Monday, 30 November 2015

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

Fun fact, this was Joel Schumacher's directorial debut. Yep that's right, way before we got ultra campy, neon lit Batman movies we got this, a campy, excessively colourful romp based (of course) on the Richard Matheson novel 'The Shrinking Man'. Yeah I know exactly what you're thinking, I'd never heard of this movie either, well judging by the films poster it doesn't look like anybody gave it much hope frankly, holy cheeseballs!

So I think we know what's gonna happen here don't we. An everyday woman leading an everyday life falls afoul of a bizarre accident that causes her to slowly shrink down to a microscopic size. In this case its not a nuclear/atomic bomb scenario, its not a mad experiment and its got nothing to do with potions and magic. In this movie the protagonist suffers from a serve reaction to an experimental perfume her husband is working on, along with various other household things. So yes...OK, it is about a weird experiment, but its not military based. Unfortunately despite the fact they have clearly tried to move away from the old formulaic notions that have surrounded previous movies like this, this new concept is really quite daft. Sure the entire notion of shrinking to the size of an ant is daft a result of a perfume?? couldn't think of anything a bit better?

What's even more ludicrous is the fact that despite it being a perfume/household products related accident and perfume/household products being a relatively innocent and unexciting plot device, they still manage to cram in a few nasty whitecoat scientist types because of course the perfume company gets taken over in part by dubious sources wanting to work out the shrinking mystery for their own dubious plans. Everything is entirely predictable of course, you know once Kramer starts to shrink their will be the media hype to content with, the humiliation, the rubbernecking etc...Along with that you know at some point evil people will try to kidnap her for their evil ways (obviously shrinking people around the world or their own armies), and there will be some kind of adventurous escape from a nasty old lab etc...Didn't really expect anything too mind blowing in all honesty, naturally this will take on many elements of the original source material, they have tried to go in a new direction, but I'm just not sure if this was the right way.

I'm still not really sure what the colour scheme/palette was about here either. All the sets, costumes, cars, props, everything, is an array of soft, outlandish, pastel colours that range from anything and everything. Think 'Dick Tracy', 'Miami Vice' or the 50's suburban housing estate in 'Edward Scissorhands' but in really really extreme camp colours. The weird thing were the outfits everybody wears, its was like some kind of retro 50's, 70's, 80's mishmash with suits in emerald green with bright pink ties etc...I'm guessing Schumacher wanted to create some kind of timeless hybrid that has never existed, a fantasy America where everything is kinda perfect, but scratch beneath the surface and its actually just like reality.

Another odd thing was the usage of Lily Tomlin as multiple characters. Now I'm assuming this was down to her comedic background as others have done the same thing, the problem is others have done it way better. The silly thing was you can clearly tell its Tomlin, there is no real effort to not make her look any different, so in that sense its not really funny or clever (an Eddie Murphy challenge this is not). I might add her various characters aren't exactly very different from each other...and did I mention she isn't funny?

Effects wise the movie does hold its own well and this is mainly down to the old old use of large scale props and sets. Tomlin looks great within the oversized sets and the forced perspective illusion, it just never fails to win that old trick. Naturally there are some hokey bluescreen moments but that can't really be helped. The best thing about the movie effects wise is easily Rick Baker and his gorilla suit. Now if you know your movies and special effects wizards then you know Baker has a gorilla fetish, a fetish he explores deeply here. Not only is his suit excellent in detail and movement, but Baker actually plays the gentle giant too. Think the gorilla from 'Trading Places' only better. The only stupid thing about that (along with all the other stupid stuff), is at the end the Kramer family decide to keep the gorilla as a pet, because that won't cause any problems will it (do I see a gorilla based sequel with hilarious gorilla shrinking antics??

Yeah so this was a pretty mixed bag really. The visuals are undoubtedly lovely to look at in places, very colourful and cheerful, good designs and creativity, but it doesn't really make much sense why its like that. The comedy is so so, the action and adventure is so so, the acting is unsurprisingly so so despite having a darn good line-up of old stars, and the finale is too sickly. Everything gets wrapped up in a nice harmless bow with literately every character there to witness it because...I dunno. Why does she shrink so rapidly right at the end? and why or how does the chemical spillage bring her back to normal size?? Meh, its a family movie heavy on light-hearted tomfoolery and nothing more, don't question it.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Magic Sword (1962)

'The most incredible weapon ever wielded!', meh...lets not get carried away here folks, have you heard of a lightsaber?? Oh wait this was 1962. Now apparently this movie was aimed at children and loosely based on the English legend of Saint George and the dragon. Not overly sure how accurate that claim is though, it certainly seems loosely based on the olde worlde medieval English tale in places, visually at least, mainly the knights and the dragon. All the added monsters and magic I'm guessing might be typical Hollywood embellishments? I don't actually know how accurate all the fantasy guff is. But aimed at children?? Well it seemed pretty strong stuff for kids if you ask me, not by today's standards of course.

The very simplistic story sees an evil wizard waltz into a Kings castle and proclaim that he has kidnapped the Kings daughter and will feed her to his pet dragon very shortly. This is revenge for the death of his own sister, who died at the same age as the Princess at this point, 18. I don't recall how the evil wizards sister died though, I can't recall if that fact is even mentioned truth be told. Anywho, the King decides to give his daughters hand in marriage to the brave knight who saves her, naturally good old Sir George fancies the Princess, so of course he wants to go off and save her, but he has competition from another knight called Sir Branton. So they join forces and trot off on a perilous journey to save the Princess from the depths of the evil wizards castle. Sir George has some tricks up his sleeve in the form of magic given to him by his foster mum, an elderly sorceress, but Sir Branton also has some dastardly tricks up his chain mail too.

I found the tone is this movie to be slightly confusing really, its listed as a movie aimed at kids but there is much death and spookiness going on all around. Don't get me wrong its not an all out fright fest, but its a mixed bag. On one hand you have Sir George's foster mother (the old female sorcerer played by Estelle Winwood) who comes across like some kind of children's TV program hostess (anyone in the UK recall Grotbags? think that but a nice version), and a light-hearted character from a US comedy like 'Bewitched'. Then you have Gary Lockwood giving it his all as Sir George, he's really loving this fantasy stuff, the same can be said for Liam Sullivan as baddie Sir Branton who also comes across as pretty serious. Then on the other hand we have classic actor Basil Rathbone as the evil wizard who also seems to be taking it seriously in his traditional no nonsense type manner (stalwart and stoic as ever).  Together Rathbone and Sullivan, along with some reasonably scary creatures, ghouls and some death scenes, make this film quite intimidating for a younger viewer in my humble opinion. Its almost like an earlier lite version of 'Krull'.

Gotta love these old American movies and their portrayals of European folklore and its people. The best bit in the movie is when Sir George is given the gift of six knights that are magically frozen somehow. Once unfrozen we discover these knights apparently come from various parts of Europe, not that you'd know that judging by the hilarious accents. OK most of them are OK like the French, Spanish and Italian, but the Scottish and Irish are laughably bad, plus I do love how ridiculously diverse the six are, each one from a different Euro country, you'd think it was flippin' Star Trek (based on the real legend though?). And speaking of these knights, why were they frozen as statues anyway?? was that punishment? voluntary? they seemed perfectly happy and not at all bothered about their stony incarceration, I wonder if they even realised they had been turned to stone.

This leads me to the other magical powers bestowed upon Sir George by his foster mother. She does this with the agreement that he doesn't go off to rescue the Princess because he's too young at only 18, he must wait until he's 21. Firstly, what bloody difference does three years make?? there is literately no difference in a person between the ages of 18 and 21, I think, its just a number. Technically he would still be too young and dumb even at 21 frankly, its not like he's gonna mature and grow immensely in those three years, so what difference does it make? Secondly, the magic she gives George is pretty darn powerful, and she's pretty darn powerful herself, plus...she ends up killing the evil wizard in the end anyway (spoiler alert), so what's the point of all this?! just go do the job yourself woman! Lastly, in order for George to get away from his foster mum so he can start his rescue mission, he locks her in this underground cellar/dungeon which she told him prior, was almost inescapable. Who would do that to their own (foster) mother?! sure she's a powerful sorcerer but she already said the cellar was bloody hard to get out of...and he goes and locks her in it! What if he died on his quest and never came back, she'd be screwed.

Generally overall the film does look good I can't deny, its very colourful and has a nice array of costumes, props and sets. Yes the props and sets are fake looking, yes the ghostly effects are poor by today's standards, yes the makeup is hokey and yes the giant troll monster thing is just a man in a suit, rear projected behind footage of the actors. Actually the movie did remind me a lot of the Errol Flynn classic 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' with its bright, bold, colourful knight outfits, flag standards, shiny armour and medieval crests. That coupled with Sullivan clearly having a slightly similar appearance to a much younger Rathbone as Gisbourne and all the knights generally looking similar in their natty garb. Aside from a troll suit, various makeup jobs on actors as undead servants and some footage of more actors against large props because they are suppose to be tiny people, what else was there? what about the dragon? Well the dragon appeared to be an actual life-sized movable puppet, probably controlled via people inside. Now obviously this thing didn't look realistic, but in a fantasy sense it looked great, it truly looked perfect for an olde worlde folklore tale of potions, magic and swords. I do believe this giant puppet even had real flames coming from its nostrils, but its hard to tell because the picture wasn't so good and it was quite dark, probably on purpose to hide the mechanics of the thing. I should also point out that this dragons roar does actually appear to be the original sound effect for the TIE fighter craft in the Star Wars franchise. Yes I know that sounds impossibly crazy but I am sure of it, it was the first thought to hit me the second I heard it, most interesting.

A fun film for all? well kind of, in places yes, but not entirely truth be told, not unless you want your younglins to see staggering decaying zombies. It does hark back to some of the old Harrryhausen flicks and historic epics of the 30's but it can't quite pull it all off. The production seems to yo-yo between some really solid looking stuff, to some really B-movie looking stuff, I'm sure the dragon would have eaten up much of the budget. The acting is fair throughout, but the ending is soppy and apparently reverses all the deaths we see during the quest. So basically its a bit of a cop-out so as not to upset the kids watching. A true happy ending for a fairytale, no one got hurt after all...meh.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Spy (2015)

OK, so this looks like an interes...oh my God! its another bloody Bond parody!! seriously!!! Yes the modern age feminist hipster, Paul Feig, takes a swing at the Bond genre, and oh what an original concept that is, gee I wonder what we'll see here...ugh!

So naturally its an adult comedy with lashings of semi-serious action, CGI blood, swearing and a whole heap of Melissa McCarthy and other actresses. Basically the plot revolves around McCarthy playing Cooper, a desk jockey CIA analyst who helps the very suave, completely cliched character of Fine played by Jude Law. Yep, if you ever wanted to see what it would be like having Jude Law as Bond, well here you go. After a botched mission Fine is supposedly killed off and the CIA need someone to take his place, an unknown, hence they can't use Statham who plays another totally cliched agent character we've all seen before. We then follow Cooper around as she slowly but surely sinks deeper and deeper into a mission, which she was never really suppose to get into in the first place (she was only meant to be surveillance).

Oh geez where to start, the plot is unoriginal sure, we all know that, but how about some original ideas...oh too late. From the very first scene I had a good idea what this film was aiming at and how the characters would play out. Spoiler alert! but the minute you see Law as this debonair spy, you know he's obviously gonna die early on, he's clearly the plot setup for McCarthy's Cooper, I mean come on, who didn't see that?! But wait! as the film progresses and more and more characters are introduced, we start to see double agents and characters popping up outta nowhere who are suddenly spies or assassins. All of sudden characters we saw at the start who appeared to just be the butt of a joke or background fodder, are now main characters out to kill the protagonist. Its at this point you know that anyone is fair game and anyone can surprisingly come back from the dead when you thought they had been killed off. So I quickly realised that Jude Law probably wasn't dead at all. Seeing as we didn't actually see him die, clearly he can come back, and he did...*groan*

The plot is a mess of characters bouncing back and forth between the goodies and the baddies. Seriously, there are characters popping up all over the place, getting whacked, and then replaced minutes later by new ones, only to get killed just as quickly. The ones that don't get killed, you just know are probably gonna turn out to be secret agents, but on either side. I honesty thought Law's character of Fine was gonna keep flippin' sides! he was a goodie, then a baddie, then a goodie again, but at this point I genuinely suspected he would turn on Cooper yet again right at the death, and then get properly killed off. Amazingly the film beat me on that one, but this film could of kept spinning these characters round and round, one double agent twist after another.

The actual characters are a completely mixed bag of nuts that all had one thing in common, none of them managed to actually make me any point. McCarthy was...well, pretty much like McCarthy is in every bloody movie she's ever done (whilst looking oddly like Dawn French at one point), whilst her sidekick, played by Brit Miranda Hart, was just simply annoying and unfunny. I swear, an early scene near the start has McCarthy and Law in conversation at dinner, they are both talking about themselves and offering basic foreshadowing of things to come. Now initially there are moments that made me smile (as there were throughout this film), but this obviously intended funny sequence just went on and on and just didn't f*cking stop. Like seriously, the moment has passed, the joke is over, its not funny anymore its just awkwardly embarrassing, stop flogging this dead horse!!

The only characters that did offer some genuine giggles were Statham as a dumb, cocky but tough agent, nothing gobsmackingly funny mind you, but reasonable. Next to him I quite liked Peter Serafinowicz as the slimy Italian (yet another secret agent) Aldo who can't keep his hands off the ladies. Sure this character felt like a cheesy Carry-On character (something I would of thought was beyond the realms of acceptance for Feig), but his antics were amusing. Other than that everyone was just there, doing exactly what you expected them to be doing with these character types. Get a load of Law by the way, how much flippin' makeup?? Oh and both Statham and the main baddie fall into the lake from that helicopter at the end, so why does only Statham survive?

I know this movie was relatively successful but I don't really understand why. Yes some parts were good such as the gadgets sequence near the start which is obviously yet more parodies of a certain franchise, and I did quite like how the main female villain was a spoilt bratty Princess type, although again that did become annoying at times too. But in general everything just felt very generic to me and relied far too much on feeble visual gags including male genitals and slapstick, lots of profanity and lots of weight/looks shaming jabs. Even the inclusion of lots of blood and a bit of gore didn't do anything for me, that just felt unnecessary and shoved in to appease the male audience. I would say this was more enjoyable than 'The Heat' which was pretty dire, but at the end of the day, I found this to be an infantile, factory assembly line, cookie cutter of a flick.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Holy schnitzel! yet another reboot!! I guess the main difference here is the fact they have actually tried to reboot a poor movie instead of a decent one. The quite unsurprising, yet still, truly gobsmacking and painful fact is Hollywood just doesn't get it, they just don't ever ever learn! I mean seriously, a child picks up things quicker than Hollywood. They are creating an adaptation of a popular videogame franchise, they know what has happened before, they know what people want, they know about the pitfalls, but somehow...some bloody how...they make all the same mistakes again. I here by present to you my review of 'Resident Evil 6: Agent 47'.

So, there's this single agent bloke, he's a super soldier, assassin, clone, type bloke with all the trimmings you would expect. Speed, strength, agility, intelligence, super reflexes, bigger than average cock...the list goes on. The old bloke who created this project grew a conscience and ran off trying to hide the secret to creating these super soldiers. But guess what, some really evil nasty corporation wants the secret so they can make lots of these guys and conquer the world...or something like that. So the evil corporation goes after the daughter of the old bloke who started all this. At the same time, another mysterious corporation wants both the old bloke and his daughter whacked presumably to stop the secret falling into the wrong hands? They send in agent 47 in to do this, so they obviously control the only super soldier clone going and they wanna keep it that way.

Now to look at this movie you'll see right away its slick, but slick in a predictable way. What I mean by that is...the Resident Evil movie franchise. Everything looks very glossy, very clean, very polished, with lots and lots of hi-tec computer screen readouts, security jiggery-pokery and top secret undercover assassin type net imagery, that all flashes about in front of you trying to impress you (but no monsters...even though, I'm sure they would have loved to). This world put simply, looks fake, plastic, sterile and way too obviously CGI. You can't immerse yourself within this world because it all looks so flippin' fake, I hate to say it but yes at times this movie does look like a videogame cutscene. There are some solid action sequences I won't deny, there are plenty of little snippets that naturally do service the fanboys of the videogame and rightly so. At times I liked what I saw because clearly there was some thought involved and decent choreography is evident, some nice gun fights and some nice fisticuffs, plus the main character (Rupert friend) is actually well performed and looks the part.

The big problem is everything is completely let down by outrageously obvious CGI usage and ridiculously stupid action sequences which are in no way remotely believable. Yes I know this is a videogame adaptation hence you should suspend your disbelief, but that doesn't mean the movie has to be some kind of inane, gravity defying, realism defying CGI mess. Secondly, isn't the original game supposed to be based around  stealth, lurking in shadows, taking people out know, discretion, acting like an actual assassin would. So why in blazes does agent 47 run around raining down carnage on everyone and everything without even pausing to take a piss, or maybe, just maybe, worry about the law, which apparently doesn't exist in this world. I mean, lets look at one very small sequence near the start where agent 47 escapes from the police (the one time we see them). He's in this locked room with guards and some gruff detective, or whatever, asking him questions. The detective puts 47's bigass sniper rifle on the table in front of him and questions him hard, eventually getting pissed off he loads it with one bullet and threatens to maybe shoot. 47 basically thanks him for bringing him his gun and loading it, he then kicks the underneath of the table which somehow causes it to fire whilst lifting it in the air. At the same time 47 raises his cuffed arm to allow the freshly fired bullet to break the chain and voila! he's free. The question is, what if that detective had never loaded the gun? or put the gun on the table? or even brought it in the room? then what?? huh???

Apart from the nonsensical CGI shenanigans there are also many other obvious problems here. For a start the beginning of the pot is basically ripped off from 'The Terminator', its so bloody obvious! That's before it descents into boring, familiar, shiny white, sterile, baddie environments set within futuristic buildings (cough! Resi evil cough!). I also have to mention how none of it makes much sense (come on, you saw this coming surely). 47 changes his clothes a lot, a bloody lot! how does he have the time to do this?? how come everything he changes into looks custom made to fit him?? and most of the time it doesn't even feel relevant, its like they do it just to reference the game. I'm not too up on the videogame I'll be honest, I did play one of them way back, can't recall which, but I don't recall 47 ever speaking much. I realise you might require him to speak a bit but why not take the Mad Max route here, or the Clint Eastwood 'man with no name' route, and not have him speaking much at all. Here he starts like that but eventually becomes like...this regular dude. At first he's this slow moving stalker type (walks everywhere yet always manages to catch up with his who only mutters, by the end he's this smartass with a sidekick.

Oh and what is the deal with the sidekick? Spolier alert she's an advanced agent too, because of course, and because you have to have a strong female role in everything these days or people lose their minds apparently. So she is better than 47, she is 90, see that means she's better because its a higher number. This lady agent has really heightened senses, which sounds plausible enough...but is it here? In this film she's apparently able to virtually see into the future from what I could make out, she can see exactly what's gonna happen plus she can regain shittonnes of backdated memory just by touching another persons hand like some kind of supernatural power.

Lets not even begin to talk about how utterly useless and inept the baddies are in this, hordes of them armed to the teeth, yet no one can manage a single hit on the good guys, ugh! This genuinely looked quite good from outset, it really looked like they might have nailed it. In some aspects they have, generally visuals are crisp and exciting with nice videogame touches, but its just let down with so much tacky shit and some terrible acting (accept for Friend who wasn't too bad). This should of been a slow moving adult thriller with darkness and gritty realism, instead its just childish CGI packed nonsense, I really thought we had seen the last of movies like this.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Vacation (2015)

The National Lampoon's franchise is a strange beast that includes a wide variety of movies that range from downright cult classics, to utter bottom of the barrel dross. Aside from the odd one or two, the main movies within the franchise have to be the Vacation flicks which have become the epitome of pure 80's Americana and beyond. The original trilogy consisting of a road trip movie, a holiday abroad and being at home for Christmas, literately resonates with everyone (of a certain age perhaps) and never fails to please. They fit right in at the right times, you can't go wrong at Christmas with 'Christmas Vacation'.

Now the big question is, could this new movie (sequel/reboot) manage to hold its own, or would it fall into a pit of pathetic fan service and rehashed gags from the originals? Well everything starts off perfectly, how can it fail not too with that classic rock tune 'Holiday Road'. Yes that sounds like they are just rehashing but lets be honest here, how can you not have that song, its a must, 15 love to the movie. So a nostalgic, rose tinted ripple thundered its way through my body as the credits fired up and you get that familiar montage of family photos/images through the years. So far everything looked good, they seemed to have the right vibe going, that is until we see Ed Helms as a grown-up Rusty and the first visual gag. Basically Rusty is an airline pilot and has stepped out of the cab for a moment, he greets a young boy and his parents. Suddenly the plane hits some turbulence and Rusty's hands are thrown onto the mothers boobies, turbulence hits again and his face hits the child's crotch. This really did feel kinda creepy and childish, not that I am expecting intelligent humour here but also gave us the first of a tonne of profanity. Did the original movies use so much profanity? no, the odd word, one or two, but no, it they didn't need to, so why is this full of it?

Alas everything goes down hill pretty fast from this point (in my view). For starters, its not too long after that we discover the plot is just another road trip to Wally World (ugh!). Admittedly there is a reasonably funny scene where the characters address this rehash by making fun of the reboot notion, claiming it won't be the same shit as before but something entirely new etc...Clever, but unfortunately they lied, because the film is pretty much the same as the original (ugh!!). Alongside the miscast Helms as Rusty there is Christina Applegate as his wife, never a great sign as Applegate is pretty much a B-list/B-movie actress, and two young lads as their sons (amazed there were no young daughters). One of the boys is small, very rude and obnoxious, he swears a lot which is not a funny as it sounds. The other is the older of the two, bigger, but very effeminate, this guy wasn't too bad and had some decent laughs with his wimpiness. There are also some big cameos in the form of Chris Hemsworth as Audrey's husband who is just some stereotypical jock cowboy type, and of course we see Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprising their roles but not really doing or offering much at the same time. Supposedly a passing of the torch setup, but I'm not overly sure if we're getting anymore of these soooo...

Most everything else we see is merely rehashed from the older better movies I'm afraid, its amazing how Hollywood just never learns. We get another sexy girl in a red Ferrari, sure there's a twist for her, but who cares, still the same bloody joke. Even one of the young boys gets a sexy girl of his age in another car setup, just like the Ferrari girl, I mean come on! The plot does resemble the plot layout of the original movie, with the same type of stop overs and the same type of basic story arc, but of course being 2015 the subplots are more relevant. But again its all predictable stuff such as a really dirty, unhygienic motel, some sort of frat house party scenario, the weird foreign car, a crazy trucker (ala 'Duel'), running out of gas in the middle of nowhere and trying to have sex unsuccessfully. Things become really forced and desperate when at one point, Clark and Ellen give Rusty their old Wagon Queen Family Truckster to continue the road trip. Apparently the same Wagon Queen Family Truckster from the original movie, or so it appears. Just in case you forgot this was a National Lampoon's sequel/reboot and they managed to squeeze every last drop of nostalgia into this project. Why would they still even have that car??

This movie has moments of decent entertainment that hark back to the good old days but overall its just a very very average film. I really didn't like the excessive profanity which is peppered throughout, including the soundtrack, I really thought it was unnecessary. There is also quite a bit of gore and hints at gore which again kinda felt unnecessary for this type of flick, they really seemed to go far too adult orientated here. It just felt like they ditched the original charm and made everything more...vile, if I can use that word without sounding too extreme. Pretty big swing and miss for me, you can't just rely on the epic main title tune and two cameos.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Inside Out (2015)

When I first saw the pics for this movie I thought it was about little living emojis/emoticons, it does look like that doesn't it? Nope, instead its actually about little living creatures inside your head that represent emotions. When I say living creatures I'm not so sure that's even correct, they are more like representations of the mind or emotions, each one a little physical embodiment of each emotion. Its not an overly original concept lets be totally honest, I know I've seen this type of thing before in cartoons many times, and in pretty similar fashion, but again lets be honest, there's only a few ways you can do this.

So the plot revolves around a little girl as she is born, and at the same time her little emotions are born within her head (I assume). We follow little Riley as she grows up with her parents and experiences all of life's wonder and beauty, but of course, all of the little negative bits too. At the same time we see everything from inside little Riley's head from the perspective of her emotions and how they each deal with individual situations. Naturally each emotion deals with different things such as sadness, anger, joy etc...they each specialise in their emotion of course. Alas, many years later aged 11, one day goes tits up when Riley attends her first day at school and loses control, she begins to cry because she is home sick, this causes a permanent negative memory which Joy (the happy emotion) tries to get rid of. In a series of bizarre accidents Joy and Sadness get ejected from the control room (the brain) and end up lose within Riley's head. Without Joy in Riley's mind (and life) keeping control, the duo now have to get back into Riley's brain/mind before she becomes depressed forever, seemingly.

Right so the emotions, a generic bunch truth be told, Anger, Joy, Sadness, Disgust and Fear. Anger is a little red fellow that isn't a million miles away from a satanic looking creation, he also emits fire when in a rage. He is probably the second best emotion going for obvious reason really, one of the funniest emotions. Joy is the main protagonist and is a happy-go-lucky shiny female character that is rather vomit inducing. Sadness is probably the best emotion if you ask me, he looks kinda plain yet random in design, but his permanent, nervous, hyper paranoid persona is clearly the main laugh out loud machine. Disgust is easily the weakest of the bunch with not much to do or say frankly. She is modelled on young teenage valley girls which is a good notion, but highly annoying (check her glittery appearance). Lastly we have Sadness who is a stereotypically short, plump, glasses wearing female character that kinda reminds you of the nerdy high school girl, the librarians assistant type. She mopes around being all glum and useless, again, kinda annoying and makes you wonder why no one ever kills her.

Overall the emotions are a reasonably fun little group but nothing overly hilarious, personally I found the other background characters much more interesting. The best of these has to be Bing Bong who was Riley's old childhood imaginary friend, but long forgotten. This guy is a combination of Riley's favourite things from that young age, his body is made of candy floss and various animal he cries candy. His sidekick is an old child's  tow wagon with rocket boosters that fire a rainbow coloured discharge, this was Riley's old toy back in the day which she would play and imagine could fly like a space rocket. This guy gives us some of the best laughs throughout the main adventure through Riley's mind, but he also gives us some of the most emotional. I don't think I can deny that I almost cried when he meets his end. Hands up who's with me here...yeah, I thought so. The various other colourful, bizarre, weird and wonderful little mind creatures we meet along the way are all really well designed and voiced acted, like I said, overall I think the majority were actually more engaging than the main characters. I really didn't like the designs for the main emotions, they just seemed way too simplistic and generic.

I also have to say I didn't like or understand the other emotional representatives in other peoples minds, they didn't really make sense. Hear me out, Riley's mind emotions don't look anything like her, they are just visual representations of the emotion. Now when we go to Riley's dad (who has a tash), his mind emotions also have little moustaches, Riley's mum has emotions that look like her with the glasses and hair. Then in the end credits we see more mind emotions for other people, all of them look like the people they inhabit. One guy who works as a clown even has mind emotions that look like clowns, eh?? why would his mind emotions look like clowns when that's just his day job? So I guess the question is, why does Riley have random looking emotions when everyone else has emotions that look like them? Yeah I know this is a kids flick and I'm really looking too far into this, but things like that kinda bug me cause it doesn't really add up. The animal ones really seemed far fetched as the emotions just run wild inside the animals head, so I guess that would work? who knows.

The visuals are of course stunning, really slick, but did you expect anything less? really? I'm not trying to take anything away from the visuals but these days its really no big deal anymore is it, if a movie looks less than stunning then its something to talk about. I did like the imagination on display though, some really great ideas fleshed out, not all great, I would have done some things differently, but still good. I really liked the abyss of lost memories or memory dump, nice touch. The individual floating personality islands were neat, like family island or friendship island, that house memories of those certain aspects in Riley's life. I liked how they fell apart when affected by Riley's emotional state being rocked badly. I also liked the train of thought which was of course...a train. Overall the ideas and some visuals reminded me of an old animated movie called 'The Phantom Tollbooth', which also delved into such things as individual human traits being fleshed out, alongside things like words and numbers.

Its a strong emotional ride that's for sure, no puns intended. The kids will love the visuals and the wacky characters, whilst the adults will enjoy the trip down memory lane for the...errmm, the childhood memory aspect of it all. I'm sure many people will be able to relate to what's going on, first day of school and crying, snow days, moving etc...its all there, the full gamut of human anguish and joy. The way they have thought out how things like memories, long term memories, forgotten memories, special memories etc...all work is very clever, typically adults make everything into a bureaucratic headache, but it works well. But like I said already I didn't really feel the main emotions, which was a problem, they weren't overly funny but slightly annoying. I mean come on, Sadness creates all the problems, everything is her fault! and she kept on touching everything and fucking it up!! arrgghhh!! Still I can't deny this was an excellent little rollercoaster that had me on the edge of my seat wondering how they would ever save the day.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Ant-Man (2015)

Its funny to think that when I first heard about an Ant-Man movie being made, I admit, I scoffed at it. I really thought there was no way they could make a genuinely decent movie about an ant sized man fighting baddies in a Marvel cinematic universe. I mean lets be honest here, its a tall order innit, how could you fit this guy in without it being a mockery, too childish and with CGI overkill. Then there were all the writing/screenplay alterations with Wright and Cornish leaving the project and the worry of everything getting turned upside down, bit like 'Fantastic Four' really. Sure enough there are signs of this, minor scars if you like, but despite all that, this movie has turned out to be a much needed breath of fresh air.

Finally we have a Marvel movie where this is no bloody mcguffin for the heroes to find, finally! This time its a straight forward case of our heroes Lang, Pym and Hope trying to steal the Yellowjacket suit from the baddie Cross (Pym's old protege) who intends to sell it to Hydra. The Yellowjacket suit is based on technology created by Pym and his own Ant-Man suit, which he has kept hidden away for many years. All this time Cross has been developing his own technology to equal Pym's, having been dropped by Pym when he was younger. So now, in order to protect the world, Pym has to use Lang to try and steal the Yellowjacket technology so it can't fall in the wrong hands.

You know what I really loved about this, the point where the Avengers are brought up in conversation by Pym and Lang. Everyone always asks about how the Avengers never turn up to help in these solo character movies, and this movie actually addresses that, which is cool. Lang asks why they don't just call for the Avengers, and Pym tells him why, its a little simple thing but it does actually make all the difference.

The other things I loved about this movie were of course the effects and the whole shrinking aspect. Much like the old classic 1950's movie 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', the science fiction plot favourite involving miniscule size has always been a good one, a sure winner (for me at least). Much like this famous 50's movie, the idea offers fantastic scope for some great imagination merely involving everyday simple things we take for granted. It opens up whole new worlds that exist just beneath out feet, or out of sight behind a wall etc...Worlds that look and feel completely alien but are actually right here with us all the time, we just don't see it. This notion has worked so well in the past and it works well again here, as we see Lang shrinking down to the size of an ant and exploring new landscapes such as an ant nest in the garden, a child's bedroom or a drainage system. Now admittedly this is an action movie so naturally there isn't that much quirky B-movie-esque exploration going on, its more like brief scenes of training and planning leading to a big action sequence.

Of course we all expect this, it being a Marvel comicbook movie, in no way did I expect Lang to go on a charming romp around the house getting into all sorts of dangerous yet amusing scenarios like fighting spiders or cats or getting sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Yes...this does kinda happen, but its not really like that, this isn't a delightful, black and white, 1950's science fiction movie. Nevertheless, I loved that aspect of the film, the giant effects, the micro effects, the way the world would look and feel if you were the size of an ant (with a handy invincible suit). I loved the ant nest sequences and the ants, I loved how they weren't perceived as huge insect monsters (although, at the same time that did seem a bit childish that they weren't giant insect monsters), would have been super sweet to see him fight some ants and show his authority...but I guess there wasn't time, and it wouldn't have fit in with the plot either. I also loved Pym's period house (kinda looked like a typical San Francisco, Victorian styled building to me) which gave a lot more atmosphere to the movie, a kind of neat kooky atmosphere which really helped with the whole mad scientist vibe. Just a shame we didn't really see any old fashioned large scale models or props which were always a good highlight in the older movies, its all mostly CGI.

On the whole the movie is great fun and as I said before a really pleasant change of pace for comicbook flicks. Its not perfect by any means and despite the infused comical aspects they don't hide faults. I am still not completely sure how Pym came to know of Lang's existence, he says he's being watching him and his antics but how exactly did Pym ever come across Lang in the first place? I didn't really like the character of Hope Van Dyne (Pym's daughter), she comes across as whiny and annoying because she still hasn't forgiven her father for the death of her mother. But seriously, that was when she was a child, you need to forgive and move on! This also leads me to Pym, its really stupid how he waits nearly half his life before telling Hope the truth about her mother, like why the f**k would you wait that long?? This also feels really forced and too convenient for the plot, he manages to grow the balls to tell her at the exact time when Lang is there for a nice little teary, emotionally awkward scene. Plus she virtually instantly forgives him!! she holds a grudge for so damn long then forgives him just like that? even knowing that he clearly should of told her way before this! pfft!

Another negative point for me was the inclusion of the weakest, most pointless Avenger going, Falcon. Yeah...that regular everyday military dude who simply uses metallic wings to fly, something that any flippin' military bloke could do with training. This scene is obviously the main link to the Avengers world and the rest of the Marvel movies and their characters, but it feels so so forced and awkward. For a start Anthony Mackie is a shit actor plain and simple, and this performance is dreadful, really bad, really hammy. It doesn't help that it clearly looks like its been filmed on part set and part live action, it looks tacky. It also doesn't help that the fight is terrible, hokey lookin' and with poor effects and choreography. They should used a better character to fight Ant-Man (as we are shown), Lang beats him easily.

The best scene on the other hand must be the fight with Yellowjacket on the children's train set/bedroom (loved how they used those old retro kiddie train sets with the big wooden blocks for bridges). This whole sequence is inspired and makes good use of the environment around the characters and of course humour. This scene did almost bring back memories of those old 50's gems with the large scale toys, the jungle-esque carpet and all the ants running around like wild horses on the plains. I adored how Lang's daughter looks on at the battle from afar, only to see her small train set going round and round, with tiny little laser blasts going off like a mini light show, and tine men jumpin' around. Switch back to Lang's perspective and the battle is in your face, dangerous, deadly and rip-roaring! In all honesty though, Lang appeared to have a huge army of ants on his side, ants are very strong and deadly in a swarm, I reckon they would (should) have overcome Yellowjacket myself. Finishing on Yellowjacket and his expiration, not really sure how Lang didn't end up dead with him. His suit shrinks uncontrollably to nothing, obviously killing Cross, but surely killing Lang too as he was inside the suit? Didn't follow how he ended up in the subatomic realm (Superman, Phantom Zone parallel?) instead of getting squished.

All in all, I can happily say this movie was a complete blast from start to finish. A few things I didn't get on with like the annoying, forced humour from Pena and co as the ex-con friends of Lang, the CGI looked a tad ropy in spots, Hope was annoying and Pym surely has an ant infestation problem in his lovely old house! Nevertheless! the plot was handled well, the acting was solid, the CGI to make Douglas look young at the start was impressive, the adventure was engaging, the main characters were generally likeable, a decent, cool looking (yet once again bald) villain, and it all finishes nicely for a follow up. But the most important thing, as already said, it was a breath of fresh air, a good lungful of good, clean, fun fresh air for all to enjoy. Comicbook fatigue held at bay...for now.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Pixels (2015)

There have been a few movies that have incorporated videogames into their plots, the last big flick to do so being 'Wreck-It Ralph' which was truly delightful. Up until that animated blockbuster there hadn't really been any movies that managed to use the various official videogame characters all under one roof (ala Roger Rabbit), but now we have our second, and again its the retro mob. Yep, the key element in this movie is the use of the really old school, original videogame sprites that featured in (mainly) Atari 2600 games back in the day. Now this will of course appeal to folks of my age group and up, but would it appeal to the younglins? hmmm.

So basically, the entire gist of this flick is thus...back in the 80's NASA sends a VHS of a videogame championship into space, within a time capsule, for some reason. Little does Earth and its inhabitants know, that capsule was picked up by some alien race and taken as an act of war, because of course. Fast forward to the present day (I think) and those aliens have come to Earth to wage war on mankind...because of that ancient VHS tape containing a videogame championship. So...I realise these aliens might not understand human customs and whatnot, but surely they could understand the premise of a competition of some kind? they are clearly very intelligent. Anyways, the aliens are here and are raining down attacks on Earth using life-sized pixelated videogame sprites, only one man can stop them...the same dude who came second in that videogame championship way back in the 80's (plus his mates).

Now obviously me being nearly 40 years of age I was thrilled to see and hear all these classic videogame sprites and characters utilised for this movie. Lets be brutally honest here, that is the carrot on a stick for this movie, and to that degree it works, if you like retro videogames. While the visuals weren't exactly jaw-dropping it was very cool to see the various old videogame warhorses like Donkey Kong, Centipede, Paperboy etc...and finally Mario (although in a background cameo), all getting screen time. The effects for various Earth-bound objects getting obliterated into a mass of glowing pixels was a neat little trick and pleasing to the eye, the inclusion of old TV show footage being used by the aliens as a method of communication was also a neat touch and clever use of CGI. Plus in the inclusion of Max Headroom made me grin from ear to ear like a complete dribbling idiot, despite! his inclusion being completely nonsensical as he isn't, or wasn't, a videogame character, so why was he even there? Anyway, those are the plus points.

Now, as for the negative points, I'm not gonna just berate this movie simply because its essentially an Adam Sandler flick. No, I won't go that low...I'll go lower! NO!! no I won't, I'm better than that. But yes...yes we all know this is a Sandler production and its stars most of his mates, and by that I mean the ever fading star know as Kevin James. Now considering this, its not as bad as you think, no it isn't. Yes the jokes are lame, flat and unoriginal, yes the acting is tepid with blatantly forced cameos and yes we've seen all this before with Sandler, but its still not that bad, or not as bad as it could be. The real offence is the fact that this movie could of been so much more. The basic premise is shallow as fuck but there is a little gem of an idea here, an acorn ready to grow into bigger things.

For a start nothing is explained, not that its really important but come on! Aliens invade Earth yet no one is really shocked by this, hell at first the notion that these aliens might be attacking us using 1980's videogame sprites is merely brushed aside as frivolous poppycock. Why is no one amazed, shocked or in awe about what's happening here?? Next to this the plot moves along at a rapid pace, after the semi decent 80's set opening we're in the present day, then before you know it aliens are dropping out of the sky, everyone has accepted this and we're planning D-Day. They manage to discover strong light beams take the aliens down...somehow, and again before you know it, everyone has one and they're blasting aliens to kingdom come. The President (James) is somehow allowed to have is blue collar best mate inside the White House at all times, including top secret security meetings and is all this going on all over the world or just America? Seems like America because at no point does anyone really consider telling the rest of the world how to deal with the problem.

Now when it comes to the aliens and their videogame attack methods, why?? Why are they playing games when attacking Earth? Yeah I realise they are copying/mimicking what they saw on that ancient VHS, but surely if they wanna destroy Earth they could just do it. Why give Earth 3 lives? why bother doing any of that even if it appears that's how we do things on Earth, unless of course they are just doing this fun? to check us out? see it as an intergalactic challenge? Who knows because nothing is explained or expanded upon. The biggest and stupidest question mark is the sexy female videogame sprite that for some reason isn't pixelated like all the others. So can someone explain this to me, why did that attack sprite change into a non-pixelated version? how does that sprite somehow understand and feel love? why did it attack its own kind so easily? Surely its merely a lifeless, thoughtless drone that only knows to attack its target, its made up of pixels and presumably has no brain. Oh and while we're on the subject of the sprites, what the hell were those trophies about? why? what are they for? are they living because Q*Bert seemed to be an intelligent individual creature.

The whole story is left completely unresolved really, so many questions like who are these aliens, where do they come from, did they create these pixels just to attack us or does their race use them specifically etc...Apparently there was even a peace treaty agreed on at the end of the movie, when and where did that happen?? did the President meet the aliens?? does the rest of the world know about this??!! Ugh! seriously, I'm just disappointed if anything, as I said already the premise is simple but promising and this could of been a real treat. Alas it appears to have been rushed and poorly thought out, if at all. Yes the sight of Sandler and co playing a life-sized CGI Donkey Kong is kinda cool, the sight of large CGI retro sprites is cool and we all know not to expect a deep movie here. But come on, I don't just want shoddy popcorn flicks, I wanna see flicks with some thought behind them, even a little bit of thought at least.

Final thought, who is this movie aimed at exactly? Clearly its for kids, but it isn't is it, because most kids these days have no clue about any of this. Its kinda aimed at adults, I'm assuming, because of the retro content, but then why not make it for adults and make it a bit more risque, that's where Sandler can shine. Instead we have this odd middle ground which doesn't really serve anyone properly. I'm willing to bet most youngsters were utterly lost when Max Headroom popped on screen, great retro blast for the grown-ups, flew right over all the kids heads I'm sure.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

San Andreas (2015)

Right, so on the west coast of America (California) there's  an earthquake, and its really, really bad, so bad that it destroys a good deal of the State. The only thing that can stand in its way and stop this evil force of nature, is the Rock (Dwayne Johnson...not Alcatraz). The Rock vs an earthquake...FIGHT!! That's it, that's all I got here.

Yeah so...seriously, what can I say here? We all know exactly what this is, we've all seen this a shitzillion times before. The one main difference in this movie is the fact that it starts out with an obvious signal that shits about to go down, usually in these type of movies they start off with everything being hunky dory. Not this time, the Rock is straight in there battling to save some blonde type in her car from a gaping chasm of death. In the end he cooly rips off the car door to get to her, yeah its gonna be like that folks. But this gaping chasm of death alerts all the science types to the danger that is clearly looming, this naturally results in various slow moving close-ups on scientists faces accompanied by strong orchestral tones. From there on the whole project moves along with a fast but completely predictable pace hitting all the key notes you've come to expect from a disaster flick.

Lets be honest here, like all disaster flicks, you're only here to see the CGI magic, to see the destruction of another American State with its big landmarks. Does this disappoint? well on that front no not really. You wanna see LA and San Francisco (and surrounding areas) get wiped out by an earthquake? you wanna see the Rock on the brink of tears? you wanna see Kylie Minogue get killed off? well here you go. The CGI is most definitely exceptional there is no doubt about that, at times, in places, it does look completely realistic to the point that it is actually a little scary, I did actually feel sorry for some of the victims (almost). Like with all modern disaster movies there are the effects that look awesome which normally involve wide CGI panoramas of cityscapes getting destroyed by a tidal wave or earthquake, skyscrapers toppling, vehicles getting swept up or flipped about and bridges collapsing etc...Then you have the odd shot or sequence which always looks obviously CGI or shows the use of greenscreen, usually involving a close up of an actor.

Naturally amongst the visual feast of CGI mayhem and the odd stunt we get all the regular cliches, all the predictable bullshit cliches that they've ripped right out of the disaster cliche book. You know them, lets do this together, sing along with me. Well for starters, this being America and being in the midst of a breakdown in society, you have looting and shootings going on, because America. Yep, its sad to think that this is completely accurate, but when the shit hits the fan in America, you know certain parts of society will whip out their guns and go looting, because a big TV will help you in a deadly earthquake situation. Next up, the bad guy who gets his comeuppance played by Loan Gruffudd. This guy starts off as the nice guy but you can smell the slimy, smarminess a mile away, its the suit and money that give it away, stereotypical, wealthy, soulless businessman. Then we have the old couple cliche, by this I mean that one sequence where we see an elderly couple who can't escape pending death. They both realise they can't escape, they both acknowledge this and embrace one last time before they are killed off, which we don't see of course.

Carrying one we have the main plot cliche, the predictable plot device of having the main hero (the Rock) in marital problems with his estranged wife. They are literately on the brink of complete divorce before the disaster, but low and behold the disaster manages to change all that when the Rock saves his wife, and daughter, and the world, and everyone sees what a great guy he is. Its at this point that I must also point out, our hero, the Rock, knows everything! in any given situation, he knows exactly what to do and what's happening. He is also indestructible, naturally, he can survive everything and never really sustain any injury, even in a bad helicopter crash. This leads me to another good solid predictable cliche. In any sequence where the protagonist and co have to escape somewhere in a car or boat or whatever, they always do of course, but we always, always, have to see some other faceless people failing to escape the same situation and getting killed. It happens every time, the Rock and co are trying to get over this growing tidal wave in their boat, they are hammering it up this towering wave trying to reach the crescent before it crashed down. At the same time we see another boat doing the same thing but it flips over and flies off obviously killing all on-board.

Spoiler alert! the Rock and co manage to make it through everything even while using the old, 'is she dead?' sequence with his daughter just in case you didn't think there were enough cliches in this film. I can't really complain though can I? I mean it is a disaster flick, what did I expect?? But this is the problem, we've seen all angles for this genre, its all been done, it doesn't matter where the disaster is or what it is, this entire genre is dead and buried beneath a pile of cliches. This movie really brought this notion home to me, yes I did expect the same spiel, but no I didn't expect such a corny line up of terrible cliches such as this, I did kinda think they would try something different maybe, whatever that could be. Instead its literately every scene from all previous disaster flicks all over again...but in California, the disaster is irrelevant frankly, could of been anything.

But my one true disappointment was simply, we didn't get to see the Rock punch an earthquake, or take it down under his huge, sweaty manceps of power, beating it into submission. You picked the wrong city to fuck with earthquake, take that! Rock Bottom!!


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

And here we go again, round...errr...whatever, for yet another reboot of yet another comicbook franchise, I hope its a winner. Yeah so after the light-hearted antics of the earlier movies failed to set the box alight way back in 2005 and 2007 (even though they weren't actually that bad), someone decided to give them another whirl. The Four are Marvels first team/family of superheroes and thusly they needed a big budget extravaganza to fit into their new successful universe.

This time things would be different, the jokey, slapstick shenanigans of the earlier movies was gone, long gone, in its place would be a much darker, grittier approach that would breathe new realistic life into the Four. The fact that the Fantastic Four were well known for being a more colourful, light-hearted set of heroes (mainly down to their rather silly super powers), seemed to make no difference to how director Trank wanted to go. This would be the Nolan-esque version of the Fantastic Four that incorporated many of the Fantastic Four comic incarnations, like it or lump it.

So the idea of trying to cover all comicbook visions for the movie was brave and reasonably sound, instead of just relying on hammy childish humour and action, they would balance that out with a much broodier tone. The characters would be younger, the technology would be more believable, costumes would be more sensible, super powers would be more grounded or shocking like an affliction, and the overall vibe of the movie would be more serious. The plot remains pretty similar to what we already know of the Four with minor changes. Instead of going into space they jump into a parallel dimension and are exposed to dangerous otherworldly energies or substances that cause the super power mutations at a molecular level. What follows is the team slowly coming to terms with their new powers whilst being confined to a secret military base and being abused by the government for special ops. Eventually, of course, they need to come up against the much stronger Dr Doom who was presumed missing in action in the parallel dimension.

Now the start of this movie is actually fine (first half hour or so), it all moves along perfectly well. We get a nice small flashback to a young Ben Grimm and Reed getting to know each other and seeing their interest in science and technology flourish. Moving on from there we jump to a much older Reed and Grimm as they now prepare to jump into another dimension with the machine they helped build along with Doom, Sue Storm, and to a degree Johnny Storm (Johnny Storm is not really required for this, or anything, in any way). Everything I saw in these early sequences was pretty engaging I thought, it all looked good, sounded good and the cast fit their roles well. As we progressed further into the parallel dimension I still found myself enjoying the film. I really liked the visuals, the spacesuit design was cool, the Quantum Gate machine looked both intimidating and functional and planet Zero (parallel dimension planet) was eerie and foreboding.

Once reaching the real crux of the movie, their super powers, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a very hard edged approach. Now when I say hard edged, I mean its clearly been crafted in a Cronenberg fashion (as widely reported) with a big body shock element infused into the proceedings. I actually really liked how Trank and co (or whoever) did this, having Sue fluctuate between transparency without control, Grimm being a painful mass of solid rock material with no real shape, just a pile of rubble on the floor. Then you have Johnny also appearing in pain as he writhes around on a table engulfed in flames, and finally Reed strapped to a table, his limbs elongated, muscles pulsing, he doesn't appear to be in pain but unable to control his limbs properly. This angle was pretty daring for a supposed young persons comicbook flick, but it deserves kudos, I think the team behind the film really managed the impossible with such corny super powers, they made them actually believable and emotional, we could feel their fear.

What I also liked, and what also shocked me, was the inclusion of actual minor horror elements in the film. When Doom gets back from planet Zero and starts killing people for no real reason, he does it in a nasty way. He appears to fry them until their bodies pop, or their internal organs explode outward, which ever, but you do see blood! As Doom escapes from the military facility he appears to make peoples heads burst with blood splatterings galore! I did not expect this at all. Unfortunately even though Doom is a badass in the film, his visage does look very rushed as does his attire. He merely seems to be wearing a dark metallic bodysuit and mask with lots of neon green glowing through in places. Apparently his spacesuit had fused with his body but that doesn't really explain why he looks the way he does, how he got his green cloak and hood, nor does it explain his mask and weird mouthpiece (the glowing green was the energy substance found on planet Zero). He basically looks like some kind of metallic, mummified, mannequin, gimp.

Despite the half decent start to the movie things do take a nosedive quite rapidly. The timeline clearly jumps around, different edits, wigs, things aren't really explained too well etc...such as Reed running off and living in Panama for some reason. What the hell was he trying to do? what was the point in that entire sequence?? Characters talk about how Reed has been off the grid for so long and how he's hard to find...yet they just manage to find him really quickly when they decide to hunt him down. And why is it the Four agree to remain in this secret base and carry out special ops? Surely they must know these military government types are just using them and they probably won't find a cure, they all seem pretty naive to me. Then you have this whole other dimension notion, visually effective at least, but none of it is even remotely thought out properly. They reach another planet in another dimension, but it just doesn't come across as that bigger deal. Surely this would open up so many questions about that parallel dimension and that universe, that whole plot angle just seemed way too big for this movie. An entire alternative universe in a parallel dimension! that's some heavy shit! but they use it like some kind of throwaway plot device. Did I mention the wigs aspect?

I still don't really get why Doom wanted to stay in the parallel dimension on planet Zero. OK I understand that the natural raw energy somehow powers him and seems to keep him alive or healthy, but there's nothing there! What the hell is he gonna do on this barren wasteland of a planet forever?? Why does he wanna wipe out Earth all of a sudden? especially if he doesn't even intend to remain on Earth, in our dimension. Oh and how did he know when the team had come back to rescue him? how did he know where they would reappear? maybe it was the same location? Did anyone else also notice that the despite the weather appearing to be really bad and really harsh on planet Zero, it was always very calm with no wind or anything, where ever the characters were.

At the end of the day there just doesn't feel like there's anything at stake here, the finale is set in this desolate wasteland in another dimension, so who cares. The Four never really seem to fully utilise their powers for anything, or anywhere, they just get them...and mope around. Even when they must battle Doom, they still don't seem to be that effective with their powers, but I guess you could say they are still learning (for the sequel eh). Even though I quite liked the start of the movie and I did like the initial body shock reactions of the characters, the entire film is essentially just exposition for the obviously pre-planned sequel which may now never happen. As such, this movie is like a highway to nowhere, exposition that leads to nowhere, Hollywood is so comfortable with this cheeky method/formula now, and its very worrying. You don't get proper movies anymore, you get promises and setups for the following bigger movie, if you're lucky, because as we all know, films always come in trilogies these days.


Friday, 6 November 2015

Turbo Kid (CA/NZ, 2015)

A movie with a heavy 80's retro theme? Who'd of thought it. A movie with a heavy post apocalyptic Earth theme? Who'd of thought it. A movie with a heavy, over the top, comical, bloody violent theme? Who'd of thought it. Yes this movie isn't the most original of ideas to come along, in fact its a complete rehash of many many movies we've seen many many times. The main differences here are...umm...its a joint Canadian and New Zealand collaboration, yeah, take that...originality.

So in this universe (1997, because remember, retro), the Earth has been decimated after some kind of war or whatever, everything has been destroyed leaving a familiar looking barren wasteland where people live in a primitive steampunk/Mad Max-esque existence. Naturally everybody has gone a little crazy, everybody wears really bizarre attire, everybody carries various bizarre weapons, everybody partakes in various barbaric games, oh and everybody travels around on bikes because presumably there is no more fuel for vehicles. Its basically you're common wild west scenario with Mad Max visuals, life is cheap and people do what they gotta do to survive. Oh and if you haven't already guessed, there is indeed a violent horde of lunatics that semi-rule this new land with an iron fist, and Michael Ironside is their sadistic leader (picky reviewer 0-1 movie).

Yeah so basically the plot revolves around this kid, called simply, Kid, yet clearly played by a much older actor. This guy lives alone and survives as best he can as a scavenger, then you have this tough cowboy type fella who aptly dresses like a cowboy. He appears to be the main hero and protagonist, or so you think, and he kinda is and kinda isn't, if you get me, a turns out to be more of a sidekick to the kid. Finally there is the obligatory female character called Apple who is rather eccentric, you find out why later on. As you can guess, all these characters get mixed up and involved with the sadistic roaming gang which leads to much fighting in order to free the land of the blood thirsty horde that grips it. Its you're basic hero story, the young lad who defies the odds with his love interest and older companion, to beat the forces of evil.

Now our main young protagonist, the kid, is actually obsessed with a fictional character within the movie called Turbo Man, a comicbook character who looks like some kind of cheesy retro space ranger toy. The kid tries to imitate this character in every way, his weapons, his moves etc...he idolises him. At one point he even discovers some crashed spaceship thing that seemed to contain some kind of military type who just happened to look and dress like Turbo Man, or it was actually the real Turbo Man, I'm not really sure, but this leads further into the whole 'dress-up' playtime angle of the movie (twas an amazingly lucky coincidence he found that crashed ship too). You see, the plot plays out from the kids perspective, which is obviously immature, childish, young at heart, so everything feels light-hearted and awesome, everything is an adventure and the suit just makes it feel even better. He's not any kind of superhero or action man, but the suit makes him believe he is, plus the suit also comes with this natty wrist laser cannon thing, so not too shabby for killing bad guys huh.

The obvious hook for this movie is the outrageously old school, retro visuals, which homage a variety of nostalgic elements from toys, bikes, clothes and kitschy junk. Turbo Man looks like something outta the 90's but is adorned with very 70's graphics which mainly consist of rainbow go-faster stripes or swooshes. Indeed the old rainbow swooshes are a common visual element in this movie, they tend to pop up on various things and do give off that classic 1970's Atari-esque vibe (mainly because Atari used rainbow go-faster stripes as part of their gaming logo back in the 2600 days).

The kids base is adorned with lots of trinkets and dated pop culture items from this universe, but obviously look deliberately familiar to reality. While his wrist laser cannon weapon seems pretty unoriginal the way he uses it, his poses, his quick little He-Man/Lion-O moment are all instantly recognisable to the keen eye. His female companion Apple is also dressed in a very retro looking outfit, all light pastel colours with glitter makeup and a headband, she kinda looked like a walking homage to My little Pony, Jem and the Holograms and Care Bears to me, certainly the vibe I got. And finally we have the ultimate retro callback, the BMX bikes, everyone rides around on BMX bikes or similar. This is both highly amusing simply because, how the fuck could you travel around that terrain on a bike without getting knackered all the time. Secondly, the whole notion just looks so passe, I know that's idea but all I could think of was shitty movies like 'BMX Bandits'.

The one thing I think let this movie down was the hyper-violence to be honest. If you think along the lines of the Robert Rodriguez movie franchise Machete then you know where I'm coming from and what to expect. This was a disappointing aspect for me, there is nothing wrong with a good amount of violence and gore, I'm all for it with adult flicks, but there needs to be a certain level of realism. I get that this movie was deliberately going for the shocking, gaudy visual effects, and to that degree it certainly works, but I just felt it was unnecessary. The movie could have been much better if the violence was toned down a bit, given a bit more edge and lost the farcical tomfoolery. The villains in the movie would have been much more enjoyable and menacing had the violence been a bit more down to earth. But when you've got body parts flying all over the show it becomes tiresome very quickly, I think you can only take it so far before you spoil what you've got.

Speaking of villains and characters as a whole, they actually weren't that great. Michael Ironside (Zeus) is obviously the best thing going here and he goes for it, chewing up the scenery like no one's business, we've seen him do this before, we know he's great at it. Our young protagonist is also pretty good actually, he's likeable, not overly big-headed, not some overly tanned, pretty boy with perfect muscles, he's just a regular kid with a well styled retro hairdo. Unfortunately that's where it stops, Apple is just kinda annoying with her wide-eyed wackiness, plus she has to be rescued like...a tonne of times. Zeus's male sidekick Skeletron (eh eh!!), is you're typical mute, insane, mask wearing, crazy weapon wielding, Mad Max-esque type henchman, nothing new there. Same can be said for his female sidekick who has a typical tribal type hairdo and just grins evilly all the time. The last main character, the cowboy, merely comes across as a Kiwi's idea of what a wild west cowboy should look and sound like, in other words, a lame Clint Eastwood wannabe. Alas he comes off more like a typical looking Kiwi sheep farmer wearing a stetson.

Clearly the whole movie plays out like a comicbook, or videogame even, to a degree. It's not suppose to be taken seriously on any level, its meant to be cheesy and unashamedly retro, kitschy and nostalgic. Indeed the retro vintage charms did work for me, visually at least, they all looked great and did hark back to the good old days nicely. Its just a shame the rest of the movie is pretty glum looking, unexciting and too obviously confined to a specific area, a quarry apparently. I really wanted to love this, the moment the Turbo Kid title popped up, emblazoned across the screen in a shameless Tranformers logo rip-off, I got all excited.  Yeah I could overlook the plot holes like how the hell does the kids power gauntlet/laser cannon thing work? What exactly powers it in a world of no power, and just who the hell was that suppose to be in the crashed spaceship?? What was his story? But overall the endless daft violence, weak characters and shallow plot just overshadow everything.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

The movie that inspired another mega sized movie, 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman', and deals with 50's America's arch nemesis...radiation! Yep once again an innocent individual suffers the horrors of deadly radiation that somehow doesn't actually kill said person. Does it mutate him into some kind of drooling monster? turn him invisible? enable him to fly? no, no, no, no, don't be silly. It causes him to grow rapidly into a...errr....colossal sized man, an amazingly colossal sized bloke of colossal proportions, he's big.

So there's this bloke, he's in the US military, he's in the field, its the 50's and the military are testing a big-ass bomb, not a good scenario to be in. Suddenly out of the sky a plane comes down and crashes in the field, right when the bomb is gonna go off, pfft! bloody pilots. So our protagonist, Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan), being the foolish hero, decides to go rescue the pilot. Alas during this brave attempt the big bomb goes off and a tidal wave of radiation hits him in the face, not sure whatever happened to the planes pilot though, I guess...ah who cares. So old Glenn is pretty fucked up that's for sure, he's a crispy critter, but wait! apparently he's not! For reasons unknown Glenn makes a miraculous recovery and is perfectly fine, well accept for that inexplicable growing problem...oh dang!

Now if you compare this movie to its similar alternative ('Attack of the 50 Foot Woman') you can easily see the difference plot wise. Where as the other movie simply delved into the bickering relationship of the Archer couple, this movie spends much of its runtime analyzing the effect on Manning's psyche as he grows and grows. Now although that might sound a bit dull, its not as bad as you think. We slowly see Manning go crazy as he sinks further and further into depression over his condition, his fiancee is unable to console him and the white coat lab scientists are clueless to stop the growth. Manning starts to have nightmares or unsettling dreams about his life, his time during the Korean war, his previous wife and the moment he was caught in the atomic blast. All of this is well done, well thought out, it gives us a good in-depth look the character, it explores how someone could be realistically affected by such an event instead of just going down the freaky rampaging monster route. Indeed Manning does acknowledge the fact that he's become a circus freak, he knows the public will eventually become aware of his condition and he will no doubt simply become a grotesque attraction for all to gawp at.

Of course Manning does indeed do the old rampaging monster routine eventually, what did you expect. For some reason as he gets bigger he also seems to lose the ability to recognise people and act in a calm collective manner. Thusly he goes on the run from the huge tent the scientists and military set up for him, and somehow, no one is able to find him. Yes that's right, the military and scientists lose the amazing, colossal sized, bald man wearing a giant diaper. Even in a helicopter they have a hard time tracking him down, hmmm. This is were we start to see some of the hokey effects. Much like the other giant human flick, these effects are pretty bad, although not as bad as that giant female movie. Once again the effect appears to be either a double exposure or rear projection effect of actor Glenn Langan against static background shots. This gives us a very obvious, but at least solid image, of Manning the giant against the backdrops, there are no transparency issues this time. Nevertheless it still looks incredibly cheesy when he interacts with footage of real people or real objects, although he does interact with some small building models which looks much better. But again its a real shame they didn't continue using real miniature models as they did in the beginning when he starts growing. The use of tiny chairs, jugs of water, tables, phones work nicely giving an effective forced perspective of size.

I have to say it is quite hilarious to watch these rampage sequences. Literately every one is the same, Manning comes lurching into the shot, from the left, looking around like some giant primate, pausing briefly to stare at something, then continues to lurch off screen, exit right. It really is terribly done, terribly repetitive, but he can't interact with anything because, of course, there's nothing for the actor to interact with (just like CGI). What I don't get is why he walks like Frankenstein's monster, plodding along as if he only just learnt how to walk. He's still a human, he's just very big, why the hell is he walking like this?? Oh and speaking of primates, naturally there's the typical 'King Kong' clone shot where Manning lumbers up to a window and peers inside, eyeing up a woman washing herself in the bath. Couldn't resist that one huh.

Its also interesting to note that actor William Hudson, who plays Dr. Linstrom in this movie, was also in the other giant movie 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman' a year later. Obviously he did such a good job in this movie about a giant bloke, that the money men thought he'd be a good choice again in a movie about a giant woman. There is also a small element of shock horror involved too, not much, but its there. Mainly when they reveal Manning's burnt skin and when Manning spears one scientist with the giant sized syringe. Things do start to fall apart towards the finale I'm afraid, this is mainly down to the effects, especially Manning's death scene which is hilariously bad. It also seems unfair too as the giant Manning doesn't really do that much (accept kill a scientist with a giant syringe I guess), but he's clearly suffering mentally from his atomic bomb induced affliction sooo...the fact they mercilessly gun him down seems a bit uncalled for really. Anyway this is a much better film than I had anticipated, the plot is of course daft (as the title suggests) but its dealt with well, the subject matter has a good sense of realism to it. Oh and I love the films poster.