Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Legend of Hercules (2014)

The film formerly known as 'Hercules: The Legend Begins' which scarily makes you think there might be sequels in a possible beefcake franchise. Aaaaaand also even more scarily known at one time as 'Hercules 3D' which not only makes me shudder at the thought of how ridiculous a gimmick that would be, but the fact they would probably make 3D sequels too, brrrrrr! me blood runs cold at the thought of it.

So round one, lets see if this Hercules film can...oh it can't. So in ancient Greece Yuri Boyka...aka Scott Adkins, the man who makes pure straight to DVD films for a career, is the baddie King Amphitryon. This guy is apparently running things badly and no one likes him, the film shows none of this but we are made to believe it because he shouts and growls a lot. He's gonna marry off Hebe the Princess to his slimy son Iphicles, problem is Hebe is in love with mighty Hercules played by...Kellan Lurch? Putz? Yutz?, this makes them both rather upset. So in typical Romeo and Juliet style they try to escape together, get caught, and Hercules is banished to fight in Egypt. Naturally this is all a ruse by the naughty King to try and kill off Hercules because he has also been foreseen to bring down his kingdom.

Now I don't really know the full ins and outs of ancient Greece as its extremely complicated, but I'm pretty sure this film is not historically accurate. I take a wild swing with this statement as King Galenus at the start of the film who is killed by Amphitryon was actually a Greek physician and philosopher, unless they just used the name. Also Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera which I don't believe is used here, but anyway you wouldn't use this film for a history lesson.

If this were a TV movie then I'd be a bit more positive here, the fact its a big budget flick directed by Renny Harlin is a bit embarrassing really. By the chariots of Zeus! the visuals are drab, really drab!, its unbelievably poor looking in every aspect. The costumes are bland and lifeless, but I guess the excuse there could be its a more realistic take. Lots of bad greenscreen, the few real locations used are unexciting whilst most other landscapes we see are CGI and the sets are so darkly lit my guess is that its to hide the fact they look like foam and rubber. Most of the film uses CGI to make up the backgrounds foregrounds...everything! and its obvious, hell the CGI looks like it was done ten years ago.

The first bit of action that really nailed home how poor this all was was the sequence where Hercules fights the lion. Holy Mufasa! this sequence looks terrible, the lion must be a joke right? isn't it? how big was this budget?. The acting in this film is laughable it really is, putting the constant growling and gnashing teeth of Adkins aside, it feels like you're watching a sci-fi B-movie from the 50's. No disrespect to those classics but in this day and age you come to expect a bit more for a major release...don't you?!!.

There is very little action in the film which doesn't really help its case, especially when the acting realism and visuals are so bad. What action we do get is done in the most horrendously pointless needless and shameless rip off from the '300' franchise ever to grace the cinema screen thus far methinks. It wouldn't be so bad if it actually looked half as good, or if it was even necessary, but it just feels so futile, so totally meaningless and clearly done just to try and make everything appear more thrilling because otherwise it would be lame. Blatant leeching off another films concept.

The other thing is I don't know what this film wants to be, a serious historical epic? a bloody sword n sandals action flick? a drama? a fantasy? what?!. There are hints of a blood soaked action flick but it never materialises, it just cuts away at every crucial moment, there is no blood or gore at all really...so maybe its for the family?. The gladiatorial battles are laughable bad with cliched corny choreography and characters, the six undefeated warriors were pathetic and frankly I'm unsure how they became undefeated. One of the warriors was even a woman! women weren't really seen in the arenas, especially with the male gladiators, it didn't happen, but naturally Hercules doesn't kill her pfft! wuss.

Love the short sequence just before the battle with the six warriors. Chiron and Hercules mate Sotiris reach the arena and look down on it from this massive cliff. They must be a gazillion feet above this arena in one shot...but by the pecs of Lutz! in the next shot they're in the arena just in time to watch Hercules do his thing!. They don't even look tired or sweaty!, that's some ancient Greek magic right there. Oh did I forget to mention that these arena battles are set up by a character who is clearly a rip off from Oliver Reed's character in 'Gladiator', the guy even looks the same with his facial hair and costume, is there a lawyer in the house?.

This film is such a mess it really is, most of the time it comes across as a lifeless dull drama with little bits of tame bloodless '300' wannabe style action. But out of the blue we get a couple outrageous sequences of fantasy involving Hercules using two massive boulders on chains like nunchakus in true Marvel style. And then a sequence where he summons the power of Greyskull and proceeds to kill hundreds of warriors using a lighting empowered sword...wut?!. After all that its back to being a dull plot hole ridden drama/historical epic/'300'/'Spartacus'/'Gladiator' wannabe cash cow franchise (well that ain't happening anymore).


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Kick-Ass (2010)

The world of the visually violent comicbook movie probably first kicked off with 'Blade' way back in 1998 (honourable mention to the 1989 Punisher), although this film wasn't really ultra violent and filled with profanity. After that along came 'Watchmen' which offered a very realistic take on the superhero genre and was pretty gritty. Since then there hasn't really been that much until this graphic novel adaptation popped up with huge amounts of real violence and bucket loads of naughty words. It was like 'Robocop' for the comicbook genre.

The actual plot isn't any different from your average superhero flick. Its basically an origins tale showing how a young 'Peter Parker-like' teen gets to grips with his life and sets out to become a superhero after making his own suit. There is no emotional death of guardians to push our hero along here admittedly, this guy just wants to fight crime but ends up getting in way too deep.

The angle for this creation is the fact its set within the real world where people do get hurt and superheroes don't actually have super powers. Its a concept that may feel totally milked these days but back in 2010 it wasn't...that much. The character of 'Kick-Ass' is just a young male teen in a scuba suit with modifications and a couple batons, when he starts out he gets stabbed and beaten almost getting himself killed. The characters he meets up with later in the form of 'Big Daddy' and 'Hit-Girl' are also merely regular people but with good fighting and weapon skills. The bad guys they fight are normal everyday thugs, pimps, drug dealers, robbers and mobsters, its simply the real world.

This is why the film is such a breathe of fresh air (for the time) and so intense. When we see fights going down we know its all for real and the heroes can't rely on any super powers or super weapons, anything could happen technically. Sequences such as...Hit-Girl kills a whole bunch of black drug dealer dudes with many amputations, Kick-Asses initial bloody brawls, when Big Daddy and Kick-Ass get captured and are beaten with bats and of course the excellent adrenaline rush when Big Daddy takes down mob boss 'Frank D'Amico's' warehouse of goons, are all brilliantly directed and visually slick but red raw with bone cracking realism.

There are of course your typical superhero-esque visuals at times, some over the top martial arts and the odd moment that will challenge your suspension of disbelief. I guess that is bound to happen in most flicks of this nature just to add that tiny bit of fun fantasy, but in general this film is down to earth, seedy and gritty as hell. Despite the fact most of the characters are just kids, the film certainly isn't for kids with limbs and bullets flying, blood spurting everywhere, Hit-Girl swearing like there is no tomorrow and some nut crunching beat downs. The scene where Big Daddy is killed is especially dark and quite harrowing really, its shocking at first.

Most of the characters aren't anything too special really. The stand outs obviously being Johnson as Kick-Ass who crosses between the obligatory comicbook character geek and a reasonably tough superhero (at times) really well. Moretz grabs your attention merely down to her age truth be told where as her character feels more like a lethal Christmas elf. But its clearly Cage as Big Daddy who wins the day for me, that brilliant Adam West sounding voice and 'Batman-esque' outfit, quite amusing. I would like to see a film centred around his character.

I must also quickly mention that this entire idea may well have been pinched from the 1999 goofy superhero comedy spoof 'Mystery Men'. That film is all about a team of superhero wannabes that don't actually have any super powers but must somehow defeat a supervillain who also has no real super powers. The film is set within a realistic universe that visually copies and slightly mocks Gotham City but no one in that world actually has any super powers. So 'Kick-Ass' follows suit but goes down the violent route with dark comedy.

Its a controversial movie for sure, what with the very young Moretz playing the loose lipped Hit-Girl and dressing in that slightly disturbing school girl outfit near the end. Oh and the fact she goes around slicing and dicing bad guys willy-nilly accompanied by a weird light-hearted music track at one point. Add to that a film that portrays all these youngsters getting involved in such brutal violence yet the film almost makes it look like fun n games in silly outfits. It did raise eyebrows when it came out and honesty I can see why, but personally I think these are the things that make the film stand out giving it some epic originality.

I loved how they stuck to the source material (relatively), I loved seeing Kick-Ass starting out and getting his head kicked in, seeing him slowly get somewhere even though he isn't actually any good then being stupid enough to create his own Myspace. The film really does the origins thing well and makes you invested in the hero, you find yourself really wanting him to succeed and at the same time seeing how risky this field of work would be in reality (in case you ever thought about being a hero). The only thing that let it down for me was the very ending where things got a bit too superhero-ish and comicbook-like losing the dark realism. Easily one of the best graphic novel/comicbook adaptations and it wasn't watered down, they kept it as it should be.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

I do believe I saw this film at the cinema having no clue what it was about, I merely loved the visuals the trailer threw at you. Much like the original film I again watched this over and over during my youth and loved the adventure. You can clearly see from the first scene this film has totally gone down the colourful comicbook visual route but at the same time has opted for a slightly darker approach. The first film was fun for all ages but this time the bogus journey is aimed more for teens methinks.

This film is truly manic and a full on rollercoaster of thrills and spills. I do love the design and style of many aspects we see, the futuristic neon outfits at the start are a nice look. And despite the cliched idea I did like how the bad guys are all in black when everyone else is in heavenly white, the black costumes against the neon and white looks quite striking actually.

Its gotta be the imagination that earns the kudos mainly, even though much of the film is messy and too convoluted for its own good the variety of creations is a joy to watch. I really enjoyed the hijinx the pair get up to once they are killed by the evil robots, the evil robots themselves are seemingly a cheap get out of jail free card for less work by using Reeves and Winter in duo roles, but the small special effects we see when they remove their skin is fudging awesome. I really dug those transparent robotic exoskeletons we briefly see, they were really well done and always reminded me of those old transparent Competition Pro joysticks.

I think the epitome of this film and franchise is the sequence where the dead duo possess Ted's policeman dad and his Sgt. The whole effect is a seriously cheesy and now dated CGI visual trick that back in the day looked really sweet. From there on we get a fantastic little performance from Hal Landon and Roy Brocksmith as they take on the stoned surfer personalities of Bill and Ted.

From this point on the film becomes a surreal voyage into the afterlife with some neat visual tricks and nicely crafted ideas. Of course we all know the highlight of all this is William Sadler as Death, or the Grim Reaper. Best bit in the entire film has to be when Bill and Ted challenge him for the sake of their lives and they all end up playing board games like Twister and Cluedo. I think we all can agree seeing Death get upset and trying to cheat is fan-fudging-tastic!. It doesn't really get much better than this in all honesty, Death seems to go a bit camp as we progress and takes a back seat to the mayhem.

I must say I still don't quite get what the point of the devil scene was. The duo land on this boulder suspended in mid air by a chain, there are also many others in similar situations around them. The Devil seems to be in control of the winch that drags these boulders in towards this giant fire breathing dragon head with jaws that crush the boulders. But what's the point of all this? why is the Devil just standing there doing this? are these unfortunate souls suppose to be burnt up when dragged into this gaping fire breathing maw? and why did the Devil let the duo escape this fate by climbing off the boulder at the last minute?. The other thing that made me think was the way the duo escape their own personal hell's. Does this mean that Death is more powerful than the Devil? because he just bails them out easy peasy. Must say I did like the rubber suit and makeup used for the Devil, pretty intimidating for a young persons film.

As we near the big finale which is again another stage show setup, things get even more wacky as ideas bustle for screen time. Bill and ted make good robots of themselves helped by 'Station' who is a pair of identical genius aliens they brought back with them from the afterlife in heaven, Death also tags along. Again the hands on suit effects for these robots are really nicely done, deliberately tacky looking but well performed by whoever underneath with those robotic movements we've all seen. Station the alien fares less favourably as he looks kinda evil to me, he's pretty ugly and when he speaks his mouth doesn't really sync up at all, its a bit basic really. And why we needed that morphing of the two I don't know, very odd inclusion.

End of the day I prefer the original film over this bright hyper dream-like comicbook offering. Back in the day I would have said the opposite as I preferred this sequel back then. I guess it was all the big bold effects that won me over back then, the wow factor and being very young. Now I'm older and much much wiser (ahem) I can see that the first film has much more charm, a way better beat tapping soundtrack, its funnier with better performances and its just more enjoyable overall. This film is visually more impressive and has more action as such, but its just not as funny or as clever with its casting. Winter clearly gets better here whilst Reeves clearly gets worse...all he can do is bob his head around like a lunatic and pout from behind his curtain style locks. That selection of amusing cast members for the original really boosts that film even though its a little bit more childish.

'Bogus Journey' is bigger and bolder for sure and to that extent it gives the viewer what they paid for. In my mind they kinda sacrifice funny performances and charm for in your face effects. The effects and imagination are excellent for the time don't get me wrong, but if it wasn't for Sadler as Death this film would be sorely lacking in the character department. Its definitely a film of its time and I don't know what kids today would think of it (probably think its a Turtles rip off), but in my opinion bigger with more money doesn't always mean better.


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

This could quite possibly be one of the most original and well created comicbook style movie franchises that didn't actually start out originally as a comicbook. Yep believe it or not this cult franchise started out with the first film which was ingeniously written by two fellas called Matheson and Solomon, this film was not adapted from a comicbook source.

I used to watch this film when I was still in school back in the day, it was massive! I adored it and watched it all the time. The basic premise is so simple yet the film has been so well crafted I fail to see how anyone can not enjoy it. Bill and Ted are a couple of metalhead school flunks in the present day, yet through a bizarre series of events both will eventually become the inspirational 'Great Ones' that changed the human race into a peaceful utopian society...through their music. The problem is if they don't pass their history class Ted will get shipped off to military academy and this future will never happen. Enter 'Rufus' to help and assist the bumbling duo in passing their final history test/exam thing.

Watching this recently I guess the main things that stand out to me are...well actually there are a lot of things that stood out and still hold up today. The visuals are great fun, sure its not as colourful as the sequel but I'm still really impressed at how good each period looks mainly. The duo travel across a few eras and I must say everything looks pretty darn good considering this was a bit of a tacky throw away teen flick. Each period is only seen briefly but it all holds up even though you might only see a single room or street. For example when they pick up Beethoven we see a really elegant 18th Century room full of aristocrats or noble folk and it looks good, believable. There's a real castle with a nice interior for 15th Century England (God knows where), a small taste of ancient Greece with pillars and statues, a section of a wild west town etc...My point is they clearly have had to stretch and struggle to create each period but full kudos to them as it all looks amazingly solid.

Not everything looks that good these days of course, some of the periods are a bit thin on the ground visually eg. Napoleon's war camp, prehistoric San Dimas and Genghis Khan's tent which is obviously an easy cover for not showing anything else. But again on the plus side all the costumes look really good and the casting is really good too. I still found Terry Camilleri's subtle performance as Napoleon to be hilarious with his little French mutterings and facial expressions, he fit this role like a glove, brilliant!. All the other cast really do look good with some nice makeup work, Abe Lincoln is especially good looks and performance wise, as is Beethoven and the almost mute Socrates. Honourable mention to Al Leong as Genghis Khan. Despite the age and silliness of this film I have no issues with any of the historical elements really. I'm just amazed it does look as good as it does because we all know how shitty these things can look with less care.

I mean apart from the joyous adventure there is so much to praise here. The soundtrack is awesome, pure awesomeness, yeah its totally 80's of course but if you like 80's tunage then you'll love this selection. There are some truly electric sequences which are bitchin' simply down to the musical track that accompanies them. Add to that the full on retro vibe going on here, I just love every minute of it, the sneakers, cars, tunes, technology, clothes etc...there is one scene where Billy the Kid and Socrates try to chat up these two girls in the mall. Oh my these girls are visually the epitome of the 80's, not that that's a surprise of course but little things like this brings the memories flooding back and really helped me enjoy the film. Oh and my God one of them is super cute!.

Admittedly the film does take a bit of a dive as you near the end. The whole history test thing they gotta take always did seem evil to me, what kind of high school test involves standing in front of an entire hall full of students and giving a lecture on history?! Jesus!. And lets be honest here, the presentation Bill and Ted give is pretty nondescript really, it is essentially a bunch of people giving them a pat on the back, its more of a magic show. There are bits I could pick at throughout the film like the fact they somehow manage to squeeze so many people into one phone booth and when they drop all the famous history figures back into their own times wouldn't their new knowledge and visions of the future change history dramatically?.

But lets be honest here, this film isn't anything more than a wild ride that probably wasn't expected to do much more than hit the videoshop shelves and rot (many similar teen flicks over the years did just that, 'Bio-Dome' anyone). There's a reason the franchise became a cult and that's because this first film is so damn enjoyable. The cool phone booth concept is genius, the ultra cool Rufus played by Carlin, the quirky and amusing looking 2688 future humans and of course the iconic dialog which has become a part of modern pop culture and predates the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pizza surfing spiel. A most triumphant time travel fantasy which is pretty much a hidden gem these days, full of surprises and a franchise that Keanu Reeves was actually perfectly cast for.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Hawk the Slayer (UK, 1980)

I'm not sure but this could of been the acorn that sprouted the idea for the titles in the Conan flicks, bare with me. There was a sequel intended for this film that would have been called 'Hawk The Destroyer' (1981), so you can see the obvious similarities with film titles going on here. Probably a coincidence admittedly but I also think this could of been the first swords/sorcery/barbarian type of film that jump started all the rest during the 80's.

This is a hard film to review truth be told, its extremely dated and by the looks of things they didn't have a huge budget to play with. The whole thing is a mixed bag as you would expect being a very old fully British, possibly cheap, production. There's a bit of a Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons influence about the film if you ask me, the plot is your average sword n sorcery affair with a hero trying to avenge the death of his father and love at the hands of an evil warrior (his brother). The evil bad guy wants the power of the mindstone which his brother (the hero) has power of, so he kidnaps an Abbess to lure him. The hero forms a small band of warrior friends...a giant, a dwarf, an elf and a human peasant, the hero himself being a human of course. Each of these men have unique skills in combat with a big hammer mace thing, a whip, a bow, a crossbow and a sword.

When I say a Tolkien influence I only mean as far as the characters and fantasy locations, dare I say a certain Mr Jackson may have pinched some visual ideas for Legolas using his bow at lighting speed from this film? When you see Crow the elf battling there is definitely a similarity in concept that's for sure, although the visual method used to achieve this in this film is pretty crude naturally. Mind you this elf is so damn fast with his bow and arrow there is virtually no need for any other heroes. Other characters aren't made up with special makeup or prosthetics, the giant is played by Bernard Bresslaw who was a tall man, the dwarf is played by a short actor (not a little person), the elf has a small amount of prosthetics for his ears and that's it. But as far as monsters and dragons etc...this film has none of that, its actually a very grounded fantasy which I think leans more towards old English folklore and possibly a touch of wicca and paganism.

The musical score kinda typifies this if you ask me with a very odd mix of styles. At times we get this typical 80's pop fused with electronic synth (I think) that to me sounded like melodies from an Abba album! needless to say I don't think this score fit the film. Other times there is a much better softer score using more traditional instruments to create this olde worlde fairy-esque sound that would suit an old English fable to a tee.

I hate to say it but I couldn't help but chuckle at some of the things on display in this film. Like I said the visuals are weak, it looks like they've filmed everything in some local woods and shrublands just behind Pinewood studios. The sets are very obvious, very small and tight and sparse on detail, hair styles are still very much 1970's, some costumes are OK where as others look like they've cobbled anything together and I'm pretty sure they retrace their steps with locations a few times. The only expenditure appears to be the use of that swirly double ring thing that was used in 'Superman' as a force field to trap General Zod and co.

The other thing that is highly amusing is the fact the big bad evil tyrannical baddie is played by Jack Palance...and even in this film he's old! This guy has no special powers or weapons, he's just a badass apparently but you don't really buy it frankly. He has a nasty burn on his face so he wears a nifty helmet but that's it, he doesn't look intimidating at all. Mind you the hero is pretty bland himself, he barely talks, looks boring, but he has the mind power to wield his magical sword combined with the mindstone...not that it makes much difference really, just means the sword can float to his hand.

I don't want to give this film a low score because despite the dated visuals, cheesy ass fights and effects it does look like people have really tried to make an effort here. It does come across to me that the crew have done their best with the little resources they had which deserves kudos. It is very easy to just churn out any old loin cloth fantasy crap by just tossing in a few blondes with big boobs to attract an easy male audience and slapping in some blood and gore. But I think effort was made here and it does show. A cult film long forgotten, thou should seek it out.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt (2003)

Holy predictable review opening Batman!...sorry, yep I know, no more. Way back in the vintage days of 2003 this TV movie came out on CBS in America, so basically no one outside of America knew of its existence. What's it about you say? well its simply a comical retrospective or quickfire trip down memory lane for Adam West and Burt Ward over their three season career as Batman and Robin. Its made around a silly little plot involving someone stealing the Batmobile at a convention, so the ancient dynamic duo set out to find the culprit.

The bookend plot is frankly meaningless really, I've no idea why they even went down that route when a simple bio approach would have been much better. The minor problem being that the actual sequences of West and Ward in their superhero days are flashbacks dotted throughout the plot. This means they are all too brief which is a shame because they are the best bits by far and you wanna see more.

The general approach of the entire flick is a harmless ridicule of the original show and is in no way meant to be anything but a good laugh. So on that note I can't complain, it is a silly ride, there are some nice moments that homage the old show, mainly a lovely punch up between the aging pair and some goons...the camera of course being suitably tilted at an angle. There are a few cameos from stars of the show naturally, Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar being part of the daft plot, Meriwether makes an appearance and is still pretty darn hot (as is Newmar), whilst other old stars are played by actors and I must say they are very good, Tony Tanner as Meredith/the Penguin is excellent.

During the wafer thin and pointless Batmobile mystery plot you get nice cameos, homages and general cartoonish tomfoolery which is of course all in the same camp slapstick vein as the classic show. At the same time the retro flashbacks show highlights from West and Ward's lives in the famous outfits but in a light-hearted family orientated manner. These little snippets mainly focus on things we've heard about in the Batmania documentary like Ward and his audition, meeting West for the first time, Ward getting injured on set often, Waggoner's audition, the duo squabbling, Ward's troubled married life, the intro of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, some of the big star cameos etc...It does seem to follow Ward more as the underdog, where as West (as in real life) was the more experienced older ladies man who could do no wrong.

The two actors playing the young versions of West and Ward are really good and they look like their real life counterparts, plus the stories from behind the scenes during the time of the old show are really interesting. I really liked how the retro flashbacks were done, think Tim Burton's 'Ed Wood' but not quite as cheeky. So while is it cool to see West and Ward firing dialog at each other again (don't forget about the awesome OAP bar room brawl), overall I would have liked to see more of the well created flashbacks.


Nemesis 3: Time Lapse/Prey Harder (1996)

Third times a charm right?...right?!! well no. The plot continues somehow in this weird ass sci-fi action franchise. The first film was pretty unique and turned out to be a bit of a cult, the second film turned out to be a reasonable 'Terminator/Predator' rip off which had a nice rubber suit involved.

This time Pyun makes a film virtually out of flashback material from the previous two films, yet somehow he manages to nab his muse Tim Thomerson. Continuity is good for this series of films mainly because they were all shot back to back, almost, so at least the cast sticks around. The problem is you can clearly tell this is the arse end of filming from the second film and they've made a third out of it, the leftovers.

The plot follows on from the second film naturally (back to back remember) and simply sees Alex our muscly female heroine trying to regain her memory. This is the reason most of the film is flashbacks from the last film and rather dull, other than that there are more cyborgs on her tail yet again.

The effects are extremely basic this time, embarrassingly so. In short there aren't any real effects, its all very primitive looking superimposed digitally glowing electronic lights and dreadful looking blur effects that have all been added in post-production. It looks like something a student would achieve in school frankly, it all looks so hokey and cheap. Yet on the other hand they still manage some half decent explosions and vehicle action so there was some cash to use.

I think the reason this film feels so mundane is because you merely have human looking cyborg characters running around trying to kill everyone. Its not very exciting and the characters themselves look pretty crappy costume wise, I did miss the Nebula/Predator hunter that's for sure. Pyun obviously likes sexy ladies if you haven't already guessed because the main two cyborgs are super slim fit females with trashy blonde wigs. Plus weightlifter Price gets her tight tanned ass out in the sun again with a very thin thong running between her hot buns. Was that a contractual obligation or something?

Its all very boring really this one, the worst bit about it is the fact it all looks the same in every shot, the same locations over and over. The second film was exactly the same locations wise too of course, so it really feels like a slog getting through this without the cool Nebula cyborg hunter. The only bit I quite liked was seeing Thomerson's human projection break up and seeing his real cyborg identity shine through underneath, (he's a cyborg hunter with a human image/camouflage-like shield being projected around him). Its actually a neat little idea and the effect is probably the best in the film, his robotic glowing green eyes and scan lasers looked hilariously bad but a little creepy I guess.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gravity (2013)

Well here we are, the big Oscar winner, the talk of the town, so it seems. My brother stuck this on the Bluray the other night when I was at my folks, so without any warning I was thrown into orbit alongside the ever annoying Bullock and Hollywood lapdog Clooney. One thing was for sure, it was gonna be pretty.

The lowdown, a small team of astronauts are fixing the Hubble telescope when a field of lethal debris from a recent Russian missile strike on a satellite, hits them head on. The debris causes massive damage and strands our plucky heroes in orbit with virtually nowhere to go. From here on they must fight to survive by spacewalking to other nearby space stations to try and reach any remaining capsules so they can get back down to Earth.

OK so the first thing anyone with a brain will notice is the special effects, the visuals in general. Without trying to sound too deflating I have come to expect flashy super-duper effects from most modern films these days, its a given really isn't it, if the film doesn't look ultra amazing you'd be shocked. So while this film does have the perfect realistic look of a real NASA film from a real space mission...it somehow isn't overly mind blowing truth be told. It sure does look spot on for total scientific accuracy in every aspect from the space suits, the spacecraft, the space stations, cockpit controls, weightlessness, every little nut bolt and screw, and space physics in general.

So I can understand why this film won visual effects, kudos. But then we have the plot issues and accuracy issues, yeah yeah I know but come on, a big realistic film like this had better get its facts right...yes?, no. First off this Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite?? what the splodge was that about?!. Why would a country fire a missile at a defunct satellite firstly, surely this is bound to cause a chain reaction of problems. Secondly why blow up a satellite that no longer works? seems a bit over the top to me, surely you'd bring on international outrage doing this? causing a massive disaster in space, it just seems a really dumb decision. Then you have the fact that the astronauts lose contact with control completely, really? out of all the kit they have up there on various international platforms they still can't contact control! that's scary right there.

I won't go on about the technical issues as its nitpicking really...oh just one more. The astronauts travel between the Hubble, the ISS and the Chinese space station as if they are all in the same orbit!!. I'm afraid these objects are not in the same orbit and travelling between them would take some planning and a heck of a lot of fuel and oxygen, but hey kudos for trying anyway.

Whilst watching this visual extravaganza I realised something midway through, this film is nothing more than a pumped up Universal Studios or Disney's Hollywood Studios ride (formally MGM). Its all about the visuals and the ride, the plot is minimal and the acting was pretty standard in my opinion. Of course this being shown mainly in 3D only emphasises this notion, this whole experience is merely a theme park ride, hell I'm damn sure this film will be made into a theme park ride seeing as its pretty much there anyway, I can see it now, rumbling seats and smoke. There's nothing wrong with this essentially as it does what its suppose to do and thrill you with flashy CGI, but overall I kinda felt a bit tricked or cheated as it in no way feels like an actual movie.

As I already said the acting didn't inspire me much frankly. I dislike Bullock and have never rated her as an actress in any of her films mainly because she's the same in everything with that annoying squeaky clean voice and image. The same can be said for Clooney who simply plays Clooney in EVERYTHING!!, this guy cannot act one iota, he just does his smooth smug ladies man act because that's all he can do. He acts no better in this film than he does in a recent British coffee advert, its the same performance people!!! only difference here is he has an astronauts suit on sheesh!!.

I won't deny I didn't enjoy the film to a degree, it was nail biting at times which was all made possible down to the stupendous effects. But was it really that exciting? really? I mean the whole thing was so predictable, you know from the start the female will survive because in every film women are now the heroes (see what you have started Mr Cameron, with your 'Ripley' character). There was never a point where I didn't think she wouldn't survive otherwise there would be no film, there was only one slight surprise character wise, and I highlight *slight*.

I can see why this film made a splash and I fully backup the effects award even though in this day and age its not exactly a game changer, I think. The way they went about creating a fully realistic thriller in space that looks no different to something you'd expect to see from real footage is admirable, but that's all it is. Where as 'Apollo 13' was a nail biting epic drama, this really does feel like a short bombastic theme park ride with a wafer thin plot that's no better than a videogame. There's been a lot of fuss over this film and apart from the visuals I really don't get why. I feel like I'm repeating myself (I am) but bottom line its a big thumbs up for the effects and realism, but that's as far as it goes for me, my score reflects those two elements only.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Black Hole (1979)

Unluckily for this Disney sci-fi the greatest space set fantasy of all time had been released two years earlier in 77. On top of that 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' also came out in that same year which pretty much hammered the last nail in the coffin for this adventure.

Despite Disney clearly wanting this film to achieve the same level of grandeur that both Lucas and Spielberg managed with their sci-fi films, this venture feels very dated to me. Whilst watching I really couldn't help but feel it was simply '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' in space. A team of scientists/very intelligent astronauts discover a black hole with a large vessel parked up near by. They board the ship and eventually find a crazed bearded scientist and his legion of self created robots. After much speculation and pleasantries the crew realise the crazy scientist is a genius but wants to fly his ship into the black hole, what seems like a suicide mission.

So the crazed German scientist (Hollywood loves to abuse the Germans) played by Schell could quite easily be Captain Nemo. Living a solitary life on his impressive ship that no one knew what happened to, a genius inventing ways to defy a black holes gravitational pull, building his own robots etc...but also a madman with little respect for human life.

The way the story plans out is very similar too, the crew board the mysterious vessel unsure of what they will find. At first Reinhardt is welcoming and offers them tours around his impressive ship showing his achievements and they all dine together on a lavish main deck overlooking the black hole. But like Nemo as the crew dig deeper and become more suspicious Reinhardt changes and becomes very protective of his plans.

Now the main aspect of this film is clearly the visuals, which for its time were pretty slick, although no where near as good as the other two big sci-fi event films of the era. Using similar techniques of the time such as matte paintings, bluescreen, stop motion and of course models, I felt the effects really swing from one end of the scale to the other. Accounting for the age of the film of course some effects are actually pretty neat, the beginning of the film as the astronauts ship approaches the Cygnus, some interiors of the Cygnus are nicely done and haven't dated and the black hole is probably the money shot and it looks it.

Other times, from shot to shot, the film lapses into an eyesore! one minute you will have a good looking sequence or effect, the next it looks bloody awful and no better than some shoddy TV show. The age of the film has affected the quality no doubt with colours running all over the place, light/darkness levels seem to be shot to hell here and there and effects like bluescreen are showing big cracks very clearly.

The same can be said for the characters, a real mixed bag of familiar ideas. The crew are a oddball team led by Robert Forster who always always looks and sounds like he's acting in a shitty low budget 70's flick. Anthony Perkins of 'Psycho' fame is one doctor on the team yet I wouldn't go near him personally because he always looks so moody, like he's gonna kill you. Ernest Borgnine plays the Scotty rip off character and tends to moan a lot, Yvette Mimieux is the second team doctor and the obligatory bit of blonde ass, and then we have the R2D2 crew robot rip off voiced by Roddy McDowall. This prop looks terrible it really does, it literately ruins the film and any self respect they were aiming for. It looks childish, its clearly very limited, you can see the wires attached to make him hover and he appears to be useless to the crew anyway. His only useful asset is being able to mentally communicate with the good doctor Yvette Mimieux somehow, no explanation why or how, they just do it so there.

The most exciting part of the film for me was the moment they all go through the black hole, that's pretty much what you spend the whole run time longing for. Its one of those things, even though its an old film you're still really intrigued to find out what will happen and what you will see. In the end it was an odd and rather anti-climatic vision of heaven and hell unfortunately, it made little sense. Once the remaining good guys get through this afterlife-esque passage they reemerge in presumably a new universe and approaching a planet. A bit formulaic I suppose but what else would you expect?

This film is a bizarre combination of ideas all stuck in the blender. The actual premise about finding a ghost ship near a black hole is cool and clearly influenced a certain Mr W.S. Anderson with his horror flick 'Event Horizon'. There are so many movie elements to this film though, overall it feels like an old Doug McClure movie and I'm sure James Mason could of played Reinhardt perfectly. But then you have elements from Star Wars, Star Trek and even a touch from Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica when you look at some of the robot concepts. The popularity of Stormtroopers was clearly another concept sneakily pinched but like many of the copied ideas in this film none of them come remotely close to the original source material.

You can see how big the leaps in technology for special effects were by other films of the time, when you see this film. Both Star Wars and Close Encounters visuals crush this film, yet 'The Black Hole' had just under double the budget over George Lucas and was on level pegging with Spielberg. Its a floored film really, a solid plot covered by a patchwork of other ideas that can't top those original ideas. Despite the epic futuristic sci-fi setting its still very old fashioned in nature.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

In a World... (2013)

A quirky comedy based around the high flying world of the voice actor, well the trailer looked quirky. A small budget film whose main star wrote, co-produced and directed the feature.

I saw the trailer for this and really thought it would be a good funny comedy...which it is kinda, but not entirely. The plot revolves around a small family in LA, the father is a famous voice artist and his daughter is aspiring to follow in his footsteps. From this we get the main crux of the film, the voice over business for movie trailers in Hollywood is typically a male dominated field, but that is now being challenged by this young woman, the horror!.

That is the films main plot, there are other sub plots revolving around other family members, the sister and her other half, the mother and a few friends. But to be truthful none of these are interesting and feel more like padding around the main story. I found this to be the problem with the film really, the main story is the most interesting bit, yet we don't get a great deal on it, its all about family issues which is boring.

We do get to know another preening voice actor played by Marino who makes a big difference. Alongside Melamed (a real voice artist) both men save the film in my view, watching these guys swan around as if they were the biggest thing in Hollywood is priceless. The dialog from Melamed's character at times is so egotistical, even when aimed at his own daughter, its both amusing and embarrassing to watch.

Even though the films premise is about an area in show business that is barely touched upon that doesn't really mean its interesting. The whole idea is about women being the underdog in this field, that its unheard of for women to do voice work for a major film trailer, equal rights for women and such. One thing that went through my mind was all these people are wealthy from doing not much at all because I don't call voice acting work. So are we suppose to be emotionally involved? are we suppose to get behind the female lead here? are we suppose to care about this irrelevant showbiz injustice? because frankly I didn't care at all. I didn't care about any of the characters really, I found many of them annoying and most were overacting to the camera, especially the films director and lead Lake Bell.

You may think I'm being harsh, after all this film won awards at Sundance and was dribbled over by all the critics. Its not a bad film, far from it, its original and fresh, its warm and has some good performances, but its dull and uninteresting accept for the odd scene. Its not a self-serving inside Hollywood type of film, it does mock Hollywood gently. Funny thing is we the regular folk all know they don't actually mean it, these showbiz folk 'mock' but they lap the lifestyle up really. In my opinion the film only comes to life as we near the end which gives you what the entire film has been building up to. Other than that watching all these people live their semi rich lives in sunny LA does nothing for me.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

The legend continues? did it need to?. Watching Ferrell prep his voice ready to go on air right at the start is a good funny moment that reminds you exactly what this is about. Its off the wall insanely silly stuff that doesn't really make too much sense and doesn't really care.

The story isn't really much different from the first film and involves the usual career ups and downs for 'Burgundy', but now juggling with family issues. This time around Burgundy gets fired by his boss, the now well known real life old grump Harrison Ford. Only to be picked up for a 24 hour news station which is the newest thing (its the 80's remember). So off he goes to recruit his old news team and take New York by storm.

'Who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don't follow the NBA!'

The sequences where Burgundy finds his old buddies kinda paves the way for the rest of the film, its amusing, but not that amusing. Straight away I noticed that Carell's character 'Brick' seems to be way way over the top with his absurdities. Before this guy was obviously dumb or slow but generally kept up with the other guys. This time he's virtually beyond idiotic bordering on completely retarded, sure its funny at times but he's so out there the whole joke loses its appeal.

This feels like the problem with the whole film really, the joke has been stretched out too far and it loses its clever touch. All the other guys are still on their game with Koechner as outrageous as ever and easily being the best character next to Ferrell's. But the whole rival news team thing with Marsden feels old hat now and most of the jokes and quips don't really hold up as well. Don't get me wrong there are still some good moments here, Burgundy and his team getting all flustered over their new boss being a black woman was pretty funny. The usual sexual gapes and innuendos, dated visual gags such as their outfits and suits, the ever thick misogynistic angle that this franchise relies heavily on and Burgundy meeting his black bosses family probably being a highlight. Can't beat a bit of awkward to watch racial stereotyping tomfoolery.

'Which one of you pipe hittin' bitches can pass the salt?'

As you progress towards the finale the film becomes more of a spoof with every scene. The whole White Shark sub plot, Burgundy getting blinded and of course the big news team ruck that throws in quite a few needless cameos. Yeah sure its kinda funny I guess, sort of, but not overly. It all feels like they're just rehashing the original ideas, regurgitating the same thing but bigger and with more stars. Nothing wrong with the odd small cameo for laughs but did we really need to see so many in that finale fight, on that note did it really need to be so ludicrous?. A werewolf? a minotaur? the ghost of Stonewall Jackson?! did it need to that far?. Most of it wasn't even that amusing, seeing Sacha Baron Cohen play some snotty BBC news team reporter was actually kinda pathetic, he couldn't even get the gentlemanly accent right...and he's British!. Then you had all the corny stereotypical visual jokes about our Royal heritage and snootiness blah blah blah...oh please, originality anywhere?.

I found this disappointing really, it just didn't do anything for me and it didn't feel fresh because it isn't. Almost the same as the first film except its bigger which isn't a problem generally, but it is if you reuse all the same gags. You can see everyone is having a blast doing this but unfortunately I think they enjoyed their reunion too much and forgot about making a decent film. The first film was funny due to its heavy satire of sexism and racism in the 1970's workplace. This has spots of that but mainly goes down the all out spoof route and loses that clever sting.

'Every morning I get here a half hour early and I sexually assault a starfish'


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Pirates (FRA/TN 1986)

Back before Johnny Depp revolutionised the pirate movie with his camp ways there were the odd rum fuelled flicks such as this. Roman Polanski doing what he does best which is creating lavish productions that tend to not be overly successful at first but gain cult status.

The story is naturally a typically salty one involving Walter Matthau's 'Captain Red' and his young French sidekick trying to pinch a golden throne from some fancy pant Spaniards. At the same time there is of course a love interest for the young dashing French sailor, mutinies, plenty of galleon boarding from both sides and lots of skullduggery on land and at sea.

I think this film is very similar to 'The Fearless Vampire Killers' in the fact that its actually kinda dull but looks beautiful. All the pirates, especially Matthau, look as they should do, covered in dirty rag-like attire, greasy facial hair, deep tans, golden teeth...every bit the stereotypical swashbuckling sea dog. I was quite intrigued with the wooden leg Matthau's Captain has, it really looks like he has a real wooden peg leg! and this is before CGI folks, impressed. On the flip side the Spanish look perfectly rich, aristocratic, pompous, snooty and dignified in their very impressive duds. The wigs sell the whole look if you ask me, really authentic looking.

I was also very impressed with Matthau's cockney English accent. He genuinely does a sterling job with it and comes across not American that's for sure. At the same time Damien Thomas as the preening perfume smelling 'Don Alfonso' is by far the stand out performance. You can truly see the disgust and contempt in his face for the wretched pirate scum, I really enjoyed his peacock-like display of regal superiority.

All the characters and extras look great and are accompanied by some luscious tropical locations and some nice olde worlde period ports (real locations). Did I mention the ship yet? no? well lemme tell you, it looks awesome. Fully realised to scale with a working motor so it can sail, completely detailed from top to bottom with everything you'd expect to see on a 17th Century Spanish vessel.

Yep its all visually stunning with good performances but unfortunately that's about it. There is very little of interest going on plot wise, the film is way too long and there isn't that much swashbuckling going on surprisingly. This isn't a silly fantasy flick nor is it a historically accurate flick, but it does bring a more down to earth approach to the genre. There isn't much flamboyant heroics here ladies and gentlemen, more like backstabbing with every man for himself, more genuine. No way is it as bad as suggested and I'm not sure why it didn't do better at the cinema, its a solid romp. Think along the lines of Richard Lester's Three Musketeer movies but with less comedy.


Necessary Roughness (1991)

So...is this an episode of Quantum Leap following the constant adventures of 'Sam Beckett'?. No?! well it sure as hell seems like it as the ever cuddly Scott Bakula portrays the same character he's always ever portrayed with the exact same haircut too...geez dude!. So lets not beat around the bush here, this is the late in the day 'Major League' clone that shamelessly rips every cliched idea from that film whilst attempting to look all innocent by turning it into a college football flick.

The plot is different of course, but end of the day it still involves a coach and his assistant trying to muster together a half decent team which ultimately ends up being a bunch of misfits, freaks, girls and Scott Bakula. From there on we get all the regular sports cliches and predictable fluff such as the team losing all the time, losing faith in their coach, a soppy romance, a rival team of assholes, the resurgence of the team and one man behind the scenes taking joy in the teams failure and trying to amplify it.

I think the problem with this film other than the fact its a lame clone, is they simply haven't created any fun characters to follow or care about. As I've already said Bakula plays the same character he always does, then you have a bloke who thinks he's a samurai warrior, the nerdy guy with specs, a huge Samoan guy, an Aussie?! (why would an Aussie be there?), a black guy who can't catch, a ex-military obsessed bloke, a female kicker and finally the hilarious comedian Sinbad...add sarcastic quips here. There are of course other faceless jock meathead players also.

Hell to even make sure they copied every single aspect of 'Major League' they even have a light-hearted announcer for the games...and its Rob Schneider! oh the quality. I really shouldn't keep going on about the similarities but its impossible not too! just look at the films poster, its identical in every way! unbelievable!.

The only big change in this film is the team doesn't actually win any league or championship in the end, they lose a load, tie a game and their final game of the season they manage to beat the top team but that's it. They presumably still end up near the bottom of their group or league, so we don't get the obligatory montage of wins when they turn their game around. What we do get is a sickly bit of crap when their coach goes into hospital of a suspected heart attack just in time for the final big game against the top team. We then get a vomit inducing scene where second in command Loggia tells the team to go and win it for the coach, possibly his last wish on Earth. Personally I thought this was all a set up to get the team to play well, or at least Loggia's character was exaggerating the illness and the coaches last words on purpose. Nope it was all for real, the illness isn't as bad as suspected, but the shitty cliched corny attempt at a rousing emotional scene was indeed for real.

This really is a prime example of an early 90's straight to the videoshop piece of turd trying to leech off the success of another earlier franchise. There are literately no redeeming features anywhere I can think of, its not funny, its not cheeky or rude as suggested by the poster, you have no interest in any characters, even the game sequences aren't very good or exciting...its just poorly made trash that didn't need to be made.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Wildcats (1986)

Now this is what I'm talkin' about, back in the day, the sizzling mid 80's when films were loud bad mad rude and crazy...and lets not forget about the adult flicks too huh...zing!. This was a firm favourite when I was a kid, back then I only ever saw the cut TV version though, still worked even though it was cut.

A seriously young and fit looking Goldie Hawn wants to coach football. She was brought up on the game by her father, she knows the game inside out from him and she knows it. But women don't do these things, you can't have a girl coach a team of young laddish lads. Never the less she is given the opportunity to do just that for a gritty rundown urban inner-city school. Will she succeed in her new role or crack and quit?.

No this certainly isn't a sports drama, this is a badass comedy, the America football version of 'Major League' if you will (although Major League copied the idea I'm sure). The whole premise is cheesy and cliched by today's standards but back in the day this type of thing was reasonably fresh. The plot is totally run of the mill, don't go expecting anything new here, like I said its 'Major League' for football, that's all you need to know. The underdogs are a bunch of uneducated dropouts who care more about goofing off and getting up to no good. Hawn comes along to coach, they reject her and try to get rid of her, she wins them over, she proves she can coach, the players respect her and follow her, they start winning games, the team becomes a force to be reckoned with, they reach the championship against the toughest team coached by Hawn's rival...annnd they win. Simple effective basic formula used by virtually every sports flick ever.

Most of the team are unknowns to me but I'm sure many fans will know this film was the debut for both Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. Snipes of course was also in 'Major League' and kinda plays the same character really, its almost like the beginnings for 'Willie Mayes Hayes'. But the film doesn't revolve around those guys, there is a whole team of young actors that all make this film work in a surprisingly funny way. There are some great characters here. 'Cerulo' is a real Travolta lookin' greaser with that urban Noo Yawk accent, 'Marvel' is standoffish and strong but gets turned around, 'Bird' is the truant criminal who is also the schools best player and Tab Thacker is the fat guy because you always gotta have a fat guy. Much kudos to Nipsey Russell as the likeable principle.

What sets this film apart is the brilliant all round casting of the team and...well everybody really. Even characters like the nasty rival football team coach played by Bruce McGill, Hawn's kids, James Keach as Hawn's estranged husband etc...they are all cheesy but well portrayed. Another element that became obvious to me was the racial divide thing. Hawn's character keeps getting pushed to coach at a posh all girls school on the rich side of town by her husband, he clearly doesn't enjoy her being around all these ruffians. Also most of the other rival teams appear to mainly white guys and of course everybody on Hawn's side of town is generally white. Then you have everybody on the bad side of town where this urban school is, there are rundown buildings everywhere, trash lying around, burnt out cars etc...and everybody seems to be black or hispanic. How could a pretty blonde white girl from the right side of town control a group of foul mouthed, aggressive alcohol drinking black/hispanic youths from the wrong side of the the tracks?. There aren't any verbal references to this of course but the visuals sure as hell shove it down your throat.

An amusing play on this are the Wildcat cheerleaders who are a ragtag team of about four or five black girls and the odd white girl. Funny thing is these girls are basically the ugly girls from school, a bit too tubby, a bit too skinny, kinda nerdy and dressed like shabby trashy street hookers. Not the kind of street hookers that would tempt you. Clearly done for laughs as the cheerleaders are not the type of girls you would want doing this, plus they are a simple representation of the school and the area.

That might sound really controversial, it certainly stands out if you ask me after a recent re-watch, something I never really picked up on as a kid. But I'm guessing that was the point of the plot, the aim of the game, the snobs looking down their noses at the dirty poor folk. Luckily the film is so damn enjoyable you can overlook it (I hope). The only real let down for me is the rather limp finish after they win the championship, kinda just drops off a bit really, shame.

The film is a cookie cutter product (not for its time though), you've seen it before, you've seen all the characters, all the teams, all the ups and downs yadda yadda yadda. Its not overly rude and its not outrageously funny, its just a very rebellious cheeky feel good flick with some really good fun cheesy characters. Add to that a cracking soundtrack which accompanies some great training montages and there you have it, a good time stereotypical fast food 80's football flick.


Ali G Indahouse (UK, 2002)

Well alongside his fame and fortune Sacha Baron Cohen has also managed to achieve such a high level of notoriety with his urban character, that the actual town of Staines changed its name to Staines-upon-Thames to get away from the negativity. That's pretty impressive Mr Cohen, you made an English town change its historic name, is that funny?.

Like many TV characters that have reached the big screen this whole thing feels padded out, forced and struggling for material. Unfortunately this is no different despite being a brilliant and popular creation by Cohen. I think it was a bad choice to go down the actual movie with a plot route as we all know this character like all of Cohen's characters works better when lampooning reality. Seeing the highly naive and thick Ali G trying to strike a conversation with a real politician about current affairs only for him to lower the tone and go off on completely random filthy tangent is what its all about. Hearing Ali comment on his bitch 'Julie' or his various friends from Staines and the things they get up too is amusing to listen too, but to actually now see these people spoils the myth as it were.

Of course the biggest draw with Ali G is the highly accurate satirical mocking of young British teens (black and white) who imitate the American rapper gang culture. This is the crux of his laughs, his not so secret weapon, talking with this modern day slang cum multicultural cockney hip-hop dialect that is frankly cringeworthy to listen too when anyone speaks with it, especially white folk. Add to that his heavily Jamaican/Afro American/UK chav influenced streetwise attire with bling, tracksuits and big trainers and you have a great controversial character ready for upset public figures.

Thing is all of this is completely lost in the film because there is none of that, its just a silly bland plot about Ali trying to save a community centre in Staines. There are no funny clever stinging moments because its a scripted movie, instead they must rely on childish toilet humour which only works part of the time, its immediately unoriginal and loses all credibility. Coupled with the fact the cast is made up of big names merely sinks this project even further, big names equals no risks, no proper laughs, no awkwardness or embarrassing moments, its all played safe which is not what Cohen and his creations are about.

Now I would be lying if I said there were no funny moments in this film, there aren't many but they are there. For me personally the best and most recognisable lampooning of my home country would be at the start of the film when Ali is 'street racing' in his hyper modded Renault down the high street. This very short sequence is extremely amusing because of the stringent UK road laws and the fact we have to drive at 20-30mph everywhere. Watching these two uber modded cars crawl down the high street at 30...pulling up sharply at the 20mph speed board is hilarious, literately the best bit in the film.

Its actually reasonably funny during the start of the film whilst Ali is within his home territory of Staines and his mates. After that as we follow him to Westminster it just loses any fresh comedy hopes and becomes so derivative, the character of Ali G does grow somewhat but only in the wrong way. Instead of the chavy boorish dunderhead we all know and love we end up with some Americanised superfly looking pimp that just feels too much of a stretch even for this character. We all know about the typical UK traits that Ali G represents, we all roll our eyes at the image he portrays because we all see it in our daily lives, that's why its so funny. If you take that away and go down another countries cultural route then your target audience won't relate to it anymore, simple as that.

In the end this film has just gone too far over the top with the character and its just not funny. Had it been a mockumentary style flick like 'Borat' then it would have worked I'm sure, but this option doesn't. Its basically puerile with dated stupid visuals gags and must resort to showing Charles Dance in drag to try and raise a laugh, and it fails at that. Such a huge huge error for the direction of this film that has resulted in a very very average outcome.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Ref (1994)

Now this is a blast from the past, well the early 90's. Back in the days when Leary was a smokin' hot comedian but not much of a movie star and Spacey wasn't that much of a movie star either!. One of those films yous saw in the videoshop amongst the other comedies but never rented because you didn't really know who the actors were, and you'd never heard of the film, maybe that's just me.

The plot isn't rocket science but it is genius. Its Christmas and a robber is on the run, so he kidnaps a middle aged married couple, taking them back to their house. Little does the robber know these two lovebirds are having a bit of a marital spat and are at each others throats. To top that the whole family are on the way for Xmas Eve dinner so Leary's robber must try to control the happy couple whilst dealing with a group of nosy pestering family members.

It really does sound like the next perfect National Lampoon caper for Chevy Chase, the whole film is very much like 'Christmas Vacation' accept this is more for adults. Its all very obvious really, naturally Leary uses his quickfire motormouth wit to spearhead much of the comedy and cruel attacks against various family members. Spacey's character is soft spoken but with a sharp tongue whilst Davis' character beautifully grows from calm and collected to spiteful rude and loud with her verbal assaults as she slowly gets more drunk.

The main attacks fly in the direction of Spacey's mother played in a very stuffy way by the stout Glynis Johns. Of course the old mother character has money so the family normally suck up to her constantly, but this all breaks down slowly as the evening progresses which leads to some very funny moments. You can count on Leary to lose his rag in a monumental fashion with everyone as the heat builds and his window to escape slowly closes. 

Quite simply the film plays on the common much used comedic factors of our own relations, something that every family in the world can probably relate to. The old mother who is gruff with little tact and heavily controls one son too much. That son being downtrodden weak and always overruled by his wife who clearly wears the pants in the relationship. The other son not liking his brothers wife (his sister-in-law) because she has his brother whipped. The old mother not liking either sons wives and the wives not liking her (the mother-in-law) either. Caught in the middle are the kids who watch with glee as their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents swear and curse at each other.

All the characters are very cliched no doubt, all the usual family stereotypes are drained of every last drop of predictable comedy completely. But it works brilliantly, watching the grown ups verbally abuse each other whilst trying to hold it together for the kids and for Christmas is hilarious. Tiptoeing around delicate issues and then bringing them up deliberately to cause an outburst, it makes you laugh it makes you cringe. Then to add to that you have Leary going nuts trying to keep everything civil whilst trying not to break his cover and trying not get caught by the old bill. The fact Leary acts as the marriage counselor for Spacey and Davis really cranks up the laughs when he verbally jousts against the mother and sister-in-law.

This is one of those perfect anti-Christmas flicks that's perfect for Christmas. All the performances are really very good bringing the film to life and making the story so compelling. Its a completely character driven plot with no fancy set pieces or effects or crazy stunts, its all about the dialog. Yeah you know it will have a happy ending and you kinda know how it will pan out as your watching, but its still a dark razor sharp witty pleasure.


The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Being one of the worse box office bombs ever isn't a good start really is it. Yet to look at the trailer, the sci-fi fantasy aspect and the films title you could be fooled into thinking this might not be too bad. The title is pretty sweet if you ask me, definitely an 80's movie title right there.

The plot is set in 2080 and mainly on the moon which is now called Little America. A location where gambling, girls, criminals and all things seedy are rampant, a bit like Las Vegas in the old days. Eddie Murphy is a retired smuggler who runs a nightclub on the moon and wants a quiet life, but this is all messed up when some goons come along and force Murphy out by destroying his club under the orders of a mysterious kingpin. Its now up to 'Pluto Nash' to find out why, who is the man behind it all and try to get his club back, or what's left of it.

I think the first issue with the film are the visuals. The film is oldish but not that old and unfortunately the CGI effects are pretty poor. Shots of the moon, moving vehicles, the lunar surface and of course Little America just look average and obviously CGI. When we close in on the urban areas the sets aren't too bad in design but again its terribly obvious its all sets. It all looks like a very mediocre attempt at a 'Blade Runner-esque' grimy neon lit urban district. The colour palette doesn't really help with everything being grey and boring, yes I know its the moon and the moon is typically grey but come on. There were some nice 50's-esque designs on some buildings and vehicles though, there was that element throughout the film but it still felt drab and lifeless, virtually black and white.

Then you have all the interior sets, design and costumes...its all grey!! everything is grey! flippin' eck!. Not only that but the interior designs look so dated, like its all been reused from a 60's TV sci-fi show. I understand that doesn't necessarily make it bad, there are plenty of examples where films have deliberately gone down the homage route or retro design/vibe which can work wonders giving a great charm factor. The problem here is the film had a massive budget and you wonder what they actually used it on.

Take the robot character played by Quaid (and the maid robot character). What they have done is simply apply a lot of makeup to Quaid to give him a doll-like appearance, then he merely acts out the robot role. Now again this can be done and it can work but probably best in low budget films that have little choice. In a big production it just tends to feel lackluster, the maid robot was the same but dressed up in a sexy French number as if that makes it more acceptable. I did quite like the 50's sci-fi sense I got from Quaid's robot though, like a butch Robbie the Robot in human form...kinda hehe.

Whilst watching I also found the plot to be a tad confusing really, or at least it didn't make much sense because it was all a muddle of grey. There are a lot of character names flying about here, a lot of seemingly pointless stuff, aimless boring dialog and not much action believe it or not. We just move from one cheap looking grey set to the next with little to laugh, disappointing seeing as its supposedly a Murphy sci-fi action romp.

But is it? you think it is but its not really, its more like a 1950's nightclub murder noir homage, 'Harlem Nights' in space perhaps. I must admit to thinking of 'Total Recall' at times whilst watching, it has that kind of vibe going on, minus all the excellent action and blood of course. Do I get the feeling this was made and acted the way it was on purpose?...was it?! I'm not sure, I'd like to think that but deep down I really doubt it. I just think it was a poorly executed movie which had potential to become a bit of a classic. I can see why people might enjoy bits of it like Quaid's cheesy robotic performance and the minor visual gags dotted throughout, but end of the day this really feels like its trying to achieve what 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai' achieved.

I'm still not really sure whether or not this film was intentionally made like a low budget sci-fi B-movie for artistic reasons, or it just came out that way. The more I think about it, this might have worked much better as a short TV series, it certainly has the look and feel.