Thursday, 31 May 2012

No reviews for a few days - blame Prometheus.

Yeah, that's right.

Everyone knows that my blog goes quiet now and again but I've really been enjoying trying to put content on here every day lately, especially as I know that there are a couple of weeks at the end of the month that will see me trying to attend EIFF 2012 screenings and then giving the reviews over to Flickfeast.

However, my whole schedule is out of whack for the next few days as I HAD to book my ticket to see Prometheus in 3D at 00:01 tonight. This means that I had to sleep in late today to make sure that I stay awake later on, I'll have to sleep in late tomorrow and then Saturday sees me back to being up extra early but only so that I can go along and meet my daughter for some playtime before my shift at work.

Overall, this means no other movie viewings or review writing for me for a good portion of the week. I blame Prometheus but I'm also hoping that it will all be most worthwhile.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Atrocious (2010)

Another Spanish horror movie that's based around some "found footage", this is also another example of  how to get it all just right. You may already be deciding to watch something else after hearing that this is a "found footage" movie, and I don't blame you for thinking that the style has been overused and stretched thin lately, but if you fancy something a bit creepy that also doesn't cop out by showing absolutely nothing then I recommend giving this a go.

Written and directed by Fernando Barreda Luna, Atrocious is all about a family going to spend some time at their holiday home. It's a very nice place but there's a local legend about the ghost of a little girl who meets anyone lost in the nearby countryside. Is the spirit good or bad? Is she even real? Cristian (Cristian Valencia) and his sister July (Clara Moraleda) are determined to find out because they like to investigate paranormal events and urban legends for the webshow that they host. And what better way to find out than by wandering around the large hedge maze that sits practically on their doorstep? Things, as you might guess, soon take a turn for the creepy.

The acting on display here is pretty good from everyone involved and, technically, the movie is fine but this kind of film tends to stand or fall based on one major factor - just how believable is the constant camerawork. Sadly, things become less believable as the movie works towards a big ending but for 3/4 of the runtime everything feels just fine. The atmosphere soon moves from the light and cheery opening scenes to something full of potential danger, a creepy mix of shadows and threat even during daylight hours.

Like most films of this kind, you may end up feeling frustrated by what you can't see and what you have to put up with (shaky-cam, chaotic moments of disorientation, etc) but you may take some comfort in the fact that this all actually leads to something pretty interesting and revelatory in its final moments, as opposed to the many movies in this subgenre that seem to tease and tease and tease and then just end.

There's still every chance that you end up thinking this is just another muddled, dizzying, dull excuse for a film. Every chance. Yet I really liked it and I hope that some others at least give it a go after reading this review.


If you are a huge fan of the horror genre and are looking for more great movies to watch then why not sign up to LOVEFiLM. Watch movies online for free when you use the one month trial which is for new customers. You can catch great movies like Atrocious, which I am now very glad I stumbled upon whilst "browsing the aisles", as it were.

Nazis At The Center Of The Earth (2012)

*****************************MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*****************************

Another day, another release from the lunatics who run The Asylum. This time it's Nazis At The Center Of The Earth. Reminding people that they don't just try to cash in on the success of big blockbusters, The Asylum try to make a quick buck off the b-movie greatness of Iron Sky. Considering that the last time they tried to copy such an enjoyable cult hit we ended up with the awful Snakes On A Train I wasn't holding out too much hope for this one. Thankfully, I was very wrong and this movie turned out to be absolutely mad in all the right ways, a deliriously ridiculous slice of hokum. In fact, it's SO hilarious and over the top that I couldn't help thinking I'd already seen it all done before in an episode of Futurama. Fans of great cinema should turn away now but anyone who shares my fondness for the dubious delights released from The Asylum should enjoy this one.

As if I really needed to explain the plot to you, it's all there in the title. A bunch of young folks working in  Antarctica are a bit bemused when a couple of their colleagues disappear. They're quickly even further bemused when they go looking for the missing colleagues and find an underground area that houses a bunch of zombie Nazi types engaging in experiments to prolong their lifespans.

Nazis . . . . . they just don't know when to stop exfoliating.

The experiments are being led by a certain Dr. Mengele (Christopher Karl Johnson) and he's very pleased when he captures his latest group of "test subjects". Surely it won't be long now until he discovers the breakthrough that can lead to a big, pissed off, zombie robo-Hitler.
See what I mean now about the Futurama episode? Am I right or am I right?

Whatever could that be? Oh, of course, it's a big, pissed off, zombie roboHitler!!!

With this completely ridiculous premise to work with, everything else pretty much has to aim at a certain level. The script by Paul Bales is suitably hilarious (in a number of intentional and unintentional ways) while the direction from Joseph J. Lawson just rattles through one gloriously daft moment after another. The special effects are often a bit better than past efforts from the studio (I think they just maybe have more programs locked in place and stock footage in the vault after each movie) and the whole film is boosted by the fact that it's so hilariously tasteless.

As for the cast, they're not really a memorable bunch. Jake Busey is the most recognisable one here, and his first scene is very funny (he gets to spout a lot of scientific nonsense before we are quickly made aware of just what a maverick he is). Dominique Swain is likeable enough, as is Josh Allen, while Christopher Karl Johnson makes Mengele into a good villain. As for everyone else, they all do well enough and deserve a bit of praise for going along with the whole absurd concept.

If you can tell me what real purpose this guy serves except to be onscreen looking like a strange cross between Jay Leno and 'Weird' Al Yankovic then please send me answers on a postcard.

Once again, this is a movie that shouldn't be rated highly by anyone who loves cinema (and I like to class myself as a cinema lover, despite my dodgy viewing choices) but it's so much fun and so damn entertaining from start to finish that I can't place it on the lower end of the scale. Therefore, I shall defend my rating in this way - the movie is fun and lively and deserves an above average score BUT it also tries to cash in on the success of another movie, has one or two moments of tedious exposition and doesn't really step up a gear during the third act so it sinks to a below average score BUT it has some good effects here and there, a distressing male takeover of the pro-choice movement and zombie frickin' Nazis. I fully expect to be met with derision on this one but the final score manages to edge just above average.


Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)

For anyone who enjoyed Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, you'll be pleased to know that this movie takes another figure popularised on film by Universal and uses it to great effect opposite our comedy duo.

Bud and Lou play a couple of detectives this time, with Lou only passing the training thanks to a timely bribe slipped to the head man from Bud. The two men are put in place to help an experienced detective but, as luck would have it, Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz) bursts in on them when they're alone in the office and assumes that they're the real deal. Tommy is a boxer wrongly accused of murder and he needs help to clear his name. To help him lay low in the meantime he takes an unstable, but effective, invisibility serum and this leads to plenty of laughs as Tommy helps Lou pass himself off as a top boxer in order to find out who the real killer is.

This is a fantastic A & C outing from start to finish, featuring a very funny script from Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant and very capable direction from Charles Lamont, who keeps everything perfectly paced and makes the most of a few great set-pieces.

The cast are all fantastic. Bud and Lou get to recycle a few of their routines, as usual, but also get plenty of new material to wring laughs from as they deal with their invisible client. And a boxing match in the third act is chock full of great physical comedy. Arthur Franz is, obviously, not actually onscreen for all that long but he gives a very good performance, both physically and vocally. Helen Gray is very good, Adele Jergens has fun getting Lou hot under the collar and Sheldon Leonard and John Daheim do well as men running up against our bumbling heroes. William Frawley plays a detective who knows that something is going on but can't get to the bottom of it, Paul Maxey is a psychiatrist who tries to use hypnosis when all else fails and Gavin Muir is the doctor trying to find a way to perfect the invisibility serum before Tommy Nelson is driven mad.

Based more around special effects and (lack of?) sight gags, the film still has more than its fair share of great one-liners and amusing exchanges and it's one that I recommend to fans of Abbott & Costello without any hesitation whatsoever. One of their best.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Peter Pan (1953)

Based on the classic tale by J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan is as easily enjoyable today as it was for audiences almost 60 years ago. It's lively, colourful, full of great characters and has a couple of excellent songs (plus one about "Red Indians" that adds yet another black mark in the Disney big book of race relations). The fact that Peter Pan himself is a bit of an arrogant git, that Tinkerbell is a moody wee lass and that Captain Hook is one of the more likeable characters onscreen (with the exception of the Darling children) doesn't matter - the final result is just so good that any negative points can be easily overlooked as you venture through Neverland and take in all of the sights.

Our story begins with Wendy Darling (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) telling stories of the brave Peter Pan and his battles with the dastardly Captain Hook to her younger brothers John and Michael (voiced by Paul Collins and Tommy Luske, respectively). The fun and games come to an end, however, when father appears and has his say. Wendy should grow up and stop telling the boys such tall tales. But they're not tall tales, not quite, because when the parents head out for the evening who should stop by but Peter Pan (voiced by Bobby Driscoll), the boy who never grew up, and once he gets his shadow reattached and sprinkles the Darling children with some dust from Tinkerbell he can take them all on a flight to Neverland to see everything with their own eyes. Of course, with Peter Pan being real that means that Captain Hook (Hans Conried) and his pirates (including Bill Thompson as Smee) must also be real.

It took about four directors and eight writers working on this over the years to produce the final film that we have with us to this day and what a great result. Walt Disney was actually said to be disappointed with the finished product because of how Peter Pan was represented but I like the fact that he's a bit of a brat. If you never grow old then it makes sense that you can allow yourself to be constantly carried away with every childish whim and daydream you have and that you can easily get too big for your boots, as most kids do during any extended playtime.

The movie has some minor flaws - the biggest one being the blandness of The Lost Boy although I am almost equally disappointed by a lack of any seriously dark moments - but I could still see myself easily agreeing with anyone who decided to choose this as their favourite, perfect movie pick

The vocal cast is superb but it's Hans Conried who takes the prize for his wonderful mix of menace and deviousness in the portrayal of Captain Hook. To be fair, it's often the baddies who are the most fun characters in the Disney animated classics but Captain Hook is still, for me, one of the very best.

Songs include famous titles such as "The Second Star To The Right", "You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly!" and  "Following The Leader" but there are also some other, very enjoyable, tunes in the film and, despite the lack of political correctness, I'd have to include "What Makes The Red Man Red?" as one of them.

If you're a youngster or just young at heart, this remains a fantastic interpretation of a children's tale and an animated classic to brighten up any day.


The Island (2005)

When The Island was released back in 2005 it quickly became the excuse that everyone needed to give director Michael Bay a bit of a kicking. It was a big-budget sci-fi action movie that didn't perform half as well as it was expected to, it pretty much led to (or certainly contributed to) the end of the Dreamworks SKG studio as it was established at that time and there were cries of plagiarism from anyone who had seen The Clonus Horror (a film that I've yet to see, but the fact that Robert S. Fiveson was able to bring a copyright infringement suit to court and have Dreamworks settle before the case could go to trial would seem to suggest that there was certainly a fair bit of common ground). There was also the strange idea to show a 45 minute preview of the movie at Cannes, which was almost like slapping numerous film critics in the face with a wet cod. The marketing maching rolled on and on and the movie went out into the wild with two good names in the leads and some interesting ideas but it was all far too late. Every interview seemed to become a minefield for anyone trying to avoid being quoted out of context and the knives were well and truly out.

I like The Island and I think it was unfairly treated when it first came out. In fact, I know a number of people who have since seen it on DVD or TV and grudgingly admitted that they thought it a damn sight better than a number of other Michael Bay movies that made lots more money.

The story is all about clones Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson). They don't realise that they're clones, nor do any of the other clones around them. Every day it's a similiar routine - wake up, eat whatever nutrients are recommended, dress from their unvarying wardrobe, work on a number of tasks and just wait until the lottery announcements are made. The lottery is the highlight for everyone, the winner gets to head off to The Island. But does the island even exist? Lincoln Six Echo starts to have serious doubts and when Jordan Two Delta actually wins the lottery there's no time to find out more so he takes her and they go on the run, opening up a whole can of worms in the process.

Mixing in action and thrills with some very interesting ethical food for thought, The Island perhaps tries a bit too hard to please the action fans while also pleasing those who like more thoughtful fare and maybe that's yet another reason why it didn't perform as well as expected. There are a number of potentially horrifying moments here and there throughout the movie but they lose their impact slightly by the time things move on to yet another typical upward-pointing 360 shot from Bay.

The script is pretty good, although a couple of characters could have been better developed (Michael Clarke Duncan should have bagged a bit more screentime and Djimon Honsou is let down by the writing in the final 20 minutes or so), and the direction is as you'd expect from Bay. I happen to think he's usually okay with anything that includes a bit of bang for your buck. Yes, he makes some bad choices like the harsh, harsh overediting of what should have been a fantastic car chase in The Rock, for example, but he can oversee some BIG set-pieces and put it all together in a glossy and entertaining package.

Last, but by no means least, we come to discuss the acting in The Island. This was also criticised by many people but I don't see anything wrong with it, really. Ewan McGregor, for most of the movie, has a strange American accent but who's to say that he was actually supposed to be getting it spot on anyway - he's a clone, actually only a few years old, and we don't know what influences he was exposed to in his formative period. Scarlett Johansson doesn't have any accent to put on but she does just as well as McGregor when it comes to playing up the innocence and vulnerability of their characters. Steve Buscemi is a delight for every minute of his limited screentime and Sean Bean oversees everything in a role that feels like a rerun of his role in Equilibrium. As already mentioned, Michael Clarke Duncan should have been in the movie more and Djimon Hounsou does well with what he's given. There's decent support from Kim Coates, Ethan Phillips and Brian Stepanek and Glenn Morshower also puts in a very brief, but very funny, appearance.

The Island is a very good slice of sci-fi action that I'd recommend to most people. There is, of course, a chance that you do end up disliking it and thinking that it deserved to perform as poorly at the box office as it did but I hope that's not the case. Mind you, if you absolutely loathe everything that Michael Bay does then this isn't going to win you over. If you can tolerate his style and are curious to see him do something that's a bit different from his normal output then you may just find this film as enjoyable as I do.


Monday, 28 May 2012

The Tortured (2010)

When a couple (Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe) have their young son snatched away from them they are understandably distraught. They want him home, alive and well. Bill Moseley plays the kidnapper and by the time he is apprehended it's too late. A young life has been snuffed out. This all happens within the first 10 minutes of the movie so I'm not spoiling anything here for you. The film really gets going when the grieving parents attend the trial of the murderer and find themselves unable to accept anything less than the death sentence. They find themselves getting more and more frustrated with each day that the killer continues to live that they decide the most satisfying justice will be their own. They hatch a plan to create the time and opportunity to have some "alone time" with the killer of their son.

The Tortured is an okay movie, especially during the middle section that features an awful lot of time showing someone being, well, tortured. Sadly, it all comes completely apart during an ending that is as implausible as it is insulting (yes, it IS insulting). Director Robert Lieberman may take some of the blame for not making the best movie possible but the worst offender here is writer Marek Posival, who was either thinking that he was being very clever while actually being very stupid or was, quite possibly, just taking the piss.

The acting by everyone onscreen is passable for this type of material but it's a real shame that this couldn't have been more carefully considered and balanced and thought-provoking. The central idea is an interesting one, as tempting as it is shocking. IF such a tragedy occurred in your life (touch wood that this should remain purely hypothetical for all) would you not want to take matters into your own hands? Such thinking has led to disturbing films such as The Last House On The Left, Straw Dogs, Death Wish and many others but The Tortured distances itself from superior offerings by providing no depth with the exploitative shocks. It doesn't want you to think about things or actually use the movie as a jumping off point for discussion and debate. It just wants to appeal to your basic bloodlust. That's all well and good if the movie was happy to aim at that level but that godawful ending shows that there are some loftier ideas shoehorned into the mix. That's when failure takes root, because a movie has to be a damn sight better than this one to get away with such bloody cheek.


Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Where The Wild Things Are is, as most of you probably already know, a film based on the beloved book by Maurice Sendak. I never read the book, neither in childhood nor at a later stage, so I can't comment on the adaptation of the source material but I have seen some of the artwork and must say that the film certainly seems to brilliantly realise the creations of Sendak. Directed by the enjoyably offbeat Spike Jonze, who co-wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers, there's a lot to enjoy here but also a few choices and moments that I just can't help thinking spoiled what could have been a really great film.

Young Max (Max Records) is an energetic and moody young man. He also seems to be quite a lonely boy, as seen in the opening sequence of the film in which he tries to get his sister to play with him, attacks her friends with snowballs and then gets upset when the whole thing backfires and his freshly-made igloo is brought crashing down around him. His mother (Catherine Keener) eventually comes along to make things better but she's a very, very busy woman. The time with his mother is clearly Max's favourite time but he doesn't have a very good way of showing this. In fact, he simply ruins an entire evening when he's jealous of the fact that she has male company round and then runs off . . . . . . . . and this is when the film finally hits its stride. After jumping into a boat and sailing as far as he can, Max ends up on an island populated by strange, wild creatures. At first they are tempted to eat him but he convinces them that he is a king and will lead them to a happier future. Of course, that's easier said than done and as things don't go according to plan Max starts to realise just how his behaviour impacts on others. Maybe.

With some absolutely wonderful creature creations - voiced by a great selection of people including James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano, Forest Whittaker, Chris Cooper and Michael Berry Jr - and a magical way of replicating that childhood sense of freedom, imagination, rulebreaking and entitlement, Where The Wild Things Are is a superb film for reminding you of just what it is/was to be a child. It's not a children's film though, not really. Some moments are a bit too dark, not enough is spelled out in more obvious terms for kids to learn lessons from and the emotions and various relationships shown are slightly too open and honest in a way that befits the behaviour of children looked at studiously by adults. It's a hard thing to describe, and I don't really want to pigeonhole the movie, but I'd say that the whole thing certainly aims to prompt feelings and memories of childhood rather than appeal directly to children.

The acting is great from everyone involved, whether they're visibly onscreen or just being heard or even being one of the hardy physical performers wearing the wonderful creature suits.

What spoils the movie, for me, are the bookends. The time spent with Max on the island dealing with the creatures is fantastic stuff, it's funny and thrilling and uplifting and saddening and all over the place like the typical rollercoaster of emotions a child can go through on any given day. Sadly, there's nothing to like at the start or end of the movie. I don't require it in every movie I see but there's no real resolution here and it's a film that cries out for one, whether it occurred in the original story or not.

Spike Jonze has yet to create anything that I have seen and disliked (from his music video work to his wonderfully unique movies) but this is the one that proves to be the least satisfying so far. The fact that I still rate it so highly is just testament to how truly great the main middle section is.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Invasion (2007)

It's a shame that The Invasion was either ignored or loathed by most people when it hit the cinemas because most of the reviews forgot to mention one little detail - it's actually very good. There may be some people that say we've already had enough adaptations, both official and unofficial, of the novel by Jack Finney ("The Body Snatchers") but I think that maybe it's a tale we need to keep reminding ourselves of. A sci-fi fairytale reminding us that we must keep our emotions and core humanity, no matter how far technology progresses or what the negatives are.

This time around the horror is all brought about by a virus that comes from outer space, a virus that takes hold and changes people when they fall asleep. The good news is that the virus is only spread through bodily fluids but the bad news is that those already infected do whatever it takes to spread their fluids as far and wide as possible (that sounds far worse than it actually is but at least you're now prepared for one or two gross moments). Nicole Kidman plays a psychiatrist named Carol Bennell who starts to get suspicious when she sees more and more strange behaviour and starts hearing about people not acting like their usual selves. As the epidemic becomes more obvious and more dangerous she sets out to find her young son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), who is spending some time with his father (Jeremy Northam). Thinking of a cure would be great but her son is her number one priority and Daniel Craig plays Ben Driscoll, the man who cares about Carol enough to help her even as society starts to break down around them and martial law takes effect.

Written by David Kajganic and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the sad fact is that a lot more names were thrown in the mix at one point or another to "save" this movie when the studio wasn't happy with the result. That's a real shame because the general updating of the premise is very well done and I think that the others involved in changing the final product make it difficult for a reviewer to allocate praise and/or criticism.

For the sake of argument, let me just judge the movie based solely on the fact that David Kajganic wrote the script and Oliver Hirschbiegel directed the thing. Let's just forget about the interference of others because I have no specific details about what the added or took away from the finished film. Well, Kajganic provides a very good script that makes the premise more believable than ever while still keeping everything rooted in the more unsettling details of the original tale. The slow but inevitable development of events as more and more people are taken over is executed perfectly. Hirschbiegel directs capably enough, with a few flashy bits of editing here and there but his focus always staying on the ideas raised by the invasion and the continual battle that rages between emotion and intellect.

The cast are also very good. This may not be Kidman at her very best but she's still a great female lead and easy to root for. Daniel Craig is as likeable as ever, Jeremy Northam is excellent (as ever), Jeffrey Wright gets to relay the scientific mumbo jumbo, Veronica Cartwright is very good in her small role as a woman convinced that her husband has changed and young Jackson Bond is a talented young man.

Admittedly, this isn't as good as the past adaptations of the story but it IS a good film and it's nice to see that there's still a way to adapt it for modern audiences without everything feeling tired and overdone. I really enjoyed watching this and I know that I'm going to stay in the minority with this opinion but I'd urge other fans of intelligent sci-fi horror to at least check it out on the small screen because it's most certainly not deserving of the bad reputation it has.


Silver Bullet (1985)

Based on a novella by Stephen King, Cycle Of The Werewolf, this is an enjoyable, if unspectacular, horror movie with a distinct 80s charm to it and a decent cast with many familiar faces.

The tale is narrated by a reminiscing Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows is the actress depicting the younger version of Jane onscreen) but the main events focus on her wheelchair-bound brother, Marty (Corey Haim), and the fear that encases the small town that they live in after a series of violent and random murders. Marty starts to consider the possibility that the killer is a werewolf but nobody really wants to believe him. He can only hope to convince Jane and perhaps his Uncle Red (Gary Busey).

Fondly remembered by horror fans who caught this movie when it first hit cinemas and then video shelves, Silver Bullet is one of many movies that seems to keep getting a lot more love than it deserves. It's certainly not a bad movie but it falls quite far down the ladder when compared to other films in the werewolf subgenre.

The direction by Daniel Attias is unspectacular, and the screenplay by Stephen King includes a lot of his favourite tropes (the narration by someone recalling their youth, the small town residents turning on each other, the use of religion to defend some horrible actions, etc), but there are a few moments that keep the movie just above average. A search party looking for a killer as they wander through mist-covered ground is an undoubted highlight, anything showing actual werewolf activity is pretty good and the whole third act is a great mix of tension and fun.

However, the most fun comes from simply seeing such a great cast going along with all the furry fun. Corey Haim had so much success as a youngster that revisiting any of his past performances makes you remember with sadness just how much of his life he wasted before his death in 2010. The young lad was likeable and capable and starred in a number of firm favourites in the 1980s. Megan Follows is a fine young actress who does well but, despite the film being told from her point of view, things always liven up when it goes back to the male cast members. Gary Busey is great as Uncle Red, a man who gains the disapproval of his sister (Robin Groves) but retains the adoration of his nephew. Terry O'Quinn isn't given all that much to do, he's the typically ineffective small town sheriff that King loves to write, but he's always good to see onscreen. Lawrence Tierney may only have a small role but he's as tough as usual and Everett McGill is very good in the role of Reverend Lowe.

If you remember Silver Bullet with fondness then you won't revisit it and find that you now absolutely hate it, not at all, but I do think that you may find your reaction similar to mine - the movie is a bit of fun, an amusing "time capsule" for a number of reasons, but it's nothing worth going out of your way to rewatch.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Night Of The Demons (2009)

For anyone interested, here are my reviews for the original Night Of The Demons, Night Of The Demons 2 and Night Of The Demons III: Demon House.

If you're going to pick a movie to remake then instead of taking on the classics, the Big Guns (if you will), things always seem to turn out better when the film being remade is a fondly remembered slice of fun  that can easily be adapted for modern audiences without losing the essence of it.

Night Of The Demons was a great movie but it was no classic. It was simple, it was fun and it had some excellent special effects. It also had a couple of very memorable moments featuring Linnea Quigley.

This remake takes the basic premise - a bunch of kids go to a Halloween party at a house that contains some tricky demons wanting to possess them - and uses a fantastic cast to great effect. It might be ridiculous and over the top in places but the original was no big lesson in subtlety either, so I don't see any problem.

Shannon Elizabeth plays Angela, the party hostess who unwittingly kickstarts the mayhem, and most of the movie focuses on her and the six others in the house (Monica Keena, Bobbi Sue Luther, the gorgeous Diora Baird, Edward Furlong, John F. Beach and Michael Copon). There's a cameo for the always-good-to-see Tiffany Shepis and an even better cameo for Linnea Quigley that changes an iconic moment from the original movie. Characterisations are slim but no matter - this is about young folk running around a house at night and trying to escape the clutches of demons.

The script written by Jace Anderson and director Adam Gierasch isn't the greatest ever but it references some of the best bits from the original - penned by Joe Augustyn and directed by Kevin Tenney - while joining the dots as we go from a solid prologue to a quick set-up to the beginning of the madness to a sustained sequence of fun and thrills that makes up the second half and finale.

The cast are a mixed bag but all do fairly well. Monica Keena is a likeable enough potential leading lady, Shannon Elizabeth does fine in the role of Angela, Bobbi Sue Luther is slightly underused but lovely anyway and I think I already mentioned the gorgeous Diora Baird (who also gets the two best moments in the movie). Edward Furlong is a bit of a disappointment and Michael Copon is even more underused than Bobbi Sue Luther but John F. Beach is very entertaining as the one male character you actually care about.

I've seen plenty people complain about this one but I honestly think that it's just an automatic "this is a remake so it's awful" reaction because I rate it exactly the same as the original. It has all of the same ingredients, including the failings, as the 1988 movie and it's slickly put together for 21st century audiences.


21 Jump Street (2012)

It's time for yet another old TV show to be given a comedy makeover as 21 Jump Street hits the big screen and I must start off this review by saying that this is a film once again based on a TV show that I have no knowledge of. Well, I understand that the basic premise revolved around an undercover police unit working at a school but beyond that I know nothing.

The movie starts off in 2005, showing us a couple of very different young men. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) is a loser while Jenko (Channing Tatum) is the handsome, popular guy who makes fun of him. The one thing they have in common is that neither is going to the prom. Move forward a few years and Schmidt and Jenko end up in the same group training for the police. The two men help each other out and become firm friends. Sadly, they don't seem to be very good cops and after messing up their first arrest they are transferred over to the Jump Street project - an undercover operation that will send them back to high school in an attempt to bust a drug ring. Strange as it may seem, in the intervening years the smart and caring kids have become the cool ones and the aggressive rebels aren't so beloved as they once were. Schmidt and Jenko have to struggle to adapt to their new roles but cracking the case must remain at the top of their agenda. Well, that and maybe going to the prom.

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and with a script written by Michael Bacall (based on a story worked out by himself and Jonah Hill), 21 Jump Street has plenty of great one-liners, a few decent comedy action sequences and some obvious but amusing character development.

The real ace up its sleeve, however, is the central pairing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. I have enjoyed the work of both actors in a number of other movies but they play off each other brilliantly here, with Tatum showing a real flair for comedy, and the chemistry between them ensures that this film rattles from start to finish with not one dull moment.

The rest of the cast all do very well, it's just clear that the movie is at its peak when Tatum and Hill are the focus. Brie Larson is cute as Molly - the young lady who catches Schmidt's eye, Dave Franco is very good as Eric (a cool guy but also a main suspect), Rob Riggle is as hilarious as ever in the role of Mr. Walters, Ice Cube is very entertaining as the angry Captain Dickson, Ellie Kemper is very funny as Miss Griggs - distracted by Jenko and there are far too many other names that I could single out for praise if I had the time/space/inclination but just trust me when I say that everyone does a fantastic job. There are also a few great cameos for fans to watch out for so keep your eyes peeled.

To be honest, I didn't expect much from this film. I was hoping for a few laughs but I was worried that it would be yet another comedy with all of the best moments already shown in the trailer. That certainly wasn't the case. It's slick and full of plenty of intelligence working alongside the dumber elements but also, and most importantly, it was laugh out loud funny for most of the runtime. Fans of the original show may not like the fact that it has been given a comedy makeover so do bear that in mind but for everyone else - I suggest giving this one a watch ASAP if you want your funny bone tickled.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)

How very strange. How very, very strange indeed. The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band is an oft-overlooked Disney movie that stands up today as nothing more than a real curiosity piece, mixing political debate with a number of lacklustre songs and the opportunity to see the big screen debut of Goldie Hawn (billed here as Goldie Jeanne Hawn) sharing space on the same cast list as future partner Kurt Russell. Their relationship may not have developed until about 15 years later but it's still fun to spot both of them in their youth, oblivious to what the future would hold.

The plot of the film is based on a book by Laura Bower Van Nuys and concerns the Bower Family Band (kind of like The Osmonds . . . . . . . . if The Osmonds had spent the peak years of their career singing and dancing in large barns). The Bower Family Band are all set to head off to sing a rally song for Democratic Grover Cleveland at a convention when the pretty Alice Bower (Lesley Ann Warren) receives a visit from a male suitor (Joe Carder, played by John Davidson) who somehow convinces the family to move to Dakota. Dakota just happens to be full of Republicans and this irritates Grandpa Bower (Walter Brennan) so much that he decides to upset as many people in the state that he can by being as vocal as possible about how happy he is to be a Democrat.

I honestly don't know what to say about this movie, it was such a strange mix. Yes, the ultimate message is (as you would expect from Disney) all about getting along with each other and how people can be judged separately from their political leanings but this is still a bizarre premise in which to throw some song and dance numbers.

Lowell S. Hawley was responsible for the script and Michael O'Herlihy was the director so they can share the blame for the fact that this is a dull movie. Yet I'm not sure it's fully their fault, surely there would only be so much you could do if given such a premise to work with (as in "hey, we have an idea mixing politics and a family band so go and make it into a kid's movie that runs for just under two hours for us").

The cast are a mixed bag. Walter Brennan is very good as the opinionated Grandpa, Lesley Ann Warren is lovely as Alice and John Davidson does what he can with his character. Young Kurt Russell is amusingly teeny tiny and Goldie Hawn is all smiles and big, big eyes in her small role but at least they both make an impression, unlike almost every other cast member onscreen. Steve Harmon, playing Ernie Stubbins, makes quite an impression in the big final dance number but only because he seems to be given a surprisingly feminine set of dance moves while he keeps a rictus grin in place.

I guess I can see this appealing to kids who might put up with the boring stuff in between the livelier moments of song and dance but, to be honest, I wouldn't bet on it. It's maybe not the strangest film that Disney ever released but it's certainly one of them.


Vampire Journals (1997)

An offshoot from the main Subspecies movies, this film focuses on vampire Ash (Jonathon Morris) and the man (Zachary, played by David Gunn) who seeks to stop him from biting any more women on the neck. The odds may be stacked against him but it's as good a time as any while Ash seems preoccupied with numerous other problems involving those he thought he could trust.

Once again written and directed by Ted Nicolaou (who, of course, helmed all four of the Subspecies movies and also wrote three of them), this film may run low on actual thrills or horror but it's a decent enough bit of gothic melodrama that should please fans of Anne Rice.

Characters spend an awful lot of time brooding over their past and contemplating their futures while not much happens. But it's all so degrading and horrible being a vampire, don't you know. Well, that would seem to be the case for anyone who doesn't just make the best of the situation and turn all ruthless with their fangs ever ready a la Ash.

A script that always teeters on becoming outright laughable is not helped by a pretty weak cast (the great work from Anders Hove is sorely missed in a film that stems from a franchise he towers over). Jonathon Morris does okay but, as I said in my review of Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm, he just seems so out of place because of how I grew up with his TV work here in the UK. David Gunn is a wet blanket, with the material mostly to blame for it but his performance isn't great either. Kirsten Cerre, Starr Andreef and Ilinka Goya have fleeting moments that allow them to make a better impression but the rest of the time they are consigned to the background and undeveloped. Mihai Dinvale is fun to watch (though not as much fun as he was in Subspecies 4) and that covers the important cast members.

Basically, what you get here is a cross between the Subspecies movies and a gothic video for a rocking power ballad. Think of it as Interview With The Meatloaf, if you like. Is that a bad thing? No, actually, if you know what to expect from it then it's perfectly acceptable. It's just a shame that it couldn't be a bit more creative and energetic to make up for the weak script and cast but some bloodshed occurs now and again and it all looks pretty enough so while it's nothing I can honestly call good I don't feel that it's something I can honestly call bad. Therefore, the rating is slap bang in the middle.


Slow Torture Puke Chamber (2010)

*****WARNING: If you turned your nose up at the post title then just ignore this entire review*****

Well, the "Vomit Gore Trilogy" from Lucifer Valentine comes to a close with this film, thus bringing me to the end of three film viewings that I hope never to repeat in my life. Each film has featured a mix of stomach-churning moments with other stuff that's just trying too hard to shock but they're also very successful at provoking an extreme reaction (I looked away on a couple of occasions and had to fight back the urge to throw up - in what would have been, surely, a grand piece of audience participation).

Once again, I'd have to warn most people away from this one. None but the most foolhardy or the most immovable should even attempt to watch this film.

Once again, there's no definite plot although the whole trilogy purports to be the vivid hallucinations/nightmares of a young woman so the content you get this time includes vomit, abuse, watersports, vomit, infanticide, sexual abuse and vomit. Pretty much the same as the preceding film then, except it's not quite as unrelentingly extreme in what it depicts.

In fact, with the first couple of minutes taken up by warnings (a statement from actress Hope Likens followed by a general "do not enter if possibly offended by anything" notice) this film, strangely enough, seems to suffer slightly by not really sticking to what it does best. The more shocking moments this time around are so fake that they're not really shocking and the whole thing teeters on the brink of complete absurdity. Of course, critics would probably say that about the entire trilogy but the second film at least contained astounding courage in every frame from beginning to end. Slow Torture Puke Chamber sees the whole thing end with a whimper rather than a bang.

There are moments here that are almost effective, the narration from the central character contains some of the best writing of the trilogy, but when viewers have been worn down by the first two movies a different approach is required to make the finale an effective one. Things either have to go even further than you could ever envisage or Lucifer Valentine needs to surprise audiences by presenting things in a completely different style. The fact that this film simply provides more of the same, only in a slightly tamer style, is the biggest failing and one that leaves you with something disappointingly pointless.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998)

Continuing the saga of the evil vampire Radu (Anders Hove, who has owned the role since the very first movie) and the woman he tries to bring under his control (Michelle, played once again by Denice Duff), this movie follows directly on from the events of part three and assumes that if you've come this far then you will enjoy more of the same. There is another film that came out before this one, Vampire Journals, but  a) it's more of a companion piece than a direct sequel/prequel and b) I just thought viewing the movies numbered 1 to 4 would make for a neater presentation on my blog.

Ted Nicolaou is once again in charge of the writing and directing duties and he does slightly better here than he did with the third instalment. It may still be drawing things out much further than they need to be drawn but there are also one or two new ingredients that add some entertainment.

While Radu tries once more to get Michelle obeying him unconditionally she is helped out by a young woman (Ioana Abur) and a doctor (Mihai Dinvale) who seems to take the story of vampirism and the bloodstone in his stride. This frustrates Radu no end, of course, but he is able to take out his frustrations on some other vampires that are beneath him in the pecking order (Ash, played by Jonathon Morris and Serena, played by Floriela Grappini). Ion Haiduc also returns as Lt. Marin but is given a lot less to do this time.

I wouldn't say that this movie is full of twists and turns but it does try to pile on the drama in a number of different ways, be it Radu reclaiming what is rightfully his or the treachery shown by people seeming eager to taste immortality. The melodrama is mixed in with the horror to good effect, putting this on a par with some warped soap opera. Maybe even Dark Shadows (though I never saw the original show so I may be way off base with that comparison).

The real problems come from the strangeness of it all. Anders Hove has been strange from the very first scenes in the franchise but to see him joined by a growing group of ever-weirder supporting characters just makes for an experience that's a bit too odd to enjoy. Especially when one of those characters is being played by Jonathon Morris (arguably still best known to UK audiences for his role in the long-running sitcom "Bread"). It's not that Morris is bad, it's just that I couldn't shake the feeling that he shouldn't have been there in the first place. Ioana Abur isn't great but Floriela Grappini is a bit better so that helps. And then we have Mihai Dinvale, overacting to amusing effect.

The design work is nice when it's given a chance to shine but there are many scenes here that just feel a bit slapdash and cheap. Of course, there's a case to be made that all Full Moon Productions are slapdash and cheap but some of the better features do a good job of hiding it whereas this one doesn't. The soundtrack that often sounds like someone taking a balloon animal to the vet is another negative in a film that still just manages to be entertaining enough to scrape an average rating.


American Warships (2012)

Well, I never thought I would do this but let's start this review by linking to a Daily Mail article here (you don't know how dirty and violated that makes me feel but it's necessary). That article details the sad story behind the name change for this film, another "mockbuster" from The Asylum that was originally slated to be released as American Battleship. Now, while I appreciate that many people hate The Asylum and can't even begin to understand why I tolerate their movies I can also appreciate these two facts:

1) The most common complaint levelled against The Asylum is a lack of originality. They're just copying the big, upcoming releases and trying to cynically cash in on big names. This is often very true. They do copy successful formulae and try to make as much money as possible before anyone cottons on to the fact that their film might be rubbish. And here's the thing about that - it's the exact same thing that Hollywood does every single week of the year. They may not be quite so upfront about it but does that make their moneymaking endeavours any closer to having artistic integrity? No, not at all. ARTISTS in Hollywood CAN have artistic integrity, of course, but I am talking about the big picture of the whole Hollywood game. The fact that Universal were worried by a small movie that looked to ride on the coat-tails of a blockbuster based on a boardgame is ever so slightly sad. One film is pretty much as unoriginal as the other so, to paraphrase that old AvP tagline - whoever wins . . . . . . . . audiences lose.

2) The word battleship is a word to describe a big ship that can take part in a battle. I'm pretty sure that the word existed before the game came along. Now, fair enough, if The Asylum tried to release American Hasbro Battleship I could see that being a problem but they didn't. They used A word that was shared by a big, recent release. If I wanted to write and develop a movie called Battleship Bomber I don't see any reason why that would be a problem. Or even writing and developing a film called British Battleship. I'm not denying that the content is another issue altogether, all I'm saying is that whatever Universal wanted from The Asylum a title change should not have been on the cards.

Anyway, after upsetting a number of people with those views, let me get on with the review.

American Warships is about a big BATTLESHIP* that finds itself warring against an invisible opponent. Other countries are suspected of starting hostilities and the world may end up on the brink of nuclear war but the only thing concerning the crew of the BATTLESHIP* is defeating the enemy before they are themselves destroyed.

Written and directed by Thunder Levin (which is one of the greatest names I have ever heard in my entire life - I now wish I had called my kids Thunder, Lightning and Hail), American Waships is a diverting enough piece of hokum. The main premise is completely ridiculous, of course, but then the same thing could be said of many other movies out there at your local multiplex (with hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at them). At least this film has a nice, but completely random, THX-1138 reference in the mix.

The special effects aren't so special but, overall, they do the job required when it comes to scenes featuring a BATTLESHIP* shooting at an unseen enemy. There are a few moments that are eye-searingly awful (a bunch of Navy SEALs trying to board the invisible craft ranks is laughably bad and looks like it was put together with a photobooth app) but it's generally a huge improvement over the cheap wire-frame Amiga 32-created models that The Asylum tend to put onscreen.

The cast aren't all that bad either. Mario Van Peebles is the man in charge of the BATTLESHIP*  and there's also a small role for the great Carl Weathers. It helps that Johanna Watts is absolutely gorgeous to look at while playing Lieutenant Bradley and the supporting players include Nikki McCauley as a bit of a brainy type who may just be able to come up with some alternative solutions to defeat the enemy and a bunch of disposable men playing . . . . . . . . . disposable men.

It's not a movie that you'll want to rush out and buy (films from The Asylum rarely are) but if you're attracted to the dumb premise then you should find enough here to keep you entertained from start to finish. Especially if you're a fan of BATTLESHIPS*.


*The word BATTLESHIP/S is being used in this review simply as a descriptive word and not in any way relating to the trademarked boardgame.

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ReGOREgitated Sacrifice (2008)

Okay, if you're easily offended then stop reading this review now. Go on. Just go away and read any of my other reviews instead.
If you're made of stronger stuff but still find yourself offended occasionally then stop reading this review now. Yes, that may mean you even if you've seen a couple of video nasties and survived the ordeal. Just leave.
Anyone sticking with this review should know that while watching ReGOREgitated Sacrifice I literally cried out "holy fuckballs" on more than one occasion, I almost vomited and I kept looking around to make sure that nobody saw me watching it, even though I was in the flat alone. It's wild, to say the least.

This is the second part of Lucifer Valentine's "Vomit Gore Trilogy", coming after the painful Slaughtered Vomit Dolls and it's quite a step up in quality. I didn't like Slaughtered Vomit Dolls. In fact, I pretty much hated it. I can't say that I "liked" ReGOREgitated Sacrifice all that much either, but kudos to Lucifer Valentine for going all the way to the edge with his extreme vision and producing such a balls to the wall piece sure to get a reaction from even the most hardcore gore fan.

Once again we get the strange and twisted delusions of a young woman (Ameara Lavey) put on film but this really ups the ante in terms of what's shown and how technically accomplished it is. There's abuse, vomit, people spitting on each other, watersports, more abuse, decapitation, vomit, a pair of beautiful but dangerous twin sisters, graphic sexual torture, more vomit, a moment with a bigass hairy spider that deeply unnerved me. And more vomit.

You will want to look away but you'll also be morbidly mesmerised by just how far things go onscreen. The effects throughout are fantastic, which makes everything altogether more disturbing. There are many sights here that I've never seen before and that I can now never unsee. That, in itself, isn't a ringing endorsement for the whole experience but it certainly highlights Lucifer Valentine as someone pushing the envelope in terms of taboo material and stomach-churning moments.

I can't rate this highly though, I didn't enjoy the viewing experience and I'll never watch it again, but I will say that my low rating is still double the rating that I gave Slaughtered Vomit Dolls and that my strong reaction to this film is, in a way, proof that Lucifer Valentine is doing exactly what he sets out to do. God only knows how I'm going to feel after I see Slow Torture Puke Chamber.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994)

Filmed back to back with the previous movie, this third entry in the enjoyable Subspecies franchise is the weakest one yet for one obvious reason - it pads out a few good scenes in a plot that essentially just covers the same old ground that we saw in the preceding film. If you took the best bits from both of these movies then parts 2 & 3 could have made for one fantastic film instead of one good film and one poor one.

Things begin with a brief recap of the second film and then it's back to the business of watching Rebecca (Melanie Shatner) try to rescue her sister, Michelle (Denice Duff), from the clutches of the evil vampire Radu (Anders Hove) and the evil and grotesque Mummy (Pamela Gordon). Rebecca is once again helped by the bland Mel (Kevin Blair) and the confused Lieutenant Marin (Ion Haiduc).

Ted Nicolaou is the writer and director once again, which kind of goes without saying because of this instalment being filmed back to back with the previous film but I'll say it anyway. This film highlights a weakness in his writing that he was able to cover up in the second movie with just enough fun moments to keep things ticking over. He's certainly not the worst scribe when it comes to low-budget fare such as this but he really stretches himself too far when he attempts to spread his work over two movies. I know it may sound like I'm just repeating myself throughout this review but that's really the biggest problem here, and it's something that then causes a ripple effect of problems throughout the whole film.

The acting isn't too bad from everyone involved, though it goes without saying that Anders Hove is once again the highlight with his haunting and memorable portrayal of Radu, but it's all undone by that overstretched material. The practical effects are once again great when they occasionally pop up onscreen (not including the work to create Radu and Mummy, both covered in fantastic make up) but they're undone by that overstretched material. The melodrama added to the standard horror would have been fine if, you guessed it, it wasn't undone by that overstretched material.

Believe me, I feel as bad for harping on about it as I felt when watching the movie but this is certainly a case of "all filler and no thriller". There are some nice singular moments but you're only real reason for watching this movie is to view the complete franchise, like myself.


Abbott & Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950)

The movie starts with Bud and Lou playing a couple of guys choreographing some wrestling practice. It's going to be a great moneyspinner and they want everything to go smoothly. Mere moments later, the whole plan is in disarray when their main draw (Abdullah, played by William 'Wee Willie' Davis) decides that he's had enough and heads back home to Algeria. The guys, out of a sense of self-preservation, go after Abdullah, determined to get him back to America and wrestling for them but once in Algeria they find themselves, as usual, in the wrong place at the wrong time and circumstances lead to them taking shelter with, as you may have guessed, the Foreign Legion.

There's nothing here to get excited about even if the movie isn't a complete bore. The direction by Charles Barton is competent but the script by John Grant, Martin Ragaway and Leonard Stern is far from the best that the two leads have ever worked with. They do okay with the material, and one or two moments are very enjoyable (especially a scene involving various mirages), but this is undeniably lesser fare.

Sadly, the cast also feels like "lesser fare" to those who have enjoyed many other A & C adventures. The leads do their usual stuff, though Bud is a bit less harsh to Lou in this outing (which may make this one more enjoyable for some viewers), and William Davis does fine with his limited screentime but Patricia Medina isn't all that captivating in the one leading female role while Walter Slezak, Douglass Dumbrille, Leon Belasco and the others in the cast don't make much of an impression either.

One interesting aspect of the movie nowadays is seeing Tor Johnson in one of his many small roles he took before becoming best known years later for his work with Ed Wood but it's just a shame that there's nothing else worth singling out for attention in a film that most firmly resides in the arena of the average.


DeadHeads (2011)

It would seem to me to be an obvious irony that every time people think the zombie subgenre has been done to death it returns with a film that proves there's plenty of life in it yet. The zombie comedy, especially, has been doing well in recent years although not every attempt is successful. Thankfully, DeadHeads is a good one. In fact, it's the best that I've seen in the past few years.

Things begin with Mike Kellerman (Michael McKiddy) waking up and not realising that he has been zombiefied. The situation only becomes clear when he bumps into Brent (Ross Kidder). Well, his arm falling off helps to emphasise the point. Zombie or not, Mike has a ring in his pocket and a woman he loves and he decides that he must go to her and tell her exactly how he feels. Brent decides to help him. Perhaps along the way they can figure out just why they are smarter than the other groaning, shambling, flesh-eating zombies. Or perhaps they will just be happy if they avoid the company men who have been sent out to capture them and get them to a lab.

Brothers Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce wrote and directed this movie and they prove themselves to be majorly talented on both fronts. The film may be slightly rough and ready in places but there's a lot put onscreen that outshines many other horror comedies with bigger budgets than this one. The script is full of great exchanges, fun one-liners and numerous pop culture references while the practical effects are consistently superb.

The acting is also very good from most of the cast. McKiddy and Kidder are fantastic in the main roles, Markus Taylor does well in full-on zombie mode as Cheese, Thomas Galasso makes a great badass, Greg Dow and Benjamin Webster are both very funny and Harry Burkey is immensely likeable as Cliff, a man willing to pull over and help a couple of hitchhikers, even if they're looking a bit poorly. Natalie Victoria is suitably adorable as Ellie, the lady Mike is trying to reach, while Leonard Kelly-Young is perfectly acceptable as the villain of the piece. The only irritation comes from Eden Malyn, stuck with portraying her character like some kind of mousey, nervy woman who has wandered on from a children's TV show.

It may be a bit silly in places, obviously, and it may have some gaping plot holes but DeadHeads is a fantastic, funny film with some decent gore moments sparingly spread throughout and I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the likes of Wasting Away.