Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

Requiem? requiem for what? a better movie? what does this title even mean here?? So after the somewhat dubious PG adventures of both species in the last movie, this time its back to a proper adult rating where the franchise belongs. I am now issuing a guilty pleasure alert to any readers, yes that's right a guilty pleasure red alert.

Following on from the first movie we see the Predator ship leaving Earth's orbit with the impregnated Predator corpse on board. Low and behold the naughty spawn bursts from within the dead Predator and pretty much immediately becomes a fully grown mature Alien/Predator hybrid, any previous movie lore right out the window there. A lone Predator picks up the distress beacon and comes to Earth to mop up and take care of the situation, the lone wolf Predator.

The first thing to hit you about this movie which really really sucks ass is the fact the picture is so damn dark. I believe this has been mentioned by everybody in the entire world because it is in fact genuinely badly lit everywhere. Most every sequence of other worldly action is too dark, you're watching shiny objects bouncing around and glistening in the shadows basically. Kudos for keeping the creatures hidden from view for as long as possible and trying for a brooding scary atmosphere but they went a little over the top.

Now the main thing that stood out for me with this was the Predator design and overall coolness factor. The movie on the whole is generally pretty poor but its saved by having a really badass Predator in the lead role. In the first movie the Predators looked like roided up or overweight goons with Milli Vanilli dreads down to their arses, their faces looked TERRIBLE! with big eyes, plus they were useless teens. This time our Predator (protagonist?? antagonist??) is slim athletic, has regular length dreads, no silly adornments, no fanfare, a few tough-nut facial scars, a scary face just like Stan Winston's original design and loaded to the teeth with weapons of carnage. This dude means business, he's got the classic looks and the moves to they got that right.

On the Alien side of things its funny because in the first movie they got these guys down to a tee perfectly, they looked awesome, right out of the Cameron sequel. This time around they just don't look right with their overly large (extended?) jaws and off shaped heads, when you see a full CGI Alien it looks fine but the puppet close ups are no way as good as the W.S. Anderson film. Then we have the Alien/Predator hybrid fiasco, what the hell happened here?! not even having Tom Woodruff Jr. inside could save this
monstrosity...hell I think he even helped design the thing! The really sad thing is the initial designs you see in the making of documentaries are actually really good, it just makes you wonder how on earth they settled on the version that was used. The head seemed way too big for the body, the jaw was too big and complicated, it clearly couldn't move well being too heavy and it had tiny Alien tails for its dreads! In short you could hardly make out what you were looking at, along with the overly dark picture this did not bode well.

I guess the issue with the plot is basically its meaningless because in the end everyone gets nuked so...there was no need for the Predator really. The shady government types were just gonna nuke the site from orbit anyway. Naturally there are many little nods towards the older movies spread throughout, some are brave attempts like the National Guard battling the Aliens in a rain soaked street at night. Nice minimal Alien usage and good editing there just like in 'Aliens'. There is plenty of rehashed old well known dialog from the first two classic movies, similar shots of the creatures, similar jump moments, the same classic sound effects actually all works well I think, especially with the Predator.

Its a sad state of affairs really because this film does have many positive points, it does fit into the Predator/Alien universe nicely, there are solid advancements for the creatures (mainly the Predator) and its a decent next step for the franchise. Yeah sure the characters are all bland cardboard cutouts that you don't care about and are merely there to be killed off slasher flick style. This is both a problem and not a problem really, OK I admit you expect a bit more but really? we know this franchise, we know its all about watching the space aliens kill humans in more cool and disgusting ways and we knew from the start it was never gonna be epic.

Yes the movie could have been greater with better casting, dialog and plot but the film does the job, it gives us an adult Predator flick with Aliens instead of PG-13 dribble. This was never gonna be on the same level as the Scott and Cameron movies because lets be honest you need a much bigger production to do justice to some of the better story concepts that we've seen in the graphic novels. Violence blood and gore doesn't make a good movie you say? you don't need extreme splatter only a solid plot? Well yeah a solid plot would be nice but the violence and gore is a must, doesn't matter how good the story is without that adult rating its just not a proper Predator or Alien movie.

Its a film of two halves, the Predator side of the story, I think, is executed really well and looks fantastic, I really wanted to see more of this guy. Yes of course most of the things we see him do are just rehashed ideas or slight extensions from the last Predator movies but it just looks so cool damn it. You can't deny there are some excellent hero poses for the Predator in this, he just oozes badassery with those twin shoulder cannons. On the flip side the Aliens are reduced to cheap slasher thrills, just tacky monsters that kill faceless people that no one cares about, real Friday the 13th/Critters B-movie type schlock. I told you at the start this was a guilty pleasure for me, I realise its bad in many areas but I also think its good in a few others...OK just the Predator then, but that is enough to lift it in my humble opinion. If you're an Alien fan then the first AvP movie is your bag, Predator fans I'm sure will enjoy this sequel more.


Friday, 29 August 2014

The Expendables 3 (2014)

The boys are back in town...again! and this time its PG-13 baby (sigh). All the Expendable team are back after yet another successful mission where they all had their invincibility cheats on...accept for Crews who forgot to enter his cheat code and gets nailed. But don't go getting too excited because low and behold he survives, they must have found an energy health power-up for him.

So the lads are getting on a bit these days, Arnie and Sly are pushing 70 years of age and the rest of the team aren't that far behind...well some of them. Anyway despite that Sly thinks its time to hang up everybody's boots because they are now officially (according to him) too old, yet Sly still carries on with the next mission even though he's the oldest and clearly looks the worst for wear. So off he goes to hire some young blood with the help of...Kelsey Grammer? really?? what action movies has he starr...never mind. So bottom line the tough old guns are out, the new young guns are in...aaaand there goes the entire premise of the franchise.

The whole plot is basically a play on how these guys are too old for this shit, yet in reality they're all genuinely too old for this shit (some of them) but they're still doing it!...badly.

The plot is not worth discussing really, its the usual good guys vs the bad guys this time led by Mel Gibson...the end. As you would/should expect its pretty much exactly the same spiel as the fist two films but with new team members. There are little remarks throughout from various characters that touch on the fact the movie is a complete parody of itself which didn't really make me smile. Instead they just got me thinking how stupid this whole exercise was and how sharp and accurate those little quips are...but not in a funny way, a serious way, like stop this ridiculous charade and lets get back to old school for Gods sake. What's more the little quips merely pinpoint what is actually wrong with this entire franchise...'so what our plan is to kick down the door and start spraying bullets?', 'that's a great plan...if its 1985'. Yes that's what we want! Oh Lord! if only this film was the caliber of a 1985 adult action flick! if only!

So as we know all the old school action men we wanna see have been left behind accept for Sly's ego. We are now left with some young guys I've never heard of accept for Lutz and a female MMA fighter who cannot act TO SAVE HER LIFE. Seriously I've haven't seen such bad acting in a major movie for some time, it was embarrassing to watch her try and be butch and tough. Her first sequence as the bouncer in that nightclub literately made me laugh out loud, absolutely terrible. The entire montage thing was so flippin' cliched, would have been OK if it was actually good.

Everybody is covered in thick tan makeup its cringeworthy. Sly's face looks like a beaten slab of meat, Arnie has dyed hair, Ford looks dreadfully old (why he agreed to act in this I'll never know) and for some reason they turn Banderas into a bitch. The action isn't as bad as I thought it would be in places I'll admit. There is a solid punch to it at times but it really needs some claret to fly, it yearns for it, some nice fat exploding bloody squibs. Overall its choppy (no pun intended), the thrills can be decent but without warning all of a sudden it drops into pure crapola, awful CGI choppers and a dirt bike stunt sequence? really?? you could clearly see the course and dirt covered ramps!

As we plod slowly towards the predictable ending of the old school Expendables having to save the young newbies things just become more and more...annoying. All the team members are like explosive Gods raining down pain on all the faceless useless military that are swarming all over them. Not even tanks can stop them, how can a countries military be so utterly useless? Arnie throws out not one but two choppa quips that date back to his famous lines in 'Predator', Gibson's dialog is hilariously bad as is his over acting when he finally gets killed off by super Sly and as with before no one gets killed or even injured. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these films would be so much cooler if some of the good guys got killed off.

Yeah its a parody of sorts and not to be taken seriously even though Sly is clearly taking it all very seriously. Sly if you wanna be a serious badass then make these adult rated action movies. I have not taken to this franchise from day one after it became apparent they weren't gonna be proper action movies like I remember. I grew up watching these guys in real hardcore adult flicks where the blood flowed, limbs flew and the f-bombs detonated in every other line. This franchise does not give me what I remember, and I'm not even wearing my rose tinted specs. These guys need to remember their roots, the roots that made them famous, they didn't become famous for childish PG family fun films. Alas now I fear time has passed many of them by and unfortunately this was not a good final curtain.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982)

How about that for a movie title then huh sounds like a children's weekday TV series on BBC1 or some cheesy children's adventure book. Looking at the movie poster really concrete's that theory, it looks like some hammy children's adventure book cover, like those old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, remember those? I half expected this to be an adaptation of a children's book but surprisingly it isn't...but the whole premise predates the Back the the Future franchise which makes you think.

So basically a young Fred Ward plays the protagonist 'Lyle Swann', also known as the Timerider...kinda. During the Baja 1000 cross-country bike race he goes off course and ends up riding into a scientific experiment that has been set up to...errm send things back in time. Without knowing what's happened to himself Swann is now biking around the wild west of 1877 and naturally stumbles into all manner of problems with hilarious results. Well not really but you can guess the type of childish stuff that's gonna happen here right.

Without trying to sound too predictable myself, this movie could easily be a spin-off of sorts to the third Back to the Future movie, watching this really made me wonder if Zemeckis took a bigass leaf out of its book. The start of the movie virtually shows us nothing more than the title character riding through the barren Mexican desert on his bike, literately that for around 20 minutes! oh and a touch of plot revolving around white coats and and their unprotected unguarded science experiment. Seriously they are conducting this major experiment in the desert yet there's no one there to safeguard it or keep people or roaming animals out the way.

Once in the wild west of Mexico Swann comes across all the things you'd predict he would such as bandits, outlaws, a lovely lady, priests and terrified locals. It is reasonably amusing how Ward's character doesn't know he's gone back in time, there are some nice moments based on that idea but most of what happens you can see coming a mile off like the locals thinking he's a demon from hell, Swann falling for the pretty female, the bad guys wanting his bike etc...I can't really complain about the cliched plot line because the film was made in 82 and back then this wasn't cliched or predictable, ditto the situations Swann gets into, nothing original or particularly exciting but back in the day it would have been different.

I did like the twist ending surrounding his great great grandmother and father, bit of a time paradox thinker which shows that had Swann never gone back in time he would have never existed. There are some loop holes though like the fact his dirt bike get left behind, it gets destroyed but its still back in wouldn't that alter history somewhat? Then there's the usual old silliness of all the outlaws shooting at Swann on his bike yet failing to hit him every time. I also liked the bit of dialog from Peter Coyote (the grizzled baddie) saying had the south (Dixie) had the bike they would have won the civil war...not too sure how a dirt bike would have won them the war to be honest. Funny how the bad outlaws in this movie are from the south, because anyone from the south at that time was obviously bad.

Another thing I noticed towards the end of the movie which made me sit upright was the death of Coyote's villain (spoiler alert). In one sequence this baddie is suppose to get killed by a chopper tail rotor which is rescuing Swann. Now you see his final moment with a close up of his face, then it cuts away to screaming, but seconds later you see the character alive and well whilst you still hear his screaming in what appears to be a huge editing blunder. Either that or I'm simply mistaken which I really don't think I am because hey...its me.

Yep I'm sure there are some folk out there remember this and will be outraged at the fact I'm saying its a dull bland boring ride. Unfortunately its just that...its just really unexciting without much genuine action to keep your attention. Ward is stoic as ever and Coyote hams it up nicely with plenty of snarling alongside a western drawl, but watching some dude bounce around on his dirt bike like Evel Knievel whilst slack jawed yokels attempt to shoot him gets mighty lame mighty fast. The story only becomes really interesting right at the very end with the nice time paradox twist, up to that point its no way as cool as the movies poster makes it out to be.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

These characters are based on the wholly American cartoon show 'The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show', a cartoon that has never really been shown that much within the UK (I believe). In all honesty I can understand why because even though I'm not entirely knowledgeable on the series I have seen it here and there...and it wasn't very good really. The main reasons being the cartoon is pretty old and dated both culturally and visually, the animation has that sparse Hanna-Barbera look which I never really liked that much and the main characters just don't really appeal, but that's just me.

As for Mr. Peabody and Sherman I haven't really seen much of these characters at all, I don't recall them in any way, ditto Dudley Do-Right. So I went into this film not really knowing what to expect other than the fact it was a kids flick and it looked colourful. Seeing as these two characters adventures revolved around time travel originally its no surprise that this movie goes down the same route...duh! So naturally we are sent on a head spinning trek across time and space...albeit a pretty convoluted trek.

Yes the whole time travel idea is a tad mundane these days, you can only do so much really and we've seen it many times before. Many of the usual locations turn up such as Egypt, Ancient Greece (probably down to recent popularity with the 300 movies) and a few European countries. Most of the famous historical figures the duo meet are the regular bunch we always tend to see in time travel movies...George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Albert Einstein *yawn*. Despite all the predictable unoriginal cookie cutter themes and the story being quite messy I actually really enjoyed it, in fact the convoluted plot made the film more enjoyable I think, more zany, more interesting and in places a little intense.

I find it funny that the entire adventure happens mainly because Sherman gets bullied by a little girl in his class. Gotta remind myself I'm watching a kids movie all the time, like the whole idea that a dog can adopt a human child! even in a cartoon world that seems kinda odd. Yes Mr. Peabody is a super intelligent dog and ranks above many humans but he's still an animal, just feels strange, on top of that why does he insist on Sherman calling him Mr. Peabody? That relationship throughout the film felt strained to me, I couldn't feel any emotion between them and it reflected on me connecting with them both. Sherman does indeed feel more like a pet to Peabody even thought they both connect on a more loving parental level in the end. Am I looking into this too much?

There are some lovely CGI visuals that are bright bold and highly colourful. Ancient Italy especially looks super lovely where as the Trojan horse sequence not only looks good but is very amusing thanks to the ever hilarious Patrick Warburton and his perfect vocals. Seriously was that guy born for animated voice acting or what! Unsurprisingly all the sequences set back in time look really good and very slick, once we reach the present day things get less eye catching naturally, we all know what the present day looks like huh.

All in all I can't deny it does feel a little formulaic with the nonsensical science tomfoolery and jargon thrown at you from every angle, the kind of flashy pretty looking and hi-tech sounding stuff that looks and sounds good on screen but no one really knows what they're on about. We see this often in kids fantasy flicks. I still don't quite get why the vortex at the end starts spitting out various random famous historical landmarks and monuments and then when its reversed it sucks them all back up conveniently...don't question it, don't question the space-time continuum rip thingy. Anyway the movie is a hoot all the way through with, I think, some good quirky eye candy, fun sight gags and fun verbal.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Howard the Duck (1986)

Back in 1973 Howard the Duck was created and began life as a secondary character for the Man-Thing comic, a kind of grown-up adult version of Daffy Duck visually. Now I know nothing about the comicbook lore of Howard, absolutely zero, all I know of is the film which I am going to review for you. Although after a bit of homework it does appear that Howard has some of the most outrageous zany and bizarre comicbook roots I've come across with many many crossovers, masses of villains with silly names and a highly convoluted story line.

Now this was the first major Marvel movie adaptation of one of their characters and unfortunately it was a big flop. I've always been a bit of a fan of the movie since childhood but admittedly on a rewatch I can see how bad it places. The main sticky issue is the many various plot holes throughout and the fact its also been slapped together in a rather childish manner. Howard is apparently sucked from his home planet to Earth via this big ass laser beam thingy which is being worked on by white coats back on Earth. The first few big errors and questions being how in the hell does Howard survive flying through space and wouldn't this take rather a long time...crossing the universe. Plus how does he survive entry through Earth's atmosphere and that nasty landing? and why was he the only duck to be sucked up?

One thing that always bugged me was why Howard's planet was basically exactly the same to Earth accept ducks were the dominant species. The premise is fine just as it is with the Planet of the Apes franchise but why would their civilisation be exactly the same as ours with currency, store names, famous people etc...As far as I'm aware Howard's planet is just far off in the universe, another galaxy far far away, its not in an alternate dimension where this type of stuff would/might happen, so that whole aspect felt really stupid to me, just a few lame visual gag opportunities.

Now this laser is suppose to be measuring the density of gases around Alpha Centauri? why? Is that all it does cos I always thought it was some kind of space bridge for travelling across the universe...or whatever. Twas a huge piece of kit and it isn't really explained why it was built and for what purpose. The scientist characters mention the laser was taken over by an unknown force yet we never find out what, I presume the space demons did it. We do also get some back story for the space demons but its vague to say the least, they were banished to the 'Nexus of Sominus' by persons unknown, this is an area beyond the planets soooo...beyond the known universe? and what exactly do they wanna do with Earth?

You see this film is kinda a mixed bag really, you look at the poster for the movie and its visually striking, looks really cool. Its a really neat design idea with the fat smoking cigar and this tells you outright this isn't exactly a kids flick. And its not...this is not a kids flick in any sense which I like, I love that about it, they tried to stick to the comicbook source material which you know they wouldn't do today. Howard the Duck was always a grown-up comicbook character, a bit like TMNT in that aspect and this film does do a reasonable job in sticking to that although they jettisoned the dark satire and swearing. Its not hardcore material by any means but the film is quite dark, there are some edgy moments...some soft sexual moments, a hint of bestiality! and of course the infamous duck tit sequence including duck magazine porn.

So the movie generally is relatively dark and moody which is a plus point but its clearly more of a special effects extravaganza over plot. It might not look it now but back in the day it was, the effects were there to try and lure in the recently acquired Star Wars fanbase...which it did. I do have to give kudos to the effects though, in particular the duck costume in the film which utilised an animatronic suit and actually looks pretty good to this day. Put it this way the 86 suit looks way better than the recent CGI version we see in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. The makeup on Jeff Jones was also really well done and looked pretty intimidating and spooky truth be told, he looked like a demonic John Carpenter. Add to this the amazing Phil Tippet creation using stop motion which still looks awesome and again quite scary, easily the highlight of the whole movie...and some really nice glowing flashy lighting bolt type effects throughout which are just as good as what you see in 'Ghostbusters' (mostly).

Again I gotta question the dark overlord creature though, it looks like an insectoid type creature yet it can generate and expel massive charges of electric-esque energy bolts from it eyes, tail and claws/fingers (depending on form). I know it doesn't matter but it just doesn't look like a creature like that could do such a thing really, also how come it needs a human body to gestate in? how did it get inside 'Dr Jennings' body? how did it get out? how did it fit in there? When the other overlords come through the laser portal thingy they appear fully formed or grown they transform into some kind of energy or spirit when entering Earth's atmosphere which enables them to enter a human body?? Surely Jennings would have been killed after it had left his body down to the amount of abuse he suffered...I don't get it.

In general there are many many mistakes everywhere with this movie, some tiny and some not so. Like the fact Leah Thompson's character goes to Tim Robbin's character for help because they are good friends and she thought he was a scientist but he turns out to be a lab assistant...but wouldn't she know that already? Its also so stupid that no one seems to think a talking duck is weird because no one ever calls the police or army or whoever when they see Howard. They just laugh or abuse him or even treat him like a regular person despite the fact he's a talking duck....errr K.

Gotta be honest Leah does make up for a lot of the crapola in the film, she is truly lovely and has totally rebooted my crush. Leah (like 'The Goonies' and Kerri Green) did bewitch my fragile little mind when I was young and its happened again! the rest of her girly band aren't too bad either! Jones is also great fun and really does the whole body snatcher thing pretty well methinks, love his body movements when he throws out his powerful energy bolts. Robbin's...errrrrr lets not go there, he's the simple minded sidekick that attempts to offer comedic relief with immature slapstick, oh and he wears glasses because he's a nerd cliche.

Yes the film is chock full of nonsensical plot holes and errors which stand out like a duck at a giraffes only party. I think if you can overlook that and try and enjoy the film as a very loose fantasy with some fun performances from Leah and Jones alongside a reasonably heroic score then there is joy to be had here. I know there is a shit tonne of bad dialog, puns, innuendos and gags which really come across as infantile at times but the semi-crass twisted warped and perverse sense of humour and visuals that spring up here and there are quite fun.

Visually its a product of its time, you can tell its an 80's Lucasfilm production (just like those Ewok movies) and I kinda like that. Definitely not as cool as I remember it being but I still enjoyed some of it, its very uneven but the idea is quirky and fresh...well Howard is. Here's hoping for a solid reboot which remains faithful to the comicbook source.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (2000)

Well here we are with the third film in this violent vampire horror franchise. After the second film which was so so you'd kinda expect this to be a real stinker, how could they continue with little budget and little star status?? Well third time is most definitely a charm here because this adventure swings right around and is back on track.

What I really liked about the plot is firstly its a prequel (don't moan just yet) set in the sweaty wild west of Mexico and shows us an early 19th century 'Titty Twister'. We don't see how this location became a vampire hotspot or how all the inhabitants came to be undead blood suckers, this is merely another chapter within this universe. Trejo is back again as a supposedly younger 'Razor Charlie' but again we don't see how he became a vampire, but we now know he's clearly a very old neck biter. This whole idea actually works really well I think and fits into the mythology of the franchise perfectly.

The other fact I liked was the clever use of a real person from history. Ambrose Pierce actually disappeared without a trace back in 1913 whilst travelling with rebel troops led by Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution of 1910. Pierce was a very well known writer and journalist amongst other things but his vanishing put his name on the map. In this movie they have used Pierce as the main character in a team of survivors fighting the vampire hordes at a very dated Titty Twister. The idea being that in this universe Pierce's disappearance is down to him entering the vampires den which is unknown to the outside we know.

Now I do like this neat little spin on reality but for one thing (spoiler alert)...Pierce doesn't die in this film! He actually makes it out without as much as a scratch on him and carries on with his initial plans. So basically the director/writer kinda fudges up his cool plot premise, had Pierce died then it would have fitted nicely into reality because we would know he vanished from being killed at the Titty Twister. That being said I have read there is an alternative ending which does address this, haven't seen it though.

Anyway the film goes down the same basic route as the first movie accept this time there are a few sub plots with different people that all cumulate in the Titty Twister. The main story is about a group of outlaws with a female hostage on the run from a posse of soldiers. Once we get through all the rather dull plots that lead up to everybody getting trapped in the Twister, things do perk up tremendously. Again I won't deny its simply a rehash of the first film but wow do they go for broke this time! If you thought the original had madcap splatter sequences of gore then wait till you see this! The battle between various soldiers outlaws civvies and the hooker vampires is chock full of guts limbs and neck slashing. I was really impressed with the level and quality of effects makeup and stunts during these fights, its right up there with Rodriguez's first offering.

Admittedly its nothing we haven't seen before, you have a good idea of who's gonna get killed and the entire two for one movie concept surprise is obviously no longer a surprise. There is also a neat character tie in with the original film which is a small twist you don't see coming and Michael Parks returns again doing a solid job as Ambrose Pierce whilst having a slight Charlton Heston look going on. In the very end we get another cool pull back shot of the rear of the Twister showing us the sprawling Mayan temple that sits beneath. Its not quite as sharp as the first movies but its definitely a nice touch that brings everything full circle.

You really do expect this to be utter dribble, especially at the start seeing the tacky looking title credits, but in the end its a very nice surprise with some really solid effects and makeup which I must give kudos to. Its better than the second film but the fact they have just rehashed the first film is a bit weak, at least the second film tried for something more original. I would definitely give both sequels a whirl if you like vampires and heavy splodging gore.


Monday, 18 August 2014

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)

So judging by the films cover you could be fooled into thinking this film was set in the 'Twitty Twister' and that Danny Trejo was a large part of the story. Alas this couldn't be further from the truth, this isn't necessarily a bad thing of course but they are clearly trying to hook your attention.

The plots follows a group of criminals who are planning a bank heist. The group are to meet in a seedy motel somewhere in Mexico but through various circumstances are attacked and turned into vampires one by one. During the heist the main protagonist discovers his mates are vamps and must fend them off along with the police force which turn up. In the end the film merely becomes a vampire vs police escapade with the lone surviving criminal teaming up with the Texas Ranger that was on his tail.

This second splatter fest starts off really slow and quite dull if you ask me, we merely follow Robert Patrick as he recruits the old gang for the heist. The group itself are a mixed bag and you can see they have tried to create that iconic team of hardass oddballs we've seen many times before. You've got a fat guy with a ponytail and goatee (the homosexual sadistic porn shop owner from 'Pulp Fiction'), an aging cowboy, a young innocent looking guy (Woody Harrelson's brother) and the stereotypical tough guy played by Raymond Cruz who kinda feels like a male version of 'Vasquez' from 'Aliens'.

Once things get going on the road trip it still takes its time and feels slow. There is a pointless cameo for the 'Titty Twister' merely so they can shove in Danny Trejo with an aimless subplot and so the crooks can start getting bitten. I still have absolutely no clue how Trejo's character is suppose to have survived the first film after being reduced to mush. This also tends to bring up the continuity issue of where are all the other characters from the first film? If Trejo's 'Razor Eddie' is still alive then surely all the other main vampires and fallen bikers are still alive and well too (or undead and well). Plus the vampire bar is clearly a bad small set and doesn't really look like the original films set. This was a real let down for the film seeing as the bar is the main money shot of the franchise, where it all happens so to speak.

The film really picks up when all the cops turn up to stop the bank heist and the undead crooks all go berserk. The whole story takes a U-turn and goes from dark vampire splatter horror to an over the top action bonanza with the four baddie vamps gunning down hordes of policemen and S.W.A.T. teams amidst exploding police cars. Remember when Arnie takes down all the cops and cop cars with his minigun in 'T2'? well this is pretty much identical to that accept there is lots of blood and body parts flying around. I can't lie, I really did enjoy this part of the movie as it really changes the pace of the film upping it drastically. The action isn't the best choreographed action you've seen but it does the job and its pretty neat watching these invincible vampires leaping around and taking down various armed police.

Like much of the film the effects are all hands-on real time effects using fake blood, prosthetics, heavy makeup, puppets etc...and like the original film it works giving a much grittier 80's feel to the proceedings. There is a touch of CGI for the melting vamp shots which is a bit hokey looking but again like the original film it doesn't detract from the nicely handled gore.

I did like this film once things started to actually get going with the vampires, but boy does it take time for that. Much of the run time is a bit dull in all honesty...until the excellent shoot out with the cops. It is a bit frustrating at times too as some shots are badly edited, the sets are pokey, location work is visually unexciting and overall it does look very cheap and cheerful. I can overlook that but geez! here and there it really looks poor. There is a small Bruce Campbell cameo at the start which really feels like its there just to gain more interest with horror fans as again it pointless. Basically most of this film is very average but the violent finale makes up for most of it. The final bit of dialog between Patrick's criminal character and Hopkins' Texas Ranger was hinting to set up a vampire hunting team possibly for the third film, I thought...guess not.

Cute bit of info, the character of 'Deputy Edgar McGraw' in this film is the son of 'Sheriff Earl McGraw' from the original film. In the original film Sheriff McGraw is played by Michael Parks who is the real life father of James Parks who plays Deputy McGraw in this sequel.


Friday, 15 August 2014

From Dusk till Dawn (1996)

Back in 1986 there was a small low budget horror movie called 'Vamp' starring Grace Jones as a supreme vampiress Goddess and owner of a seedy strip joint full of seedy hooker-esque was spanklicious! Then along came Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and they basically completely ripped off the entire idea, thus we have this heavily Mexican influenced horror splatter fest.

I saw this film on release in the cinema back in the day and I thoroughly enjoyed it, this hasn't changed. I think the fun fact with this film is that it works on two levels, as we all know the film is basically one story that U-turns into another, but both work really well. The first half of the film which focuses on the 'Gecko Brothers' is a violent unapologetic crime spree road trip following the duo on the lamb. Its a strange combination of ice cool badassery and actual nastiness leaving you unsure whether you should be rooting for these two guys.

Lets face it, Clooney is the slightly charming good looking cool headed leader of the pair sporting a horribly dated tribal tattoo. This guy makes you think its fun and sexy to be a criminal on the run from the a cool car to boot. Then you have Tarantino who is a scrawny whiny bespectacled creep who lies and kills people for no reason, he also appears to be a sexual predator and kills (possibly raping) women. Now together this pair do make a fun fast talking duo of deperados admittedly, their bickering is amusing and well performed, visually they look quite unique in their appearance and attire and they are badass motherf*ckers. The thing is they do commit some really quite nasty crimes along the way which is played for dark laughs but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You can't help but feel they get what they deserve in the end and I personally find it hard to feel any emotion or sympathy for either character. Its like...oh yeah its sad for 'Seth' when 'Richie' gets killed...but wait, didn't he kill an innocent female by putting a pillow over her head and shooting her in the face?! Oh and didn't Seth burn that innocent (and cooperative) liquor store worker to death??!!

The main crux of this film is of course the second part of the story when the duo reach the 'Titty Twister' in the middle of nowhere, Mexico. From a dark graphic novel style violent crime thriller to an over the top, balls to the wall, in your face soft porn vampire slaughter. What I like about this section of the film is the fact they use hands-on effects, the whole gamut of traditional methods from models and puppets to bucket loads of goo and gore. I think there is a small amount of CGI for the bats and face morphing but mostly all the death and destruction is utilising classic live action gore effects and some lovely makeup work that I'm sure Savini had a hand in. Even though the Titty Twister is an obvious set it still looks the business both inside and out with clever use of props and camera angles. You know there aren't that many vampires, you know the bar set isn't that big, you know the outside is restricted for space etc...but with the odd lorry parked in the right position, good editing, some clever tricks and even an old fashioned matte painting Rodriguez is able to present a much bigger universe on a tight budget.

I think this part of the film has its ups and downs honestly. Its definitely a rip roaring brutal cadaver fest which is great fun but as the film progresses towards the finale it does become so over the top with the gore and action it loses its grip and edge. The effects seem to get a little weaker towards the end as though they were running out of cash and time. The makeup is still great but some of the creatures looked pretty ropy truth be told, what was that huge rat monster Clooney fights?! kudos for trying but the rod puppet animation used for that thing was hokey looking. I also always wondered why Hayek's character seems to turn into a humanoid reptile, that's what it looked like didn't it? not very vampire-like. The various exploding melting head close ups rock but most of the body suits and large vampire bats look very rubbery and fake right at the end.

There is no doubt this is another great example of Rodriguez's visual style and somewhat over self-indulgent obsession with the Mexican theme. The added bonus of a solid cast of Tarantino regulars and aging cult stars really gives the adventure a shot in the arm too, had this been cast with any standard Hollywood stars it may not have been as appealing. I mean lets face it, this film introduced us to Hayek, Trejo and to a degree Marin for some folk...loved how he plays multiple characters and pulls it off!

A true popcorn flick harking back to the good old days of 80's splatter comedy horror. What's more it makes you wanna see more of the Gecko Brothers with a prequel and easily a sequel following Seth. I won't deny the first half of the film felt vicious and a tad unpleasant, could almost say a fail for what they were clearly going for, but what horror/action fan can say they didn't get a solid kick out of the biker mayhem that followed. Easily my fave film involving and starring Tarantino, I just loved how they did his vampire makeup too, did you notice how his skull had a massive chin?


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

All this talk of the Avengers gets me thinking...where is Captain Britain Marvel?? Yes that's right my fellow movie forum dwellers and review hobgoblins, there is a character called Captain Britain and he is or has been part of the Avengers, amongst other super teams. Wouldn't it be kinda cool to see good old Captain USA fighting alongside Captain UK huh. Captain America fighting Hydra whilst Captain Britain battles all those bastards that take up two spaces in your local Tesco car park, don't get me started on the state of our roads! but I digress...

So whilst the rest of the Avenger team is...somewhere where they can't be reached apparently, the Captain and Black Widow must virtually save the entire world on their own. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been comprised as Hydra slowly takes over, no one can be trusted, not even the top levels. Three huge Star Destroyers are being finished and prepped ready to sale over the world and bring order out of chaos, but are they controlled by the good guys or the bad guys?

The very first action scene in this film reinforces some issues I have with this comicbook universe (not being a fanboy). A S.H.I.E.L.D. ship has been hijacked by French (French?) terrorists and are holding hostages. The Captain turns up with Widow and the S.T.R.I.K.E. team but basically goes off and takes down half the terrorists single handedly. Black Widow takes down plenty of guys too but these two simply exterminate them all without breaking sweat or having any makeup get smudged, how is there any crime in this universe when these heroes are so invincible?! Seriously the Captain could of killed everyone on the ship without help...also does that boomerang shield have a homing device or something?

What I did like about this film is the fact its a bit of espionage and all out action blended together with some political intrigue of sorts. This does make for a rousing experience no doubt, the other thing I liked was the surprising sidestepping of all out CGI set pieces and the actual use of real time stunts and destruction, plenty of it too. If you like destruction porn, mainly car destruction porn, then you're gonna like this movie that's for sure. I haven't seen so much vehicle ruination for a long time, explosions out the yang! guns fights blazing, fisticuffs errr fighting and a reasonable amount of violence too! They don't shy away from people getting gunned down which was cool, up and close neck breaking is hidden from view for the most part though.

You certainly get what you came for with this movie I kid you not, in fact Black Widow kinda upstages the Captain if you ask me...despite her iffy looking dye job and heavy tan makeup. Dunno what's happened there, in the first movie she has curly hair and is quite pale, obviously wasn't sexy enough first time around. I really don't wanna say it but at one point I actually thought there was too much action! yes that's right too much. There is so much stuff getting blown to pieces and so much extreme destruction...alongside characters that have wing jet packs and metal bionic arms, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were watching the new G.I. Joe movie. The whole thing really looked more like a big toy advert than a Marvel flick at times, luckily the sight of the Captain keeps you in check.

After seeing a multitude of vehicles getting blown to shit we eventually reach the finale where basically...three huge Helicarriers must be blown to shit. I gotta say I agree with Robert Redford's character when this happens, it is such a waste of tech! geez! couldn't they try and just land them or something. The other thing that made me laugh at this point was the fact they are trying to stop these Helicarriers targeting and killing thousands of people. Yet when they all get blasted to pieces and come crashing down wouldn't that still kinda kill a hell of a lot of people on the ground? Sure not as many if Hydra's plan had come to fruition but still!

I'm not too sure how Marvel do it but somehow they are able to make a movie work with multiple characters right now, DC and Sony have kinda failed as have other folk in the past but Marvel has got this thing down to a tee. I can't really fault the cast here, everyone has good screen time, we know their performances now, the new guy portrayed by Stan looks a bit cliched with his bionic arm as does Falcon but hey ho its a comicbook adaptation. Cards on the table though...I thought Redford was a bit weak, didn't quite seem comfortable in his role, possibly his age.

So yeah there is still an abundance of CGI tomfoolery going on here but there is also some great old fashioned stunts and wreckin' going on too, so kudos. As usual the finale does tend to lose its grip a bit, things get a tad stupid like Falcon jumping out of a tall story building right into the waiting chopper below, yeah the characters reference how crazy it is which is cool...but it still seems too much despite everything else going on. Oh and surviving that fall with the parachute at the last minute? errrr! Also why do those Helicarriers have those glass dome things on their underside? and why would they house the most important electrical parts of the carrier (targeting system for one). While we're down here how the hell did the good guys know which one of the those electrical circuits to remove and replace??! there were loads of them in rows all looking the same! talk about a fiddly situation that might cause a panic attack sheesh!

The only real bit of action that didn't look too good for me was the short sequence where the Captain escapes from Triskelion and has to overcome one of those Sulaco drop ship things. It all looked a bit like a videogame sequence there I think, but there's always gonna be some hokey looking CGI in these films.

Some nice twists which I'm sure everybody knows about now, some setups for future adventures and new characters, two end credit scenes which poke at more crossovers and new characters. Hell its everything we've now come to expect from a standard Marvel superhero experience. This movie was on fire! it doesn't stop for a breather at all, devastation piled on top of obliteration. In the end virtually everything has been blown up, all that's left are the dark clouds of smouldering debris.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

The Spider-Man is back and this time he's got a new villain to fight! The same complete principle yet again but...a different villain, or two...wash rinse and repeat. The inevitable third film will obviously see Spider-Man back fighting another entirely new villain yet exactly the same thing will happen all over again...but glossier.

OK so we know the plot (see above) but let me start by saying one thing, this film was totally a Schumacher inspired vision if ever I saw one. Case in point, the entire plot and character development for Electro. Man I couldn't believe how daft gimmicky and cliched this guy was, its like Webb literately watched 'Batman Forever' and thought it would be a good route to follow. Foxx plays the stereotypical cookie cutter comicbook type geek with goofy teeth and glasses because that must obviously mean the guy is academic. Just like Schumacher's Riddler vision Dillon loves Spidey in a creepy stalker-ish kinda way, but due to an accident that borders on Schumacher's 'Batman and Robin' offering, he gets transformed into a living electric generator, cunningly calling himself Electro.

'They should call you the amazing Spider-Man'  

Now I gotta moan about this character because he's the central villain yet his entire plot development makes no sense. Why is he so mad at everybody? why does he try to kill hundreds of Gotham citizens...oops! I mean New York citizens. Are you trying to tell me that his whole reason for being a rampaging villain is simply because Spidey didn't pay attention to him and neither did anyone else?? he basically has thrown a complete hissy fit over not getting any attention?! Does this really enrage him so much that he decides to kill Spidey (despite him saving his life), lots of innocent people and blackout New York city?! Jesus bananas! well I guess he's ready for the Arkham Asylum, although I suppose that would tie in with comicbook bad guys in general lore. Oh and where the hell did he get that supervillain suit??! the supervillains R' Us superstore!

This leads me to the other villain which we see for around five minutes...Rhino. Why is this guy here? because its all a setup for the 'Sinister Six' movie of course. But is this character even needed at all within this universe? the bloke is a regular guy who wears boxer shorts with cartoon rhino's on them...does this qualify him for operating the huge metal rhino mech suit which we see at the end in dodgy CGI. Why was this guy even chosen? surely it could have literately been anyone, why bother breaking him out of jail. I also don't follow how a bloke in a simple mech suit would fit in with a supervillain team, without this suit he is utterly useless, just a regular criminal. In the comics wasn't he some kind of Hulk like character? I guess a spandex rhino suit would look too daft.

One aspect I did like was the intro of the third villain in the form of the Green Goblin. I really thought the overall portrayal of the young Osborn by DeHaan was very good, spot on for ominous smarmy and quietly disturbing...with that greasy hairstyle. I did find myself buying into his frustration at Spidey/Parker and actually rooting for him. His Goblin alter ego was also well portrayed and well designed too, the Raimi version was a decent idea that was well crafted but I'm glad to see a more classic approach this time. Would have preferred some more goblin-esque features in there though. I thought the finale battle against Spidey was excellent and its a shame we didn't see more of that frankly, loved the glider again in this, shame we still aren't seeing any pumpkin/jack O' lantern bombs though.

On the whole the film is of course extremely slick and glossy visually and I'd expect nothing less. Yes Spidey looks fantastic leaping around, yes his web swinging POV sequences are truly sexy and yes the action is impressive. Problem is there isn't very much action and I did find myself getting bored for a lot of the time. The character building between Parker and Stacy is well done and its believable...but boy is it dull. I liked how we got some back story for Parker's parents although plot holes arose. Richard Parker was working with Connors from the first film on the limb regeneration project apparently...aaaaand?? should that lead into anything or am I missing something? Plus it is really extraordinarily lucky that a genetically modified spider fused with Richard Parker's DNA should bite his son, seeing as the spiders are only encoded to Parker's bloodline. Of all the people a spider would bite eh.

I still find myself wondering what that gigantic power plant place was where Spidey fights Electro, the hell was that? looked like something outta Star Wars. I am also still confused (not being a true comicbook fanboy) at Spider-Man's powers, I know his regular powers but is he (or should he be) really as strong and powerful as say...Superman?

On the visual side this movie is solid no doubt, each comicbook movie just gets better and better, but this is far from a solid movie overall. I found it quite dull for the most part, a terrible soundtrack and score which didn't fit with most scenes, another obligatory hideous hip hop track over the end credits, more Lee cameos, a God awful self referential gag with the old Spidey theme tune and quite frankly a stunning leap backwards in the terms of comicbook movie progression because the film is basically a super slick Schumacher adaptation with all the same childish quirks. Crazy cackling evil German scientists with heavy accents torturing Electro in a laboratory full of flashing neon lights and whirring sounds?  I'm surprised no one had nipples on their super suits.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Machete Kills (2013)

Hey I just realised something that I forgot to mention in the original movie review. You all remember Rodriguez's film 'Desperado' right. Well isn't the character of 'Machete' first seen played by Trejo in that film? the dude with all those small throwing knives strapped around his waist, its virtually the same character.

Well once again this movie kicks off with those washed out, scratchy grungy 70's looking exploitation visuals. We actually get quite a neat little retro styled cinema introduction to yet another parody trailer for yet another Machete flick, this time in space. There is that same deep gravely voice narrating the trailer as the corny trademark infringing action explodes onto the screen accompanied by more cheesy action music and lots of hammy retrotastic onscreen text. Quite liked the little moment where 'Bleep' the robot played by Justin Bieber (not really) gets blasted to pieces.

From here on though the decision has been made to continue the rest of the films visuals in regular glossy Hollywood fashion dropping the rough grungy B-movie look. I'm not really too sure why they would do that seeing as that visual appearance is the whole point of the franchise, that's its quirky raison d'etre, without it the movie just becomes another daft action flick...only this is just absurdly ridiculous bordering on spoof-like. Unfortunately this is exactly what happens, this movie is so slapdash and crazy that you simply can't really enjoy it. All rules of reality and beyond go completely out the window as Machete is 100% invincible and can literately do anything that is required. Jumping from a great height out of a helicopter into a speed boat and taking out the bad guys on problem, just press the X button and the right shoulder button to perform this special move.

Thing is you have the same issue when reviewing these type of flicks. I know its all been shot like this on purpose, I realise the extreme gory bullet ridden lunacy is part of the intentional charm, I realise the characters are larger than life and totally hokey and the whole movie is just a big insane comicbook of violence. I think we all know this, but at what point does it simply go too far and become shit? The plot really doesn't matter in this film (Machete vs Gibson and lots of various henchmen) as its entirely about the action set pieces, one after another, bigger and bigger, more and more over the top. Nothing matters in the film anymore because the protagonist is so God-like its all meaningless, its like playing a videogame with the infinite energy cheat on, fun at first but very boring after about ten minutes.

There are only a few positives with this film, one being the unique mix of casting (kinda). The first movie had Seagal as the main boss, this time its Mel Gibson...and I can't deny he does save the day. Seeing Mel play the Bond-esque villain is a real breath of fresh air and he clearly enjoys it. Lets not get carried away he doesn't really do much other than stand around and reel off cliched dialog but his presence is felt, he oozes a slick charm that just makes his villainy so watchable (despite it being highly childish nonsense). The moment he puts the silver mask on the film just sinks to yet another level of utter childish meaningless futile crapola...yet somehow its kinda cool. Why would his voice deepen with the mask on? why are his footsteps now like Robocop? why does he not treat his face before putting the mask on? and how does the mask not move around and feel really uncomfortable? Pointless questions I know but I gotta ask.

The rest of the cast are mainly the same as before accept we have more outrageous cameos this time. Lady Gaga as a hitwoman with a talent for disguises (I think)...this led to various little pointless cameos. Savini is back but has changed sides, Rodriguez still plays the tough bitch and still looks like she needs a wash whilst Charlie Sheen goes by his birth name to play the US President. Probably the second best thing about this film after Gibson, Sheen basically plays 'Charlie Harper' as the US President...which basically means he's playing his usual womanising self.

The best description for this film frankly is a violent adult version of Austin Powers mixed with James Bond. It sounds like a cheesy thing to say (or type even) but its true! you only have to see the last half of the film which is set in some kind of big weapons lab to realise what I mean. Hell...Gibson only needs a white cat under his arm and the transition would be complete. The only other thing I quite liked was the fact the ending is open and leads into the plot from the trailer you see at the start of the film. The down side of that is the worry they might actually make a third film called 'Machete Kills Again in Space'! This may as well be a comedy because it sure as hell would be a total spoof of damn near everything ever. Time to let this go I think Mr Rodriguez, you had your fun in the first film which was quite good, but this has now gone too far, its been milked and the moment has well and truly past.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Machete (2010)

The film famously spawned from one of the fake parody trailers that was seen in the Tarantino and Rodriguez movie 'Grindhouse'. Personally I'm still up for the movie of 'Werewolf Women of the SS' which looked much better, you never know, they've done a movie for all the others I believe. As I'm sure you're all aware this film has been deliberately shot in that old grungy 70's B-movie exploitation style which continues from its trailer parody roots.

The films visuals are purposely scratchy faded marked and at times slightly glitchy to match those of the heyday of grindhouse/exploitation crapola. Now myself I don't really like this era of film and the way it looked, the films beginning credits sequence being a brightly coloured badly composed montage of film stills accompanied by some seriously retro text font and cheesy action music. The whole thing reminded me of my childhood days and those hammy American cop shows like 'Chips' or 'Starsky and Hutch' (take your pick from many). Of course this film is much much more hokey than those shows and is influenced by films before my time but I still shudder at the thought of it, I do remember some darn hokey stuff I can tell you (1977 Spider-Man movie).

So being a crummy sleazy grindhouse action flick you can guess the plot isn't gonna tax your brain. Well you would think that but its actually quite relatable to current affairs both in the UK, Europe and the US. I refer to the various immigration issues flying about these days which has grown stronger over the last few years, especially right now in the US where there are US citizens actively protesting in Texas against immigrants coming in from Central America. Obviously I'm not suggesting that any of the corruption, wall building and assassination attempts seen in the film are happening but the the films basic plot is eerily familiar.

As for the film its exactly what you'd expect and more of what we saw in the parody trailer. Danny Trejo has a big machete and various guns, his mission is to get revenge on the corrupt suit that set him up on an assassination attempt against a corrupt Senator who is tough on immigration. The reason being they want it to look like an illegal Mexican tried to kill the Senator for his tough stance on immigration, thusly giving their cause a boost with the public and the excuse to build a big wall across the Texan border.

Along the way Machete meets up with a few characters that help him. Cheech Marin is a Padre with a mean trigger finger, Michelle Rodriguez (who is cast in the same role every time) plays the tough Latino bitch who also has a mean trigger finger, Alba is a US Customs and Immigration officer with a mean trigger finger and Lindsay Lohan pops up too...with a mean trigger finger. On the baddie side is Savini as a hitman with a mean trigger finger, Don Johnson as a sadistic redneck vigilante border patrol leader and of course Seagal as the big boss who is a dab hand with a katana.

Honesty the plot is highly convoluted (I've confused myself writing this!) and only serves to stuff as many big names in as possible, its like a Mexican/Latino Expendables. I can't really moan about that though as you know right from the outset the film is purposely ludicrous and outrageous. The same can obviously be said for all the action and violence, I found that it gets more absurd as the film gets towards the finale. At first it felt quite gritty and semi realistic to a degree, you know its a parody but you can run with it. But towards the end everything gets way out of hand with awful looking CGI action, explosions and blood everywhere, terrible death acting by the extras, crazy situations, Michelle Rodriguez getting shot in the eye and surviving and the hokiest death scene ever by Seagal. Honesty it actually looked like a something from a blooper reel! funny but..really?

There are some clever moments of parody admittedly. I liked the baddie henchmen who discuss their jobs and what they think of their boss, the fact that one of them is starting to think that the boss is actually a bad guy and whether they are in the right line of work. Plus the fact they actually have injuries from the last fight they had with Machete, they chat about them, then in the end two of them quit before getting killed, finally realising its not worth it.

Its very hard to review really as I know its all deliberate, its been made to look bad and cheesy, hokey acting and silly A-Team-esque scenarios. On one hand I can kinda deal with that but on the other...its just shit! and it gets worse as the film progresses. Its a shame as the film is fun and more of an adult action flick for the most part with blood guts and tits on display. Unfortunately your suspension of disbelief is crushed towards the end, it goes beyond a mockery and morphs into a childish James Bond type of picture. I did quite like the final end credits and voice that announces Machete will return in 'Machete Kills' and 'Machete Kills Again'...nicely retro, nicely done.