Monday, 30 September 2013

Turbo (2013)

Dreamworks are on a roll here people, 'The Croods' 'Rise of the Guardians' and now this slick little number. Yet another insect tale and another creature checked off the 'to do' list (will there be an animated flick about every creature?). This little story is so obvious and easy I'm amazed it hasn't been done already.

A simple snail is turned into a super-fast snail when he accidentally gets sucked up into a modded cars turbo engine and he somehow mutates into this super snail (yeah you missed this idea Marvel). So this story is gonna be even more outlandish than the regular insect animations.

At first the angle of the film is much like any other creepy-crawly kids flick, it's silly but it's still based around how that creature actually exists in reality. In a garden munching on leaves, lettuce, tomatoes, getting eaten by birds, and avoiding dangerous situations like evil kids. But as the film progresses it slowly morphs into a clear 'Fast n Furious' rip-off for kids. At first I wasn't too sure if I was gonna like it but luckily the plot takes us into the realms of F1/Indycar racing, I feared an all-out cheesy chav filled bling fest.

The visuals are filled with neon which tends to be a cheap way to try and make things look cool but admittedly it does look quite good here. I do like the neon snail trail Turbo leaves and how it follows the coils on his shell. Although the fact his little body made all sorts of car noises and his eyes lit up as headlights was a bit too far for me. I did also find myself liking his fellow snail friends with their ridiculous shells. It was totally daft but kinda cute at the same time. The snail crew were actually really amusing I must admit. S.L. Jackson really makes the most of his well known loud aggressive persona which was funny coming from a little snail. The rest were kinda cliched with the obligatory hip hop snail in a small crew that were clearly a parody of the characters in '2 Fast 2 Furious'. White Shadow was easily the best snail for me.

The story is insane though, this fat guy (Mexican?) finds Turbo and decides the best thing to do is enter him in the Indianapolis 500...yes the real Indianapolis 500. Now I have to say this concept is beyond surreal frankly but there we go. I can't really moan about it as this is in no way suppose to be taken seriously. I mean the snails supposedly only know of their little garden world, so how would they know what Mexican food is or anything in the outside world? Oh right Turbo watches TV...I'll stop right here. Anyway if it were me I'd just get the snail on the news and travel the world showing him off, why risk getting the little fella crushed straight away?!

It's definitely more of a kids film but I'm sure adults will enjoy some of it, the whole thing is so cozy and cheerful how can you not like it? The quick little quips from various snail characters kept me amused, Giamatti as Chet was good for that. The classic underdog (undersnail) tale, there aren't any surprises here lets put it this way. What happens in the race (the whole plot) is basic 101 storytelling and you know what will happen a mile off. This isn't a problem though as the film is all heart, full of bright colourful visuals, and some great little characters (crank up the merchandising machine).


Saturday, 28 September 2013

After Earth (2013)

After many tough gruelling auditions spanning many gruelling weeks, Jaden Smith was finally awarded the starring role in his fathers hopeful sci-fi epic...oh wait.

The plot is as old as the hills, ye olde coming of age drama between a father and his boy, this one happens to be set 1000 years in the future on a distant planet. Put simply Will Smith ('Cypher Raige'...really? is that space age name cool enough for you Mr Smith?) thinks his boy is a failure for not becoming a space ranger action figure type bloke, so there is much resentment between the two. On a final mission Smith Sr. brings Jr. along for the experience, but they hit a snag midflight with pesky asteroids and are forced to crash land on Earth. Now its up to Smith Jr. to save the day and gain his fathers respect by saving both their lives, can he manage it?! tune in next week folks, same channel, same tim...

Oh and there's that whole planet Earth being made uninhabitable from man made pollution issues and humans having to abandon it...part. Now Earth is some huge wild jungle free from mankind (not any trace at all? really? no ruins?) and has evolved into a ferocious predator filled world that time has forgotten. All that was missing was Doug McClure.

The main problem with this film which I think everyone has mentioned is the fact Jaden Smith is a seriously lacking actor, he clearly has no natural talent for it and comes across wooden, lifeless and amateurish...although he is still young for sure. Its quite clear Smith Sr. is creating a fast food/instant movie star situation with his boy by getting him in big movie roles and trying to force him to the top. Smith Sr. wants this to happen big time in my opinion, I'm sure Smith Jr. does too but I don't think he's actually got the flair or natural ability.

The other issue is Smith Sr. tries to act seriously here, or tries something, not sure what, but it doesn't work. His performance is terrible, verging on B-movie standards. He's suppose to be a by the books, hard lined, emotionless, fearless, stoic military leader who certainly doesn't mollycoddle his son in any way. This means Smith Sr. is basically an unlikable character, not good, but it also means that Smith Jr's goal is to be like his father, an emotionless robot with no soul. This pretty much means that both the lead characters are unlikable and emotion in the film is cold and forced, or so it feels.

At no point did I really care about either of the lead characters, even at the very end, I didn't give a hoot frankly. The human emotion was as plastic looking as the ships interior, and that's pretty darn plastic!. So Smith Sr. sits out all the action in this film and simply sits around looking stern, whilst Smith Jr. is our hero and has the same expression of a goldfish the entire time. Oh he also whines quite a bit too, he's actually a bit annoying.

Smith Sr. gives Jr. this all encompassing speech about what to do and what not to do before sending him on his way. Then literately within the first five minutes of setting off the kid ignores what his father says, gets himself chased by a posse of large killer baboons and finally stung by a poisonous leech, no wonder this kid failed his space cowboy test thing. Luckily they just happen to have the correct antidote for the leech bite so never mind. I did feel sorry for him towards the end though, he reaches the tail end of the ship and finds out he's now gotta climb a huge volcanic mountain on top of it because the flare/beacon thing has no signal! these space age service providers huh sheesh!.

The whole film looks good as do all films these days, the special effects are touch and go, CGI in abundance of course but not the best. The scenic views of Nova Prime are very nice at the start as are all the location shots throughout but props and sets are curiously average looking. As I already said the interior of the spaceship is very odd, its all beige and looks like its been made out of cardboard and plastic, visibly shakes too. What was that carwash brush section that Jaden walks through?? what the hell was that?!, plus all the equipment used and the 'Ursa' egg all looked very poor.

One thing that did spring to mind throughout, why doesn't anyone have any futuristic guns of some kind? surely these space ghosts would carry a gun for emergencies?. It just seems so forced that this accident happens and they are stranded on a prehistoric Earth with only a Predator spear to protect them, trying to make it a desperate primeval survival flick much??. Plus the suits both the Smith boys wear, they are futuristic gizmo's right, don't they at least have an internal temperature control? surely that is an obvious gadget to include when designing?. No oxygen supply, battery pack, extra weapons concealed anywhere etc...pretty useless suit really isn't it, all it did was change colour.

The overall message about us humans is pretty definitive if you ask me, we messed up our own planet to the point that we had to abandon it, we then find another planet and claim it as our own when it clearly belongs to another alien race (or is looked after by another alien race). All this says to me is the human race are in fact like a disease, we are infectious and bad for a planets ecosystem. In this film clearly we have upset another race by invading this planet, why don't we just find another planet?.

Its not all bad, I liked the mystery behind the alien race that unleashes the Ursa, nothing given away there which is fine, I quite liked the Ursa too. I think they captured a futuristic Earth without humans nicely...that's about it. Its a weak survival film really, you're never in any sort of fear about what's gonna happen, you know everyone will be OK, no suspense or real drama, its all very shallow and amazingly rudimentary.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

The titles are getting less inspirational now as we lurch into the sixth entry in this massively overblown franchise. We've had LA California Miami Tokyo Dominican Republic Mexico/US border and Rio de Janeiro, now its London's turn for more turbo charged high jinx. More like a videogame as we travel around the globe to different destinations for the car sequences (take your pick). Oh and this is still a prequel to the third film as Han is still alive and well, all the films are a prequel to the third accept for the next (number 7), as I've discovered.

So this time there is another bad guy that must be stopped gee whizz! a British villain, the Yanks just love us caddish Brits. The little twist this time is the fact that Toretto and his crew are no longer the ones on the run, they are hired by G.I.Rock.babyoil.biceps.Johnson to bring this bad guy to justice. The reason is because he's building some kind of special tech that can bring down all power for an entire region, and then he will sell it...fiendish!

The start of this film is basically a Bond sequence...seeing as this is what the film has now become, a kind of Bond/Mission: Impossible/(recent) Die Hard mix with the good humoured character teamwork of Ocean's Eleven. The uniting of the team is very much in this style, a little montage of the gang in their various hideouts, then all called up for service by the leader, criminals assemble!

Mr Johnson is so hokey here too, of course he's not meant to be anything else really but Jesus! The guy is getting so thick he can't walk right, either that or he just swaggers horrendously. The dude is like a tagline machine, spitting out one butch statement after another, he's a walking action figure.

So virtually everybody is dragged back into the frey both goodies and baddies, the casting continuity is actually impressive. I think we all know now that Rodriguez is the big surprise reentry here as it turns out she wasn't killed in number four. Nope she has been brought back to allow the franchise to continue even further. In all complete and utter honesty most of this film is totally mundane and routine, there is nothing here that is fresh or exciting. We are shown what really happened to Letty although I can't believe she simply wasn't just shot in the head to make sure. Carano gets a good fight sequence...naturally, the underground is shown along with some other landmarks...naturally, and of course we are given one obligatory street race.

London and no traffic?? nah! but wait! what was that moment when O'Connor knocks that bug device off the front of his BMW by skidding past a concrete pillar?. How the hell did he even know where it was? its size? width? how on earth did he manage to gauge that move without slamming into the pillar or just missing the bug completely?? I know these films are not to be taken seriously but its moments like that that just make it laughable, a joke.

The cars this time are more unique with a few more British models (of course), bored with large numbers of imports we now get some curious models. The Dodge Charger Daytona and its long pointed body with huge spoiler fin, a British Ford Escort, the Jenson Interceptor, a Ford Anvil Mustang, a Plymouth Barracuda and an Alfa Romeo are all used.

The film grows tiresome right up until a fast paced chase sequence in Spain down a highway. Starting off kinda generic but quickly turning into something much more interesting as they end up chasing a tank. The sequence unfortunately ends on a highly absurd set piece requiring CGI assistance which spoils the moment but it is fun (how many innocent people were killed on that highway?!!). Just when you think that's that bugger me we get another good sequence, saved the best stuff for last it seems. This time the team are chasing (always chasing) a large cargo aircraft which is stuffed with yet more cars. So guess what? yep we get lots of cars everywhere...silly stunts, CGI stunts explosions utterly impossible feats, Dwayne 'my t-shirts are really tight' Johnson fighting an even bigger meathead, more girl fights, heroic deaths and the longest damn take off in the world. Seriously how long does it take that plane to lift? and how long is that runway??

At first I was really not going along with this whole idea, a sixth film! Then as I started to watch I realised hey I was right! this is just complete rehash. Its only when we get to the last half hour or so of the film that things get exciting with those two chase sequences, up to then its seriously average. I like how they have engineered the plot from part three and the franchise as a whole into a bigger picture, all these films are prequels and the finale here does tie that up nicely. The only thing is before that they do tie up the whole franchise very nicely with a good ending for all the characters involved. I did get the feeling this was the perfect moment to finish this for good, end it now with a solid bookend. The fact they are pushing it further is really milking it and really pushing their luck...if you ask me.

This was gonna be a low score but the last two sequences in the finale saved this films life big time, almost a fail, how much longer can it hold out?


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Fast Five (2011)

A new film, a new venture and a whole new never ending stream of super modded cars for Toretto and his crew. No need for explanations on how they get these cars, they just get them, deal with it people.

Fairly disappointing, overly long and actually slightly dull new chapter in this chav/hip hop racer franchise. Amazing it has lasted this long really but the films have been a roller coaster of quality for me. First film was a boy racer flick complete with dumb neon underside lighting but fairly original and fun. Second film was a bit of a rehash with colourful new street racer characters and dripping in bling...was pretty awful.

Third film was a straight to the shops deal which many didn't like BUT is actually by far the most superior of the franchise due to the excellent and very realistic drift racing making it a proper street racing film. The fourth film regroups the original cast and has a drug running plot. This means the street racing has been pushed to one side in favour of generic action man hokum.

Now we have number five which seems to have ditched a lot of the street racing element and is more of an out n out heist flick. Along the lines of 'The Italian Job' remake with flashy over the top car/people stunts, the usual regular cliched team of criminals and the usual regular cliched breaking in techniques that we've seen so often now we could all break into banks ourselves.

Still impressed with the cast continuity though I gotta admit. Everyone is back again including Bridges from number 2 and Schulze all the way from the very first film. It is also of course the first introduction of Dwayne Johnson into the franchise and he fits in perfectly in all honesty. He stands around barking orders with his chest puffed out, arms glistening and holding large weapons.

There is a hint of street racing but that's all we get...a hint, we don't see the guys winning their fast cars. I think the stupidest scene in the film is where they race police cars together, they just waltz in and steal four cruisers, apparently, then try to make us believe that these regular police cruisers are fast souped up motors!! and manual!...they do realise the US mainly uses auto? (of course they used fast cars in reality as stand in's).

Highlight is the fight between Diesel and Johnson, two big slapheads grunting n sweating over each other which is pretty decent but after that it gets silly again as both Johnson and his female partner decide to join Toretto and his criminals in the heist! The final big chase/escape sequence is impressive with tonnes of carnage and wreckage, your basic common destruction porn fix. It does admittedly command your attention even if its somewhat overblown and ridiculous, I wonder how many innocent people Toretto manages to kill inadvertently during the finale.

If you want street racing you won't find it here, this is a bank heist flick which isn't too original. Reasonable mindless fun but nothing new, seen this kind of thing so many times and this offers nothing new. This film marks the end for the street racing aspect in this franchise and enters the saturated action heist genre.

On a final note I might add...there's no way Toretto's Dodge Charger could ever compete against Brian's Skyline GTR at the end. How many times are they gonna try and show this to us??


Monday, 23 September 2013

Fast & Furious (2009)

Isn't Han dead? oh no wait this is a sequel to the first film that doesn't ignore the second and third film but just takes place before them. So this is when Han was running with Toretto before he leaves for Japan...aaaah right. It feels pretty desperate for them to go way back and make a sequel to the first film after time has moved on with the second and third films. Did we really need to know what happened right after the first film? did we really need to see Han with Toretto? couldn't they just move ahead with a fourth that takes places after two and three? The whole structure of the franchise just seems so convoluted now.

So Walker is now an agent in a suit for the FBI, so he looks even more like Keanu Reeves in 'Point Break', really helping his impression ten fold...totally bra! Toretto's girlfriend has been killed by a drug dealers henchman, the same drug dealer O'Conner is after, so both end up going after the same cartel. At the same time Toretto is still on the most wanted list which is still causing O'Conner morality issues, anyway to hell with all that! cue the pointless street racing!

This film really does feel completely and utterly generic in every way. The plot just seems so pointless and uninspired, Letty is killed for pretty much unknown reasons (we don't find out why for ages), but I assume its mainly because Rodriguez wanted out of the franchise. From that point on its just watching Vin Diesel swagger from one set piece to another beating guys up or generally running away from the law.

I mean really, the main bad guy drug kingpin organises a street race through downtown LA just to recruit a driver for his drug smuggling operation. The whole sequence is so pathetic, all the drivers line up like they were top guns of the chav world...bling city, one guy is black, one guy is white, one guy is Latino etc...PC much? Its not even a sensible race, more like a destruction derby and completely unrealistic. I realise this is not a serious action film but come on, lets at least make the racing sensible, it is the films main selling point.

Oh...A hyper modded Skyline struggling to beat an US brick (American Muscle), really? I don't think so, import will always win. That Skyline should have been pushing 1000BHP, should have been if properly modded.

The tanker hijack sequence at the start of the film is just as dumb as the exact same sequence in the first film. Once again I gotta ask...why not just stop the tanker, take the driver out at gun point and then calmly take the fuel?? surely that's easier? Oh no wait the director wants to have an exciting chase sequence with lots of fast cars and a big explosion at the end, oooooh gotcha.

Then there is the quite plainly idiotic chase sequences through these underground tunnels across the US border into Mexico. I can't even begin to express how stupid this whole concept is let alone how awful it looks with terrible CGI. For starters who built these tunnels? how? when? how did the US border patrols not notice this massive undertaking??! How the hell does anyone know exactly where the entrance is to these tunnels when they are disguised as a rock face and you're travelling towards them at about 200+ MPH!

The sequences within the tunnels are just dreadful, it looks like a videogame. As the actors sit in the mock cars you can laugh at the hideous CGI rock formations whizzing past in the windows/rear windscreen. Again I know this isn't a serious flick but come on...this takes the piss. And we are to believe they are all zooming down these narrow badly lit mine shafts in super imports and US muscle cars at well over 150MPH?! really?

What I love about this franchise/film is the fact Toretto always seems to have a modded muscle car. Doesn't matter where he is or what's happened, he turns up with a newly charged up car...always American muscle. I wish it was this easy in reality haha. Even at the very end, O'Conner and what's left of Toretto's crew pop up to bust him out...all driving more expensive heavily modded cars! Where do they get them from?? how many Dodge Chargers have they gone through now? how many do they own? do they clone them?? Do any of these guys have insurance? wait silly question.

This film did well simply because the original cast came back, but I can't for the life of me understand how that helps. Yes I like Vin Diesel but the rest are terrible, the plot is formulaic and dull, the film is choppy and they have started to slide towards the action genre meaning actual street racing is out. But even the racing sequences are poor here, just ridiculous and show more resemblance to James Bond. Not to be taken seriously of course but this film has lost its originality and simply become a common action mess.


Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

I've said it before and I'll say it again...this is the best darn Fast n Furious chapter on the track by miles (puns away!). No big names and no massive overblown stunts, this is just pure driving at its finest, real driving, drift driving. The film works because there is no pressure on its shoulders, the sequel was terrible so there were no expectations here. Now I know this has been long forgotten by the recent tidal wave of cookie cutter sequels and merely because Vin Diesel came back, but none of them hold a candle to this.

The plot is basic and involves a young tearaway who seems to be getting into trouble where ever he and his mother move to. One stunt too many causing major damage to property and writing off his car means he's being sent away to his Japan. His father was in the military so this is why he's based in the land of the rising sun, and because of his bad record (and to avoid jail) this young lad gets shipped to Japan to live with his dad. That's a punishment!!? sounds pretty cool to me.

Of course the entire plot is predictable and hokey as hell, its virtually bordering on 'The Karate Kid' with cars. New kid in town, makes a close friend who helps him, makes enemies with the local bully cos he falls for his girlfriend, gets into all sorts of scrapes in the meantime, his father can't control him...blah blah blah, yeah its damn unoriginal sure, but that's not why we watch these films is it. It is a shame the main lead in this is totally miscast, he looks like a doofus and sounds it too with that hick southern accent of his, but mainly he's just not much of a good looking lead, strange choice.

You like Japanese super saloons? more specifically you like Nissan 350Z's? you're at home here my friend. The first car sequence in this film is set within a multi-storey car park, a damn tight one! The skills on show in this one sequence alone are breathtaking, the 350 drifts around the ultra tights bends inches from the walls, people and other parked cars. You gotta see it to believe it and its clearly real.

The visuals in this film are a real treat, Japan is an extremely photogenic city and always looks good, especially at night. The sight of these glistening hyper cars purring along the highways and small streets of Tokyo, cruising part the neon lights, bustling crowds, old town areas and towering lit up skyscrapers is simply gorgeous. Most super cars/heavily modded cars look good anywhere, but set them in Japan and they just look even better, some lovely eastern car graphics and mod kits in this film too.

Most of the car sequences in this film are stunning in all honesty, even the training sequences where our US lead learns to drift, its all filmed perfectly. The guys behind the camera knew how to get the best angles and shots for these sequences, the cars just look awesome. 350's, EVO's, a Mazda and a highly modded Silvia make up the roster this time but come the big finale race naturally the Yank tunes up his dads old Mustang to challenge the bad guy. Its kinda silly really because I really don't think there would be any way an old Mustang could beat a Nissan 350Z, especially at drifting, the Mustang couldn't handle it.

But I can't deny the final race is pretty cool, its quite tense and does get your adrenaline going slightly...even though we know who's gonna win. The whole reason behind the race is daft anyway, why would a mafia kingpin allow a race to decide who leaves town. And why would the loser simply leave town? what is this a western?! doesn't the Yank and his friends owe money? wouldn't they cut his fingers off or something.

Anyway this is hands down the best actual racing film in the franchise if you ask me, a very highly professional and realistic street racing flick which deserves respect. The location simply enhances the experience, the only thing I don't like about these films (including the first two) is watching these awesome Jap cars get bashed up, its painful to watch because they're amazing cars and damn expensive to run! The very end is also fun with a cameo from Toretto (Diesel) but again I gotta laugh, does this guy really think he can beat a Jap drift car in a tight multi-storey car park with a huge brick of a US car like the Plymouth Satellite?! damn thing is wider than a bus!


Saturday, 21 September 2013

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 much bling 2 much ka-ching! the hyper neon lit sequel bursts onto your screen dripping in so much hip hop/rap culture you'd think they were trying to tell us something. Seriously this film is uber ridiculous, its like a toy commercial, a comic book, its the 'Batman and Robin' and 'Batman Forever' of the car chase genre. I was looking to see if Joel Schumacher had a hand in this eye sore.

The initial street racer sequence is the prime example of how utterly cheap and tacky this film is. Each racer is colour coordinated to their car, in other words one female driver is dressed head to toe in shocking pink (cos she's a girl you see). Her Honda 2000 is also customised completely in pink, her 'pit crew' are all dressed in slutty pink attire (I quite liked that), the cars interior is completely pink and even the exhaust flames when the car accelerates are pink...really? come on this has to be a Schumacher job.

So each driver is colour coordinated, one is all pink, one is all gold, one is all red but Walker lets the side down in his t-shirt and jeans. Everything about this film is all about street cred and bling, its god awful. The people in the street racing scenes consist of skimpily clad females (more so than the first film!) and bros with afros in baggy pants, it really is a complete stereotypical neon.

The plot seems to be exactly the same as the first film too, Walker must again go undercover and infiltrate a drug dealers setup to bring him down. This time he isn't a cop but he still thinks he's Keanu Reeves and his speech pattern has become wildly street wise, lots of 'bros' and 'cus' with lots of hip hop handshakes.

The problem with this film aside from the horrendous visuals and acting is the fact its pointless. There aren't really any street racing sequences bar one, even that is stupid because the film gives the impression a Mitsubishi EVO would struggle against a Camaro. Look US 'muscle cars' can't beat Jap super saloons people!! US cars are bricks with V8/6 engines that go nowhere. There aren't really any outstanding stunts and what there is is CGI or greenscreen enhanced, and that includes the small racing sequences. Also the chase sequence at the finale is hilarious because its very clear the cars are all travelling very slowly. I know they can't really go at 120MPH+ the whole time but its so obvious! crawling along the highway with a bunch of cop cars right on there bumper lol! yeah right that's thrilling.

The finale is dull, the characters are dreadful, its chock full of hip hop short its an absolute babyish mess that appears to be catering for one specific audience...oh did I mention its all in neon. The Miami setting is perfect for this camp looking mess in all honesty, I've never seen so much brightly coloured crap, and I hate how Walkers Skyline is full of blue neon ugh. Its a crime what they have done to some of those cars, hideous. Just label this under Grand Theft Auto: Bling Heist.


The Fast and the Furious (2001)

One of the most overrated ridiculous franchises ever? well you get what you pay for right, you see the trailer, you see fast cars and slutty girls, you know what you're gonna get. Apart from the visuals, you see who directs this and you know not to expect a great deal, Rob Cohen...a low rent Michael Bay who makes trashy flashy CGI filled flicks. But who knew how far this would go, how long this dumb adventure would last and why is it so popular?

I imagine it appeals to the young generation, fast cars, hot chicks and lots of huge stunts, I guess you could say its 'The Dukes of Hazzard' for the modern era. Unfortunately originality is not on the menu, the plot...a gang of fast car, street racing adrenaline junkies/petrol heads are hijacking trucks utilising their driving skills. Undercover cop infiltrates this street racing world posing as a fellow fast car petrol head to try and find out who is behind the hijackings.

Wait a moment...a gang of surfer adrenaline junkies are robbing banks (although not utilising their surfing skills). An undercover cop infiltrates their surfer world posing as a fellow wannabe surfer to try and find out who is behind the robberies. Yep, this film is 'Point Break' but with cars instead of surf boards.

None of it really makes any sense though, Toretto seems to own garages and a property yet never has any customers or does any work, yet he's clearly loaded. He owns an array of cars that are all worth a fortune, all heavily modded and would cost loads to maintain and insure yet he treats them as if they were meaningless and crashes them left right n centre. Money seems to be no object to the characters in this film, oh I just smashed up my Mitsubishi with about 20K worth of modifications to it, oh well I'll just turn up in the next scene with another. Oh my Dodge Charger means everything to me cos me and my dad built it and put tonnes of money n love into it...meh I'll just race it against a train, no worries.

Its also amusing how all the street racers drive around in car posses, taking up the entire road, yeah like that wouldn't attract the police. Oh and the police clearly have trouble catching these guys and their cars, OK, well why not drive around the suburbs and look for the houses with top line modded Jap cars parked outside. Yes they park their illegal fast cars in the street outside their abodes...oh dear.

Now as I said you can't expect much from this film, its clearly style over substance, half the film is merely imagery of car porn and scantily clad ladies hanging around next to them. The acting is hilariously bad from everybody, I've haven't seen so much posing, swaggering, hardman attitudes and general showing off for a long time, (usually reserved for gangsta hoodie type flicks). Hordes of wannabes crowd around the main actors in the street race scenes all looking desperate to get on camera for five seconds...and its obvious. All the young super slim females look stunningly sexy (err kids film?) yet have no clue what on earth is going on, oh and then we have a sweaty looking Michelle Rodriguez...yikes!

Despite all the high fives and god awful bling the main crux of the film, the cars, is pretty sweet. If you are into cars such as myself then its fun purely for that, if you like Japanese super saloons then even more so. Take note kids this is about fast cars, no BMW's, Mercs or Audi's required. This is probably the only area of the film which is remotely interesting, there is a really good range of modified Jap cars here and not just top line models either, some nice retro gear. Of course this is a Cohen film so there has to be a bit of CGI in there somewhere, blasting through the engine as it ignites, not a bad idea but it looks hokey.

The sequences where they hijack these big rigs are stupid, they don't make much sense, why not just stop the thing? The finale is even dumber, again just stop the truck! or shoot out its tyres maybe geez! Everything is naturally predictable and cheesy, plenty of tight vests, muscles and tattoo's. Vin Diesel shouts a lot, Rodriguez scowls a lot and Walker does his best Keanu Reeves impression. All this and hardly any guns in sight! that's because its a watered down action thriller folks.

The big crash stunt at the very end involving Vin Diesel and his souped up Dodge Charger is admittedly very cool, best little sequence in the film really...I had to watch all this just for that?! Well...the scene where they smoke the Ferrari had me smiling, Italian rubbish!


Friday, 20 September 2013

Addams Family Reunion (1998)

I have since discovered this film was in fact a reboot of the franchise which is odd seeing as the first two films were big hits. Yet despite the reboot the film does follow on from the second in terms of visuals at least. The location of the Addams mansion/estate seems similar to the second film, as does the house interior, 'Granny' is back as a main character and more like the original films incarnation and of course good old Carel Struycken is still 'Lurch'.

The plot is also not too much of a diversion from the previous two films. Again it revolves around the family, this time 'Gomez's' grandparents, who appear to be turning 'normal'. So Gomez organises another reunion to find a family member to help. The twist is there is a company that helps Gomez do this but a spelling mistake on the Addams name (Adams) sets up a reunion with a different family who are regular people.

As you might expect there is much ghoulish silliness which has been filmed and edited in the same way as the previous films. A lot of fast cuts, sped up sequences, odd camera angles etc...the whole atmosphere and approach is very familiar and still enjoyable. Sure some of it doesn't look at slick or polished as the other films, this is clearly a much cheaper production and more in line with TV movies but these films get away with it. As the earlier films showed, hammy hokey effects work well with the franchise and add charm to the proceedings, its not meant to look top of the line, more comic book or cartoony.

Unfortunately the creators thought to include the usage of CGI dotted throughout which does spoil the film. Its only used in places but it looks terribly cheap, the CGI mutated puppy is pretty awful and brings back memories of 'The Mask 2'...yep that kind of CGI.

I guess the whole thing will hinge on the cast, can the classic family be re-imagined once again?. Happily and surprisingly I say yes they can, and have been. Tim Curry is probably the best man for the job as Gomez by far, this role fits him like a glove. Daryl Hannah is also surprisingly good as 'Morticia' in both acting and looks, I didn't think a blonde could pull off the goth thing but she nails it. The rest of the creepy bunch are mostly unknowns to me but they do a fair job in their roles, of course I miss Lloyd and Ricci.

I went into this fearing the worst but its actually not too bad. Plot wise its poor and never really goes anywhere, add to that various meaningless subplots. The cast save the film from complete failure and the fact they managed to keep it in line with the older films is nice, makes it feel more complete, more of a third film in a trilogy. Would be interesting to see this cast in a much higher production with better effects etc...


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Byzantium (UK/IRE, 2013)

Jordan's second vampire film and once again its a serious dissection of undead life, this time around its a young mother and her teenage daughter. At first I did kinda get the impression the film was based on vampires during the 3rd century within the ancient city of Byzantium...which would of been ambitious to say the least, but highly interesting, oh well.

So yes the title of the film actually refers to the hotel where the two homeless vamps shelter. The whole story is set within the town of Hastings, Kent on the south coast of England, didn't get that at first mind you, I thought it was up north somewhere. The two female vampires have lived for over two hundred years and their story originates around the Napoleonic Wars. Ever since that time they have survived on human blood and tried their best not to get noticed, but as time goes by it gets harder.

What is so interesting about this new angle to old vampire lore is females are not allowed to be vampires, yes you heard me. In this universe being an undead nightwalker is reserved for men only and passed on through the ages to chosen males of whom the current vampire takes a shine to, or sees promise in. So its basically like an old boys club. The main female lead (Arterton) steals a chance to become a vampire and of course turns her daughter (Ronan) too...and this is the main crux of the film. They have broken scared ancient laws and are being persued by male vamps who want to destroy the daughter (they accepted the mother on condition she didn't break their law on turning another female).

This is not the only change to vampire folklore that Jordan makes, in order to keep the whole concept fresh and somewhat more realistic or believable there are no fangs here, yes that's right no fangs. All blood letting is through the use of an extending sharp finger nail, sounds weak but it works (unless you break the nail! then what do you do!!?), but they do still drink from the wound as you'd expect.

The way in which vampires are created/born is turned on its head, it involves a scared secret mysterious island where the chosen must travel to (how has no one ever found this place though??). There they must enter a primitive cave/dwelling where their soul is taken. There aren't any crucifixes, garlic, stakes through the heart, coffins or any other cliched horror guff, vampires can be killed like any other regular human, although cutting off the head still seems definitive. Must also point out that sunlight bares no hindrance for vampires in this world, although they do prefer the darkness.

Yet despite these changes, visually the film is very familiar. Elements from Jordan's previous vampire classic 'Interview with the Vampire' can be seen throughout here. The whole story could easily be another chapter from the Anne Rice universe. We see the tale through the eyes of both the mother and the daughter but mainly the mother. Lots of flashbacks from the 18th century depicting what happens to the mother, how she turns, how she has her daughter and the decisions she has to make to protect and turn her daughter, her general quality of life in that era. We also see similar things from the daughters point of view also.

Hadn't really thought that much of Gemma Arterton until now, she really nails her character here. A cocky, confident, cockney female who has clearly grown accustomed to the vampire lifestyle and has no issue in killing men for the good of humanity and to protect herself and her daughter. She was practically born into a world of prostitution and has carried on with the profession all through the ages making her tough. Obviously the femme fatale and eye candy of the film (gotta have a sexy female vamp right?), Arterton is undeniably beautiful and very cute making it hard to not wanna be a vampire alongside her or at least get snuffed out by her hand (if you gotta go).

The daughter is played by Saoirse Ronan and I admit I've never heard of her but she has the kind of looks that make me feel she could end up in a lot of horror flicks. Those kind of striking yet eerie Sissy Spacek looks that work very well in horror and dramatic roles. Her performance here is just as good as Arterton, probably better but you can't really compare as the characters are very different.

The daughter is a somber character, very heartfelt, merciful and sympathetic (yet no cockney accent?), she only takes the lives of elderly people, sick people (although wouldn't that risk her own life? can vampires catch anything from blood in this universe?) people who consent to it, which is nice but I'd imagine that would make life much harder for her. Probably why she dislikes being an immortal bloodsucker and resents her mother for it, the lives they must lead. It doesn't help of course that she falls for a young lad played by Caleb Landry Jones who looks and dresses like a character out of 'Children of the Corn' (hell even that guys name is like something out of an 80's horror, country bumpkin psycho).

The visuals are half and half in that half of the time we are in cloudy rainy Hastings which is kinda depressing, and the other half we are in 18th century Hastings. The 18th century sequences are nicely done, subtle and not overblown with massive CGI land/seascapes, merely the odd galleon out to sea, open countryside and a lot of decent interior sets. Costumes are lavish as you would expect but there isn't much effort on the vampire look, no paleness or glowing eyes, just regular looking people. If you weren't in the know the film could easily be a BBC drama, this is not a big gothic Hollywood production with fancy decadent sets and heroic fight sequences.

Everyone in the film puts in a good performance (including Jonny Lee Miller), that coupled with Jordan's keen artistic eye that encapsulates the typical grimy, gloomy, scuzzy English coastal seaside town against the romantic visuals of 18th century England, makes for a superb dark fantasy tale. Shame it has been somewhat overlooked with a limited release, highly recommended for all fans of the genre.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

This Is the End (2013)

So someone in this group has a hard for The Backstreet Boys, well lets call it a guilty pleasure shall we. Best mates Rogen and Goldberg have written many films together and this time they decided to simply make a film which included all their other best mates...and have a blast (is this really work for these people??).

Enter Franco, Hill, McBride, Robinson and Baruchel (along with Rogen) as they all play themselves (so to speak) in LA for a lively house party. Along for the ride we see cameos from Cera, Segel, Tatum, Ansari, Watson, Mintz-Plasse, Kaling, Rudd, Hart and errr...Rihanna? (someone must have a hard on for her).

So most of the cast from various Rogen/Goldberg flicks are here along with a few of their friends and some of the cast from 'The Office'. During this party at Franco's house there are big earthquakes as the world slowly comes to an end and lots of people end up being killed off. This sequence is one of the better parts of the film as you various stars getting killed and their precious little world of LA getting burnt to a cinder. Dunno what some of these people would do without LA because we all know they can't bare to be away from it for real.

From here on its a survival flick with a small bunch of guys enduring a nightmare scenario during the apocalypse...but with a dark comedy twist. The whole idea is kinda interesting but at first I found myself not liking most of the 'characters'. They are suppose to be playing themselves but of course its hyped do kinda wonder though, how close to the bone these performance are. I'm sure these film stars lives aren't too far off this angle, regular parties/get together's in their big mansions, weed, booze (to a degree), sexy girls on call, spending crazy amounts of money on weird interior decorations that only the mega rich could even dream of affording, does make you roll your eyes.

As the film progresses it does get better and more like a spoof or parody of horror/action flicks, kinda like 'Army of Darkness' maybe. That kind of low budget trashy nonsense where you can just roll with the silliness and have fun. The only difference here is the film isn't low budget, it looks pretty slick in the devastation sequences and has some nice demonic CGI beasties too. Of course there are plenty of B-movie moments which are cool, mainly the deaths which are deliberately over the top and bloody, a few predictable rips from other movies and of course the dialog is totally slapstick. The whole thing actually felt very much like a live action version of the 'South Park' movie from 1999. The big red magma fella in the finale with his huge schlong swinging right in front of the camera! see what I mean.

On the one hand I did enjoy these guys talking about their previous flicks, comparing sequences, making homemade sequels when they were bored, sticking in old props and generally taking the piss out of each other. But on the other hand, after a time the whole thing does seem to feel a bit self-conceited, these guys are laughing at themselves sure...but are they really? it does come across as a bit of a vanity project, call me cynical, but end of the day we all know these folk love talking about themselves and their films.

When the film is getting stuck into the plot and not revolving around the stars filmographies it can be a fun flick. There are some great dialog conflicts here and there, the cum dialog sequence between Franco and McBride springs to mind and I quite liked how Hill mentions that the rescue services will come for them first because they are big movie stars (deep down they all probably actually believe that). Not too sure if its just LA that gets destroyed in the story or the whole world though, thought it was LA because of the earthquake prone area but unsure, I'm guessing its the whole world.

Its funny though, certain cast members play the same type of characters you'd expect. McBride is the untrustworthy schmuck like he always is, so hardly playing himself really, Franco is kinda underhanded and is Jonah Hill gay??. Any who the film is reasonably enjoyable at times yet a bit self indulgent I think. This could of been a more straight up dark comedy fantasy without all the self promotion and pointless buddy cameos (they love this in-house stuff no matter how self depreciating, don't kid yourself), it still would have worked well. I think you gotta like this particular bunch of actors basically, I do like Rogen, Cera, Hill and McBride so it was passable for me. If you don't get on with these guys then this probably isn't the film for you.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (UK/US 2013)

I'm gonna call all the characters in this film by their superhero names to make things easier for there. The whole plot notion about ordinary people taking to the streets as superheroes dressed in their daft looking homemade outfits just seems like a huge rip of the film 'Mystery Men'. I mentioned this in my 'Kick-Ass' review but this sequel takes the copying one step further with the incorporation of regular everyday citizens all getting dressed up stupidly, virtually identical. All that was missing was a recruitment montage accompanied by a fun music track.

Oh and that's the plot by the way, bunch of dweebs dressing up as superheroes to combat the new supervillain in town 'The Motherfucker'. He's the son of the main villain from the first film, so nothing special plot wise folks, its revenge on revenge.

So 'Hit-girl' is in high school being a regular kid, how does she manage to afford or keep a big secret training base chock full of weapons? I'm guessing all that stuff and the hideout was passed down from 'Big Daddy' right?. Oh wait she has her own top line motorbike too...errrr she has more money than me.

Anyway as the film kicks off why does Hit-girl treat 'Kick-Ass' like a newbie at the start? she knows he is in the game from the first film, so why does he have to beg to be her sidekick?. They should be working together in this film from the start, or she should have at least accepted him without the begging...he was Kick-Ass!.

I like how everybody is text, tweeting and using Facebook throughout, taking the piss out of modern day society and obsessions that younger folk utilize (well modern day multimedia obsessions in general). The Motherfucker robs his first general store and shoots it up, he's on an evil high...he then pauses and says to himself 'I gotta tweet about this'. Plus the fact he has tonnes of followers on Facebook is amusing, Facebook rules the world people. I also quite liked the numerous comic book character plugs throughout and the usage of lots of predictable stereotypical superhero names that at the same time are racist for the characters given this modern PC era.

I also liked the mockery of young teenage girls, their pink princess-like attitudes and taste in all things sparkly...'Twilight', Channing Tatum, Union J etc...seen this kind of thing before, very cliched but well done. Nothing better than some bitchy, catty, spoilt princesses in tight clothes hehe. Ironically of course the leader of these brats doesn't look half as attractive as Hit-Girl who is undeniably cute, but her two sidekicks were pretty cute too. In fact there is waaaaay too much underage cuteness going on here, this film is dangerous! I need a cold shower.

I understand where the plot was going taking Hit-girl out of the main action and sticking her in high school battling girly bitches but the film suffers for it. We never really see much of Hit-girl and I found myself yearning for her kickassery. Most of the hero characters are pretty lame really (look lame too but I guess that was the idea) and they needed Hit-girl in the team to boost it. The film is only good with Kick-Ass and Hit-girl, 'Colonel Stars and Stripes' is the only other character that works. Although I liked 'Night-Bitch' purely for sexual reasons, yes I said it, sexual reasons only, am I alone here??.

The film is mega violent but it doesn't feel as satisfying or adult as the first. The first felt quite graphic and brutal whilst this felt more cartoony and dumb. The villain characters were just horrible and stupid looking, they actually looked like something out of a kids fantasy flick or childish comedy...but they killed people. 'Mother Russia' 'The Tumor' 'Genghis Carnage' and 'Black Death', they all looked ridiculous and out of place. Then you have The Motherfucker who is actually wearing a costume of bondage/S&M gear, now that's fine on a sexy female character, but on a young teenage boy it just looks kinda disturbing.

All the action simply felt very average and too silly, the finale just seemed like a 'Braveheart/West Side Story' moment for a whole load of comic con nerds in silly outfits. The demise of The Motherfucker I think anyone could see coming a mile it was lame and we saw nothing. Another example is the van sequence where Hit-Girl is trying to save Kick-Ass which is pretty darn terrible frankly, terrible bluescreen effects, obvious stunt double and utterly implausible. How the hell can the bad guys manage to miss her so often at near point blank range when she has nowhere to go!!. Example B would be Mother Russia taking out a stream of cops in a suburban area...its just crap looking, end of. The gritty edge has been lost here, too over the top.

Just a few things stuck out in my mind. The Motherfucker kills his mum accidentally in one scene, then the next scene he and his mums bodyguard (Leguizamo) are going through her stuff and chatting as if its no big deal, no follow up on it at all!. When the bitchy high school girls and jocks ditch Hit-Girl why do they do it in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowhere? seemed rather obscure. Of course acting isn't great either but do you really expect that in a film like this??, actually Moretz is a pretty bad actress from what I've seen here, but I guess she's young.

In its entirety this film is a lesser version of the original, lots of bad gags, childish moments of toilet humour, bad looking violence, average looking fights and action and none of that decent ironic dark humour from the first. In fact I think there is too much humour in this, too many attempts at trying to be clever with silly lines and puns, and unfortunately there is too much high school nonsense making it actually feel at times like a high school teen angst flick....with a liberal splattering of blood. This film has failed to recapture the essence of the first film I'm afraid.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Pain and Gain (2013)

OK lets get one thing straight here, let me clear up a big misconception for you all, weight lifting does not equal fitness. You wanna get properly fit, actually healthy and fit, then you run, you swim, you cycle or you play sports, athletics being the best naturally. Lifting weights may make you look good but it does not make you fit and healthy. You merely pack on weight, down lots of protein shake shit (which is terrible for your skin) and give yourself a possible heart condition because when you start to slow up as you age (and you will slow up, you won't be able to keep it up) all that muscle turns to fat, and all of a sudden, guess what you're fat.

If you're a rich movie star like Dwayne Johnson then you might get away with it for longer for obvious reasons, but for you and me you're just giving your body a whole lot of problems later on in life. So take my advice, from someone who has been a distance runner since the age of 18, you might look good now, but you're not uber fit n healthy and you certainly won't be as you age. I haven't even gone into the drug use temptation either geez!, take note of the over steroid use sequence kids.

So the first lines spoken by Wahlberg's character 'my name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness' made me laugh out loud. The plot here is truly bewildering, based on a real deal situation where a group of criminals (including weight lifters) got together and decided to kidnap and extort several victims for their assets, this even lead to murder apparently! Annnnnd Hollywood has made a comedy out of it, hmmm, what's next a comedy about a high school shooting?!

OK now I'm not gonna whine on about this, not that much, because this film is actually quite a fun film. The premise is fun in a black comedy kind of way, a kind of mob/gang/heist flick that made me think of 'Get Shorty' for some reason, just not as light hearted. When I say it reminds me I mean the fact both are set in Miami and involve lots of money heists and violence, pretty swish comparison there eh. I won't deny that once again The Rock Johnson brings home a good performance showing that he is actually better in comedy than action (I think).

Wahlberg is also pretty amusing as the fitness obsessed leader of this body building street gang (gang consisting of three). Most of the time the trio are bickering and squabbling over what to do next and how to complete their mission, its actually funny. Wahlberg is good at pushing the others to do bad things whilst always scheming, whilst Mackie isn't as good as the other two big names but his romance with a heavy set white girl is funny. Altogether they are a surprisingly good comedy trio, bordering on slapstick at times.

Shalhoub completes the laughs as the rich Jew these guys are gonna do over. At first you don't really care much for the guy and are kinda rooting for the trio. But in time as the guys wear him down and make him sign over his assets you feel sorry for him. Again he kinda reminded me of the character Dennis Farina played in 'Get Shorty'.

Must point out there is plenty of ass on show here, this is no soft comedy, the girls on display here are so tight n firm oh my!! Bar Paly who plays the main stripper girlfriend for Johnson is so hot I can't even begin to describe in words, just google her.

We lose the 'Get Shorty' type vibe as we near the crux of the plot and towards the finale. Things get messy, bloody and grizzly yet it still retains the comedy, is that right? I was hooked on the plot though no doubt about that, I was genuinely interested to find out what happens, but as things got more and more gory I also found myself not enjoying it as much. I guess the fact the film is based on a real event kinda makes you think whilst watching, should I be enjoying this? sniggering at this morbid spectacle? this actually happened and affected real people, hmmmm.

So the apart from the fact I actually found this kinda fun, the other surprise was the fact its directed by none other than Bay, yes that Bay. This could be his best film to date if you don't count 'The Rock'. It starts off quite amusing, slick, stylish and satirical, visually glossy naturally and highly enjoyable. Unfortunately it does spiral into a clumsy, bloody, violent chase flick that does remind you...oh yeah, this is a Bay movie (although blood is not a usual ingredient). Clearly certain sequences have been blown out of proportion for thrills, loads of artistic license has been used and the fact the plot makes you like the main trio (who are actually killers and the bad guys) is somewhat dubious really.

But all that aside this is still one of Bay's best films for sure, just a shame he can't seem to make a film without some kind of backlash. Usually because his films are terrible and dump on original source material, this time its a morality issue. Oh Mr Bay.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The first Turtle movie and I just about recall how big of a furore it made when it came out. Everything was all about the Turtles back then, Turtle mania, everything was pizza, skateboarding, martial arts and using surfer slang...particularly annoying.

The plot is an origins plot obviously, telling the story of how the Turtles come to meet April and Casey, how they came into existence and their first battle with Shredder and his Foot Clan. What is good about this film is the fact they incorporated elements from both the original comic book and the popular cartoon. At the same time the film was also quite dark in places and with a lot so called bad influential material such as kids being taught the ways of crime, stealing, lying, general delinquency and of course weapon based fighting. But really parents! what did you expect?

The classic of course being the UK having a heavily cut version of the film to avoid the showing nunchaku violence, the fact the entire franchise was renamed 'Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles' and they cut the finale scene with Shredder. Germany also included cartoon sound effects to lessen the impact of the fighting, pfft! these Euro countries huh.

Myself I enjoyed this film back in the day and I still do today. I loved how the film is dark and gloomy in places, its still highly childish and dumb naturally but the essence is quite a fine line. The sequence where Raph loses it after Splinter is taken is actually quite scary for kids I think, a very dark moment. In fact most scenes with Raph are quite edgy really, for a kids film, I always wanted him to swear. The fight sequences are pretty neat and do show the actors performing some decent moves in the suits...something you don't really expect seeing how bulky they look. Of course you never see anything nasty, its all quite tame and more in line with the cartoon but its still fun.

This made possible in my opinion by a few factors. Firstly the entire film has a darkish gritty look about it, the picture quality isn't polished and shiny like some big franchises, this could be down to the fact the film was an independent film. I don't think this was intended, its just one of those happy/lucky mistakes, although the lighting is dim throughout. Secondly the Turtle suits are very good and very different from the later more kiddie friendly suits. The colour scheme is darker, the eyes are smaller, in general the faces/masks just looks slightly meaner. The later suits were brighter and with much bigger eyes (Disney eyes).

Thirdly the weapons all looked pretty realistic too, if you get a look at them, they don't look like rubber n plastic, they look surprisingly good. As mentioned the actors all move nicely within the suits too, no restrictions it seems. Fourthly I think the main villain is played brilliantly by Saito. He goes at it for real, not a hint of ham or hokeyness, he plays Shredder as if he were a real crime lord and a complete bastard. True he doesn't actually do anything accept growl all the time...'TURTLES!!!', but its the way he does it, the dude owned this role. Oh and his outfit looked sweet too, you'd think it would look cheesy but it fudging rocks!

lastly I give kudos to the voice actors who really brought the characters to life. Never really liked the voice for Raph gotta be honest, he sounds like he's slow or something. The other three are great, really got into the Turtles vibe and made you believe, especially liked Corey Feldman contribution for Donatello, the guy was born to be that characters voice. In fact the whole cast does well in this film in all honesty, everyone plays it for real (to a degree) and thusly the film doesn't come across like a dumb kids film. Koteas goes a bit far in places, clearly enjoying himself, but its fun to watch him.

Its hard to say but this film is a bit of a classic now, a cult classic. The first and easily the best Turtles film but also a film that played out well for adults too, a film with giant rubber ninja turtle suits! It helps that Jim Henson was the creative team behind the suits. The film ends on a bit of a damp spot in all fairness, anti climax really, but that doesn't hinder the overall experience. Hell even the rap song in the end credits was massive! Turtle power baby!


Sunday, 8 September 2013

World War Z (UK/US 2013)

Or as I like to call it, a Resident Evil reboot. Based on a popular novel I've never read or heard of before this film came out so I can't compare. The big question for me is can this zombie thriller differ in any way from the myriad of other zombie flicks that have saturated the genre?

The film doesn't hang around, straight away we meet Pitt and his lovable family in Philadelphia. After a brief getting to the know the characters moment we are hit hard in the face with an all out zombie attack as panic and mayhem ensues. From this point on there is a breathless escape scenario as Pitt and his family desperately search for a way out and a safe house. Eventually they reach it in a tower block, of course this is only temporary as the zombies attack once again and Pitt must lead his family to the buildings roof for an evac by chopper.

Its at this point in the film I suddenly realised I was watching a brief 'Aliens' rip. The whole sequence from within the building with the red lighting, metal framework of the building interior, the dialog and even the music and sound effects, is quite familiar to various action sequence snippets in the Cameron epic. The whole scenario is a tense and sweaty affair no doubt about that.

I was still game for this though, originality zero, OK no problem, I saw it coming obviously. Then I started to think, why are these military types going all out purely to save Pitt? this guy is merely a UN investigator, what about everyone else?? This notion follows through most of the film, everybody seems to be going out of their way to protect Pitt everywhere he goes, never mind their own men or civvies, just protect Pitt, get Pitt to da chopper!! OK this guy is a good investigator but when the shit hits the fan in zombieland surely its every man for himself at some point, don't go getting your ass bitten to save Pitt.

So the plot is simply Pitt must globe trot to find a cure for this zombie infection. Yep that's right Pitt jumps around the world as if there was no flight time in between. Pitt is sent to Korea with a team of SEALs which actually turns out to be four men, really just four? there he finds a CIA op in jail, but why is he locked up still? what's the point? surely you need every man. This guy tells him that Israel knew all about the infection, so why didn't he just tell other people about this too?

So off we go to Israel where they have built a huge wall to keep zombies out. They did this on the basis of an intercepted communication from India saying troops were fighting zombies. So let me get this straight, Mossad over hears this communication about 'spirits of the dead' and decide to build a huge wall to stop the infection of which they have no proof of, just this radio message which could mean anything. Jumping to conclusions much? Then on top of that they start using the loudspeakers within the quarantined area which attracts the zombies (sounds attract them, for some reason) and cause them to act like ants and climb all over each other creating a massive zombie ladder to overcome the wall. So that was the very first time they used those speakers ever? the zombies were never attracted before? just the minute Pitt conveniently turns up, wow! this guy is a jinx.

A bit later on Pitt cuts off a female Israeli soldiers hand then later on dresses it, surely he should of put something in her mouth to stop her biting her own tongue open from pain? no? ah well. This happens on board an airliner which they escape Israel on but ends up crashing in Wales. Completely obliterated no survivors...accept Pitt and the girl soldier, lucky huh. From here on we get towards the finale based in a medical research centre in Wales which is quite good I admit. Although the way they learn to beat the zombies (for the time being) is hard to believe. Zombies don't attack sick/ill people? how can they tell?

Don't get me wrong this film isn't a bad film, it does the zombie thing but with a lot of gloss n polish, this is a proper big budget zombie flick with Brad Pitt. if you put aside the complete lack of originality, the film is a thumping tense ride once the zombies start pouring onto the screen and biting everybody, I can't deny that. Everything looks damn slick n crisp with some awesome aerial shots of overrun infested cities/towns/areas etc...the film looks good. That is until you see some of the CGI, in places it looks good, but in most other places it looks obvious, lots of CGI zombies bouncing all over and getting crushed or whatever. The zombie anthill is the films money shot for sure.

The film did give me chill at times, always the same with zombie flicks. Those sequences where people are escaping to a certain point or vehicle and that moment when one of the team gets taken down just before reaching safety. Then the survivors watch from their safe vantage point (usually best when flying away so you get that classic aerial shot of the ground) and see the carnage they have managed to escape from. Level complete, next level, objective...survive the same ordeal all over again in a different location.

The film is a zombie infestation flick so I didn't expect much, its well made with high production values but end of the day its just full of silly plot issues. Acting is fair but nothing special, Pitt is totally miscast (this is what happens when these companies owned by big stars secure the film rights), the man just sticks out like a sore thumb. I have no idea if this is as good as the book, I've heard its not very accurate, but really I'm just more surprised at the fact this film actually did well! All the other flops this year and this did well? go figure.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)

So Russia finally lets the US of A film in their country around important historical communist landmarks, and what is the first production to gain this honour...Police Academy 7.

The first sequence in the film and straight away I notice a huge blooper! The news reporter on TV is playing with a Gameboy (I think), apparently playing a new popular game. On closer inspection, as we get close ups, you notice there isn't actually a game cart in the back of the GB, utter fail in the first five minutes.

The plot kinda sounds OK when you think about it, the Russian mafia laundering money under the guise of a highly addictive and popular videogame. The bad guys use this game to be able to hack into any computer system it has been played on, hence they are able to commit many crimes. So 'Lassard' and his best men are brought in to bring down this Russian gang led by a well cast Perlman.

The cast for this final outing is sparse, we still have Tackleberry, Jones, Callahan, and Harris, but we are missing many of the regular officers such as Hightower, Hooks, Proctor, Fackler, Nick Lassard and of course old Mahoney. This time without Nick Lassard as the Mahoney replacement, we have another replacement, this time for Nick Lassard! This new recruit looks like a young Matt McCoy (Nick Lassard) but has none of the charm, I'm not even sure why he's in the film really as he pretty much does nothing.

That is the whole problem with this film, nothing actually happens. There aren't really any pranks, not many laughs, no training sequences (thank god) and not much plot excitement. There is one amusing sequence where Harris and Tackleberry join in on a Russian ballet performance in full get up, but that's about it really. There are some silly acrobatics from some Russian cops that seem to be mute, a mediocre car chase and a small hint of humour. Not even Harris or his Russian equivalent can help this film.

Unfortunately its a poor exit for the franchise with this final film, the last film was quite good at times but this is really dull and not at all visually exciting, its all filmed on location in Russia but it looks grim. Cultural differences are of course used but none of it really works, its just not funny. The fact that Cmdt. Lassard spends half the film AWOL with a Russian family merely by accident just seemed like the writers had no idea what to do with him, he's virtually a cameo. Quick mention for Christopher Lee who looks quite good as the Russian Cmdt. but I have to wonder why he agreed to this bottom of the barrel flick. The final curtain falls on this quite historic franchise but not to a standing ovation I'm afraid, bit of a stinker.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)

Number six and the plots keep getting simpler each time round. This time its a gang that are on a crime spree and its up to our boys n girls in blue to save the day. Naturally someone is behind this whole operation so be prepared for a truly ball bustin' twist...nah not really.

Yet again I am amazed at the continuity of these films and the fact all of the cast are still present and Guttenberg who went AWOL after number four. This time round we have all the regular officers plus Fackler makes a welcome return and Nick Lassard is still here replacing Mahoney.

First time ever we actually have a PA film where there aren't any training sequences, this time its all about the main team going up against a trio of super criminals. The criminals are actually quite good too I might add, totally cliched of course but they are meant to be equals for three of the main PA characters. One guy is a huge bald fat biker looking dude, his strength is errr...strength, so he goes up against Hightower. Then we have a slim athletic guy who is good at martial arts and gymnastics, guess who he goes up against. And finally a smooth well dressed ladies man type who is a sharp shooter and dead eye with guns...yep, Tackleberry.

This film relies more on bumbling cops n robbers type of stuff, Harris and Proctor getting set up and constantly missing the chance to make a simple arrest. Not so many pranks, nudity or rudeness, just simple childish Pink Panther styled buffoonery but more idiotic and predictable if that's possible.

Kenneth Mars tries to liven up the film with his cartoonish Mayor character but it falls flat. You can see they are trying to capture the madness he brought to 'Young Frankenstein' but it just doesn't work, too stupid and not funny. I did like Gerrit Graham as the aptly named Ace (the sharp shooter criminal) and the little showdown between the three criminals and three officers, the best bit in the film really. Bailey does well again as Harris but the few pranks are way too infantile this time.

Over all its not a bad film really, its still better than number four and about on par with number five. I do like the darkly lit, noir-ish visuals they attempt in this one, clearly going for that Bogart-like detective quality in places. The whole thing is actually more akin to a typical pulp comic book adaptation, along the lines of Dick Tracy or 'The Shadow'...albeit a very dumb simplified version. So kudos for that approach, not great by any means but a fair effort bearing in mind this is the sixth film.