Sunday, 24 September 2017

Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Or, curiously, as it was known in the UK 'A Night on the Town'. Funnily enough I can't seem to find out why this change was implemented in the UK. I know the UK version was cut by about 8 seconds for profanity and since then the movie was released with those cuts back in and the original title restored. I guess the title change could have been down to possible confusion with some other movie, I guess. That being said, the plot is essentially a kids version of Martin Scorsese's 1985 movie 'After Hours'.

Not only that, this movie always seemed like a bit of an oddity to me. Its most definitely a classic 80's movie yet somehow...I always felt like it should of had a more classic cast. Its the strangest thing, every time I think about this movie I keep putting other classic actors of the era in it, knowing full well they weren't in it. I guess what I'm saying is this movie really needed some A-list talent in it. The movie really does yearn for a standout comedic performance to add some punch, the best bet being the villains ('Home Alone' being a good example). To me this always felt like a huge missed opportunity.

The other main issue I had with this movie is the plot. Basically Chris Parker (Elizabeth Shue) has taken on a babysitting gig after her boyfriend blows her off. Her job for the evening now is to look after teenager Brad (Keith Coogan), 8 year old Sara (Maia Brewton) and next door neighbour Daryl who gate crashes the situation. Now the entire backbone of the story hinges on one thing, Chris Parker's friend Brenda running away from home and getting stuck at the city bus station. Brenda uses up all her money to run away to the bus station, changes her mind and wants Chris to come pick her up. To me this was always really weak and really annoying too, I'd be like...not my problem, ring your parents. So Chris feels obliged to help her idiotic friend, but to make matters worse the kids blackmail her into taking them along, cue the nightmare.

The movie moves from one set piece to another introducing more and more problems for Chris as her night becomes more and more convoluted. The whole scenario is one long chain reaction of events intertwined. Its also one of those scenarios in a film where you sit there, at times feeling uncomfortable because you just know the characters shouldn't be doing this that or the other. You find yourself saying things out loud because you know what's gonna happen. One of the first major setbacks for Chris and co is when their car gets a flat and after a string of events they end up losing it. This is something that I found to be a constant worry while watching the kids get deeper and deeper. Will they find the car? Where is the car? Is it in one piece? Obviously you know everything will be OK; but you know the movie is working when you're thinking about it.

Of course everything that does happen is pretty cliched, kids being trapped in the city (Chicago) at night you know what to expect. Nothing horrendous obviously as the movie was for kids but the usual stereotypical 80's stuff. Lots of bums, hookers, weirdos, criminals that are generally black or mafia-like, some classic 80's street gangs in some attire to die for, and of course frat boys. Because what 80's flick is complete without frat boys, required or not. But the main crux surrounds the kids being continuously chased by some criminals because they accidentally picked up a Playboy magazine with some important criminal details written inside.



Chris and co manage to stumble into a jazz club where they are forced to sing the blues. This whole sequence was certainly silly and embarrassing that's for sure. I know this is a movie but who would have time for a sing song in this situation?? But this sequence did also remind me very much of 'The Blues Brothers' especially with Albert Collins on show. Later on in the movie the kids wind up at a frat boy party (because...80's) where we see the usual beer chugging tomfoolery along with high school sluts. But we also see another musical cameo from Southside Johnny Lyon which again gave me those Blues Brothers vibes. The soundtrack for the movie is very good overall, some nice soul and blues going down.

As the adventure progresses the kids meet up with various folk who either help them or don't quite simply. All the while annoying Brenda is having a nervous breakdown in the bus station over not very much really. The whole deal with Brenda felt really out of place, just too stupid. I understand she's a teen but Jesus Christ get a fucking grip girl! Gotta say, Maia Brewton who plays little Sara was annoying too with her Thor obsession (yes Thor). This all plays into the sequence where the kids meet up with Dawson (Vincent D'Onofrio), the mechanic who has their car towards the end. This guy has long blonde hair (a terrible wig on D'Onofrio) and carries a sledgehammer that looks like Thor's hammer, so Sara thinks its Thor (ugh!). They owe Dawson $50 for a tyre (only 50! how times have changed), but only have 45, so Dawson refuses. But then little Sara offers him her kids Thor helmet (cos she's dressed as Thor the entire movie), and Dawson suddenly changes his mind, just like that. Deus ex machina Thor helmet moment.

Hell in the finale the kids end up at the top of a skyscraper and Sara flippin' climbs out of the window and shimmies down the glass onto a ledge! She's being chased by one of the bad guys yes but my God! Its at this point I started to question director Chris Columbus's motives. Clearly he did this just to raise the stakes, make things more thrilling, but its essentially really stupid because no kid would do that. Also the carjacker that initially helps the kids, knocks out his criminal boss to help them finally escape. But what happens to him? Does he wind up getting whacked for punching his boss? Or does he give up his life of crime and start over? Who knows.

Naturally everything works out in the end with a Ferris Bueller-esque finish that is reasonably enjoyable. Even though I was engaged in the unfolding events I was never worried about things not working out, obviously. Even though (as I've said) this is a classic 80's flick, in all honesty there are better ones out there in my humble little opinion. This movie is fun but lacks some real talent of the time. There are so many characters that could have easily been cameos for big name comedians of the era. The movie tries to be funny, witty and at times edgy but it tends to fall a bit flat. The music is a highlight as are the glorious retro inner city visuals; but the main characters are kinda irritating and can't hold a candle to other 80's movie casts. In the end its still hard to believe that this entire chain of events happened simply because of one ditzy girlfriend and her own foolishness.

6/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

Supernova (2000)





















Back in the day there was a time when you'd walk into your local videoshop (VHS) looking for a specific movie. Whilst scanning the shelves for your desired evenings entertainment, chances are you'd come across a movie that you'd never seen or heard of before. Yet despite that, the cast, the cover and the genre would get you all excited to see it asap. This is how 'Supernova' came into my life. Just one of those 'out of the blue' movies that sat there begging to be rented. The lure was too great and for me the internet was not yet a regular source of entertainment and info (I don't think the net became widely mainstream until around 1999; and even then it will have taken time for many to get fully on board). So I had no way of judging the product without paying for it. Of course you would pay for it, taking the risk, and more often than not the movie sucked. But at times there were exceptions.

The plot is quite simple and unoriginal really. It sees the crew of the Nightingale 229 responding to an emergency call some 3000 light years from their position on the moon Titan 37. To get to this far off point they use the dimension jump drive on-board their ship. Unfortunately this results in the death of their Captain/pilot A.J. Marley (Robert Forster). When arrived they pick up one survivor from the moon (Karl Larson played by Peter Facinelli) and his cargo, an alien artifact. After much discussion it is decided by co-pilot Vanzant (James Spader) to jettison the artifact because it may be dangerous. This makes Larson unhappy and he decides to kill everyone on-board. It seems this alien artifact has made him younger, given him super strength and superhuman healing abilities (handy). Eventually only Vanzant and Dr. Evers (Angela Bassett) are left alive, can they stop Larson?

The first little issue with this plot is the fact that when the ship arrives close to Titan 37, they enter a debris cloud which damages their ship causing loss of fuel. At the same time Titan 37 orbits a blue giant that's gravitational pull will suck in the stranded ship within about 17 hours. This means their only means of escape is using the dimension drive again, but that will take almost the same amount of time, so their exit window is tight. Now this all sounds pretty formulaic and admittedly reasonably cool. Thing is, the volatile alien artifact they find (now known as a bomb), does actually get ejected into space towards the finale. This causes a pending supernova as the artifact gets hotter the closer it gets to the blue giant. So in the end the risk of gravitational pull goes out the window; it all suddenly becomes escaping a supernova.



The other oddity if you will is the alien artifact. At first it seems to be some kind of energy releasing thing that empowers anything that it comes into contact with. This resulting in the rather bland superhero power angle. But later on we discover its actually a bomb made by aliens. Its purpose being to literally wipe out an entire galaxy (or even universe apparently) whilst at the same time release new seeds of life to start everything over, or something like that. Its a unique concept for sure but so many questions. The main one being, why would an intelligent alien race want to wipe out other intelligent life? Why make a bomb so powerful it can potentially destroy an entire galaxy? And how does this thing actually trigger? In the movie it only goes off because it flies into a blue giant. Had that not happened I guess everything would have been fine?

On the whole I did quite like the plot about finding this alien artifact, hardly original stuff I know but still. The side effect of Larson acquiring various super powers was a bit shitty though; I really didn't like that as it just felt way too generic. That of course led to various generic superhuman fight and healing sequences  which we've all seen before. Its a shame really because for the first half of the movie the story is intriguing. Come the midway point it just degenerates into a common psycho on a killing spree routine...albeit a short one.

Luckily the visuals in this film are surprisingly decent. No doubt this will have come down to the talent by behind the directors chair (long story but Walter Hill and Francis Ford Coppola of all people). Like many sci-fi flicks you can see the 'Aliens' influence throughout, unfortunate...predictable, but they are still effective. Many shots do look very sleek and familiar, and many sets do have a familiar style (mainly the dimensional stabilisation chambers/pods). But they do also have a very polished, shiny, silver finish too them which is a shame because the used appearance is more authentic I think. Oddly at times the whole feature does look a tad like a made for TV movie, the sets look a bit plastic, too clean and Star Trek-esque if you get me. But its amazing what a bit of moisture and steam can do huh.



Space effects are of course a mixed bag being an old movie with early CGI in use. The exterior shots of outer space, star fields, planets, moons, debris clouds, mining facilities etc...all look very nice in a documentary standard type of way. Nothing mind blowing but pretty to look at ya know. Alas the greenscreen effects are pretty horrendous and really give the game away. The zero-G sex scene was especially bad in more ways than one. Oh and speaking of sex, there are like...three sex scenes within the first twenty odd minutes! Obviously going for that gritty adult space thriller, sex being of central importance it seems. The rather goofy ships robot (man in a rubber suit) kinda lets down the gritty adult visage though.

The B-list cast is also amusing with their over the top performances. James Spader is really going for it with his butch space hero. His voice is so sternly soft and serious you can hardly make out what he's saying. Where as Angela Bassett is really going for it with her bad tempered and overly serious medic. Really wanted her character to smile! Lou Diamond Phillips seems to be there because...actually I don't know why. Where as Robin Tunney seems to be there mainly because she was relatively hot at the time after a few biggish movies. Although the cast is likeable in the movie, its some of the most offbeat casting decisions I've come across for awhile. These old slapdash straight to video movies did tend to simply cast anyone they could with a known name; it didn't matter if they fit the bill or not (hence Robert Forster for like...less than ten minutes film time).



Anyway it turns out this movie does in fact have a long long turbulent backstory. Going as far back as 1990 when this idea was originally pitched as a thriller involving an alien artifact releasing evil forces on Earth, with artwork by H.R. Giger to help sell it. Long long story short, the story changed over time with many different writers, directors and actors attached. Originally Walter Hill was at the helm but left after major disagreements. Then came Jack Sholder who virtually reshot the movie cutting most of Hill's work. This led to a successful test screening but it still wasn't enough to please the new studio bosses. Said bosses then went back to Hill, who wanted more money and time for more reshoots. The bosses refused so Hill walked again. Then eventually Coppola (odd choice) was brought in to re-edit again, which got a negative test screening, so MGM gave up and sold the film.

Yet despite all that, this mish mash of concepts isn't all that bad I think. It is disjointed for sure and you tell there was a clash of ideas going on with the way the plot changes directions. It isn't really explained all that well and it doesn't really make much sense but I still found it engaging. It is definitely saved by some classy effects and sets. As I said, not too original but still effective. They do compliment the plot well which is genuinely remarkable all things considered. The ending is also quite bold and left open, which kinda gets you thinking but not too much as its also a bit cheap. Personally I think its still more recognisable as a Walter Hill movie, but with a tonne of deleted scenes and alternate cuts its anyone's game really.

6/10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Net (1995)

























Now this was a blast from the past, my teenage years (I was 17 at the time). It might seem crazy these days but I distinctly remember watching this in the cinema with a friend, and both of us scoffing at how ridiculous the movies premise was. The whole idea of the internet (something that was more of a joke back then) being able to bring down someone's entire life. The idea of people actually having portable computers and being able to use them, online! everywhere! The idea of someone's life revolving around a computer...or more specifically the net, was at the time almost inconceivable (unless you were rich).

Yes these were simpler times my friends, back before the internet was an integral part of people's lives, or before the internet was even taken seriously. Hell back then movies like this were the only introduction some people had to the, so called, information highway. This and movies like 'The Lawnmower Man' were pretty much the only things most common people saw of the internet, hence why we all thought it was a gimmicky flash in the pan. Even British videogames TV show GamesMaster would mock the internet with its limited abilities at the time. We were told one day we'd all be surfing the net, we all ridiculed the notion, how wrong we were.

Anyway the movie. Systems analyst Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is accidentally drawn into the dark world of cyber terrorism when her work college sends her sensitive information on a floppy disk (remember those?!). The information revolves around the death of the US Secretary of Defense and a large software company CEO, Jeff Gregg. Whilst on holiday Bennett gets wined and dined by mysterious British gent Jack Devlin whom she starts to have feelings for. But before she knows it this British gent is trying to kill her so he can get his hands on this disk. Following a nasty accident where Bennett tries to escape Devlin, she awakes in hospital to discover her life has been deleted. Bennett must now try and find help to recover her life, evade Devlin, and uncover the truth on the disk.

Yeah so the plot is your typical computer hacking/expert, on the run type affair which is now a dated concept. This idea was quite new at the time but director Irwin Winkler really tapped into the public's interest by utilising the newfangled internet contraption. The internet wasn't unheard of at the time of course, but it was intriguing to the masses and was used a lot to present an exciting new angle to movies. It was almost like an unexplored universe and Hollywood wasn't gonna let it slip by without milking its every potential.

The other main draw for this movie was actress Sandra Bullock who was literally the biggest thing in Hollywood between 1993 - 1995. Hot off a trilogy of blockbusting hits that were 'Demolition Man', 'Speed' and 'While You Were Sleeping', Bullock could do no wrong. She was America's sweetheart with her adorable, girl next door looks and squeaky clean image. People just went to movies starring Bullock, no questions asked, she was huge.

This movie also used the highly unpopular nerd image which was still something to mock at the time. Nowadays nerds are all the rage but back in the day oh no, being a nerd was not cool. But what baffled people even more was the introduction to a sexy female nerd, this was virtually unheard of at the time. This did present a problem for the movie simply because no one believed a sexy female could be a whizz-kid on computers or a nerd. Especially Bullock who was Hollywood's new darling leading lady. And admittedly it is hard to believe Bullock in this role because she simply doesn't look like she understands what shes talking about half the time. She also looks surprisingly unathletic considering her previous action movies, she kinda sleepwalks through this looking bored.

Looking back now this movie is fun simply to see all the retro hardware and early programs in action. All these chunky laptops, very basic net page layouts, disk swapping and loading etc...it does bring back many memories. The action is kinda sparse but reasonably thrilling I suppose, it was never gonna be a violent movie with Bullock in the lead. Bullock was the queen of PG-13/12 rated movies. So the movie cuts away for any violence and there is little profanity, if any. Jeremy Northam is easily the best thing about the film with his devilishly charming contract killer, probably why his character is called Devlin.

In the end this is a very safe and harmless action thriller that didn't want to rock the boat for its leading lady. Bullock is still cute and cuddly while under the stress of being hunted down by a hitman. Being a movie about computers director Winkler obviously couldn't pass up a chance to film at the Macworld/iWorld trade show in San Francisco. So naturally the tense unrealistic finale is shot there. It is hilarious to watch Bennett downloading/uploading such large chunks of data onto floppy disks just in the nick of time. I'm just gonna assume that the trade show would have had the best of the best computers on show so that made it possible. Its all very silly, cutesy and charming these days, so amusing to think this was a big serious release back in the day.

5.5/10

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Spies Like Us (1985)

























There was a time when certain movies could be rolled out into the cinemas solely depending on a handful of Saturday Night Live performers. These movies didn't necessarily have to be overly interesting, the plot could be thin on the ground, and the characters could be one dimensional. All that was needed was to see these guys doing their thing, their shtick. The studios knew that was enough to generate ticket sales.

In this comic caper Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase play somewhat mis-matched, yet strangely well matched, low key government workers that both undertake a foreign service exam to better themselves. After being caught cheating in a highly embarrassing display of lunacy, the pair are amazingly promoted to foreign service operatives. Turns out that some underhanded DIA folk need decoy agents to protect their real agents out in the field (the field being Soviet Asia). So in thinking they have a real mission to carry out, the bumbling duo are dropped behind enemy lines to basically lead the Soviets on a wild goose chase.

So the plot revolves around the old enemy, the dastardly USSR, arch nemesis to the good old US of A. Going into Russian territory, arming an intercontinental ballistic missile, launching it and then testing a missile defence system. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out the predictable does in fact happen but luckily our inept heroes save the day. Does anything happen much in between this? Well not really truth be told, the entire movie is very much stringed together with a series of skits, or so it seems. This isn't a bad thing but just don't go expecting anything amazing plot wise that's all, this is a bare bones tale.

So lets look at our heroes. Dan Aykroyd is Austin Millbarge (great name), a very clever and innovative codebreaker who works at the Pentagon. Bottom line this is the type of character you've come to expect from Aykroyd because its clearly his own persona. He's clearly very smart, a fast thinker and fast talker who can reel off large chunks of dialog in a robotic fashion. Likewise Chevy Chase plays Emmett Fitz-Hume, an easy going, loveable rogue who's a bit of a coward, a bit slow at times and a ladies man. Now I wouldn't say Chase is all this in reality but he certainly comes across like an easy going, loveable rogue and ladies man. Overall both characters show promise but also display remarkable ineptitude.

I love both characters introductions, Millbarge working in this rather curious factory-like part of the Pentagon surrounded by his work. To look at he comes across as nothing more than a messy, going nowhere, slob. But we quickly learn this guy is a technical whizkid. On the other hand we find Fitz-Hume lounging at his desk, headphones on, watching a movie. When asked about his upcoming exam he merely brushes it off as a forgone conclusion. When we get to the actual exam we are offered the first glimpses of how fecking hilarious this movie will be. Aykroyd and Chase work off each other flawlessly in this sequence, its fantastic. I adore how Fitz-Hume has all these little compartments where he's hiding answers (an eyepatch and arm cast). 'What does K.G.B. stand for?' is written on a bit of paper he slips to Millbarge. Then when he eventually play acts a nervous breakdown merely to grab other people's answer sheets, gloriously cheesy Chase.

The next classic segment would be the training montage where both men are put through their paces double time. Apart from how adorably dated everything looks this is also an opportunity for some quick visual gags. The obligatory obstacle course, being shot at above and below water, radical vertical impact simulation, high-G training in a centrifuge, staying afloat, extreme heat tests etc...Customary military training type stuff. What is kinda amusing is the way they both got to the training facility. Thrown out of a plane (with parachute), only to both land in the exact same spot which just happens to be the training grounds.

The movie does move fast and before you know it we are in the deserts of Pakistan for more hijinks. Naturally the duo get captured by the locals but are saved by two other westerners who conveniently turn out to be the real DIA agents. Of course one of them is a hot blonde (Donna Dixon) so you know what comes next with Chase's character. The duo end up impersonating doctors for the most part at this stage and its a hoot. A very amusing operation sequence, some sexual innuendo, topped off with a small chase sequence and its off to Russia by camel. This is where the movie does start to falter somewhat, it slows right down and loses its comedic impetus. This is probably because the plot has to focus more on the whole missile launching angle from the military types in their US bunker.



It does seem pretty reckless doesn't it, sending agents into the USSR to launch one of their ballistic missiles only to test your own missile defence system. And the fact that this missile is targeted at the USA! Why not just launch one of your own missiles which isn't pointed at your own country? Any way its very dumb and does kinda spoil the whole ham-fisted spies side of things. This is where many of the plot holes become more apparent also. At the end the US Army Rangers eventually burst into the rogue bunker, but how did they know where it was? Plus how did these DIA folk manage to pull of such a feat as this without anyone finding out?? They knew there was a risk of global thermonuclear war if their missile defence system missed its target...but they went ahead anyway?? All to preserve the 'American way of life'?! Surely there wouldn't be much life left after a nuclear war, and all the military personnel in this bunker agreed to this??

The ending is also rather poor and a letdown. After all the missile has been safely sent off into space via Millbarge's technical reprogramming and the DIA bunker stormed, we later find Millbarge and Fitz-Hume now promoted as nuclear disarmament negotiators. But the weird thing is, the Russian soldiers they fought off to launch the missile back in Russia, are somehow representing the USSR in these talks? So...were the Russians promoted too? If so...why would they have been promoted? Or were they originally nuclear negotiators? Also they all seem to be playing some kind of Risk board game to negotiate? Like...huh??!! Apparently this was a reshot happy ending, clearly the wrong choice methinks.

The location work is terrific it has to be said. Apparently they filmed in Morocco and Norway for Pakistan and Russia but in all honesty it all looks authentic enough to me. This movie is surprisingly good looking considering what it is. With that in mind, even though you might think this was a run-of-the-mill comedy top heavy with slapstick (which it is), its also quite a clever little movie. Director John Landis has injected some nice wit into the proceedings along with nice visuals, nice effects (for the time) and a whole host of cameos that you might not even realise on a first viewing. Aykroyd and Chase are also on winning form with some cracking quick-fire one-liners that can't fail to make you smile. This isn't a perfect comedy and its not a thrilling adventure, but it has a good energy to it. If anyone is looking for the epitome of a classic 80's screwball comedy, you can't go wrong here.

7.5/10

Friday, 15 September 2017

Savage Dog (2017)


















What's this? Another martial arts movie starring Scott Adkins and a few of his mates? Well OK, I guess...as long as its a little bit differ...oh.

Martin Tillman (Adkins) is an Irishman serving time in Indochina 1959 (for whatever). He is also wanted by the British for his links to the IRA and a terrorist attack. So straight away, am I supposed to be rooting for this guy? Anyway old Martin is a good brawler (who'd of guessed it huh) and makes corrupt prison warden Steiner and his other corrupt mates plenty of money. But unfortunately the British are after Martin and are snooping around Steiner, so he releases Martin. Martin gets himself a little job in a small bar run by Valentine (Keith David). There he falls in love with a girl and starts to feel at home.

Alas Martin quickly lands himself in trouble when he ejects a troublemaker from the bar (beating him up in the process). This troublemaker turns out to be a top fighter for Steiner and his cronies. So Martin is offered the chance to come fight for Steiner, again, to make up for it. Naturally he declines, but Valentine talks him into it for the money. So Martin fights, the money is good and everyone is happy. Eventually Martin is instructed to lose a fight because he's simply too good and no one is betting against him. At the same time Valentine unknowingly bets his bar on Martin to win. So Martin loses the fight and Valentine loses his bar. In his frustration Valentine attacks Steiner's henchmen and gets himself killed. In turn Martin is also taken out despite Steiner not really wanting that. But luckily Martin is only wounded and comes back to exact his revenge.

Yes the plot is initially a different spin on the usual proceedings, they have actually tried to build the characters and give the movie some purpose. But this merely becomes a little convoluted with bits of the plot not really going anywhere and then everything just being reduced to the usual vengeance scenario. The whole 'underground fighting for the bad guys' aspect is so incredibly unoriginal now its not even remotely entertaining. Of course you know Martin will be betrayed eventually, that is a no-brainer. He comes back from the dead, has his little training montage and voila! You couldn't get more cliched if you tried.

The curious thing about the story is the fact its narrated by Valentine, the movies token black character. Its odd because this character narrates it as though he's telling someone a story from his past, yet he dies. The really odd part is he carries on narrating after his character has been killed! Martin's love interest is in the movie purely for him to have a love interest and sex scene, she is of no real consequence. I think she is actually the daughter of Steiner, I think, but that also went nowhere.

The main henchmen are the real hook for the movie as they are played by other martial arts superstars. Cung Le plays an ex-Vietnamese paratrooper who doesn't really do or say much. Unfortunately this character could be taken out of the movie very easily and you wouldn't notice. He is literally there just for a good fight scene. The second in command henchman apparently fought for the Nazi's and is played by Marko Zaror. This guy actually does have some input into the plot in the sense that he does much of the bad stuff. Both are merely cast for one thing though, and they do deliver when it counts. Each has their own main fight sequence and they are of course very good, well choreographed. But again we are shown another reason not to like the protagonist Martin as he kills Cung Le's character cheaply with a gun after getting beaten in the fight. The movie also has other known fighters dotted throughout who you may or may not recognise.

I think the problem with this Adkins movie, and others, is Adkins himself. This guy just isn't a leading man type guy. He doesn't really have the looks for a leading man, in fact he looks more like a bad guy. And more crucially he can't really act too well, his range is limited. The same can also be said for most of these guys, they work well in the background as stuntmen or minor henchmen with little dialog, but that's it. Give these guys actual acting roles and things tend to fall apart, Zaror being particularly bad in this movie. I know you could say the same about JCVD but he gets a pass because he was the first, he was one of the original 80's action men. So yeah Adkins character in this movie is an IRA terrorist who gets away with his dubious past basically, kinda shitty.

Obviously this is a movie made for a specific fanbase and that fanbase I'm sure will enjoy this. If I was back in my teens I reckon I would love this too, but I'm not. With that I can't say that I loved the movie, but its not terrible. You want some solid fights then you will be pleased with this. Nothing spectacular but just solid fight sequences and gun battles with plenty of blood that do look good. Other than that its just business as usual really, the only quirk being who they can match up in these movies. Problem is there is only so much you can do and you can't keep regurgitating the same spiel over and over.

5.5/10

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Alien: Covenant (2017)

After the somewhat convoluted disappointment that was Ridley Scott's lavish A L I E N prequel 'Prometheus', I was never really sure how his inevitable sequel would go. After seemingly setting up even more story lines with even more questions, the main question for me was simply, how in the hell was Scott gonna rein all this crap in?? So this time I decided to go into this sequel/prequel relatively blind, not paying too much attention to all the mass debating online.

That being said, it was still hard not to get tied up in all the hype. And with that my initial disappointment came with the plot. Set 11 years after the events in 'Prometheus', the colonisation ship Covenant is en route to the distant planet of Origae-6. Onboard we also find Walter, a newer model of android series that resemble David from the first movie. His job is again to monitor the ships functions and crew whilst they are in cryo-chambers. A random space event damages the ship and kills some of the sleeping colonists which forces Walter to awaken the main crew. Whilst repairs are underway the ship picks up a distant transmission from an unknown, but habitable planet that is almost identical to Earth (yet the crew are not amazed by this). Despite some concerns the ships Captain decides to divert and check out the transmission. So put simply, its the same damn plot we've now seen twice before. Really Ridley?

OK so I will try not to make this read like a huge list of questions regarding the massively convoluted plot, but no promises. The movie opens with the exact same title sequence as the original 1979 movie. You know what I mean, the main title slowly appearing bit by bit against a backdrop of space. Yep this is an Alien movie alright, and we're redoing everything you fondly remember...but this definitely isn't another soft reboot.

K so when the crew are awakened from hypersleep in an emergency, one of the pods malfunctions or something. This leads to the death of the ship's original captain played by James Franco, who we never actually see in the movie apart from a photo. For some reason he gets incinerated inside his own hypersleep pod, really not too sure why his pod did this. Maybe as a way to contain any possible unknown dangerous space bacteria and whatnot? Also a convenient way to dispose of the body? It does seem to be a rather worrying design flaw. Its also around this time we meet the stereotypical crew consisting of many faceless alien fodder characters that you will never care about (keywords being faceless and fodder). Some strong Ripley rip-off characters, a Lambert rip-off character (you'll find out later), and the obligatory white female with black male partner (never any other race, always black). Oh and Danny McBride plays a cool, bearded stetson wearing character called 'Tennessee'. You know because in the origin film there was a cool bearded character called 'Dallas'. See what he did there?



As with the previous film we also see that the technology on-board the ship is way better than anything we saw in the original 79 movie. At the time this was crudely passed off with an explanation about how different ships would have different technology on-board. This has always bothered me simply because its bullshit. Why would anyone make a large spaceship and not fit it with the best technology going? Even if said ship was a basic mining ship and costs were taken into account, its a bloody spaceship! not a Ford Escort. It will require good technology all round surely. So with that I still find it hard to swallow the fact that these ships are so ridiculously better looking all round than anything we saw in the original movies. Lets be honest here, its because movie effects are obviously way better today and Scott and co simply couldn't help themselves. They just wanted kewl looking spaceships.

Quick question about the ship. When they arrive at the mystery planet there is a large plasma storm over the area with the transmission. This storm prevents the Covenant from landing or going in closer when things start to get messy on the surface for the scout party. But why? OK its a storm over an alien planet but lets not forget the planet is supposedly very similar to Earth. Secondly if this ship can fly billions of light years through the universe contending with all manner of spacey things, why can't it make it through a storm cloud? Thirdly, couldn't they just go around the cloud? I realise that might have taken time but that leads me to ask why they didn't just approach the transmission area from a different angle in the first place. Surely they could of descended into orbit elsewhere and gone under the cloud or slightly around it? Its not like the storm was a surprise, they knew it was there, plus they used a drop scout ship anyway so distance clearly wasn't that much of an issue.

Again as with the previous film we have issues surrounding the intelligence of the crew and how they operate. One main factor last time was poking and putting your face up close to an unknown alien organism. This time...yup we have that again, ugh!!! But not only that, this time the entire crew wanders off the safety of their ship onto an alien planet (the one with the mystery transmission which just happens to look like where it was filmed...New Zealand) without any form of protection! No space helmets, no real protective suits, no planetary scans or scouts to check the surface, zippo. They merely stroll onto the planet and start off on a cross-country ramble. Jesus Christ some even start talking about setting up the colony there! Yeah this unknown, unchecked mystery planet will do nicely. You can get lost or killed first? First prize...errr...you die!



This unknown planet turns out to be the Engineer homeworld which is also home to David, a now dead Shaw and the black goo. If you thought 'Prometheus' was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. So David supposedly wiped out all the Engineers with the black goo when he arrived. Why? presumably because he wanted to create his own lifeforms and needed a clean slate, although I don't know for sure. All the Engineers were standing around and cheering the ship as it arrived, not sure why, was this a special ship or mission? All the Engineers also looked really different to the main chap in 'Prometheus', not as muscular or marble-like. Different in a bad makeup job type way that is. We are also led to believe that this entire planet only consisted of one major Engineer city?? No other cities or anything nearby or further away??

So David released the black goo and it wipes everything out, fine. When the humans go walkabout one male gets infected by a plant or fungus releasing a black goo spore. In turn this very quickly takes affect causing an alien to gestate and burst from within (his back this time because...changing it up a bit). So, if the black goo infected everything in this way, wouldn't there be lots of little aliens running the planets surface? And clearly those spores are WAY more lethal and effective than the alien creatures. They are literally particles in the air that can enter the human body through any small orifice. The main aliens are actually less threatening! ha! Also, how fucking quickly did that new alien go through its gestation period from a mere spore??!! And speaking of gestation periods, the main alien again goes from chestburster (which looked like a children's toy) to full grown alien in no time! What has happened to the slow build up and tension?? And how exactly did David create the original alien eggs? I still don't get how he managed that. Did he somehow get to the eggs from experimenting on Shaw?



As for the finale its in three parts essentially, all of which are totally cheap cop outs (with dreadful CGI on the alien amazingly). The first revolves around a pitch battle and various large powerloader-esque pieces of equipment. As Tennessee tries to take off from the planet with Janet Daniels (Katherine Waterston) in tow, the alien tries to take her down. This involves Daniels outside the ship, trying to shoot or knock the alien off, whilst attached by a cable. For some reason Tennessee just flies around in circles whilst Daniels swings around aimlessly doing a bad job of defeating the alien. At no point did either just think to fly into space and fry the alien? Anyway, eventually Daniels operates a large crane claw, which the alien very conveniently jumps straight into, and they crush it.

You think that is the end but its not, oh no. We then get the second cheap schlocky finale. Low and behold there is another alien...because of course there is! This one decides to attack some of the remaining crew members while they have sex in the shower, in true 80's slasher flick style (just to cover all the bases). Tennessee and Daniels (who is now in full Ripley mode complete with vest) must now lure the creature into one of the ships cargo bays so they can flush it into space. Yes that's right, flush it into space, cheap ending number three. Because Scott just wants to rehash every damn thing from his glorious original. Oh and this alien seems to mature in around five bloody minutes after hatching, certainly appears that way.



What can I say about this movie?? Really what can I say??? Its so so obvious that Scott was somewhat crushed by the reaction to 'Prometheus' and was literally forced into going in a new direction for this sequel. Its abundantly clear that he's added the entire alien aspect simply to appease the fanbase that demanded more alien action. But Ridley being Ridley, was never gonna completely eject his original plans. Thus we have this complete clash of ideas, two concepts rolled into one resulting in a higgledy-piggledy mess. On one hand you have this epic spiritual space adventure into the unknown; focusing on life, our place in the universe, creation, Gods and monsters so to speak. Then on the other hand you have this terribly cheesy and cliched monster movie that degenerates into a tacky slasher flick with horribly obvious twists (David and Walter switcheroo and David creating the xenomorph). You can quite easily tell from reading the films title. The film should have simply been called 'Covenant' or 'Prometheus II: Covenant'. The addition of 'ALIEN' was clearly to draw in the fanboys of the original movies in the promise of a more familiar story.

Yes Ridley provides us with top notch visuals, a masterclass in true spectacle...again. Yes the attention to detail from costumes to technology to the score, is astoundingly good. Its a sheer pleasure to simply view a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie, it really is. But the more he dabbles in this franchise the more he screws it up. From a pretty looking convoluted mess in 'Prometheus', to another pretty looking convoluted mess in 'Alien: Covenant'. The real downside is this movie is not its own film, its merely a collection of highlights that we've all seen before in previous movies. At least 'Prometheus' displayed a lot of originality, it still made a mess of everything but at least it was a brave move (much like the Star Wars prequels). I do find it quite bizarre how these new Alien prequels do seem to be going down hill in the same way the Star Wars prequels did. Is the flute scene with David and Walter the new sand scene?

5.5/10

Friday, 8 September 2017

The Mummy (2017)

I feel I must point this out just in case, for the younger generations. This movie is not entirely based upon the oddly popular Brendan Fraser trilogy that started in 1999. Believe it or not there was in fact an original horror movie from way back in 1932 starring Boris Karloff that kick started the entire idea. But lets be honest here, this new movie takes many ideas from many classic horror movies. So much so it feels more like a long trailer of highlights from other movies redone with better effects (I still can't believe the nerve of them frankly).

So the main change in this modern reboot is the titular Mummy (Princess Ahmanet) wanting to resurrect Set, the God of war and chaos (instead of a dead lover). Initially she was inline to the throne in her native Egypt, but her fathers second wife has a baby boy which takes her place. Out of anger and frustration at losing her rightful place as Queen, Ahmanet murders her family and plans to resurrect Set using her lovers body as the vessel for the Gods spirit. She must do this using a special dagger to transfer Set's spirit. Before this can be done she is captured and of course mummified alive.

What follows is (now) pretty much your bog standard action flick all because Tom Cruise was cast. Yes that's right, probably one of the worst choices ever for this type of movie. Cruise would easily be in my top ten of actors that I would never consider for such a dark tale of mysticism and terror. Apparently Cruise had much of the control in the creation of this movie, and boy does it show. The opening sequence could quite easily be from any Mission: Impossible movie as his character Nick Morton and sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are caught by ISIS-esque insurgents as they try to pinch ancient artifacts from a small town (which the insurgents would have destroyed anyway).

The pair are actually on reconnaissance for the US military at the time but are moonlighting as black market traders for ancient artifacts. Amidst the carnage of gunfire and airstrikes (with no apparent casualties) the tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At the same time a sexy blonde archaeologist (Jenny) appears out of nowhere who Morton was supposedly bonking and naturally becomes his love interest for the rest of the movie. Its around this very early point when you realise this movie isn't gonna be very good. Apart from Cruise merely playing the same character he's played for years now, the entrance to this tomb is ridiculously vast!! and they treat these priceless ancient artifacts like spare parts from Ikea.



Lets not be too negative here, there were some good points in the movie. The horror element was actually nicely done. The movie isn't scary or anything but the various CGI effects for people having their souls sucked out of them with their bodies being reduced to shriveled up zombies, was pretty cool. The undead themselves were also really well rendered using CGI and makeup; they did look pretty terrifying visually and the way they moved was well choreographed.

Its just a shame that's about all I can say on the positive side of things. The fact they basically stole the whole undead guide/corpse idea with Vail from John Landis classic 'An American Werewolf in London' is damn near unforgivable. I can't even say it was a homage because they just outright copied the entire concept! Then there are things that don't really add up; why exactly does Ahmanet need to use this specific ruby encrusted dagger? What connection does that dagger have to Set? During the movie Morton is told numerous times the curse cannot be broken, then apparently it can be broken just by destroying the ruby. In one scene the undead cannot swim (they just sink), then in another they can swim. In another sequence Morton and Jenny are escaping in an ambulance at top speed when some zombies attack outta nowhere. How did they get on the ambulance?? There were clearly no zombies on the vehicle in one shot, then they're all over it.

Then we have the secret organisation known as Prodigium headed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Or call it what it is, the very very blatant and obvious attempt at copying Marvel's cinematic universe building, Universal Pictures S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent. Aside from the fact this one idea has been used a gazillion times, 'Van Helsing' for example. There is no imagination here whatsoever, its literally all about setting up future movies with small easter eggs dotted around, there is no other point for it. The fact Universal don't even really try to hide this fact, and everyone knows it, makes it worse!



Observation: So within Prodigium there are lots of little teasers as I mentioned already. One such teaser is the forearm of a creature that clearly hails from the movie 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon'. But here's the thing, there was always only one creature from the classic movie/s, but this teaser indicates there are possibly numerous creatures that have already been seen and maybe killed (unless the main creature is now missing a forearm). But seeing as its unlikely that the first new movie will have a one-handed creature (unless it grows it back?) I must assume there are more than one.

Even then they couldn't even do anything interesting with this; when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde...nothing happens! Crowe simply turns a shade of grey, his eyes seem to go yellow, he adopts a cockney accent and that's it I think. Don't get me wrong I think its good they didn't go with some huge CGI creation that we've all seen before, but the character definitely needed something else. Also Prodigium has Ahmanet all chained up for the most part, but guess what? One minute she's all chained up and helpless, the next she simply decides to break free and escape. As already pointed out, this does seem to happen a lot in this movie, things just changing on a whim. Much like Morton being taken over by Set, only to quite easily retake control of his body seconds later (so much for Set). Oh and Vail being resurrected at the end of the movie, did Morton resurrect everyone that died in the film? He could have.

I think everyone knows the problem with this movie, it stands out like a sore thumb. And that is quite simply, the movie is torn between being a proper fully fledged horror movie and a Tom Cruise action vehicle. Clearly the entire production didn't know what to do with the director being in limbo and the studio basically giving Cruise full control. The whole movie is a mess of ideas from start to finish with Cruise running around alongside his much younger female love interest, and grinning a lot (much awkward and unfunny comedy). The movie fails on such a large scale its embarrassing; they essentially tried to map stereotypical Tom Cruise action flick tropes onto this horror classic of the silver screen. There are some nice touches here and there yes, but ultimately it fails on almost every level.

4/10