Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Superman Returns (2006)

Oh the contention, after the classic Donner/Reeve films came the rather dire third and fourth films followed by this, the sort of ignored and forgotten reboot. Since then of course we have had the much hyped 'Man of Steel' which has set up two camps, the camp that loves the new approach and the camp that prefers this 06 approach. Fans have been well and truly polarized betwixt the two.

The plot continues from 'Superman II' (ignoring III and IV) and sees Supes returning to Earth after a five year spell searching for Krypton and survivors. Whilst away Lex Luthor has been released, nabbed some old birds money from her deathbed and gone to the Fortress of Solitude to steal some Kryptonian crystals, busy week. He intends to use these crystals to create a new continental landmass in the Atlantic to control as his own, problem is it will kill lots of Americans at the same time with massive flooding, we can't have that!

So its not too long before we see Supes in action saving various people (including Lois) upon his return, its back to business. Straight away I gotta say the effects in this film are still quite marvellous to this day, you could be forgiven for thinking it was made just recently. CGI is of course abundant and it works in places whilst in others its a bit more obvious, naturally. But I am surprised at the quality and how it holds up against the new 'MoS' film, seeing Supes fly around is still a thrill, looks just as good with all the sonic booms and reentry effects from space/orbit.

There are plenty of lovely money shots throughout, maybe too many actually, at times it seems like this film is simply all about making Supes look slick n sexy in airspace. But I simply can't deny that this film looks sumptuous in almost every scene, some of those skylines, atmospheric weather events, the Kryptonite landmass, the way Supes cape flaps and reacts, slow motion hovering in space and in the air...its all beautiful, a real visual treat.

I guess the main issue that many have with this film is simply the fact its basically a love letter to the original two films. Now yes of course the film was meant to be a homage to those films...the plot carries on from them, it includes Marlon Brando and uses the classic John Williams score even! so no mistakes there. But at the same time the film feels way too much like a copy of those original films, as if they are just trying to copy that late 70's feel by doing virtually the exact same stuff. Most of the action set pieces are wonderfully done but feel too familiar, too safe and a little dated really.

At no point in the film do you really feel anyone is in danger because Supes manages to rescue EVERYONE just in time, he's too good! While the recreation of that classic aura is fantastic and Singer did a fantastic job directing it, it doesn't help the plot because it just doesn't feel risky enough, plus nothing really happens in the main plot either. Lex creates a landmass, Supes digs it out and shoves it into space and that's it, did we really need such a long film for that? Again the idea also rings too many bells with the originals, outcome is too similar.

I did love the shot of Supes holding a car aloft above his head, a recreation of the classic Action Comics comic book issue 1 cover, nice touch.

This leads to Routh as Supes. Again straight away you can see why he got the gig, he looks like a young Chris Reeve (accept for the straight hair which doesn't work with the 'S-curl'). Thing is he clearly imitates Reeve, he tries to be Chris Reeve, he tries to be Chris Reeve's Clark Kent, he even tries to speak in the same manner. There are some sequences in this film that are almost shot for shot remakes of certain scenes in the originals, admittedly I liked this but at the same time I just felt there needed to be some more creative thinking here.

Also must comment that this particular Supes outfit wasn't quite right for me. The colours seemed slightly off, a little too dark and his 'S' badge looked a tad too small also...or is that just me? Should have been a bit wider across the chest no? Plus the cape seemed to look too thick and heavy?

Everyone else felt kinda drab really, nothing special really. Spacey as Lex was a surprise for me, he really nailed the character and I found myself liking the guy. I never liked Hackman in the role, he looked the part but I just didn't like his sniveling, arrogant, flippant comedic tone, just annoyed me. Spacey felt more straight laced and outrightly evil, more cynical, less smarmy and he can throw a punch if needed, he felt more gutsy.

Definitely an effects film and definitely made to show Supes can look good in CGI, and it does just that perfectly. Its just a shame the film is too much of a homage, there's too much romance/dialog with Lois and the fact Supes has a son isn't really explored enough if you ask me (didn't like the fact Supes kinda ignores it at the end despite Lois knowing. I realise he can't let news like that out but I thought he would at least stay with Lois at the end to sort it out). I also think Supes is shown caring for humans too much, yep that's what I said. In the new 'MoS' film he isn't shown doing this at all really but here there is just too much of it, there needed to be more powerful tension, we needed to think something bad really could actually happen and Supes might not get there to save the day.

But it is refreshing not to see masses of destruction porn everywhere. Metropolis could have had some major CGI wreckage sequences but its nice that they only hinted at it, although it could of been a time/money constraint. I liked how the cracking seabed eruptions caused problems and tremors but didn't 'end the world' as we are so used to seeing these days.

Yet despite everything I have mentioned I found myself loving this film way more than the new 'MoS' entry. This film is a soft dated approach through thick rose tinted specs but it works so damn well, they really got everything spot on, in fact its possibly the best homage to a franchise I may have seen. From those glorious opening credits to the slightly corny reused finale sequence of Supes flying in space and breaking the fourth wall by looking right at us as he flies by, all accompanied by that classic legendary Williams score. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle, but I think the older generations will appreciate this homage more, people who recall seeing the originals for the first time upon release or not long after. Certainly brought a lump to my throat with memories of watching them as a kid back in the day with my dad.

End of the day this feels like a remake of the original but with up to date effects, what the Donner classic would of looked like with modern technology. Now this isn't a problem for me as such but I can see why many didn't run with it. But for what they intended you get exactly that, maybe not what everybody expected, maybe not the right way to go, but its definitely a heart warming flick, a great feel good flick and a classic Superman adventure.


Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Second reboot for this troublesome franchise and this time they finally get the casting right. Ray Stevenson is brought in as the main man and in my opinion he looks spot on for the role, kudos to the casting team.

As for the film well its a bit weak in plot really, very straight forward, very basic, how can I put this...its like Tim Burton's Batman accept replace the Joker with Jigsaw and add extreme violence. Sooooo bottom line I fudging like it baby! The origins are skipped for this entry which is good, we get flashbacks but that is acceptable, we don't need all the family massacre stuff again.

The film gets right into the action with easily the best sequence of the film. A mansion full of mob bosses and henchmen cannon fodder ripe for the Punisher to exterminate. This one sequence is a pure joy to watch for action aficionados, the lights go out and our antihero appears from nowhere, he then proceeds to gun down everyone in sight with a few neck snaps and knife kills thrown in.

From then on its into the traditional and dated yet still workable plot line of a particular mob boss getting horribly disfigured whilst at the same time thought to be dead, only to come back for revenge. So its pretty much the plot line for the Joker completely copied, well you could say the same thing for almost all the Batman villains really.

First impressions for the Punisher are good, his outfit has been changed and upgraded with some heavy military police style body armour including a thick collar section, a mass of highly top of the line weaponry and his skull logo remains intact emblazoned upon his chest piece. He pretty much looks like he's just stepped out of a S.W.A.T. armoury and its the perfect look in my view. Its up to date and would be a realistic take on what someone would wear if this were a real situation. The black leather biker look is gone, that's the more fantasy based look.

Twas amusing when Castle blasts a bad guys face off with a big shotgun whilst at the same time holding this little girl. If that doesn't mess her up later on in life nothing will.

The bad guy is also highly enjoyable played by Yorkshire born Sheffield lad Dominic West. I was very impressed with his Noo Yawk dialect (hard thing to achieve) and with the sadistic humour he gave to his character Jigsaw. I'm trying not to mention a certain Batman villain here but one does tend to think of him whilst watching this film. I mean lets be frank here (no pun intended), this could easily be a Batman flick if your replaced Castle with Wayne and Jigsaw with the Joker, I think we'd all like to see a really sadistic violent Joker.

The film can't quite keep up the pace for the full run time I gotta admit, the finale is a bit anti climatic. The whole idea is very cliched really, Jigsaw goes off to recruit lots of thugs from various quarters (Chinese, Irish and blinged up black gangsters), they all hole up in Jigsaw's hideout and await Castle. It all feels a bit Batman Forever-ish with all these different gangs, half expected the interior of Jigsaw's lair to light up in neon when the battle started.

So yes the whole idea for this film is pretty dated, its very cliche, very 80's, but I don't think that's a bad thing I really don't. I still can't quite understand why this flopped as its a fast paced, nasty gunfest with Castle kicking ass, what more do people want? For me this is the best version of the Punisher so far, dark, gritty, seedy...perfect graphic novel/comic book visuals.

Anyone else think West's performance as Jigsaw kinda looked and sounded like Al Pacino? seriously is that just me?? The more I think about it the more I think Pacino would have been great in that role, Castle vs Scarface.


Monday, 29 July 2013

The Punisher (2004)

First reboot for the franchise since the underrated Lundgren flick. Admittedly Lundgren had the physique for the role but wasn't a naturally dark haired man, so this time they chose...a naturally blonde haired guy??

The plot was based around a few Punisher story lines from the comic book world and is an origins plot line. So we start off by seeing Castle as a regular guy and top undercover cop, we get all the family life guff and this does actually take up quite a bit of the film early on. At one point it does get a bit dull and I started to yearn for some action. The plot is also more of the Punisher fighting one group of bad guys, he's not a vigilante killing lots of bad guys, he fighting one particular group. At first I didn't like that but the finale clears it up so.

When the action does hit so do the problems. First off the 'killing' of Castle, how the hell did the bad guys mess that up?! Normally when someone is gonna get whacked they are shot in the head point blank, simple, but in this film its just stupid. The bad guys have Castle but shoot him in the chest?? not even in the heart but the other side! eh? surely you'd shoot him in the head?? They then pour gasoline over everything accept Castle and set it alight, so everything burns accept Castle, oh and then it all blows up. Castle then manages to survive for what seems like quite a long time before getting picked up.

So he's shot point blank in the chest, survives a gasoline explosion point blank range and still lives on...after the bad guys fail to shoot him in the head and fail to burn him up. So that whole sequence fails in two ways then.

This film has various issues that didn't sit well with me. Being set in Florida for one thing, the film seems quite bright and sunny all the time because of the location. It doesn't feel right for a dark character like this, its like shoving Batman in Hawaii, the action may still rock but the atmosphere just isn't right. Then there's the issue of Jane as the Punisher, again like Dolph he has the physique but he's blonde!! and all the time I'm thinking his hair looks dyed...because it was obviously. Its a minor quibble I guess but just like Dolph he hasn't got the stubble line either because he's fair haired, is it really that hard to find an actual dark haired man for this role??

So if you put the smaller issues aside what next? well nothing really happens in this. He gets killed off, then announces to the world he's actually not dead which ruins the whole point if you ask me, and then nothing happens! We don't get any real revenge killing until the finale. He battles two assassins, one is a complete copy from the Rodriguez film 'Desperado' and the other kinda looks like a cross between The Sandman and Zangief out of Street Fighter II and is dressed like a cartoon character. Admittedly the fight against the enormous Russian was quite good but that was it.

There are too many sappy moments in here too, attempts at some humour which don't really fit and the characters who live with Castle are terrible. The bad guys again aren't really very memorable either, Travolta is kinda miscast as the main villain and merely comes across as his character from 'Swordfish' (and a few others). The only other bad guy of note would be Will Patton as Travolta's main sidekick, interesting touch making him homosexual but wasn't explored enough, fresh though. On the whole the bad guys were definitely bad enough but just totally bland and generic, unlike the 89 version this film didn't have the explosive fun action to get around that.

The slaying of Saint at the end was laughable, not only is there no guarantee he was actually killed (seeing as Castle managed to survive his ordeal), but the iconic skull motive left by all the burning wreckage was just plain dumb (and a 'Crow' rip off). What was the point of it?? no one would ever see it unless in a helicopter! I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to actually do on the ground and take ages to arrange, when did he get the time??!! so stupid.

The film finally comes to life in the finale as Castle finally takes down all the bad guys, the sequence is what you're waiting for the whole time. Had more of this happened throughout the film it may have been much better, but in general there are many bad decisions here which I just don't understand how they were agreed on.


The Punisher (AUS/US 1989)

I think everybody can agree on one thing here, this is a very loose adaptation of the Marvel comic book character. There is no skull logo to be seen, Castle goes around everywhere on that loud bike, the origins are all wrong and they basically made him into some kind of revenge stricken Hell's Angel looking leather clad biker.

Initial impression is bad as the film kicks off, just look at those opening credits! is this a film from 89 or 79?? The whole sequence looks like some kind of shitty US TV cop serial, half expect Starsky's Gran Torino to roll across the screen sheesh!

The film is a typical violent trashy 80's action flick no doubt. If you take a step back and look at this flick you could easily remove the Punisher character from the plot and nothing would change. You could then stick in any muscle bound character played by any muscle bound star and the film would still work, it would still deliver. Basically its just a run of the mill action vehicle that just happens to have the Punisher as the main character.

Now don't get me wrong this isn't a bad thing, end of the day this film is a solid riot of action that will please any 80's buff. The violence is strong, brutal and not cut much, you see it all really. Sure its totally stupid and highly unrealistic but it still takes it self seriously making it more enjoyable. The film has a really nice balance between realism and heavy realism, its not Nolan realistic, its not an 'Expendables' parody/spoof and its not 'Batman n Robin' camp/silliness. You can have a lot of fun with the film if you don't think too much into it yet its still realistic enough to satisfy...if you don't think too much into it.

Of course there are some things which simply don't make sense, the bike Castle uses is hardly much for stealth is it, plus he rides around all tooled up completely in black, errr....stealth/hidden identity much Mr Castle? It also always amused me how they applied makeup on Dolph, he looks so pale and ill throughout this film. Trying to capture the appearance of a dark haired hairy man didn't really work. His stubble line keeps getting washed off, you can see it on his earlobes at times and when its pasted on in all its glory it looks like a dirty big smudge across his face.

But as far as the character I think Dolph does really well and gives us a nice muted sinister Punisher. A man of little words but big on action, the more I think about it the more I liked his performance (lack of acting skills in one of his first films aside). He does look good, his outfit is bland but effective (the skull logo does give you away somewhat), he looks like he can pull off the heists he sets out to do, he fights well and can handle the weapons. Its Rambo in a black outfit basically.

The bad guys weren't quite as well thought up in my opinion, plenty of suit wearing thugs to gun down sure but no one stood out. I quite liked the Yakuza direction, the female boss and her sexy kick boxing female assistant, kinda corny but fun. The finale set in a traditional washitsu filled with Shōji doors was well done, the lighting getting knocked out gave it the atmosphere.

I think the film overall is actually a perfect comic book adaptation that is pretty gritty, quite dark and highly exciting with real action, no over the top CGI.  The obvious lack of budget, good locations and screen busting stunts actually gives the film a much better feel, much more seedy, much more grim, one of those things that just works and can't really be recreated, a happy accident.

If you like masses of henchmen getting killed as an invincible one man army runs around with unlimited ammo 'Commando' style, whilst the bad guys empty clip after clip in his direction hitting everything but their intended target...then this film could well be for you.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Jack the Giant Killer (1962)

Yes that's right, before the dreadfully bland CGI update there was this much better film, I bet many of you didn't know the 2013 film was an updated remake huh. This film is loosely based on the old fable 'Jack the Giant Killer' and not the fairytale 'Jack and the Beanstalk'.

The film takes place in merry old England, Cornwall, which is ruled by a good king. At this time the Princess is being crowned so she may rule as Queen, but the evil banished sorcerer 'Pendragon' returns and tricks the King and Princess into accepting a gift that will eventually steal her away back to the evil sorcerers castle. Long story short Jack is chosen to set sail for this castle and rescue the Princess in true fairytale style.

What really hits you about this film straight away is the lavish production values. Immediately in the first scene you can tell this film had a lot of highly skilled people working on it from costumes to sets and props. Everybody in every scene looks quite elegant in their royal fairytale ceremonial splendour, of course its not meant to be realistic so its all bright colours, bold makeup and lots of artistic license by American's on what old England apparently looked like. You can easily compare this film to 'The Wizard of Oz' in terms of in your face technicolour.

The characters are nothing exciting really, stereotypical hero, Princess, King, evil wizard, slimy sidekick etc...its all here and utterly cliched to the hilt. But this is 1962, this is what they did back then, the difference was the charming performances by the stars and the quaint yet magnificent visuals.

Once again Torin Thatcher steals the show as Pendragon the evil sorcerer (great name). So looking like Emperor Ming the Merciless this character is perfectly dastardly and gloriously sinister, the facial hair helps. What I love about Torin (and many old stars of the silver screen) is the fact you can understand every word he says, his speech is perfect, his motions are perfect...the man was a perfect performer. Yes his performance would be viewed by today's standards as ultra cheesy, yes it is very pantomime-like, but its so enjoyable to watch and hear him speak. Listening to him plot his devious schemes whilst rubbing his claw-like hands together is just so cool.

Kerwin Matthews is once again our hero and he does a sterling job of it too. Admittedly his performance mirrors his performance for 'Sinbad' to the point that they could be the same character but hey the guy was dashing.

Effects wise this film is poor, really really poor, Harryhausen quality stop motion you say? No. The action sequences involving stop motion are absolutely awful, some of the worst I've ever seen, it looks like a child has made the creatures out of play-doh. On top of that the creatures are laughable, just horrible! Worst ever!! Really ruins the film to be honest. The giant 'Cormoran' also looks suspiciously like the cyclops from 'The seven voyages of Sinbad', hmmm. There is also much bluescreen/superimposing as you might expect with a film like this, some not too bad, some nasty, but that's a given.

A true family film to be sure, the visuals are a display of classic fairytale pageantry set within the classic story of goodies vs baddies. Torin and his spooky crew of glowing demon-like witches are the best thing going here as they all prance about in their cobweb ridden castle. You feel yourself wanting to shout out 'he's behind you!!' at times, its all very cute. Think the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys...but much much tamer and adorable. Although I must admit some of the witch costumes are quite scary close up (mainly the facial masks), for kids at least. Some look a bit like 'Ghostface' from the scream franchise whilst some are more skeletal, quite macabre.

The only thing that springs to mind is the fact the film is called 'Jack the Giant Killer', yet Jack only kills one giant at the start. So again like the new film there isn't actually much giant killing at all really, plenty of spell casting and witchcraft though.


Friday, 26 July 2013

War-Gods of the Deep (aka City Under the Sea, UK, 1965)

Fantastic title for a film (the War-Gods one) but alas the film can't live up to it. The 60's saw so many films in this genre, these colourful fantasy tales which tend to involve mysterious worlds, lands or cities, the genre was flooded!. But its so very clear that this film was...how shall I put this...a complete copy/rip off of the Disney classic '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'.

The plot is so flipping stupid, it really does feel like they are stretching the boundaries of artistic license within the realms of fantasy with this one. On the coast of Cornwall (a county on the far south west tip of the United Kingdom) stands a mansion, a mansion which has stood for along time, but when an American turns up he conveniently discovers some secret passages that eventually lead to a whole under the sea city...as you do.

Within this city/world of undersea caves, lives Vincent Price and his scurvy crew of shipmates. They have all been down there for centuries because somehow there is some kind of oxygen/gas imbalance down there caused by the volcano or something. So basically they are all stuck down there because if they reemerge they will age rapidly and die.

So basically the whole film is about the two main male characters delving deep into this undersea world to try and rescue the damsel in distress. Yep she was kidnapped by the dastardly Price because he thinks she is his long lost wife or something, oh and Price also controls these humanoid 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' type errr...creatures, somehow. Oh! and I almost forgot, the whole undersea world is gonna be destroyed by a big undersea volcano which is due to erupt, there's always a volcano due to erupt in these films.

The plot makes no sense whatsoever, we don't know why Price's character believes this woman is his long lost wife or why he wants her. No explanation for the gillmen, no real clue about Price's character accept he used to be some captain from centuries ago who smuggled stuff. We know how they got trapped in the undersea city but odd how no one else managed to find it also. I might add we only see this city from a distance, Price, his men and the heroes seem to be in some caves overlooking the city, we never actually venture into it or see any of its inhabitants, if any are left.

Almost the entire film is spent down in these undersea caves watching Price pace around in his natty sea captain attire whilst he explains tonnes of plot exposition. Nothing else actually happens! we do eventually get a battle sequence in the sea when everybody dons '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' diving suits. Dunno how they got away with that, its so obviously copyright infringement.

But this sequence must go down as one of the most dull uninteresting 'action' sequences ever. Watching people lumber around very very slowly on the seafloor, obviously no dialog, no clue who is who, no clue what's going on, the odd mug shot of the actors in their diving helmets all accompanied by an uninspiring musical score. This went on for about ten minutes!! talk about filler!.

This film really does feel badly written and badly executed. Clearly trying to capitalize on the Nemo adventure from Disney with that traditional period look and virtually copying every other idea. The stella cast can't save the film at all, its nice listening to Price talk but even that isn't enough. David Tomlinson has obviously been stuck in there again to try and capitalize on his past Disney fame.

It sounds awesome but that's far from the truth I'm afraid, very disappointing adventure film with absolutely no adventure in it!. The best part of the entire film is the brief sequence where Price's character reaches the surface and instantly begins to age and wither away, reduced to a prune-like mummy as his words echo and fade one last time.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Raven (1963)

A few films with this title now, which is the better you may ask, well it certainly isn't the one with John Cusack. An intriguing Corman take on the classic Poe poem, a horror comedy with his typical B-movie visuals and cheesy dialog. Of course this being a horror his style works and adds huge amounts of ghoulish charm to the proceedings.

The fifth film Corman adapted from Poe's classic works and probably one of the best (and more well known). The cast is of course the main factor here, Vincent Price who stars in all but one of Corman's adaptations. Peter Lorre who stars in one other Corman/Poe adaptation, Boris Karloff and of course Jack Nicholson.

The plot is based around the Poe poem but of course is very very loose. Obviously most of it has been made up to fill out an entire film and frankly its pretty hokey and childish. Basically Price's character (a good sorcerer) is mourning the loss of his Lenore, a talking raven comes into his life which turns out to be Lorre who was turned into the raven by an evil sorcerer (Karloff). Lorre explains that he has seen Lenore at Karloff's castle so off they go to find her. Turns out Lenore faked her death and ran off to the evil Dr. Scarabus (Karloff) to lure Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price) to the castle so they can take his powers.

The plot is thinner than a supermodels waistline and merely serves to offer up some Price vs Karloff sorcery towards the end. Nothing really happens throughout the entire film other than a lot of silly dialog and some rather poor attempts at comedy, its very dated. Nicholson plays the part of a young lad and son of Lorre's character, who also falls for Dr. Erasmus Craven's daughter (she accompanies them all on their adventure to Karloff's castle). No real reason for him to be in this really, he does nothing other than serve up wooden deliveries.

The visuals in the film are nice with that musky old haunted castle type atmosphere, plenty of old leather bound armchairs and dusty bookcases. Price fits the scene like a glove of course, Karloff seems a bit out of place being slightly too serious but he looks good, while Lorre's character is a real misery and quite unlikable, but its all about his voice isn't it. Some nice matte painting work on the outside castle shots, totally fake looking of course, but I love that kinda stuff, nice cheesy storm too.

Overall its rather lame really, yes I know its a cult classic with an ultra classic legendary cast but the film is pretty dull and uneventful. The highlight is easily the sorcery battle between Price and Karloff in the finale. A great fun and quite long continuous sequence with some nice ideas and nice effects too. The ending is very soft but what do you expect? this is soft core 1960's horror here, back in the day I'm sure it was deemed quite thrilling.

I'm sure the hardcore fanboys of these silver screen stars will love this, I enjoyed it but must admit I was bored. The finale is cool but the rest is merely filler, still worth your time though purely for the cast.

'Quoth the raven, Nevermore.'


Monday, 22 July 2013

The Time Machine (1960)

Are you telling me you made a time machine...out of a sleigh?!

Probably one of the most well known and best loved sci-fi stories ever written alongside 'War of the Worlds', both of which came from the same man.

A clever story which starts out at the end of the main characters adventure, the whole story is then relayed to us basically through flashbacks. After inventing a time machine the 'time traveller' skips through time zones one bit at a time before a near disaster forces him to jump way ahead into the future. Its there he meets two different types of humans, the girl of his dreams and must battle to get his machine back in order to escape back into the past.

The time traveller in this film is named 'George' where as in the book he is never named, merely called the time traveller. A popular idea is that the main character within this story is in fact Wells himself, I'm unsure about this but its entirely possible, adds a nice mystery to the proceedings.

Its a simple premise which comes across nicely in this film, for the most part the effects are actually quite simple in terms of showing us time racing forward. The simple visualisation of certain objects getting older and decaying is what we see mostly, yet it works well. There is also use of nice camera 'trickery' with shots of the sun racing across the sky from dawn to sunset, the flash of shadows jumping around objects as time and the sun fast forwards, and the moon in its phases.

Of course special effects are limited due to the era so don't go expecting lavish CGI. There is a lot of model work, blue screen, men in suits with heavy makeup etc...its all quite cheesy and typically 60's in some places, but hey what do you expect right.

The 'Elois' are a prime example of the time, they all look like Children of the Corn type hippies in Roman toga-like attire, and of course they are all blonde so that must mean they are advanced. The 'Morlocks' are much better in design if you ask me and quite eerie too with their glowing eyes. The makeup on their faces is well done giving them a nice gaunt, wild, beast-like appearance.

Another popular but sad element used often is the act of major world changing wars throughout. All through the story events are shaped by war, naturally this includes the known world wars but it also covers other wars, future wars, atomic wars. The way the future forms with the Eloi and Morlocks is based around a world changing nuclear war. I guess its a natural fact that we must accept, humans and their desire for war, its in our violent nature and I'm sure the world will be changed again and again in the future through war.

Its definitely a fun jaunt through the ages with Aussie actor Rod Taylor. Brave move to cast an unknown (especially from Oz) over stars such as James Mason, but Taylor holds his own and is a likeable chap. You really do feel his frustration and anger with the Eloi, their lack of interest for their own kind and past human history/achievements. Plus their haircuts, outfits and general moping around would piss me off! I'd let them get eaten by the Morlocks (bit dark that angle wasn't it).

I liked how the first half of the film is almost told entirely with narration as Taylor travels through the ages, not sure why but I just did. Had to expect the obligatory blonde female love interest of course, terribly predictable feature of pretty much every classic old flick. Its very hokey, hammy and kinda plays out (and looks) like an old Star Trek episode, but with all these old films things like that just add to the charm. Primitive by today's standards of course but thoroughly enjoyable...if you can stand those damn Eloi.


The Lost World (1960)

Classic Arthur Conan Doyle tale that has had a few incarnations over time. Its your standard adventure formula which has been used time and time again largely by Amicus films starring Doug McClure. Along with Edgar Rice Burroughs these two chaps pretty much started a fantasy boom that has influenced damn near everything ever since!.

The plot, again, is your standard fare. A group of adventurers travel to a far off land (Venezuela, which is mentioned) and to a mysterious flat mountain. Once there they do indeed discover dinosaurs are alive and well alongside human tribes all of which time has forgotten it seems. Of course they get trapped on the mountain and end up getting caught by the cannibal tribe. But they manage to escape both the tribe and the mountain during a predictable volcanic eruption.

The only main difference with this tale is the group of adventurers don't get lost at sea, or underground, or in the air etc...and end up in a lost world. This lost world is merely deep within the jungles of South America, oh and they didn't get lost in those jungles, they knew where it was.

Doh! I forgot to mention the stereotypical scantily clad native tribeswoman with long flowing dark hair and plenty of eye makeup. You always come across scantily clad native females in these lost worlds, really must go to one for my next holiday.

The film itself is a very poor looking cheap affair to be honest, nothing really looks any good here. The jungles and cave interiors are all terrible looking and clearly fake, whilst the dinosaurs are real cold blooded creatures like lizards and small alligators with tacky fins/scales glued on (visibly so).

The usage of real live creatures for the dinosaurs unavoidably means nasty looking superimposed/bluescreen sequences with actors in front of them. This procedure never looks great frankly but here it looks really poor, doesn't look as though they even tried to make it look reasonable. Of course when these reptiles battled each other it doesn't help that their fake fins/plates/frills are wobbling all over the place. The less said about the giant spider sequence the better methinks, oh the horror!.

The film has been changed from the original novel of course, as expected, and does suffer. The human cannibal tribe shown in this film do nothing! (and there's only one tribe). They merely capture the group and stick them in a huge cave which allows them all to escape easily 'oh look there's a path, maybe that's the exit?'. So as the goodies escape the natives simply while away their on screen time with dancing to a drum. When they get bored they check their prisoners, oops they've gone, should have cut back on your drum beating mate.

And yep you've guessed it, the whole film/adventure ends on the horribly over used complete destruction of everything note. Yep the big ass volcano goes off just as the goodies and escaping, I half expected Doug McClure to rescue them at one point. These 18th/19th Century writers loved to end their adventures with a volcano or earthquake didn't they.

This really does look like the poor mans adventure flick even for 1960, compare it to 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' and you see my point. Even the likes of Claude Rains with his grumpy gruff 'Professor Challenger' can't really save it. The cast is unique in the fact it includes Rains plus Bond girl Jill St John, Bond actor/TV star David Hedison and Lorenzo Lamas' father Fernando.

The ending could of set up a Godzilla style sequel with the baby T-Rex they save. Speaking of dinosaurs this film really could of done with a lot more of them. Even though they clearly looked like lizards with plastic stuck all over them they were fun to watch, better than the constant drum beating grunting cannibals.


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

'Goooooooood morning Vietnam! It's 0600 hours. What does the "O" stand for? O my God, it's early!'

Ah back in the day there was a steady stream of Nam war flicks that would produce great performances, great visuals, heavy emotion and eloquent musical scores, this film isn't exactly one of those films. But like all Nam films this too is actually based on true events, the true life events of one Adrian Cronauer, not exactly of course.

The films story isn't actually all that original really, it reads more like something of a tacky kids flick, an underdog story or 'Sgt Bilko'. Robin Williams play Cronauer, an Airman and DJ brought over to Saigon (65) to work for the US armed forces on their radio station. Of course up to this point the radio service has been stuffy, dull and pretty uninspiring, but not for long. Cronauer explodes on the air with his own brand of crazy, wacky in your face humour that very quickly upsets his superiors. From here on the film merely shows the battles between Cronauer and his officers and the depths they go to to try get him off the air for good.

If ever a film were a vehicle for someone this is it, Williams burst onto the air in the story and burst onto the scene in Hollywood with his performance. Despite the fact that I don't really enjoy watching Williams that much or his style of comedy, you can't deny the tour de force on show here. His continuous verbal assaults make you weary, its amazing how he can go on and on never seeming to run dry. In all honesty much of the humour within the film isn't all that funny really, for me it just gives you an idea of what the characters aim was, some of the dialog and jokes are pretty dated now too. There are some bits of dialog that make you laugh, some that are impressive simply because of the speed Williams relays them, but overall I got tired of listening to him.

'Talkin' out in the field. Hi, what's your name?' 'My name's Bob Fliber!' 'Bob, what do you do?' 'I'm in artillery!' 'Thank you, Bob. Can we play anything for you?' 'Anything! Just play it loud, OK?!'

As said the plot is very basic but delivers obvious good morals from Williams character, his companions and the whole idea of trying to provide the truth instead of deception. I'm unsure how much of this film is genuinely truthful as Cronauer is most definitely the perfect superhero. He falls for a local woman, befriends the locals and stands up for the locals against bigotry from US troops, pretty much an all round freedom fighter of justice. Nothing wrong with that of course but it does seem a bit over fabricated, did all this really happen? was Cronauer really involved that much? did he really go against his superiors to the point of disobeying rather important protocols?. A bit of movie magic artistic license methinks.

To be honest I found Bruno Kirby's performance as Second Lieutenant 'Steven Hauk' just as good if not better than Williams. This is a guy who believes he is funny and naturally is not...of course. His idea of humour is dated within the film, a kind of old panto/stand up style, but the cringing way he attempts his particular brand of comedy is hilarious and extremely awkward to watch it really is. His character is the typical bickering, snivelling, slimy jobsworth that runs to his superior for backup and assistance when the grunts ignore him showing no respect for rank, classic stuff.

Really the film is a bit thin on the ground, there isn't really any conflict action, no real tissue inducing emotional moments, no stunning panoramic views of the countryside and not much of a military aspect at all really. The entire film merely revolves around Williams, his loony antics on air, a brief uninteresting love interest and squabbling with T.J Walsh (admittedly amusing). A constant barrage of his wailing voice that does begin to grate over time, it also shows Williams not to be a good actor for period based war flicks.

Bottom line the basic ideals of Cronauer are brought across successfully. You do get behind him, you do empathize with him and you do get a boost when he sticks it to the man (his superiors) and rebels against orders. So yes the film is a feel good factor flick and it does work in that sense. You do also get a glimpse of the senselessness of war and how just a little laughter can release so much hope and joy to the young men being sent into battle and an unknown fate. A powerful realisation for Williams character and probably the strongest sequence in the film.

The visuals are effective and capture the mood of the time, if a bit limited, and the soundtrack like most Nam flicks is excellent. The little montages set alongside the music tracks are always good fun to watch. Whether the film is realistic or not, I'd say it is in places but more of a gentle approach, not much death n destruction here people, not that kind of Nam flick.

Its an interesting idea to look at military radio during conflicts, and making a comedy is an even bolder move surrounding that idea. Its just the whole amusing concept dies quite quickly and can't really maintain the full run time. The finale is clearly suppose to be a bit of a twist and emotional but it doesn't really work, its also obvious. If you like Nam films then you may like this, I'm not sure, if you're not a Williams fan then definitely no. Of course if you like Williams then its Christmas time for you Sir.


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

So errr...'Die Hard' in the White House? hmmm actually no. Take a bit of 'Die Hard', quite a bit of 'Air Force One' and stir in some 'Under Siege' and the result is this. Pretty much the best darn homage to late 80's early 90's action thrillers to come along for sometime. The last decent film I saw that managed to emulate the golden era of action was Stallone's 'Rambo'. Put it this way, this is what I wanted to see from 'The Expendables', not the spoofy parody shit we got, this is real action gentlemen.

During talks with the South Korean PM the White House is attacked/stormed by North Korean guerrilla forces and virtually brought to its knees. Tonnes of people are killed, both civilian and uniformed, as the barrage hits, of course there is treachery in the ranks within the White House as the bad guys make themselves known. The only man left standing inside the Presidents home is Gerard 'Banning' Butler. Its now up to John McCla...err I mean Banning to get his revenge and kill everybody, (no vests involved).

Yep modern times, the Ruskies and Taliban are out, its now time for the Korean threat (China next). First impressions are good, fecking good! the initial siege on the White House/the grounds is easily the best action sequence I've seen for some time yes sir. Its fast, ultra violent, non stop breathless pulsating action, men (and women) are blown away on both sides all over the show, you want bullet holes in bodies, you got it.

This battle rages on for at least 15mins!! an Lockheed AC-130 flies overhead mowing down hundreds of innocents whilst taking down fighter jets, masses of guerrillas storm the White House front lawns armed to the teeth, RPG's, mini guns, snipers taking peoples heads off, suicide bombers oh my! its brutal stuff and I loved it!

Of course there are some issues that popped into my head as this all kicked off. As the Lockheed flies overhead splattering everyone, many of the secret service and police on the ground fire up at it with their hand guns, why? do you really think that's gonna do anything?! I'm also pretty sure no plane would get anywhere near the White House in reality, it would be taken down long before that I'm sure. I'm also surprised at how slow the response times are in this film, yes I know its an action film and meant to convey dramatic suspense through artistic license but really? This is the White House we're talking about, wouldn't the place be swarming with special ops, military police/S.W.A.T. secret service, police, regular military etc...from every nook n cranny??

It really does seem like it takes ages for the cavalry to arrive which I'm sure would be much quicker in reality, plus I'm also sure those at the location wouldn't get wiped out quite so easily (remember, its the White House, most secure location in world...right??). Yes again...I know its a film but geez! US personnel get some poor representation here! they're all pretty stupid and get blown away as if they were rookies, maybe I'm being too harsh on them? Also must point out the huge flaws in intelligence to even let such a massive underground terrorist operation get by, and when I mean operation...I mean world war III in the Presidents front garden. But hey...its an action film, can't look into it too deeply.

After this powerhouse of an opening the film does maintain the course and keep you interested, not quite as good naturally but still solid. Its hard to think how the film can continue really seeing as everyone appears to have been killed straight away, good guys definitely. But there does seem to be a never ending stream of cannon fodder in terms of the bad guys.

Never the less this really is the perfect action flick, I can't stress enough how well this works and how much it made me recall certain thrillers of the 80's/90's. There are no stupid one liners, no visual gags, no cheese, no dull ass romances and the kiddie in danger element is dealt with quickly so as to get back into the violence...perfect. The whole film is quite dark throughout actually, lots of bullets to the head, vicious knife assaults, beatings, slayings and some really kickass fight sequences, mainly Butler vs Yune in the finale. But Butler shows us his special ops kill methods along the way. That's one difference between this modern era of action flicks and the old generation, the fights are much more stylised, realistic and focused on military tactics, back in the day they were merely scuffles in comparison.

End of the day this could easily be another chapter in John McClane's life for sure. Its a hodgepodge of various action flick ideas, some more so than others. Anyone notice the two 'Die Hard' sequences? when Banning runs into his colleague Forbes (Dylan McDermott) who does a Hans Gruber act on him pretending to be a good guy. Then the sequence where the SEALs are brought in and get shot down...just like in 'Die Hard' when the FBI are drafted in and get shot down, both sequences in choppers.

Shame they use too much CGI in this film too, unfortunately it looks like CGI and its a bit naff frankly, too obvious. You see, back in the day John McTiernan used real choppers for his shots, tisk tisk! But I guess they had to for some shots, but they didn't for others pfft!

Move over Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman errr...Robert Downey Jr, Gerard Butler has just reaffirmed his place as the new real action man for our era. Along with Jason Statham, Liam Neeson, Scott Adkins, Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy and Christian Bale the Brits firmly rule the waves in the Hollywood action genre right now no question (US born action stars seem to be a dying breed).

A true gritty adult action thriller with no beating around the bush, the likes I haven't seen for some time. Overly patriot and nothing original but lets be honest here what are you expecting? look at the plot, of course its gonna be gung-ho and knee deep in Stars n Stripes. Its a balls to the wall action flick and that's exactly what you get. I salute you Antoine Fuqua (does the White House really have rocket launchers surrounding it that come out of the ground?).


Friday, 19 July 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

The first film was a horrendous CGI filled mess that offered nothing in terms of intelligence or originality, although its scope and grandiose finale did warrant some positive feedback. Have people learned from the previous film? well no, is it me or does every action film these days have destruction porn in it? I mean seriously...

Cutting to the chase this is exactly the same drab, cheesy, bland, generic, shoot em' up crapola we see all the time now, there is nothing original here, nothing to applaud, its in fact worse than the cartoonish original. I'd say about less than 10 minutes into the film and I knew it was gonna be shit. The first bit of action we see, a fight sequence that is nothing more than the usual slow motion fancy ass martial arts showcasing that is so SO overused these days, every damn film. Straight away we know the film has no creativity of its own its gonna be one of those films again.

From then on its pretty much exactly what you would expect from a cookie cutter film like this. The usual macho posing and attempted humorous dialog between characters to try and make them appealing yet comes across as exactly that...posing. Every member of cast is covered head to toe in layers of makeup, all of them having the heaviest tan and whitest teeth jobs I've seen good God! could these people be more artificial! Johnson looks like a tattooed hotdog and his arms are perpetually glistening...oh for the love of...

Everything about this film is utterly stupid, Lady Jaye always looks good, doesn't matter if she's in a combat situation, soaking wet, preparing to go undercover, just got up, whatever...she is always plastered with makeup and her hair is always perfect. I know it doesn't seem like a big gripe but its shit like this that just makes these types of films such a joke. She's knee deep in blood with bombs going off all around her but she's still got her max factor on and her hair looks glamorous, sheesh!

The reason this film is actually worse than the first is mainly because, and you're gonna love this, there isn't as much happening!! Yep believe it or not this film isn't saturated in bad CGI, this time they have gone the other way and just cut out most of the action! Nothing much really happens accept for an attack on the Joes' at the start, a battle on a cliff face with Snake Eyes and then the obligatory explosive finale. The rest is just close up shots of the pretty cast , Johnson's big shiny arms and lots of gun porn, lots of gun porn.

Might just add, if you're looking for the most ridiculous fight sequence for sometime, you might wanna watch the cliff side battle with Snake Eyes and a never ending stream of ninjas on ropes. This is the 'Mortal Kombat' looking sequence basically (it had to happen) and has them all swinging across a massive vertical drop from rope to rope like Tarzan. It doesn't get more toonish than this folks, oh and Snake Eyes is carrying Storm Shadow at the same time just in case it wasn't ridiculous enough.

Despite this being a film based on a kids franchise you still gotta pay attention to the plot geez! Many characters, flashbacks, lots of dumbass names flying around, you gotta think about it at times. It also makes me laugh at how blasé the plot is about the destruction of London! millions clearly die yet its no biggie, and you know they just have to show some kind of destruction porn, gotta squeeze it in somewhere.

Bit cheap the way they handled Destro, clearly weren't getting Eccleston back for the role so they just leave him in that water tank prison thingy. Not sure why either I thought he and Cobra Commnader were a team, why did he leave him?

I knew exactly what to expect with this yet I also thought they had done something positive with it. I thought they had tried to make it slightly more sensible, sure I still expect the explosion porn and the gun porn and the gun sound effects porn etc...but its still a piece of crap. We do see some killing and a hint of blood so that's a good sign, unfortunately its swamped by terrible acting, terrible action sequences which mainly show lots of big slow vehicles blowing up and totally and utterly generic unoriginal choreographed fighting. There's no real grit or rawness here, its all so polished, slick and painfully fabricated visually, what's the point in that?

This franchise has become the new 'Transformers' for me, its the epitome of complete and total modern day Hollywood drivel that is churned out over and over and over. They messed up the first and they've had a chance to do something about it but have simply tossed out another factory line pile of poo. The one and only decent thing I thought they did well was Cobra Commander's outfit and that's it, that looked really good. I also thought the use of kinetic bombardment as a weapon of mass destruction was the only half original idea here, an interesting concept.

Apart from those tiny plus points the rest is about as good as the mindless, incapable, inept and never ending hordes of henchmen that get mown down by the invincible heroes without breaking sweat. Seriously don't these bad guys ever train their men? they're like dummies in a shooting gallery for Pete's sake! literately running into the bullets.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Battle Queen 2020 (2001)

OK I admit it, I only watched this because of the sexy film poster and the title, I kinda got the feeling there would be some good sexy kick-ass femme fatale action. Was kinda thinking along the lines of those cult classic trashy female barbarian flicks 'Barbarian Queen' and 'Deathstalker', alas no, this is much worse.

I didn't expect much of course and there are some soft porn sex scenes in here, bit of boobie action but nothing else. The plot is nonexistent to the point I'm not really what the plot was about, just something about a higher class of people living it up in a post-apocalyptic world with their own personal strippers n whores on demand (just sounds like the director's fantasy...and all males). Everyone else is poor, living underground and starving. Oh this is all because a meteor hit the Earth and destroyed it, at the same time somehow causing this divide in society.

Of course the higher echelons take advantage of the scummy poor folk, using the younger one's blood to rejuvenate their own. Oh so its a vampire kinda flick then? meh...sorta I guess, there's no real explanation for anything, they just do it. It's up to Julie Strain to save them...somehow, does she? I dunno, I think her occupation as head Mistress for the strippers n whores was much more interesting.

End of the day it's pretty obvious to all that the film is merely a fan pleaser for the big breasted Julie Strain. There is nothing much else to speak of, no real action except for a few hokey fights and the ultra-hot looking Eva Nemeth in her bondage outfit. Yep I've never heard of her either but my god she looked stunning.

Don't get all excited just because I have mentioned soft porn, it's so basic and forgettable I didn't even get aroused by it, may as well have been James Bond. I can only recommend this for the mystery female Nemeth in her bondage outfit, the rest is garbage.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Under Siege (1992)

Here we go, Steven Seagal's response to Bruce Willis and 'Die Hard', his very own Die Hard and quite possibly the first film after 'Die Hard' to be labelled with the 'Die Hard on a...' tag. What's even more amazing is this is a superb action flick that not only looks damn slick, sounds damn cool and plays out reasonably realistically for the most part, but its easily one of Seagal's best (and he ain't got many).

Plot...a battleship loaded with dangerous nasty weapons and a full crew, its hijacked by a crazy ass bad guy and his endless team of henchmen (plus a dirty double dealing Officer of the ship). People are killed, the rest are locked up leaving only one man, that man is a cook, that man is...STEVEN SEAGAL. Its now up to Steven Seagal, the most lethal, most dangerous, most stealthy badass ex-Navy SEAL ever! to save the day and terminate every last bad guy with extreme precise knife wielding prejudice.

So yeah the film is a total play on a certain McTiernan classic, the setup is the same, the execution, the way the film unfolds, hell there's even the same explosion whilst leaping off a high ledge sequence. The only real difference here is Seagal has a rather pointless sexy female that follows him around like a lost puppy, she adds nothing and she does pretty much does nothing accept show us her lovely tight ass at the start.

What I do like about this film is the realistic aspects of it. Filmed in part on a real battleship this naturally helps sell the whole concept and it does look really good. This in turn gives you the claustrophobic tightness of the battleship interior which makes fights, booby traps and gun battles even more tense and exciting. I also really enjoyed seeing Seagal go all A-Team on us with his little death traps and tricks using various objects and interior fittings, unsure how realistic they all were but I'm sure they are true to life.

Also nice to see Seagal getting assistance from a few freed crew members which again adds a nice touch of believability to the story, its not completely Seagal the killing machine. Although the excuse for using Erika Eleniak is still wafer thin, literately there just for that one strip sequence methinks.

All other aspects of the military including lingo, scenarios, meetings, weapons, procedures etc...all seem top notch, I do believe a lot of care is taken with this kinda of thing especially with Seagal. Of course the whole idea of hijacking a battleship seems ridiculous as there would be so many men on board, so many places to hide, hold up and run to and probably various ways of communication/alerts that I'm sure it would impossible.

The film relies heavily on two factors, the invincible hero in Seagal and the scenery chewing villains, namely Jones and Busey. The whole film is so obvious right from the start, everyone knows Busey is the bad guy, he looks just like his character from 'Lethal Weapon', he's a bad guy clearly. Busey is basically you're standard villain, he's just the perfect bad guy every time, bad guy classes 101, hire Busey with his crazy blonde hair and huge teeth, the perfect slime ball. Jones of course is also clearly a bad guy but feels a bit miscast for me, doesn't really come across as an ex-CIA kinda guy or an insane hippie. Plus I can understand why he wants to get even after they tried to eliminate him.

Anyway Seagal looks in good shape here, he's trim, no ponytail, his fight sequences actually look half decent and more importantly he's kinda believable too. Not too many cheesy one liners but a more straight laced no nonsense fella, of course every film Seagal stars in he plays an invincible ex-military/ex-cop superman type so there's nothing new here.

The whole film is sharp and action packed yet none of it looks over the top, its all pretty grounded which is why its well remembered. Great gun battles, cool looking hardware, authentic settings and some really good violent fights, the workshop fight makes you wince here n there. Only down side for me was the rather anti-climatic finale and ending, oh and the close up shot of Seagal's stern mug as he salutes is hilarious, unintentional of course.


Monday, 15 July 2013

The People That Time Forgot (UK, 1977)

The sequel to the first much better film, the second of three novel adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs, another Amicus film and once again directed by Kevin Connor. Hence all films do look similar with their visuals.

So the story continues, this time a small band (well three people) set off to find Doug McClure and his blonde bird. This time the hero is a former 'Sinbad' in Patrick Wayne, mechanic Shame Rimmer and sexy gorgeous paleontologist Sarah 'Ursa' Douglas (Superman II). Both Rimmer and Douglas starred in 'Superman II'. Altogether with a stereotypical big breasted primitive tribal female they go off in search of the lost characters from the last film on the same lost island.

First thing we notice in this film (which wasn't really touched on that much in the first until the end) is the fact this lost island is gigantic. We really do see how far this lost world spreads when our heroes arrive and escape by plane, it pretty much goes on for as far as the eye can see with mountains and arid terrain. Well apparently its a lost polar continent (not just an island), once again I must ask how on Titans balls does an entire continent not get properly discovered? especially during the WW1 era, its a mystery in itself!

This film feels really silly, I know that sounds weird considering the content and the previous film but this just feels dafter. This time we get to see a more advanced tribe that look very similar to Japanese samurai, in fact if I didn't know any better I'd swear the film makers simply used the ancient Japanese warrior style as a quick easy fix instead of coming up with something original, hmmmm. Then we meet this big fat tribal leader guy who looks like Marlon Brando (Milton Reid) and his little slimy Grima Wormtongue-like assistant. Looks a bit dubious if you get my drift.

It's at this point, well leading up to it, that I started to realise this film is more of an Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom/Conan type affair which feels more swords n sorcery than dinosaurs. The whole sequence within the nasty tribes lair felt very Conan-like, the rather huge tribal chief, his snivelling little minion and the muscle-bound warrior bloke (David 'Darth Vader' Prowse) all felt rather out of place in this film. The whole setup for that part of the film was actually quite good in a tacky early 80's barbarian type way but just not right for this films universe.

McClure is back here as the same character from the first film, seeing as its all about rescuing him what did you expect. Unfortunately the film diverts from the original novel quite a bit and this sees McClure's character die (spoil...ah who cares). Why? Beats me, more dramatic I guess, this then leads to exactly the same finale as the first film where the island begins to erupt...again.

A reasonable adventure flick that loses its way and kinda struggles to keep you entertainted. There are less dinosaurs, they actually look worse this time round believe it or not, it's more about the tribes which is dull frankly. Wayne isn't as good as McClure that's for sure but luckily the combo of Sarah Douglas and Dana Gillespie is stunning, kept me involved.

It just doesn't feel like this needed to be made really, its all about the dinosaurs for me and this film doesn't have that many, so what's the point?


Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Land That Time Forgot (UK, 1975)

Welcome to Jurassic Pa...no wait.

The first fantasy film that Mr. McClure starred in which lead to him starring in three more out of this world flicks that are all slightly similar...in visual style at least. Why are they similar? Because all but one are British Amicus productions, this film was a surprise success and lead to the sequel plus another Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy novel adaptation.

The plot is that usual spin, bunch of people get lost somehow (usually at sea, under the sea or in the air) and end up in some mysterious uncharted land. This time we start in the past (again), WWI era, on a German U-boat. The nasty krauts have sunken a ship which just happens to have McClure and an attractive blonde on it...oh and some other blokes. When the U-boat surfaces near them they take it by surprise, seize control, lose control, the radio gets smashed, realise there isn't enough fuel, food or water to get them back to allied territory...oh and they've been going in the wrong direction too.

This all leads to the gang reaching the mysterious massive island of Caprona. It's funny because the film actually starts off as quite a decent war flick, everything that happens on the sub is pretty neat really, in that silly gung-ho all American 'Dirty Dozen' type way. To be honest you do start to wonder if they will ever get to the land that time forgot, they spend so much time at sea fighting each other.

This film is definitely a bit of a classic really, everybody has heard of this I think, and to be frank it's not too bad although not as good as I recall. Once we get to the lost land its as you would expect with jungles, swamps, volcanoes, primitive tribal men and lots of big rubbery dinosaurs...yeah this is McClure territory right here people. All the dinosaurs are based on real known dino's but of course there is much artistic license. Some are clearly bad models on wires that don't move at all (Pterodactyl), some are puppets that rise from the water, whilst most are men in rubber suits lumbering around with some truly awesome roaring monster sound effects.

It looks terrible but I just adore those shots of the actors in the foreground and the dinosaurs/creatures/monsters bluescreened into the background, its dreadful but you gotta love it, staple diet of these flicks. Put it this way if you don't like mega cheesy stuff like that then you're watching the wrong type of films.

So once its decided or discovered that there is fresh oil on this fantastic bountiful island everyone goes off to find it with the help of a local primitive man (looking suspiciously like a Neanderthal). Long story short they find oil and manage to build their own little military base at the same time including some kind of machinery, pump for the oil I think, nice. The film then wraps up with the predictable volcanic eruption that threatens to destroy the whole island scenario...or so I thought. Turns out it doesn't and I'm not too sure why the volcano goes off either, or why we get this dramatic finale when all they had to do was leave that particular area.

It's at the very end we discover this lost island is actually gigantic with its own massive range of snow capped mountains that go on for some distance, how the hell has this place not been found over and over?! So yep the film is utterly stupid, makes no sense and things happen simply so you have an action fantasy film to watch. The hook is its a Doug McClure flick and it's fudging awesome, that's the bottom line my friends, you watch this because you know what you're gonna get, McClure kicking some prehistoric ass baby!


Friday, 12 July 2013

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

What a title! set to impress with a claim like that huh. This film really is a piece of history, an old iconic pop culture movie that has inspired so many other ideas in various formats. What is interesting is (like some original sci-fi concepts) back in 66 when this film was made the idea was of course deemed fantasy, these days I don't think it is, well with robots anyway.

The plot is classic, you all know it, a group of scientists are miniaturised to microscopic proportions in order to enter the human body of a man with a brain clot. The reason, to save him obviously, and because he knows the secret to the miniaturising technology and how to perfect it. At the same time other folk (pesky Russians) are trying to whack him because he defected to the US with the technology secrets. There's a time limit, the stakes are high and everybody will revert back to their normal size when the limit expires, game on.

The start of the story is actually pretty technical in my opinion, its all quite meticulous and realistic (as far as the fantasy goes). Compare this to the 80's revamp 'InnerSpace' and this film is far superior in my humble opinion. Where as 'InnerSpace' is a very wacky over the top comedy (good comedy), this is far more sensible which I didn't expect really, it works so much better despite being a slow build up.

What I love about this film is the visuals, now I'm very sure in reality if this happened it would be pitch black inside a body, apart from what the ships lights illuminated hehe. However here we have a vibrant underwater-like ocean of life, a rainbow of soft glowing colours in a gloopy sea of bodily fluids. Within these fluids (mainly blood) we see hundreds of transparent blue and pink oxygen carrying corpuscles, antibodies, fibers, proteins, bacteria etc...whilst the crew venture through the heart and lungs on their way to the brain.

The whole visual experience looks like errr...a lava lamp and quite psychedelia in a soft way, not surprising seeing as this was the mid 60's.

What I do find amusing throughout the film is how much bad luck the team has the moment they enter the body (fantastic little injection sequence I must add, really effective). Straight away they have big problems which basically means they might have to abort, oh well can't get around that, game over, lets go. Then someone has a brilliant plan and they manage to overcome the issue, five minutes later they hit another problem, oh well can't get around that, game over, lets go. Someone has a great plan and they overcome the issue, turn the next corner bang! another problem, oh well can't get around that, game ov....etc...

How about the Proteus eh? now is that another iconic sci-fi design or what. Love the shape of that sub with the little bubble dome on top, sound effects are nice too, it reminds me of a ship from the cartoon 'The Jetsons' puttering around. It looks like they built a full scale ship too, really lovely craftsmanship, looks gorgeous, very realistic.

Despite looking like an old 'Star Trek' episode this film is a truly award winning entertainment machine. Not only does it look great (and still works well today) but its pretty tense at times too. The final moments for Donald Pleasence are still a bit harrowing as he is slowly engulfed by a large white corpuscle. His frantic squirming and panicking unnerve you quite a bit...'I can't move my hands!. I'm stuck and I can't...I can't move my hands!...Get me out!!'. Mr Pleasence most definitely steals the show throughout this film no doubt, Welsh as usual is nothing more than eye candy in a tight white jumpsuit. Quite liked Edmond O'Brien as the gruff General, everyone else was you're regular cliched sci-fi character.

All in all a fine example of good fun science fiction. Some plot holes do reveal themselves which do spoil it admittedly, mainly at the end when the Proteus is left inside the patients body half digested along with the laser gun, the bad doctor's remains (Pleasant) and all the fluid used to inject the crew originally. Surely that would all revert and cause death?. But a few niggly bits aside this film is solidly exhilarating with a lovely rose tinted charm that hasn't died in all these years.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Probably the best adaptation of Jules Verne's classic undersea tale ever made, with probably the best casting and performance of Captain Nemo ever also. I can also go further and say this is probably the best live action Disney film ever as well, in the top five for sure.

The plot is actually kinda loose really, there isn't really any definitive plan or agenda here, its merely Nemo cruising the ocean depths enjoying his freedom from civilisation. The main angle is Nemo used to be a prisoner on the island penal colony of Rura Penthe (Star Trek!!) and managed to escape with fellow prisoners whom now make up his crew.

Nemo thusly spends his time sinking ships that leave that island mainly because they carry arms and ammo for war. That's about it really, Nemo dislikes landlubbers, the people from this island oh and they killed his wife and child too when trying to unlock the secrets of his work. The only things I'm not sure of in this adaptation is where exactly does Nemo come from, where is this island suppose to be? why are there prisoners there? which wars does Nemo refer to?...the backstory isn't very clear.

We know from the original novel that Nemo seems to be from India, the kingdom of Mysore, and his family were killed by the ruling British Empire. In this film Nemo is portrayed as a European which in-turn renders the backstory a little off as we don't really find out what has happened to him previously, the film lacks proper explanation as I mention above. This is really the only downside to the whole film, everything else is reasonably accurate give or take, the finale has been changed.

What's so enjoyable about this film are the visuals on display, the Nautilus design here is a piece of cinematic history. That strange pointed shell-like shape with fins, a big circular viewing window and that classic bug-eyed design for the main cockpit/helm section which breaks the waters surface. I loved the Nautilus and its interior (complete with spooky organ...essence of 'Phantom of the Opera' much?) and I also always loved that steampunk-ish design for the deep sea diving suits (obviously unintended at the time). In fact everything to do with Nemo's craft, its interior and his equipment has that wonderful blend of Hammer horror and steampunk, right down to the muted dull colours and that heavy riveted steel appearance. Heck even the skiff has its own lovely design, the way it slotted into the Nautilus.

Lets be honest here all the visuals on display throughout the film are gorgeous, even the models are well animated and nicely shot. Large scale sets and props look good, especially close ups of the Nautilus topside, she also looks great gliding through the murky depths and submerging...just like a sea monster. The main highlight of course must be the giant squid attack, everybody knows of this famous encounter surely. What amazed me is this sequence still holds up today! it looks great rubbery tentacles aside. The sight of that snapping maw as Nemo's crew battle the beast amidst a terrible sea storm is sheer joygasm from start to finish. Any monster fan will appreciate how awesome this sequence is, even the wide shots showing the entire squid latched onto the Nautiluses hull underwater looks great, no it doesn't look like 'Stingray'...not too much.

Lastly how can I not mention the cast...oh my, you don't get line ups like this anymore. James Mason and his voice totally kill in this role, its one of the roles he is most fondly remembered for and rightly so. Personally I don't like how grumpy, stern and militaristic Nemo is portrayed here, whether that is Mason or from the novel I don't know but he always did intimidate me with his gruff demeanor, but that's good acting right there isn't it.

Along for the ride is cocky sailor Kirk Douglas who again never really sat well with me here. I think he over acts and is too intense, I don't think he fit the role either with his American accent. Saying 'mate' or attempting to say it in an English regional accent doesn't quite cover it for me. Lukas and his Eastern Euro accent, like Mason, is a joy to listen to, he makes the perfect upper class professor type (should of done more horror with his Vincent Price-like looks), whilst Lorre adds a touch of humour and his own quirky vocal tonnes. On the whole despite how epic this cast is I do believe most were miscast with the slight exception of Mason (even though Nemo isn't suppose to be European), and maybe all going too far for a Disney film?

I remember this fondly from my childhood and it still works well to this day, a few small minor gripes aside (and the miscasting) the film nigh on perfect. I only wish they could of included some stuff from the novel such as visiting the lost city of Atlantis and maybe a few more brushes with some creatures of the deep. A visual masterpiece in fantasy methinks, and considering this was made in 54 that ain't bad...James Mason + smoking jacket = awesomeness right there.