Saturday, 31 October 2015

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

Love these old movie titles that are sooo long, 'The Terror that Emerged from Darkest Space and Glooped its way Across the Technicolor!'. This movie does appear to be the inspiration for that classic Alien movie called...errmm...'Alien'.

Indeed the plot is very familiar, but for the time I think it was a nice change of pace. Its easy to assume that this plot would go down the usual route of an alien lifeform loose inside a ship killing everyone, or the same thing, but on another planets surface. Interestingly its all about a rescue crew that pick up one last survivor of a previous mission to Mars. All of the crew from that previous mission are dead accept one man, Col. Carruthers, he is suspected of murdering the crew so he could survive longer with the food rations. The Col claims an alien creature killed everyone but is unable to prove it, low and behold said creature finds its way on-board their ship just before it blasts off back to Earth. Let the killing begin!

What follows is a very lowkey and much more down to earth horror thriller than most of this genre (and era). There are no pretty boys here, its all unfit looking middle aged men with receding hairlines, clearly some are more blue collar than the others (with local accents and names like Gino), and a couple women...again not exactly centre-page types either. Its very much the working man in space, with a few, more intelligent types, for good measure. The ship is amusingly basic in design, much like something from a Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon actually, and doesn't really contain anything fancy, no big laser weapons or teleports etc...All the sets are very simple, obviously based on real technology of the time to a degree, and add to the plot by giving the crew real problems to solve (instead of just whipping out some hi-tech futuristic gizmo to save the day).

You can clearly see the similarities between this movie and that Ridley Scott flick. The way this movie has been shot, the camera angles, the shadow work, hiding the beast for as long as possible, the air ducts, the crew eating together, they smoke, using an airlock to kill the creature, utilising spacesuits, finding the beast impossible to kill etc...The more you watch, the more you see Dan O'Bannon kinda ripped this movie off. The main difference here being the crew are stocked to the gills with all sorts of weapons.

The weapons actually let this movie down really, first off why would futuristic space age man have revolvers, rocket launchers and grenades on their Mars bound spaceship? Secondly they actually set a trap within the ship using the hand grenades, lots of them! Now call me cautious, but wouldn't that be kinda dangerous to the ships interior? and a slightly wild and uncontrolled way to set a trap, in a confined space. Talk about collateral damage! Next I find it amusing how nothing kills this thing, nothing! Its bullet proof, gas proof, rocket launcher proof (yes they fire rocket launchers inside their control room), radiation proof, fire proof etc...Eventually they kill it with suffocation, although I'm amazed it wasn't oxygen proof too.

The creature is simply a man in a rubber suit I'm afraid, a very obvious crinkled rubber suit. Now on the plus side the creature mask is quite convincing, quite scary for the time I'll bet, its a nice design. The frame of the beast is also good, the actor inside was obviously quite tall, he's padded out, the hands and feet are big, and the claws are a solid touch, in silhouette the alien is pretty fearsome. A lot of the design work is down to the oversized hands actually, along with the aliens slightly pointed shaped head, the three fingered/clawed hands look great in shadow/silhouette, hence the clear imagery on the movies poster. Unfortunately the bloke inside the suit didn't work too hard on his alien-esque movements, he runs and walks around like some set worker, its quite amusing actually, you half expect him to whip out a ciggie at any moment.

The acting is pretty good throughout, there are good moments tension with some eerie shots, and in general the effects are effective. Of course there will be some unintentionally funny moments to the modern day viewer, especially with the space walking outside the ship, effects. Its hilarious how a simple bulb pings on and off to alert the crew in an airlock when its safe to leave, especially when you can see the door is a regular door and you can see the slight crack around the door! Its also amusing how the rescue crew allow Carruthers (the suspected guilty crew member) to wonder around with complete freedom, he can even play chess with them and is allowed to search for other missing crew members. Why isn't this guy locked up?

Definitely a fun B-movie with some lovely hokey space effects for us fanboys. Even though the man in the rubber alien suit is pretty funny in the way he moves, it also spoils the movies tension really. Still, its another classic in every aspect with the alien design becoming a well know image in the sci-fi horror archives. For once the movies poster does do the film justice too, its actually an accurate portrayal of what happens in the movie.


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

City Slickers (1991)

This was probably the first movie I saw that properly introduced me to Billy Crystal. Sure I had seen his other early movies and heard about that scene in 'When Harry Met Sally' (never actually saw the movie though), but none of those really stood out to me (a much younger me). Back in the day it was this comedy, rented from the trusty videoshop, that grabbed me and made me think this guy was funny. The other lure at the time was Daniel Stern who was fresh off huge success with 'Home Alone'.

The plot follows a trio of middle aged men who are all suffering some sort of midlife crisis, or just a crisis. Eventually when they can no longer stand their lives anymore, they all decide to head off for a cattle driving ranch in New Mexico for a real cowboy getaway/vacation. At the ranch they meet up with various other regular folk who are also on the cattle drive experience for their own personal reasons, mainly to overcome negative ones. And so we have our male bonding tale of how three men discover themselves whilst in the wilderness and under the pressure of a very real situation. Could this be one of the ultimate feel good movies?

The entire premise of this movie apart from the cowboy bits, is basically the male midlife crisis. Much of, if not all, of the dialog surrounds the three main characters chatting to each other, reminiscing and opening up to each other about various moments and aspects of their lives. Each character has a shit-tonne of baggage which gets slowly released over the runtime with various results, but mostly humourous and heart-warming. Its all about being a good person deep down, kinda vomit inducing I know but it actually works nicely, as an adult you can relate to these characters much more even though it still works well for kids.

The cattle drive aspect of the story is the rather predictably obvious way in which these guys, and their new friends, come together to overcome danger and personal conflict by working together. This is the main crux of the movie and deals out everything you would kinda expect from this type of flick. We naturally get the training section of the movie before hand where we see the characters getting into shape and learning the ropes, all of which naturally foreshadows later events. Those later events of course involve typical cowboy things such as keeping the herd together, roping a cow, basic riding, helping a pregnant cow and dealing with two butch cowboys that represent adult bullies. To a degree the whole adventure is kinda taking these guys back to their youths with the things they have to deal with. The dangers they face, the problems, decisions and the cowboy bullies, I think its suppose to mirror growing up, especially when you look at the other characters alongside them.

The movie is essentially an ensemble cast despite focusing on the main three leads. A typical bunch of city folk nerds and geeks that all have reasons for doing the drive which fall into place with the main three protagonists. You have a black father and son who obviously feel a bit out of place, two overweight Jewish ice cream makers, and Helen Slater as the sweetheart of the group. In all honesty none of these characters add too much to the proceedings, they are merely there to add to the awkwardness of the situation. Establishing how useless city folk are out in the sticks, until they learn and become real cowboys n girls (classic story arc kinda stuff).

On the flip side of the coin you have the brilliant performance of Jack Palance as the leatherfaced,
overly butch, Clint Eastwood-esque cowboy Curly. This guy is everything every man aspires to be (in the movie), he's tough, doesn't take any shit from anyone including the other cowboys, a ladies man and he looks cool. While the other characters are stereotypical city folk, this guy is the stereotypical cowboy, both elements playing off each other perfectly for some good laughs. The films relies on many stereotypes truth be told, but they are very user-friendly.

Overall its a film of two halves really. On one hand you do have some really moving moments that will actually put a lump in your throat. Some of dialog between the characters at times can be emotional and deep, the relationship between Billy Crystal's character Mitch and the baby calf is another strong aspect with inevitable sequences of danger for the little thing. Daniel Stern's character Phil cracking is funny and heartbreaking at the same time, there is death to dealt with and of course the triumphant finale which can't fail to put a weepy smile on your face. On the other hand you have a lot of (now) cliched silly humour that is both childish and mature but most importantly, works. Most of this comes from banter between Mitch and Curly as they try to get along (Curly shits bigger than Mitch), Phil as the emotional loose cannon, Bruno Kirby's toughish womaniser of sorts and predictable visual gags.

Its one of those movies that looking at it, reading about it, you'd brush it aside as just another cheap, lame, cookie-cutter comedy with no real love or attention to detail. But its completely the opposite, all the characters are well developed with solid story arcs, some comedy is brilliantly witty and dry thanks mainly to Crystal and Palance but there is also plenty of more regular laughs, the locations are stunning, great performances all round, and even the musical score is superb! My only negative point is a personal one, that being, I didn't like some of the casting choices. I think the film could have been even greater with slightly better casting, but that's just me. End of the day, the simple joke of seeing some city slicker suits trying to survive in the wild west turns out to be a classic comedy, it truly is one of the best feel good movies out there.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Terminator Genisys (2015)

Well here it is, the most expensive and outlandish fan made movie ever. Clearly some over excited rich fanboys got together and decided to make the ultimate Terminator movie, by throwing every aspect (and every character), of all the previous movies together in some kind of retro/futuristic smackdown, and call it a sequel. Pretty much the equivalent of a horror flick mish-mash between various icons, or a videogame beat 'em up sequel like Mortal Kombat. I'm guessing this way the oh so clever people behind this movie would think everyone is covered if they retread all the original movies, what could go wrong?

I'm not gonna even try and explain the plot, I think you all know why, so lets do this thing! Right from the outset things immediately take a bad turn. We're in a sewer where a young Kyle Reese has been tracked by a lone Terminator, its looks bleak (not really). Then low and behold (first deus ex-machina of a gazillion more to come), John Connor comes crashing down through the concrete ceiling on a grappling hook whilst blasting the machine to kingdom come. Right there! right there are the first signs of what's to come, how the hell did Connor know Reese was down there, at that exact spot, and the timing of the save...ugh! oh geez!

As things move along we see John and Kyle getting friendly, or a little too friendly if you ask me. The scene where they talk to each other before the final assault on Skynet has so much weird homosexual tension in it I felt quite uncomfortable. Yeah I know they are father and son but at that point Reese doesn't know, slow down there cowboy! This scene also showcases how bad the acting is in this movie and how bad the casting choices were.

So then we hit the final assault on Skynet, a brief moment of what could of been...a good movie. Forgive me if my review reads like many other peoples but yes, this sequence is the best bit of the entire movie. Just the mere glimpse of Terminator exoskeletons walking around, armed with big-ass guns, is enough to make any fanboy wet their pants in glee, justifiably. This brief battle is everything any Terminator fan could want, it looked terrific and was fully engaging, every last second of it. It also handled the original story gaps admirably showing us how the original Terminator went back in time, how Kyle went back, why he hits the ground so hard in the original movie etc...(wouldn't it be really awkward and weird having to be completely naked in front of all your soldier friends and companions? I mean yeah sure, its for the future of mankind but damn, embarrassingly awkward none the less). The small glimpses of the original T-800 Arnie model also looked great, less is more and it worked.

After that things start to slowly deteriorate just like Arnie's face. The recreation of the 80's was...errmm, interesting. Visually it looked really close to the original movie yes, they got all the correct vehicles, camera angles and the odd street section did look grotty and grimy in that typical early 80's fashion. The problem was the laughable recreation of characters from the original movie and the actors delivery of the old lines (I was kinda thinking, why not just use old footage from the original?) I kid you not, I could of done a better job delivering those lines! those actors got the tone all wrong for every line! and what the hell was going on with the street punks?! The guy playing Bill Paxton's old character looked like he had a plastic face, massive amount of obvious makeup, whilst the other two delivered lines like kids in a school play, Jesus! Oh and they didn't look the same as in the original movie, and didn't say the same things, what happened to the 'fuck you asshole'? You're gonna spend all that money and skimp on simple little details which us fanboys (the core audience) will pick up in an instant? Oh right, you want a PG-13 for maximum profits, forgot for a moment.

Its then things started to become really daft. Sarah Conner and her Terminator (Pops) have been waiting for the original T-800 to show up in 1984, since she was 9 years old. So how the hell was she not in the right place at the right time to kill that T-800 straight away?? The thing almost kills Pops before she gets her ass into gear, I thought she was trained up! Also, why didn't Pops just use that big Terminator gun to kill the T-800 straight away, why the useless shotgun? But wait there's more, much more, as we delve much deeper into this movie that rips this franchise apart before our very eyes.

When Pops kills the T-1000 in acid how come his own arm didn't melt away too? Was it really that easy to kill a T-1000? just using acid?? if only Sarah Connor and co had known that in the second movie huh. Why did they need to recreate the whole night sequence inside that mall where Kyle finds his sneakers, what was the purpose of that? Is it just so he looks like the 1984 version? just to appeal to the original fans? It was pointless, served no purpose other than to have Kyle look the same as in the 84 version for a brief period. When Sarah and Kyle prepare to time-jump into 2017, Sarah says they can't leave any trace of any future tech behind...but, but...what about the flippin' time machine they built? How did that school bus flip through the air like that? baddie John Connor seemed to only grab the exhaust? Did Kyle actually get hit by a speeding car without resulting in any sort of injury?? Did Pops actually kill an innocent gas tanker driver during that helicopter chase sequence? Did I actually see helicopters make aerial maneuvers as if they were stunt cars?? Where did John Connor get his helicopter? he just appears in one chasing the others. I can't believe I'm writing about helicopter chases in a Terminator movie.

Then when we get to Cyberdyne headquarters where they are building some huge time machine thing which, apparently, no one questions. And why does it have a little moat of T-1000 liquid metal around it? what exactly is that for? Its here we discover the T-1000 liquid metal is harmless without a main brain chip in it, just like any Terminator. So...does that mean all T-1000's have always had small chips floating in them? if so how do they melt into things without the chip being left behind? We also see Miles Dyson again, accept he now looks nothing like the original Miles Dyson, so why do most other old characters look similar accept this one. Can someone also tell me the point of J.K. Simmons role, it literately goes nowhere, did they just want an Oscar winner in the mix?

Ugh! my God there is too much to fit in here, there is so much crapola its quite unreal. Just watching the big finale towards the end, Terminator John Connor could of easily killed Pops at any time surely, he had the strength to rip him apart or just pound him to bits. Has anyone noticed that in these movies there is a lot of throwing going on instead of killing, how many times have we seen an enemy throw someone around like a rag doll when they could and should just kill them. At the same time, Skynet moves the countdown from around 13 hours to 15 minutes, why not 1 minute? or 30 seconds? why give the goodies enough time to win? Because we wouldn't have a movie, yep tis true, instead we have a completely unrealistic one.

Oh and why in the year 2017 is the modern world so in awe of a simple app that will connect everything such as your tablet, phone, TV etc...We can do that right now in the present people (a mere two years to go). That is what you call a very weak satire about the over reliance and saturation of technology (Apple).

I'm afraid all the negative reviews and hearsay you've all read and heard about is true, the movie is an utter mess. They have literately thrown everything but the kitchen sink on screen in an attempt to please everyone (I think?), maximise their merchandise profits and try to plan an entire franchise/universe/trilogy before getting one foot in the door so to speak. As I already said, it really does feel like something a 15 year old teenager would come up with, throwing all the characters into one pot for some kind of epic battle royale. Completely bogged down in a muddled convoluted plot, the acting is dreadful from all involved, the casting is all wrong, much of the CGI looks obvious, obvious greenscreen, unfunny attempts at humour and worst of all...its boring and completely unmemorable.

'I'm old, not obsolete'. Yeah we get it Arnold, you've used that gimmicky gag in virtually every damn movie since coming out of politics. The thing is, you are obsolete now, sorry to have to tell you.

But the final insult, the real salt in the wound, is the fact they went back and methodically dismantled the two classic original movies, basically rendering them obsolete. Yeah I know they still exist and no ones childhood has been raped blah blah blah, but its the intention. The horrific act of actually going back and fiddling with them, trying to recreate and reinvent them and then trying to pass it off as something good, something we might like. Its basically tantamount to sacrilege and one could almost say, they have indeed gone back and raped our childhood. Don't even get me started on that stupid bloody title.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

Its been 14 years since 'Jurassic Park III' (which I can't remember a sodding thing about). 2015 seems to be the year in which Hollywood digs up its old franchises, and yet surprisingly it hasn't ended in complete disaster. Again that's pretty unbelievable considering they started production for another Jurassic Park flick back in 2004 and was in development hell pretty much up to the present day.

So what are we up against here then mateys, the first classic movie pitted a small team of people against an island full of dinosaurs that were on the loose!..oh this film is exactly the same? errmm...oh. Well OK its not exactly the same, this time the park is open and fully operational with lots of dino attractions for all ages. The difference being, instead of a T-Rex getting loose and becoming the main antagonist, its a fictional genetically modified dinosaur with extra spikes and teeth that can transform int...oops, getting carried away there. But seriously it is that stupid, they create a dinosaur that has virtually every flippin' assault skill you can think of, the bloody thing can virtually cloak itself, pfft!

Yeah so we follow two sets of people around, firstly the inevitable kiddie characters with curiously retro looking haircuts (well one of them at least). Have you ever noticed these modern movies try to copy the hairdos from similar themed movies of the late 70's and 80's? The other pairing are the two adults consisting of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, let the cliched stereotypical onslaught commence!

Right so lets talk about this park, there are all sorts of dino attractions such as a SeaWorld type show featuring a shit-your-pants sized aquatic killing machine sea monster, canoe rides down a pleasant jungle river with harmless herbivores, and a little paddy area for the very young to play with baby dinosaurs. Right so its clearly a spin on various famous theme parks/wildlife preserves such as Disney and say...Gatorland (and obviously SeaWorld), in movie terms its 'Jaws 3', moving on.

All the characters in this movie are horrible predictable stereotypical cliches, and exactly the same as the first movie. Pratt's character is basically Indiana Jones, Howard's character is the typical soulless corporate bitch who you think might get eaten for being a soulless corporate bitch, but does in fact turn into a watered down Ellen Ripley. The kids are just the same as any other kid characters, the military types are just the same as any other military types wanting to use something for errr....military purposes, the science guys are all whitecoats and kinda dubious and the park controllers in the control room are the comedic relief.

Now apart from the plot being exactly the same as before, not only that, but they completely rip-off other movies too. There are not one, but two main sequences that, in my view, copy such movies as 'Aliens' and 'Predator 2'. Firstly the containment team getting wiped out by the I-Rex (I.Rex, iphone...lame play modern technology), and then the whole thing with the raptors wearing headcam gear, cute but again comes off like said movies. I also find it hard to believe that the original site (buildings) from the original movie would still be fully loaded with equipment and vehicles, plus left unlocked! And how exactly did that gyrosphere thing work? its suppose to be a ride right, yet the people inside have full control and can go anywhere they want?! I thought it was on a track or something at first, surely allowing unlimited control screams disaster.

Now don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this movie to a degree, there are some nice moments of excitement and its not entirely blood free either (which was nice). The location work is lush and stunning, makes me wanna go to Hawaii, the acting is solid and engaging and I liked the gigantic sea monster thing. The problem is there is nothing new here, at all! Its just a rerun of the first movie with the same characters. I mean come on, who didn't guess that the giant sea monster was obvious foreshadowing for the finale, or that the T-Rex would inevitably come into it because everybody has a hard-on for T-Rex's apparently. If the I.Rex is such an intelligent creature why would it go around killing everything for fun? I mean yeah...for fun, sure, its a sadist, I get it. But surely most creatures, especially intelligent, wouldn't act like that unless it was pushed or forced to. To top that the CGI on show is pretty average really, the I.Rex just looks like a pale T-Rex with horns and somehow CGI on the whole isn't as good as the original movie, although dino eyes look good that's for sure.

I get the analogy here, how modern society just wants bigger, better, badder, faster etc...We are all greedy, never content, never happy, taking things for granted and of course, the corporate excess machine. The fact that regular dinosaurs have become boring to people, they want bigger, more dangerous ones, more blood and gore...are we not entertained??!! You know, how could anyone not be in awe over a simple dinosaur? The whole thing speaks volumes about us as a society and the movie industry (naturally), yet here we all are lapping this shit up, this movie did amazingly well, how? why? The movie pokes fun at itself for these reasons and simultaneously falls in the same trap yet again.


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Furious 7 (2015)

Yeah alright Toretto we get it! family, family, family, sheesh! How is this still going? seriously how?? they're even starting to run out of movie title ideas for Lord's sake. Number seven, following on from the previous movie in some kind of large Marvel inspired universe (groan!). The movie continuity is all over the place, characters have been popping in and out of each flick, they've added new bigger stars and now finally we have our new look fast car heist flick. I simply  call it 'The Expendables: In Fast Cars', or a better one would simply be...'G.I. Joe: In Fast Cars', you getting my drift?

Yeah so the plot involves Toretto having to retrieve some hi-tech gizmo from some nasty mercs for the (US) fuzz, in order to get the lowdown on Jason Statham's character (Shaw) who is trying to kill Toretto's family because of the events of the last movie...deep breath! Some how this is all gonna involve using souped-up cars, as if you hadn't already guessed. Just a warning, as if you didn't already know, these souped-up cars will come and go, they will appear out of nowhere in virtually every scene. Toretto and co might smash up some lovely highly modified cars in one scene, but sure enough, he'll have a brand new one ready for the next scene, outta nowhere, we've all come to expect it.
But wait! this time its not just Toretto's family that have a constant stream of souped-up cars on hand, oh no. The villain (Shaw) has even more expensive cars on hand for every scene, we're talking super car shit here boy...the expensive kind. This guy doesn't think twice about ramming his massively expensive Maserati Ghibli head-on into Toretto's Plymouth Road Runner, a collision that both parties walked away fine from I might add. Also amusing to note that Statham is playing an undercover ex-special forces guy who is basically a ghost...a ghost that drives around in amazing super cars that will draw lots of attention.

How can I put this, this film ain't too subtle about anything it does, but again, we all knew this. In previous movies the action has been wild and the stunts outrageous, but there was always a certain degree of realism. The stunts would generally be real, the action would generally be acceptable and overall everything was grounded enough that you could engage and immerse yourself in this world of fast car hi-jink. Unfortunately this all ends here, this movie has stepped over that line into the ridiculous and there is no going back, this movie is officially a dumb CGI cartoon.

Don't get me wrong, it all starts off OK with a good strip racing scene where a crappy Audi gets taken down, seriously these German wannabes make me laugh. You want an image, you need a fast car, you want a fast car, you need either a ricer or at least American muscle (Italian as a last resort). After that we get a great fight between Statham and Dwayne Johnson, it all looks good, everything so far is fine in movieland. Eventually we get to the funeral sequence for Han (from the best movie in the Franchise, number 3), this is where things start to go down hill. Right in the middle of this funeral, Toretto has some kind of Jedi super sense moment and notices Statham's Maserati (quite some distance away), before you can say holy coilovers! he's in his Plymouth and we're in a car chase.

This is but a mere quibble compared to the rest of this monstrosity...oh yes. This movie goes above and beyond any kind of remote levels of realism you might have ever expected. They parachute cars out of a plane managing to land them precisely on target, on a road, in the middle of a mountainous region, bang on time. All these cars get wrecked during this eastern European adventure, but fear not, they have a whole new set of cars for their Arabian adventure, including a flippin' Veyron!

Statham is easily the best thing about this poor movie but alas he's not involved too much. Nevertheless his character does manage to pop up virtually everywhere, briefly, somehow, but always fails to kill his targets. In the Arabian adventure section he has Toretto and Brian in a car, in his sights, point blank range with a machine gun fitted with a grenade launcher. Yet he fails to hit them, much of the car, the tyres and even fails to hit them with the grenade launcher, special forces you say? Dwayne Johnson is absent for most of the movie until the finale where he rips off his broken arm cast and tools up in his hospital room. always keep multiple weapons, body armour, ammo and assault clothes in your recuperation room in hospital. He then manages to drive an ambulance off a walled bridge, to precisely land on top of a speeding jet propelled drone that was passing underneath it...seriously.

Speaking of that drone, how much fucking damage and destruction was caused during that chase sequence?! How many people were injured or killed, admittedly its not quite as bad as the previous antics involving a tank and a massive vault, and this time its not been carried out by the good guys, but still. How long would it take for fighters or police choppers to scramble and intercept this rogue chopper firing guns and rockets in downtown LA? We have car jousting between another of Shaw's super cars, an Aston Martin DB9, (he just has them on tap apparently) and Toretto's Dodge Charger...which comes out unharmed. Dwayne Johnson taking down an armoured chopper with a minigun from the crashed drone, in the middle of the street, managing not to get hit by return fire and a whole load of other bollocks that just made me cringe and yawn.

This entire exercise was completely pointless, there is nothing to engage you here, everyone is invincible, you know no ones gonna die (well not in the movie at least...did that tragic event help with the box office for this? hmmm), what's the chuffing point?! The bit at the end where Toretto is seemingly dead and everyone is crying was so utterly stupid I almost switched it off...for about the fifth time. Crowbar in the butch-ugly Ronda Rousey for an aimless fight (Rodriguez looking like mutton dressed as lamb), wasting Tony Jaa and then trying to make up for everything by utilising the cult Kurt Russell is little too late I'm afraid, Kurt is better than this.

The dialog is absolutely dreadful from everyone, such unbelievable, over the top, macho bullshit quips. The humour is also pitiful and predictable, how can anyone say any of this stuff and try to bring it across as serious is beyond my comprehension. But the main issue is this movie isn't just a goofy videogame-esque movie, you can see they have taken it seriously, it is suppose to be a semi-serious action flick. Look at the overall tone, the emotion, certain scenes of dialog, the action, the way cast members like Vin Diesel act, its all very serious, Vin Diesel takes this all very seriously, its his baby. Plus much of the fanbase will take this all seriously too, to many all this hip-hop, bling and swagger is the epitome of cool, they actually think its genuinely cool. The movie doesn't really help women in movies either I feel, surprised this hasn't got any backlash considering the recent attitude in modern society, just saying.

This franchise has always been a guilty pleasure for me, mainly for the Jap super saloons (ricers), as with other similar fast car flicks. There is nothing wrong with a popcorn action flick, just pure escapism and thrills, but you still need a reasonable level of realism you can relate to, you need the human laws of gravity and physics. If there is literately no limit to what the characters can do with or without cars (or whatever) then the whole affair becomes a pointless joke, a completely absurd pile of nonsense. This movie takes the biscuit, completely idiotic and brainless (and that's just the main characters), to say you need suspension of disbelief is an understatement.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I think it was inevitable that this sequel would have a hard time satisfying the fans and critics. The first movie was not only a major first time event in showcasing all these superhero characters together on the big screen for the first time, but it was also a shock that it worked so well. Naturally there was the wow factor, the surprise, we were all wanting a hit but really, who knew. Everything in that movie was fresh and new (to a degree), mainly because this Avengers team were together for the first time doing it. So could this sequel carry the ever growing pressures of the hype machine?

Plot wise its pretty much as before, the A-team are up against an enemy who has a massive army of robot drones, as before when it was a massive army of aliens. The difference being the enemy has been inadvertently created by Stark, or least turned out to be evil which was not foreseen. This creation also kick starts the bickering within the team which will eventually lead to other movies, and there's one problem of the movie (and all Marvel movies now). These don't really feel like movies (to me), they feel more like a requirement, an obligation or constant filler merely to lead you into the next movie, and so on. Most of this movie is simply exposition and setups for other things that will happen in other movies, interspersed with high octane action. It never really feels like a stand alone movie, admittedly these comicbook movies aren't really like that of course, its all part of a wider universe (like the comics), but at times it kinda feels like you're being cheated.

Naturally things have to be bigger and better than before, thusly we have more characters to content with, more Avengers. All the regular members do pretty much what they did before accept, Hawkeye gets more backstory which fleshes him out, much needed considering he's just that guy with a bow and arrow and easily the weakest of the team. We get more Hulk action including an excellent face-off against Stark in his Hulkbuster suit, and a taster of some backstory for Black Widow. Most of this is conjured up by newcomer Scarlet Witch and her brain fiddling powers. Despite looking and coming across more like an X-Men character she is actually pretty good, well portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen and with some cool red, glowing, electric, laser bolt-esque firepower.

New to the throwdown along with Scarlet Witch is Speedy Gonzales Quicksilver who pretty much does the same thing as Quicksilver did in that other popular comicbook flick. Which was better you ask? well visually I think this Quicksilver looked better, the other silver haired bloke with silver sneakers looking plain stupid. But effects wise the X-Men movie wins the day there, they do the same kind of thing here but with not as much depth or attention, plus X-Men got there first quite simply. Next up is Vision (or J.A.R.V.I.S.) who honesty looks like a child has designed his outfit but does blend in so well with the team. He's a quiet, soft spoken, strong character kinda like Dr. Manhattan, and pretty powerful which kinda made me wonder why he would need Avenger training at the end.

Lastly is of course the bad guy Ultron who is brilliantly voiced by James Spader...but that's as far as I go on the positive note. First off why exactly does Ultron turn out to be bad? I realise he thinks he's doing the Earth a favour by erasing mankind but surely something with that level of intelligence would see the downside to that plan (he thinks humans are monsters, but is he wrong?). As Vision says at one point, he was only born yesterday, yet he can see the issue with wiping out mankind, so why can't Ultron? I also have to say, I didn't really like his design, I realise its close to the comics but it just didn't look right to me, he looked like a deformed Terminator. This also leads me to the effects side of things, why the hell did they give Ultron a moving mouth?! It looks awful, the same mistake was made with Optimus Prime, it just looked really bad, his mouth section shouldn't have moved.

Overall I wasn't actually impressed by the special effects, maybe its because I'm becoming more and more numb to the same kind of CGI stuff. But in general I just didn't feel anything for the effects, we all know there's gonna be a shit load of CGI, yeah some of it looks good like the helicarrier, but then again some of it is obvious, obvious greeenscreen, obvious rag doll effects, Ultron looked average and his drones just became weightless toys that were completely ineffective (much like the completely ineffective alien hordes in the first movie).

One thing that did look good were the destruction effects, apparently destruction and carnage effects have come on leaps and bounds because these days because they do look awesome. Funnily enough this led me to think about 'Man of Steel' and how people moaned about the destruction in that movie. Well what about this folks?? there is masses of destruction in this film and I'm pretty sure many innocent people got killed amongst all that. Look at the Hulk vs Stark fight, holy shit! how many people got wiped out there?! What about that runaway train sequence??!! good golly Miss Molly! absolutely ludicrous amounts of havoc! great ruination effects though.

The one thing that did disappoint me (as I already said) was the fact that the movie ends in virtually the same way as the first, the whole last act. There are masses and masses of robot drones swarming all over the place (not alien drones, robot drones remember)...and Hawkeye is running around with his flippin' bow and arrow. I know they even address that but it still seems daft. I also have to question Black Widow's use here, she can't karate kick robots to death and her revolver is of limited what the fuck? The rest of the team are legitimately useful. I did also have to wonder how exactly Ultron managed to build such a vast army of robots and that machine thingy in such a small space of time but...ugh! whatever.

Kudos to the light-heartedness of it all, it hits just the right spot for a comicbook adaptation. Some moments did make me smile such as Thor claiming he can't be brainwashed by Scarlet because he is a God...oh but he can. Then the little touch where Vision looks at Thor and his cloak, then quickly and sneakily creates his own because clearly he just fell in love with the whole look. Nice little witty moments which do make the movie more enjoyable, alas they tend to be overcome by more obvious silly quips and gags for the kids. One running joke to me being Falcon, what the hell use is this guy?? He wears metallic wings...but surely anybody/any top pilot presumably could wear them, how is he special? Plus the way he just swoops down right at the end outta nowhere, like...where the hell you been random bloke who wears metal wings.

All in all I did enjoy bits of the movie but found myself losing interest quickly, the in your face tidal wave of CGI really becomes too much, especially when the action really digs in. I was never really engaged in anything, I never really had much interest in the characters because I knew they were all gonna live (accept for one), and basically I found myself enjoying the little tit bits that either hint at other things or things to come. The end mid credits scene was far more exciting than anything else! (they usually are). Seeing those little snippets, that leave you dribbling for more, work so well, more so than the full length feature at times. Overall I am finding myself getting bored of seeing the same kind of thing, robots, lasers, mech suits, martial arts, big futuristic jets and carriers etc...the original wow factor of these comicbook flicks is ebbing away fast.


Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Pope Must Die (UK, 1991)

We British are good at offending people with our humour, the Monty Python team managed it perfectly in the past and over the same issue, religion. Ah religion, the bane of the human race and its history, just looking at what has happened since the dawn of time purely from people's beliefs in religion is depressing. Its of no real surprise that the writer and director of this controversial film was Peter Richardson, the creator of 'The Comic Strip' during the 80's, a band of alternative/anarchic comedians that revolutionised British television.

Its also funny how this film is almost identical to the American movie 'King Ralph' in terms of plot. Both share the exact storyline and both were released in the same year, six months apart. Here, a simple priest in Italy (Robbie Coltrane) is mistakenly (a spelling mistake) promoted to the top job of Pope. Of course this comes as a shock to most, especially the mafia who were trying to get their own man on the throne so to speak. What follows is a predictable farce of a comedy as Pope Albinizi tries his best to fulfil his role as leader of the Catholic Church whilst avoiding assassination attempts from the mafia and looking into the Vatican's dodgy accounts. In 'King Ralph' virtually the same thing occurs accept Ralph gets his gig by being the last descendant in the Royal bloodline.

One solid positive about this film is the casting and character performances, all are perfect. The main character of Albinizi is played by Robbie Coltrane, who was a part of The Comic Strip days but more of a cameo performer. Much like John Goodman in 'King Ralph' Coltrane offers laughs merely from his rather large proportions, the difference being Coltrane's razor sharp Scottish wit. Although the idea that Coltrane's priest being slightly rebellious, liking women, fast cars and rock and roll...but having a heart of gold, is corny and cliched, it does work. Coltrane has always had the look of a Teddy boy with his thick wavy black hair and the thought of greasy Scottish dandy in Brothel Creepers as Pope is enough to make anyone smile. Indeed Coltrane is very likeable here offering plenty of sweet mushy moments with kids, his old flame (Beverly D'Angelo) and the predictable attractive nun he meets.

The only other members of The Comic Strip in the film were Ade Edmonson who plays a deaf secretary (yet coming off like his previous character incarnations) and Richardson himself who plays a priest in charge of security. Its funny how Richardson's priest actually comes across as (and looks like) an aged Clint Eastwood, him being a tough ex-security coordinator for rock bands, so not your typical priest.

Other well performed characters would be the mafioso boss played Herbert Lom, an over protective father of his rebellious teenage daughter with a short temper. John Sessions and Steven O'Donnell pop up as a pair of bungling assassins for Lom's mafia boss, very much going down the route of The Pink Panther. But the best character must be the sleazy Cardinal Rocco played by Alex Rocco. You want a stereotypical, loud mouthed, Italian-American, Nu Yawker type sleazeball? then who better than Rocco, I love how they use his real name to make it sound even more lowbrow. This guy is a Cardinal by name/rank only, he is the main reason the Vatican's account are all messed up, he gambles, he drinks, he womanises, he swears, he wears gaudy jewellery, all by taking full advantage of rank and role. He's basically like a low ranking mafioso bookie or a slimeball car salesman or maybe an 80's British yuppie wannabe type. I adored how he always wore those 80's aviator shades, had his shirts unbuttoned to show his chest and carried a mobile around (in the shape of a crucifix). Brilliant how he would stop or interrupt the Pope to take a call, flipping the speaker bit out, he really came across as a real Del Boy type, British folk will get me.

The whole story is an easy dose of comedy with cliches and predictable twists and turns, no doubt about that. What I personally liked was the fact it was aimed at adults and it went for the jugular, the premise was very risky yet they still went ahead with it and didn't hold back. The film has balls and I think it works because of that. Combined with that the film also looks terrific! The locations were filmed in and around Yugoslavia but you'd never guess, it looked thoroughly like local Italian countryside to me. I especially liked the various costumes and sets on display, the Catholic attire was very authentic looking (probably not hard to achieve) from the bottom ranking local priests to the upper echelons of Vatican City (again Coltrane looked great in Pope garb). At the same time I must give big kudos to the sets and props. Painfully recreating various locations from within the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel and all being highly decorated with great detail. It really does look like they filmed within the Vatican, I think. Loved the quiet, peaceful, green and idyllic countryside where Albinizi is located at the start of the film, so beautiful.

Upon release this film pretty much bombed, which is a shame and obviously down to its religious content. In America they pretty much tried to ignore and virtually ban the film, even changing its title to 'The Pope Must Die(t)', which made no sense. Even in the UK the film came up against backlash and pathetic whining about being offensive. Its a huge shame because this is a classic bit of black comedy from the UK, showcasing some great talents who really pile on the ham and revel in the dark, morbid, farcical, taboo humour. I only wish they had cast other UK talents from the Strip like Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle or Nigel Planner.