Sunday, 30 June 2019

The New Barbarians (ITL, 1983)

aka 'Warriors of the Wasteland' upon release in the US.

From the infamous cult Italian director of such classic rip-offs like '1990: The Bronx Warriors' and 'Escape from the Bronx'. Enzo G. Castellari serves up yet another hot piping dish of post-apocalyptic mayhem which quite frankly borders on copyright infringement with other obvious US movies.

The Plot: In the year 2019 (ha!!) the world has been devasted by a nuclear apocalypse. All that appears to be left of humanity are small pockets of life that eek by as best they can. Yet despite the hardship and struggle these survivors must deal with the daily savage attacks by a gang called 'The Templars'. A group of psychotic morons that want to eradicate all humans...except for themselves of course. Only one man stands in their way and can save what's left of humanity, Max...I mean Snake...errr I mean Scorpion (no not that Scorpion). A former Templar thug turned good.

OK so let's just acknowledge the blatantly obvious straight away. This is a complete and utter rip-off of the classic 1981 Australia action movie 'Mad Max 2'. No ifs, no buts, this is literally the Italian version of that movie with minor changes. Pretty much all the same questions arise when watching this movie such as, how do they keep the cars fueled? Where did they get their matching outfits from? How do they keep the outfits so clean? Why wear the same colours? How does no one run out of bullets? And why are there lasers in this world and how are they kept running??

This post-apocalyptic world is a vast endless barren desert...clearly filmed in a quarry of some kind. Pretty much all the action sequences are filmed in and around this quarry. The good guys are a colony of religious types that just wanna live in peace. As said they all dress near enough the same with the same colour schemes (brown) and they always look very clean. Their home or base looks like a crude military camp on the outside whilst quite impressive on the inside (like a classy Tardis). But they all have plenty of guns and ammo.

On the other hand the bad guys...actually they look like religious nuts too. Well what do you expect with a name like The Templars? The bad guys again all dress in matching uniforms which are all white in colour and again always spotlessly clean. They have loads of guns, lasers and heavily modded vehicles (all of which are totally tooled up with medieval implements of death). Now the odd thing is the leaders, or main characters, in the baddie bunch look like contestants from Sweden's entry in the EuroVision Song Contest for the mid 70's. Seriously, its a mix of an ultra religious Christian bible basher, with a Stormtrooper, with a very camp looking Swedish song and dance act. Some serious wig work in this.

Now the lone-wolf hero, Scorpion, is your typical Han Solo clone. He wears everything you would expect to see on this type of hero from the leather pants to the low cut shirt to show off his chest. What's more amusing is the ass strap that goes between his legs to keep his gun holster in place. He is played by Giancarlo Prete and is the archetype of the Italian male (curly hair and Roman looking features). On the flipside we have good old Fred Williamson who's back for Enzo playing Nadir, a kind of tough lone-wolf anti-hero who doesn't really need to be in this film. Clearly Enzo wanted his American star back.  But yeah Nadir is like this Jedi master type who wears this super cheap looking plastic armour and is super skilled with a bow and explosive arrows. He merely teaches Scorpion to be even more badass. Oh and he porks some young girl who's dressed in transparent plastic. You know, just to show us he's all man.

Everything else in this movie is exactly what you think its gonna be without even needing to watch it. There is a somewhat badass female character who can kickass but still needs saving by Scorpion. There are of course plenty of vehicle chases and vehicle-related death sequences which are quite quite hilarious in terms of basic effects but still fun nonetheless. Every vehicle in every chase sequence is clearly cruising along very slowly (you can tell by the background and long shorts). Yet they all have really silly overpowered sound effects. All the fights are very obvious and also executed really slowly. And amusingly, all the people running from vehicles run in a straight line, like in 'Prometheus'. It never occurs to anyone to run to the left or right to evade the vehicle.

Oh and then there's that sodomy scene, yes that's right. In one quite shocking scene the bad guys have captured old Scorpion and have him strung up in their base. Now you think they're gonna torture him for info or fun, but no, they decide to bugger him instead. Yep, they forcibly bend him over and one of the main bad guys smashes his backdoors in. I kid ye not! So errr...hurrah for LGBT representation? Ahem!!

Clearly the budget was low for this, there were limitations, but you can see everyone on Enzo's team really did put a lot of effort in and that's cool. Yes the film is a total shameless rip-off and it is essentially a bit crappy. But there is a lot of fun to be had here. The deaths are ridiculously over the top. The vehicles are even more insanely over the top. 'Mad Max' up to 11! The score sounds like something from an 80's videogame, awesome. One baddie takes drugs. The wigs are...outlandish. And Scorpions final outfit is something to behold. Like the young slutty girl, he too dons a transparent suit...of body armour, complete with fake muscle structure. It's like Robocop or a Marvel superhero, but their outfit on top is transparent. The craftsmanship!

Truly a movie for the 'so bad it's good' camp. If you enjoy a good cheesy sleazy sci-fi romp with oodles of knock-off ideas that look like trash warmed up, then take a seat my friend. Only Enzo's 'The Bronx Warriors' can match this.


Monday, 24 June 2019

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (UK/HK 1974)

This was the ninth and final Hammer Horror film based around Dracula, the swan song for the studios cult classic blood-sucking series. Not only is this final entry famous for not starring Christopher Lee as Dracula, its also quite infamous for the various edits and movie titles. In the US a heavily cut version was known as 'The 7 Brothers meet Dracula'. Whilst at the same time on trailers it was called 'The 7 Brothers and their One Sister Meet Dracula'. And in Asia the film was known as 'Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires'.

So the story goes thusly. In 1804 A Taoist monk ventures to Dracula's castle in order to ask him for help in restoring power and dominance to the Seven Golden Vampires in the rural area of China that he hails from. The Count is not too bothered at first but then decides to help the monk in exchange for his mortal body so he can leave the confines of Castle Dracula. The monk does not like this aspect of the Count's deal but the Count gives zero shits and takes his body anyway. Not too sure why Dracula would even consider this deal knowing he couldn't actually accept it without a mortal body to inhabit.

So Dracula goes off to rural China (despite not showing us how he goes about getting there or how the Count knows where to actually go in China). It's now 1904 (why? I dunno) and the Count has taken control of the Seven Golden Vampires in the rural area and is draining the local women on a regular basis (in the monk's form). Meanwhile at the local University Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is trying to teach the locals about local Chinese vampiric legends but no one believes him (so why do they take his class?).

One of his students Hsi Ching (David Chiang) informs Van Helsing that the legends are actually true (his grandfather was involved in one of the local stories or vampire myths) and asks him to come to a small village to destroy the vampire threat. Naturally Van Helsing agrees and ventures off with his son Leyland (Robin Stewart), Hsi and his seven siblings who are highly skilled in martial arts and combat, and Vanessa Buren; a wealthy widow they saved from a rival Chinese gang not long before. From here on the movie is literally Kung Fu vs vampires...and it's hella awesome.

OK so if you've seen any of the other Hammer horror movies then you know what you're in for here. The visuals are generally a mixed bag truth be told ranging from obvious campy sets to obvious cheap little villages where all the vampire fodder lives. Admittedly there is some solid detail in the sets but they can't help but look fake; tis all part of the charm. I love how in one scene the goodies set up camp in a cave which is of course your typical perfectly sized cave for a large group of people and a riotous battle. But much like the classic 60's Batman series with Adam West many interior sets, and exterior night shots, are bathed with ugly green or red lighting and much smoke. Sometimes even the odd Dutch tilt. This is obviously to give off a nice supernatural vibe but let's be honest it always looks a bit kooky. That's not to say it all looks obvious, they did utilise locations too, although not the most inspired Hong Kong landscapes.

Natuarally a lot of this movie takes place at night because it's a horror and also probably to hide the lack of realism and bare-bones sets. But this does also help with the rather shoddy makeup effects too which are again a mixed bag. The first real taste of the undead we get is John Forbes-Robertson as Dracula who is literally caped (ahem) in makeup. They really slathered the stuff on with a trowl because it looks pretty awful and terribly obvious. Like you can clearly see where they have tried to bring out his bone structure. The actual golden vampires are slightly better with their full latex looking masks but again it's a bit shoddy lookin'. They all look like Leatherface from that 1974 horror film...but with Tina Turner style wigs on and ridiculous fangs stuck in their mouths. But I understand they are supposed to be Chinese vampires and thusly the team maybe went for a more demon-esque look.

Movie highlight has to be the few sequences of the undead rising from their graves in the depths of the night. It's not scary or anything but it is pleasantly creepy and extremely well done. Obviously the darkness will have hidden a lot but watching the earth slowly part as a skull-faced undead zombie begins to poke through is most entertaining. The nice wide shots of the scruffy shadowy graveyard and gravestones with numerous undead zombies popping up and stumbling about was nicely atmospheric. Again it's nothing original by today's standards and even at the time I'm sure it had probably already been done; but it certainly looks like it may have influenced many future horror movies.

So whilst the makeup and sets are somewhat lacking, the crazy kung-fu hijinks makes up for it. You want kung-fu vs vampires? You got it. There is no let up as we get one large battle after another. Van Helsing and his plucky band of ninja warriors (all of whom have special fighting skills with knives, axes, spears, bow and arrows, swords etc...) take down the golden vampires one at a time until they themselves eventually succumb to the undead hordes. The action is indeed pretty sweet I have to say. Sure all the weapons look fake as feck. Clearly no one is making contact with anyone. The extras in the backgrounds of fight scenes wait patiently in line for their time to fight a hero. There is blood but its sooo fake looking, far too red. And some of the death throes of the vampires are quite comical. On the plus side, I loved how the vampires all crumbled, melted, and decomposed before our very eyes once finally put down. The effects are naturally basic for sure but still highly enjoyable.

I did find it odd how these Chinese vampires didn't really attempt to bite anyone though, they are vampires after all. I should also point out that they seemed to get killed like any normal mortal when struck with a weapon anywhere. I'm gonna assume they were struck in the heart each time but it didn't look like it. But you shouldn't really look into this much seeing as this entire movie is basically an excuse to have kung-fu in a vampire flick.

I think the main problem with this movie is the fact that its only really engaging when the vampires and their undead army fight the kung-fu dirty dozen (not actually a dozen). Sure it's amusing to watch Cushing pretend to fight. Sure it's amusing to see Cushing in his exploring attire (that helmet and scarf!). And yes, it is always a joy to simply watch and listen to Cushing in full flow. But there are a lot of flashback scenes here, all chocked full of mythical exposition. And Dracula himself is hardly in the film and when he does turn up Van Helsing kills him off quickly (but with the best decomposing sequence). Really you didn't need Dracula, you could have just had Van Helsing going to China to fight Chinese vampires. Dracula was clearly only used for brand recognition but restricted because Lee was no longer involved. I'm not really even sure what Dracula's longterm plan was. Take over the monks body. Go to China and take control of the 7 golden vampires. And then...? Take over China? Take over that specific region? Was he simply trading Transylvania for China?

So yeah the entire basis of this flick is based on Hammer desperately trying to inject new blood (ahem) into their failing horror franchise. They tried it before (and failed) dragging Drac into the modern world of the 60's (at the time), and this time they were aiming for the younger generation and the new martial arts craze thanks mainly to Bruce Lee. Did it work? Umm...kinda. Despite the total absurdity of the concept the movie isn't the disaster you'd expect. Overall it looks fine, the action is solid, and Cushing helps keep things grounded which is quite the achievement really. If you think about it this is one hell of a cross-over, classic vampires and Bruce Lee action essentially. That alone should draw attention and it rightly deserves some. It lacks that classic Hammer vampire atmosphere but the star of this show was always the martial arts.


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Dumbo (2019)

For those not in the know this is a Disney cash grab...sorry remake...of the classic 1941 animated movie surrounding a flying baby elephant. I realise this might read like I'm stating the obvious but judging by the state of the box office for this movie it seems a lot of younger folks might not actually know this. I will also point out I only watched this more out of curiosity as I did grow up with the original and I think its a fine animated Disney film, a true classic.

So in 1919 (yes its a period flick too) a small travelling circus is struggling its way across the US. After a series of recent major setbacks the future is not looking too rosy for Ringmaster Max Medici. But unbeknownst to Medici he has an ace up his sleeve just waiting to be played. His large female Asian elephant is pregnant and will soon be delivering a miracle. That miracle turns out to be a little baby elephant with huge wing-like ears. At first all are shocked by this unusual defect, but sure enough in time the little pachyderm brings much joy and success to all around it.

K the first thing that always bugged me about this movie (yep I'm referring to the original) was the fact that the circus folk (and the other animals) were so shocked by an elephant with large ears. Like seriously what is the deal with that? How is that so shocking? The same can be said for this new movie but on an even large scale. In this incarnation the circus is clearly a bit of a dodgy carnival with bad acts, little fanfare, and little budget. It's not a nasty circus per se, it's just running out of steam. Heck even the freaks aren't real.

Surely in the circus era of 1919 seeing freaks (people with disfigurements, illnesses, wounds etc...) would be a pretty common thing and most probably relished. So the fact that an elephant with freakishly huge ears turns up should fill everyone with joy. Surely this little elephant is a gift from the gods in terms of making money from gullible (uneducated) people. So the fact that Medici acts all horrified and wants nothing to do with it makes no sense at all.

Second point is the Burton aspect. I love me some Burton, oh yes, but was he the right choice for this movie? Yeeeah...not really no. We know what Burton does well and he does still do it well. You all know what I mean by that and you all know what to expect here. This time period and circus setting is indeed perfect for Burton and his kooky visions. Visually everything is pretty slick and inevitably dark looking. Think of all the circus characters in 'Batman Returns' but just more realistic in tone. Except for the obvious and tiresome greenscreen and CGI shots which we simply cannot escape from these days, everything looks really nice here.

Kudos to all the people behind the CGI animal effects as they are actually really really excellent. I was really expecting to see a horrendously obvious cartoonish CGI elephant with big ears but what we get is actually a fantastic recreation of the little animated elephant. Even his big blue eyes look very realistic. I cannot fault the overall motion or look of any of the animals in this movie. Nor can I fault some of the recreated scenes from the animated movie which are, surprisingly, well captured again here.

What I can fault is the overstuffed plot and various pointless characters. Naturally the plot here has been altered to fill out a proper runtime and it kinda works and kinda doesn't. I appreciate what they have tried to do and it does sorta work, but at the same time it really does just highlight how good the original animated film was in its sheer simplicity. The original movie was a bare-bones affair to a degree, very little dialog, characters, or plot even. The movie was only about an hour long for heaven's sake. In this remake they have crammed in a whole load of characters that don't need to be there (Colin Farrell's character). Backstory that is completely unnecessary. Huge action scenes (of course). The classic songs and their sequences are all but gone. And naturally a grand finale in a grand location.

Don't get me wrong I love me some Michael Keaton and I do kinda like his cruel dastardly amusement park owner Vandevere, but what the feck was going on in that last act??!! All of a sudden we're at a flippin' enormous steampunk version of Epcot Centre with a dash of Jurassic Park and The Jetsons thrown in! Clearly this guy has got money judging by the size of his park, his army of employees, and the interior of his buildings (look at his office!!). But that does lead you to query why he would need a flying elephant that much. The other thing that got me was the fact that despite the audience and a rich investor (Alan Arkin) seeing Dumbo fly (granted only for a few minutes), they still weren't happy! The audience wanted their money back and Arkin's character wouldn't invest in Keaton's park! Dude! You literally just saw a flying baby elephant! What more do you need???

Then to really top things off, the heroes try to save Dumbo and his mum from the devilish Vandevere by shutting down all the electricity in his gigantic park. This causes panic all round but it is compounded when Vandevere arrives at his control room tower and starts essentially pulling every lever and pushing every button to try and get things going again despite his men telling him not to because it will overload the system. This then causes everything to apparently catch fire and start to crumble down giving us this immense towering inferno that engulfs the entire park! What. The. Feck. Burton!

Yeah, so it's pretty obvious this would never replace the classic 1941 original, not even close. Like I said I do appreciate what Burton tried to do here but it was always gonna be a losing battle and one that should have never taken place. Clearly they had issues with...everything...and it only goes to prove you don't need to remake everything, especially a classic animated movie that only had a runtime of literally 1 hour. It's not the worst movie in the world no, it's not even close, but it is completely pointless. And with that, I hear by rest my case on the mystery of the continual Disney cash grab phenomenon. Case closed!


Saturday, 15 June 2019

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

Another children's book series adapted into a potential movie franchise? Ugh!!! Directed by Eli Roth?? Wha??!!

So in this story (originally published in 1973 so it predates a lot of most children's book movie adaptations), a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle John (Jack Black) in his large creepy Addams Family style house after his parents are killed in a car accident. From the outset it's pretty clear that all is not quite right within this house. Unsurprisingly the boy's uncle turns out to be a warlock, a good warlock, and his best friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a good witch.

Eventually Lewis grows accustomed to his new supernatural surroundings and begins to learn the ways of witchcraft. Unsurprisingly Lewis finds out that the old house was once owned by an evil warlock called Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) who has hidden a clock within the walls of the house. He has done this because he wants to turn back time to the point that mankind never existed and the hidden clock will somehow allow that to happen via some magical alignment or something, I dunno. Of course this can't happen because Isaac has been long dead and buri...oh the young boy disobeys his uncle's orders and uses a magical book to cast a spell which raises Isaac from the dead. Of course.

So what does this movie offer that we haven't seen before? Rhetorical questions my dears. Yep this movie offers nothing, quite literally nothing. Am I being harsh? No I genuinely don't think so. The highlight of the movie is clearly and obviously Jack Black as Lewis' uncle. Yes even though we have seen these kinds of Black performances before they are undoubtedly enjoyable every time. Whilst they have clearly tried to give Black a kind of Dr. Strange-esque/Vincent Price-esque look and quality which does actually fail, it's still charming. The way Black interacts with his spooky house is a fun element.

The rest of the cast are drab predictable and uninteresting whilst the villain could have been played by literally anyone because it really didn't matter. There is a coming of age element in the story with Lewis' parents not being there and him having to learn to come to terms with that and his uncle. There is also the usual school bullying aspect thrown in there too and Lewis making friends with a random kid who helps him. It doesn't turn out the way you expect it admittedly but it's not groundbreaking stuff. Will kids pick up on it? Maybe, maybe not, I lean towards them being interested in the flashy effects more than anything.

Other than Black the only other element I did like was the 50's setting in a typical all-American 50's small town (or so it looked). Yeah we've seen this before but there is something so cozy and charming about these kinds of settings. A warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia even though I wasn't even alive at the time. I think it's down to all the old sci-fi and horror movies I've seen and enjoyed from that specific era that draws me in. Obviously I'm not alone in this because many of these kids flicks tend to have these small town settings. The interior house sets were also a plus for me with their thick wooden design and gorgeous old-worldly supernatural decorations. I love a good solid well dressed period-set haunted house.

But that is also the problem with this movie, it just feels too similar to so many other movies. To be more specific, this movie basically feels like another Goosebumps movie. I mean its literally the same spiel with the same lead actor! The special effects look no different, the same obvious CGI throughout. The various monsters and creatures could easily be straight out of said franchise. It's all the same, if Slappy had turned up it wouldn't have looked a bit unusual at all.

The plot also didn't really help. I have not read the original book so I cannot say how accurate everything is, but Jez is this a mess. The evil witch wants to rewind time right back to a point where he can stop mankind from ever happening, but why?? Why would anyone want to actually do that if they could? Wouldn't that mean that the evil witch himself wouldn't exist? What would he gain from this? Then there was a whole load of hocus-pocus about the clock in the wall turning back time so he can erase mankind or whatever. What's so special about that clock? Why hide it in the house? Then the lower half of the house (which seems to get bigger and bigger the further into the movie, like the Tardis) turns into a big clock of sorts with huge cogs and gears which gets stopped by merely dropping a magic 8-ball into them.

I mean I realise this is a kids movie but it's just too meh and despite being based on a book, it's completely the same as many other kid flicks. I mean how many supernatural children's movies have there been now?? (all trying to ride the coattails of Harry Potter). Heck even the movies poster isn't much to shout about and it looks fairly derivative. The plot is boring and makes no sense. The visual effects are terrible (CGI baby Jack Black?) but the actual sets are top banana. Black is good but much like everything else here too familiar. And lastly there's no real tension because the villain and his plan is utter nonsense.

This basically felt like a Poundland/DollarTree Harry Potter and the third generic sequel in the Goosebumps franchise.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Mortal Engines (NZ/US, 2018)

OK so let me start this review by explaining my initial thoughts on this movie and its basic premise. As I'm sure many are aware the basic idea in this movie is how civilisation has crumbled after a devasting war and the remaining humans have, for some reason, decided to mount all the remaining cities on wheels so they can 'drive them around' so to speak. Well although this sounds cool on paper (in a kind of GamesWorkshop related way) I also found it to be simply ludicrous.

Obviously I know this is based on a fantasy novel and the entire concept is outlandish science-fiction, but really? So firstly I would have to ask how the feck mankind is supposed to have put their cities onto such huge chassis. This would mean they would have had to dig up famous landmarks (such as St. Paul's in London), load them onto the chassis, and then somehow fix them in place to said chassis. I then found myself asking what about the rest of London? How did they decide what to save? Are all the other buildings custom made for the new London-on-wheels or have they also been dug up and planted on the chassis?

I then found myself asking the most fundamental question (I think). What is the actual point in building (or putting) a city on wheels? How does that benefit the city? I mean yeah sure you could move it to the coast in the summer but it just seems so utterly stupid. Just looking at these things they look so fragile, vulnerable, and in one case completely top heavy. A neat fantasy idea for a cool image and again it sounds wicked on paper, but when you actually see it in live action and try to think about it logically it raises so many questions. Also the fact that mankind has done this after an apocalyptic event really makes little sense. Not to mention the fact they still seem to have a lot of technology, materials, food, water, and working men to actually build all this stuff. These vast mobile cities are damn impressive feats, yet they go around destroying each other.

My last nagging question relates to the land itself. It seems that the surface of the Earth has changed since the '60 minute war' and countries like the UK have now joined mainland Europe (?). Anyway, considering how vast the mobile city of London is (and I assume some other cities), it got me wondering if there was enough space on the land for all these mobile metropolises. Heck even the smaller mobile cities are pretty big and its indicated there are many of them. I mean you could ask the same about ocean-going cruise liners in our present day and obviously there is plenty of ocean for lots. But if there were loads all roaming around on their own accord I'm sure there would be problems. This also led to me ask what state the land would be in. These gigantic mobile cities tearing and grinding up the earth as they piledrive along. The land would be wrecked, flattened, no trees, no plant life, no animal life, a complete wasteland.

As for the actual movie, well its a mixed bag really and does indeed remind you of some other large budgeted sci-fi movie failures of recent. First off it is very much your bog standard Star Wars type clone with all the usual bog standard characters. Mix in some other very common elements from some other well known classic franchises (I don't even need to mention them) and this is the inevitable result. The only aspect of this movie that was slightly fresh was the steampunk aspect, which I liked.

But yeah you have your standard unwilling hero who finds himself thrust into a war of which he was somewhat naive about (and in this case looks disturbingly like Justin Trudeau). The standard strong female character who is trying to get revenge. The standard well-spoken leader who is actually behind closed doors the nasty villain. And then basically a whole load of background characters doing the usual stuff for both sides. I also have to mention that yet again we have a clear case of all the goodies being a multicultural bunch. Whereas all the baddies are all white, just like in The Last Jedi. A strange and increasingly obvious Hollywood trend.

I mean in all honesty, aside from the admittedly cool and intriguing visuals, there isn't really that much going on here. It has the exact beats (both character and plot-wise) you would expect from a sci-fi feature of this ilk, literally scene for scene. In one sequence the main villain Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) wants to unleash this cyborg from a prison so it can hunt down and kill the main hero Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). Now Weaving's character is highly important in this movie, he has sway and power. Yet in order to release this cyborg he destroys the entire prison killing everyone. Couldn't he get this thing out without doing that? This attack also highlights how vulnerable and badly designed these mobile vehicles are, in this case a spider-like walking prison. One shot to a leg joint and down it goes.

And speaking of the cyborg (a clear Terminator rip-off called Shrike), what was that all about? From what I can gather these things were men that have been killed in battle and then resurrected with mechanical body parts. And apparently there was an entire army of them. This particular one looked after Hester as a child after her mother had been murdered. Why this killer cyborg decided to do this I don't know. But the really odd thing is the fact that the cyborg offers to turn Hester into an undead cyborg (because she is suffering depression from the murder of her mother). Hester agrees (!!) and makes a promise with Shrike. But in changing her mind Hester breaks that promise which triggers Shrike to continually hunt her down in order to kill her and transform her into an undead cyborg (eh???). This entire subplot was just idiotic and was completely pointless to the movie. You could literally remove it all, utterly aimless.

Of course Shrike eventually tracks Hester down to a city in the sky (yes that's right a city in the sky, in the clouds if you will...ahem) and in the ensuing battle the city starts to fall apart. Shrike gets badly damaged and Hester does find her original love for Shrike is reignited as the cyborg is obviously about to expire. And in typical action movie fashion despite the entire city falling apart around them with explosions and debris, both Hester and Shrike manage to muster enough time in order to have an emotional farewell (in true Terminator fashion).

So yeah suspension of disbelief is required for this movie. Whilst that might sound obvious for a sci-fi fantasy it's a bit different for this one seeing as its sorta supposed to reflect upon certain obvious political issues of our current time such as capitalism, climate change, easily manipulated governmental systems, non-renewable energy etc...Cities that 'eat' and 'absorb' other cities which only benefits the few (in the cities) instead of everyone which would possibly lead to a better future. Basically saying, or highlighting, how society can/could eat itself. This can be easily detected in the story but the sci-fi element is so zany with its wheeled warrior cities the social commentary kinda gets smothered. Not to mention the sheer quantity of horrendous greenscreen effects and shots. Stand aside Star Wars prequels, there's a new joker in town.

So yeah, the wheeled tank-like cities concept is engaging but ultimately really stupid. The rest of it is by the numbers science fiction which can be somewhat fun but only when the characters are actually onboard some kind of moving vehicle (they aren't very good characters that's why). Once they fall off onto the ground the movie literally stops dead, which is weird when you think about it. This is a highly imaginative and packed world for sure but as said before it owes so much to other films and tries to do too much. I felt like I was watching the final movie in a trilogy (or more!). The movie really feels like it needs sequels but I doubt that will happen. One thing I will say, I reckon this has future cult status written all over it.


Saturday, 8 June 2019

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019)

So this popped up outta nowhere. An animated movie with Batman and the Turtles? Yes please! Now can we have the same for Batman vs. The Predator? Anyway so this is apparently based on a short comicbook series of the same name, but with a little bit of research they are not entirely the same plot-wise.

In short, Shredder has come to Gotham to work with Ra's al Ghul. Shredder is helping Ra's build a machine that will throw Gotham into chaos by infecting all citizens with a mutagen. Said mutagen is also combined with a powerful venom of the Joker's creation. In exchange for this Ra's will give Shredder the secrets of the Lazarus Pit. The Turtles follow Shredder to Gotham to find out what he's up to and who he working with; whilst Batman, Batgirl and Robin think the Turtles are working for Shredder. Much fighting ensues before they all team up to fight for the same noble cause.

The Visuals: As with any comicbook creation there are many variations of designs and styles. The same can be said for various animations too. In this movie there seems to be a cross-over going on. Clearly they have taken elements from various Batman and Turtle incarnations and thrown them together to create their own unique look. Essentially so this movie stands on its own and doesn't assign itself to any specific era of the characters. That's fine, but some of it I didn't really like to be honest. I'm no connoisseur on either entity but for me the whole WB hand-drawn style isn't that visually appealing. The whole movie looked like a slightly better than average weekday cartoon. I also didn't really like the look of the Turtles who looked more like green rock people than anything. Didn't like the Batmobile either, too many wheels.

It was strange how some sequences did look really decent whilst others looked kinda cheap. The inclusion of obvious CGI segments didn't help, especially with this specific WB hand-drawn style. For example, all the sequences where Shredder fights Batman looked really good, really manga-ish and quite mature/gritty. Then many of the sequences where Batgirl and Robin appear, or where the Turtles are in clear view, all look kinda childish. Some of the Batman villains looked good, some looked too weekday cartoonish. In fact much of the final showdown all looked a bit weekday cartoonish. I get this is aimed at a wide spectrum of fans but I can't help but feel a more mature approach would have elevated this immensely.

The Villains: Yes they all show up. Pretty much every well known Batman villain makes an appearance for one Arkham set sequence, except for the Riddler. This is where the Joker uses his venom (combined with the mutagen) on all the baddies to mutate them into animals. Now whilst I kinda liked this idea, it again felt a bit 'weekday cartoonish' for me (Saturday morning cartoon silliness). You see, the Turtles turned into humanoid turtles because they were turtles beforehand, so why would all these villains turn into specific humanoid animals?

The fact they also turn into humanoid animals which conveniently resembles their individual superpower or characteristics was also kinda dumb. Mr. Freeze turns into a humanoid polar bear...because of course. Scarecrow turns into a humanoid crow...because crows sit on scarecrows? Joker turns into a Cobra because he's a slippery poisonous character (but being a large snake also seemed more of a handicap to me). Had the Penguin been in this scene you can guess what he would have turned into. The others turned into random mammals like a dog, wolf, big cat etc...I just think this would have played out better if they had merely mutated into monstrous versions of themselves (Batman mutates into a huge bat...ugh!).

Target Audience: I'm not too sure about this to be honest. There seems to be a clash of ideas going on as overall the entire movie is definitely aimed more at the younger crowd, but there is still some pretty hardcore action here. Simply put there is blood, not lots of blood, but there are scenes of bad guys getting their faces punched in with teeth flying and blood splattering. Bad guys clearly get killed either on or off-screen with blood-curdling screams and there is an actual decapitation to boot! The Turtles even curse a tad here and there! Although not really harshly.

I think one of the highlights of this animation is actually the splatterings of humour throughout. Again like the violence it's not crazy in your face but there is definitely a nice acceptable current of goofy gags and visual tomfoolery. The bulk of which, I might add, is mainly from Michaelangelo. Yep he's a pizza lovin' dude with a tubular attitude even in face of death, kinda. There is a crap-tonne of exposition in this movie but luckily Mikey is always there to lighten things up and even point out obvious flaws in the plot and characters in a meta-type of way. They clearly use Mikey as the viewers (us) perspective on everything. He asks the questions you find yourself asking. He mocks the things you will notice and probably chuckle at. It's all quite cleverly done really, gives this a whole new angle. One regular joke being Mikey pointing out the blimps in the Gotham night sky and his constant questions about what they're for.

Overall I found myself flip-flopping over whether I rated this or not. I do love the idea of the cross-over and I genuinely think it could work on the big screen, but once again I have to sway towards a more mature rating for it to work (in my humble opinion).

So enjoyable but it has its ups and downs. The Turtles seem short-changed in my view, they seem to be useless at fighting anyone with skill. Batman seems to be invincible and really should have lost against Shredder. Whereas all the other villains felt like aimless cameos which had to be here because its Batman. It is good don't get me wrong, its solid fun for sure, but I really think it could have been better. Just a bit more polish with the animation and less Saturday morning crap. Can't help but get the feeling the real highlight here is simply Batman vs Shredder, the rest not quite up to par.