the new recruit who joins the team with zero war experience and nobody really likes him. The other guys pick on him, make fun of him and don't really help him out, not even the Sgt! We follow this wet behind the ears rookie as he discovers what war is really like, the horrors, the violence...even by his fellow troops. Hell his Sgt even forces him to execute an unarmed prisoner of war. Naturally as time moves on he becomes more at ease with the situation and the other men finally accept him as one of the team...yep cliched is an understatement.

The other oldest cliche in the book would be the simple last man standing routine the plot goes down towards the end. You can see it coming a  mile away and sure enough the moment comes when instead of fleeing the oncoming Germans the Sgt decides to make a ridiculous stand against all odds. Sure enough all his men decide one by one to stand by their Sgt and also commit suicide in this last stand. Romantic, heroic and balls of steel no doubt...but unbelievably cliched and stupid at the same time.

This leads to the biggest problem in the movie, the characters and the fact they're all A-holes...even Brad Pitt. Yes the whole crew are a bunch of annoying shits that I couldn't get behind at all. You are suppose to be rooting for these guys but you can't because they're all so generally unlikable. Don't get me wrong the performances are solid, each member of the cast holds his own and does a good job (including LaBeouf) but the characters they play are just soulless nasty grunts. The worst of which being Coon-Ass (don't blame me that's his actual name) played by Jon Bernthal who is basically an uneducated, illiterate (I'm guessing), uncaring bully who has been at war too long. There is always a character like this in war movies admittedly but this guy constantly gives the rookie a hard time and is virtually blind to the horror unfolding around him. What really annoyed me is the other guys, who aren't as bad, do nothing to stop him, in fact they back him up and laugh with him...which kinda makes them all scum basically.

















So that was a huge issue with the movie, the tank crew you're suppose to be caring about and rooting for are fundamentally unlikable so you don't really care what happens to them. Its only at the very end do you start to care for these guys as they each get killed off...yet I still ask myself why. Its only with Brad Pitts last dying words do you actually give a shit about his gruff character with the silly haircut. The fact he kills unarmed prisoners didn't help his case from the start. That also got me thinking...did the Allies really execute unarmed prisoners of war during WWII? I'm sure its possible but I've always been led to believe that our boys didn't do that kind of thing.

There were some other minor negative bits that stood out for me. The German tanks and artillery seemed to be useless shots, in the field battle sequence the Allies were in clear range with no obstructions yet the Germans missed them constantly. The Allies were virtually shooting blind at a line of trees and bushes yet they hit their marks every time. Also did anyone else notice the Allied gunfire was red whilst the German gunfire was blue? it looked like a laser battle from the future. I know its tracer fire but did they use that in WWII or was it so we (the audience) could see what was going on?
Lastly that entire sequence where the Sgt and the rookie meet two German women in the town they took control of goes on way too long. This sequence starts off OK showing a bit of humanity from the Americans until the Sgt lets the rookie have sex with the youngest woman as if it was a reward, she then falls in love with him straight away oddly. Despite that things are seemingly going OK until the rest of the crew barge in and it all goes down hill, which was one of the reasons why I didn't like any of these characters.

Its a raw depiction of the era for sure and its certainly engaging showing us the joys of a deadly cramped life inside a mobile steel shell, but there are so many strange elements that just didn't sit right with me. Mainly a crew of misfits led by a man who shoots an unarmed prisoner in the back at one point then helps out two innocent women the next...where do you stand with this guy?! The final last stand was also way too far fetched and typically Hollywood which really made me think this was a simple action flick disguised as and attempting to be a thought provoking war movie. It was almost more about the guns and war machinery than the human element...but undeniably exciting nonetheless.

7/10


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Rush (2013)



Again its another title that doesn't really come across too well for me, is there a reason behind this? I'm guessing there must be because on its own it sounds a bit weak honesty. So back in 1976 (two years before I was created) there were these two F1 drivers. James Hunt a good looking, blonde haired, blue eyed aristocratic British playboy type, and Niki Lauda, a dark curly haired not too good looking Austrian. This is a biographical about their roots in racing and mainly the 1976 F1 season which was a face-off between the two, never mind the rest of the field, it was all about these two.

It all kicks off in the UK in Crystal Palace Park, South London where both men are are already at each others throats in F3 racing. This is where we meet up with both drivers and find out what cliched caricatures they really are. This is a true story yet its amazing how comicbook-esque these blokes were, complete polar opposites. Hunt is good looking with his flowing blonde locks, he's brash, arrogant, always up for a bit of fisticuffs plus he smoked and drank, a complete wildcard. On the other hand Lauda was the stereotypical cold, calculating, precise Germanic opponent that could easily be seen as the Dick Dastardly of the story. Seriously you couldn't have written it any better really, the only similarity was the fact both men came from wealthy backgrounds so you don't have the rags to riches tale here.

We follow the duo as they both enter F1, Hunt with via his small racing team Hesketh and Lauda buying his way in eventually joining Ferrari. After a brief problem trying to enter the 76 F1 season when Hesketh closes down due to no sponsor and Hunt having to join McLaren...the heat is on. The season plays out race by race (almost) with both drivers virtually neck and neck (kinda) to its climatic finale and of course including the horrendous accident that Lauda suffered in Nurburgring.

I will be honest right off the bat here, I have no interest in F1 or anything similar to that, although I am a bit of a car man, but mainly Japanese super saloons. So I went into this expecting to be rather bored, how wrong could I have been! The onscreen chemistry between Hemsworth and Bruhl is crackling, every time they bump into each other I was sucked into their world, I wanted to know more yet I don't know why. Its not like I understood everything they were talking about, I'm not a petrolhead, but it was all so exciting and dare I say...manly.
I mean seriously...Hunt was a man's man, a true roguish daredevil and its infectious, Hemsworth just about portrays that trait well enough to make you wanna leap into an F1 car and blaze away. Although from what I've read it seems the movie has tamed this larger than life personality down a tad, plus his voice was off the mark alas. I kinda think Hemsworth may have gotten his part down to the fact he is simply blonde and a hot ticket right now in all honesty, something inside me thinks if they had looked a bit harder and used an unknown it might have been better.





















I also must give major kudos to Bruhl for his portrayal as Lauder, the perfect foil to Hunt. I loved how Bruhl did seem to capture Lauda's voice, that stout proper Germanic accent with a slight lisp, very impressive and hard work I'm sure. Bruhl also looked very much like the real deal with his curly hair and the infamous slightly protruding front teeth of Lauda. Its really amazing how similar he looks to the man himself, it really sets the tone and mood for the movie.

What really impresses is the movies visuals, right from the start in 1970 everything is faithfully recreated with real cars used throughout. Its really something to see all the old outfits, advertisements, company logos, racing strips and colours, vehicles, track details and of course the classic F1 cars. I fully remember seeing F1 cars with cigarette advertising liveries on them, the old red and white Marlboro, the all black and gold John Player Special, then of course all the classic petrol/oil logos like Shell, Mobil and Elf etc...a real blast from the past and very much enjoyed. On top of that the race sequences were highly engaging and thoroughly exhilarating (I didn't know who won what so even better), everything looked really authentic, really realistic and very well produced, I can't fault anything.



There is never really a moment where I wasn't completely...for lack of a better word...engaged! Despite Hunt seemingly coming across as the good guy in the story that aspect switches from scene to scene. Sometimes Hunt is clearly the man and Lauda is too much of an obsessed rude dick, thinking of racing as more of a meticulous job. Sometimes you feel for Lauda being the more insecure, less attractive, more lonely guy whilst Hunt is showing off for the cameras being an ass. It totally swings in roundabouts which is interesting but ultimately they both played off each other to raise their games, to get better, they ultimately need each other, and of course neither one is the bad guy. Sure there are some moments that are inaccurate such as Hunt beating up a reporter, but again on the other hand there is much here that is very accurate such as Lauda's near-fatal crash.

So yes I'm going there, its happening, I'm giving this sports biopic a full on perfect score. I totally and utterly recommend this even if you don't follow F1 or even like cars, I don't follow F1 but I found it absolutely riveting. A classy super fast super slick British 'Top Gun' with tyres type flick, corking stuff old chap. Now I await the same excellence for motorcycle world champion Barry Sheene, F1 world champion Nigel Mansell and of course daredevil Evel Knievel.

10/10

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Last of Robin Hood (2013)

























Have you heard of Errol Flynn? well I should hope so. The title of this film of course refers to his classic 1938 Curtiz directed swashbuckler 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' which he is probably most remembered for. Alas this is not a biographical surrounding those good old days but the last days of his life which he spent in financial difficulties and dogged by accusations of rape due to his relationship with the much younger Beverly Aadland.

Unfortunately old Errol was too much of a ladies man and it got him into trouble, trouble which admittedly he managed to dodge relatively well for the most part. To this day he is still seen as the ultimate swashbuckler, the dashing handsome rogue with a gleaming smile, slick back wavy hair and that period fashionable pencil thin tash. And he was just that for the best part of his career, a leading Hollywood action man, ladies man, a man's man, he smoked and he drank but that was all part of the suave debonair glitzy Hollywood image. In his later years he ran into money troubles due to bad luck in Hollywood, mainly his unfinished movie 'The Story of William Tell'. His particular brand of movies had become old hat as public taste changed after WWII and added to that he was in bad health from excessive drinking and smoking.

Flynn had been accused of rape before in the 40's but was acquitted, none the less this didn't help his movie career and overall image. The relationship with Aadland during in final years only made things worse really despite the fact she loved Flynn and they were seen as a couple. This film picks up at the time of Errol's death when the press were all over the story trying to splatter his highly controversial last affair across the headlines. With Flynn now gone and unable to defend himself the press came down on Aadland digging for a scoop whilst her mother was seen as encouraging the whole affair...for monetary reasons of course. From there we go back a couple years as the story is told in a flashback leading to the current event, an overused concept if you ask me.

We do indeed learn that Aadland's mother was very much a part of her relationship with Flynn, at first very happy and naturally flattered by it all, then realising Flynn's actual intentions but deciding to pretty much ignore it and carry on. Whether everything we see in this film is actually honesty truthful I don't know, I assume facts have been uncovered and the truth is being exposed...in a relatively tame way of course. The film does seem to skim across the surface of reality to be honest, it did feel like large gaps in the affair were left out, purposefully or not I don't know. On one hand this film wants to give an accurate portrayal of a legend but on the other it also felt like they still wanted to keep things pleasant, as if they didn't really want to tarnish this silver screen star because he was so damn likeable. I mean come on, who doesn't love good old Errol and his sword twirling antics.

The story is the main aspect of a movie like this but the cast is possibly even more important, mainly the man to play Errol. Sure if you like Flynn then a film about his life, whether good or bad, is gonna excite you, but how well the lead actor can portray Flynn is probably the most important and interesting factor here. I think it was obvious that Kevin Kline would play this part, many a time in the past I have looked at Kline with his clear well spoken voice and that little tash he often has and thought he is the epitome of a classic old fashioned Hollywood star. I think we can all agree Kline has always had that pompous swashbuckling presence about him and he is perfect as an aged Errol Flynn...visually at least.

















OK so its not gonna be easy to try and replicate that slight Aussie twang but at least Kline has a good voice to start with, problem is his performance is kinda hammy. That's not all his fault of course as the dialog is pretty darn hokey at times, trying to recapture Flynn's charming ways and of course the time period. Its not a bad performance per say but it just seems more like a parody at times, he has the smiles, grins, leers and winks down to a tee but after a time it feels kinda creepy, its all he has, all he can do, and it feels more like a spoof. Sarandon as Aadland's mother is solid but tends to come across as a twitching wacko murderer just waiting to explode at any moment, like a character out of a Stephen King novel. Lastly Dakota Fanning as the all important Beverly Aadland is probably the best thing here, she looks the part and you can really feel her emotional dilemma, maybe even relate to it, but despite the fact the plot is all about her it seems underwritten for the character.

To look at you'd think this was a TV movie frankly, it doesn't feel like a big production movie which was clearly trying to be an Oscar contender. Visually it looks fine with good authenticity abundant...the vintage cars, interior decor, outfits of the time etc...but it doesn't blow you away, its nothing special, nothing you haven't seen before. Heck 'The Wonder Years' actually looked better than this at times. I did like the tiny shots of 50's New York, real footage boosted with a dab of CGI I think and colour enhancement which looked nice.

The problem with this film is the fact they tend to gloss over the fact that Flynn did in fact rape Aadland when they first met, apparently. Yes she fell in love with him over time and they became a couple but that doesn't really ignore the fact that the movie is saying Flynn did force himself on Aadland, which in turn makes you think he probably did it previously to others. Of course times were different, attitudes were different and you can't really get around that but there should have been some recognition of what happened. The film makes it out to be Flynn merely seducing her with his flashy smile and charms, a simple little bump at the start of their relationship.

The film can't decide whether it wants to be a brutally honest direct biopic or a soft and cuddly love letter to a screen legend. In the end they seem to show what really happened (apparently) but don't take it seriously, there is more of a sentimental vibe going on yet at the same time the film isn't really a happy one. For the most part its mainly about Aadland's mother pushing her daughter into the arms of a very rich and famous aging movie star (ignoring the age issue) so she can reap the benefits. Its a jumbled piece that starts off OK but soon deteriorates into a pretty sad downhearted affair that ends on a dejected note.

4.5/10

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Penguins of Madagascar (2014)





















A fourth sequel in the Madagascar franchise technically but as you can see its a spin-off about those quirky penguins. I guess this was a logical move because lets be honest the main characters in that franchise were a bit annoying and had been milked pretty good. Using these little guys for an all out comedic adventure makes sense yet at the same time it does feel like a desperate move to me. Oddly enough this movie is apparently unrelated to the kids TV series of the same name, and that series was also unrelated to the movie franchise also, kinda makes me ask why and how!

There aren't too many directions this kids movie could of taken in all honesty. The main four characters are a sneaky highly organised team of espionage types...in a cute n funny way...so naturally this means another Bond-esque espionage type adventure (ugh!). Yes that's right, we haven't quite had enough of that genre so hey lets do it some more with penguins, hey how unoriginal could it possibly be??

So there's this octopus right, and he's been the centre of attention in his home zoo for a long time, that is until the penguins turn up and steal his thunder. All of a sudden everybody loves the penguins and Dave the octopus (yes that's right Dave) is kicked to the curb. He is sent off to other zoos where the same thing happens over and over. Eventually Dave gets fed up with this and decides he wants revenge on all penguin kind (in the zoos), so he disguises himself as a human (yes that's right) and sets to work on a secret formula that turns all penguins into green mutant zombie penguins. Only the main four hero penguins can stop him...with a little help from another highly organised team of animal espionage operatives that include a grey wolf, a snowy owl, a polar bear and a harp seal.

Yeah OK this is a kids movie and its complete fluff sure, but this plot is so utterly inane its...um laughable. Since when would an octopus be a zoos main attraction, and you're telling me all these zoos didn't have penguins for such long periods, one of the most common animals in a zoo along with elephants. The octopus is called Dave...Dave!! he disguises himself as a human and has an army of little octopi henchmen...really. What exactly is the point of his plan? to make all penguins ugly mutants and...? then maybe he'll be the centre of attention again...until another creature comes along and steals his thunder.  Did there really need to be another group of animal spies? Because now you have the highly generic cliched idea of the penguins being the inefficient clumsy team that get by on pure luck alongside the really slick cool team that are a very professional no nonsense operation with real skills. Its a standard 101 comedy plot concept people! couldn't you stretch any further than that?!

Yes I know I'm being all kinds of a bad sport by ripping into this children's movie but it just bugs me. They churn out these cookie cutter animation flicks with little care or concern to actual quality, they literately seem to think that using an A-list cast of stars for the voices will somehow make things all better. Yes eggs Benedict Cumberland pie is in this because its the trendy thing to do right now, cast him in everything, who cares. What's that you say...John Malkovich is voicing the octopus villain Dave...well gee that makes all the difference doesn't it.

Everything about this movie is utterly bog standard with little to no imagination involved whatsoever. Yet another espionage parody with the same damn characters over and over, the same adventure, the same gadgets, the same thrills and spills, yet another hip hop music track over the end credits (facepalm!), the same everything!!! Its like they just thought to use the slightly more popular characters from the Madagascar franchise and try to milk them dry with their own franchise that's actually pretty much the same shit as the Madagascar films...oh wait, that's exactly what they've done. I admit the only thing that is remotely enjoyable here are the four penguins and their slapstick tomfoolery, albeit only two of them are actually any good. Tom McGrath as the leader Skipper is easily the best thing here with his Zapp Brannigan-like voice whilst the brains of team Kowalski comes in second.

Its all about on par with the other Madagascar movies and its annoying menagerie of characters, and just as daft. I have moaned about silly things yes and I know the movie is completely off the wall and isn't suppose to make a lick of sense, but I think that route can really be a mistake at times. I find it much funnier when you take a fantasy concept like this and merge it within grounded reality like 'Toy Story' so there are actual realistic laws to abide by. When its just a free fall of silliness it doesn't always work, some originality helps too of course. The bright colourful visuals will keep kids entertained I'm sure but the frantic lunacy and horribly overused cliched ideas will bore most adults I think, and no Benedict Cumberbatch doesn't make this any better.

4/10

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Boat That Rocked (aka Pirate Radio, UK, 2009)





















I kinda see this as a companion piece to the earlier British comedy 'Still Crazy', or they could exist in same universe at least. As for the title I think the US version is much better really, the original UK title is a bit of a mouth full, mind you other Euro versions are quite radical also. In France its called 'Good Morning England' which is quite the rip-off frankly, in Germany its 'Radio Rock Revolution' and in Italy its 'I Love Radio Rock'. So all in all this movie has the most title changes ever it seems...all of which are actually better than the original UK one I think.

The quaint little story here is straight forward, back in the 60's rock and pop was frowned upon by the stale old crusty stiff upper lipped British government. A government that is still clearly set in the 50's and wasn't ready or willing to accept the free flowing hippie movement and its drastic changes. During this time pirate radio stations were set up to play tunage that was considered not cricket, but to avoid British law these musical rebels set up shop in the North Sea away from land-set restrictions and out of reach. Although inspired by real pirate radio stations of the time this fictional story sees a group of ragtag DJ's on a rusty old trawler blasting the UK with dangerous rock n roll. At the same time the dastardly Kenneth Branagh and his sidekick are trying their upmost to shut them down.



The plot is actually quite similar to 'Still Crazy' with the basic premise of a young man joining a group of older men to go on a wild immature adventure of sorts. In 'Still Crazy' a young man joins the band, here a young man joins the radio crew, both films focusing on all of the characters giving us multiple subplots. As you can imagine all of these little character driven stories revolve around the simple issues of sex, booze, relationships, having a good time and battling against the establishment. Each character has their own little quirk that is pretty predictable and highly cliched in a typically rude crass British kind of way, nothing wrong with that of course, you expect it right from the start but its seen in virtually every British comedy.

Apparently you simply cannot make a British comedy without Bill Nighy and here he plays the same type of rigid character yet again. Rhys Ifans plays another slimy creepy generally unlikable character, Nick Frost plays...errr...the fat bloke...again, and then pad out the rest with various familiar faces which most Brits will recognise in some form or another but everyone else won't. The only real breath of fresh air in this cast is Hoffman as the rebellious brash US DJ which gives the film a sense of 'Good Morning Vietnam' vs traditional British toilet humour...at times.

The establishment that is trying to ruin everyone's fun is played in its entirety by Kenneth Branagh, a strict headmaster-esque government minister who thinks rock n roll is corrupting young minds. His sidekick played by Jack Davenport is surprisingly not a half wit as you might expect but a clever devious subordinate who digs up legal loopholes. Together these two make a reasonably fun pair of bad guys (not really bad of course) and do offer most of the entertainment character wise. Sure it might have been cliched to make them a bumbling pair of Laurel and Hardy types but maybe that might have worked in the films favour? None the less Branagh plays the sniveling jobsworth suit to a tee with his grovelling to the Prime Minister. Alas they did let everything down by naming Davenport's character Twatt...a totally lame and unfunny gag that seems rather childish, they couldn't think of anything better than that?!

By now I'm sure most of you must know what to expect with a comedy like this, all the usual Brit gags visual or otherwise, like I said its the same spiel in all UK comedy flicks (with almost the same cast). Being based on pirate radio of course this means the sexual innuendo gags are through the roof! add to that lots of frat house-like tomfoolery, soppy lovin' and a brief spot of nudity. What can I say, its silly and infantile but its still a good, warm-hearted relaxing flick with a solid soundtrack and a surprisingly semi-emotional finale. Its just not as funny as you'd like it to be.

6/10

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Money Pit (1986)





















One of the early Hanks comedies that cemented his position as one of the hottest upcoming comedy stars in Hollywood (after 'Splash'). Even though this movie has been overlooked for me its easily one of his better early movies. Although most of Hanks films have an abundance of heart this one also has a relatable subject in house renovation.

Tom Hanks (Walter) and Shelley Long (Anna) buy a huge country mansion that would normally go for around one million, but because the place is falling apart (unbeknownst to them) its going for $200,000. The initial joke being in this day and age this ginormous property would be selling for a lot more than one measly million, but that's to be expected. The laughs come thick and fast as they realise the mansion is a lemon and is literately coming apart bit by bit. They have been well and truly had by the previous owner.



Now far be it for me to nitpick at a light-hearted piece of comedy gold from the classic Tom Hanks 80's era but...lets go. The couple say they have no money whatsoever, indeed they have to borrow a shit-tonne just to buy the place, yet when they move in they are faced with massive repairs. The question that springs to mind is how on earth they afford to pay for all this. Sure both of them work so that will help but my God this mansion clearly requires some hefty workmanship that ain't gonna come cheap. Some of the things that go wrong are definitely laugh out loud worthy but Jesus the cost!!

Huge holes in the floor, a new bath tub, new electrics, new TV, new front door and surrounding wooden frame, broken windows, an entire new chimney both interior and exterior plus new fireplace, complete new plumbing, huge new wooden staircase, holes in the roof etc...Take into account that this is a property bordering on a stately home and most fittings will need specialist attention and most probably with handmade craftsmanship to boot! The staircase alone would of cost an absolute fortune, and then the entire chimney stack!! So I am left wondering how they could even begin to pay for all this on top of the fact they have borrowed money to buy the house. Hanks character does put down an initial down payment of $5,000 but I doubt that would even begin to cover much.


What is so sickly about the whole thing (so cutesy) is the fact that whilst all this is going on, in between all the horror that unfolds around them...both try and remain calm, expressing their love for each other and with Anna constantly reminding Walter everything will be OK. In reality I'm sure most people would have a break down. The weird aspect in the movie is that the building contractors appear to be this clan of fetish circus freaks. Big muscle men in bondage gear, little people and various types of punks all driving the type of vehicles you'd expect to find in the Mad Max franchise. Not really sure why they went down that route because it isn't particularly funny...just odd. I guess its suppose to freak you out because it looks like they're gonna ruin the place or squat there and the love birds will have more trouble on their hands.

I think people can relate to this movie simply because many will have experience of buying a place and having problems occur, be it down the line or straight away. I'm sure some will have experience that will have been just as horrific as in this movie, so watching this will certainly hit home for some. Indeed it does make you wince whilst watching, seeing this amazing mansion slowly crumble bit by bit, it does make your palms sweat at the thought of the spiralling costs whilst at the same time make you glad its not real...or its not you. Its all harmless fun with some good stunts, a bit of slapstick, a lovely real time house presumably combined with sets and an overly energetic Hanks. Oh and what's this...Anna's ex-husband is the main psychotic German henchman terrorist from 'Die Hard', how bout that.

6/10