Saturday, 31 August 2013

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)




The first PA film I saw back when I was but a mere sprog and to this day I still think its probably the best of the bunch. Pretty much all the cast return for this assignment, well the main cast, and the story continues on from their graduation of the Police Academy. I do like that this film series manages to keep continuity time after time, gotta give kudos for that with such a big cast.

The plot is again very simple, the new officers are all doing well in their respective roles but are called on to help Cmdt. Eric Lassard's brother. It seems his precinct is the worse in the city (unknown which city) thanks to a ruthless gang of thugs. So its up to the new rookie officers to clean up the neighbourhood, Academy style.

So yes the story continues on from where the last left off which is good, the cast are all present and correct which is good and there are some new officers to enjoy in this new precinct. Again this film is still aimed towards an adult audience which assists it in being a much better comedy vehicle in my opinion. The old characters are on form and all doing their thing as expected, Mahoney still being a wet little goodie goodie, Tackleberry with his array of weapons etc...but they are now up against a new superior in the form of the excellent Art Metrano as Lt/Capt. Mauser.

Now I really must give much kudos to Metrano here, this guy is even better than Bailey as Harris, in a different way. I really really liked this ass kissing slimebucket so much, the way he ridicules the new rookies, the way he bullies his sidekick Proctor and of course the way he kisses ass. The tomfoolery on show is even more outrageous and rude than the previous film with nudity, especially from Metrano, but this guy just makes it work. The way he screams out 'Proctor!!' and the way he verbally duels with Mahoney can be at times really funny.

Lt. Mauser: 'Mahoney, what kind of clown do you think I am?'
Mahoney: 'A juggling clown?'

Kudos also to Lance Kinsey as Sgt. Proctor who is another fine example of a dimwitted sidekick. He doesn't do much apart from suck up to Mauser but its just the way he does it. Love the way he switches from a grovelling butt licker with Mauser, to trying to be a strong authority figure around the other officers. This duo are the best thing about this film and the franchise really.

Chief Hurst: 'Mauser, you're the most incredible ass kisser I have ever seen.'
Lt. Mauser: 'Thank you very much, sir. I do my best.'

There are some other good new characters here too. Howard Hesseman as Capt. Peter 'Pete' Lassard actually puts in a good heart warming performance as the all round good guy Captain, one of the few actors giving the film some proper credibility. This film also has the great honour of introducing the insane Bobcat Goldthwait to the world as the infantile gang leader. Can't deny his performance is unique but I still do wonder about this guys mental makeup, and I still don't know if he actually talks like that in real life?. Small mention for the other odd looking character in Tim Kazurinsky as Sweetchuck who certainly gives a good show as an elderly little man, was he suppose to be elderly? Again the comedy duo of Sweetchuck and Zed is actually pretty good, cool that it continues into the third film too.

Of course the humour is totally childish and puerile but I think by now we all know the game here don't we. Most of this film actually consists of the boys in blue doing something, Mauser sticking a spanner in the works and then Mahoney getting revenge with some silly prank. The best of which is easily the glue in the shower sequence which leads to Mauser wearing a wig for the rest of the film. So utterly immature yet quite a nasty thing to do lets be honest, but admittedly hilarious. Never let under age kids see this film because it is most definitely a bad influence, making dogs run out into heavy traffic?? errrr...keep the kids away!

I think the start of the film is much better than the finale, the rookies getting to know Mauser and being shown the ropes etc...The ending does become a bit cartoonish with some nasty pratfalls and hokey ass gang member action, but when that musical score begins to swell you can't help but kinda enjoy it. Still not too sure why they have that 90 year old looking officer in the police station just sitting around, why would he be there??

8/10

Police Academy (1984)





















Despite the fact these films are known to be trash this franchise is probably one of the most well known (and in some cases loved) franchises around the world with some of the most well known characters. This film kick started a phenomenon that has influenced many other films in the spoof genre, made stars out of most of its cast and has actually lasted virtually to the present day, gotta give kudos.

So the plot is horrifically simple, a group of bums, criminals and nut jobs all join the Police Academy in the hopes of becoming police officers. This has recently become possible because the mayor has abolished the old school rules about height, weight, colour (yes colour folks!!), fitness levels etc...so anyone can join. This infuriates the police Chief so he orders the Police Academy Cmndt. to try and get the new unsavory recruits to quit voluntarily by any means possible.

Now bare in mind this film came out in 1984 because a lot of what you see is now incredibly dated and not really funny. There are still moments which raise a giggle for sure but on the whole this is childish adult toilet humour by the bucket load. Its no real surprise considering the era, this type of stuff was the height of popularity at the time with films like 'Meatballs', 'Airplane', 'Caddyshack' and 'Stripes' doing the rounds.

The film is a character orientated piece naturally, the toilet humour is a strong ingredient but the characters are the key. Looking back its all so very cliched and dated but the characters do still work at times. I personally never liked Guttenberg's character of Mahoney as he was such a damn goodie goodie, for me it was Tackleberry, Jones, Fackler and Harris, all these guys were the funniest in this film in my opinion.























All their quirky individual qualities are fun to watch and do allow you to care about them, slightly. Loved how Tackleberry was basically a gun nut and completely dangerous, in this day n age that kind of character could almost be controversial. As a kid everybody used to try and copy Winslow's motormouth antics although watching now it doesn't quite have that wow factor anymore, more annoying actually. Love how Fackler basically doesn't belong in the police force, totally inept yet very likeable. Lassard comes across as a kind old bumbling grandfather type character, also very likeable, and of course Harris as the arse kissing jobsworth who is always sucking up to his superiors but really deep down you know he's actually a good cop.

As with other slobby frat house type films this doesn't disappoint on the female front. The main eye candy is supplied by Easterbrook and her chest as Callahan and the stunning Cattrall who really looks so amazingly cute my God! As you would expect there is much boob cleavage throughout, naughty talk and a rather dirty sex act hinted at. This is one of the things that separates the first two Academy films from the rest, the first two are more directed at an adult audience which equals the odd moment of titty action, nudity, swearing, homosexuality, close to the line violence/action and even a bit of racism believe it or not.

Also with all the other films there are individual characters that pop up for that film but we don't see again. The quality of these characters varied a lot but in this film we get the most amusing Donovan Scott as Cadet Leslie Barbara who looks like a young Dom Deluise, Brant Von Hoffman as Cadet Kyle Blankes and Scott Thomson as Cadet Chad Copeland who are both really good as the dumb sidekicks or henchmen for Harris. The sequence/s in the Blue Oyster Bar are an undeniably good laugh and continual joke yet probably rather un-PC these days.

What really makes me laugh is recalling when I used to watch this as a kid and not really understanding half of it and not caring. After this rewatch its amazing to see how much makes no sense at all, like why does Jones have this microphone on him all the time? so he can play jokes on people with his voice obviously, but is it battery operated? how does he always have it?? must be a big bit of kit this is 84 after all. How come all the recruits do end up passing through even though they are all crap and most don't actually do anything in the finale showdown. And how about all the hideously obvious over acting, exaggerated prat falls to cause incidents and accidents etc...

Plus that blowjob sequence is actually pretty racy and sick if you think about it, this hooker will pretty much suck anyone off, as demonstrated at the very end (guess that's why she's a hooker). I never understood what was happening in that scene as a kid haha and you'd never see something like that in the later films.

These films have become a bit of an institution really, love em or hate em you can't deny how iconic they actually are. Look at the main score for the film, that alone is a pretty classic bit of movie history right there, everyone knows what it is and can recognise it, its up there with such scores as 'Star Wars' and 'Jaws'.

It was never meant to be anything remotely serious, more along the lines of the National Lampoon's franchise if anything, only thing missing was John Belushi. Its utterly childish and puerile now and it was the same back in the day too, but no one ever tried to cover that up, that's exactly what the film offered take it or leave it. Personally I like this film because of the adult edge to it, gives it some credibility unlike the later films which just become like cartoons. Its not an all out spoof so don't think of the excellent Leslie Nielsen type tomfoolery, but it is fun in places and does offer up quite a neat original little plot (for the time).

7/10



Thursday, 29 August 2013

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (UK, 1970)

























The third film by Hammer revolving around cavemen and women and occasionally dinosaurs. Before this was the first and most well known film with Harryhausen effects...'One Million Years BC', then came the sordid sounding 'Slave Girls'.

I'm not overly sure why they made this film as its pretty much the same spiel as their first and best film 'One Million Years'. The plot is almost the same really, there is one tribe of caveblokes that are a bit sacrifice happy with their blondes and one tribe that are a bit more normal and haven't seen blonde haired women much it seems (yep blondes are a rare breed in these films). A sexy big breasted blonde escapes the nasty tribe and is found by the good tribe, there she falls in love with a cavebloke which upsets his other cavegirlfriend. The blonde is hounded and chased off but pursued by the nice cavebloke who loves her. All the while the bad cave tribe are also looking for the escaped blonde for some reason, all this leads to much death at the hands of dino's and a big tidal finale...for some reason.

That is the plot but like the other films in this series its kinda tricky to follow it as everyone speaks in genuine caveman grunts. Yep its that approach again which Hammer really seemed to like back then, lots of scantily clad women with big breasts and a nonsensical dialog of grunts. Well actually the primitive language is suppose to be made up of genuine ancient dialect's of Phoenician, Latin, and Sanskrit sources, so I guess its quite clever really. Problem is all we ever seem to hear is 'akita' 'yo kita' and 'neecro', I swear if I hear one more damn caveman/women say 'akita' I will flip!!.


For me this film is all about the dinosaurs, the plot is too similar, the acting is terrible and the dialog is annoying, only the big breasted cavewomen make it worth while. But the stop motion dinosaurs are awesomely done and actually look really good. The first thing I noticed was the movement on these models, its really really detailed and displays even the smallest skin movements. Sure they are a bit jerky when walking in full motion but their eyes and head movements are great, best example is the unknown dino that befriends 'Sanna' the blonde cavewoman.

There are some other nice creatures too including some quite evil looking giant crabs, a nice sea monster moment, a bulky Chasmosaurus and a man eating plant hehe. Unfortunately they do spoil things by using dino footage from 'One Million', even worse they use crappy footage of two real reptiles with stuck on fins/scales fighting, no no no no.

The films title is pretty cool, gets you interested and the idea is reasonable but they made 'One Million' four years prior so what was the point?. I just get the feeling they wanted to remake the Welch flick but with better dino effects. I'm not even sure which is better really, 'One Million' is more iconic of course but this has better model work and that's without Harryhausen!.

Really I can only recommend this for the excellent dino stop motion models, if you are a Harryhausen/dinosaur/giant creature fan then you will enjoy parts of this film. The rest is complete dross and highly boring, there I said it.

5/10









Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Lost Continent (UK, 1968)















Based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley called 'Uncharted Seas' which kinda explains itself really. Yep once again we have another adventure which sees a group of people who are lost at sea and end up in some kind of twilight zone or dimension X where time stands still.

The plot is pretty common really and there seems to have been quite a few people write stories around this premise. This time the group of people on board the ship seem to be misfits of society or outcasts, people in trouble with the law etc...This is fine but unfortunately for most of the time you don't really care about them because they are all nasty to each other. Heck even the Captain acts all suspicious and grumpy for a lot of the time...and he's suppose to be the hero! A lot of attention is given to the characters though that's for sure, very deep backgrounds going on, lots of dark areas etc...Its just a shame they didn't really interest me personally, I wanted to see monsters damn it!

So due to carrying some rather dangerous explosive cargo and the fact most of the passengers can't go back to port in case some get nabbed by the police (most are in general trouble with various reasons), the ship continues into stormy weather. Low and behold something goes wrong, the ships hull is damaged putting the dangerous substance in jeopardy, AND there is a mutiny from the grunts below deck about the whole situation with the cargo. Thusly everyone eventually abandons ship after much arguing and scuffling.

Rather oddly the small group of people float their way back to their ship after some shark issues and carry on as planned. The only difference now is they are in some unknown uncharted area. This is mainly when the film kicks into gear and into weirdness. The uncharted area they drift into is full of skeleton ships, wrecks, the sea is covered in some deadly seaweed that strangles people to death and their is a mysterious island ahead. So the first half of the film was some kind of seabound 60's drama which was kinda dull, and now the second half turns into your typical Edgar Rice Burroughs type adventure into the unknown...but still looking very 60's

Its actually quite eerie and well directed, there is a nice sense of errr...mystery I guess as its not clear what the hell is going on (other than they are in some kind of twilight zone). Things take a turn for the surreal when a lone girl reaches the ship by walking across the seaweed covered sea surface using big paddles under her feet and two balloons attached to her shoulders presumably for balance. A very Terry Gilliam-esque look about it that idea.

Turns out she is Spanish and descended from people who got stuck in this weird place centuries ago (I presume?). There are also members of the Spanish Inquisition trapped in this place too, they are also descendants of people trapped eons before and the two groups fight each other in a religious war. The leader of the Spanish soldiers is a child and descendant of the Spanish Conquistadores...and a brat. I guess the hard thing to believe here is the fact these people have been fighting each other for all this time yet never once thought to stop and try escape from this bizarre dimension X type place. Also, what happened to everyone else from all the other ships??

Naturally fighting ensues between the Spanish and the folk off the ship. There is some monster action in here too with a Sarlacc type sea monster (hmm I wonder Mr Lucas, copy much?), a giant scorpion and a giant hermit crab but you hardly see much, no stop motion goodness, just big rubber models that wobble. The battle sequence on board the galleon is quite good, quite a lot of death and fire, the Spanish all look reasonable authentic and the galleon itself is OK, obvious set of course.

Its an odd film really, very strange in mood and story, the Spanish folk just seemed obscure, I was expecting battles with sea beasties. On the downside as I said before its also hard to get behind anyone in the film because they are all so unlikable. The cast are all pretty unknown to me which doesn't help (despite being a Hammer production) but admittedly the Captain (Eric Porter) is the clear winner in terms of performance.

I think the film is decent enough, it looks great for sure, production values must have been good. You can tell its all on sets but it still looks polished and well thought out, the mysterious uncharted sea also looks good with matte painting work and models. I just get the impression the original novel probably explains things in better detail and delves deeper, the film feels like it skimming over plot in places.

The films ending is open ended which is cool and again eerie as we never know what happens to these people. I'm unsure whether this is a good adaptation of the book or not, certainly seems well crafted and definitely enjoyable at times. Starts off very slow but gets more and more intriguing, bit of a hidden gem I would say, cult for sure, worth the watch but will probably split opinions.

6.5/10


Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Game (1997)




















A forgotten Fincher gem to be sure, not exactly an original idea but superbly well made and directed by the cult creator. The plot has been seen before but it works well by playing on the paranoia and scares of everyday life, things that could go wrong if our lives fell apart before our eyes. The fear of losing everything, nowhere to turn, no one to trust, something that all working people can relate to.

Michael Douglas plays 'Nick Van Orton', a very rich Scrooge like character who cares little for anyone, lives like a king whilst playing the investment banker game. So yeah this could be 'Gordon Gecko' as an older man I guess, its very familiar. Upon receiving a giftcard type present from his brother for a 'game' company Orton proceeds ahead with the offer and discovers himself in a world of hurt.

The tension builds at a slow pace as small things start to happen to Orton, nothing much at first but slowly the situation gets worse and worse. It really is quite creepy and uncomfortable to watch as his job is threatened, his home and even the people he knows, the walls come crashing down around him and he's virtually powerless to stop it.

I guess you could say the film is bordering on identity theft of the highest order, with the acception that the main character agreed to everything. That's the itchy fact that sits on your mind the whole time, he agreed to it!! almost like a blackmail fetish. Sure he knew nothing about the company and what was on offer but the trust factor of his brother giving him the gift really adds to the mystery of it all.

But on the flip side this mystery is also slightly damning really. If you really think about it, would anyone really accept what this unknown company offers in the film? would you really go along with all those medical tests and mental tests that last all day and at the end of it sign your life away without a clue what will happen?! I bloody wouldn't!. This is the intrigue (or start of it) but also the main problem with the plot, no one would do that, especially someone like Van Orton with tonnes of money and a grand reputation to lose.

Even if you did agree to this bizarre mystery game, would this company really go as far as they do in the film?. Would a real company really be able to take everything away from you including your property, car, job, friends and family so easily?. Leaving you almost homeless with seemingly everybody against you, people double crossing you, even going as far as to try and kill you!!!, taking you to the point of near break down, suicide or murder...just for a game??...that's a gift!!.

I mean yeah sure the concept for the movie is thrilling but if you step back and look at it its totally insane really. Who could say Van Orton wouldn't blow his brains out very early on or actually kill someone?, on the other hand surely he could easily get around the game by simply going to his building that he owns. The mystery company has seemingly gotten to people, his property and his money but surely they wouldn't be able to get everyone in his own building in on the trick. He could of just walked in there at anytime, his name is on the entrance for pete's sake! did he forget he owned that building? it wouldn't have disappeared.

I must confess to not liking the ending either, it twists more than a helter skelter but instead of leaving you in awe it leaves you thinking Fincher went one step too far. It also feels way too convenient, as if they knew Orton would do what he did, just seems too impossible to predict.

Great colour palette by Fincher too I might add. Rich with dark tones, moody and dull, yet at times kinda faded or washed out, a bit noir-ish and every scene is full of detail. Some of the best visuals are seen when Douglas is relaxing in his luxurious wood panel study, very nice and probably not too far off Douglas' real home decor.

Douglas is also perfect as Orton (he knows how to play slimeballs), the cool, slick, cold business man who is reduced to a quivering wreck with anxiety overload. You can feel the sweat droplets running down your brow as you observe Douglas going through his nightmare, one of his best performances. Despite the over the top nature of the plot the film is a great thriller and succeeds in creating discomfort during the whole run time.

7/10

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Firestorm (1998)




















So ex-NFL player Howie Long got his big action man break in the Travolta thriller 'Broken Arrow' in 1996, this inevitably lead to his own specially made silly action vehicle. Although there are a few well known faces here simply to bolster the acting skills on show, its basically the Howie Long show yet he shows off no muscles throughout.

So four years ago the main villain stole four million Dollars and hid it deep within the forest. He now decides to break out of jail with some colleges during a big forest fire which one of his compadres on the outside started. Naturally a female is taken hostage and its up to the lone 'smokejumper' to save the day with his mighty axe.

The term 'smokejumper' is actually what they call these guys that are trained to jump from helicopters into fires to save people, its not me being sarcastic. But this is what's so funny about this film, right from the get go we are shown the banal camaraderie and makeup of the small team. These smokejumpers led by Long are your typical team of Hollywood characters, the attractive female, the mouthy young male, the wiser vet and Long who is the big butch guy. Only thing missing is the token black guy.

Luckily we don't have to put up with this A-Team type cliched machoism as the action centres on Long surviving in the wilderness against the bad guys. The bad guys are easily the more interesting bunch with William Forsythe as their homicidal leader. Gotta give credit to Forsythe as he always makes such a riveting nasty villain, his fierce chubby looks are just perfect the way he snarls and grimaces when he gets mad, and in this he just about kills anyone. Check the early performance for Barry Pepper as one of the bad guys.

The whole idea for this film is so thin really, its just an everyday action movie but its set within a huge forest fire. It just comes across as trying to make another field of US rescue workers out to be cool equipment wearing top guns. Of course Long uses all his trained boyscout methods to beat the bad guys whilst curiously never actually getting into any good fights, well not many.

I was gonna compare this to 'Backdraft' but its not really like that, that had some sense about it whilst this is complete violent nonsense. Despite that there are numerous visual moments which look pretty similar and its worth noting that Scott Glenn plays almost the same type of role in this as he does in 'Backdraft'.

The whole thing is predictable as hell and can't even come up with any decent visuals to help you along. Long is a weak leading man even though he has the look of one and things that happen along the way just raise questions, but its hardly a thinker, just dumb.

4/10

Broken Arrow (1996)




















One of the first US films for John Woo before he went on to make a whole load more using the same visual style everytime. The other noteable thing here is the curious combination of Travolta and Slater pairing off against each other.

Two best buds in the USAF are flying a B-3 Stealth Bomber with a deadly payload of nukes on board. Spoiler alert! Travolta goes rogue and turns on Slater dumping the nukes for his band of bad guys to pickup. Their plan? to sell the nukes to the highest bidder of course, dastardly!.

I remember when this came out it was deemed to be quite a slick action flick, hell I even went to the cinema to see it. This is the first time I've watched this since 1996 and I can firmly say it hasn't aged well. Yep its just your average explosion filled action thriller with your standard hero who saves the day and kills everyone with the aid of a feisty female sidekick.

The bad guys are your regular bunch of strapping blokes who mindlessly obey Travolta's insane commands, the main henchman being newbie Howie Long (film career didn't last long). All these guys are trigger happy, often dumb and get killed in very obvious set pieces you can see coming a mile away.

In fact the whole film is much like that really, it just looks like one of those special effects shows at Universal Studios where everything looks like a setup or an obvious set. There isn't really anything original in the whole film, the plot is standard issue, the bad guys are standard issue, all the important military/government official types are the standard issue grizzled old men, slimy cowards or nerds, dialog is hammy with all the regular dribble you'd expect to hear and its got lots of standard issue John Woo slow motion and face off camera angles.

Not even Travolta's semi fun bad guy can bring this film back from the dull zone. This was his first real baddie role after his career took off with 'Pulp Fiction' so his performance was definitely fresh and quite new for the actor. Its just a shame he's done the same thing now for so many other films since. As for Slater, well he doesn't really fit the profile for a leading man action hero, he's clearly not the type, he's not bad per say, he's just clearly not that type of guy simple. Even with Travolta being all camp he still looks like he can kick Slater's ass all over.

A terrific film title, intriguing cast and thumping film poster still can't alter the fact this film is dull dull dull. It doesn't even look that good really, there is one stunt where Long gets booted off a train going over a very high bridge which is pretty impressive, but that's totally it. The drab looking location doesn't really help either, its all yellow dusty desert terrain everywhzzzzzzzz. If anything can be called 'by the numbers' its this film right here, weak stuff.

3/10

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Video Game Goodness

Just a few classic video games I like from back in the day, there are more of course but I love these images. Do you know them all?






















































Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)





















'Die Hard on a bus' and now...yep you guessed it 'Die Hard on a boat', well cruise liner. I guess the first thing that instantly jumps out at you here is the fact the film is called Speed 2 but its on a slow moving cruiser liner! Hardly speed is it, more like err...cruising, I get the feeling they just wanted to use a cruise ship so they could use their highly imaginative tag of 'cruise control'.

Seriously I've read into this and there were some really decent ideas for a follow up. Nothing original of course, they all copied the exact same premise as the original but at least they could offer up some more thrills than a cruise liner. One plot involved a plane that couldn't ascend above 10,000 feet whilst flying through some mountains, kinda daft but sounds better right?

So this basically really absolutely is a complete 'Die Hard' rip off, it really is. Recently fired crazy ass Dafoe wants revenge on the company (ships computer systems) that wrongfully terminated him because he was ill. So he decides to sabotage one of his own computer systems on board a large expensive cruise liner and steer it into a disaster whilst pinching all the valuables on board. Again at the end of the day he's just after some jewellery, weak. Its pretty much 'Die Hard/Under Siege' with more comedy and way way less blood and violence, actually check that, there is hardly any blood and violence in this, its bordering on PG territory.

Bullock's character has dumped Jack Traven from the first much better film and now she's with the receding hair line of Jason Patric. I guess what's so dumb about this film is firstly Patric just doesn't come across as the hero type, oh sure he's leaping around and trying to be action man every five minutes but the guy just looks anything but. I know heroes don't have to be muscle bound macho men with good hair but Patric? really?? this guy is the wrong kind of actor for a role like this. The other thing that bugs you is the fact his character is such a fudging goodie goodie and always trying to save everyone. Even on board this cruise liner which he knows nothing about, doesn't have a clue where to go and basically shouldn't be poking his nose into anything, he still goes around barking orders at the crew! and they obey him!!! as if!!! in reality they'd tell him to flip off.

Bullock is completely sidelined to virtually a cameo really, she does nothing at all other than offer up terrible dialog attempting to be comic relief. She's even more annoying than in the first film and even more wet (situation aside), in fact the badly portrayed passengers are not as annoying as Bullock. Then you have Dafoe as the villain, well I say villain but he isn't really that evil, he merely switches off all the electrics and gets everybody to evacuate. Would stuff on a ship tend to blow up and cause so much destruction when the electrics go down? seems odd.

Funny thing is if everybody had just gotten off as he demanded in the first place, none of the ensuing mess would of occured!...well almost.

I realise Dafoe's baddie character knows the ship inside out and can control whatever he likes but you always get the feeling he's not much of a challenge. Time and again it seems like he could of been caught plus he also comes across as someone Bullock could beat in a fight. His plan also seems very over indulgent simply for stealing some jewels, takes him half the film to get it set up yet takes him fives minutes to do the deed. He then messes around for no real reason when he could of just gotten away no problem, all this kinda makes the action sequences seem unnecessary and forced.

The film is way more goofy than the first and hardly feels like a real action film at all. There is way too much stupid comedy and idiotic dialog...oh and some awful reoccurring character cameos from the first film which almost make the film into a parody. Even Dafoe's baddie isn't immune to the ridiculous daftness, he contributes with various silly faces to exaggerate the heat of the moment.

The film does look pretty good I can't deny, the ship interiors, exteriors and various CGI shots are nicely done. This all comes to a head in the finale where De Bont takes the opportunity to destroy half a port town by ramming the cruise liner into it purely to show off lots of destruction and fancy effects/models. Even that doesn't really work though because of the awful comic relief which ruins any real tension. This is the films fault all the way through, you never at any point feel nervous or tense despite the fact you're watching an action film about a hijacking. The whole thing is totally juvenile and not in the least bit exciting, and no sticking Patric on a cool motorbike chase sequence at the start doesn't make him look any cooler, just more out of place.

2.5/10

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Speed (1994)
















Well I think 'Under Siege' kick started the term 'Die Hard on a...' back in 1992, then along came this massive action film rollercoaster success in 1994 which coined the highly imaginative term 'Die Hard on a bus'. Holy skidmarks! this film brought back some memories of my teens, I remember this film well and the huge furore it caused, all the girls were banging on about Reeves and all the boys were banging on about Bullock.

The plot is actually quite ingenious really, it sounds insane, how on earth can you set an action film on a bus? we all asked backed in the day. Well obviously there are bits that aren't within the bus of course but the main threat of a bus that can't go below 50mph is a clever plot trick. That's pretty much it really, a bus load of stereotypical everyday commuters are all trapped on a bus which has a bomb underneath. Super cop Keanu Reeves takes on the job of saving the day from the terrorist Dennis Hopper. And at the end of the ride just like Hans Gruber, all the bad guy wants is some money.

Looking back at this its so so damn cheesy I can't believe it, how did we all think this was cool?! The opening credits are some of the worse looking computer effects/text images I've seen, obviously early days back then and boy does it show when 'SPEED' pops up. I mean lets think about this for one moment, how can anyone take an action flick seriously when one of the SWAT guys is played by...Jeff Daniels??!

The main action on the bus which takes up most of the film is undeniably enjoyable still. The whole idea is such a rush and easily translated to film, sure half the time the bus is clearly not going at 50mph (usually much slower) but it still comes across very well. You get every predictable scene you would naturally expect, the film isn't the most original in terms of characters. All the passengers fight amongst themselves, one is a gang member with a gun who of course shoots the bus driver which mean Bullock must drive. One lady is always panicky and slightly hysterical, one guy is mouthy, one guy delivers some comedic lines every now and then, there's a token black couple, a token Latino guy and Reeves of course totally stony faced and stoic at all times.

For the most part the film is quite realistic, but there are some moments which they could of left out. The bus jumping a big gap in an unfinished highway springs to mind which is easily the worse idea ever. The way they let the bomb loaded bus careen into an oncoming airliner once everybody is safely off, surely they should of tried to veer it somewhere so it wouldn't cause massive damage? Of course we all know the reason is merely to show off a nice big explosion at the end, despite the fact in the films plot it may have caused more deaths. What about the guy pulling the plane in his little tug truck??...who cares its a cool explosion!

While we all know that Reeves is the invincible turbo charged heroic cop who never gets tired or injured, he is acceptable for what he is. Bullock on the other hand is not, at no time did I ever accept the fact she could be driving this bus, there's just no way. Bullock is an annoying wet drip of a woman and shows it completely in this film, she flaps, squeals and rarely looks in control. They wouldn't have lasted five minutes in reality with her driving.

On the other hand Hopper is clearly having a blast as this pissed off ex-cop out for revenge. He's dodging around scowling and howling like no ones business, he goes for broke and totally delivers a perfect hammy over the top bad guy. This film really is amusing at times though, like in the finale when Reeves and Hopper are fighting. This young, tough, adrenaline filled ultra cop getting his ass beaten by clearly a late middle aged man who is half his size and can barely run.

The film does tend to lose its edge once the main event of the bomb rigged bus has been solved. The set pieces get more and more ridiculous until we reach the rather overly ridiculous finale with the underground train, which is clearly a model. The film in parts is plain stupid, comic relief from various characters along the way is reasonable I suppose but it all adds to the cheese n ham factor, kinda takes the edge off at times. But overall the film doesn't try to be anything other than a speeding bullet of an action flick that you don't really have to look too deep into. And not often does an action films title sum up the general content so perfectly. Still nowhere near on par with the classic 'Die Hard' but a decent rare original action film.

6/10

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

TMNT (2007)
















The first fully CGI animated movie for the Turtles after three live action films. I think officially this is suppose to be set after the original film but could easily be a stand alone chapter in the Turtles universe. This whole production is completely different from the previous films, obviously a whole new approach but voice work is all new too, no one from the older films makes a return here.

In all honesty this movie is somewhat lacking and merely comes across as a Saturday cartoon series that has been stuck together. It never really feels like a proper movie and the lame plot doesn't really help. Its all to do with trying to conquer the world with monsters from another dimension by a group of elite warriors from 3000 years prior that had been turned to stone. Their immortal leader wants to stop them and break the curse that makes him and his warriors immortal. On and along the way the Foot Clan join forces with the Turtles.

It all kicks off well enough, the initial sequence of all four Turtles bounding across the rooftops at night  is excellent and really gets you in the mood for some Turtle goodness. That is the kind of visual sequence which wets your appetite for this classic franchise and they captured it perfectly but briefly. The Turtles look agile, firm and well rounded (a good weight to them), they do also have a slight darkness to them, they haven't been totally watered down. Myself I would have preferred them to be much meaner looking but we all knew that wasn't gonna happen.

The only thing I noticed was the shape of the Turtles heads seemed a bit squashed. This made their upper lip/snout stick out a bit too far if you ask me, gave their heads a motorcycle helmet type shape. The other thing I didn't like was the guy voicing Leo, hated that voice, just sounds like some pretty boy pop idol voice, there's nothing quirky about it, no character.

Another problem I have is the fact the Turtles look good but everybody else doesn't. All the human characters just look like cartoons, the old Saturday morning cartoon issue again. Splinter looks reasonable but maybe too weak looking? none of the other characters really seem to have the right weight to them like the four main stars, this shatters the grown up approach to the film, any sense of graphic novel realism.

The same can be said for the CGI in general, backgrounds, cityscape's, vehicles, buildings etc...one minute the movie looks quite dark and brooding, touching on that graphic novel style we all wanna see. The next minute it looks like a damn cartoon! its as though the animators have been reined in, stopped from getting too carried away with creating an adult Turtles film which they know we all really wanna see lets be honest.



Add to that the plot feels more like something that would suit Hellboy rather than the Turtles. The flashback sequence explaining the ancient warriors is a great little moment but it just doesn't fit this franchise if you ask me. The monsters also look like creations from a Hellboy movie, nice designs I might add. This is the problem for the Turtles franchise, you can't have them constantly fighting Shredder yet they don't really have anyone else to battle who is popular or well known.

The best part of the film is easily the sequence where Leo fights Raph on the rooftops in the rain. This one sequence shows exactly what can be achieved and what everybody wanted to see, more grit. Not only did this sequence look awesome but it gave us a hint of proper characterization, something to get your teeth into, had it been aimed toward adults it would have been even better. There comes a time when you know the Turtles need to swear...and it would be bitchin.

Looking back at this its disappointing, its not like I didn't expect it to be for kids, saw it coming a mile away, but its still such a shame. This movie clearly shows us glimpses of how cool a dark adult animated Turtles flick could be, the evidence is there to be seen, if only they could be true to a franchise.

5/10



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Epic (2013)




















From the Studio that gave us the 'Ice Age' franchise comes this bug sized eco friendly kids flick. Based on yet another children's story book and with the strong hint of more to come in a franchise builder...oh geez!

The plot is pretty unoriginal really and we've similar stories in other films. A young girl is shrunken down to the size of a bug and is accidentally throw into a bug sized war between human-like warriors and orc-like creatures. All of this takes place within a regular forest in the regular world near the young girls house. So basically its a bug war kicking off in your back garden right under your nose.

Not quite sure why the film is called 'Epic' when the book isn't but there you go, I guess because of the scale of the war going on? Anywho I'm gonna come right out say I really liked this film, I dug it, its totally cliched and completely formulaic but it works well. Pretty much all the characters are likeable and well rounded, again most of them we've seen before in other animated films, nothing too special about talking snails, slugs, flies etc...its been done, but it looks good and is nicely amusing at times.

This is the main focal point of the film, the visuals. Like many animated films these days it looks tremendous I kid you not, both worlds we see, human and bug, are awesome in spectacle. When we are introduced to the bug sized world its one of those moments when you say to yourself 'I could live there, I want to live there, it looks fun'. Everything looks so lush and green, so vibrant and colourful, its really gorgeous and such an eye opener. On the flip side the baddie bug sized world is also awesome in its murky, rotten, dark, fungi, dead tree filled way, not exactly ground breaking stuff though.

These visuals also extend to the characters, the good guys are a green armour clad humanoid warrior race called Leaf Men. Now this guys look so flipping cool, their armour is a lovely leaf plated design with intricate pattern etched into the plates, they carry swords, wear gladiator style helmets and ride on the back of green/blue hummingbirds, their steeds of choice. They basically look like eco warrior samurai and their leader voiced nicely by Colin Farrell is called 'Ronin', which of course you all know is another word for samurai (without a master). The Irish samurai.

There are also you're standard sidekick type creatures as with any animated kids flick. Here they are nothing original in the form of a snail and a slug but I gotta give kudos to the voice actors because these two guys are very amusing, and kinda adorable looking. They have an awesome amount of detail on them though, really look good.

The bad guys are kinda like orcs I guess although their heads look a bit like a sharks head, they are called Boggans. They are you're typical baddies, they don't talk they just grunt n roar, they are drab coloured and all look the same. But there are various types of bad guys, basically any creature or bug that you would deem scary or has a bad reputation is classed as a bad guy. Bullfrogs, mosquitoes, spiders, crows, bats etc...all baddies. On the flip side you have various creatures that are classed as goodies like snails, slugs, glowworms, hummingbirds etc...There are also various plant/flower creatures in the form of Daisy's, Thistles, Dandelions etc...most of these makeup background characters.

One thing, all the characters in this are errr...white people, accept for the Queen, who is black, why? Just seemed rather odd to me to have just one character stand out from the rest like that. Unfortunately the Queen is voiced badly by Beyoncé Knowles which doesn't help either, just doesn't sound right or match her character at all.

In all honesty the film is all about the visuals as the plot is highly generic. You know what's gonna happen as we've seen this type of thing a gazillion times over. The main female character is cute looking and does everything as you would expect, although she takes to this new world pretty quickly, I'm sure most would be freaked out for ages. Much like the main villain who also does everything you would expect and gets his comeuppance predictably. Its all very light vs dark, all the goodies are colourful and bright, all the baddies are dark, gloomy and shadowy.

So yeah its all very obvious but its still a fun time with some stunning visuals. The finale is quite epic in scale and does lock you in for sure, does seem to be copying Star Wars a wee bit but hey its cool. The film does slyly use other film influences throughout no doubt. Steve Tyler's glowworm character does seem to have been plucked from Alice in Wonderland if you ask me, Tyler's vocals also sound like they have been plucked from said Disney film spookily, good voice work actually, surprising.

I think you can tell from what I've written here this is a character based flick, there are many other fun characters in here also. Fun characters, well crafted details and overall delicious visuals, shame about the by the numbers story line...but still fun!

7/10

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Wolverine (US/AUS 2013)























So here we have the brand new sixth installment in this rather overdrawn franchise. A sequel to the third in the original trilogy, not really anything to do with the Wolverine origins film, obviously nothing to do with 'First Class' but a prequel of sorts for the upcoming new film 'Days of Future Past'. 'Days of Future Past' of course being a sequel to 'First Class' and 'Last Stand' which is the third in the original trilogy...Jesus Christ!!!

So yeah, try and keep that in your head whilst watching these films. So old muttonchops is off to Japan to meet the guy he saved back in WWII. Of course this guy is up to no good with his evil blonde lady scientist sidekick and gives Wolverine an offer he can't refuse...but he does and that upsets the old guys plans. Before he knows it Wolverine is defending himself from Yakuza whilst trying to keep his new love interest (his old Japanese war buddies granddaughter) safe whilst trying to solve the puzzle of why these guys want her and what the evil lady scientist did to him...basically.

Amazingly this film is completely grounded and quite realistic, invincibility thing aside. Right up until the main finale the film plays out like a semi serious light thriller in the land of the rising sun that is unbelievably quite sensible, intelligent yet kinda action free!. What action we do get is quite sparse but highly intense when it hits, admittedly some of it does go over the top but I gotta keep reminding myself I'm watching a Marvel flick.

Naturally the first really big action sequence is on board the Shinkansen (as you all know that is the Bullet train). Now this sequence at first kinda made me laugh somewhat but I did kinda enjoy it, again...remember, its a flick about Wolverine. Felt a bit Mission: Impossible-ish, a bit too silly and I do still wonder how he managed to get back inside the train from the roof at well over 200mph but hey...he's Wolverine.

Apart from that there isn't much to shout about until the end and a lovely dark moonlit sword fight with Shingen the son of main bad guy Yashida (wanted more of that with the Silver Samurai), beyond that point things get typically comic book. But for much of the film there is a lot of gritty emotion with Wolverine in angst over Jean Grey, his growing affection for Mariko and all the time thinking about Yashida's offer of a normal mortal life.

Jackman IS Wolverine, we know this, the guy just embodies the character so well plus he looks like him too, kinda helps. Most of the Japanese characters are sort of cliched and bland, nothing special really but they are all played well. The bad femme fatale in Viper kinda felt like a badass Poison Ivy to me and not much more, just more vicious. Sure she's hot and dresses in ridiculously sexy attire for no reason at all but she just felt generic, I did prefer her bald though, yeah I'm kinky.

There are some gripes with the film I must add, you knew it was coming. Firstly Viper is thrown from a huge height, striking metal on the way and survives, yet gets killed by being strangled?? seems odd to me. They steal an entire idea from Bond classic 'Diamonds are Forever' when the bad guys throw Plenty O'Toole out the window into a pool below and say 'I didn't know there was a pool down there' which Wolverine says. Not really a problem but come on guys, think of you're own stuff. Wolverine cutting himself open and doing DIY heart surgery?? hmmm not sure about that. And finally most of humour is fine but at the beginning when they force Logan to have a wash, shave and haircut, yet he comes out with that totally scruffy yet iconic muttonchop look. He looked more acceptable with the beard, and what is with the chops? is this the 70's? the sequence just didn't make much sense to me and felt forced, desperately grasping for laughs.

The biggest drawback for me and something that spoilt the film was of course the Silver Samurai. Now I was expecting a traditional samurai warrior suit on a bloke (Harada) with super powered katana's. What we get is a huge robotic Iron Man type mech suit that looks like something out of G.I.Joe or Mortal Kombat, it was just some generic big robot thing rendered in CGI, lame!!!!! Why couldn't he have been a normal bloke in a samurai suit doing kickass martial arts, generic still yes, but no CGI. On top of that I was kinda expecting to see this regular Silver Samurai throughout the film fighting with 'Wolverine' in mach 3 kickassery. But all we get is a finale sequence that kinda brings the film down.

So yeah the film on the whole is actually a pretty moody and reasonably dark adventure, offering a haunted and distressed Wolverine who lurches around feeling sorry for himself a lot. Seems to be a self contained story (yet you never know) and it does work pretty well, it all feels tight and intense with some nice stylish visuals helped by the Eastern setting. I can't deny my love of Japan and their culture has made me enjoy this film more than I would have, had it been set elsewhere. I mean in all honesty its very formulaic in various places, same slice n dice action and offers nothing new really, how many times can Jackman turn and stare into the camera intensely with glaring eyes before it becomes rather stupid.

Its still hokey at times, I didn't like their Silver Samurai approach, he's not even in the film that much and I can't lie the ending ruins the semi serious angle. But its definitely the best Wolverine outing so far (although not much competition) mainly because of its Japan setting, some good Eastern performances (they always come across so intense over there) and great location visuals.

6.5/10

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Gallowwalkers (2013)





















Is Snipes in jail? what's the story with that these days? anyway somewhere along the line he managed to star in this rather nifty sounding western set film. The people behind this have clearly got a franchise in mind, a possible comic book/graphic novel future, toys, videogames, sequels etc...there is a clear aim in the way this has been made. Basically if you take 'Priest' and 'Blade' and mash the two up you kinda get an idea of what they went for.

Really this is more 'Blade' than anything if you ask me, its Snipes as a familiar character accept he's dressed as cowboy and he's taking down undead cowboys. There is lots of blood and gore, the main bad guy is white and has the obligatory sexy evil female sidekick, gunshot action is usually in slow motion and lots of freaky makeup/prosthetic work on some bad guys making them look like mutants. The final end credits are done in a neat animated fashion very similar to the beginning credits in 'Priest', virtually copied.

The plot is nonsensical and never really explains itself at all. I think Snipes character is suppose to be cursed because his mother was a whore and thief. She was gonna be hung for her crimes but the Sisters of San Diablo (?) find her and teach her the secrets of the dead? all this while pregnant with Snipes character. So this some how curses Aman (Snipes) and every person he kills comes back from the dead, odd curse, what if he became a banker and never killed anyone?

The rest of the plot is the standard western guff about Snipes love being raped by a gang of bad guys, but not killed, she's actually fine accept she has a kid. He then sets out to kill them all, does this, but they all come back to life so he's gotta do it again. Its not much of a big deal because these undead guys are still easy to kill and Snipes has no problem doing it. Not sure how they managed to stretch this into a film really as he kills the main bad guys easy, could of done it in five mins, nothing holding him back at all.

So many weird plot holes and unexplained ideas though, its really poor. Unsure if this may have been because of Snipes tax issue during the making. Snipes main sidekick in this film is completely unexplained. He frees him by killing a posse of lawmen for no reason at all! isn't Snipes a good guy here? aren't the lawmen good guys? won't they now come back to live and try to kill Snipes? and why free this one guy?


There is so much more that makes no sense here. Why do the bad guys comes back with no skin? why are lots of people in this film blonde? (wearing ridiculously bad blonde wigs), when Snipes character kills the living bad guys in a flashback why is he all painted up like an African warrior? why does one bad guy have a huge misshapen head like an orc from LotR? why does one bad guy have two lizard tails sticking out the back of his head and how the hell does he skin a lizard to use as his own skin?? (scale difference much?), what exactly is the bad guys main intention here apart from bringing his son back to life? and why does one of the bad guys come back all dressed up as a Cardinal? I mean seriously...that buckethead character and his over sized metal Ned Kelly helmet? utterly stupid, looked like it was gonna fall off at any moment. A bit Mad Max-ish too.

I guess on the plus the film looks good, twas filmed in Namibia and there are some glorious landscapes on show. The location really works well as an American wild west setting, sprawling and barren. The director also has an artistic eye for sure, some nice shots in places, lots of sweaty facial close ups like all westerns tend to have. Admittedly they do (at times) give a really nice glossy professional look, they almost make the film better. One shot in particular sees a lone gunman standing on some rail tracks, he looks to the horizon to see the shimmering faint silhouette of a hand rail car and its passengers slowly approaching. Very 'Lawrence of Arabia', very atmospheric and beautifully shot using the Namibian heat.

So this film has been in limbo for along time, we've all heard its crap and truthfully...it is! The visuals are slick, the blood n gore do add some fun here and there (very good makeup on the skinless villain at the start) and Snipes does look quite natty in his cowboy getup with that nice stylish white goatee. Problem is its completely dumb, messy, unexplained and evidently trying to jump on the undead bandwagon AND the popular comic book adaptation visual style bandwagon. It just comes across as a poorly crafted rip off of some other films.

3/10