Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Double Team (1997)

























This movie is believed to be the last action flick from old Van Damage to achieve a theatrical release. However, apparently this is not true, from what I've read Australia got three more offerings after this. I actually find that hard to believe really, looking back at this. What do we have here? A movie about an odd pairing, a double team action flick actually called double team! And what better way to really mix things up in search of some originality than teaming up with an actual basketball star. One could also say what better way to try and milk cash from the dumb gullible public.

Yes Van Damme is the star here naturally, but enter Dennis Rodman, one of the Chicago Bulls top players from a superstar team that was (at the time) virtually unbeatable. Rodman was essentially the perfect gimmick, he was a notorious player who would often clash with his opponents and game officials whilst at the same time managing to be highly effective. His crazy, bad boy, rock 'n' roll visage of tattoos, piercings and dyed hair was also a big lure and quite unusual for the time. This was an era before top sportsmen covered themselves in tattoos and had severe cyber razor haircuts, hence Rodman's outrageous look was always front page news for sports.

For any Europeans reading, if you took this approach, it would in essence be the equivalent of casting Neymar or maybe Eric Cantona (minus the tats) alongside Van Damme. What better way to bring in the big bucks for your standard action crime thriller comedy.

Did I say standard action crime thriller comedy? Why yes I did, and here's why. Jack Quinn (JCVD) is a counter terrorist agent who is supposedly killed in action trying to take down his nemesis Stavros (Mickey Rourke). Quinn is obviously not dead but instead has been stuck on a secret island colony for agents that are too valuable to kill off and too dangerous to set free. There he must continue to assist in counter terrorism but in secret, away from the rest of the world forever. In the mean time old Stavros kidnaps Quinn's wife because some how he knows Quinn is still alive. Quinn must now break free from the colony to save his wife. Spoiler alert! Quinn does break out and winds up hiring Yaz (Rodman) to help him in his quest.



K so first lets just remember that this is an old JCVD action flick so there will be many many cliches, tropes and stereotypical bullshit. The colony idea was a nice touch, I did like that and I felt that plot could have been the entire movie. Quinn simply trying to escape a secret government island which houses super spies supposedly killed in action. That is a pretty solid prison premise right there and they could of really explored that with lots of fighting action. Sure its unoriginal but it sounds like it could of worked.

Aside from the neat colony aspect the rest of this movie is pretty trashy really. For a start there is a huge amount of dubbing here which is really obvious. I've no idea why its like this but it just comes across as shoddy. In the original colony part of the plot there is a whole subplot about each imprisoned agent having a 'guardian' that watches over them in case they try to escape. In Quinn's case its his old agent friend Alex (Paul Freeman). The movie sets up this whole angle between these two characters yet it goes nowhere, literally. When Quinn escapes some other bloke pops up to try and stop him. No clue how this guy knew about Quinn's escape plan, he's just there and gets killed, so aimless.

Even though Mickey Rourke's baddie character has a stupid name this guy was genuinely intimidating, to look at at least. This was at a time before Rourke got fucked up from boxing and then proceeded to have various bad facelifts so he does look good. Rourke has clearly gotten into shape for the role and learnt some martial arts too; this combination of heavy muscle and moves does make Rourke look like a worthy opponent for Van Damme. Indeed the final fight scene between the pair is actually pretty darn good with some thumping fisticuffs. Again though the use of dubbing and an obvious stunt double for Rourke makes it look and sound shoddy in places.



As for the main man Rodman, well he lives up to his extravagant flamboyant image by dressing in the most absurd ways possible. When I say absurd I mean luminous skintight lycra, luminous vests, armbands, his awful nose and earrings and various sets of bizarre looking shades. All the while his hair changes colour throughout which I don't get because when does he have the time to do this process?? I should also mention that during the movie he throws out numerous corny quips that are basketball related, and towards the end of the movie he runs around topless for no apparent reason. Obviously the director (Tsui Hark) wanted to get his moneys worth from Rodman so why not have him topless showing off his ink and whatnot.

Speaking of the finale, its supposedly set within the Colosseum in Rome...oh boy. Well for starters clearly its not, it was actually shot at Arles Amphitheatre in France. Secondly the entire arena area is fully lit up when Quinn and Stavros fight...like how? Why would the arena be lit up at night? Surely it would have been completely locked down overnight and surely if all the lights were on someone (security) would notice. Thirdly, Stavros has a tiger on hand to set upon Quinn...ugh! This has to be the most ludicrous part of the movie, where the literal fuck did he get the tiger? Did he steal it just for this one meeting or do they have tigers at Arles Amphitheatre? Why not just bring lots of henchmen and guns? What if the tiger didn't wanna attack Quinn and just laid down and went to sleep? Lastly, Stavros had already set up mines in the arena, which means he presumably broke in beforehand, killed all the security? and turned on all the lights, OK. But please tell me, why set up all those mines when you yourself could step...oh too late.



In the end a mine blows up the entire amphitheatre with Stavros and the poor old tiger. Said explosion manages to destroy the entire historic site in a huge ball of fire and death that Quinn saves everyone from behind a vending machine. Yeah...because you have lots of soda vending machines within historical Roman sites (how did it not melt anyway?). At the same time Quinn's super agent friend Alex turns up, obviously to catch or kill him because he's Quinn's 'guardian'. This got me a little confused because I didn't think these agents were allowed off the colony to find someone who has escaped. Why not just use government forces or the military or something, the same people that brought him to the colony in the first place perhaps. Spoiler alert Alex lets Quinn go because...duh!

I've been hard on this movie and for good reason, its littered with farcical nonsense, bad dubbing and a totally bonkers finale. The whole thing is a very stupid and very pathetic Bond-esque thriller with lame comedy. The only highlights that save the movie from being a total disaster are Rourke's great villain and some decent fight sequences. As said the addition of Rodman was a completely tacky gimmick and unfortunately that's what the movie is most remember for.

5/10

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)





















K so this movie is of course yet another adaptation of a young adult/teen book that I've never heard of. I guess there's no reason why I should have heard of it though seeing as I am neither a young adult or teen, I digress. The title of the movie (and book) is admittedly pretty cool, indeed the whole vibe I got from this movie did kinda remind me of the 2004 movie 'Lemony Snicket's A Serious of Unfortunate Events'. At the same time it also got me thinking along the lines of The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. Funnily enough a quirky little book about weird monstrous children by the one and only Tim Burton. So it was of no surprise to me at all that Tim Burton ended up directing this movie (which is almost a rip-off of his 'Oyster Boy' book in part).

So, very briefly, the film is set in Wales of all places and sees young boy Jake (Asa Butterfield) learning about the mysterious school for peculiar children from his grandfather. After his grandfather dies in a very disturbing way Jake travels to Wales to look for the school, following instructions from his grandfather. Jake discovers that the old school was destroyed during WWII, but through a set of mysterious (this word will pop up a lot) circumstances which include a time portal, Jake goes back to 1943. A time when the school was in its prime. Turns out the school and its students all live within an infinite time loop (the same day in 1943), created by Miss Peregrine, where they never age, solely to avoid persecution from the outside world. Jake also learns of monsters called Hollowgasts (disfigured peculiars) led by the evil shapeshifter Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). These monsters led by Barron hunt down 'peculiars' (or 'Ymbrynes') for their eyes. They consume the eyes which enable them to retain their powers and human form (which apparently makes them 'Wights'). Did you get all that??



So lets take a quick look at the peculiar children (children with paranormal abilities). Now even though society has discriminated against these kids, rejected them out of fear, their powers are clearly of benefit to them. Its the classic narrative, the kids have special powers which are seen as negative in the film, but to you the viewer they come across as actually being really cool. Wouldn't we all like a special power. And if any of this sounds familiar...yes it is indeed exactly the same notion as Marvels X-Men.

So anyway who's who. Notably there are characters that clearly play an important role in the movie with their powers, and others that do not. Emma Bloom is aerokinetic, meaning she can manipulate air, breathe under water and she floats because she's lighter than air oddly. These powers seem pretty useful. Enoch O'Connor can resurrect the dead and make inanimate objects come to life, very useful. Olive Abroholos Elephanta (say what?) is pyrokinetic meaning she's basically Pyro from the X-Men. Very useful power. Millard Nullings is the invisible boy, say no more, highly useful power. Bronwyn Bruntley is a little girl with superhuman strength, highly useful power. Fiona Frauenfeld can control plant life, so she's basically Poison Ivy. Reasonably useful power.

The you have Hugh Apiston is a little boy with...umm...bees in his stomach...what now? Pretty bizarre and useless power here methinks. Claire Densmore has a mouth full of razor sharp teeth...on the back of her head. K...errr, whatever. And finally the two very young twins (no names apparently) who are both in fact gorgons. You know, a creature that can turn living things into stone, Medusa. Yeah well these two little terrors can do just that and have to wear masks all the time. Chilling power right there folks.



So whilst most of this X-Kids team have some pretty sweet special powers that would obviously come in handy in times of peril. Four of them seem utterly useless to me frankly, in fact I wouldn't even call them paranormal powers but more circus freaks. I get that's all part of the story but it just comes across as odd that the author would give half the kids solid powers and the other half useless powers, so useless to the point that those characters needn't even be in the book. Why would shooting bees out of your mouth be of any use unless you lived in a Nintendo platform game.

As for the bad guys, they were all peculiars originally I think (including Mr. Barron who's power is shapeshifting), but the failed experiment disfigured them. Now they hunt down peculiars for their eyes (yes eyes) because some how that enables them to retain human form. I'm not sure why they are called Hollowgasts though, considering they are merely disfigured peculiars. Not sure why they all look the same or why they look like large demonic Jack Skellington's? Probably because Tim Burton directed the movie (or maybe they look like that in the book). I'm also not sure why they are referred to as Wights when in human form when again, essentially...they are still peculiars. I dunno, I'm probably getting it wrong. Lets not forget that peculiars are actually called Ymbrynes just to make things even more confusing.

So aside from the myriad of characters and funny names what is the movie actually like? Well quite frankly its your typical Harry Potter-esque adventure really. I really do hate referring back to Harry Potter but unfortunately that franchise pretty much set the ball rolling for children/young teen book adaptations so its hard not to. But yes in general the fantasy element of the movie along with the children does all seem very familiar these days. Don't get me wrong its not the exact same kind of fantasy with unicorns and goblins or whatever (in this one movie anyway, unsure about the book), but there are many similar elements involving magic, sorcery, shapeshifting, monsters etc...



Clearly Burton revels in the kids with quirky paranormal powers and of course the visuals. As you would expect the whole movie has that dark twisted fairytale vibe about it, helped by the WWII setting of course. Some of the kids are gaunt looking, slender, dare I say a bit goth with period attire in typical Burton colours. Its not blatant Burton but you can still detect it. The baddies look more Burton-esque as they are generally dressed in black and look more like vampires. Overall not a lot actually happens in the movie action wise, there are obviously some action sequences but nothing much of note. Obligatory sequences where the Hollowgasts attack the kids whilst they try to escape, the predictable showdown at the finale where Barron and co are defeated.

The whole sequence where they discover a huge sunken ship (ocean liner) and then proceed to raise it seemed a bit ludicrous even for this universe. Sure these kids have weird powers and I mock by mentioning the X-Men but at this point the movie does actually go full X-Men. Then in the finale there is a long battle against some animated skeletons which all seem rather stupid really. How strong were these skeletons geez! There is of course lots of time jumping between 1943 and the present, the setting being the UK does actually give the whole movie a cheaper look which I'm sure wasn't the idea. Indeed the whole idea that these kids and Miss Peregrine have to live in an infinite time loop just to avoid the general public's negative opinion of them seemed a bit daft to me. I mean surely you could just live somewhere secluded? Also this specific point in time is just before the school gets destroyed by German planes (WWII remember), so everyday they have to prevent this by winding back time. I mean, couldn't you just chooses a earlier point in time?



The problem here is I haven't read the book and like many of these fantasy books there is probably a lot more to it, more books and things that have been cut out. These types of movies always seem to raise so many questions also, questions and confusion. Like, when the Wights have successfully killed all the peculiars and run out of eyes, then what? I mean...I dunno, its not a bad movie, its perfectly entertaining to a degree, but everything is so by the numbers, so mediocre. The visuals are nice but predictable, the acting is fine, the effects are pretty bog standard CGI stuff apart from a nice small sequence of stop motion. The bad guys are spooky looking and generically bad, the Hollowgast monsters are unoriginal looking, a mix of Jack Skellington and Resident Evil creatures, oh and Tim Burton makes a cameo.

There was a time when a Tim Burton movie meant something, it was almost like an event. Nowadays its more like yet another corny gothic escapade drenched in gaudy CGI. Admittedly this movie isn't quite as bad as that, its definitely more grounded looking. But with a plot that becomes more convoluted as it goes (all these stupid names), weak humour and very generic villains, its just not really good enough to stand out within a packed genre. Its also clearly unsure in which direction it wants to go, dark fantasy or light-hearted fantasy. I dunno, I still can't escape my feeling that Burton only made this movie because he liked just one aspect of it, the kids with peculiar powers. That aspect comes across nicely here, I wanted more of that, the rest of it not so much.

6/10

Monday, 15 May 2017

Outland (1981)

























Well there's no real mistaking what Peter Hyams set out to do with this movie. From the opening credits and score its pretty clear that Hyams had been heavily influenced by a certain Ridley Scott sci-fi horror. Yet despite that the story is actually a western set in space, heavily influenced by the classic 1952 cowboy movie 'High Noon'. In all honesty this film feels more like an adaptation (to a degree) of the Gary Cooper classic, but either way you look at it, there isn't too much originality going on here Mr Hyams.

The plot sees Federal Marshal William O'Niel (Sean Connery) starting his new tour of duty based on the Jovian moon Io. O'Niel polices a harsh titanium ore mining outpost on the moon. The conditions are tough, its bleak, O'Niel is away from his family and things are about to get even more uncomfortable for the marshal. When several miners appear to suffer from nervous breakdowns or massive fatigue due to 'burning out', O'Niel is told its all part and parcel of the job. General manager Sheppard (Peter Boyle) claims productivity has broken records since he took over, the shifts are long but the rewards are big. So the odd miner going nuts maybe isn't anything to be too concerned over. However, O'Niel is not convinced and decides to dig a little deeper with the help of medic Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen).

So its not really much of a surprise that this movie does indeed look like Ridley Scott's masterpiece 'Alien'. Hymas did in fact hire a few people that worked on the 1979 horror sci-fi, set decorator Stuart Rose, costume designer John Mollo and model maker Martin Bower. And boy did Hymas get what he wanted, instantly you can see the similarities between both movies with the industrial looking sets and very workman-like outfits of all the various crews. In all honesty this movie could almost be set in the same timeline as 'Alien' from a visual standpoint, it blends in so well. Now originality issues aside, this isn't a bad thing, far from it, 'Outland' looks terrific with its bleak, dark, steamy, claustrophobic visage. That entire 'blue collar workers/space truckers' in space angle is captured perfectly.



Set wise you could say its like watching an entire movie set on the Nostromo (again). While this mining facility hasn't quite got the same kind of scope or detail you can see the influences and it does work effectively. Personal quarters have a very metallic, industrial vibe with that familiar futuristic looking padding effect on the walls. There are lots of control panels with monitors and various lighting effects strewn around, large solid steel doors, brightly lit warning signs, lots of steel grating, minimalistic white coloured eating/kitchen areas etc...At the same time other sections of the facility are more dimly lit and more technical, walkways have a hint of '2001' about them with bright white lighting and being hexagon in shape. And of course there's the canteen or bar for the miners which is your stereotypical dimly lit, sleazy, smoky den of corruption complete with space strippers. The only thing missing would be skimpy plastic clothes and lots of neon.

The facility exterior is also very impressive but a bit shaky looking these days. Front projection (I think, might have been rear projection) was used for many exterior shots which are kinda obvious watching today unfortunately. That isn't to say they look bad, obvious but not bad, the colour tends to give it away. A combination of models, miniatures and sets were also incorporated which generally look pretty sweet but again obvious by today's standards. Various shots of the facility look very realistic and, ahem...'Alien'-esque with lots of tiny surface details, flashing warning lights and of course a very heavy industrial metallic appearance overall. The models are decent but do tend to remind me some models you might see in an episode of Red Dwarf. Watching the actors spacewalk does unfortunately also look very much like they're walking on a set...very...slowly. Again the spacesuits that are worn seem to be heavily influenced by that Ridley Scott movie, OK lets not beat around the bush here they're virtually identical!



I feel the story does actually lose its impetus when the hired hitmen arrive to whack O'Niel (after he's discovered what's going on). Up to that point its very tense, very eerie, you're not sure how many guys will turn up, whether they'll be huge or maybe cyborgs or something. You get the classic moment when O'Niel walks into the space bar and asks for some help from the workers (ala 'High Noon'). Its here when the excitement really does start to mount because you know he ain't getting no help. But then it all goes down the pan when two very ordinary blokes turn up with shotguns, oh. Two! just two guys?? Surely you'd send a few more than that? Not only that but O'Niel could of taken them out the minute they stepped off the shuttle, the setup was perfect. Then when you start to think about it, there are plenty of ways in which O'Niel could have avoided these guys. Hiding in the packed space bar for starters, who cares about the patrons after they refused to help. But none of that really matters in the end because he kills them pretty quickly with ease. The facility interior simply offered up way too many options to jump and surprise the bad guys so you don't really feel the tension.

The score does help with the sequences of action and build up. Its not really musical but more...industrial (there's that word again). I really don't wanna keep mentioning that Ridley Scott film but there are so many similar aspects here its impossible not too. But yes the score is very similar in tone to Scott's masterpiece, its offers the same kind of slow, haunting, emotional tunes that will feel familiar and are admittedly effective here.



But let me be clear here, this is not an action flick, there isn't loads of gunfire, fisticuffs and plosions (maybe a little fisticuffs). There are some nice subtle hints of gore, just the odd dark flash of blood 'n' guts when the odd miner bites the dust. The infamous exploding head sequences are now most amusing, yet when I was a kid they were as terrifying as the melting faces in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. Overall, and much like the musical score, this is a slow building, somewhat haunting, tense affair that is telling a very straight forward story with few fancy thrills. Its your standard heroic cowboy movie with a space backdrop. Sean Connery gives a good solid performance as the 'sheriff' as it were, who rolls into town and must clean it up. The difference here being Connery's character isn't gruff and butch as you might expect, but actually more quiet, calm, sensitive, a slightly broken man who pines for his family.

'Outland' isn't a classic movie, its not gonna be in most people's top ten sci-fi movies, in fact I'd say its generally forgotten these days. Alas its very familiar tones will turn some folk off I'm sure, simply brushing it aside as a rip-off, which I would understand. All I can say is I highly recommend the film to anyone who hasn't seen it and to anyone who hasn't seen it in a long time. Its a very simple but effective film that showcases nicely grounded, dark science fiction.

7/10

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Office Christmas Party (2016)

























So upon reading about this movie, seeing the title and seeing the poster, I came to the conclusion that this was very possibly very similar to many American Christmas sitcom episodes that we've seen over the years (but naughtier). Indeed the whole premise and vibe felt very much like an episode of Friends or more closely The Office, more so the latter. Nonetheless, being a comedy I was intrigued at the idea as I do enjoy a merry Xmas flick and the whole office scenario seemed like the perfect setting for some good solid filthy laughs.

Essentially what you have here is this large company being run by a buffoon with good intentions (Clay played by T.J. Miller). His staff are generally hard working but include the various stereotypical types that you just know will turn up in something like this. Basically this particular branch of the company hasn't met its quarterly quota, and apparently this means instant terminations and possible shut down of the branch (familiar yet?).

So its decided that the only way to try and get important clients is to hold a mega Christmas bash to show what kind of company they are. Naturally Carol the CEO (Jennifer Aniston) does not like this idea and puts the kibosh on it, naturally the minute she leaves for London Clay and co do it anyway. At first the shindig is a bust, but as the party slowly grows wilder and more riotous, things naturally get more and more hazardous and out of control for the few staff members we are following. And then just when things couldn't get any worse, Carol the CEO turns up because her flight was cancelled.



So taking a quick look at the characters, what do we have? Well as I already said the branch manager Clay is a man who means well but is unfortunately incapable of running an entire office. He seems more interested in having a lark and acting like a child. His boss (and sister), Carol the CEO is of course a complete bitch, ruthless, strict, frustratingly sexy, seemingly never happy and jealous that their father apparently favoured Clay. Lower down the ranks there is Josh (Jason Bateman) who is your all round nice guy, gets on with everyone, is quite clever and is headhunted by Carol for her NYC office. Below Josh is Tracey who is head of tech, a hot female nerd basically. Then you have Mary (Kate McKinnon) who is a jobsworth and thoroughly frigid all round. Nate is yet another tech nerd but this time a full on stereotypical scrawny Asian/Indian nerd complete with thick rim glasses. Jeremy is a grouchy middle aged employee who kinda says what he thinks and has no tact. Then you have Allison who is a single mum and kinda desperate for any kind of relationship and Fred the newbie who has a baby fetish (wanting to be mothered like a baby).

So yeah, all in all the characters don't really offer much in the realms of originality. Jennifer Aniston has literally already played the exact same role in 'Horrible Bosses', the only difference being she was a slutty evil bitch. Jason Bateman literally plays the exact same role he always plays in everything. That being an all round nice guy who gets on with everyone, the goodie, the likeable sensible character. While Kate McKinnon kinda goes against cast as the boring stick-in-the-mud, probably conservative and highly conformist, her character is nothing new. The same can be said for all the other characters who are generally made up by traditional nerds, sexy nerds, oddballs and angry people.



You see that's the main problem here, this concept is old hat, its been done a million times, there isn't really much you can do with this that hasn't been seen before. To make matters worse the comedy is fast and loose missing targets left and right. Yeah Aniston is a sexy bitch, got it. Clay is a likeable moron who manages to host an awesome Xmas party, check. The party involves lots of idiotic visual gags such as chugging alcohol from an ice statues penis. Various people trying to do silly things, whilst drunk, and getting hurt badly (usually jumping off things). Knocking over a huge Christmas tree whilst inside an expensive department store. The uptight client they are trying to impress gets covered in cocaine, gets high and completely cuts loose turning into a party animal. Heck, how many times have we seen that plot angle? The uptight client is won over by the oddballs and becomes one of them. The party eventually gets so out of hand that illegal things are happening willy-nilly like launching items out of the windows (the office is inside a skyscraper). Where did the horses come from??

The movie actually becomes too stupid for its own good. At one point the drunken office folk shove an entire vending machine out of the building window, along with monitors and chairs. I mean sure, a party can get out of control with drugs, sex and booze, all within the realms of possibility. But when things like that start happening from the top end of a skyscraper, we're talking about people possibly getting killed below and police turning up, serious shit. Yet there are no apparent consequences here. A monitor falls and barely misses Aniston as she approaches the building...but she just shrugs it off as an annoying occurrence! Did I mention the horses?

The one thing that did hit me whilst watching this, some Americans have amazing places to work! This office block is in downtown Chicago I believe, and boy is it impressive, the fecking views! The fact that people can work in a place like this (the interior was pretty amazing too) and consider it mundane seems unreal to a Brit like me. Also, Yanks know how to decorate for Christmas (or anything). I've known this from my own holidays, the Americans don't mess around when it comes to decor, it all looks stunning, and this film demonstrates just that. But anyway the movie, yeah its fine I guess. There are numerous sub plots going on with various characters throughout that are reasonably engaging I suppose, nothing special. Usual stuff really, relationship forging, sex, hired prostitutes, revenge, a car chase and finally everything ending happily as the office is saved (because of course). I didn't wanna say it but its essentially a movie length version of The Office, uncut. A late in the day total rampage of stereotypes we've all seen before.

5.5/10

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Monster Trucks (2016)

























Monsters and trucks, monsters are kewl, monster trucks are definitely kewl. How could this not turn out to be awesomely kewl??

So there's this fracking company fracking away North Dakota. One night they accidentally release three creatures from the subterranean caves far below the Earth's surface which in turn causes the destruction of their set up, a big news event. The company catches two of them but one escapes and finds its way to a local junkyard. Tripp (Lucas Till), the young man who works at this junkyard eventually discovers the creature and starts to slowly bond with it. Naturally of course the company is wanting to find this creature to cover up its big incident so they hire professional thugs (as you do). Meanwhile Tripp has discovered that the creature enjoys hiding itself inside the shell of his souped-up, modified pickup truck (for reasons only useful to this movie and its title). So Tripp must now avoid the hired thugs, avoid the creature being seen and try to get it back home. Oh and he's gotta save the other two creatures from within the evil fracking company too. Heavy week!

I knew nothing about this movie and at first I honesty thought this was gonna be your stereotypical underdog racer story. You know what I'm talking about, Tripp is a languishing truck racer, possibly up and coming but waiting for his breakout moment. He then finds this monster which can power his truck, he enters races and gradually starts winning, slowly moving up the ranks and finally entering a championship. Eventually reaching the final, up against his arch nemesis, he comes from behind to win. He then lives happily ever after with his pet monster, or the monster goes back to its habitat leaving Tripp sad but happy with how his life has gone. Basically a Herbie type rip-off is what I was expecting here.



First lets look at the good, the only decent bit before the problems. The entire premise isn't particularly original for sure, its basically 'E.T.' (and every other clone ever since). A young man finds an alien type creature, befriends it and tries to save it from corporate baddies. We've seen this type of thing a gazillion times before. But the one thing I did quite like was the idea of undiscovered subterranean creatures, again its not totally original but its a fair crack isn't it. The actual design of the creature wasn't exactly something I would have gone with myself but it works well for the plot. It was probably created with some scientific research into its natural habitat which would explain its squid-like body shape and bioluminescence. So while the creature was a bit 'Disneyfied' in the face department (biggish eyes and a slightly expressive face overall), I did like the whole subterranean aspect of it. Its a shame we don't see anything of these creatures in their underwater world but I guess that adds to the intrigue...and fuel for the sequel.

Right lets take a look at the various issues, the predictable stereotypes, the crowd pleasers etc...Staying with the creature for a minute, its bloody obvious from the get go the creature is in fact a younglin, a child, whilst the other two that are captured are in fact its parents. You don't pick up on it at first, but once you hear the nasty fracking company caught the other two, you just know it. This does of course lead to the inevitably gooey finale where the creature will want to save its parents with Tripp's help (before escaping back underground). The creature itself is of course quite large, simply a moist mass with tentacles. So you do have to ask yourself, how is this thing not being seen all the time? Also how is it surviving out of the water? Yes it may be able to survive outside of water but for this long?? Lets remember it does primarily live underwater so why would it be able to survive for so long out of the water? The creature also makes lots of loud noises including laughing...which seems idiotic but hey its a kids flick right. Oh and it lives on...oil? Well that could lead to a...sticky situation...aaah I'm terrible.



OK so the main angle of the movie is monster trucks, pickup trucks and 4x4's...oh and monsters (even though in the movie I wouldn't say the creature is a monster, but more of a large Cephalopod. Yes I realise its also a play on words). Anyway so the hook here is, once Tripp discovers the creature, he finds that it enjoys 'living' inside his pickup truck shell. The creature is also able to somehow power the truck with some kind of energy from its tentacles...no clue. So Tripp modifies the truck so the creature can live in it (hidden away), he then proceeds to 'drive around' in the truck which is now...monster powered...get it? Ah there it is, we got there.

Thing is, why does the creature wanna stay cooped up inside this rusty pickup truck? This is an underwater creature, but now it likes driving a truck with its power tentacles...eh? This also leads to so many obvious questions that mainly revolve around control. How the hell would Tripp ever be able to control this living creature that is controlling his truck? Sure we get some sequences of him getting to grips with this problem but it never really seems solid to me. During this time Tripp naturally experiences problems...massive insurance related problems I'm sure. By that I mean he wrecks many many cars including an entire car dealers line up (monster truck style), almost kills people (must have) and totally destroys the side of a woman's car whilst she's driving it. Surely any of this would alert the police no? Nah don't be stupid, no consequences in this movie bucko.



I honesty don't know how many of the characters in this movie get away with half the stuff they do. The baddies run (drive) around trying to capture this creature causing all sorts of chaos along the way, while Tripp ends up breaking into the fracking company facility, illegal use of a car dealership garage (that just happened to have all the right tools for truck modification) and eventually stealing 4x4's! Not only that but he then proceeds to cut the trucks up so the other two creatures can fit in them when they break them out of the facility. Not quite sure how they knew what size truck they would need, or how to modify them correctly for the other two unseen creatures. What if they didn't fit?? But at the end of the day, to save the creature, all Tripp and co would need to do is expose the creature. In this day and age the discovery of a large new aquatic animal like that would be headline news around the world. Almost everyone would be filled with joy and stepping up to protect it and its habitat. So in my opinion simply exposing it to the media would save the creature right away.

Believe it or not the finale is where this movie gets a bit too ridiculous. The goodies are trying to reach the original caves where the creatures came from, and they are trying to shake the hired thugs. This involves a long 4x4 chase between the baddies in their all black 4x4's and the goodies in their stolen modified (complete with spoilers), monster powered 4x4's (and Tripp's piece of crap looking pickup truck). This ends up going up a mountain which of course means what goes up must come down. Oh boy do they come down, they literally drive their trucks off a cliff edge...like a thousand feet up or whatever. Somehow the humans don't get smashed to pieces inside the trucks and manage to survive unscathed. The trucks also manage to hold together and not disintegrate on impact, ditto the creatures manage to survive too. I'm still not really sure how these creatures could survive this fall or prevent the trucks from being destroyed, they're not magical, they can't fly. Suspension of disbelief is generally in order here obviously, but there are certain levels, certain limits.

So yes this is a case of throwing E.T. and Herbie into a blender and coming out with a somewhat generic, cookie cutter product low on original ideas. Lets be honest it was never really gonna be anything more than that even though the movies poster is pretty sweet. There is a lot more I could mention that I picked up on but its not worth it, minor continuity errors and such, the review would be too long. Although I will just mention that almost everyone in the movie appears to drive a 4x4 or pickup truck, which feels kinda like overkill on product placement to me. Overall the movie isn't as lame or schmaltzy as I thought it would be, the effects are fine, lovely location scenery and the acting is perfectly acceptable for what this is. This is one of those cases where (I think) had the movie come out in the mid to late 80's (or even early 90's) it might be looked upon now as a bit of a cult classic. Unfortunately these type of films don't really fly anymore because its all been done, but truth be told this wasn't actually too bad.

6/10


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bad Santa 2 (2016)
















It seems Hollywood is intent on making pointless remakes and sequels to movies that in way require them. The days of stand alone movies appear to be gone as literally anything can get a sequel no matter what. It doesn't even matter how the original movie ended, they will still try to wangle something out of it. Case in point, 2003 black comedy 'Bad Santa', a devilishly wicked little affair that was somewhat original and gave adults something to giggle over after the kids had gone to bed. Did this movie need a sequel? No, it was a clear stand alone movie, plain and simple, yet here we are.

Believe it or not but the plot to this movie once again revolves around our protagonist Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) getting into a Santa outfit, the hell you say. Believe it or not but the plot also requires Willie's old partner in crime, Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), to also once again join him as an elf so they can pull off a heist. Said heist simply revolves around trying to rob a charity organisation in Chicago. The only major difference with this movie is they have Willie's mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) to help them.

So Willie and Marcus are going to attempt to steal all the loot from within the office of this charity organisation. Obviously in order to get into this office they are gonna need to scout around, get the lay of the land and eventually break in somehow. So what does that mean? why lots and lots of profanity, sexual acts and the usual double crossing of course. Seriously this movie has clearly gone all out to simply be more outrageous and disgusting than the original...for no real reason it seems. I don't have an issue with this if it actually made any real sense to the plot. Take Willie for instance, an alcoholic, malnourished, dirty bum with nothing to his name, yet he still manages to get handjobs from busty blondes and sex from the sexy female charity organiser (the one he's trying to steal from). Like I realise this is a dumb comedy but come on now, why would these women be attracted to this guy when he's made out to be so disgusting.



Then you have Marcus, who virtually does nothing for the entire run time other than swear and look sorry for himself. Its bloody obvious this guy is still mad at Willie from the first movie and its bloody obvious he's gonna try and screw Willie over. But this guy has nothing to do here, he's merely there for size and sexual innuendo gags. OK sure he was doing the same shit in the first movie but that was the first movie. In fact I felt sorry for the guy because this time he gets turned down by a curvy lady who ends up fucking Willie! (apparently this guy is some kind of low life, homeless sexual magnet). Thurman Merman is back again too (couldn't leave this guy out) although I don't know why. Much like Marcus he does nothing for the run time (even less than Marcus), he only seems to be here again to offer redemption for Willie's character right at the end.

The best thing about this movie has to be Kathy Bates as Willie's old mum Sunny. Now even though this characters inclusion is utterly groan inducing in its lack or originality, predictability and tired old cliches, I can't deny it worked to a degree. Bates fits into this role like a glove, she looks like pure overweight white trash and then some. On the other hand, when she cleans and dresses up to play Santa's wife with Willie for a gig, she looks absolutely perfect for that too. The perfect white haired old granny and the perfect leather clad biker bitch from hell! Bates is clearly having a ball letting loose here and she almost saves the film, if it wasn't for the fact that her character is so damn obvious.

'I smoked two packs of menthol a day, washed it down with a layer of this gin, and I could still fill this shot glass with this man's jizz'



This movie is desperately short on plot and way too high on filth, its almost as if they were doing it for shock value. It wouldn't be so bad if any of it were actually amusing but most of it is either outright disgusting or plain childish. Everything and anything you could possibly imagine being seedy is in this movie, having anal sex in a dark dirty alley, your mother talking about all kinds of sexual stuff, masturbation, seeing people on the toilet, slutty girls, drunken brawls, being generally rude about fat people, casual racism, misogyny etc...Even the parts where the plot kicks into gear its incredibly stupid. Like how did they rob that mansion without ever being spotted? And could the finale be anymore flippin' predictable!!

All in all this was a major miscalculation if you ask me. Yes its kinda amusing to see a drunk dishevelled Billy Bob Thornton in a Santa outfit giving little kids the beady-eye and a mouthful as they take turns sitting on his knee (easily the best part), but that's literally it. Sure its kinda amusing to see Kathy Bates acting like a cock hungry slut, swearing like a sailor whilst looking like a butch dyke, but it wears thin after the initial laughs. I won't lie and say the sex scenes didn't arouse me slightly (some good fantasy scenes in there). But I also can't deny that in the end this movie did leave me actually feeling dirty, like I needed to have a shower. A case of trying to milk the last drop of money out of a franchise? Or simply giving Thornton some much needed work? Probably both.

'Flouting? I never sucked jizz out of nobody's ass!'

3.5/10

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Finding Dory (2016)

























So back in 2003 Pixar released the movie 'Finding Nemo' and it was a critical hit. The heartwarming tale of clownfish in search of his young son (also a clownfish) who has been captured by divers, was admittedly a simple and not particularly original one. But with glossy eye-popping visuals and great characters it struck a cord with families. So naturally there was going to be sequel, it was inevitable.

This time around the story is just as simple and frankly just as unoriginal. Firstly we get a flashback to show us Dory's young fish life with her parents before she finds herself getting lost (seems to happen a lot to these fish). We also see how Dory gets involved with the original movies hunt for Nemo. As an adult fish Dory keeps having these flashbacks about her parents so she decides to try and find them. Naturally this proves challenging for Dory with her memory problem. Nemo and his dad Marlin agree to help Dory on her quest and set out towards their destination of California (where Dory's last flashback indicated her parents might be). As you can imagine the trio meet up with numerous other fishy friends and others not so fishy; whilst at the same time there is plenty of danger and more fish abducting by humans. So yes in short its literally the same thing all over again.

The first issue for me with this movie is the main character of Dory, she's hella annoying. Ellen DeGeneres does a fine job with Dory's voice, I'm not really having a go at her, but the entire character is just God damn annoying. In the first movie its kinda acceptable because she wasn't the main character, she was the (apparent) comic relief. Here she's the main character and you just can't escape her dimwitted, unfunny memory based slapstick shtick. Yes the character of Dory is not funny, there I said it. 'Hi I'm Dory, have you seen my parents?', oh my God shut the hell up!!



All the other characters are your basic predictable types that we've seen a million times over in so many animated movies. The one standout has to be Hank the octopus voiced by Ed O'Neill. For starters this is one of those characters that just looks amazing with incredible detail. He's been rendered, designed and animated beautifully and showcases a brilliant camouflage trait that gets him into and out of sticky situations. The other thing is the fact he's voice by O'Neill who is a brilliantly funny bloke that I've been a huge fan of ever since his early 'Married with Children' days. Hank the octopus is almost like having Al Bundy in a modern kids flick, almost, its close enough for me. But that aside this character is easily the most engaging, the most amusing and the most relatable (even he gets pissed off with Dory). I found myself wanting to see more of Hank and WAY less of Dory.

K let me just come out and say this, this movie is cheap, its littered with so many cliches, predictable set ups and is chock full with moments of bullshit dues ex machina. Everything that happens in this movie, every little adventure, every little sub plot moment, its all full of lame gags and cheap movie thrills. Being a flick about fish you gotta have plenty of water around you see, you can't really do without water and objects filled with water. So this means the main protagonists are constantly being saved by conveniently placed objects of water of varying sizes. This can range from a water fountain, a cup of liquid, a rock pool, a fish tank, a mop bucket etc...Its so farcical, there is no tension or risk because you know whatever happens next there will be an object of water to save the day. Either that or they constantly get saved in the nick of time by Hank the octopus who also turns up at the most convenient times.

There are so many moments of dues ex machina or just outrightly convenient moments where something or some creature saves the day its ridiculous. As said old Hank pops up outta nowhere on a few occasions to save Dory and co. The brainless bird Becky flies in outta nowhere to save Dory, a mop bucket saves Dory, a fish tank, somehow Hank manages to find a convenient bottle of water just big enough to fit Dory inside when they steal a truck (yes steal a truck). Yep, an octopus drives a truck. Its also at this point I have to ask how this world works anyway. How is it some creatures can speak and others can't? The giant squid that tried to eat Dory and co apparently doesn't talk, is that because it was a 'baddie' sea creature?



The icing on the cake has to be the finale where Dory just happens to stumble upon her parents home from outta nowhere! One minute the gang are in mortal danger, it looks like its all over for Dory and her friends as Dory is flushed into the ocean randomly. But you're never too far away from a steaming great chunk of convenient plot device in this movie. Yep Dory is lost, all alone...but just happens to have been plopped right where her folks live.

OK OK, I'm ranting, I know this is a children's movie aimed at, low and behold, children. I fully realise I am not the intended target for this movie and I can fully understand how this movie did so well (I guess). Yes the movie looks slick of course and it does offer a good range of creature characters I suppose, but the story doesn't really have much of an impact, the emotion isn't there. This is probably because Dory isn't really as cute as Nemo and Nemo came first, we've kinda done this adventure already. On top of that it doesn't really have much for older people methinks. As we all know these animated movies usually offer tit bits for both the young and old, didn't really feel that with this one.

My biggest problem is the simple fact this movie (in my opinion) just doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before. In the first movie Marlin has to find Nemo, in this movie Dory has to find her parents. So in the third movie will Nemo or Dory have to find their grandparents? Or will Crush have to find his fellow turtles? ugh!!

4/10