Friday, 29 January 2016

Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

Well this came outta nowhere, in fact it hasn't even been that long since I discovered its existence. Love the films title, easily the main thing that lures you in, it intrigues and you want to know more. It totally has that cheesy, tacky, low rent, B-movie vibe in the title alone, on one hand that does help the movie because you instantly know what to expect, on the other it can also hinder the movie because its yet another low rent, B-movie zombie flick, and there's a shit-tonne of those around.

The story sees a small group of teenage boys who are on the cusp of actually growing up, yet they are also still in the Scouts. Two of the lads are thinking of quitting Scouts for obvious reasons I don't need to go into here, whilst the third chubby lad loves the Scouts and wants to carry on. So that's the basis for their little story arc struggles. At the same time in typically glorious 80's fashion, in some kind of local bio-chemical testing company or whatever, a cleaner accidentally lets loose (or wakes up) a zombie who in turn starts the aforementioned apocalypse. Before you can say, help my intestines are being ripped out and eaten by some rotting, ravenous, cannibalistic, decaying human zombie from hell! there are rotting, ravenous, cannibalistic, decaying human zombies everywhere...but not necessarily from hell.

Now I may have said this before in other top quality reviews, but I'm not a huge zombie fan, in fact I find these movies generally terrible and all the same. That being said I do like the odd classic such as Return of the Living Dead franchise, and I appreciate the effectiveness in films like '28 Days Later'. I will say right here right now, I have never liked the Romero zombie films, there I said it, OK well maybe 'Dawn of the Dead'. Anyway me being an 80's child and loving the comedy horror genre, this really did appeal to me despite the zombie factor. You can tell from the films poster that they have clearly gone down that 80's route, personally I think you can see clear homages to movies like 'Monster Squad', 'Fright Night', hell even 'The Goonies' to a degree. Its the perfect storm if you ask me, tried and tested, young teenage boys against monsters, add lots of cheeky, rude, infantile gags and voila! instant smutty horror porn.

The action all kicks off very quickly too, the opening intro sequence within this sterile, white walled testing company doesn't hold back. The cleaner is yet another young stoner type with ridiculous hair, in fact I thought he was one of the main protagonists. Anyway this sequence doesn't really do anything original but what it does is really effective and quite funny to boot. Of course its all stupid, this dumb cleaner starts poking around in the lab and fiddling with things...because of course you'd do that in a lab where its clearly obvious you shouldn't touch anything. He accidentally reanimates this zombie after thinking it was merely a sick person on life support, but the little gross-out sequence where he does this was a highlight. Nice visual gag utilising Tic-Tacs and a brilliant shock moment that seems to homage John Carpenter 1982 version of 'The Thing'. All the while a whitecoat lab technician is trying to get some crisps out of a vending machine, whilst the horror plays out behind him through an internal window.

Of course you should know how this film is gonna play out but if you didn't the intro will certainly et you straight. As I said there isn't anything particularly original here, but that's not a bad thing in this instance. The young lads are you're typical array of stereotypical young boys, one being smart, sensible and thoughtful, the leader. Another being more of a loose cannon, prone to getting into trouble, lax when it comes to things like having a conscience  and obsessed with porn (well they all are). Lastly the third being an overweight, ginger who is also smart but in more of a nerdy way, he's also very sensitive and wears his heart on his sleeve. I've never heard of these three guys that play the characters but I enjoyed their camaraderie and hijinks. They all worked pretty well together and were relatively amusing at times, amusing not hilariously funny. They also, naturally, have a sexy female on their side, again never heard of her but she's undoubtedly super hot and blonde. This did feel totally generic in the sense that of course you need a sexy chick in tight jean cut-off's going round blowing zombie heads off, its just a male requirement.

What we see throughout the movie is nothing you haven't seen before lets be honest, again originality isn't the top priority here. So expect lots and lots of blood and gore as the small team go around shooting zombies in the head, cutting heads off blah blah all know. The main hook for the movie is essentially the fact that the boys are all Scouts sooo...that's just different isn't it, they use their Scout skills to survive and kill zombies. Its a neat little concept for sure but really all you're seeing is three guys equipping themselves with various regular household/DIY/garden items and modifying them to kill, or not as the case may be. So you get a little 'Commando' tooling up montage homage which damn near every horror comedy tends to have at some point. I quite liked the brief moment where the camera zooms in on each Scout badge skill as they construct their weapons, nice usage of gimmicky idea there. Its also pretty dumb in places which is no surprise, the guys manage to get a hold of a flippin' Humvee at one point, probably the ultimate vehicle to have during this type of apocalypse, yet they don't really utilise it. Plus they could of driven off to safety at any point in the film really, to hell with all the teens at the rave pfft! Plenty of cliches throughout too of course, like the grumpy old lady that hassles the boys at the start, well they naturally get to behead her as a zombie later on because...little old lady revenge cliche.

I think the problem here is everyone knows exactly what to expect, everyone knows exactly what their gonna see, and while that's not all bad, its just old hat I'm afraid. The humour is there but its not really in your face good, it tickles you but that's it. Perfect example, whilst trying to escape from a window ledge high up, one of the boys grabs onto an elderly zombies cock to stop himself from falling. Said cock gets stretched out like a piece of elastic (exposing its fakeness) before splitting and breaking off. Now clearly this was supposed to be a funny sight gag...but it wasn't, it was kinda lame and fake looking. This is how the comedy tends to be in general really, little things, like the boys getting all super excited over seeing a pair of big zombie tits, or going through a girls underwear draw (really?) or simply seeing a strip joint etc...I get that its supposed to be juvenile humour, that's the aim, but maybe I'm too old for this now because it just seemed very lame to me.

I have moaned quite a bit about the obvious cliches and unoriginal content strewn throughout this movie, this is true. That being said I did still find myself enjoying this chaotic romp for what its worth. The film knows what it wants to be and nails that aspect of it, it doesn't ever pretend to be anything more that what it is, although it does get dangerously close to being too serious in places. I think it is very 80's which I love, I do like the Scout angle, the main protagonists are likeable and the girls are uber hot no doubt. The continuous joke of seeing zombified Scout master David Koechner stumbling about desperately trying to eat someone was reasonably funny, it sums up the whole comedy aspect really, close but ultimately just missing the mark. Now waiting for the inevitable Girl Guides version with tonnes of risque, underage type humour and sexual innuendos aplenty.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Skin Trade (2014)

What tickles me about this is the fact that Dolph apparently read about the horrors of human trafficking, mainly one case where some girls were left for dead inside a vehicle on the US/Mexican border, and decided to bring it to the worlds attention. A noble thing to do for sure, only he did this via this utter pile of dribble of an action flick. The fact that the human trafficking part of the plot is only window dressing for a simple revenge thriller says it all really. It doesn't bring the horror of human slavery to the forefront of cinema, it uses it simply for a good plot device, something new to have fights about. What also made me laugh was reading about a possible sequel to this shit, the movie has an open ending so indeed you could make another, but who the f*ck is gonna watch a sequel to this?? (yes I realise the irony of me saying that after I just watched this movie, move along).

So the plot...its all about revenge, done. OK to be more specific, the film tries to be clever by setting up multiple plots at different times by switching back and forth between them at different times until they all eventually blend into one. Nice idea yes, badly done? oh hell yes, its confusing and erratic with bad editing. Out of nowhere you get quick cuts to someone doing something, before it then just as quickly cuts back to someone else. You're left thinking, what the hell was that?! Anyway Cassidy (Dolph) is after uber bad guy Dragovic (Ron Perlman) in the US, in a raid along with Reed (Jai White) and Costello (Peter Weller) they capture him successfully. Dragovic's son is killed during this take down so he has Cassidy's family killed. Dragovic is eventually released on bail and flees the US to Thailand, Cassidy follows now out for revenge. US police want Cassidy stopped believing him to be dangerous after he kills Dragovic's attorney, so in Thailand Tony (Tony Jaa) is put on the case to arrest him. There is more but I can't be bothered to explain it.

So essentially what we have here is a pretty convoluted plot which spans from the US to Thailand in an obvious lazy way to merely include Tony Jaa. Although you have to give kudos to the casting, its pretty damn impressive for such a throw away B-movie. But again its all very shallow, they've clearly only managed to grab Peter Weller for a couple days or less to shoot a few scenes, hell it didn't even need to be him because his character does nothing of importance. They obviously had to chance to nab a big name and took it. Same could almost be said for Michael Jai White, his character isn't really any big deal, he's barely involved for the most part, again obviously just there for a fight against Jaa. They even got Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in there...but again! its a throw away part that could of been played by anyone, of no importance at all.

Of course most of these movies are all the same, and when it comes to the old action stars and more modern martial artists (Jai White, Adkins etc...), the films are usually excuses to have match-ups between the famous stars (plot worked in around them). On that note the film delivers just about, there are two main fights, between Dolph and Jaa and Jaa and White. The best fight is easily between White and Jaa, two different styles and two polar opposite physiques make for a real cracker. Its almost on par with Bruce Lee taking on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in terms of physiques, Jaa being a slim, shorter, almost scrawny  fellow, whilst White is quite tall and very very thick in build. The other fight between Jaa and Dolph is a much slower affair mainly because Dolph is getting on, but its still a solid battle. Again Dolph is much bigger and thicker (not as thick as White) but his speed lets him down (and age). The location for this fight (in a rice/grain mill at night) makes it a bit more visually exciting though, much slicker and more moody.

Apart from those two good fights the rest is pretty much the usual nonsense you'd see in any low grade action movie. The bad guys are all dressed in black and lounge around in very lavish establishments, there is always a tonne of henchmen just waiting to get shot or beat up, lots of semi-nude females in strip clubs, lots of aimless gunfights, the good guys never receive any major injuries in high risk parts of the body, and plenty of chases through busy streets.

The entire production is one big cliche really, its all just such pants I really don't know why anyone bothers making it. Some of it is just so stupid too, but its filmed in a serious manner! Dolph's character is in a hospital bed at one point, really beat up badly, but that's not gonna stop him. He just tears everything off himself, all the monitors and bandages etc...just gets up and walks out with no one noticing. He then proceeds to his home, which had been blown up prior, and is able to just walk into the heavily damaged building with ease, no police, nothing, just a single strip of police tape to keep the public out. He also gets stabbed in his abdomen at one point but that doesn't really go anywhere, he just walks that off. I also noticed that these cops have a tendency to get away with anything they like in this universe, both Jaa and Dolph's character kill plenty of people without any repercussions. Sure they were bad guys but still, actually Cassidy killed Dragovic's attorney didn't he, and other innocents by the look of things, when he blew up the restaurant he found him in, sooo...huh?

End of the day I really shouldn't moan about this because I knew what it was, what it was gonna be, a shoddy B-movie that goes straight to DVD (if its lucky). The main question I find myself asking is why in the hell is Dolph still making these types of movies? The man is clearly too old for this shit, he clearly cannot run at all, you can plainly see this from his movements and the fact they always cut away from him running. It really is becoming pretty embarrassing to watch this kind of stuff now because its really becoming very obvious. Look Dolph, you're past it, just accept it and retire from action flicks, its ridiculous. I only recommend this for the usage of Jaa and White, fights only that is, the rest is like a pair of unwashed pants, it stinks.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Close Range (2015)

Cementing his place as the new JCVD? well Adkins is certainly churning out the movies, alas none of them are nowhere near as good as JCVD's earlier offerings. This movie seems to follow the same kind of themes as JCVD's 'Nowhere to Run' if you ask me, to a degree...OK visually maybe. The plot is breathtakingly basic and revolves around MacReady, a soldier gone A.W.O.L. who must protect his sister and niece from a drug cartel. The reason being his sister is married to some low life fool who gets caught up with the drug cartel and the corrupt local sheriff over merchandise and a flashcard containing important information. MacReady was serving overseas but assaulted his commanding officer apparently, he then ran off, as you do. Yet somehow he pops up back in the USA ready to take on the bad guys (how did he manage this?).

K so lets get down to the nitty gritty here, we're all gonna watch this for one reason alone and that's Adkins kicking ass. Does he do this in satisfactory form? meh...kinda, I guess, why you asking me? no wait scratch that. So what we get is Adkins taking on Mexican drug dealers with haircuts of varying degrees of stupidity, and amazingly all of them know martial arts. The formula is simple enough, Adkins creeps around a bit, surprises a couple guys, gets into a rowdy mixed martial arts fest, eventually winning. Wash rinse and repeat this scenario all the way through the movie as he takes down the small team of bad guys. Even though the location changes from the great outdoors of California to within the confines of a small ranch, its all still the same. What's even more disappointing is the fact that the fights all look the same too, literately the same choreography for every bloody fight, same moves, same camera angles etc...

Its not all fisticuffs though, there is quite a bit of gun action thrown in there too. Alas that's even more ridiculous than the repetitive fights because you can clearly tell everyone is using blanks. Why you ask? well because at numerous times the characters cross paths and shoot at each other at near point blank range, yet everyone seemingly misses each other and there are no bullet holes or destruction. Quite often I was thinking to myself, why aren't you hit? how are you missing? this is like watching a glitch ridden game of Call of Duty. There is some car chase action too but that's pretty naff frankly, again you can clearly tell the vehicles are travelling quite slowly.

The movie really tries its best to be ultra cool and grown-up, but it fails miserably in my opinion. The bad guys role call sequence near the start was a hilariously bad idea for starters. Firstly who cares, we don't know these guys and you won't care about any of them further on down the line, they're all meat for Adkins to beat. Secondly why would we need this information, why do we need to know their stereotypically stupid names? like I said they're all mere fodder. Thirdly, it just looks so fucking stupid, each one looks towards the camera with a stern, I'm well 'ard glance. Stop it! you're all so tough and scary I'm starting to sweat through my pants.

But the most amusing and daft moment of all, the real clincher was at the very end. Adkins shaven headed anti-hero stands directly opposite the corrupt sheriff (Nick Chinlund), a shotgun and set of handcuffs lie before the sheriff. MacReady had given the sheriff an ultimatum, cuff yourself or go for the gun, your choice. What follows is the most dreadful laughable cloning or homage, of the classic finale scene in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' between Eastwood, Wallach and Cleef. Its not even remotely intense, it doesn't have any of the scope and the two helpless females watching on from the sidelines makes it feel so hokey. Oh and I should mention that the beginning credits sequence actually has little snippets of the actual movie in it! Yeah so you're actually seeing key moments of action in the title sequence before seeing the film, great decision! A title sequence that harks back to Sergio Leone classics I might add. Adkins and director Florentine have definitely got a thing for Leone classics.

Yep so its another pile of crap from Adkins I'm afraid. Yes I'm sure if you enjoy his work then you'll enjoy this. Yes I realise he's making a certain type of movie that some people demand, and in that sense it delivers exactly what some people want. Yet despite all that, and the fact I am partial to a good fight/action romp, this simply looks and plays exactly like what it is...a cheap, lazy, dull, boring, pointless movie. Yes you can argue that Adkins is only doing what previous stars like JCVD did back in the day, but the difference in quality and the fact that it was more original back then, always trumps that call.


Friday, 22 January 2016

Hard Rain (1998)

The 90's, the era of many pointless, tacky and stupid action flicks. I submit to you exhibit A, firstly, bloody stupid title, I mean what the hell is that supposed to mean? hard rain. What is the rain so heavy and hard that is both soaks and hurts you? Is the rain really tough and well 'ard that is comes down wearing a Burberry tracksuit and pinches your mobile phone?? Anyway so the hook of this run of the mill action heist was the fact its set within a major storm and flooding, Die Hard in soaking wet clothes or Die Hard with pneumonia...see, I can think of cool film titles too.

So Christian (I was once a famous action star briefly in the 90's) Slater and his elderly partner are security guards making pick-ups during a serious storm in a small town. The town is slowly flooding which cause are duo to get stuck in a large deep area of water. They believe they are stranded but low and behold some blokes come along to help them, spoiler alert, these guys are baddies. So these baddies are obviously after the loot but after the accidental killing of Slater's elderly partner a long wet chase ensues as Slater runs off with the loot and hides it. He now finds himself very wet, with baddies after him and the small ton police also sniffing around, but are they goodies or baddies? Oh the intrigue.

So first off I gotta ask, why the fuck does Slater run off with the money?? The bad guys offered him a chance to walk away from the truck and just leave the money, that's all they wanted, they weren't interested in him. But no he has to run off with the money and then gets all stressed out when the bad guys start hunting him down, pfft! they gave you a chance Slater! OK so the bad guys, they are led by...Morgan Freeman? wait Morgan Freeman is the main bad guy?! well that's one for the books isn't it, don't see that happening very often. But yeah these bad guys aren't very intimidating frankly, Freeman tries to be ruthless but he just can't pull it off, he's just too nice. There's the token black guy who seems to be the edgy one but never really does anything accept spout bible verses for some reason. There's a guy with glasses on who I think is supposed to be an ex-teacher? anyway again he does nothing of note. Finally there is the token young dude with long hair, the unpredictable one who is obviously gonna fuck things up for the others, and low and behold....All together this small team of robbers are weak and completely ineffective within the movie, you aren't scared by them and you never really feel like they are actually gonna accomplish anything. Oh and the token black guy doesn't die first here amazingly.

On the other hand the small trio of cops that are supposedly helping Slater's character are well cast. Randy Quaid plays the sheriff who comes across as a solid leader, only to quickly switch into a cold killer as they close in on the money. You can tell Quaid's character can't be trusted which adds to the suspense, plus I enjoyed his amusing expressions of frustration as his third officer starts to waver under the pressure of killing innocent people. Its like, oh for God's sake, stop being such a do-gooder and think of the money. Together with Mark Rolston as his slimy second in command, the duo make a pretty good pair of unhinged crooked cops, unfortunately we don't really see enough of the pair being evil.

Slater of course plays the all round heroic boyscout type, boring, predictably perfect in every way and invincible. He is helped by love interest Minnie Driver who makes stained glass windows or something? I dunno, just your typical female sidekick that generally needs rescuing after being taken hostage. Remember when I said Freeman was the main bad guy, well that doesn't last forever because no sooner have the cops revealed themselves to be crooked, Slater must join forces with old Morgan. So there you go folks, even when Freeman is officially the bad guy in a movie, he still turns out to be good, in this case...a good old boy type.

Overall the movie looks pretty good, good lighting, nice camera work, there is clearly a tonne of flooded sets being used with lots of stunts involving small motorboats, jet skis and electrics reacting with water type situations. There are some pretty terrible bluescreen shots of Freeman, Quaid and Slater speeding along in boats, lots of wet gunplay, lots of daft dialog, someone naturally gets fried alive in the water when electric cables short out into it, and umm...lots of water sequences, lots of H2O going everywhere. I should also point out that the musical score seems very similar to 'Aliens' in my opinion, almost beat for beat in some sequences, odd. As I already said you can kinda tell that Quaid's character is up to something mainly because Quaid is playing the character, but you're never sure how far the twists will go, or how many there will be, or who may or may not pop back up at any given moment. These loose action flicks tended to throw all sorts of things at you, anyone could come back when you least expect it and it didn't have to make sense. Honesty there isn't much good out and out action but attractive visuals at least make things nice to look at.

This movie was a big flop when it was released and its not hard to see why truth be told. Its really a very aimless and pointless heist flick which isn't really very exciting. Yes there are quite few twists which admittedly do keep you somewhat engaged but really this is a whole lot of hokey wet nothing. Its also hard to imagine how something like this actually got a cinematic release (which I actually saw in the cinema I might add).


Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Ridiculous 6 (2015)

Yes that's right, I've seen the fabled new, one time, controversial Adam Sandler movie, all the way through! who wants to touch me? (yes I also realise I just totally dated my own review with this dated gag reference, had to be done). So yeah...its a dumb western filled with blatant stereotypes, corny routines, obvious gags and it treats women as nothing more than sexual objects, but in all honesty what did you expect? Firstly its an Adam Sandler movie, and secondly, it has 'ridiculous' in the bloody title! its literately saying to you, this movie is gonna be daft as shit, you have been warned. So why all the fuss I don't know.

Plot wise its your typical western fare about revenge and...umm, more revenge. Tommy Stockburn (Sandler) has been raised by native Americans (or red indians to be politically incorrect) because way back as a child his mother was shot dead by a mysterious stranger. His father Frank (Nick Nolte) was an infamous bank robber and just happens to come by Tommy's village to tell him he's his father because plot convenience. Frank speaks of 50K he's buried away and intends to share with Tommy, but before you can say rootin-tootin outlaws, some outlaws turn up that used to be in a gang with Frank and claim the money. Frank lies about the moneys whereabouts as the gang take him hostage to go find it, this gives Tommy time to find the loot in its real location. Alas Tommy is unable to find the loot so he must come up with another way to raise 50K to pay the outlaws and save his dad. The clock is ticking before the outlaws realise that Frank was lying about the moneys location.

Now the main lure here must be the stereotypical ridiculous six characters that are all hilariously related to each other, no really its hilarious...OK its not. Sandler is obviously the leader of the gang, the low gravely Eastwood voiced, ice cool loner, raised by native Americans and is super hot with knives. Terry Crews is Chico, a black piano player who hasn't ever admitted to anyone he's actually, possibly, slightly black, and of course despite the fact he's huge...he's actually a real softie. Jorge  Garcia plays Herm, a role that probably would have gone to John Belushi or John Candy if they were alive. A big fat slobby, dirty, feral type bloke who can't speak English but everyone understands him anyway. Taylor Lautner embarrasses himself immensely here as the gangs redneck simpleton complete with braces and buckteeth. Luke Wilson plays the dandy type, good looking, athletic, well dressed, but a miserable failure with his last occupation as a bodyguard for Abe Lincoln. Lastly good old Rob Schneider plays the greasy dirty Mexican Ramon who owns a donkey with super powered diarrhea. So there you have a complete array of stereotypes, the white man raised by indians, the token black guy, the fat slob, the doofus, the dandy and the dirty Mexican. Oh and Nolte, can't understand a bloody word he's saying, not one.

Now whilst many might be expecting the biggest load of horse shit this side of the Rio Grande, in all fairness, its not that places. The gang sets out to pinch 50K from various people and places that they consider to be bad or immoral, so they don't feel bad about stealing basically. As you might expect what you get is pretty predictable stuff with some pretty daft action. They rob a bank utilising Ramon's diarrhea filled donkey as a diversion, yes this means the donkey shits all over someone. They steal a huge gold nugget from a casino owned by Smiley Harris (Harvey Keitel), this involved much silly hijinks from the whole gang such as Chico and his piano playing and Tommy with his knife skills. They also steal a huge sum of cash from Ezekiel Grant (Jon Lovitz), Mark Twain (Vanilla Ice) and General Custer (David Spade) in a poker game which involves the whole gang. Yes I did just mention Vanilla Ice as Mark Twain, yes it was unbelievably insane casting, yes I admit I quite liked it yet I do not know why, yes I am ashamed of myself.

Another rather quirky scene involved John Turturro as Abner Doubleday, the man who apparently came up with the all American national past time of rounde...errr baseball. I don't know the history behind this actual person, nor do I know the rules of baseball inside out, however I do have a basic knowledge of the game, not that that's necessary to enjoy this scene though...I digress. Anywho, this scene is actually quite amusing as Turturro literately makes up the rules of baseball as he goes along, but only because he's trying to not lose at his own creation. It sounds childish but the fact that Doubleday is useless at his own sport creation, whilst everyone else is getting the hang of it, was actually reasonably funny, mainly because of Turturro's performance.

This movie is pretty much like any throwaway silly comedy I've ever seen through my life, it has its moments, it does make you smile at times, and to that affect...its done its job essentially (much like the gloriously stupid Chris Farley comedy 'Almost Heroes'). The cast is impressive, it looks good, surprisingly authentic at times with some quality classic western-esque shots and angles and the musical score appears to be a complete rip-off from 'City Slickers'. Other than that I dunno, I really don't. The controversy for this movie turned out to be exaggerated, and I truly think people are jumping on the Sandler hate bandwagon way too quickly these days. Yes it was garbage mostly, I fully agree, but was it the worst thing I've ever seen? no, no it wasn't (although Lautner may have killed his career).


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Return to Oz (1985)

Ah, the long forgotten sequel, of sorts, to the classic 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. Now, this little gem of a movie was actually loosely based on the novel The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum and in part his other novel Ozma of Oz. The plot takes place six months after Dorothy's (Fairuza Balk) original adventure to Oz (in the year 1899) and sees her struggling with insomnia. She is sent off for electric shock treatment at some spooky clinic because in this era people didn't know any better, she isn't being punished, people just thought these methods helped. Anyway, Ozma appears and helps Dorothy escape during a frightful storm, in the midst of the panic Dorothy leaps into a fast flowing river and is swept away. Exit the real world, welcome to the fantasy zone. Dorothy awakes after the storm, but she is no longer in Kansas, she is now once again in the magical land of Oz.

Okay lets get down n dirty here, this movie didn't do very well upon release, although I have no idea why. It was 1985, [i]Star Wars[/i] mania was still in full flow, Lucas, Spielberg and Henson were the grand overlords of Hollywood. Fantasy was the big thing in the movie industry and this movie had plenty of that. Just looking at the films poster you can see the influence people like Lucas and Henson had on everything. That recognisable, glorious hand drawn style with the typical character posing positions which you saw in many 80's fantasy posters, it looks like a Lucasfilm/Henson Film product. Next to that the visuals even looked like something from Lucas or Henson, the effects in this movie were of a high standard for the time and anyone of a certain age can instantly see the similarities to other movies of the genre, from that that era. Basically I'm saying the movie felt very much like a Lucas or Henson movie, so the fact it didn't do well was a curious one (although many of these films got greater recognition later in life).

Now admittedly I don't know much about Baum's stories, I haven't read the books, but just with a little bit of research I found myself genuinely impressed with the levels of faithfulness this movie incorporated. The movie appears to pick n choose bits to use from the books and they aren't exactly the same, but in general the essence is there. The first and most obvious nod to the original material are the characters. Now back in the day I was always confused why the characters looked so vastly different to the 1939 version, but its actually the 39 version that was way off base (obviously for limited technical reasons). In this movie the characters are actually very faithfully recreated and what's more, they all look fudging brilliant!

First up the Scarecrow, gotta be honest, I don't like the look of this character in this movie, he looks bloody creepy. Its a bloke in a suit wearing a large full covering mask, but the masks face doesn't actually move, the expression was fixed, its only in quick cuts do we see a different expression, bloody creepy I tells ya. But as I already said he does look exactly as drawn way back in the 1904 novel. The tin woodsman doesn't really show in this film, he's there but only in briefly and doesn't say anything, a shame because this character looks awesome, they really nailed his look perfectly. The same can be said for the Cowardly Lion, again he only pops up at the end in a cameo, we don't hear him speak or anything, he's just a large but very well created animatronic puppet.

The new characters are a joy, a real blend of fantasy and imagination brought to life with much scope. Tik-Tok is a squat, big and round, completely copper, wind-up soldier from the Army of Oz, with the appearance of a typical WWI soldier. Now this character is easily one of the most impressive feats in this film, he's a full blown complete costume that does actually look like its been made out of actual metal. The character waddles around awkwardly, so much so that it makes it hard to believe this guy could actually be of any use because he moves so slowly and loudly and constantly requires winding-up, a lot of artistic license and suspension of disbelief required for this guy. Jack Pumpkinhead immediately serves up one thought, did Tim Burton see this movie and get the idea for Jack Skellington? Bloody looks like it doesn't it. Anyway again its another fantastic full body suit for a very tall slender fellow, the head being slightly animatronic as it does appear to shift at times for expressions of horror, although not too much. The Gump is, I believe, based very loosely on the sawhorse that Dorothy uses to escape Mombi? This guy is a collection of various items all tied together to create a flying creature, mainly a large couch with wings and a moose-like head, the head being fully animatronic. There is also Dorothy's faithful chicken that appears to be completely animatronic for the most part, and again is damn impressive, looks pretty real.

This leaves the Nome King (played by Nicol Williamson), a character that seems to be living rock and wants to become alive or human in form, presumably so he can rule easier. At first the King appears as just an aged face in the rock, but as time passes we see him in full humanoid form, looking more like a traditional King but made out of rock. The Kings visual appearance seems to be accomplished using claymation (in my opinion), just like all his demon-like minions whom only appear as faces on rock surfaces. The effect is simple stop-motion yet very effective, it clearly takes time and effort to accomplish and still holds up very well. Later makeup effects to make the King appear more human (or alive) are actually really fantastic, you can see its merely face paint/face makeup, prosthetics and clever lighting but my God its good. The combination of Williamson's acting and the spectacular makeup on top really make the Nome Kings scenes the best in the movie. Hell even the Wheelers are well created even though they are just blokes on stilts with wheels on the bottom. Their costumes may come across as a bit stupid looking these days (although their masks are pretty sweet) but their gangly, gaunt appearance accompanied by that eerie rusty, squeaky sound effect (their wheels) which precedes their emergence, is what makes them so bone-chilling.

Funny thing is, what can a Wheeler actually do to you?? These...people? have wheels for hands and feet. Literally all they can do is roll around. At the most they could either run you over or, I dunno...bite you? Hit you with their wheel hands maybe, but they might lose balance if they tried that. Yes the odd proportions of their bodies looks very peculiar and that was one factor that scared the kids methinks. But they are essentially bloody useless bad guys...unless you wanna make a rollerskating/blading team perhaps?

Other effects in the movie aren't quite up to speed though I must be honest. Whilst there are lots of decent matte paintings being used for landscapes, which work nicely, there is also a lot of bad bluescreen going on, every now and then you get a truly disastrous bluescreen effects shot that just pops up outta nowhere. Some of the sets range from being quite lavish and authentic, to being really fake looking, obviously plastic of foam. Whilst some sequences are really very very poor looking, Dorothy falling down into the Nome Kings lair is dreadful looking, like something from the 50's. Its basically a live action Balk pasted against a horrific kaleidoscope of colours in the background via bluescreen (or rear projection). Other sequences such as Dorothy and co falling through the sky were always gonna be crap looking and totally ridiculous.

What I did like about this movie, character effects aside, was the darkness, the fact that director Murch went out of his way to actually make this a much gloomier affair. This is supposed to be a kids flick but there is so much going on that will scare them, it always gave me the willy's back in the day. Right from the start with Dorothy being taken to Dr. Worley and his house of horrors for shock treatment. Then you have the witch Mombi played with such ferocity by Jean Marsh, she really lays into that character with such force and conviction, especially with all the heads she collects stored away neatly in glass cabinets. Add to that her headless body that stumbles around like Frankenstein's monster whilst all the disembodied heads scream from their glass prisons! Holy nightmare! hardly the stuff for children! The finale against the Nome King isn't for the faint-hearted child either as the giant stone head tries to devour everyone, until he gets poisoned and pretty much rots away roaring in agony leaving a skeletal stone structure.

Just like the original 1939 movie, the whole adventure is hinted at nothing more than a dream with some characters from the real world that manifest themselves in Oz. Of course there is always a little twist to make you keep wondering. Overall I really struggle to fault this movie despite its negative points and glaring plot holes (how did Billina the chicken wind up in Oz with Dorothy? come to think of it how did Dorothy wind up in Oz?). Yes the film is way too dark for kids which is the target audience, the heroes are just as scary as the baddies to be honest, visually at least. So that's an issue, Jack Pumpkinhead is suppose to be the nice, soft, scaredy-cat type fellow, but he looks bloody terrifying! (for kids), thus making it hard for people to relate. On the other hand I must applaud the bravery and attention to faithfulness of the source material. In general it all looks wonderful...if slightly cheesy and corny by today's standards naturally. Yes you could say I'm looking through rose tinted specs and you'd be a degree, nevertheless this film still makes a grand impact with solid performances (including the young Balk). A classic whimsical fairytale which is engaging, endearing and dare I say...retro, well worth your time.


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)

This was the last movie to feature all the original Python's together before the death of Graham Chapman, it was also the groups last movie altogether, there were no more after this unfortunately. Clearly the decision was also made to go back to their roots with this movie. The more coherent story angle that was used in their previous two films was jettisoned and their good old fashioned collection of surreal sketches was used as the main basis. The main big difference this time was the added bonus that the movie was in fact more of a musical number, albeit a more twisted dark musical of course (South Park eat your heart out).

Now when I say the movie goes back to their old routine of surreal sketches, they do...but the sketches aren't exactly the same as their old work. Oh no, in this movie the individual sketches are actually much longer and are almost micro movies within the movie, they have their own beginning, middle and end...almost. Of course the quality of these sketches is much greater, they are much more elaborate, more in depth and like I said, actually have mini plots, none of them are just throw away quickies. Being a big-ish movie things have to appear much smoother and slicker than their TV days (or since their first sketch movie 'And Now for Something Completely Different'), and it is. Like their previous two excellent historical comedies proved, the combined skills and talents of the troupe, gelled with a solid budget, and you have gold. 

From start to finish the film consists of reasonable sized skits, mostly original, although some ring a few bells, and some with pretty impressive musical song and dance numbers. Surprisingly there is little to no twisted animation from Gilliam, it kinda feels like there was supposed to be but they decided to turn them into live action sequences instead (my thoughts). Some of the smaller sketches certainly seem like they could of been animated, it felt very odd seeing a Python movie that didn't have their unique classic animations, a Python sketch movie that is. Its also quite stunning that the song and dance sequences are so good, you'd never expect it. The first big number we see is set in Yorkshire and has a distinct Oliver Twist vibe to it in terms of visuals, choreography and the music, not to mention the actual size of the whole thing. That's not even the only dance number, there's another big one towards the finale, and another classic Eric Idle song in the middle too.

The movie is actually chopped up into chapters, chapters based on our progression through life, birth, middle age and death being obvious. Naturally there are some more silly chapters snuck in which are clearly there just for a stupid laugh, live organ transplants? Each of these chapters tends to have one main little sketch/story that runs for its short length, but there are the odd brief quickfire moments in between which are purely independent from the main little story. For example, with birth the main story is about a Yorkshireman (Palin) and his wife (Jones) who can't stop having kids because their faith won't allow him to use a condom. So he decides to sell all his kids (he and his wife have about 50 kids) for scientific experiments. Middle age is mainly based around an innocent yet dumb American couple (Palin and Idle) on vacation, they go to a fancy restaurant and order a conversation (not food) from the waiter (Cleese). Death, as you might have guessed, is all about a group of stuffy British people having a bit of a do (with yet more Americans on holiday I might add), when Death turns up and takes them all to the afterlife. In between these chapters are a few sub-chapters that deal with things like growing up, war etc...

Now these little sketches were always a mixed bag for me, some hit and some miss. The film initially  starts off with a mock movie complete with its own credits, 'The Crimson Permanent Insurance'. Now this short introduction is a gem, absolutely brilliant and very dark. Its all about a group of elderly office clerks working for a major accounting firm, they are treated like slaves by the younger fitter suits. When one of them gets fired they revolt, kill all the young suits and then...errmmm...set sail as if the whole building was some kind of old galleon. They all dress like pirates using office equipment, run the building as if it were a ship and 'sail' to big cities and bring down their major finance corporations by attacking their skyscrapers, or 'boarding' them, and killing all the young suits within. It sounds completely insane, and it is, what do you expect from Monty Python. Thing is, its so well filmed, it looks great visually...effects wise, its imaginative and I believe could be an actual full length movie in its own right (think 'Pirates of the Caribbean'...with OAP's, and good). The same can't be said for all of the content of course, some is just weak and not particularly funny (the middle aged American couple) whilst other bits are just disturbing ( organ transplants?). But one such highlight that must be mentioned is of course Mr Creosote, the enormous fat bloke who goes into a restaurant and eats so much that he explodes in a shower of innards and bodily fluids.

Its definitely a more adult movie from the Python troupe this time. Previous movies were always cheeky with the quick blink and you'll miss it bit of nudity perhaps, the odd swear word, the odd hint of gore etc...but mostly things were more suggested or simply sexual innuendos which the kids wouldn't understand. In this film there is quite a bit of blood on show, some profanity and a lot of nudity! Hell I remember watching some scenes with my parents and being really embarrassed, all the sexy girls running with their boobs out, or Cleese teaching his class sex education by actually having sex in front of them! Twas so awkward and naughty for the time. Yet seeing this at a young age (dad is a fan) and I do recall not understanding things, not getting the meanings. Watching now as an adult it is very different and opens up the film so much more, being able to understand all the dirty adult stuff, plus all the nudity is now so tame.

Its not quite as good as I remember it to be frank, plus of course its dated pretty badly now. Its generally like all of the Python work, some of it is brilliantly funny, brilliantly written and brilliantly performed, whilst some of it just misses the target badly and would fall on flat ears. I do enjoy the film, it is engaging and it offers some nuggets of comedy gold without a doubt. I just kinda think at times it doesn't feel like a Python movie, it feels too slick, too flashy, you tend to expect the cheapness of the TV series or the earlier movies that just looked cheap. At times it feels like a compilation of clips from other movies, you half expect to see something from 'Time Bandits' pop up. Its a strong movie, I just feel it could of been better, it isn't a patch on the two movies they made before this, one featured a bloke named Arthur, the other a bloke named Brian.


Saturday, 9 January 2016

1941 (1979)

After a gigantic Diplodocus sized dump of success with his first two big mainstream movies, one about a large fish and the other about some annoying little brat that gets kidnapped by aliens in ice-cream cone shaped UFO's, the one and only Spielberg had complete and utter control over everything. Strangely enough, much like his best mate George Lucas, this power went straight to his head and he came up with this odd little feature. Still to this day I'm not really sure what his intentions were or whether I actually like this or not, it certainly doesn't seem or feel like a Spielberg movie, not in the slightest.

The plot is an odd mixture really, set in 1941, it basically sees a Japanese submarine led by Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee (a Nazi), on course to try and hit the western coast again just after the recent Pearl Harbour attack. The US is on high alert after the bombing, paranoia is running amok but there is a real risk of another attack. During this time we follow multiple storylines involving various characters within the US military that eventually all combine at the finale. You have the unhinged John Belushi as Wild Bill Kelso who flies around in his Curtiss P-40 fighter and...errr little else really. I kinda get the impression Spielberg mainly stuck him in because he was a big star at the time and was virtually a package along with Dan Aykroyd. Meanwhile, a tank crew consisting of Aykroyd, John Candy, Mickey Rourke, Treat Williams and  Frank McRae are on their way to a military base or just on patrol due to the recent attacks (not really sure), and getting into all sorts of trouble. Sitarski (Williams) is after a young girl who is also the target of the young whippersnapper Wally (Bobby Di Cicco), both of whom are trying to take her to a local dance contest.

Meanwhile!! Major General Stilwell (Robert Stack) is trying to control everything from the general public to his inane troops in the midst of this supposed pending doom from the far east. There is also a love story going on between Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen that flits in and out of the other sub plots, Slim Pickens is kidnapped by the Japs and interrogated on-board their sub, Ned Beatty and  Lorraine Gary get an anti-aircraft gun stuck in their backyard, and Eddie Deezen is stuck atop a ferris wheel overlooking the coast for the pending Jap invasion. In short, the entire thing is a horrific muddle of plots that intertwine with each other, and basically they all focus on one thing, the Japs invading the west coast and everyone going crazy with paranoia over it. The only twist is, the Japs actually are and do invade the west coast confirming everyone's paranoia, but it then leads to even more batshit happenings as everyone tries to combat them.

Apparently this mishmash of a plot was actually based on some real events from the era. This probably explains why its such a mess, because they based the movie on several different events. The first being the supposed and infamous 'Battle of LA' whereby LA apparently came under attack from a mysterious object in the sky. No one knew what it was, but they shelled it anyway, because hey...Merica! Other events were the bombing of an oil refinery in California, an incident where an anti-aircraft gun was indeed stuck in someone's backyard, and something called the zoot suit riots. Basically lots of migrants flooded the State from Mexico to help the war effort, as did lots of marines and sailors, aaand they all ended up fighting each other. Twas called the zoot suit riots because at the time zoot suits were trendy and many young Mexicans (and others) wore them.

In all honesty this movie is such a mess, you really have no clue what's going on and why half the time. Sure there are young blokes in uniform fighting over dames and other crazy blokes in uniform doing silly things, but that's it. The whole thing is like one long long large action sequence, or riot, it doesn't stop! The plot sinks below this constant barrage of high octane hijinks including a lot of fisticuffs, big dance routines, cockpit tomfoolery, sloppy romance, mass destruction of everything, lots of gunfire and loads of screaming into the camera. There is no way in hell you'd think this was a Steven Spielberg movie, not a chance, its like some cheesy, cheeky, high school flick filled with jocks and nerds in a constant raucous.

Now even though most of what you see is an absolute headache of noise, it all looks terrific. Overall it may not come across like your typical Spielberg movie, but in terms of visuals and special effects, it definitely has that classic old Spielbergian (dare I even say...Lucas-esque) vibe going on. All the period sets, props and costumes are wonderfully detailed and highly authentic looking. You have all the classic cars, planes, machinery, electronics and weapons spot on from the era too, everything from the radios, the local diners, to the decorations in the dance hall, it all looks gorgeous, far too good for such a throw away flick like this really. I must also give much kudos to the model work on display towards the finale, a full scale town mockup I think, also included were a lot of decent bluescreen shots (for the time), solid interior (exterior) plane and sub sets and I think some matte painting work going in places. The full gamut of special effects wizardry going on which you come to expect from these old action movies, but they still hold up very well.

The cast is clearly another big key element and hook with this movie, its like a who's who of the time. You have some epic actors like Lee, Beatty and Mifune alongside crazy comedians like Candy, Aykroyd and Belushi. Much like the movie its a real mishmash of talents that don't really gel together in my opinion. Mifune is clearly taking his role as a Jap sub commander pretty seriously, Lee is also coming across as an eerie Nazi officer (kinda like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'), but then Spielberg sticks Slim Pickens in a scene with them. Its also evident that the studio wanted more of Aykroyd and Belushi because of their SNL fame at the time, unfortunately there isn't really anything for them to do and it feels like they are just crowbarred in for exactly that reason...their SNL fame. Seriously, Belushi doesn't need to be here at all, his character is good for visual gag. Most everyone else is young and upcoming admittedly so it doesn't feel like overcrowding in that (big name) sense, but there is clearly way too much going on, too many characters jockeying for space, too many little plots going on. Also far too many silly cameos that just weren't needed, it felt like some kind of big variety show or Spielberg giving all his mates sweet little plum bit parts for no real reason.

In the end this movie really feels like a misfire, I'm honestly not sure if Spielberg really knew what he wanted to do here. Its suppose to be a zany comedy but its not really very funny at any point, although its zany enough. Plenty of action and pep as everything zips along but its so disjointed and uneven, I'm still not really sure what Wild Bill Kelso was supposed to be doing, or why he's even in the film, and apparently Christopher Lee's Nazi got killed by being thrown into the sea? I guess he couldn't swim? One issue that springs to mind is the fact everything this movie is based on (and sends -up) is the history of California, and virtually unknown to most. Sure you could say that about many things but the events this movie are based around feel even more minor than usual, as though its a big in-joke for the people of California (those in the know). Alas many probably haven't got a clue so it just comes across as a daft, meaningless screwball comedy that just isn't funny. I guess one last plus point now would be the nostalgic factor, looking back at this amazing ensemble cast, won't see anything like that again.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)

Back in 1974 movie goers got a taste of the first real horror icon that would go on to become bigger than the franchise he first appeared in. I refer of course to the chainsaw wielding man-child, Leatherface. This large, imposing maniac with his huge weapon of death turned the horror world upside down and kinda introduced the lumbering mask wearing killer. Now even though I don't believe there is a connection between Leatherface and Jason, I can't help but feel that the 1974 cannibal did have an influence on the Crystal Lake killer, amongst others. Up next in 1978 was the John Carpenter classic 'Halloween' which again changed everything. As we all know this movie introduced us to yet another iconic killer in the form of the mask wearing Michael Myers. Just two years later in 1980, and influenced by the silent Myers, the low budget slasher movie 'Friday the 13th' (kinda) gave birth to Jason Voorhees, or at least planted the seed which would eventually spawn the Jason we all know and love today.

Back in 2010 Wes Craven's iconic horror creation A Nightmare on Elm Street got a huge 4 hour documentary covering every aspect of the franchise, every movie, everything, up until the remake (which wasn't covered). There have also been a few solid docs based on Michael Myers and the Halloween franchise, so it was inevitable that Victor Miller's creation would get its own huge epic making of. This gigantic documentary also covers every aspect of the Friday the 13th franchise, every movie right up to the 2009 reboot/remake, including the short lived TV series, and chatting with virtually every person involved with the franchise, obviously including directors, stuntmen and makeup artists. Add to this tonnes of behind the scenes pictures, cut scenes, outtakes, clips, design work on effects, props and outfits, location information etc...This is the ultimate encyclopedia of knowledge for this movie franchise.

This marathon of horror kicks off in the capable hands of the one and only Corey Feldman...indeed. Yep a downright obviously, heavily, fake tanned Feldman (almost looking orange!) sits around a dark spooky campfire with a bunch of other faceless people. Yep you guessed it, the idea here being he's telling the others all about the fable of Jason and Camp Crystal Lake, I believe they are all supposed to actually be at the lake, ingenious huh. Feldman actually narrates the entire documentary and to be honest, he does a good job with it, he never acts stupid or anything,  he narrates sensibly with a much respect. I'm just not too sure why we needed the crappy campfire set sequences that bookend the doc, very cheesy, very obvious.

Unsurprisingly the documentary starts off right at the beginning with the first movie and naturally with all involved with its initial setup. People such as Sean S. Cunningham (looking like Michael Bay), Tom Savini, Vic Miller etc...You are taken through virtually every process in the creation and development of each movie, discussions on characters, casting, effects, scripts...the whole enchilada. Most of this is obviously in interview form with the various people whilst you are hit with lots of pictures and behind the scenes footage.  Every concern and notion appears to be discussed from the tiniest detail to the largest problem, stories from people both behind the camera and in front of the camera, for all of the movies (including people in small roles, cameos and all the blokes that played Jason). Depending how knowledgeable you are on the franchise will presumably determine how much you discover and enjoy what is brought up. Each of the movies are explored in separate chapters and tend to run for around the same amount of time depending, although some have more gritty info than others.

For example in the first 13th movie, the entire sequence of Jason popping up in the finale was merely a joke, a visual gag to shock with no real intentions by anyone to take the character forward. In fact this finale was supposedly a rip-off from the 'Carrie' movie finale, no one ever suspected a franchise would spawn from the movie, so it was just thrown in there. It was also interesting and amusing to find out that Ebert and Siskel both hated the first movie, offering scathing reviews and warning how dangerous it was to women and any young people watching. After much success with the original, in part 2 the basic story makes no real sense. The rights had been purchased by Frank Mancuso Sr. of Paramount and they had big plans for the newborn franchise, a movie every year. Despite concerns from some people it was insisted that Jason Voorhees be brought back into the fray even though his character wasn't really part of the original movie.

In part III the infamous hockey mask is first introduced into the franchise (I guess that became popular then huh) and the movie was originally released in 3D. In part IV the actor playing Jason (Ted White) really disliked the young bratty child star Feldman and wanted to actually kill him, plus director Joseph Zito was very harsh on the cast resulting in Judie Aronson developing hypothermia. Part V didn't see the return of Feldman even though he actually really wanted to do it. He was already filming 'The Goonies' so was only able to make a brief cameo. Part VI was the best movie of the bunch for me, I think visually it looked terrific, Jason is at his absolute prime here and it stars horror cult icon Thom Matthews. Its still corny as fuck for sure, but its the epitome of the 80's horror bound action genre if you ask me, its nearly flawless for all round trashy gore.

Part VII was originally supposed to be the giant clash of horror icons with Freddy entering the fray, alas that didn't happen after the studios failed to come to an agreement. So instead the powers that be simply threw in a second rate Carrie-esque type character for Jason to fight. Obviously it wasn't the actual Stephen King created character, but lets be frank here, she looked pretty darn close. Part VIII was easily the weakest concept (for the time), we've run out of ideas so lets just have stick Jason in New York, voila! It added nothing new accept for a city backdrop, but again it was pretty damn 80's which was sweet. Part IX was never known as part IX because of rights issues, hence it became 'The Final Friday' with a complete reboot of the Jason mythology. Again Jason v Freddy was originally thrown around, but instead it became a story about a demon possessing bodies or whatever. Finally it comes to part X, the greatest, tackiest idea ever...actually played out, Jason goes into space and also becomes half Terminator (sort of), best synopsis ever. Eventually we got Freddy v Jason and in all honesty, it wasn't that bad. Ronny Yu seemed an odd choice for director, Hodder was controversially dropped introducing Ken Kirzinger as Jason, there was no Wes Craven, and Pinhead of the Hellraiser franchise was at one point a possibility as was Corey Feldman. Finally this endurance test ends with the reboot, the Michael Bay produced reboot that no one really wanted and the director didn't seem overly bothered about.

Overall from what I can tell, over the franchise, all the movies (or most of them) appear to have plenty of reshot/edited scenes for either time constraints or their graphic nature. There are also numerous cut or alternate endings for some of the movies along with tonnes of alternate ideas either at the writing stage or beyond. As I've already said, your enjoyment will come down to how much you already know, I have only skimmed over a small fraction for the purposes of my review. I'm willing to bet even the most ardent Jason fan won't know everything mentioned here, surely there will be some intriguing surprises for some. Either way this is still an excellent documentary that covers nearly everything (I would imagine). Actually the book which came out in 2005 (same title) supposedly includes even more information, more dirty secrets that for some reason haven't been covered here, or were but maybe cut? To be honest there were so many stories of negativity between various people over various things throughout the franchise I wouldn't be surprised if certain things were cut or deliberately not included. So maybe this isn't the ultimate inside look at the franchise, maybe the book is, nevertheless, this is still a worthy edition to any fanboys collection.


Monday, 4 January 2016

Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)

Checking back into the Hotel Transylvania, such a lovely place, plenty of room, any time of year, you can find it here. Yes all your favourite monsters are back once again, same setting, same sort of spooky gags, but this time things have obviously moved on since we last visited, for the better? hmmm debatable. Oh and everyone's favourite comedian is back too! Kevin Adam Sandler returns with more top quality voice form...hurray?

So this time Jonathan and Mavis have ended up getting married, they have a kid, Count Dracula is fine with this, as are most of the monsters, and now its time to decide where and how to raise the child. This is the plot, the eternal struggle of raising a child, but to raise the little boy with humans or monsters? that is the question, the new direction for the franchise. Now admittedly this angle was kinda inevitable with the whole monsters vs humans scenario, it does make sense, but that doesn't mean its right. Essentially what we have here is a completely cringeworthy, vomit inducing, politically correct tour de force that is quite literately shoved down your throat until its popping out at the other end. For a start they have neutered the monsters, in the first movie the whole acceptance/stand-off issue between humans and monsters was amusing, but now monsters have 'moved on', they have 'progressed', they no longer scare, eat or hunt humans, they are all friendly, tech savy and into selfies. 'Listen, I'm not gonna set monsters back again just to make your kid like vampires', ugh! I could actually really sympathise with the Count on how wet all his monster buddies had become.

Now of course I realise this is essentially a kids flick so...don't take it seriously, check, but the whole thing just frustrates me. On one hand the whole angle of these monsters being rusty and out of tune with actually being scary monsters is fun, good angle, but some of the dialog and the entire direction they take is so disgustingly PC I just couldn't enjoy it. There is clearly a big moral message in here about acceptance, and more importantly, mixed race relations it seems. Monsters in relationships with humans, the human parents meeting the monsters for the first time, trying to fit in but kinda not doing, making faux pas, a total culture clash, we get it movie. Again this concept could be cool but you always get the inkling that deep down they wouldn't dare make too much fun of this whole notion because its too close to reality (not the monsters obviously), that and its a kids film of course.

Another decent idea played out in one sequence was the overly protective PC vampire camp for young vampires to hone their skills. The Count and co take his young grandson along to try and coax out his evil vampire traits, the emphasis being on wickedly evil of course (wide grin). When they arrive the Count is horrified to find the camp has been turned into a namby pamby, nanny controlled, lawsuit-sensitive summer camp, which in-turn is now run by a predictable social justice warrior type, complete with hipster beard and campy voice (I think we've all seen many of these student types around). Now again, on one hand I can see that the team behind the movie are (presumably!) mocking this PC viewpoint of the modern era, the fact everything is child proof. On the other hand (again), its still frustrating because its bringing attention to this type of crap which actually goes on in reality, and I'm still not totally convinced if its in here to take the piss or because we all live in an ultra PC society these days and everyone has to conform, including horror icons apparently.

Now don't get me wrong, the movie isn't all about some preachy PC message (not all of it anyway), there is some fun to be had. Much of this fun comes from the core characters, Frankenstein's monster (Frank), Wayne the werewolf, Griffin the invisible man, Blobby the green blob and Murray the mummy. Each of these guys are actually brilliantly funny at times and all interact really well amongst themselves, including with the Count. One running gag I did enjoy was the invisible man and his apparent invisible girlfriend, who is clearly make-believe, but because they are invisible no one can tell. I liked the Count's issues with trying to work modern day technology such as smartphones, he can't use them because his fingernails are too long. The road trip to try and break out little Dennisovitch's (actually named Dennis by his parents but the Count makes it more...vampire-ish) vampire abilities gives us some nice moments. Wayne acting more like a dog than a werewolf, Blobby getting bullied, ignored and pushed around and the Count's growing frustration at his friends inabilities to actually perform like proper monsters. Credit where credits due, all of the voice work for these guys is funny and witty and everyone from Kevin James to Sandler puts in a solid performance. Buscemi and Spade hitting the main home runs for sure, but the overall cast line-up in this film is impressive.

I gotta also mention the use of Mel Brooks as Vlad (Drac's father), nice touch! Definitely gave a really cool olde worlde charm to the latter half of the movie, with the added bonus of some classy old school spoofery to boot! I also liked his large gang of huge vampire-like bat creatures too, great design, eerie, uber cool...yet completely unexplained, like why did they carry on fighting the good guys once Dennisovitch is discovered to be a vampire? never mind. The visual effects were great everywhere actually, just like the first movie. Terrific attention to details on interior and exterior locations, colourful, vibrant, zany, displaying Geddy Tartaovsky's unique artistic style in 3D, wonderfully atmospheric and kooky.

The movie is a mixed bag of highs and lows, some nice ideas, good laughs, good visuals and I adore the iconic gothic horror genre to death (see what I did...never mind). Downside, are they serious about all the sickly politically correct righteousness going on here? can't decide...probably are. Plus this is a kids movie so expect lots of God awful modern music slapped in for no real reason whatsoever, it just kills any atmosphere dead in its tracks everytime. Its not bad, its not good, its not original, but it could of been better, they haven't really learnt much from the first movie, clearly.