The original small budget British sci-fi was pretty much made entirely… MoreThe original small budget British sci-fi was pretty much made entirely by Gareth Edwards, unfortunately he went on to much bigger things with 'Godzilla' (and now a Star Wars spin-off), so he couldn't direct this sequel. This was probably the main cause of this movies downfall, the next would be everything else the new director and writer decided to do, or not do. I mean look at the films poster, looks fantastic right, troops on the ground in the desert, explosions behind them, monsters towering in the air, and above all that lots of chopper appear to be facing off against the monsters. It looks like a cheesy B-movie but it looks fun, false advertising much? I'd also like to ask why everyone calls these creatures monsters when they're clearly space aliens or extraterrestrial life. It sounds ridiculous because everyone knows monsters live under your bed.
K so the story follows a group of US soldiers from their rough neighbourhood in Detroit to their new post somewhere in the Middle East, think Iraq, just don't say it. These guys are a typical bunch of foul-mouthed, trigger happy, egotistical macho-men wannabes that are completely unlikable from the off. Their hometown area in Detroit is basically a ghetto which the lead youngster claims to hate (through much solemn narration), but he seems to love being a ghetto boy to me, with his homies. An early scene showing the guys at an underground illegal dog fight between a dog and baby monster (alien) is pretty grim, right there I no longer gave a fuck about these guys. To top that the guys then embark on a final night out with prostitutes, booze and cocaine! despite one of them recently having a baby with his wife!!
Once in the mystery Middle Eastern country of Iraq the young new recruits are introduced to their stereotypical, ultra masculine squad leaders. This is the part in the movie where they rip-off every other military movie (but mainly 'Aliens' yet again) with much uber macho posturing, more profanity and general displays of all-male, red-blooded manliness. Its also around now when every time these guys do anything, some rock music kicks in, every time. Eventually I realised the director is kinda trying to make his own modern day Nam flick with modern day tunes. It is also quite clear that the director is trying way way too hard, I get what you're wanting to do here but dude seriously, back off, all you have achieved is making me not like any of your characters.
So this team of butch, hot-headed, jingoistic soldiers get sent on a mission to rescue some other soldiers from deep within this desert filled country. Oh you might have thought I forgot about the monsters, you remember them? they're suppose to be the main focal point of the plot. Well it just so happens that the monsters from the first movie have evolved and...caught a plane to the Middle East I guess (they were in Mexico in the first movie) because now they're breeding there. Apparently the US has been bombing the living snot outta these space monsters trying to keep them under control, unfortunately, and rather amusingly (and typical of humans), they have also been accidentally bombing the living snot outta the locals too. This in turn has caused an insurgence against American forces, so now the troops have to deal with aliens AND angry Middle Eastern countrymen that all look remarkably like terrorists.
The aliens (or monsters) in the movie are rendered faithfully in CGI and do look terrific I must say. The huge leggy creatures slowly stomp across the desert terrain with grace and actually look beautiful in the process, like a herd of slow moving elephants. At the same time there are new breeds that are more like horses or buffalo, they gallop across the desert in packs, almost in a 'Jurassic Park'-like stampede. These creatures also look really good, great design and of course in full CGI, but not obviously. The problem is the monsters don't actually feature in this movie!! they are literately a background element, window dressing. They do appear more than in the first movie but they don't actually do anything, a bit of sniffing around, knocking down the odd building or structure, the odd lurch at a human. They never attack anyone, eat anyone or cause any kind of threat ever! this leads me to wonder why the Yanks are so intent on wiping them out (stupid question).
This fact also leads into the traumatic human element of the movie. Bottom line, this movie is all about this team of soldiers and their harrowing fight for survival against the insurgents after they get ambushed (not the monsters/aliens...whatever). This has nothing to do with the monsters at all, the monsters aren't a threat, so to that degree you can understand why the native folk are so angry with the US soldiers, the aliens aren't doing anything, the Americans are causing mass destruction. Thing is I don't think the director/writer actually intended that, its just how the story came out. They clearly wanted to make a gritty, contemporary war film chock full with the horrors of war, morals, human values...and then bolted on the space monsters as an after thought (in the background).
The whole theme is very obviously an analogy for the war in Iraq. Innocents getting killed, children starving and living in bombed out shacks, towns destroyed, infrastructure gone etc...Its all here filmed in the most predictable cliched way possible, shaky cam, moments of deafening loudness, moments of shell shocking induced silence, slow motion, overexposed shots, lots of shouting, grimacing and a bucket load of man tears. Think 'Black Hawk Down' thrown into a blender with 'Cloverfield', but the aliens don't do anything.
The film does actually look really slick, the whole thing has been well shot with plenty of care and attention to detail. The filming location of Jordan helps ten fold offering some exquisite natural beauty which in turn gave the director the opportunity to capture some truly spiritual scenes. The long distant shots of these herds of huge aliens set against the desert dawn, dusk or brilliant daylight, are stunning, some shots reminded me of 'Halo' honesty. So yes the film does look excellent at times, it is highly realistic, at times punishing and brutal and its well made. Had this been the directors own stand alone war flick (and nothing to do with 'Monsters'), I'd be giving a different write up. On that front its very good, its not very original now but like I said, its well made. Alas its suppose to be a sequel to 'Monsters' and clearly this isn't. The director has clearly gotten lost and carried away with his own pet project.
Ridley Scott's filmography up to this point was pretty diverse. A… MoreRidley Scott's filmography up to this point was pretty diverse. A historical drama set in the late 18th century/early 19th century Europe, a futuristic space set alien horror, a futuristic neo-noir detective thriller and a pure swords n sorcery, wizards and demons, fantasy flick. 1989 saw his first foray into the more mainstream action thriller genre, although typically with Scott this production was a much more glossy and well made action thriller than your average offering.
The story is centred around Japan and the Yakuza. Conklin (Michael Douglas) is your standard gruff, rebellious cop with family issues, who also has no time for little things like rules and regulations. His partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia), is his opposite and much more down to earth, calmer and generally more approachable, he tends to keep Conklin in check. The duo witness a murder by Yakuza gangsters and manage to capture their leader, its now up to this polar opposite duo to escort their prisoner back to Japan and hand him over to the authorities there. Naturally once they arrive the bad guy escapes via a blunder by the American duo and now they have to track him down through the Japanese neon lit underworld.
OK so first off its very clear that Ridley carried on with his 'Blade Runner' vision in this movie, heck this could even be a sequel of sorts, visually. Everything looks very familiar in this thriller, the streets of Osaka are dark (often at night), always neon lit and often rain soaked. There always seems to be plumes of smoke swirling around as the two officers run around, every shot inside a building seems to have silhouettes of blinds against a blue night sky, shadows of ceiling fans (lots of shadows in general), lots of reflections on glass, street steam or smoke, lots of discreet blue-collar eating establishments and of course loads of various neon lighting. This whole movie seems to set in a very murky, sodden Japan where the sun never shines and every building interior is a dimly lit office, with flashing neon signs being the only view through the venetian blinded windows. That's not a bad thing of course, hell no, its a Ridley movie and its all looks as slick as an oil spill. The problem is we saw all that in his replicant chase movie, plus that whole noir angle isn't exactly original, but I guess Ridley set the bar with the genre so...
I do love the character of Conklin though, or at least his look. I've never been a huge fan of Douglas because he kinds looks like a narrow eyed, slimy creep to me, but here he nails the role. The movies poster says it all really, it almost looks like a manga comic cover, it has a very strong graphic novel vibe about it if you ask me, really striking. The pose, the shades, the colour palette and the blurry Japanese neon signed street image behind Douglas, it all looks very bold, very sleek, imaginative and ultimately, oddly futuristic. This Conklin guy is a typical 80's badass, the stereotypical unshaven, trench coat wearing, unkempt anti-hero. He doesn't give a shit about procedure, he'll bend the rules to get his man and he's clearly a bit of a male chauvinist. On the flip side Garcia simply hams up his Italian American heritage by playing the most corny Italian American ever, and he's virtually done the same thing his whole career.
It interesting to see how hero/anti-hero characters have changed over the years. These days its all muscles and martial arts, who's the most buff, who's got the biggest biceps etc...its all very vain and disgustingly wholesome. Back in the day these characters were more mean and moody, dirty, they smoked, they swore, they drank, they had wiry frames, and maybe slapped the odd female around for good luck (not saying that's good). They were just more gritty realistic badasses, God how I miss them!
The Japanese cast are of course epic as Japanese actors normally are, there are many familiar faces here from the chiefs to the henchmen (Al Leong anyone), and they are all perfect in their roles. Sure we've seen Yakuza and gangsters portrayed on screen a gazillion times before, but the Japanese actors are so disciplined and scarily realistic in their performances, they nail it every time. In all honesty though, despite the great performances, stunning location work and Ridley's eye for artistic detail, the movie is actually quite dull to be honest. It really does play out very much like 'Blade Runner' with Conklin meandering around various well lit locations tracking down his prey. He has lots of angry conversations with his fellow Japanese officers in various locales (he's an angry kinda guy), he munches on noodle meals in smokey neon lit locales with his fellow Japanese officers (well mainly Ken Takakura), he talks to blonde dames in dark moody neon lit locations (Kate Capshaw), and he drives around the city...at night...with lost of reflections of neon signs everywhere.
Things only tend to get exciting when Conkers finds his way into a steel foundry (which literately gave Ridley carte blanche to go nuts with lots of shiny, glossy, steam soaked imagery) and there's a shootout and chase. Then the big finale sees two Yakuza gangs and Conkers n co all going ballistic with an even bigger shootout. These days its nothing spectacular lets be honest, back in the day these final showdowns in quirky places were the bread n butter of action flicks. Every action thriller had a big final shootout somewhere unusual with lots of henchmen getting nailed and then finally the main boss getting nailed by the hero (see 'Beverly Hills Cop'). And in all honesty this isn't even a great final action sequence, the motorbike chase was pretty cool and the way Conklin looks like he's gonna kill the main villain but doesn't is a nice little twist, but they ruin it with the cringeworthy vomit-inducing award ceremony.
Its an odd beast this, a pretty standard action cop thriller but made with Ridley Scott's exquisite attention to detail and lavish visuals. Its too much like Ridley's previous works really, we know about the visuals but even the musical score has eerily similar elements to 'Alien' at times, not to mention the steel foundry sequence which felt like a combined scene from 'Alien' and 'Alien 3' (curious huh). It is a solid movie but at the same time it feels too self-indulgent, Ridley clearly couldn't stop himself from doing more 'Blade Runner' stuff which just feels too much of the same thing. End of the day its just a simple action thriller, it didn't really need all the sheen and polish because we can all see its just a simple action thriller underneath all that gloss. Kudos to Ridley for going the extra mile and really making another visual gem, but I don't think this is his best genre.
You could very well call this the UK equivalent of the grandiose… MoreYou could very well call this the UK equivalent of the grandiose Spielberg movie 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence'. The difference being this is a highly realistic and grounded science fiction story that isn't really a million miles from where we are today. What was surprising for me was the fact that its a British film, the cast were all unknown to me (often a winning move) and its Alex Garland's directorial debut! One thing is for sure, you'd never guess this was the directors first film, this looks like a Stanley Kubrick feature!
Its a simple premise, a company employee (Caleb) wins the chance to go and stay with his mega rich CEO at his private secret home/research lab facility, in the mountains. This CEO (Nathan) is a genius who has been working on creating A.I. and he wants Caleb to help him test his creation. The outcome Nathan is after? to see if Caleb will determine whether his robotic creation is actually more human than machine, if the robot (Ava) is actually developing its own A.I. and learning. Of course as with robots and A.I. things don't go completely to plan, tensions rise and very human emotions like suspicion, mistrust and betrayal begin to surface.
I have read that the budget was kept deliberately small for creative purposes, well you wouldn't believe that at all because this movie looks slick as f*ck! If you want a clean, sterilised, highly stylised, glossy, shiny, highly futuristic looking sci-fi movie, but for all the right reasons, then look no further. The film was shot in and around Valldalen in Norway which is basically a vast snowcapped mountainous valley not unlike what we saw in the Jackson/Tolkien movies. This location alone is stunning even without the science fiction story, but what was even more impressive was the Juvet Landscape Hotel in the valley where some scenes were shot. This real hotel is in the middle of nowhere and consists of small oddly shaped wooden huts with windows on one side that basically replace a wall, ceiling to floor windows. This hotel was used for Nathan's home/research facility and you'd never guess it was a real place, it comes across as so fanciful, so out of this world you'd swear it was a specially built set for the film.
All the interior sets (or what I think were sets) were so minimalistic, so bare with bold stark lines and in various tones of stony grey, but at the same time very eerie, especially with those power cuts. The cavernous research facility with its long lonely corridors only highlighted by the odd neon blue door sensor, really give a strong ominous presence to the whole film, you never really know what might occur at any minute. It all looks so expensive too, so precise, so perfectly created by expert designers, each room or lab looks like no expense was sparred in its construction. It makes it very hard to believe the budget was apparently small, you can see the similarities with '2001' in set the bold design, I think.
Not only that but the visual effects for Ava are superb also, clearly they have CGI'd parts of Vikander's body away and replaced them with those excellent transparent sections. But you'd never guess it, the whole design and execution of this robot is so deliciously flawless to look at, admittedly its nothing outrageously original because its very hard to achieve that these days (what could you do that hasn't been done before?). In the end Ava looks like a blend of Robocop and a retro piece of 80's kit (remember back in the day things used to be transparent like some videogame joysticks), it does actually make it hard to believe this one guy (Nathan) could do all this himself, his home, the labs, the robots etc...Sure he's a genius and rich but blimey! he must have some serious money and brain power to do all this on his own (is it easy getting supplies to this hidden fortress of solitude?).
So we've established the visuals are top banana, what about the characters and the plot? Well that's where the film is let down I think because the characters are pretty unlikable if you ask me. Sure Nathan is suppose to be this creepy isolated rich loner but he is fundamentally unlikable from the start, the guy just didn't sit well with me, you know something is off. I also really didn't think we needed to have his character doing all the weights though, that felt like a modern trend or obsession crowbarred in, possibly because the actor like doing weights? I understand the character is living in the wilderness and he wants to keep fit but how about going for a run, Jesus does every male in movies have to be buffed up these days.
As for Caleb (hate that name), he is also a creepy 'Children of the Corn' type looking dude too. Despite the fact he's suppose to be the character we relate too he's annoyingly wet and...annoying. What was unusual though is this guy is suppose to be an A.I. expert and pretty clever in the old IQ department, yet he ends up falling for Ava'a tricks. She manipulates him very easily merely using sexuality basically because she has a female shape, its like this guy completely forgets she's a machine despite her appearance. This also leads me to one part of the plot evolution I didn't like, the fact Nathan makes his creations pleasurebots, sexbots, robots with sexual bits (robotic sex dolls). Why the hell would anyone do this?! seriously! surely its plainly obvious no good will come of it, it will bring up moral/ethical issues which really never need be brought up in the first place. Also Caleb accuses Nathan of emotionally abusing his creations yet...they are his robots, and they are evidently still in development so I think 'abuse' is way off the mark . The Caleb character in my opinion doesn't make sense, he's this intelligent guy and really up on A.I. yet he completely folds and fails his own test in not getting suckered by a machine.
As with anything there were a few nitpicks that hit me, some glaring, some small. When Ava takes another robots fake skin towards the end its amazingly convenient that it fits over her body perfectly, no overlapping or sticky-out bits anywhere. I must also ask how that fake skin stays on, it doesn't look like velcro. Then at the very end Ava leaves Caleb as she does, but why? surely she would need him to fully assimilate into human society, they are friends, they know each other, it would benefit her immensely. That leads me to my final question, why on earth did the chopper pick Ava up at the end?? Yeah sure she looks like a real human at that point but I would of thought the pilot would know to pick up Caleb, seeing as he went out there a week prior. Surely it would say on his paperwork, pick up one male, the same male who went out to this location earlier this week. Nowhere would it say to pick up some random female stranger instead of that male who went out there a week earlier (Caleb). You'd think questions would be raised straight away by the pilot, calling his control to ask who the hell this female is.
This isn't 'I Robot', there are no big set pieces, no car chases, no battles with invincible robots, the movie is a slow burner divided into mini chapters of sorts. Most of run time is simply dialog between characters in various glossy locations, a psychological battle of wits between Caleb and Nathan with Ava playing them off each other to a degree. What's more the movie doesn't hide away from complex scientific theories, processes and jargon, at times the characters babble away about stuff that may well fly over your head...but it sounds good. The fact that everything you see in the movie looks completely realistic and functional only enhances its effect tenfold. If it wasn't for the unlikable characters (personal opinion) and a few quibbles, this is a nigh on perfect sci-fi thriller, well not really a thriller, more of a lesson in quality filmmaking on a small budget with first rate science fiction. Isaac Asimov would be proud.
Ah one of those old JCVD movies that wasn't actually a JCVD movie. I… MoreAh one of those old JCVD movies that wasn't actually a JCVD movie. I remember being fooled by this back in the day when I was a kid, the cool looking movie poster with both Kosugi and JCVD looking uber badass, the movie title in that striking old USSR logo, so much promise from one image. This movie is very much like JCVD's other early action flick 'No Retreat, No Surrender', he doesn't appear much in that film either, plus he also plays yet another baddie Russian character. So back in the 80's JCVD was kinda typecast as a Russian henchman, guess he had that look.
The plot actually revolves around Sho Kosugi, a special ops operative who is called up to find some downed hi-tech equipment from the bottom of the Mediterranean. Some laser tracking devices went down with a jet that was shot down by whoever for whatever reasons. This is all set in Malta and is now very dated to look at of course, in fact the entire thing looks very much like an old James Bond flick, especially with the whole downed jet with hi-tech equipment scenario. It all feels very much like 'Never Say Never Again' to me. At first I thought this was just me but no! this movie does actually try its best to rip-off the Bond franchise. Hell there's even a smoky casino sequence with the main villain and his sidekicks at the roulette table facing off against Kosugi. The whole scene is clearly lifted straight outta the 007 universe, 'Dr. No' much!
The location work for this movie is extremely impressive I must say, its easily the best aspect of the feature. Every scene is shot in and around the beautiful and awe-inspiring sand coloured stone structures of Malta and its various famous landmarks. To be quite honest most of this movie is actually rather dull frankly, all we see for the most part is Kosugi pussy footing around like a beige coloured ninja or swimming in crystal clear blue waters. He also has a sidekick, some other skinny dude who aids him with intel. The rest of the time it cuts to scenes with his two kids who eventually get kidnapped, and that's the only reason they are there...to be kidnapped. Sure Kosugi's bosses used the kids to get him to do this assignment but after that it makes no real sense why they hang around in the face of obvious danger. If all this hadn't been shot against this stunningly historic, sand coloured land of ancient wonder then it would be completely pointless.
After lots of rather mundane dialog and hints of JCVD's grandness, we finally get a showdown between him and Kosugi. The setting is perfect, atop of some crumbling derelict old fortress wall (or so it seemed), a blazing sun high in the clear blue sky, both men glistening in the Mediterranean heat (oh my!), JCVD vs Kosugi, round 1, fight! Annnnd its all over in less than three minutes, yep a few kicks, a few ducks and parries, a bit of blood around the chops and its all over. We now have to wait to the very end for another face-off, ugh!
Yep then its back to more of Kosugi prancing around with his skinny sidekick as they create their plan to infiltrate the villains main ship, thing is I can't remember why. Not that any of that matters now because this is the lead up to the main battle, the main battle against Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his hordes of henchmen aboard his...oh wait. Yep we now get a quick 'Commando' rip-off with Kosugi gearing up and covering himself in black tar by the looks of it, he does a sloppy job of it too sheesh! Lock n load with a bigass crossbow to rip-off Rambo a little bit, then its off we go to kill all the bad guys. This all leads to the finale fight with JCVD, round 2, fight! It lasts a bit longer this time but it never really hits it stride, both men seem to take turns in doing all their signature moves whilst trying not to hurt each other too much. Some nice swing and misses with sweeps and roundhouse kicks etc...but nothing that will get you frothing for more.
I lost the plot ages ago with this, they were after these laser tracking devices and I'm sure Kosugi found them and won the movie halfway through, I dunno. It had to lead up to some sort of big showdown with guns and plosions. Its a very odd movie really, Kosugi isn't much of a leading man or fighter judging by this, plus his accent is very heavy and hard to follow at times. JCVD is wasted but does make a fun bad guy, whilst the main villains are pretty pathetic, completely non-threatening, just suits. Clearly they were trying for a slick Bond-esque type romp with semi-serious overtones, yet at the same time they throw in little bits from other franchises too just to make sure, they even get Kosugi's kids in on the action.
In the end the plot goes MIA halfway through and it all becomes a very lame excuse just to get Kosugi facing off against JCVD (in a pretty location). The problem being its all a completely wasted opportunity because most of this film sucks, if anything it serves as a fantastic tourist advertisement for the Island of Malta and its idyllic cobbled backstreets.
There are many movie adaptations of Stephen King's work, mostly hit… MoreThere are many movie adaptations of Stephen King's work, mostly hit and miss truth be told, but there are some little gems hidden in the crowd. Now admittedly I knew nothing of this particular story and on first glance the title is kinda off putting, The Night Flier? really? I then discover its about a murderer who flies around in his little blacked out plane to remote airstrips and kills people. Basically its a vampire story (hence the blacked out plane), a vampire that uses a plane to travel around and drain folk dry, sounds daft doesn't it. Then you look at the movies poster and oh boy that doesn't help, to make things worse they even show the vampires monster face on the poster!
So the plot follows this cynical, grumpy, emotionless reporter played by Miguel Ferrer, he picks up this story about a killer flying around killing people in strange and sometimes horrific ways. The film plays on the fact the killer is a supernatural being, a vampire. Every time we see him he's basically dressed like Dracula with the typical long flowing black cape with high collar and shrouded in shadow, of course we never see his face (don't look at the films poster). The clever (well sort of clever) twist being we are not sure if the killer really is a vampire or maybe its all just coincidental, or perhaps it could all be in Dees (Ferrer) mind.
At the start of the movie we catch up with Dees in a bar after work, he's angry at his boss and drinking. We are then introduced to another younger female reporter who has recently joined the rag tabloid Dees works for. Dees explains to her how nasty the job is and how following and talking to all these weirdos and killers over the years may have warped his mind, or as he puts it, it all starts to make sense. This brief moment of dialog is a hint at the evolution of the plot and may or may not explain the ending.
Ferrer does a top job at playing the foul mouthed, rude, harsh and pessimistic Dees. This guy will stop at nothing for a good gruesome scoop with things like compassion and empathy falling by the wayside. To a degree its hard to get on this characters side because he is so unlikable. We follow his slow descent into madness as he tracks the killer from one vile murder scene to another, at times he shows a tiny amount of emotion but in general he gets worse as his obsession to uncover the truth swallows him. In the end you kinda feel sorry for the guy because his job is eating him alive, you want him to just quit and walk away.
As for the vampire killer its a little unclear to me. We are indeed led to believe the killer is a real vampire, his plane contains native soil for his rest, the plane is completely blacked out to protect against daylight, his attire and the way he drains blood from his victims. At one point Dees even uncovers a photo album inside the killers plane which appears to show the killer in human form before he became a vampire, although I'm not sure why or how he turned into a hideous monster. The pictures also seem to date back to around the First World War hinting at immortality. The big question is what does happen in the finale? is the vampire killer actually real? did he kill all these people? or was it in fact Dees all along in his crazy state of mind?
After some homework it appears the movie is actually pretty faithful to the original short story. In the book the killer is a vampire and he does leave Dees badly shaken in a sea of carnage making the police believe Dees was the killer. But the movie isn't so clear, it ends in similar fashion but also hints that Dees did kill people. Either that or the vampire did play with Dees mind and he goes temporarily nuts hacking up the already dead bodies (dead bodies of the people the vampire did actually kill) so it looks grave for him when the cops show up. The small scene showing the vampire (for some reason in human form?) leaving the airport after the cops show up and flying away in his plane does seem to confirm the latter, maybe? As for his human form, was that to show a curse had been broken perhaps? Dees had taken the rap which in turn freed the vampire from his grisly way of life?
There isn't a great deal of vampiric stuff going on for the most part admittedly, we see plenty of dead bodies and gore yes but not much of the killer. When you do see him he doesn't actually look scary either, more cliched and cheesy if anything, its like watching Bela Lugosi marching around. That is of course until the big reveal (don't look at the films pos...ah too late), when Dees finally comes face to face with the beast...and its one hell of a prosthetic mask! A rat-like face with a huge gaping maw and two giant sharp fangs for puncturing a mortals neck. Again its not exactly a scary moment, not shocking, but the craftsmanship on the makeup is top notch, really eerie with an original flare.
It still seems silly to have a vampire flying around in a blacked out plane, surely it would be easy to track and catch with the planes ID numbers and radar etc...The film does touch on that but nothing seems to come of it, no one ever seems to really try to catch this plane. All you would need is one good ambush when he lands, or sabotage his plane and he's screwed for the most part. Still the plane aspect does actually work nicely I can't deny, you wouldn't think it but it does.
This is actually a great little horror flick with some excellently dark atmospheric moments and some nice creepy old fashioned spine chilling visuals. Its not the best vampire flick I've seen but it does hold its own with its unique quirky style. Add to that a shit-tonne of easter eggs from the King universe for fanboys, and you have a solid enjoyable movie for a dark cold rainy night.
This movie came straight outta left field really, after two mean… MoreThis movie came straight outta left field really, after two mean thrillers and hard hitting biographical, a black comedy felt like an odd turn. Scorsese was still kinda finding his feet at this point, almost at a fork in his career in what to do, his following two movies after this ('After Hours' and 'The Colour of Money') confirms this. From very raw emotional adult films, then branching out into a comedy, even with De Niro, seemed brave. Scorsese could of easily slipped into the mainstream realms at this time. 'After Hours' was another quirky black comedy, but the type of comedy that you could easily see Tom Hanks leading, whilst 'The Colour of Money' was most definitely a mainstream movie with the man of the moment Tom Cruise.
Luckily this didn't happen and we have a string of adult targeted movies to enjoy...mainly mobster movies. Nevertheless looking back its cool to see these more unique Scorsese projects, how he handled them and how or if his now infamous trademarks and style are still visible. First up, its a Scorsese movie, De Niro? check, New York setting? check, plot about a wacko loner? check...annnnd we're done.
The film feels like an extension of Scorsese's 1976 film 'Taxi Driver' to be honest, naturally this is down to the simple fact that De Niro plays another lonely weirdo who inadvertently becomes a hero of sorts by the end. You could almost call this a remake really, just a more light-hearted version. We follow the celebrity worshipping Rupert Pupkin (great name) as he tries his utmost to get on Jerry Langford's (Jerry Lewis) talk show with his stand-up act. This takes up pretty much the entire film until an encounter with Langford at his home shows Pupkin he has no chance of getting on the show. The ever resourceful Rupert doesn't let this fade him though as he hatches a plan to kidnap Langford in order to demand his act be shown on the talk show. At the same time Pupkin has the help of another fellow celebrity worshipper/stalker in Masha (Sandra Bernhard).
I can't help but think De Niro is gonna explode in a tidal wave of blood soaked violence when I watch this movie. Its probably down to his previous performances and roles (and the era when this was made), but its like you're just waiting for his character to pop and kick someones head in. Its really quite unnerving at times, that's how good De Niro is, the man is a twitching time bomb ready to blow. I love watching De Niro in this movie, its almost hypnotising with his little quirks, his little nuances, everything we now know about the man but ramped up to ten.
I could probably go on record saying this is one of De Niro's best performances. Not only is he uncomfortable to watch with his sleazy used car salesman-esque appearance complete with a little annoying tash, but he's both funny and kinda lovable at the same time. His character is always very polite and well mannered to everyone he meets, he's smart, gracious, keen and accepting of criticism to a degree. I adore how he oozes around the top brass in the networks main building in NY, still very polite and pleasant but also such a slippery, slimy, creep, trying his best to talk his way into a meeting with the mighty Langford. Its amusing because you know this guy probably doesn't really have much talent but he clearly thinks he does. He's clearly overly ambitious and overly confident in himself which is funny but at the same time not exactly a bad thing, that's why you kinda love the guy for persevering, he's got balls but no sense of tact.
The little moments where we see Pupkin pretending to be on the show with Langford, in conversation with him either professionally or in private and setting up his own overblown introductions for the show etc...are priceless. The funniest thing is he's doing this at his home with his mother in the next room type of thing, a typical middle aged man still living at home with him mum scenario. These brief scenes also show us how crazy Pupkin is, his room (or basement) is decorated like a real talk show studio with a big picture of an audience on one wall, mock-ups of Langford he can talk to etc...This shows us his potential scary side and makes you wonder if he will go hyper nuts at some point.
The other cast members are all very good in their roles too. Jerry Lewis really nails that old fashioned 70's (I'm guessing) talk show host look with the big rimmed glasses, dapper suits, slick hair and smoking whilst on the air. He really does look like one of your old relations in a family photo from back in the late 70's early 80's perhaps. Not only that but you really feel his frustration and anger as he puts up with the constant unwanted attention and pestering from fans and nutjobs. The scene where he confronts Pupkin at his private home is probably his strongest. I was also really impressed with Bernhard who gives us an excellently crazy yet sexy stalker. I don't much about Bernhard outside of the TV show 'Roseanne' and her role in the Bruce Willis turd 'Hudson Hawk', but towards the end of this film she really gives it her all. The sequence with her character having a romantic dinner with the kidnapped Langford (duct taped to a chair) is amusing, sexy and obviously disturbing. All three being perfect traits of Bernhard.
Of course the twist in the film is that Pupkin's stand-up routine is successful, he doesn't end up killing anyone or himself in a blaze of glory and he actually manages to achieve what he always wanted. On one hand that might seem anti-climatic but on the other hand the more predictable ending of him getting killed along with his idol would be errmm...predictable. For me this ending is just right, it could of easily been a subdued finale but I think Pupkin was too likable, as was Masha, neither of them really do anything unlikable throughout. In the end I was really happy Pupkin manages to succeed with his dream, sure he's a bit twisted and unhinged in a strangely calm way (he did kidnap someone after all), but he's still a really nice guy at the end of the day.
I like this film very much, I think its a cute yet slightly off-kilter story which shows both a gutsy win for the little guy and the heartache a famous personality may have to deal with. But at no point is it ever deadly serious to the point of being a thriller, the crime committed is serious but its all done in a very tame almost apologetic way. Its a breath of fresh air to see an early performance by De Niro where he isn't a psychopath for the mob or just out of his mind. This movie was a bomb on release and has been largely forgotten about ever since, but I wholeheartedly recommend it.
JCVD is back! he's 54 years old but nevertheless he's back kinda doing… MoreJCVD is back! he's 54 years old but nevertheless he's back kinda doing what he does best, kinda. This new action thriller is his latest offering and it lets not beat around the bush here, this movie is really plumbing the depths of crapola.
The story goes like this, JCVD has a brother who has a daughter that needs a kidney transplant or she will die. JCVD has donated his kidney to save her but amazingly the day before this very important operation JCVD gets stitched up (pun intended) by some tart in a club and awakens the next day to discover he's been the victim of organ theft! I mean seriously, what are the odds of that huh! talk about bad luck. Of all the crimes that could of happened to him, they go and pinch his kidney! just when he needs it. If they had just nicked his wallet everything would have been OK sheesh!
So JCVD now has to trawl through the seedy underbelly of some Chinese city (that's where its set) to find the culprits that stole his kidney. It seems pointless because you'd of thought they would have used the kidney straight away but never mind. Again, luckily, JCVD happens to be a ex-black ops special agent (straight outta the Steven Seagal school of action movies) so he knows everything there is to know about kicking ass and killing people in various ways. Along for the ride on this time limited quest he has his soppy, not very tough brother at his side and some ancient old Chinese master type person who is some kind of kingpin or criminal know-it-all? actually not got a clue. Oh and not forgetting some bimbo he picks up along the way, the same bimbo that tricked him in the first place I might add but really she has a heart of gold.
So the plot is ridiculous but I didn't expect much. What made me laugh was the fact these big time criminals cut open JCVD, nicked his kidney and then left him money, medication and instructions on how to recover! Surely the easiest way to get away with this would be to kill him, isn't it obvious the guy would probably cause trouble and possibly come after you. What makes it worse is the fact the bad guys seems to know who he is, so they know he can kick ass and cause trouble. The argument that they might need his other kidney makes no sense either because I'm sure I've read you can use kidneys from dead bodies.
Anyway the plot aside, this movie really really looks bad, I mean really bad, the production values are low and it all looks very cheap. For a start the use of greenscreens here is atrocious! every time anyone is in a car its a greenscreen, and a very very obvious greenscreen at that. They clearly had no money for extras because when there is suppose to be a crowd of people its pathetically small. For instance JCVD sneaks into this undercover fighting arena run by Triads, its clearly meant to be this big brawl fest with lots of sexy female patrons milling about, hired goons, people cheering etc...But when we see an aerial shot of the fighting ring there must be about 50 people there including the goons and fighters, plus you can see its set in a large open space that isn't being utilised because they don't have the budget or people.
Other action set pieces are laughable bad such as the high speed car chase at around 30mph. I swear this one car chase is so obviously being shot at slow speeds its cringeworthy. To make matters even worse, and even more funny, JCVD and co are shot against those hilariously obvious greenscreens again. So you have these cars supposedly tearing around when actually they're going quite slow, then they cut to JCVD inside the car against an obvious greenscreen! At one point the car hits some roadwork bollards and barriers in real time. It then cuts to JCVD inside the car and clearly someone behind the camera chucking some bollards on the car! (I laughed out loud right there).
Still we all know why we're here, to see JCVD fight...and that's all. Prepare for a shock, JCVD doesn't quite have it anymore folks, either that or the film crew had no idea how to film a fight...or a film. The fights are so so badly shot and edited here, you don't feel the hits, you don't get that adrenaline rush when contact is made, everything seems so weak, the angles are awkward and most of the time the lighting is bad too. Not that there is a lot of martial arts going on anyway, you get a fight at the start and the obligatory fight at the end with the main martial arts opponent (Darren Shahlavi). In between that there is a gun battle when JCVD storms the bad guys lair with yet more laughably bad action complete with CGI bullet hits, fake exploding doors and henchmen that miss at point blank range.
No idea why the female character is here because she stands around doing nothing. At one point JCVD and co retreat to a family summer house which appears to be some kind of huge log cabin (in or near a Chinese city?), but somehow the bad guys knew they would do this and booby trapped it. The main bad guys lair is some huge courtyard house with his own personal army of useless henchmen, oh and he's some crusty old British gent type naturally (stereotypical nod to British Imperialism perhaps?). Oh and he sits around watching JCVD and his main henchman fight like the Emperor did in 'RoTJ'.
This really is one of the worst JCVD movies I've seen and one of the worst action movies I've seen in along time. I know some of the older action stars like Dolph and Seagal make straight to DVD shit in general but some of them aren't too bad at times, Dolph's are usually OK actually, but this has to rank as one of the worst. Apart from the fact the movies main lure, the fighting, is poor and badly choreographed, there is little of it and what's left looks woefully cheap and nasty. This really is bottom of the barrel stuff.
So back in 1988 there was a highly quirky, sexy British crime heist… MoreSo back in 1988 there was a highly quirky, sexy British crime heist movie with a mix of top cult British and American stars, it was a huge (and surprising) success. Nine years later the same team were back in this sort of sequel, or maybe prequel, no one was really sure. In the end it was just another comedy utilising the same cast, however, the novelisation of the film actually explains how both movies connect, but no one cares about the book so...
The plot is radically different from the 'A Fish Called Wanda', this is not any kind of crime comedy but it still involves unscrupulous people. Its all about John Cleese's character Rollo coming to look after a small typically British zoo of mainly small harmless animals, which he then tries to convert into a zoo full of fierce creatures. He has to do this because the main company he works for (that own the zoo) wants better revenue from the attraction hotspot. Thusly he is instantly at odds with the zoo's team of caring keepers who obviously are against this. At the same time Rollo must contend with Willa Weston and Vince McCain (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) who are overseeing this latest acquisition by the company to make sure it makes money.
You see the problem with this comedy is the fact they have tried to basically remake 'Wanda'. Many of scenes in this film are rehashes from the original and are going for exactly the same laughs, the cast are playing virtually the same kind of characters and in the case of Jamie Lee Curtis her characters name has clearly been made as close as possible to Wanda (Willa). I really don't understand why they have done this because everyone knows this kind of thing hardly ever works, it doesn't matter how grand your cast roster is.
Much of the said cast is of course taken from the first movie, and I don't just mean the main cast either, many smaller roles and cameos feature actors/actresses from the first movie. Does that somehow make things better? are these actors suppose to connect this story to the first movie somehow? Apparently not as this is supposed to be more of a stand alone movie...so why use the same cast then?? I mean sure the use of the classic British comedic legend Ronnie Corbett is very nice, a nice addition, but he barely does anything and is clearly there just to ramp up the star meter. Its an all British type affair so lets get some British gems of comedy...yeah OK but at least make use of them, at least make a good film with them.
I mean watching Cleese in this is actually cringeworthy, he's doing all his usual typical funny little quirks he's done his entire career because that's what people expect, but its old hat now. He brings nothing new to the table here which isn't entirely his fault because (like I said) people wanna see that but you gotta try and break the mould guy! In short Cleese is basically Basil Fawlty in charge of a zoo...but not as funny, sweet idea, but like I said its not as funny as it sounds. At the same time watching Cleese trying to act sexy and dashing whilst cuddling up to Curtis (again) is horrible!! its like watching your aging dad trying to be sexy n cool with a younger woman, God no!
As pointed out already Curtis plays the same character again too, a sexual female predator that is after Rollo but has to shake off the ever lurking Vincent (Kline), yet again. This leads to Kline who (as in the first movie) is head and shoulders above the rest giving the best performance. Kline seems to be really really good at playing the brash, pig-headed, egotistical Yank that won't think twice about being a complete shit no matter who's watching. He's rude, arrogant and cruel (yet again) and has his target set on Cleese's character Rollo (yet again), you notice I'm having to type 'yet again' quite often here. Do I have to mention Palin and his character that bares a remarkably close resemblance to his character in 'Wanda'? Nope, its the same character.
Don't get me wrong this isn't a terrible movie, its not all bad, there are some nice moments of farcical humour, just not that much is all. It has everything you'd expect from a naughty British comedy that has two Pythons in it (no not the scaly reptilian kind). Characters running around in their underwear (Cleese again!), lots of sexual double entendres, silly visual gags, pratfalls, slapstick and the odd hint of violence which you of course don't actually see. Thing is, the first movie was a smart, witty, sexy, dark comedy aimed at adults. This movie is a childish, immature, infantile, watered down excuse of a comedy that isn't really aimed at anyone. The kids won't appreciate the performances (or at least what they were aiming for) and there's nothing too visually appealing going on for them either, whilst its way too dumb and soft for adults. There's no point having Jamie Lee Curtis looking all slinky if she's not gonna actually do anything.
I think the idea for a quaint little British zoo battling against corporate suits is fine and has promise, but its been completely squandered here. For the first time ever I would have to say that the shenanigans of both Cleese and Palin actually bored and annoyed me at times. I've never really come across a movie that has tried to pretty much copy its predecessors formula so blatantly. I mean seriously! why would you even watch this when you have the first movie which is exactly the same and so much better.
Holy Orc dung! another novel adaptation, and wouldn't ya know… MoreHoly Orc dung! another novel adaptation, and wouldn't ya know it...there is a whole string of sequels to this original book. I smell the stirrings of another Hollywood franchise folks, well that would have been the case if this hadn't bombed like a direct hit on your local cinema. Actually one of the first things that hit me was the use of the word spook in this movie. In America isn't that word a derogatory insult against African Americans? I'm surprised it wasn't altered.
So here we have Russian director Sergei Bodrov's fantasy epic, much like the various other epics he's made previously which kinda look the same visually. Long story short its your usual spiel about a young man who is like a chosen one and trains with a wise old warrior in the ways of the force. The reason being its the beginning of a centennial event know as the blood moon where by this big bad witch gets all powerful and...I dunno, wants to take over the world or something. The usual stupid thing where by this witch seems to have amazingly strong powers but only during a certain time frame because reasons. Outside this time frame she's useless it seems, still makes no difference really because even during the blood moon she still can't achieve what she wants so.
Straight away this movie gives you nothing, it launches you into this fantasy world (influenced by Lancashire apparently) with no explanations into what's going down. Apparently Ben Barnes is the seventh son of a seventh son and for this reason alone he must be trained by this Spook (Jeff Bridges), a spook being some kind of uber tough warrior who is dressed like a medieval English knight. Now, this begs the question/s...what is all this seventh son business? what does that mean exactly? why must he be trained by the Spook? and does he have a choice in this matter? Nothing is revealed and the story carries on leaving you the audience to ponder why. At the same time it also raises obvious questions about the spook, first off why is he called a Spook? I have an idea but how about you tell us huh. He's obviously some kind of Van Helsing type character that defends mortals from supernatural creatures and beings. He also seems to be a religious man and takes everything very seriously not showing many emotions in the process, alas we are simply not given too much to work with here so you gotta dig for yourself.
I admit I did like the spooks appearance and visual design, very much the traditional old English knight of the Middle Ages. At times both Bridges and Barnes looked like they could of been in an adaptation of Assassin's Creed to tell the truth. Jeff Bridges facial hair is also very impressive and did actually add to his characters look, it gave off an air of ancient mystery about him, whilst at the same time a noble and slightly raffish look. So in the looks department Bridges was excellent, visually atmospheric to a tee. The problems started when he spoke, we all know Bridges has that unique sounding twang of his, well it beats the shit outta me what he was going for (accent wise) here because half the time I couldn't understand him. Now this isn't me just being picky, I am genuinely stating that Bridges could not be understood at times because of the weird voice he was using, sounded like he had a gob full of tobacco.
So the duo basically set off on this quest to the bad witches stronghold (Julianne Moore looking like a classic Disney villain) , and end up battling various stereotypical fantasy creatures along the way. The evil witch also has henchmen at her command who have various different powers such as transforming into animals, dragons, having four arms (bit like the six armed Kali created by Ray Harryhausen for 'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad') and being some kind lizard man who can crawl on walls and leap around like an X-Men character. Naturally this means we have to have an action sequence involving these guys, when I say action sequence I mean a very poor, laughable CGI filled action sequence. I must also add that this film is aimed at the younger audience, so there is no blood and at no time do any of these huge beasties eat anyone. They merely grab people in their huge maws and toss them to one side.
Another sequence set within a vast sandstone coloured city (very Middle Eastern looking), the duo are hired to kill a warlock (in cahoots with the naughty witch) who can turn into a werebear, yes that's right, a werebear. I'd still like to know how the cities soldiers actually knew where to find the duo, they just rode up to them out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, easy as pie. Anyway this is another badly realised CGI flop of epic proportions and it doesn't even add anything to the plot frankly. All you get is the predictable message that Ben Barnes isn't ready to kill unlike Jeff Bridges Spook. The funny thing here was this werebear is locked up in a cage yet it busts loose the minute the dynamic duo enter the room. If it could break out that easily why didn't it break out sooner??
Not everything looks bad though, there is some lovely location work which really gives this world some scope. Some of the fantasy elements are pretty cool, I liked the creepy forest with the ghasts floating around. The Spook's (Bridges) home was well created and looked like a typically olde worlde, cobweb ridden, stonewalled semi-dungeon, semi-tavern type abode complete with lots of eerie trinkets hanging around. I also quite liked the huge woodland troll monster thing and the undead skeletal knight that Barnes character has to fight for his training.
This movie has various problems and its biggest is the fact its just too dumb, it tries to be clever and kinda epic but its just another lame quickfire fantasy rushed out. There are so many plot holes and plot conveniences it just ruins everything, its shameful because you can clearly tell they're trying to emulate certain recent big fantasy franchises for grandness. I mean honesty, how did the duo survive that massive waterfall plummet unscathed, come on! Everything is so corny and unoriginal its painful, there is nothing new to bring to the table here lets be honest. To make matters worse it all leads up to this completely crappy finale with big CGI dragons and lots of boring, ropy looking battles with all the hokey henchmen.
It really does feel like they're just trying to capitalise on The Hobbit (LoTR's) franchise by jumping on that bandwagon, riding on its coattails all the way to the bank...and nothing more. It all feels so formulaic, no real love in the project, just a fast food cookie cutter production that comes across as a bad Ray Harryhausen fantasy. A shame because Jeff Bridges character was good, best thing going here, I would be interested in seeing more of him.
'Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?'
So a baby 'Buddy' climbs into Santa's… More'Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?'
So a baby 'Buddy' climbs into Santa's sack and is whisked away to the North Pole by accident. Upon this discovery Santa decides to allow 'Papa Elf' to raise and look after him. Not too sure why they just didn't take him back to the orphanage where he crawled into the sack, seeing as they know he came from there. I guess him being an orphan it didn't matter?.
From here on Buddy grows up at the North Pole as a worker in Santa's workshop. He soon discovers by mistake that he is in fact human and not an elf (elfling?), so off he goes to New York to find his dad. Turns out Papa Elf knew all about his mum and dad and what happened to them...somehow, handy huh. Is that elf magic or Christmas magic that enabled Papa Elf to know everything? or am I missing something here.
So lets switch off the cynical part of my brain for a moment. The start of this film is a typical Xmas setting and scenario yes...but its so damn charming cozy and delightful you can't not love it. I mean sure you can't really go wrong with Santa's workshop at the North Pole really, but the added gem of seeing the odd bit of classic stop motion animation on one or two cheerful little characters really added another dimension to the whole sequence. It all looked like a whimsical children's story book, a snowy happy world with cutesy fantasy characters plodding around. Arctic Puffin and snowberries? adorable!!.
Once we reach New York and the real world the tone shifts to that classic American Xmas movie magic type scenario which we all know and love from various other movies. And what better setting for a cold wintry Xmas tale than New York. Yeah you know straight away all the famous landmarks and stores you'll be seeing, we know how this goes...but does it get old? no, never. New York is probably one of the most atmospheric places in the world at Xmas.
'I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel'
This is basically a pure unadulterated Ferrell show, the whole thing is all about him as the innocent sweet childlike elf completely out of place in a dark sinister world. You have the obligatory love/hate issues with his real father played grumpily by Caan to great effect (you can feel the sense of shame and disdain he gives off for Buddy), all this of course plays out exactly how you think it will right from the start. Then you have all the visual tomfoolery that Buddy serves up as he comes to terms with reality and not the candy cotton world he's used to.
At no point did I actually get tired or bored of Ferrell and his cherub-like virginal antics. It is utterly predictable hokey Xmas pantomime guff of course but its just so enchanting and visually pleasing you can't look away. Everywhere he goes he elaborately decorates with Christmas cheer, baubles and shiny trinkets, he's like the Xmas monster. Some of the scenes where he learns about 'human' ways and everyday things/objects are highly amusing despite being so simple and kinda cheesy.
The board meeting where Buddy comes across the rather small elf-like Mr Finch (who is actually a little person) is hilarious. The way Buddy talks to the guy as if he were a very young child is easily a laugh out loud moment (must have been a South pole elf). I must also mention the brilliantly done forced perspective we see here and there. It looks like CGI but apparently its not, very clever and nice usage of an old trick.
This is probably one of Ferrell's best films and best performances...strange as it may seem. The whole idea is completely not original and is stuffed to the gills with every Xmas cliche you can think of. The only reason this film works is because of the infantile character that is Buddy the elf...errr human. The ending is totally sappy and cringeworthy but it still doesn't stop this Christmas juggernaut of yuletide spirit.
'Oh, I forgot to give you a hug!'