Monday, 19 June 2017

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)




















So when this movie starts we get the standard introduction for a watery monster flick, a live action shot of the ocean rolling and crashing against the rocks. Over said standard introduction we of course get the opening credits which lists our main players. The interesting thing was, once the credits had finished we get some narration. This narration informs us of where and how this movie was shot. I've never come across that before, it was odd to say the least, kinda took you out of the movie...for a moment.

The plot to this deep sea tale is a very basic affair, let me explain in the simplest of terms. Julie, a beautiful young woman (Anne Kimbell) goes on vacation in Mexico. Whilst there she meets young handsome marine biologist Dr. Baldwin (Dick Pinner) and they slowly fall in love. The end...nah only joking.

After Julie hears a mysterious story about the death of a diver she becomes curious and decides to do some digging. Naturally Dr. Baldwin is skeptical but because he loves her so much he goes along with the investigation. After much deliberating, various tests and chats with the locals, the duo eventually discover that there is indeed a large monster on the rampage in this sleepy Mexican coastal region.

So what is the monster you ask? Well its obviously not gonna be a shark, crab or giant eel or whatever because that's too boring. At first I thought it might be a giant octopus, which we are presented with at one point. Luckily its not that either. During the brave duos investigation they actually discover (by accident) a strange piece of gloop. Now because Dr. Baldwin is of course a scientist he knows exactly what to do, stick it under his trusty microscope. After much important scientific type spiel which I'm sure nobody would really listen too intently, they come to the conclusion its a piece of mutated amoeba. Its right at that moment that you the viewer realises that the large roaming monster is in fact a large mutated amoeba. A result of atomic testing? Actually this time I don't think so.

Yes the big beastie is actually a large, umm...octopus looking amoeba with one huge comical eye that glows. It looks more like a space alien really. The creature in question looks to be a puppet on strings against an underwater set of varying quality. The creatures large glowing eye is actually pretty cool I thought, definitely brought it to life and gave it some character. Alas it also made it look like a Scooby-Doo monster from the cartoons.

Next to that you of course have a lot of stock footage of various sea creatures and a reasonable amount of underwater sequences shot with real divers. There does in fact appear to be a real sequence where a diver fights off a real shark with a knife, and the production does seem to have and utilise a real minisub. Its also worthy to note that this movie does appear to have a score that closely resembles a certain Steven Spielberg movie. Believe it or not but that famous/infamous musical tune does actually appear in this movie. Not the exact same score of course but its damn close. Hmmm I wonder Mr. Spielberg.

Other than that its all business as usual really. The Mexican locals are all your bog standard, obligatory stereotypes. Horrendous accents, the men have huge moustaches and the women are all old and covered in veils (although the director, Wyott Ordung, is actually the main stereotypical Mexican local). Dr. Baldwin and all the other scientist blokes generally act like male chauvinists, patronising Julie all the time. Julie often speaks sense, is hard working and is willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of the mystery. On the other hand Dr. Baldwin merely thinks this is adorable and treats her like a puppy.

Heck there's even a sequence where Dr. Baldwin serenades Julie on the rocks by the ocean in a highly cringeworthy scene that feels somewhat out of place. Not that it matters because the movie was lost way before this. The reason being its just too boring, nothing really happens...like ever! We only see some monster action right at the very end and even then its woefully brisk. We don't see any other creatures or people getting eaten, no carcasses, no tension, no thrills, just lots of talk, some romance and underwater jiggery-pokery. Yeah the giant amoeba is kinda fun to look at but there needed to be way way more of it.

3/10

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

























There have been many tales of the infamous 1789 incident at sea. The 1984 movie with Mel Gibson was by far the most realistic, but I have not seen the 1935 Clarke Gable movie. And then we have this 1962 movie with the one and only Marlon brando. Another American vision of the events but this time a highly fictionalised vision.

So as we all know by now, the story of the HMS Bounty briefly goes like this. The mission of the Bounty and her crew was to reach Tahiti, pick up a cargo of breadfruit and take it to the Caribbean (amongst other things). Upon reaching Tahiti and whilst carrying out their mission, the crew slowly become infatuated with the tropical lifestyle. The prospect of many more months at sea and going back to the cold island of the United Kingdom seemed bleak (can't blame them). Once the crew do set sail once again months later, tensions are running high and eventually boil over with half the crew backing 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian. They cast Captain Bligh and his loyal men adrift and head back to Tahiti. Arriving back at Tahiti they aren't welcomed as much as they were before by the natives. Christian and his crew realise that the British Navy will come for them and Tahiti will be their first port of call. So once again the mutineers set sail and eventually end up on Pitcairn Island, their new home for the rest of their lives.

So that's pretty much how things went officially (I believe), but that's not how this movie went, oh no. Lets cut straight to the chase here, apparently Marlon Brando took the reigns on this film without telling anyone, including the original director Carol Reed. He just assumed control and caused a bit of a shitstorm. I won't go into the complete ups and downs of the situation behind the camera but I believe this heavily fictionalised version of the story was down in part to Brando. Mainly Brando changing his mind on what he wanted to see, his lines, the script as a whole etc...Just the entire shoot in general.



The fact that Brando wasn't even a good match for the young Christian kinda makes it even worse really. Fletcher Christian was a young, fresh faced man with thick dark curly/wavy hair and pale skin, a typical Brit essentially. Brando had blonde straight hair, was very tanned and was shorter than Christian. Brando clearly had problems with the accent which is cringeworthy to listen to these days and he portrayed Christian as a bit of a dandy. Sure he was dashing and admittedly an actor doesn't have to be a clone copy of a historical figure for sure, but come on guys.

What's really terrible is the fact that you can spot the sequences in the film which are fiction (if you know the story that is). For starters, there is absolutely nothing in this film that shows us the relationship between Fletcher Christian (Brando) and the native girl he fell for. One of the main reasons Christian is thought to have mutinied was for the love of a native girl on Tahiti, along with the lifestyle. But this is absent here, Christian seems to just mutiny because he doesn't like Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) and how he runs the ship, which was part of the issue but not all of it.

This leads into Captain Bligh's relationship with Christian as a whole. There is no relationship here, its ignored and Bligh is shown to be a vicious cruel man. Once again this is far from the truth. Bligh and Christian were known to be friends before this mission and carried on being friends throughout. Bligh was not an evil dictator who had men beaten for little reason. He may have been strict and ran a tight ship but this was very common. But in this movie Bligh is portrayed as a merciless madman, its not that long into the voyage that Bligh has one of the men lashed. Don't get me wrong, Trevor Howard is wonderful as Bligh, his harsh, cocky, elitist persona is practically infuriating as he struts around having men keelhauled and lashed left right and centre. Its just unfortunate that this portrayal is completely wrong and almost on a superhero level of wickedness.



Keelhauled by the way was a punishment at sea where a man was restrained in rope and via a manpower pulley system, dragged along the underneath of a ships hull. Mainly port to starboard or vice versa. Once again I don't believe this actually happened on the Bounty. Much like Bligh's other punishments of restricting water and food rations, may have happened but I haven't read about it.

Some of the other evil scenes from Bligh are comical they really are. He deliberately packs the ship with twice the amount of breadfruit to look good to his superiors. But in order to accommodate this he reduces the water storage on-board. To punish the men for drinking too much water he has the drinking ladle hung from main sail rigging, so if anyone wanted a drink they'd have to climb the rigging to get the ladle. There is also a scene where Bligh is stabbed! And punched by Christian (giving Brando a conveniently butch heroic moment to revel in).

I have to mention the films finale because its literally a complete joke. According to this movie adaptation Christian and his mutineer crew do indeed reach Pitcairn Island to set up shop so to speak. But then Christian decides he and his mates should return to old blighty to face the consequences and testify against Bligh and his evil actions. The other mutineers are naturally shocked by this and decide to take matters into their own hands, they go about setting the Bounty on fire. Christian and a few others try to save the vessel but fail. Christian is mortally wounded in the process which conveniently gave Brando a juicy death sequence to revel in. This ending literally shocked me, my mouth was wide open in horror at the utter disrespect and sheer amount of pure bullshit.



Visually the movie is incredible looking, partially shot on location in the South Pacific. The scenery, the bold colours...the lush greens and blue skies, the landscapes etc...You can't deny these old movies could look utterly sumptuous despite being nonsensical. The Bounty was also recreated for the movie and it too looks fantastic set against the rolling blue Pacific ocean. Some shots, like the 84 movie, are so beautiful, they could be framed and on your wall. It was also very cool to see a sequence/shot that replicates the famous 1790 painting (by Robert Dodd) of Bligh and co set adrift whilst the mutineers toss breadfruit overboard.

Whilst I have to admit I did enjoy this movie, mainly down to the visuals and classic story, it is horrendously flawed as I've explained. All the acting is reaching an epic level as you would expect for an old silver screen classic such as this, despite all the fictional claptrap. The extra scenes set against bluescreens is unfortunately very obvious though, as are the wigs the actors are wearing because they had all had their haircut since wrapping (kinda amusing actually). In short, the scale of this production is epic, it looks epic, the cast are epic and the acting is just about reaching epic levels. Alas they butchered the story turning it from a potentially historically accurate epic, into a corny Hollywood epic. But if you love these golden oldies (as I do) then this will satisfy you I guarantee. My score reflects the loss of historical accuracy which I can't overlook.

6.5/10

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Giant Claw (1957)

 Well 1950's cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc...In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc...So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there's a chance there's a 50's movie about it.

In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren't military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.

Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo...how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it...ah who cares, don't question it.

So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn't stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are...umm...beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn't too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc...all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.

Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn't afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc...Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.

The weird thing is at times the effects aren't too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there's all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.

Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn't think so, aren't these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these fuckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.

Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn't anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can't give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50's monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.

1.5/10

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Neptune Factor (1973)





















OK let me just start by saying, this films opening credits sequence looks so cool. The way they have rendered the movies title, text and colour wise, is super sweet. I realise this is a minor thing but I notice these little things and this just looked nice to me, kudos.

Anyway so what the heck is this all about? The title could be mistaken for a hardcore fantasy flick or a hardcore space set sci-fi flick. It is in fact a sci-fi movie all about deep sea exploration and research, dare I say a kind of very early version of 'The Abyss'...kinda. But don't get too excited because this movie isn't that awesome. The plot is set deep deep beneath the ocean waves (Off Nova Scotia, north Atlantic) where a small team of scientists research undersea earthquakes. Ironically the undersea lab they are all living in gets hits by an earthquake which sends the lab tumbling down a deep ocean trench. Luckily just before this happened a few team members were leaving the lab for their leave, so now they must go back down to try and save the remaining stranded team members. Time is of the essence.

So this is an early 70's movie and boy can you tell. All the blokes look like amateur porn stars and their hair is...lets just say dated. Its really quite amusing to see all these blokes clearly with receding hairlines but trying their best to pretend otherwise. But the women don't get off that easy either, its quite hilarious to watch Yvette Mimieux's hair change from scene to scene. She clearly has curly/wavy hair and has it straightened here, so in one scene you can see its been straightened (with the usual static electricity side effects). Then in the same scene but seconds later it might be all over the place as if someone just ruffed it all up.



The technology is also fun to observe, indeed its incredible to think we could do such things back then with such outrageously dated equipment (same with the moon landing). The small submarine the team use looks quite agreeable, in other words it looks like what you'd expect a small deep sea sub to look like these days, but chunkier. Its all the internal controls which makes you smile, the array of big coloured buttons, huge metal gear-like controls and levers, massively dated VHS looking recording equipment and monitors etc...Its all so corny looking but also so heartwarming.  Of course much of it may be pure fantasy and artistic license, I don't know what the cockpit of a deep sea sub would look like so....

But here's the thing, from the start of this movie you kinda assume its gonna be a realistic take on deep sea research. Apparently producer Sanford Howard did a lot of research himself to try and show a highly realistic vision of oceanographic research, aquanauts and the danger they encounter. For the most part this all goes well...right up to the point when they go down the deep sea trench and discover gigantic monster sized fish, anemones, crustaceans etc...All of a sudden we go from a pretty technical looking flick with real threats and real science, to an all out fantasy flick with giant crabs. Worth mentioning the fish are actually tropical yet the ocean is the Atlantic, hmmm. The crew do mention the bottom of the trench being warmed by undersea volcanoes though, but still, hmmm.

Truth be told this was a lifeline for the movie because up until that point everything had been going pretty slowly. But do the various giant sea entities help matters? Well again not really because nothing actually happens. They go down the trench, they encounter giant creatures, watch them through their viewport and that's it. The giant fish merely swim past or have a nose, the crabs and lobster merely walk around, sea anemones react as they do and that's it. One crab does try to push the sub around a bit, as does a fish, and apart from losing power for a short time that's about the height of the excitement you get folks. Don't get me wrong its still kinda fun in a cheesy, Doug McClure kinda way, but its also underwhelming. Really wanted someone to venture outside and get eaten.



Effects wise its a mixed bag. All the internal sub sets and gear looks really good, very authentic. The equipment the crew use, their outfits, terminology, the oceanlab, ships on the surface etc...its all spot for the time. They do in fact use real minisubs, ships, cranes, undersea labs etc...its all real footage and at the start they clearly shot underwater for a time (using stunt doubles). As the movie proceeds underwater for the exploration things continue to look good within the minisub, I have no complaints here. Apart from the obviously dated equipment it all looks really neat and nicely claustrophobic. The problems start when the crew discover the giant sea creatures, which are actually real creatures not made up monsters (alas). All they have done here is shoot real footage of real creatures and fish, then blown up that footage and used rear projection against the actors to give the impression the fish are huge. At the same time they also used small models of the minisub against real sized fish which looked so flippin' cute. Remember when you'd put little toys into your goldfish tank...there you go.

Another major issue I had with the movie is how the oceanlab got to its final resting place in the deep sea trench. There was an earthquake and we see the lab topple down the side of the trench, OK. So the lab will presumably just go straight down and crash at the bottom, supposedly implode too it was mentioned but that never happens for some reason. When the minisub ventures down into the trench the crew discover an undersea world, they're travelling for quite some distance along this trench floor apparently. When they eventually find the lab it feels like they've being searching for miles and miles, so how did the lab somehow go all this way? Also when they find the lab the survivors are outside fighting giant eels...but but the pressure??



The movies poster is epic, it drew me in, I knew I had to see this. Alas the movie doesn't quite live up to said poster, something I have grown accustomed to with these old movies. But nevertheless the movie is still a fun time it must be said. Part of this is down to the hilarious performances from the cast. Ben Gazzara's over acting as he tries his very best to be this tough, macho, ├╝ber cool, smooth talkin' deep voiced sub Commander. I haven't seen anyone try to look so cool in front of the camera for some time, loved it. Then of course we've got the legendary Ernest Borgnine as one of the oceanlab crew, a chief diver. What can I say? The man is epic, he looks his usual gruff self and what's left of his hair literally goes everywhere when its wet, brilliant stuff. I just adore how bad hair was back in the 70's. Naturally you can't have an adventure movie without a bit of young totty to show off, hence Yvette Mimieux and her flowing locks.

If you like classics like 'Fantastic Voyage' then this movie will be right up your particular alley of enjoyment. Yes it might be hokey as hell, kinda lethargic and the threats aren't really that threatening. Yes you aren't gonna feel that much tension or excitement with this movie, but its still a good old fashioned romp.

6.5/10

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Stryker (PH, 1983)

























It would be very easy of me to say this was a simple rip-off of the first two Mad Max movies but hey, come on, seriously...take a bloody look at this thing. Its a flippin' rip-off of George Miller's dystopian creation...visually at least.

The Earth is a scorched barren wasteland. Small pockets of people is all that is left of the human race after a devastating nuclear war. The most precious commodity now is water (sound familiar?), not food, not fuel, not bullets or guns because apparently there's an abundance of that stuff, no its H2O. The remaining small groups of people fight amongst themselves for the water. Kardis, a tyrant with a loyal following wants the location of a colony that has a natural spring. Said colony is peaceful but remain hidden to fend off the violent Kardis and his black leather wearing minions.

There is seemingly only one man who can help the colony and stop Kardis, that man is Stryker (Steve Sandor), oh and his black leather clad partner Bandit...excuse me?. Stryker is your complete stereotypical 80's anti-hero...that has been cobbled together from other movies. He's a silent, roguish, gruff, tanned, muscular bloke with longish hair. Unfortunately the hair is slightly blonde, very curly (almost an afro) and doesn't look very cool. He wears a tight vest to show off his big arms, he has on what looks to be armoured shin pads and camouflage type pants (similar to Snake Plissken in 'Escape from New York'), and he often wears a cowboy hat and bandana around his face. Naturally he's a dab hand with all types of guns and knives.



His sidekick, Bandit, is also very quiet, slim, athletic, actually has more muscular tone than Stryker and has wavy black long hair complete with bandana. As already said Bandit wears all black leather and is also darn good with guns and knives. Both of these (apparent) butch blokes travel around the desert in...wait for it...a black, heavily modified 1970 Ford Mustang that just so happens to look very similar to the Ford Falcon in that other desert set flick.

The baddie named Kardis looks like Ben Kingsley and dresses relatively sensibly, albeit with a slightly Arabic look. Its his henchmen that look bloody ridiculous and are somewhat of a copyright infringement. All of his men are dressed in black leather, some wearing odd helmets, masks, goggles, body harnesses/fetish gear etc...It literally looks like they just stepped off the set of 'Mad Max 2', its so blatant. The only real difference is these bad guys travel around on tanks (which does look badass), although they do use the odd battered vehicle.

Again ripping ideas straight outta other specific movies, this movie also has a band of female warriors that are all incredibly sexy looking. Each and every female warrior is wearing very tight skimpy booty shorts that show more arse than anything (its very nice). They all wear white clothes (as do all the peaceful goodie people) and in another blatant copyright infringement some wear what looks to be white American football type shoulder padding (yes from 'Mad Max 2' again). All these female warriors also tend to use bows, arrows and crossbows rather than guns. So essentially these characters are just another stolen idea.



There is very little dialog in this movie which is somewhat unsurprising I guess seeing as most of the actors are dubbed. But the lack of actual talking is still quite odd really, its like the movie is just one long collection of action sequences stuck together around a crap plot. That plot basically being, the baddies are after the water, the goodies have to stop them, guys wearing black bad, people wearing white good...and that's it. There are various characters that do get captured and whatnot, there are some flashbacks to explain what happened between Kardis and Stryker etc...but none of it matters. Baddies wear black, goodies wear white...fight!

Admittedly there are a lot of reasonable action sequences involving vehicles. Nothing you hadn't seen before in some other movies (ahem) but they have been directed and carried out pretty well all things considered. Yes there is a tanker sequence, of course there is, no its not as good as that tanker sequence. Yes there are many nice shots of Stryker's souped-up car against sunsets, closeups, the roaring of the engine as it thunders down the deserted highways etc...Honesty the car is sweet, they've done their best to match (or copy) the iconic Ford Falcon pursuit special and its not half bad, I wouldn't say no. Other vehicles are standard desert bound stuff like jeeps and various 4x4 things. The female warriors have a neat looking three wheeled motorbike thingy.



Most of the action is pretty hokey as you might expect with men throwing themselves around when they get shot. Lots of explosive squibs to simulate gunfire, wounds and ricochets etc...The locations work nicely, I believe its all in the Philippines but I could be wrong. Sure some of it looks to be in quarries and some rundown ruins but it does the job. Everything looks yellow, dusty, rocky, sandy, battered etc...what else do you need for an apocalyptic movie in the desert? Steve Sandor is clearly having a ball being this supposedly ultra cool anti-hero, he growls and snarls when required, ignores the sexy women like a true badass would do...I guess. His sidekick Bandit is virtually mute but does get a sex scene, so not gay then? Jury is still out on that because he sure as hell doesn't like it when Stryker leaves him at the end, dude almost breaks down in tears in front of his new hot girlfriend.

The movies poster is sexy stuff, its literally why I watched the film! I was predictably somewhat disappointed to discover the poster isn't really accurate (how many times man? how many times?). Going in I knew this would be a mix of many things that have come before, twas bloody obvious, but is that bad? I mean, yeah sure its bad in a legal moral sense, but for entertainment purposes its actually alright. Yes the movie is cheap and tacky but thumbs for effort, credit where credits due, this ain't half bad for a low budget B-movie. The fact that it looks like there was not much health and safety involved whilst making this makes it even more impressive and fun. Final thought, someone really needs to explain to me why there was a band of Jawas/Dinks in the desert. I...I really didn't quite understand that, quite simply, why is there a band of little people in the middle of the desert?

5.5/10

Saturday, 27 May 2017

K-9 (1989)





















Back in the day, this was probably the first time in my life that I discovered Hollywood made identical movies. Maybe it was something I had missed previously or just never thought about, or maybe it was a simple case of this being way too obvious to miss. Of course the other movie I refer to is the Tom Hanks vehicle 'Turner and Hooch'. It wasn't really until the mid to late 90's that I started to notice this identikit film making occurring again.

The plot couldn't be simpler, its essentially a spin on the old trusted buddy cop movie. Just remove one of the human elements and replace with a dog and watch the hilarity ensue. And that's the plot in a nutshell. Loose cannon and smartass Chicago detective Dooley (James Belushi) needs a partner, but he's none to happy about getting one. His by the books chief basically tells him you're getting a partner, like it or lump it. So in order to kinda avoid getting a partner Dooley opts for a police dog, easy right? Well guess what?? Yeah its not easy, in fact the dog turns out to be an intelligent nightmare that doesn't like orders (did ya see that coming?). So this oddball duo of unruly K-9 and wise cracking cop must work together to take down some stereotypical 80's drug kingpin type.

Now essentially you have to remember that back in the day when this movie came out, buddy cop flicks were all the rage. These fast paced, profanity ridden, violent cops vs criminals flicks were the equivalent of superhero flicks right now, they were literally ten a penny. Naturally most flicks went through the obvious ideas of different racial double teams, age differences, sensible and crazy, by the books and not so etc...So at the end of the day this movie actually had an original concept, well one, everything else was your standard fair.



Its been a long long time since I saw this movie and its really quite scary how dated it is (and how old I've gotten). One of the first scenes sees Dooley sitting in his car playing on a Nintendo Game & Watch, back when those little gems were considered mobile gaming. It was so odd to watch this scene because I fully remember thinking back in the day how cool those Nintendo handhelds were and how much I really wanted one. Its also cute to notice that all the sound effects you supposedly hear from said game, clearly do not, those games didn't make sound that advanced.

There is actually a lot of dubbing going on in this movie. Obviously the dog can't talk so in order to add extra emotional impact to scenes throughout the movie they stuck in lots of growling and whining type dog noises. Again its funny now because when I was a kid I thought the dog was actually making those noises. Indeed I can't deny that this idea does work on a number of occasions, nothing hilarious of course but its amusing. In fact the chemistry between Belushi and the dog is one of the high points of the film (well it would have to be really wouldn't it). Belushi is clearly having a blast over acting and showing off, but this isn't annoying surprisingly. He genuinely comes across as a cool bloke, someone you'd be happy to have a beer with. His character is very likeable and down to earth, whilst his interactions with the dog are also very likeable and fun. Sure its all very predictable these days, you know exactly the kind of stuff that your gonna see here (doggy poop, loud barking, breaking stuff, chewing stuff, eating stuff, looking cute etc...), but its enjoyable.

On the flip side of being cute the dog also turns out to be a badass when it comes to taking down criminals. Again this is not something that is much of a surprise, of course the dog will be cute and cool at the same time. Of course the dog will be unruly and rebellious, and of course the dog will also save Dooley's ass and basically reverse the roles. Yes that's right, Dooley for the most part is basically the doofus of the duo, where as the dog is the clever detective, cute huh.



Speaking of baddies, the main antagonist in this movie (played by the wonderfully evil looking Kevin Tighe) is the absolute epitome of 80's action movie villains. He's a middle aged executive looking boss (a slick suit) who's clearly loaded and clearly pretty old and in need of henchmen to carry out his dirty work. In fact, like many action movie villains, he's clearly so loaded you do kinda wonder why he's doing what he's doing. Just looking around at this guys property, cars and general lifestyle, he seems to be doing pretty well for himself, so why risk it all? Naturally all his henchmen are slick suits, you know the type, they just stand around looking smart and obey every order. I always wonder if these guys actually have any sort of personal home life, or if they're maybe gay with their boss...because they mindlessly obey and never leave his side.

This is one of those movies that was pretty cool back in the day because that's all you knew, but nowadays its generic as fuck. For the most part its mainly all about the comic interactions between Belushi and the dog (of which there were many used). Most of the actions sequences are pretty standard fair except for the ones which involve the dog attacking (obviously heavily padded) people and biting their crotch. Its all directed well and looks good truth be told but that can't hide obvious stunt doubles, bad dubbing and a very lightweight plot. Oh and the blatantly obvious emotional hook where the dog gets shot is (or was) obvious and highly predictable. As was the sequence where you think the dogs dead but low and behold he's not! As if the movie would ever end with the flippin' dog being shot to death, come on people.

In short, Belushi is a hoot I can't deny; this was back in his heydays when he was actually a biggish draw. How funny is it to watch Belushi clutching the dogs leash whilst he's being helplessly dragged across the background of a shot? Pretty funny actually. The movie is definitely fun and (I think) much better than the alternate Tom Hanks version. This feels more for adults where as the latter was more soppy.  We could of done without the whole doggie sex thing with that ugly poodle though.

7/10

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Double Team (1997)

























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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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

5/10

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)





















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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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

6/10

Monday, 15 May 2017

Outland (1981)

























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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

7/10

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Office Christmas Party (2016)

























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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

5.5/10

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Monster Trucks (2016)

























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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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

6/10