Thursday, 28 February 2013

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Colour me amazed! what in the name of Greek buggery has happened here?! The first film was a complete and utter abomination which brought shame upon Hollywood, it wasn't good enough to buff the boots of the original. I still don't think anyone knows what Harryhausen thought of it.

So I didn't have high hopes for this sequel, which I think is understandable. But to my amazement this franchise has done a complete U-turn and actually come up with a semi decent film, well at least in looks anyway.

Bottom line this is a monster mash of epic proportions, its takes the concept of the original Harryhausen masterpiece and expands it ten fold with dazzling imagery. This is really what they should have done with the first remake instead of making crap up, but what I really can't get my head around is why this sequel looks SO MUCH BETTER than the first! The last film had the Kraken which did look damn fine, but even that doesn't come close to anything in this sequel.

All the monsters here look terrific, yes there is a time lapse between films of course but the divide between quality here is huge!! What can I say about Kronos...a colossus of an effect, eye popping! I haven't been so impressed by a CGI effect since Gods knows when, I can't remember. He just looked stunning, stunningly real, as if they actually did awaken a real god from the fiery depths of the underworld, colour me stunned! The only creature I didn't like was the Minotaur which looked like a naff character from 'Mortal Kombat' (Motaro without his horse back end).

To be brutally honest the film is kept alive by the effects, the rest of the film is filled with pitiful acting and some of the most bizarre collection of accents for ancient Greece ever. The hero has an Aussie accent, Bill Nighy for some reason uses a Yorkshire accent (Northern England), how on earth they came to that decision I don't know. Finally you have Agenor who is said to be a thief so of course they give him a London cockney accent! why?? what are they implying?

Yes the film is basic pantomime but so was the original classic. The cast list isn't quite as impressive as the classic but it suffices and everybody does their bit to try for that grandiose epic taste. The whole film does look really really good with lovely locations, great costumes, beautiful landscapes and a solid score.

In short I think they have finally captured the classic fun adventurous look of ancient Greek mythology just as they did all those years ago with classic films like 'Jason and the Argonauts'. Yes this sequel does follow pretty much the same pattern as the first, ending with a big monster to battle in the exact same way with virtually the same outcome, but because it all looks so crisp you really don't mind or notice too much.

This new film gives you exactly what we wanted all along and what the classic did perfectly...well created mythological monsters. For once the CGI does do the trick as it should and could if used properly. Ignore the first film this is what you've been waiting for, hopefully the third will continue the goodness.


Clash of the Titans (2010)

I went into this film thinking it would be good...boy was I wrong! this is an epic failure of errr epic proportions, in short I hated it, it is bad, very bad. For starters if possible its actually more hammy and cheesy than the original, the God scenes on Mount Olympus are awful and look like something outta Flash Gordon, I realise its suppose to be heavenly but the shiny silver armor?? come on, surely they could of been a little less camp.

That's just for starters, the acting from everyone (and I mean EVERYONE!!) is terrible, really bad and I see what people have been saying about Worthington now, a really poor performance here, almost TV movie standards. The less said about Neeson and Fiennes panto performances the better (the CGI on show that accompanied Fiennes was laughable, simply awful).

As for the film its just a jumbled mess and takes a totally different path to the original making it completely wrong frankly, as usual Hollywood MUST add or make up new stuff and ruin the entire story, why? Christ knows. For some reason we have a whole new species of blue eyed rock creatures or something, they look ridiculous, like something outta 'Zena Warrior Princess', plus we hardly see Calibos or Pegasus and there are just huge chunks missing in the story involving Calibos and Pegasus, I could go on.

The other stand out failure was certain scenes and the look of the film, the river Styx scene for example, in the original its filmed on location, its eerie, misty, you don't see much of the boatman which lends a nice air of spookiness, its a really nice setup. In the new version its clearly on a set, you see the boatman fully taking all atmosphere out of the scene and the boat is fudging huge! Second example, Medusa's lair, in the original its dark, tense, quite eerie and spooky, stone people everywhere,
Medusa is actually quite a scary creature and like in all good fantasy films she is hidden until the last moment. In the new version we see Medusa almost straight away, she has a human face which isn't scary, its not eerie or in the least bit tense, zero atmosphere. Clearly another tacky set with over the top CGI and its all over too quickly with silly big effect stunts and leaping around. I think the term less is more sums up the film comparisons perfectly here, this new version getting it lost in translation.

Only plus points...the Kraken is pretty wicked looking and Pegasus is smart looking despite being the wrong colour. His wings are the best CGI in the film and there's a lovely little cameo from Bubo thank the Gods.
I can't recommend this, its an insult to the original classic, its terrible, no heart and soul and is just another overblown CGI mess. Such a shame and wasted chance, I really hope they don't remake any other classic Harryhausen films, stick the far superior original.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Resident Evil: Damnation (2012)

Right I'm gonna be honest here and admit I lost the plot with Resi Evil along time ago. I had the very first original game and followed the plot easily. Since then the story has spiralled off in various directions and has morphed into something quite different from the original simple idea.

Thusly I am completely unable to determine if this new CGI animated sequel is accurate or follows on from any part of the numerous videogames. Of course the bottom line is if you wanna see a good proper Resi Evil flick then this is what you watch, unlike the comicbook style live action films.

Yes this film is bloody and violent with no holds barred on what you expect from the Resi Evil franchise. I'm confident any fans will get a kick outta this new offering with some great creature action, zombie action and your obligatory slow motion action sequences which show off the crisp CGI to the smallest pixel.

For me...I didn't really like it. Why? because the plot is sooooo so unexplained, do you have to be a Resi Evil fanboy to get this? No reason for anything that happens or why, characters are dull and stereotypical plus it just feels like a long videogame ingame sequence, but I guess that can't really be helped. I also found the CGI to be very very good on the human characters, especially facial close ups, but rather average on pretty much everything else! Lip syncing on speech is still somewhat lacking and looks a bit crappy.

As for plot points, I didn't like the fact certain humans can now control the Bio-Organic Weapons through their mind via some kind of technological advancement. That advancement being an 'Alien 3' rip where by the Bio-Organic Weapon uses a human host to live in which creates a connection between the two, eh? I also didn't understand where all this BOW's came from either, this one guy controlled them and there seemed to be a never ending stream of the things...from nowhere.

Other issues cropped up like the zombies going round stuffing these embryo type things down uninfected peoples throats. I guess they were the BOW embryo's that would enable humans to control them, but why would the zombies be doing that? who is controlling the zombies? oh my!
Finally who or what on earth were these huge pale bald Mortal Kombat looking characters in the finale?? Just popped up from nowhere, virtually indestructible and looked like the alien space jockeys from 'Prometheus'.

What really bugs me about Resi Evil now is the fact its become a kind of monster mash with no real suspense anymore. Its just a guns blazing, blood spilling, in your face monster brawl along the lines of Mortal Kombat, the original spooky horror element has faded away for pure adrenaline soaked action. I also feel the whole idea has been milked too much and the Umbrella company lost its mystery yonks ago.

This is definitely the kind of Resi Evil film your looking for if your a fan but for uninitiated folk like myself it may seem a bit hectic and raise many questions. Questions like...what on Titan is going on here?!


Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)

This is probably the best Resi film to date simply because it looks like a good computer game with some nice looking CGI. Its also the best all CGI film based on a computer game I've seen, smashing 'Final Fantasy', although its been some time since I've seen that.

The whole plot isn't much to talk about, its the usual zombie/monster thing, running around dark corridors with a torch and escaping huge research labs that keep having huge meltdowns etc...The thing is with these CGI flicks is they are based within the real Resi Evil videogames unlike the dodgy live action films. This alone gives them the edge which even someone like me can recognise, and I'm no fanboy.

Its very atmospheric, you really feel a chill as you follow the characters around. The airport rescue is the most creepy part of the film while the battle against Curtis in mutated form is the most exciting. Despite being released in 2008 this film is actually the first animated Resi Evil film, without going into all the messy details this film will no doubt appeal to the hard core fans big time. Everyone else (such as myself) will find a good horror film but obviously not pick up on all the in-game nods, there are plenty...right??

Its very predictable right to the end, the plot is cliched but its perfect for what it is, which is another chapter in the Resi storyline. Does kinda make you wonder if the bad people in these stories will actually ever learn that making viruses is bad and only results in mass zombie infection problems. Yet no matter what happens there is always some crazy-ass at the end who will kick start the whole thing all over again. Baddies huh, never learn.


Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Well I hate to say this but you really do need knowledge of the videogame and all previous four films to understand what goes on here. This franchise is one long story and I must say its been handled well with great continuity and an exciting plot, a real hook to the chops that drags you in.

The plot continues yet again from the cliff hanger ending of the previous installment, once more invincible Alice is running from the Umbrella Corp and trying to save mankind. Once again she has a new team of allies to get splatted and eaten one by one as, yet again, she escapes another Umbrella facility, this time under the sea.

You do get the impression they have run out of ideas for this new film. All the previous films have a memorable setting, almost like levels in a videogame believe it or not. The first film was in the Umbrella Hive facility, second film was a suburban setting in Raccoon City, third film was a desert setting and the fourth film was in a prison setting. This new film is just in another Umbrella facility which happens to be under the sea, but that's it, they toss in lots of other testing zones within the facility just to show as many zombie battle locations as possible which seems cheap.

I also didn't really like the inclusion of old characters from past films in zombie/clone form. Again this just seemed a little cheap trying to revive past success (sort of success) from the previous films by sticking in the old characters.

In my previous reviews I have mentioned that these films have pretty much copied the basic Aliens survival plot with a team of...survivors. Funnily enough this new fifth film actually goes one step further by giving us a Ripley and Newt subplot rip off right down to even copying an alien...errr I mean Licker pinching Alice's little girl and cocooning her! We then get an almost identical dialog sequence with Alice telling West the kid is still alive and she's going after her like it or not. Oh and a mechanical facehugger bit too. Jesus Anderson lets not actually steal scenes now!

Speaking of the Licker, this giant one is actually pretty cool, looks down right nasty and bites peoples heads off with spurting blood! nice. The CGI wasn't too bad either, its just in the end its a complete anti climax once invincible Alice finds it.

The new team for zombie chow time isn't as good as previous films either. They don't last too long for starters so we don't get to know them, they're just a small team of blokes who are trying too hard to be butch. Leon is crafted well and looks like his videogame counterpart but my god does the actor try for the Eastwood thing. The only other guy of interest is Barry who isn't as pretty as Leon but much more guff and gritty but both of course have huge arms, why wouldn't they? The other two guys we find out nothing and don't see much either, where as Alice's new best friend Ada Wong is a nice sexy double act for the chaps. She does everything in a dinner dress too! (doesn't she ever get cold in that?! she's in the Arctic!).

This is probably the most videogame-like film of the franchise with its internal test zones and duplicated characters all over the shop. It doesn't hold in your memory like the previous films with its bland setting plus there's the usual plot issues like why Wesker wants to now help mankind, I thought he was a super mutant monster thingy and how come the zombies are now almost intelligent to the point where they can hunt underwater! Isn't that kinda checkmate in terms of places left to go? Las Plagas parasite? you see you gotta know the game background somewhat, or so I've read.

Of course by now we all know not to look into these things too much with this series. In terms of action, excitement, violence and plot surprisingly, this film does deliver. I must also admit to LOVING that final sequence from the White House, surely most people got a kick outta that enticing visual tease. It looked like a Peter Jackson inspired sequence for the horror genre, my interest levels are rising.


Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

With probably the most over the top, outlandish, in your face action sequence you've seen for sometime comes the fourth entry of the endless Resi Evil franchise. Now I REALLY am gonna try and not mention a certain Keanu Reeves sci-fi action film involving bullet time too much if possible but its gonna be hard.

This outrageously insane kamikaze opening sequence where all the clone Alice's storm the Umbrella Tokyo Headquarters is actually a guilty pleasure I must admit. Its so ridiculously stupid using every cliche in the action film textbook and rips every possible slick visual imagery you can think of from various other action/sc-fi films...yet its great fun. Jovovich/Alice is sleek, sexy and deadly as the clones tear the faceless Umbrella stormtroopers apart with machine guns and katanas. Bloody squibs bursting from the seams, bullet holes, hits to the head by Wesker on his own men at point blank range, beheadings...oh my!!

Only one question begs to be answered, where did all those Alice clones get all those identical figure hugging catsuits??

So the drudgery continues as Alice goes from one area to the next battling the undead and watching more and more of hers allies go down one by one. This time she lands her plane on a huge prison in LA, not too sure why she would quite clearly get herself stuck on this prison, let alone almost killing herself and Claire whilst trying to land on the roof. But she does because there are survivors there...but surely anyone would just fly by and find a more secure place? this prison is surrounded by millions of zombies! pfft your funeral.

The ensemble cast is actually pretty cool in this, on the same page as the first film although not many famous names. Alongside Alice in this prison we have the token black guy who runs around in a vest so we can see his big muscles, at least he's well spoken. Standard fare sexy brunette who is British (at least she isn't a blonde), the excellent Kim Coates as a slimy film producer (nice touch Mr Anderson), a funny little oriental fellow, standard fare tough guy backup number two called Angel and Wentworth Miller who again is behind bars.

To be totally frank this fourth film is completely run of the mill, bog standard stuff in terms of plot. Its simply another setup for Alice to pile drive into with a new team of zombie fodder at her side. The thing is like the first film its still quite an enjoyable ride, its totally predictable, totally cliched and pretty much rehashes the same stuff all over again but in a different location. But thanks to a quirky cast the film is pretty cool I think.

There are still plot questions that hit me, especially as this is now the fourth film. Anyone notice that the Umbrella Company has so many underground bases? also they are VAST underground bases! How and when did they build them?? (under Tokyo??!!), how are Umbrella so rich n powerful? Where on earth do all the Umbrella henchmen come from? how come they are always safe? where do they get all their guns and ammo? how come they are so useless and why would they wanna do their evil job? why does Umbrella carry on playing with the dead when the human race is almost extinct?! and finally not being a game player...who was that huge axe wielding guy? where the heck did he come from?

I must also ask why the cities in this franchise are in ruins? the undead are eating everyone not blowing up buildings, so why are they all stripped down to their structures and burnt out? The other main question was why some zombies can now run and have tentacles coming out of their mouths just like the vamps in 'Blade II'. When did this evolution occur?

I can't delve deeper for obvious reasons, the film is what it is and we all know this, its Resi Evil, don't question that. The film does deliver in my opinion, it gives you what you expect with some decent visuals and good close quarter action. The finale against Wesker is just as insanely Matrix-like as the opening sequence and just as mind bogglingly daft, maybe more so. The rock soundtrack in the background means its officially cool, its official.

You do feel the tension in these films when the heat is on and its time to escape from somewhere. The fact Alice isn't a superhero this time boosts the film giving a sense of uncertainty for once, even though you know she still won't die, still helps.


Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

A change of pace for the third film as we move outta urban settings and weapons/laboratory facility type settings for the open desert. Yep Resi Evil goes for the 'Mad Max' look complete with heavily armoured vehicles including the good old petrol tanker, you just can't go wrong with a tanker in your desert based fantasy flick.

The image of Alice being more of a elemental/supernatural type superhero is enforced more in this new film after we learned how badass she was in number two. A motley band of survivors once again are in deep doo doo being attacked by hundreds of ravenous crows (crows in the Mojave desert?), until Alice pops up and saves the day by scorching all the crows to a fiery death with the mind powers she learnt from Professor X.

The plot is just like all the other films, a small group of survivors in a different setting, getting taken down one by one, until only Alice and maybe two others remain for the next sequel (where those two normally get killed off early on). I quite liked the idea of Alice roaming the Southwestern US outback looking for supplies and survivors but stumbling across crazy killers that like to watch people get eaten by zombie dogs. You could totally see that happening in the US with all those religious nut jobs over there, real 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' type folk in the sticks over there.

On the subject of zombie dogs, why are they always rottweilers? what has happened to every other type of dog? is there some kind of special sale on zombie rottweilers?? cos they are everywhere!

Actually this film felt somewhat muted and not as action packed if you can believe that. Looking back over all of the films this one definitely has a slightly slower pace, less interesting characters and less action...apart from the usual mass of gunshots to zombie heads. On the other hand the visuals seem more realistic (deserts always seem to look good on film) and the zombies look good, grittier. The sequence where the main bad scientist guy tries to domesticate a captured zombie harks back to the classic 'Return of the Living Dead' zombie franchise (third film), nice touch.

Despite a more straight tone as it were, this film does suffer from not being quite the ballistic overdrive of action the rest are. It almost doesn't quite fit within the franchise really but I liked the fresh location. The whole film does feel a little bit of an anti climax though, the finale with the mutated creature sums that up pretty well, but as usual the setup for the next sequel intrigues.


Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Jill Valentine and three other people are holed up in an abandoned church trying to escape the ever growing army of zombies within Raccoon City (one of the stupidest names for a city ever!). They are in a battle against a group of Lickers and almost out of ammo, things look bleak.

Suddenly a bright shines through the huge stained glass window...Alice blows through the glass mounted on top of a motorbike. She lands perfectly, informs the survivors to take cover and proceeds to blow away all the Lickers one by one in an eye shattering display of slow motion action enough to give any fanboy a hard on. At this exact moment the franchise dies, this is where the Resi Evil film franchise loses the gritty grown up 'Aliens' clone formula of the first film and enters the realm of hyper martial arts and lots and lots of slow motion action.

The character of Alice has been experimented on since the last film, apparently, which now gives her superhuman strength, speed and agility. This in turn takes the character and the film into the world of 'The Matrix' and absurd action set pieces.

Don't get me wrong the film isn't entirely bad, the atmosphere and visuals of the film are decent whilst the abandoned Raccoon City is created very well. You do get a great sense of dread from the deserted city, it feels dangerous and eerie with a really nice dark tone.

The film is still pretty adult I must say, there is plenty of blood, some gore and quite a few jump in your seat moments. The general survival concept is along the same lines as the first film with a small band of people trying to escape the City, its a solid idea which works. The problem is the inclusion of Alice who drags the film down utterly with her over the top macho invincibility.

The inclusion of Nemesis was of course required by all Resi fans and he is faithfully created, amazingly, although a bit rubbery. Not being a fanboy myself I just don't get why the Umbrella Corp would release this huge monster simply to kill the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members. Was this some kind of field test? and the fact they planned to nuke the City wouldn't that somewhat negate their precious creation? On top of that they make Alice fight this big guy for no real reason other than to have an exciting finale fight in the film...oh and something about seeing who is stronger, err why??? All that work just to have him fight Alice?!

The problem as said before is quite simply the character of Alice and the fact we have to follow her around from one superhero sequence to the next. On top of that you have the pathetic alpha female rivalry between Jill and Alice (and both actresses) as both compete for sexiest zombie killer. Jill wins purely down to her ridiculously skimpy outfit which is obviously in there just for the teen male audience. Because of course most special unit cops wear tight hot pants and a tight vest when in terror situations...wait this is a serious film?

Its a brave attempt which literately just keeps its head above the waves and manages to be a reasonable film. Shame about all the slow motion crap but this is what happens when Jovovich is in a film. The film is basically let down by stupid action sequences which vomit on your suspension of disbelief, had these bits been more sensible or relatively realistic then the film could have been pretty solid.


Resident Evil (2002)

There was much trepidation when this came to bloom way back in 02, an adaptation of the highly popular zombie horror videogame franchise? hmmm. Anderson's first foray into the adaptation world after some reasonable films like 'Soldier' and 'Event Horizon', his CV didn't look too shabby but previous attempts at this sort of genre proved dismal.

Amazingly enough this first offering in what is now an overly ridiculous 'Matrix' 'Blade' 'Underworld' monster mash mess is actually quite good and sticks to the original formula. It all kicks off inside the well known mansion but in an imaginative spin delves deep underground to the secret Umbrella facility. Here we get a very admirable 'Aliens' type thriller as a team of commandos battle to survive against a sadistic mega computer that runs the facility and of course lots of undead creatures/monsters.

So the whole film is contained within the underground labs instead of roaming the mansion which at first seemed wrong. Maybe they could of done with some mansion action but it actually works well. Later adaptation 'Doom' does seem somewhat similar in premise though, slight case of concept rip methinks.

Naturally the effects are mostly CGI for the creatures and they do now look rather crappy, very obvious. Of course you can't pan a film for that but the CGI hasn't dated well, where as sets and overall look for the film isn't too bad, zombies look a bit childish though. It is nice to see most of the videogame nasties in the film though, Anderson certainly did well not to stray far from the source yet add to it as well. Zombie dogs which aren't fully CGI  but real dogs with makeup is a nice touch, a hint of the crows and Lickers which are good n scary...accept for the fact they are all fully CGI. The Red Queen computer character is a good addition to the fray and quite eerie at times also 'you're all going to die down here'.

This film is a welcome presentation of the franchise and shows what can be done if done properly. Its still mind boggling to me that the film is actually a reasonably scary horror flick! there are quite a few good jumpy moments and certainly no hesitation with blood. A creation of slow building dread and suspense is well handled throughout, alongside some nifty visual moments and a good if slightly cliched bunch of commandos all adds up to a darn fun ride.

Yes you can see many steals from other similar films (the usual tough bunch of soldiers taken down one by one) and the characters are all generic copies stemmed from a certain Cameron film but the fact its not a kiddie flick and watered down is fantastic and astonishing. There is no silly slow motion nonsense, no over the top set pieces, actually Jovovich plays it for real and isn't a Selene clone from 'Underworld'...yet.

Probably the best of the series if you ask me, and it was an Anderson film!! Its formulaic and cliched but still provides enough punch to do what its suppose to do...pretty much like the 'Doom' film.


Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (US, NZ 2003)

The final chapter in this epic story and its an all out conquest that most probably gave all Games Workshoppers a joygasm. The last film was for battle whores where as this film is most surely for the complete war sluts.

There isn't really all that much story left in this final segment, the way Jackson has arranged it. Its merely about the last struggle up to Mount Doom for Frodo and Sam and lots of battles for everyone else. I have watched the extended cut so this way you get to see what happens to Saruman and Wormtongue which is rather stupidly left out of the theatrical version. Without this sequence you basically have no idea where these two guys go.

The only main thing that happens to Frodo and Sam until their important final act is the scuffle against Shelob the spider. Now the CGI has improved somewhat over the course of these three films and finally its looking pretty nice times. The whole battle against this massive spider is really well done and creepy enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. I liked the corpses entwined in cobweb and dangling from the cave ceiling and Shelob moves perfectly which is pretty terrifying for any arachnophobics.

Lets not beat around the bush here, this film is about war, full on axe swinging, sword wielding, arrow in the gut wrenching waaaaar!. This is enforced by the fact that half the film centres around the battle at Minas Tirith. Pretty much the same deal as the battle at Helm's Deep but this time its in daylight and with a few more baddies to content with. Personally I actually preferred the Helm's Deep battle with its dark rain swept visuals and the fact the good guys are really pushed right back to the limit.

That's not to say the Minas Tirith battle is no good, far from it, its very good. The design of Tirith is also really nice and unique, dare I say slightly Star Wars-like with that landing platform type section. Its the siege to top all sieges as orcs, trolls, deformed cross breeds and Nazgûl atop their flying steeds led by the Witch King hit the walls of Tirith. Its balls to wall as thousands of orcs slam every side of the mighty Tirith walls with battering rams, catapults and mobile turrets. Can't fail to be impressed by the shear scale of this battle and the wonderful imagination involved, the sight of masses of orcs scaling ramparts whilst huge trolls use the wolf's head to batter down the main gates is pretty darn epic, without trying to sound too cliched.

At the same time you have the smaller battle at Osgiliath where Faramir is getting whipped pretty good but looking heroic in the process (shame he's played by Wenham who always comes across a bit wet if you ask me). Cut back to Tirith and like the previous big battles Jackson likes to swing the odds as the good guys appear to be winning only to be knocked back time and time again. Lucas must have been kicking himself.

Just as you're pausing for breath the next stage of the battle kicks into gear with the Haradrim (who look suspiciously like ancient Persians) on their massive elephant-like war machines. This sequence did feel very much like a rip from 'The Empire Strikes Back' and the Battle of Hoth. Éowyn and Merry charge around on their horse through the legs of these massive beasts of burden just like Luke in his snowspeeder.

The whole sequence is highly imaginative yet possibly one of the worst looking sequences in the film. This is where the dreaded bluescreen issue raises its head again folks. It doesn't really look much better than the quality of the speederbike sequence on Endor in ROTJ, its very obvious. All the CGI horses look a bit jerky, especially when they are tossed in the air and the fact that Éowyn is able to simple take down one these ginormous creatures merely by slashing its tree trunk like legs with a puny sword is stretching it.

The sequence where Legolas jumps onto one elephant (I'll call it that for now) via its tusk then proceeds to leap around its body like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cutting all the straps and harnesses whilst killing every Haradrim warrior on board, then killing the elephant, then calmly sliding down the tusk to safety was completely not needed and horrible to watch. Both in terms of the awful CGI and the over the top, glossy action movie conception of it. Things like that can spoil a perfectly good sequence.

The only other sequence I must moan about is the army of Dead. Now this has had some complaints and rightly so to be frank. You have this massive scale war where the good guys are on the brink of defeat, its top notch entertainment and keeping you poised on the edge of your seat. Then up pops Aragorn and his new army of ghostly mates who promptly wipe out every bad guy within minutes, that's it, done, game over, finito and the good guys win.

This kinda ruins the climax of this grand war to beat all wars. It also leads you to think, why the hell didn't they just do this in the first place? Elrond could have given Aragorn the sword Andúril right from day one and they could have gotten the help of the ghost army to wipe out all the bad guys. This would have spared all this heartache and death surely, ah what do I know.

To be fair apart from that most of the effects are much better in this film, well gotta over look the dodgy CGI horses. The Witch King looked nicely evil and his flying steed always did look good, Shame he had such a weak ass death. The final part of the film on Mount Doom is a excellent visual feast and is a much better looking volcano/lava sequence than Lucas offered in Episode III. Boy does it look really hot in Mount Doom! really impressed with the visuals for this part of the film. The design work on such simple things such as the jagged knife like rocks that project from the ground around the base of Mount Doom look awesome, almost Giger-esq.

Gollum looks much tighter and sharper in the whole film, the fire in his eyes throughout this emotionally draining finale is near pixel perfect. Finally the scrawny creature actually looks right against his live action companions. I must admit despite the fact I was sick to death of seeing Wood's huge teary puppy dog eyes in this film he and Astin do deliver the pain and anguish of this scene to the viewer in a first class parcel performance.

Of course having lots of war also means some magical moments of dialog delivery from the cast, there are some good emotional hooks here. The sequence where Pippin sings to Denethor as his last son Faramir surges towards certain death in a last ditch cavalry charge of Osgiliath is haunting and reminds me of some proper historical epics. Théoden's rousing final speech as his Rohirrim army sits perched on the brow of a hill ready to tear down towards the massive waiting orc horde (William Wallace eat your heart out. I actually believe riding down the front line and tapping every mans spear before a cavalry charge is accurate, I think).

Of course this could only be topped by the speech from Aragorn to his last remaining men at the Black Gate. Then with the knowledge that Frodo appears to be dead and facing the end he turns and sprints towards his unknown fate only to be followed by his friends, one last glorious push. 'Once more unto the breach, dear friends once more!' is what came to mind at this point.

The film is a bum number can't deny that, it feels like an age for the film to finally wrap up!. I don't think I've ever seen so much fighting in one film either, its none stop virtually. Admittedly it lacks the in-depth character building and dark intensity of the first film or the story development of the second, its more of an all out free fall Dungeons & Dragons style.

Would Tolkien be happy with this trilogy? I'm sure he would have been despite much alterations and bits cut out. The story is so deep it may be impossible to film it completely. The first film is probably the best for story, atmosphere and lore, whilst the second is rather dull apart from Helm's Deep at the end. Overall I liked this third film even if it did feel a bit like a toy merchandise dream and almost too big at times if that makes any sense. I think I was battle weary at the end of it all.

The end?


Friday, 22 February 2013

St George's Day (UK, 2012)

Directed by Frank Harper, well known for some tough guy roles in a few violent British crime flicks so you can bet your bottom dollar what this is about. I will refrain from using cockney slang in this review if I can.

So its a British crime/mob flick (did you see that coming?) about a couple of cousins who screw up a drug shipment for the sadistic Russian mafia. Sounds like it could be an awesome, nasty, beat 'em up type thriller right, well I don't wanna disappoint you but....

The problem is this type of film is sooooo damn predictable and over done, we all know there is gonna be double cross and twists, the only question is who. But at the end of the day its obviously usually down to a couple characters, its not exactly hard to guess. The other problem is the film is rather dull actually, I half expected a really good bust up as with other British gritty crime flicks, but this is sorely lacking that punch.

The characters are the usual stereotypical cockney loudmouths, nutters, hard men and smooth talkers, the whole obligatory range of underworld fellas, oh and there are pikeys in there again too. The only difference here is the fact the main characters are much more slick and well off, rather than being grimy pub dwelling football thugs...although there is that element just in case you miss it.

I wouldn't say the acting is terrible, its good enough for the job in hand, plus Charles Dance and Vincent Regan add some class. The rest are almost the same flippin cast from previous cockney crime flicks! I dunno why they just don't use the cast of 'EastEnders' and be done with it. The main trouble is nothing really happens, there is nothing to really boast about here, no action, not much fighting, no sex, just the odd murder, not even much girly action! blimey guv!!

I like the films title and I think this had some promise but end of the day its no different from all the other British crime thrillers, accept this has no action. Generic, cliched and really a bit pony, this type of film has had its day, but I'm always up for a good bit of footie hooligan the silver screen sense I mean.


Attack the Block (UK, 2011)

My first impressions for this British made sci-fi were not good, not good at all. We are introduced to a small gang of South London youths in your typical modern day gang get up...hoodies, baseball caps, tracksuits, gold chains around their necks, riding bikes and the obligatory Staffy pet dog. This foul mouthed bunch of yobs go about robbing a female passer by at knife point clearly relishing every moment of it. Its at this point I immediately hated what I saw.

Maybe its because I live in South London, I know London very well and have experienced gangs like this in reality. Maybe its the fact that South London is exactly like this with massive problems of gang culture, knife attacks, muggings and (some) youths generally acting as portrayed in this film. The gang consists of teens, mainly black with one white boy (who typically thinks/pretends he's black). Unless you know South London you will probably need a translator to understand what they are saying in this dreadful gangland/street culture way of speech that has evolved in London. The dialog is chock full of 'bruv' 'cous' 'blood' 'innit' 'for real' 'ghosting' 'ducking' 'breezing' 'fam' etc...they sound like morons and I hear it often in everyday life.

Yeah I know I sound like an old fart but this is what we have to put up with in South London, this film is very accurate, so much so its annoying. So basically I found myself hating the main characters in this film right from the word go, this gang are the 'heroes' as it were and we're suppose to root for them? yeah right. Twas only when the invaders popped up I got into this, well once this gang started to get some extraterrestrial 'retribution'.

The actual sci-fi element of the film is pretty good I must admit. The whole things runs along the same kind of lines as 'Aliens' (and tonnes of others) with the standard escape plot and the standard 'characters getting killed off one by one' idea. Nothing original but it is very effective setting it within the confines of a tower block.

It doesn't seem totally thought out though as why would these aliens only stick to this one block? there is a reason of course but surely they would spread out and explore. Also you'd think with all the noise, violence, bodies and general racket going off people might notice and call the police, surely there would be 999 calls going off every minute. Also no one ever thinks that maybe the discovery of alien life might be kinda important, if you wanna make money then maybe tell someone instead of smoking weed.

I must also give huge kudos to the design for the aliens as they look truly terrific. At first you're thinking they are gonna look rubbery and cheap (especially after the first encounter), but with a combination of CGI and men in suits the look is really quite eerie and original at the same time, amazingly! Think big pitch black coloured gorillas with a set of bioluminescent jaws (teeth) that glow blue, sounds odd I know but they are highly effective and really lift the film. You wouldn't think this was a cheapish simple Brit flick horror, if it wasn't for the aliens this wouldn't be half as good.

So yes I enjoyed the alien aspect of the film and it doesn't hold back on blood n gore which is good. The main problem for me was the gang of scrotes that are fighting the aliens and meant to be bad guys turned good in a coming of age kind of way. This is in no way a feel good 'Goonies/Stand By Me' type group, far from it. Bottom line is they are all thoroughly unlikeable and I REALLY wanted all of them to get eaten by the creatures so badly. To be honest I'm sure there would be many South Londoners that would agree, if only there were some real monsters cleaning up the streets by eating all the hooligans.

(mainly just for the aliens)

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (US, NZ 2002)

Onward to Mount Doom, the perilous journey continues from where it left off. Still in familiar territory with this sequel as the 78 Bakshi film also covered most of what happens here, just about, so yes I can still compare to a degree hurray!

So as we crack on with the story its not long before you discover there's a lot of dialog, quite a lot, in fact bloody hell what have I gotten myself into! Yes the first like two hours of the film is much dialog and not really very much else. Now if you're a Tolkien fanboy this will be music to your ears as Jackson does cover a whole heap of plot, although there are variations and changes still as there were with the first film.

I should point out quickly that all visuals, details, location work and performances are of course as you would expect and still on par with the first entry. There isn't too much need to go into all that as the quality is still just as high all round and I explained those standards in my first review.

This is of course the film where we meet Gollum properly as a full fledged character. Now in my humble little opinion you either like this guy or you don't, personally I can't stand this character even back in the Bakshi film. I realise he is suppose to be a wretched creature but Jesus Christ he's annoying, annoying on the same level as Jar Jar Binks. His voice just pisses me off and his design with those big eyes looks completely ridiculous, the guy has Disney eyes for gods sake!

Again upon release this character got huge raving reviews about the CGI and all round rendering against the live action. Again I simply don't understand what the hell everyone was on about as I saw shoddy CGI abundantly with some awful rendering against live action characters in places. Its not all bad for sure, a scene with Gollum sat on a rock next to some open water eating a fish shows how good some of the CGI could be. In general I was never impressed with this effect and his quite childish and basic looking features, the only aspect that looked real was his eyes, kinda.

So to be honest most of the film is really rather dull and slow for the most part. There are bits of interest within the plot that spring up to keep you awake (Merry and Pippin with the orcs) and of course the odd eye popping moment of real scenery (Edoras). But lets be honest here, it all gets into gear when King Théoden of Rohan decides to move his people of Edoras to Helm's Deep and everybody starts to suit up for war...WAR!!!

Before we get there you have the intriguing sub plot with Merry Pippin and Treebeard. Now this part of the plot I always liked and I loved the Ent species, huge ancient old gnarly trees that could come alive, walk and talk. This was one area which never really saw the light of day in the Bakshi film.

I was happy to see that Fangorn forest did live up to my expectations with its sweeping, mystical, magical appearance. I loved how light beams broke through the twisted huge trees, the gentle humming of insects in the background, the bold palette of greens, yellows and browns of the undergrowth, all together giving this harmonious fairytale utopia. Now this was never going to be an easy task creating living trees and to be honest I think the designs were pretty good for the Ent species. Well the odd tree character looked a bit silly, the weeping willow type character didn't quite work if you ask me, why would that be in a forest? Probably not a weeping willow I know but it looked like it.

Amazingly Treebeard isn't fully CGI, he is actually a large puppet/model against bluescreen with the help of CGI later on naturally. To be brutally honest, the sequences with both Merry and Pippin riding around with Treebeard are, well...pretty poor looking. The big problem with these films has been dreadful bluescreen effects which are hideously obvious to the point that the foreground is virtually a different brightness to the background. Hard to pull off yes but it does look very basic. The models are quite nice and better than the fully CGI Ents but neither are exactly believable which I hate to say.

Anyway after a whole lot of plot development and slow slow character driven dialog blah blah blah we finally get to the meat of the film and what we've all been waiting for, the battle at Helm's Deep. Finally we are here, I know that's what I was thinking, I'm sure you were too, yes you were don't lie.

Now far from me to describe myself as a battle whore but this huge huge finale certainly got my nipples tingling with excitement. As the massive army of orcs, Uruk-Hai and god knows what slowly lurch closer you can't help but get pumped. Aragorn summons his army of men and elves to arms, walking up and down the vast stone fortified wall of Helm's Deep invoking a warriors passion into the hearts of all that stand beside him. On the other side of the wall in the pouring rain the orcs and Uruk-Hai pound the ground with their spears, baiting their foes...oh yeah its full on kick ass!

In short the battle doesn't disappoint in any way, Jackson milks every moment for as much heroic posturing as possible with plenty of good short suit up sequences just to make sure you know there is gonna be some epic hacking n slashing. The good guys are holding firm but slowly succumb and you really do start thinking how the hell are they gonna turn this around!. Its a full rollercoaster of emotion as the goodies crumble along with their fortress and become overrun.

The epic splattering of orcs, men and elves is interspursed with silly moments I have to say. The orcs manage to get the explosives into the drainage, the weak spot of the Helm's Deep walls. But then they have one big orc do some kind of Olympic torch bearing act and run across the battlefield holding the igniting flame aloft for all to see and shoot Why not just light it when they dumped it?

I didn't like the odd moment of Hollywood where Legolas slides down some stairs on a shield like a surfboard whilst shooting multiple arrows one after another. Does this elf ever run out of arrows by the way? his pouch is always chock full.
When Aragorn throws Gimli across a quite large drop onto the main bridge at the entrance of Helm's Deep. He then proceeds to jump it himself and they both fight off quite literately hundreds of Uruk-Hai. And when all the heroes come charging out of the fortress on horseback they pretty much go through hundreds of big sturdy heavy Uruk-Hai as if they were made out of paper.

Finally, when Gandalf shows up with Éomer looking down on Helm's Deep, errr...that near sheer downward gradient drop they all ride down on horseback!! excuse me!! Yes its little quibbles but things like that detract from the sensible story and I always notice this stuff.

The effects are better than the first film yet still have the same problems in my opinion. One good example of some pretty terrible CGI action would be the attack of the Isengard wolves or Warg riders. This sequence really is jerky with nasty bluescreen and a whole load of fake looking action set pieces. There are also many little moments throughout which simply don't look right, one tiny sequence shows Legolas mounting a horse as it trots past him which is quite literately absolutely awful looking.

On the plus side the orcs and Uruk-Hai seem to look much better this time, not quite as hokey. The Ringwraiths look good on their flying dragon-like steeds and there seems to be a bit more blood on show methinks too, ever so slightly more gooey and gory.

Overall I thought this film was for the most part rather dull and not as good as the first film. The finale battle is obviously the best thing in the whole film and without it there would be problems. The film does feel much more like a serious historical drama for the most part up to the final big battle. From that point on it obviously becomes a much stronger fantasy action film which it really needed frankly.

Not that the rest of the film is bad, its just a wee slow and dull, filling in lots of plot before it all heats up. The thing is the dialog and slow building in the first film was much more interesting because you're getting to know the characters and their world. Here its just filler getting Frodo and the gang to the next big step, but kudos for getting it all in there and staying true to the book.

To be continued.....


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Man's Best Friend (1993)

This film is listed as a black comedy? well I guess some of the effects are now amusing sure. The plot is one that is sure to get emotions high, its all about medical experiments on animals by some mad/sadistic doctor who is trying to create the prefect super dog, and nothings gonna get in his way.

This means there are lots of sequences with animals shown locked up, experimented on, being captured etc...all the things that would make most animal loving people squirm uncomfortably. On the flip side because the film is based around a dog there are also some cringing soppy moments although we're not talking 'Beethoven' type soppiness.

The plot is basically a 'Terminator' 'Jaws' mixed idea but for a dog. The huge hound prowls around the neighbourhood getting up to no good like killing the postman, eating a cat whole, eating a parrot whole and half killing another dog by screwing it good n proper. The effects now are laughably bad with hokey puppets and a silly 'Terminator' style focusing eye close up from time to time. Although I must admit they do well to get the dog to look menacing at the right moments, but he's a cute big fella really.

The whole thing is totally dumb and looks poor today, its reasonably amusing just to see Lance Henriksen do his wide eyed crazy villain thing which he does so damn well. The ending 'twist' is sooooooo predictable but I'm glad they never made another as the whole notion is just stupid. A good example of this is the sequence where the dog camouflages itself like a chameleon would, riiiiiight.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (US, NZ 2001)

I grew up on a few big franchises through the 80's, Star Wars, Indy, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. Of course LoTR was never much of a franchise as the only thing available to us (other than the actual book) was the Bakshi animated version, but I loved it. Grown out of it slightly now admittedly but still...lets soldier on.

I can't compare the animated film fairly to be honest but I must admit there was always elements of Bakshi's effort that worked so well. There are many elements of this Jackson effort I like also but as usual with so many modern films I do feel the over exaggerated hype simply forced people to adhere to the fact that this film is suppose to be epic.

The start of this film is perfect, everything we see in the Shire is just as you would expect and it looks wonderful. Straight away you can see the immense detail that has been put into the film with the interior sets inside Bilbo's little dwelling (look at the metal framing on the back of his front door). Clothing, decorations, equipment etc...everything within the Shire is warm, cozy and thoroughly inviting to the point that you just wanna up sticks and live there. I still think they took some ideas from 'Willow'.

We all knew what to expect with the look of the characters before hand but you still can't fail to be impressed with the quality of simple things like wigs and little items of clothing such as waistcoats. The plot trundles along nicely and like the 78 animated version its pretty similar in styles and visuals. The journey to Bree and incidents within The Prancing Pony all look great and have that perfect olde English atmosphere with much ale drinking amongst shady figures.

I enjoyed pretty much everything up to the point where the heroes meet up with the Elves Galadriel and Celeborn. At this point I found myself getting bored, the sequences here were heavy going and pretty dull frankly. Not that I expected anything else but I just felt the plot and interest slip away from me. From this point I was disappointed with what I saw, the film seems to lose a lot of its genuine old world atmosphere, the orcs and especially Uruk-hai looked pretty dreadful and the fight sequences become extremely repetitive.

We know the heroes don't die so you know they will be slicing down the bad guys left right and centre but the fights looked pretty badly choreographed to me with obvious fake fisticuffs going on. The orcs just keep on coming one after another whilst the main heroes merely glance at them with a sword or look at them and they go flying to the ground in screams of agony...hmmm.

I never liked the designs for the orcs either really. They always looked like something from a bad Star Trek episode with silly fake contacts, silly fake teeth and the odd scar across the face. They are a random bunch so the odd one looked OK but I must side with the Bakshi film for this. I always loved how the orcs were in the shadows, faces obscured by darkness only allowing their eerie red eyes to glow through. The 78 animated film was much darker in tone with violence and the orc hordes, Jackson's film never captured that spooky essence for me a tall with either.

This leads me to the effects which a lot was done with CGI. Now this was to be expected of course, you can't really make a film about this fairytale without it. Back in the day CGI was blooming was used in everything but unfortunately it hadn't been fine tuned yet. The result for this film being somewhat sketchy to say the least. Upon release everyone barked on about how great the effects were, I never saw this, to me they were always pretty bad and naturally to this day now look even worse.

You can't be negative about effects on old films but like I said even when I saw this at the cinema it looked dire to me. Where it worked was landscapes, skylines and armies, there are some glorious village/kingdom shots in this film, the odd building/ruin/relic also looked good but the problem came with over the top action set pieces and creatures.

Alongside tonnes of hideously bad bluescreen effects some of the CGI is damn ropy to be honest. Sequences inside the Mines of Moria are easily the worst in the film and look awful, the huge troll the team must fight and the Balrog demon always looked fake. The orc pits surrounding Saruman's castle were another badly realised concept, looking back they really do look like PS2 sequences.

A lot of the action always did look like videogame sequences to me, much like the army battles at the start of the film and in the following sequels. The same issue that CGI had and still does really is the effects tend to look plastic and obvious.

One of the films main assets if you ask me is the attention to detail on errr everything! Jackson has tried to cover all aspects right down to the smallest detail which has to be applauded. The other main asset must be the real location shoots used for various parts of Middle Earth. Far be it from me to say but at times the film felt more of a tourist advert for New Zealand than a film, yep that's me being cynical, but honestly the location work really did expand the Tolkien universe to new heights. Much like Star Wars did with their locations.

Cast wise, well I can't fault this really, every character is well cast and every actor does a good job, nuff said. Hell even the extras for the elves looked perfect just standing there saying nothing but looking so...elf-like.

Something the Bakshi film lacked but this film had was a beautifully smooth ethereal spirituality to it. Jackson captures the mythical almost semi religious tones of the story (mainly through sequences involving the elves and their folklore) and really makes it feel historically believable. All the while you are accompanied by gentle heavenly sounds and the type of music you expect from Clannad or Tangerine Dream, it is in fact Enya on occasion.

I still prefer the Bakshi version for certain aspects but I like this version for others. I don't think this film was quite dark or foreboding enough in various sequences, huge missed chances with the Ringwraiths methinks, and merely having screaming ugly drooling orcs isn't really enough to say its dark n scary. I also loved how the Bakshi film didn't cower away from showing lots of blood, something this film lacked.

First half of the film I love but from the midway point I don't like, simple as that really. It seems to go from a beautiful fable to a daft videogame mashup, think 'Legend' at the start then Conan from the midway point.

I can't rant on about the semi reasonable effects or lack of the odd bits and pieces here and there lets be frank, the film is much more than that. Even though its not a perfect adaptation of the classic tale its pretty darn close and manages to encompass enough adventure and excitement with just the right amount of emotion to thrill. I do think it has been over hyped terribly which is a common problem these days but it is still a solid film, just not as epic as you're led to believe.

No one should ignore the Bakshi animated film either I must say, a glorious piece of work that really does offer a damn good alternative to this film.


Friday, 15 February 2013

Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)

How about that for a film title huh, talk about getting you hyped for a sci-fi fantasy guns and swords type action flick with monsters, princesses and possibly even spaceships and landspeeder type vehicles. Well yes that's what I was thinking after seeing the poster haha I was thinking along the lines of 'Krull'.

I must report that the film isn't quite how I thought it would be, yep its a sci-fi and yes it has laser guns, landspeeders and the odd monster but its terribly cheap looking in places with virtually no plot. Now I know I shouldn't expect anything amazing from an unknown film but you always hope there is a hidden gem don't you, on the plus side there is some nice imagination here mixed with a lot of elements from other obvious sci-fi. The big one eyed humanoid aliens were made up quite well and did remind me of 'Klingons' whilst all the outfits were your typical 'Mad Max' affair, especially the vehicles and the heroes leather outfit, there was a touch of 'Krull' type magic involved and of course your regular mutant baddie warrior.

I shouldn't be too harsh really as it was made along time ago when certain big films were the rage and this was merely jumping on that bandwagon, in fairness its not too bad, not good but certainly one of the better cheapo fantasy sci-fi films from the depths of the B-movie abyss.


Zone Troopers (1985)

More B-movie fluff for Tim Thomerson to revel in. This time he's behind enemy lines in WWII but his squad gets wiped out, on top of that he must content with an alien that has crashed its ship in the area.

Excellent film title which really gives you high hopes for a rockin' flick and to a degree you do get a pretty decent action film with lots of gun action and Nazi blasting. The first half of the film isn't too bad and along the lines of the 'Dirty Dozen' minus the better acting skills and top cast of course. As the alien comes into the plot the film still manages to hold its own but towards the end of the story we meet more aliens which look suspiciously like humans with white hair in rather campy outfits.

This is where things start to get a bit Flash Gordon looking with crappy ray guns, bad outfits and a dodgy looking spacecraft. Shame really as the first crashed spaceship looked quite good and the stranded alien actually had a decent mask plus a look not far too from something you might see in the Mos Eisley space cantina in 'Star Wars' (the aliens we meet towards the end are male and different from the stranded alien which is female).

Very basic but fairly fun, amusing how no one ever seems to be that shocked to find visitors from outer space, just an everyday occurrence for US troops huh.


War Wolves (2009)

Brilliant title for a film, sounds totally cool, its just a shame the film isn't as good. Group of soldiers get attacked by werewolves (the locals) in the field and come home to find themselves changing, the transition is painful and mentally destroying on certain members.

Reasonable concept that is explored...reasonably, but nothing much happens during the film with very little wolf action, when there is some action it seems the director has seen 'Near Dark' and tried to imitate that for werewolves (the bar scene). The makeup on the characters near the finale as they turn is a cross of wolf features mixed with human features, not the full blown werewolf look but a humanoid look with pointy ears, fangs and nose makeup which has been done before and better than this to be honest.

Best thing in the film is probably the cute and charming duo of Thomerson and Saxon as a pair of old bickering ex-military men after the wolves. Saxon the more rigid straight laced by the books ex-general with Thomerson the wisecracking, bend the rules rambunctious sidekick.

A TV movie that is slightly better than most but not good enough for major release, still fun for werewolf fans though. The finale sequence for Thomerson is a heart breaker I can't deny, surprisingly strong for such a film.


Black Sheep (NZ, 2006)

Deranged killer man eating sheep, sheep?! there are only two countries in the world where you could imagine this being set, Wales or New Zealand. I will spare you the obligatory sheep shagging jokes despite the fact this film actually uses that crude old low brow country laugh for the backstory of one main character.

So a dodgy sheep owner on a farm is carrying out dodgy genetic experiments on his sheep to turn them into carnivores. Naturally a couple of people steal a mutant lamb to try and expose this but they accidentally release it causing a mass infection of the sheep.

So its pretty much any infectious zombie flick you can think of but replace dead humans with mutated sheep. Sounds insane and it is, but I guess animals of such vast numbers like sheep, cows, chickens, pigs etc...would be perfect for this type of genre. If you think about it they are the most unlikely creatures that humans would be worried about, so there would be the under estimation of danger along with their sheer numbers.

This film is labelled as a horror comedy and has clearly been influenced by 'American Werewolf in London'. The sheep are like weresheep, their bite turns people into half sheep half human bipedal freaks that look like zombiefied crazyass sheep, plus the blood and gore is through the roof with some great hands-on makeup effects. There is even a homage to the classic moment in 'American Werewolf' where David transforms and we see his face n body extending with cracking bones. This is pretty much copied here (mainly the face) and looks just as good I might add.

Not your average horror and not really scary, more of a fun idea (possible homage) showcasing some great makeup effects and good use of some real flocks. What I'm waiting for now is the same thing again but for pigeons in London, seriously it could work.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Gangster Squad (2013)

Fedoras on, lock n load those tommy guns. So you have the new Die Hard film or this, what's it gonna be? the choice is obvious, take a hike McClane you have been retired. Never mind all this PG-13 crapola, this film is where its at and it kicks ass I shit you not. Even cooler is the fact the whole thing is based loosely on real events! yeah there's the door McClane, use it.

The plot is as basic as A B C, Mobster chief Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) rules LA with a sadistic grip. He whacks people like no ones business and usually does it in the most gruesome way just to make sure. In order to combat this an ex special Ops Sgt is asked to pick his own team of skilled guys and take down 'Cohen' any way possible, smash his underworld no questions asked.

The film opens with a brutal execution by Cohen and his men, this is then followed by a brutal bust by O Mara against Cohen's men. Straight away your attention is grabbed by the scruff of the neck and you can see this film will be chock full of 40's period set ball busting.

From this simple premise comes a highly predictable yet highly violent action thriller which mixes the gun toting mayhem of 'Last Man Standing' with the small team work of 'The Untouchables'. You could almost call this a sequel or remake of that classic Kevin Coster period thriller. The similarities are close from 'O Mara's' wife wanting him stop the fight, the obligatory recruitment sequences, the rants of revenge from 'Cohen' and the take down montages. The whole plays out like an extreme adult version of 'Dick Tracy'.

The films doesn't pretend to be anything but a near virtual graphic novel adaptation. Its not but you could be mistaken for thinking so, its fast with the action and light on the plot. The visuals are moody and slick, action and violence is highly stylised, the villains are obvious and pug ugly, Brolin looks every bit the action hero with his thick sturdy looking neck and prominent square jaw, Nolte is the gruff well built Chief and Penn is so over the top evil you'd think he was up against 'The Punisher'. I haven't seen someone chew up the scenery like Penn here for ages, he snarls, grimaces, scowls and bellows his way into the evil villain hall of fame.

In short the film is realistic in terms of style, sets, costumes, weapons etc...but very much over the top leaning towards comicbook. The team of 'Untouchables' are your standard fare too I dare say, the token black guy who is good with knives, the cowboy looking sharp six shooter played by Patrick, the token Mexican (for the West coast) played by Pena, Gosling as the ladies man and Ribisi as the brains behind the team. A League of Extraordinary errr...Elliot Ness type blokes who would be fighting Capone if they were in Chicago...type blokes.

Despite the fact this is based on reality the film simply does not try to be anything else other than a violent period set action thriller, you can smell it from the opening sequence, hell the title says it all. Brolin is so damn butch he made me feel ashamed of myself, the only things missing here that could of made it even better are Joe Pesci, Billy Drago and a Morricone score...damn son!

'light em up'


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Here Comes The Boom (2012)

What can I say about this film, is it a comedy? an emotional rollercoaster? it stars funnyman Kevin James so it must be a comedy. Well it starts off as a comedy sure but as the plot unfolds and we near the crux of the matter it becomes much more like a small drama. Its a strange beast really which didn't really sit well with me, let me explain why.

My first impressions of the film were two things, firstly it just seems like an excuse to make another film around MMA and the UFC. Secondly, Kevin James has always had a slight weight issue as I'm sure you all know. This whole idea just seems like a chance for him to lose some excess weight, gain some muscle, look good and basically get healthy whilst being paid to make a film. Now call me cynical but that's how I see it because I will admit James looks good in the final fight sequences.

A reason I think this is because the story is completely stupid. A school in dire financial straits needs to make cut backs which means the music department will go. This means Henry Winkler's character will lose his job, so up steps James's character to try and save his job by raising the money required. Doesn't sound too bad so far, but wait! James's character wisely decides to become a mixed martial arts fighter despite the fact he's overweight and way into middle age, hmmmmmm might wanna think about that.

The whole premise is just absurd, for a dumb comedy it maybe passable but this film actually tries to be semi serious. Even though James's character decides to commit suicide in the ring to try and save Winkler's job, it takes Winkler's character until the last ten minutes of the film to try and stop James's character from killing himself just to save his job!. You'd think from the start Winkler's character would feel a bit awkward knowing that his best friend is being beaten to crap on a semi regular basis just to save his job.

I guess if you follow UFC then you'll get a kick outta this, there are many various folk from the 'sport' that make cameos and have roles, if you don't follow then they could be anyone. Well you can tell who the real MMA/UFC folk are because they can't act, dress rather camp (can I say that?), have poor tribal tattoo's and wear bling.

In the end this just seems way too much like a comfy personal get fit dream project for James. Two of the main characters are from 'King of Queens' for heavens sake (not including James), James is absolutely covered in tan makeup to make him look good both in fight sequences and regular scenes and the film clearly goes from comedy to serious fighting for James midway through.

Its like 'School of Rock' which slowly morphs into 'The Karate Kid' (because you know what's gonna happen) and then finally goes into 'Rocky' towards the end. The fun aspect goes out the window as James heads into serious mode which actually doesn't suit him. The emotion towards the end is so forced it makes you wanna look away from the screen. I think James should stick to TV because even though I like the guy he hasn't made a single decent film I think, 'Mall Cop' was amusing in parts but that's it. This film doesn't really know what it wants to be but if James wants to continue making films then he should stick to funny ones.


Collision Course (1989)

'Lethal Weapon' had stormed the buddy cop genre two years earlier thus kick starting the whole concept into overdrive. The late 80's early 90's was probably the height of this type of action flick, fast paced, simple plot, plenty of car chases, explosions and you're obligatory uneasy partnership between two bickering heroes.

This is probably one of the least heard of films in that genre, Jay Leno paired with Pat Morita?...errr why? how is that gonna work? a tiny elderly Japanese man and a guy with a head shaped like the moon. Sounds totally bizarre and frankly it is! the whole concept is totally ridiculous and offers nothing accept the uniqueness of the pair.

I guess because Leno was a popular stand up comedian at the time and Morita was big having just played Mr Miyagi. Unfortunately this combination just doesn't work at all, Leno can't act to save his life and he isn't funny at any moment. Morita is a solid actor but really doesn't fit this kind of film, he looks very uncomfortable the whole time especially when the action kicks off. Morita literately has to step back from all the gun fights and fisticuffs because he clearly can't do it, his character either misses it or watches from the sidelines.

Like I say the only thing this film has going for it is the unique pairing of Leno and Morita. The film also has a pretty decent cast that were probably hired due to their previous big hit films. Ernie Hudson has a minor role coming off 'Ghostbusters', Chris Sarandon is the main villain after success with 'Fright Night' and Tom Noonan as the main henchman with previous hits 'Monster Squad' and 'Manhunter'.

It just seems the powers that be have grabbed as many big names of the time as possible and thrown them all together in this dismal excuse for an action film. The plot just lurches from one boring set piece to another with terrible action sequences, terribly cliched dialog (although not for the time of course) and a lame plot about a stolen supercharger. Yes really that's it, would a Japanese cop travel all the way from Japan to the US for a stolen car engine part?

I only saw this out of morbid curiosity because it had Jay Leno in an action film, now I've satisfied my curiosity I can say without a doubt it wasn't worth it.


Black Sheep (1996)

Made simply because 'Tommy Boy' was an unexpected success, clearly somewhat rushed and not fully thought through. I have read that Paramount just wanted to team Spade and Farley together again asap, so we have this blunt comedy.

The idea isn't too bad, its all about a political campaign battle between the brother of Farley's character and the wholesome all American 'Evelyn Tracy' played by Christine Ebersole. As you can guess Farley's character is a clumsy embarrassment to his brother (played by Tim Matheson) and inadvertently causes all manner of horrendous goofs whilst in the public eye. This of course puts his brothers campaign in jeopardy of which his rival tries to take full advantage of.

Same old Farley I'm afraid which isn't too bad if you like the guy. I have said before and I'll say again I do like his antics, he is a funny fella and his films are nice feel good films where you can forget about any troubles you have. I also like how he tends to play the everyday man, regular Joe's, makes you connect with him that bit more.

Despite liking Farley this film does feel very forced with very little to show. The laughs are few and far between and what we do get is light at best. There are whole segments in the film where nothing really happens, the sequence where the pair find a bat in their wood cabin and spend almost ten minutes of the film dealing with it. There is a lot of lame filler which really has nothing to do with the plot, its just there to try and gain a laugh whilst padding out the film, or so it seems.

Even as a Farley fan I found it hard to enjoy this, there really doesn't seem to be any point to Farley and Spade being together here and half of what happens is irrelevant. I can't complain too much because this is obviously a dumb comedy, its not suppose to be anything else, but even so it feels very cheap and half hearted. In the end it really does feel like the two leads were simply thrown together for a fast money spinner off the back of a much better earlier comedy.


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Now call me ageist but I firmly believe if you were born around 1980 then you will really get much more out of this film. I'm not saying that no one else will of course, everyone will enjoy this ride but the pure retrotastic feast on offer here will make certain folk of a certain age grin from ear to ear. I really will try not to use the word 'retro' too much here...ah who am I kidding!

Just to see the poster for this film is glorious, the classically designed 80's style arcade front that clearly homages games like the original Donkey Kong and maybe Rampage is beautiful. Even the title of the film is perfect, the team behind this film have really hit the nail on the head.

For a fictional game Wreck-It Ralph is beautifully designed and could so easily be a real game. The character sprites of Fix-It Felix Jr (Donkey Kong Jr?) and Turbo in TurboTime (Rally-X?) are also well done.

The plot isn't as simplistic as you would imagine either. Obviously it involves a struggle against a villain but the writing team have cleverly used the common problem of old game glitches, hacking (not so much old school with this of course) or 'crashing' alongside the more typical rescue theme. I also loved how they went about creating the whole videogame world underneath (or behind) those trusty old arcade cabinets. Using the cables as a kind of subway portal to a main hub where all characters go to relax or meet, a huge videogame central station.

I can't deny I've often thought about how worlds like this might or could exist/work if you wanted to make a film centered around a videogame universe. Same with how you would create a world/universe which incorporated every cartoon character ever.

I loved everything I saw in this game, almost. The visuals of course are top notch CGI as expected but I'm referring to the mix of old school and new gen videogame worlds, characters and styles. All characters have a modern CGI sheen but they still keep their traditional artistic style somewhat. But its the little things that really made me smile, the sound effects for one, small touches that bring everything together. All those legendary pings, rings, dings, power up's and extra life sounds and are all in place for the various characters.

Also loved how in the old 8-bit style game sequences everything has a pixelated edge...just like the games. Nice use of a classic Nintendo D-pad tucked away in there too, why not more from Nintendo in this?.

When Sonic gets hit he spills a load of rings everywhere, Clyde the ghost from Pacman hovers as he should and has those classic 8-bit effects when he goes blue, Q*bert sprites are as you remember them including balloon speech, the Wreck-It Ralph sprites all move in a jerky limited way just like old 8-bit sprites and there are many small cameos from game characters ranging from back in the day to present day. In fact I'm sure many young folk watching won't have a clue who some of them are.

This is all boosted even more with lovely little real in-game sequences from a few games like Pacman and Tapper...which I was so pleased to see. Oh my Tapper or Root Beer Tapper was one of those old school games that spawned a huge following of fans and copies, you would find it in bars for heavens sake!. Makes you wish they still had those dark dingy mist filled arcades chock full of those wonderful cabinets.

The only criticism that hit me whilst watching, which is more a constructive artistic difference of opinion really, is the lack of real game environments. In other words, how much cooler would this film had been if the game zone of Heroes Duty was actually Halo or COD. Or if the game zone of Sugar Rush had been Mariokart both with all their gameworld characters. I realise its a small moan and copyrights I'm sure came into play hugely but seriously!!! how fudging awesome would that have been!!!!?? makes me dribble at the thought of it.

The other thing was, Vanellope still has her glitch skill at the end, so how come that's not seen as a game fault causing it to be out of order? Oh and King Candy looks and sounds like The Mad Hatter from Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland'.

My imagination was running wild whilst watching this film and long after. I wanted there to be more characters, more sprites, more worlds, more classic sound effects etc...just more input from various giant videogame companies. The last film to make me feel like this (slightly) was 'Scott Pilgrim' and all the nice little videogame touches that had. Before that you gotta go way back to the cartoon 'Captain N: The Game Master' which was a Nintendo fueled awesome fest (look it up).

This animated film has so much win in it I simply can't include it all. Yes a major part of me liking this is because I'm looking at it through some pretty darn thick rose tinted specs but everyone my age will be the same (if you played videogames). Just like 'Toy Story' the film taps into a long distant loving childhood memory and brings it all flooding back. Not even a childhood memory seeing as I'm sure many still play but the retro appeal here is as strong as an iron girder. Makes you wonder why it hasn't been done before.

Did I see Sub-Zero in this or just a character like him? Oh stick around for the end credits as they are nicely done also.

'Right here. I'm Zangief, I'm bad guy'