Thursday, 19 April 2018

Double Dragon (1994)

























Its really quite amazing to see how campy the 90's could actually be. Its also mind-blowing to see just what movies actually got full cinematic releases back then. Case in point, 'Double Dragon', easily one of the most 90-iest 90's movies ever made.

K so just in case anyone wasn't in the know, this movie is based on the hugely popular scrolling beat 'em up videogame Double Dragon released in 1987. Double Dragon was basically the game that kick-started a wave of martial arts inspired fighting games throughout the 80's. Interestingly this videogame adaptation was made two years before the dumpster fire that was 'Street Fighter'. But both movies were released in late 94, 'Double Dragon' coming first in November. I'm guessing the studio knew they had a piece of crap on their hands and possibly thought to release it during the height of the beat 'em up craze with 'Street Fighter' (?).

So what do we have here? Well its pretty much the standard 90's fantasy plot mixed in with lots of hokey oriental mysticism. Thousands of years ago in ancient China an army of shadow warriors lay siege to a city. In order to save his people the King sacrificed himself to create a powerful medallion. Said medallion gave its owner immeasurable powers over the body and soul. This power was so strong that the King (presumably before he died) split the medallion in two; one half giving power over the soul, the other the body. Naturally both halves have since been apart and hidden from each other.



No clue who the shadow warriors are or were. No clue why they were attacking this Chinese city. No idea how the King made this medallion by sacrificing himself. Why would the medallion be so powerful? Was the King a wizard or something? Did the medallion save his city and people? Why am I asking these questions? Well I guess because it all seems kinda important to the plot and its a huge chunk of exposition.

In the present (then) futuristic day of 2007 a nasty villain called Victor Guisman (inexplicably changing his name to Koga Shuko later on) is after the medallion so he can rule New Angeles (Los Angeles). He finds one half (on a bad set made to look like a Chinese village) but of course the other half is owned by the Lee brothers. The Lee brothers are of course based on the two main characters you can play in the videogame (Billy and Jimmy). Unfortunately they couldn't even get that right as they cast Scott Wolf and Mark Dacascos. Now whilst I agree Wolf has the boyish looks and Dacascos has the martial arts skills, they most definitely can't pass as brothers. Putting all things aside, you have to remember this movie is terrible. That's the only reasonable excuse. But they did get their individual red and blue outfits right, so there's that...I guess.

Billy and Jimmy also have a guardian (adopted mother) that just happens to be an Asian lady with martial arts skills. Lucky that innit, image how crap things would have turned out if their adopted mother was a boring white woman who worked as a bank clerk. Satori Imada (Julia Nickson) is essentially the stereotypically wise mystical Asian character, thing is she isn't particularly mystical in this.



As for the villain we have the glorious Robert Patrick hamming it up...gloriously. The character of Victor Guisman/Koga Shuko was created for this movie but added into the 1995 Neo Geo videogame. For some reason this character has hair like Vanilla Ice, an obviously dyed goatee, eyeliner, and dresses like an evil oriental sorcerer of some kind (the usual obligatory dress code). His sidekicks are Linda Lash (Kristina Wagner) who is based off the whip wielding female fighters in the videogame. And finally Huey (Jeff Imada) and Lewis (Al Leong) who are your bog standard Asian martial arts henchmen (but not based on any game characters). I believe the duos names are a nod to the actual Huey Lewis for some reason. At one point Shuko  asks 'Huey, Lewis, any news?'. A reference to Huey Lewis and the News.

Lets not forget Bo Abobo (Nils Allen Stewart) who is also another videogame character. This villain in the game was a huge roided up meatbag, obviously this being pre-The Rock there weren't that many guys as big back then. But Stewart is initially a good similarity. Alas they fudge this character right up by mutating him into some ginormous hemorrhoid. He then proceeds to do literally nothing for the rest of the movie.

So being a movie set in the future, and made in the 90's, there's only one direction this could possibly go. Yes that's right, its a dystopian, post apocalyptic, flooded hellhole that's overrun with various punk gangs and skateboarding vigilante groups. A massive earthquake destroyed half of California yadda yadda yadda. Its remarkable how cities seem to crumble into wastelands filled with gangs when natural disasters happen. Why did half of the youth decide to join scummy street gangs after the quake? How would that make your life any better? And where do they get all their gear from?? Is there a big leather, spikes and chains store in the area? The most utterly bizarre thing about these gangs is the fact some of them dress in postal uniforms, mime makeup, clown outfits, and posh grammar school-esque uniforms.



Then you have the Power Corps vigilante gang that...well I'm not sure what they actually do but they're all kids. Do they fight back against the baddie street gangs? Do they fight back against the police and their curfew? Not really sure but what I do know is their attire is totally tubular dude...not! Seriously this gang is the most 90's thing about this entire movie, its unbelievably cringeworthy. A large gang of kids of various ages in a large secret base filled with arcades, skateboard ramps, electronic equipment, some weird green water...hell its just an adventure playground covered in graffiti. And their leader is Marian (Alyssa Milano) from the videogame, only this time she's a badass with cropped bleached blonde hair and dressed in rainbow coloured slutwear. Seriously I think the director forgot this was a kids flick at certain points. Like the shot of Milano's ass in tight cut-off jeans whilst she's on all fours crawling into a vent.

So as you might expect there are tonnes (and I mean tonnes) of fast, not so witty, quips and mugging into the camera by virtually all involved. All the action centres  around vapid childish martial arts sequences that just looked bad even back in 1994. You can see no contact is being made, the sound effects are way too much, everybody is over acting when getting struck etc...Its legitimately embarrassing to watch at times. Other actions sequences focus on vehicles which are just as bad because its all very slow and basic. It makes no sense why the vehicles are the way they are (seemingly no petrol but running on anything you can stick into furnace-like tank). And how would a common street gang get a hold of a massive Humvee-like 4x4? Oh and they stuck metal teeth on the front grill, because that's hella intimidating right...right??



The speed boat chase sequence is the epitome of how naff this really is. Billy and Jimmy find a speed boat and escape on the river. The bad guys just happen to be all suited up in all black wetsuits with a couple jet-skis ready and waiting to take pursuit. I think the only positive thing I can say about the movie (and this sequence) are the nice looking matte paintings dotted throughout. These images of a ruined LA alongside live action shots do genuinely look quite good. I quite liked the idea of these large metal struts that hold buildings in place, because of aftershocks. And the special effects on Shuko in his shadow form (when activating his half of the medallion) were very effective. The creeping living shadow on the ground was a nicely realised idea.

I think the question here is, should we have expected more from this kids movie? Well at the time videogame adaptations were just starting to flood the market so to speak. 'Street Fighter', 'Mortal Kombat', 'Resident Evil', 'Tomb Raider' were all to come, looming on the horizon. Sure we had already suffered 'Super Mario Bros.' but that was merely seen as a one off mistake, a blip on the upcoming genre. So yes I think its fair to say we were expecting more at the time and looking back they should have done much better. Clearly this should have been an adult movie, I think an over the top violent adult flick could have gotten away with more here. As it stands a dopey kids movie was always gonna be tough because you're simply restricting yourself so much.

The plot is weak as hell, cookie cutter stuff. The characters are basic bland stereotypes. There is absolutely no risk involved in anything (no one dies). Way too many kid actors, also the background extras are hilarious to watch. Just focus on the odd one in crowd scenes and watch them 'act'. The costumes are a literal joke. The weapons all look plastic. The pop culture dates the movie terribly (George Hamilton as a newcaster, digs at Madonna etc...). Dreadful looking early CGI sequences are dreadfully ghastly. Oh and the actual arcade cabinet of Double Dragon is clearly seen in the movie...ugh!!! In short this movie is a pantomime of crap. Its not 'so bad its good', its just bad.

2.5/10

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Firefox (1982)

























So we all know Clint for his westerns, but you should also know him for his political thrillers. 'Firefox' was one of his first political thrillers in the midst of some tough cop/crime action flicks and stupid crap involving an orangutan. Naturally it was based on a novel of the same name which I've never heard of or read, so I am unable to compare the two.

The plot: Put simply, Major Mitchell Gant (Clint) is a Nam veteran who can fly anything and can also speak Russian (thanks to his Russian mother). He is brought back into action on a joint Anglo-American mission to steal a highly advanced Russian jet fighter (code name Firefox) which can hit mach 6, is invisible to radar, and can fire missiles controlled by the pilots mind. He is dropped into Russia undercover. He must reach and secure the jet fighter with the help of Russian dissidents. However, the KGB are aware of his presence and are hot on his heels. Yep, its a fictional cold war thriller.

The film is kinda split into two halves really, the first part follows Gant as he enters the Soviet Union, meets up with Soviet dissidents, and moves from place to place trying to stay one step ahead of the KGB. The second part follows Gant piloting the Firefox jet as he tries to evade Russian attempts to bring him down whilst trying to flee Russian airspace.



For the most part the first half of the film in Russia is slow moving but with solid tension. The film wasn't actually shot in Russia due to actual American-Russian cold war unease so Austria stood in for locations. This is made abundantly clear in a shot showing Gant walking past Red Square in Moscow; its a horrendously obvious and amusing bluescreen shot. It is also kinda amusing watching Clint in this role because if anyone stood out from the crowd as a possible US spy in Moscow, it would be Gant. The man is clearly on the ropes every time he speaks to an official. He's twitchy, sweating, his eyes are darting about the place, he just looks worried as feck. Its so stupid how no Russian official ever pulls him in for further questioning.

I can't deny it is quite exciting to watch Gant evade the KGB one scene after another. The sequence where Gant is trying to leave a subway station quickly before a killed guard is discovered is very good. The Russian dissidents were slightly over the top though I thought, a bit too gruff and merciless, but well acted. They also came across as too obvious for my liking, basically everyone looks so damn guilty in this film. At times it did feel like you were watching a film set in Nazi Germany, but I'm assuming its relatively accurate for the period. Seems very odd that people had to show their ID papers constantly, almost everywhere, but hey it was effective.

I do think the film would have been even more effective if all Russian characters had spoken in Russian with English subs, ditto for the Americans. Although listening to Clint speak Russian  did sound rather off, an understandably difficult task. I'm still not entirely sure if Gant was supposed to be talking Russian (when speaking English) when communicating with various Russian dissidents at certain points in the film. Don't think so but its possible.



The second half of the movie sees Gant stealing the Firefox jet from within a Bond-esque Russian military base complete with white coat scientists who get brutally gunned down after exposing themselves as dissidents. The whole sequence isn't quite as thrilling as Bond but instead quite dark and sobering. The jet itself is a very impressive full scale model which looks a bit like the Lockheed Blackbird aircraft. Whilst the air suit Gant wears is a very cool sexy and futuristic all black affair with slick helmet and visor. All the interior cockpit shots and sequences do look very authentic and of course very cool. The constant light and cloud reflections zipping off Gant's visor (along with the cockpit interior) does sell the illusion perfectly.

The exterior sequences for the aircraft (and dogfight sequence) were filmed using a new technique from John Dykstra called 'reverse bluescreen'. This essentially enabled the shiny black model aircraft to appear to be flying against clear blue skies and glimmering white snow without bluescreen leakage on the model. This does work but naturally things have moved on somewhat since 1982 so by today's standards it still all looks a bit hokey. Some shots do look good, the flyby effect on land and sea is quite nice as the jet zooms overhead. The odd model shot does look pretty sweet but in all honesty a lot of it looks very fake. The more elaborate the aerial manoeuvre, the more fake looking unfortunately.

All in all this is definitely a movie of two halves (have I mentioned that?). The first half is a far more serious affair of infiltration and espionage. Its dark tense and engaging despite how simplistic it all is. On the other hand the second half becomes much more of an action movie with a more jingoistic vibe. Eastwood certainly seems to feel more at home when in the cockpit of an ultra cool armoured killing machine being an all American action hero (who somehow forgets about rear firing missiles despite being the best of the best). Yes in all honesty Eastwood probably wasn't the best choice for the main role here (I know he gave himself the role). He's as wooden as a very wrinkled narrow piece of wood and is clearly outdone by his Russian dissident costar (Warren Clarke), and pretty much all of the Russian military cast.

A good solid reliable Eastwood film which ironically would probably have been much better if Eastwood wasn't in the leading role. He is easily the weakest element in his own movie.

6.5/10

Monday, 9 April 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

























Welcome to the jungle...really? Is that the best they could come up with? How many movies have used that in one way or another now?

So at the end of the first movie (in 1969) the board game Jumanji was thrown into a river by Alan Parrish; 26 years later (1995) its somehow ended up in France apparently. Fast forward to 1996 and the board game has once again been discovered...but back in America? (I trust that wasn't supposed to be the same beach from the first movie). Anyway the game has somehow evolved with the times and is now a videogame console; and once again it lures another unsuspecting youth into its jungle themed clutches. Fast forward again to 2016 and four students will also discover the board game which will trigger the same things that happened before. And round and round we go.

So I gotta admit that I liked the idea that this mysterious game can somehow evolve with the times. Back in the first movie (1969) it was a board game to blend in with the era. Now its a videogame console which of course is perfect for this era. The whole idea of the protagonists choosing a game avatar to play as which then turns out to be their live action avatar once inside the game is pretty cool (although Red Dwarf did it first). This does inevitably lead to very stereotypical characters which is deliberate...but doesn't excuse the stereotypical teenage protagonists which wasn't deliberate I'm guessing.

Yeah so the teenagers, they're a straight 'Breakfast Club' type bunch for sure. You've got the jock, the nerd, the princess, and the weirdo. So yeah its a complete rip-off. I really felt like they could of done better with these characters despite the movie being full of deliberate cliches and stereotypes. As for the avatars they are also rather cliche, naturally. The Rock is of course just playing the same character he always does, basically himself. Jack Black is the squat, spectacled, old fashioned looking professor type. Kevin Hart is the goofy sidekick type. And Karen Gillian is Lara Croft essentially.



One thing that did get me thinking was the in-game characters, the baddies and the in-game guide. The in-game guide and various baddie henchmen all seemed to act like actual videogame characters on rails. In other words they don't interact with the protagonists on a personal level, they just do and say what they were programmed. But some henchmen and the main villain (Bobby Cannavale as Professor Van Pelt, same name as the big game hunter from the first movie) seemed to not do this. It did seem like Van Pelt behaved differently and not in a programmed way like the others, almost as if he were a real person.

Now in the original movie we never saw the jungle in the game, obviously this time we do. Alas its not really been visualised that well in my opinion. I always had the impression the jungle was set in an old fashioned British colonial type era mixed with a bit of Tarzan type fantasy. Like the exterior of the board game indicates. Of course as the game evolved so did the interior jungle it seems. This unfortunately has led to all sorts of modern crap turning up like military choppers, motorbikes, modern guns and weapons, ridiculous chase sequences, and lots of explosions. Now I'm sure some people will have liked these elements but for me it totally ruined the entire feel of the movie, or at least the look and feel I was hoping for.

Gone is the possibility of quaintness and charm, enter vast CGI chase sequences on-board a military chopper (being chased by man eating CGI rhinos. Why didn't they just shoot them?). Stupid chase sequences with hordes of motorbike riding bad guys. Lots of gunfire, explosions and of course the obligatory martial arts sequences from Ruby Roundhouse. I might add that Ruby Roundhouse spends lots of time trying to learn how to flirt and act sexy to distract some bad guys, but ends up just kicking the crap out of them. Her entire character is utterly pointless, why did we need all that shit when she can just beat them up. Its like one sequence where The Rock's character says he knows CPR but doesn't actually do it when its required. He just stands there and gives instructions to another character, eh??



Its really such a shame that this movie went down the route it did. Obviously there was gonna be CGI involved, obviously there was gonna be greenscreen involved, but Jesus Christ could they not do any better than this?! Most of the CGI is bad, real bad. Most of the greenscreen is obvious, real obvious. In fact it gets noticeably worse towards the end in my opinion. There are barely any practical effects which the first movie did incorporate in places. This movie is just ugly from top to bottom and its not helped by all the ludicrous action sequences. Its like half the movie wants to be like The Phantom, and the other half like Rambo. Its such a clash of genres and tone.

There is also a large plot hole in the way this story works, I think, unless I missed something. In the original Alan Parrish goes back to the point where he started playing the game in 1969 and changes time. This is obviously meant that Judith and Peter would never have played (in 1995) and wouldn't know anything about the game or Alan (having never met him). In this new movie the protagonists meet up with the kid (Alex) who got trapped in the game from 1996. When they all leave Alex goes back to the point he started playing in 1996 and changes time. So if he changed time, how come the four main protagonists still remember everything when they get back to their present day of 2016? Surely there's a chance they would never have ended up playing the game, or the game wouldn't have ended up in the school (?).

Anyway once again I find myself completely mystified by a modern movies success. How on earth did this pile of crap make so much money? How on earth did people find this enjoyable?? I could maybe understand it if this was an original movie and the first had never existed, but it does exist! I simply cannot fathom how anyone can accept this utter garbage after the excellent original movie (complete with a terrific Robin Williams) which came out back in 1995. There are some neat little touches here and there, I like the evolution and mystery of the game, and Jack Black is always a pleasure. But apart from that, this was yet another cookie cutter Dwayne Johnson flick. CGI laden trash of the highest order.

3.5/10

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Cowboy Way (1994)

























This movie was pretty much the epitome of cloning or ripping off another movies concept, and then see it go straight to video (in the UK at least). Back in the day you'd find many of these random comedies on the videoshop shelves. Movies you'd never seen or heard of before but had really good casts; its like they just popped up outta nowhere ('Celtic Pride' for example). You had no idea if they were any good but you'd usually rent them because of the cast, and sometimes the neat movie poster on the box.

The plot centres around two cowboys in New Mexico (Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland) who must travel east to New York in order to find their Cuban friend Nacho (who went to find his daughter). Turns out Nacho owed money to a gang for bringing his daughter into the US from Cuba. In the meantime the gang keeps his daughter in sweat shop slavery. So the butch stetson wearing duo must find Nacho and his daughter.

In short this is a very weak rip-off of 'Crocodile Dundee' but minus everything that made that movie a classic. I'm sure you know exactly what to expect when I say that. Both protagonists are your absolute cowboys. They both wear stetsons, jeans and cowboy boots all the time. They both have various stereotypical cowboy skills which come in handy throughout. And they are both displayed to be rather butch and sexy over dem city folk. The only real difference is Sutherland's character is the more sensible, straight laced cowboy with morals. Where as Harrelson's cowboy is the wildcard who loves loose women, drinking and getting into trouble. Pretty predictable stuff really.



Most of the action we see if also your predictable guff (oh my the stunt doubles!!) which was done way better in that 1986 Aussie comedy. Being cowboys these guys are of course out of their natural habitat in downtown New York/Manhattan. They dress funny, they talk funny, and they act all gruff; its all just so...funny. Somehow they manage to waltz into the Waldorf Astoria unchallenged and then manage to get into the dinning area for a snack to eat. Oh the hilarity that ensues as Harrelson's Pepper character acts all uncouth (ahem).

Later on Pepper gets himself into a posh yuppy-esque party for catwalk models (some middle aged woman takes a fancy to him). So this is the part where Pepper acts a bit homophobic because cowboys are real men, grrr! As the plot progresses they meet mounted police office Ernie Hudson who tickets them for camping out in Central Park (you know because they're cowboys and that's what cowboys do). Ernie's character seems to fall under a bit of a man/hero crush with these cowboys and starts helping them on their quest. By helping them I mean completely violating his jobs procedures and acting like a wild cowboy. This includes riding all over New York on his police horse waving his gun around. And allowing Pepper to drive his truck full speed into a local bar owned by the gang (his truck seemingly suffers no damage and apparently no one gets killed or injured).

As the trio chase after the main villain (a snarling, scenery chewing Dylan McDermott who dies quite horribly in the end) they basically end up riding horseback all over places which you simply wouldn't expect to see a horse being ridden. This is of course the movies main hook, having cowboys running amok in Manhattan. They make a point to ride past many landmarks, because of course they do. I can't deny it was interesting to see these scenes of cowboys galloping down main streets, bridges, railway stations, the port areas etc...



In the end this is a cheeky little number that solely relies on the then star 'brat pack' power of Kiefer Sutherland (which he retained for quite sometime); and that period in time when Woody Harrelson was considered a bit of a heartthrob. It also relies heavily on the overly used concept of lower class rough types clashing with posh types, and the tired culture clash formula. The weathered, seemingly backwards type character/s entering the fast-paced modern world.

Its totally as you would expect all the way. A silly comedy with Harrelson in his brazen undisciplined period, and Sutherland just doing what he always kinda did...look stoic (whilst also looking like he stepped out of a Marlboro advert here). Its reasonable but there are much better similar action comedy flicks from this era.

6/10

Friday, 30 March 2018

Pale Rider (1985)

























By this point in his career Clint Eastwood was best known for his westerns, he was essentially the ultimate badass cowboy. In the dictionary under westerns, you'd see a picture of Eastwood (nah not really). But yeah Eastwood was the supreme plains drifter with no name.

This was, I think, Eastwood's last foray into the realms of western badassery as a no name loner dealing lots of badass justice. He was already slowly moving into a more varied selection of film roles and this seemed to be his final goodbye to this particular genre. And with that we get a very typical Clint Eastwood cowboy flick; all the tropes and cliches you've come to expect which is both good and bad truth be told.

The plot: A small bunch of prospectors in California are trying their luck at panning for gold. Thing is they are doing so on land that a greedy big-time miner wants so he can mine it up. Naturally the big-time miner known as Lahood (Richard Dysart) and his cronies are all baddies so they try to run the prospectors off the land with violence. But low and behold, who should come trotting into the picture to save the day? Yep you've guessed it, its Clint as yet another no name hero (actually this character is a clerical man but he's simply referred to as the Preacher).



OK so firstly I have to mention the scenery in this movie, it is stunning. Filmed within the Boulder mountains and Sawtooth national park of Idaho, along with Tuolumne County in California, its all breathtaking. I saw this movie on bluray which made this countryside look even more impressive. The clear blue skies, open grassy ranges, jagged mountains capped with snow, dense forests, and the highly authentic looking small town of Lahood. It all looked terrific and really popped on the screen.

I guess the problems start with the baddies, those dastardly miners. Basically they weren't a very intimidating bunch truth be told, hardly had me on the edge of my seat. Then you had their leader, a very young Chris Penn. Penn's character was the son of Lahood, basically he's the spoilt kid who's in a position of power but really shouldn't be. Its a good idea but nothing is really done with it. You kinda expect more of a loose cannon, an annoying hotheaded youth shooting his mouth and guns off, but no. The only real evil he gets up to is attempted rape. K that's admittedly pretty bad but he does nothing much else. Lahood himself is your stereotypical aged, short, tubby, balding man in a suit with a fat tash.

The elite team of deputies led by Marshal Stockburn (John Russell) who are hired by Lahood to kill the Preacher, are again an element in the film that weren't used to their full capacity in my opinion. For starters Russell was clearly too old for the role as he doesn't move much. Whilst I like the fact that there's an air of mystery surrounding these men and the history between Stockburn and the Preacher, maybe just a hint of backstory wouldn't have gone a miss. But bottom line these guys just weren't utilised enough which was a shame because they were cool. In the end they all get killed off pretty easily one by one by the Preacher in a sequence that we've seen repeated so many times. Shout out to early Billy Drago role here.



Speaking of backstory, I guess I should point out that Eastwood deliberately made the Preacher like a ghost. He rides in outta nowhere, as though he was summoned by a greater force to protect the innocent prospectors (a prospectors daughter prays for help as he rides in). At the end he also rides off again to an unknown destination, maybe to save more innocent people? The character obviously does this type of thing often because we see his past gunshot injuries and we see that he keeps his gun and holster locked up in a bank, obviously for these situations. So its totally open-ended which is fine, I guess.

Anyway things get a little bit too silly in places, take ├╝ber baddie 'Club' (Richard Kiel). He is comically taken down by the Preacher early on and later the character actually does the same U-turn as Kiel's other famous character 'Jaws' (he turns into a goodie and helps the Preacher). Then there is also the initial fight between the Preacher and Lahood's men which involves hickory axe staves. Oh and there's that whole underage sex angle with the 14 year old girl protagonist. One of the prospectors daughters falls in love with the Preacher (obviously a silly teen crush) and isn't shy about saying so. Of course the Preacher turns her advances down but holy moly that whole subplot was awkward (and it carries through to the end!).

This is a mixed bag for an Eastwood western it really is. On the one hand the movie is serious about its story, this isn't a film for kids or anything. There are some very violent moments in the movie with people getting shot multiple times and shot in the forehead (no cuts). There are beatings, the attempted rape, pillage, and a calf and dog get shot dead (all with blood). Not forgetting the underage girl trying to get into bed with the Preacher.



Then on the other hand there are the typical little moments of dark humour you'd expect from Clint, moments of goofiness. As mentioned Richard Kiel's rather stupid and pointless character. And then really really stupid western cliches such as the baddie gang of miners bursting into a store to gun the Preacher down (where he was sitting moments before). Only for the room to be (clearly) empty when they burst in, yet they carry on shooting, shooting at nothing. Then of course the Preacher casually appears and guns them all down. The ending has a heavy dose of deus ex machina about it too. The Preacher has killed all the bad guys except Lahood who is sneaking up right behind him. But then out of the blue one of the prospectors appears and shoots Lahood. But I guess it showed that the Preacher wasn't that invincible, he could have died there.

I like that Clint is an aged grizzled gunfighter in this movie, I liked his look and the fact he was a preacher. Yet even though this movie does deliver everything you would want and expect from a Clint Eastwood cowboy flick, you can't escape the feeling that you've seen it all before (which you have). Apart from the odd plot tweak its essentially no different from many of his other western movies. That's not a completely negative thing as Eastwood is/was a master of the western genre, but bare it in mind.

7/10

Monday, 19 March 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

The first time I saw this movie I couldn't really review it properly, I needed more time, I needed to see it again. Truth be told I disliked it on my first viewing...but there were elements I liked. Surely this couldn't be strike two for the new Star Wars trilogy? (I disliked 'The Force Awakens' also). Well this was my second viewing and I now feel I can get into this fully. Thing is, there is literally so much I could say about this movie it could possibly go on and on. So this time I'm gonna go with a slightly new layout. I'm simply gonna list my thoughts in sections and try to keep them as tight as possible.

General Hux and the beginning: Twas this opening sequence that really bemused and worried me right away (as it did with many). Hux was a relatively solid slimy character introduced in the previous movie. All the trappings of a weaselly baddie. Alas here he has seemingly been reduced to an actual jokey comedic character that could so easily have been torn from the pages of a spoof. The first real dialog we get is an absolutely horrendous back and forth between Hux and Poe. Poe mocking Hux with his communications tomfoolery, or as we in reality call it, a lame mobile (cell) phone gag.

Poe bravely tries to bring down a First Order (Empire) dreadnought during the first space battle. Unfortunately things aren't going too well and the Resistance (Rebels) are being slaughtered. The rebels have one last bomber and one chance to hit their target. In the nick of time the rebel pilot is able to drop the bombs, but how can bombs 'drop' when in space? What about TIE Bombers you say? Well I always thought TIE Bombers fired their bombs downward, like torpedoes essentially, but straight down. That's just me. Also, if you look closely the bomber hangar doors are already open when the pilot triggers the bombs. How was she not sucked out into space?

Princess Leia: Oh boy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! We've all heard about this now but I can't just ignore it. Yes we know Leia has force abilities (as we saw in Bespin), and we know its entirely possible she has grown stronger with the force since then. That aside, its still almost impossible to get past how stupid this entire sequence looked and felt. To make matters even worse, when she flies/floats back to the ship, there was no airlock. The rebels simply open the flippin' door! Everyone would have been sucked out into space in a matter of seconds for flips sake. Oh and while we're at it, she suffered absolutely no injuries whilst getting blown out of the exploding ships bridge. No burns, cuts, broken bones, nothing. I'm not even sure how those TIE torpedoes got through the ships shields, I guess they were special torpedoes?



Then there is of course the flip side to this stupid scene. Unfortunately Carrie Fisher died in 2016 which naturally caused issues for the film. This scene was the perfect ending for Princess Leia under these circumstances. The fact that Fisher is no longer with us surely cemented that. But apparently not, apparently Johnson thought it better to bring her back and give the next director a real headache. The only thing I can think of is they have a large amount of pre-shot footage which they know they can flesh out into the next story. But if that's the case it sure as hell limits things drastically. Oh and they also killed Admiral Ackbar off-screen here too, you bastards!

Anch-To and Luke: Adrift in a cold sea on an oceanic planet, this small windswept circular rocky island houses the first Jedi temple and the tree library of the sacred Jedi texts. The inhabitants of this small island? Small cutesy flightless (I think) bird-like creatures that get everywhere. And 'the caretakers', dwarf sized toad-like creatures that appear to dress like century old nuns. Both races are completely unexplained and are completely useless to the plot. The Porgs merely serve as fluffy comedic relief, whilst the caretakers look like they belong in a 'Labyrinth' sequel. The only creature we briefly see that grabbed my attention was the sea monster breaking the surface in the background.

As with the Leia controversy I'm sure everyone now knows about the Luke controversy. Apart from milking large alien sea mammals for blue milk and generally being a grouch, there was also the lightsaber tossing moment. I'm not gonna dwell on it...but yes it was totally a 'fuck you' to the fanbase from director Rian Johnson. It was also a pathetic Disneyfied attempt at light humour. They basically used a powerful emotional moment in the plot for a quick laugh. Oh it was a plot twist you say? Keep em'.



Canto Bight: Ugh! Sorry just raising my head outta my hands. Well I guess if anyone wanted something more akin to a Lucas movie this was it. Alas more akin to the worst of the Lucas prequels. Yep this entire subplot was completely unnecessary and really ugly looking. A super rich casino city located on planet Cantonica, its packed with super rich alien lifeforms and humans (most of whom appeared to be white? Even all the city police were white men, interesting). Anyway this was the segment where Johnson (under orders of Disney I assume) added the core liberal commentary on our present day society. War profiteering, animal cruelty, slavery etc...its all here, all the juicy stuff. Unfortunately most average people don't wanna  see this kind of stuff crowbarred into a Star Wars movie, not so blatantly for no real reason anyway. At least try with some flippin' subtly. It was really no surprise that this subplot surrounded the new character of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who herself was the epitome of a token politically correct character.

DJ (Benicio del Toro): Another very pointless character if you ask me. Stupid name, stupid way of talking. I suppose he's the Lando of the movie, I wouldn't be surprised if he pops up again. Main question surrounding him, I wonder just who did that ship he pinched belong to. The owner of which was selling ships to both the Resistance and First Order. A possible set up for later on?

Snoke: So he dies, yeah that went nowhere or so we think. I didn't mind that he died (a decent twist for me) but the way it happened seemed silly to me. This bloke is all powerful with the dark side but couldn't detect Kylo Ren moving a lightsaber that was inches from his person?? I guess Kylo could have clouded his mind or whatever but wouldn't he detect that too? I dunno. Plus his personal guards seemed to be useless. Rey showing her invincibility again...despite being revealed as a nobody. Oh and neither Rey nor Kylo actually use any force powers in that fight, eh?



Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern): In short, a very unlikeable character who looked like a middle aged woman having a midlife crisis (the purple hair). At first it literally seemed like she was just there to put the men (the flyboys) in their place with a show of Disney backed feminism (anyone else notice that both the Resistance and First Order seem to have had a major female recruitment campaigns? I'm fine with the ladies in here but Jesus talk about beyond obvious). Amazingly it turns out that Poe's plans were the wrong route after all and Holdo was in fact correct (another decent twist). The problem is, by the time this happens I was so against Holdo that it just didn't matter anymore. They made her so unlikeable that it was too late to turn that around. Oh and all this technology but a major ship doesn't have autopilot? Really?

Yoda: Very cool (hehe) but why not Ben? Or Anakin? Or Qui-Gon? And force ghosts can now do stuff? They can make things happen in the realms of the living? And again another case of Johnson trying to throw out Star Wars lore and legend by having Yoda destroy the Jedi texts (although we see later they weren't...somehow).

Crait: Ah the Hoth battle bit. I guess it was too hard for Johnson and co not to copy the original trilogy. Seeing as before this we had a copy of the Emperor's throne room with Luke from 'Return of the Jedi' (Kylo, Rey and Snoke). And a copy of the asteroid sequence with the Falcon from 'Empire Strikes Back' (Falcon in the Crait caves). Anyway this time the Resistance have about 15 people left (although in the next shot we see dozens more soldiers outta nowhere), and they're up against an even bigger force from the First Order. Same layout as before, the Resistance base door behind a long trench with a few gun turrets.



Salt!: Yes that's right, random Resistance fighter #5 luckily points out for us that the surface of Crait (or that area) is covered in salt. Just in case you mistook it for snow. You know, just in case you thought they were trying to copy the Hoth battle (insert eye roll here). Thing is, why did he do that? He could of killed himself, its an alien planet, you don't just stick random things in your mouth for Pete's sake. Is this the new Ridley Scott method of alien world exploration?

The First Order use around 10 brand new AT-M6 walkers (with a few older AT-AT's for some reason), TIE's, Kylo's shuttle, and superlaser siege cannon. The Resistance use these old speeders (V-4X-D) which required a sort of rudder that stabilised them. I guess they must have been very old designs? The battle is indeed a fun highlight but is utterly stupid as the goodies should of been wiped out in minutes. In fact its so stupid I'm not even sure what they were attempting to do with those speeders. They certainly didn't have firepower to take on the walkers and they couldn't shoot at the TIE's. Its also here where Finn should of died in an emotional sacrificial moment of heroism...but he's saved by that idiot Rose which in turn gave the First Order the victory. Obviously Disney weren't ever gonna kill off their main minority actors, pish posh!

Luke (again): So Luke dies...but why? It is shown Luke is using force projection to confront Kylo (a controversial aspect in itself). Are we to presume he was exhausted after using this power? So much so that he died? Maybe this ability is so powerful that it drains the users life force. Maybe that's why we've never seen it before? Maybe only the strongest most force sensitive Jedi can do it? Kinda makes you wonder why no one has ever used it before. Ben Kenobi could have used it against Vader when confronting him on the Death Star (if strong enough). Ditto Yoda against Count Dooku etc...Also have to ask why he projected himself looking younger, for Leia's sake?



To sum up, looking closer this is really 'Empire Strikes Back', its just not as obvious. Rebels discovered, Rebels run away, Rebels pursued, Rebels lose in the end. What's funny is most of this movie is in fact a very slow chase between two very slow moving ships. And this is the first time we've heard about fuel issues in Star Wars also. A few other final little things. Phasma, what was the point? (and why don't all troopers wear her laser proof armour yet?). Nien Nunb's mask still doesn't look as good as the 83 version, how???!!! What the hell was all that crap with multiple Rey's in that hole? And what was that hole suppose to be? (other than another scene copied from EST. Luke in the cave on Dagobah). And the final sequence with that kid and his broom, kinda felt like another prequel-esque moment. Is this kid gonna be important?

Did I like this new Star Wars movie? No, I liked bits, and when I say bits I mean bits. I liked the visuals, they were generally a massive improvement over 'The Force Awakens'. I genuinely loved the small chase sequence inside a huge Crait cave with TIE's hot on the Falcon's tail. Not only did this look great, it had some classic Chewie piloting moments plus some actual amusing interactions with the Porgs (dunno why Chewie would allow them to stay on the ship but whatever). The fact this sequence also had some John Williams classic Star Wars score along with it almost brought me to tears. I liked Snoke and his death (yup). Twas cool to see a big baddie go down so quickly and easily, unique. I also liked the First Order presence on Crait as it looked badass, alas nothing much happens with it.

But overall I was again disappointed with the final product although I will say I did enjoy it just that little more than 'The Force Awakens'. I'm really not so sure what they're gonna do going forward and the fact Abrams is back doesn't fill me with confidence.

5.5/10

Friday, 16 March 2018

Geostorm (2017)

























Oh my what do we have here?? Did we suddenly quantum leap back to the mid 90's???

So, its 2022 and technology has apparently advanced quite a bit. The Earth is now surrounded by a man made net of satellites which can basically control the weather. Up in orbit there is also an international space station that controls said net of satellites. Bottom line, its a global effort by mankind to try and protect the planet (of course when I say global that doesn't include every country, ahem). There's just one tiny problem, not all humans are nice, not all humans are on the same page. And so the net (called 'Dutch Boy' in reference to an 1865 fictional story) is hacked and used to cause natural disasters around the world. Enter the net designer Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), who is tasked to solve the problem and essentially save the world. The end.

Some of you might think this is just a silly disaster flick, and you'd be right to a degree. But this movie is in fact more of a political thriller mixed with a disaster flick element. The natural disasters we see are in fact triggered and created by the man made satellites, which are in turn started by the evil saboteurs. So its not really man vs mother nature, its man vs man using mother nature as a weapon. To be truthful the idea isn't actually that bad, its just a bit dated. A Pierce Brosnan Bond plot type of dated.



Luckily everyone in the movie acts so seriously, so butch and stoic with their grimaces and steely eyed stares, you can rest assure that everything will work out just fine. Obviously our tough hero Jake Lawson won't die, you think he might (and really he should have, multiple times), but he doesn't. But its really quite amusing and so very 90's how the actors deliver their lines which such ridiculous levels of attitude; trying their best to look and sound as cool as possible as they glare into the camera. I think Jim Sturgess (Max Lawson) is the most guilty of this. He really shows-off all the cliched action movie facial expressions and poses. Its like everyone watched 'Armageddon' before they started filming.

That being said what do you get? Well pretty much everything really, the full gamut of disaster porn. Huge tidal waves, electrical storms, massive hailstones, a firenado, a freezing ice storm, the ground being torn open to reveal what I presume was lava etc...There are lots of sequences which show innocent people getting killed in lots of various ways; including massive carnage to buildings and property.

The action is of course all CGI which ranges from good to average. Whilst the sequences in space look totally fine but nothing amazing, they are by far the best looking parts of the movie. Almost all of the disaster action on Earth looks like CGI. To top that the sequences all look like they've been copied and pasted from other movies such as 'Deep Impact'. You wanna see city skylines get washed away (or frozen, or knocked over) by giant tidal waves? Its all here folks...again. The actual action is simply predictable as feck. Again from seeing other disaster movies you can pretty much guess what's gonna happen.



But one of the main issues with the action, like other disaster movies, is the fact its all so utterly stupid. Whilst trying to obtain a piece of data lodged in the space stations structure via a spacewalk, Jake's spacesuit goes out of control. He is flung all over the place crashing into the space station causing massive amounts of damage...yet he and his suit remain perfectly intact. On Earth whilst natural disasters are occurring specific characters are able to avoid the carnage around them and outrun pending doom in a car. How many times have we seen that? Then in the finale Jake and his new fellow scientist lady friend are both able to avoid masses of space debris flying around as the space station blows up around them. They both make it to a remaining intact satellite (via spacewalking I might add) which also manages to avoid all the deadly debris.

Then to top if all of nicely the last intact satellite pod (why would a satellite be able to house two adult humans inside?) is picked up by a space shuttle...that just happened to be flying by? Seriously was this shuttle just off to the side waiting for the explosion to happen and subside so it could search for potential survivors inside satellite pods?? And while we're at it, why couldn't the self destruct be turned off?? The reason for having one was valid enough, but what about an abort option people?? I also found it quite cute how the person in charge of a countries satellite seemed to be from that country. Like, would NASA (or whoever) go to the trouble of finding a Japanese person to put in charge of the satellite that controls Japans weather?? So the Peru satellite is controlled by a Peruvian person, and the Nepal satellite is controlled by a Nepalese person etc...I mean I know political correctness is hyperbolic these days but Jesus Christ come on!

Despite all that nonsense I gotta be honest and say I actually quite enjoyed this movie. It did exactly what it said on the tin. I was engaged and I found it quite exciting even though it was highly predictable. Yes its not a great movie, but its nowhere near as bad as people are making it out to be. I've said this before about certain movies, had this been released around 1995 or 1996, I think it would have been a reasonable hit. It would have fit in perfectly for the era, although it might have suffered from genre overload. These days of course this type of movie is practically dead, milked dry (almost solely by Devlin and Emmerich). But if disaster porn is your thing don't let that put you off because this really isn't all that bad, for what it is.

6.5/10