Superman (1978)

Posted: August 15, 2018 in Comics, Movies
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Superman is a timeless classic. The film hit theatres in 1978 and it would go on to influence young writers and directors working today in Hollywood. You know this stupid Marvel VS. DC divide so many fans get caught up in? Sorry to burst your bubble but many of the directors, writers and producers over at Marvel have stated their love for this Superman tale. Once you see this flick it’s no wonder. This is an excellent comic book movie and a great character study that gets SO much right despite taking its time to get going and having little to no action of the likes you’d find crammed into any modern Marvel or DC movie.

Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, The Goonies) directs and puts everything into the film. There’s a ton of heart in this. Two scenes stick out the most for me. There’s not an ounce of action or confrontation in either. The first is when Lois Lane (an excellent Margot Kidder) interviews Superman for the first time. Their exchanges are so honest and playful. The chemistry between the actors is there but so is the great direction and a solid script for them to work from.The other scene takes place shortly after this one and again focuses on Lois and Superman. He takes her flying, just so she can experience it and while in the clouds we hear a poem she’s thought up about this man of her dreams. That right there cements not only the fact she’s fallen for him but their core connection as characters. The great thing about this pair being, as we all know, is Superman already loves Lois and she’d know it if only she could see past his Clark Kent disguise and the film plays with that wonderfully throughout. As the stakes rise in the third act and Lois is put in danger we, thanks to these two seemingly unevenful scenes, care deeply that Superman can get to her in time and save her life.

Superman is so simple from a story perspective. Alien comes to Earth. Is adopted by the Kents. Has to hide his true abilities before finally coming of age and going out into the big city to find his future and fall in love with a girl. There’s no fat on this film. No forced plot points so the studio could, at the time, build a shared universe. None of that crap here. That is why this film works as well as it does. It is focused. No disrespect to Zack Snyder but throw Man of Steel on after this and while you may rightly be entertained for two plus hours I doubt you’ll feel as much when it comes to emotion when you see that take on the character compared to this take. I think i know why that is too. Donner and co., even those at Warner Bros. back in ’78 knew and loved the source and they knew their audience. These days too many of these pictures have too many cooks in the kitchen. This should be an example of how to get these projects done right.

Forty years after release and the special effects are still good. See what I mean when I’m always going on about practical effects over CGI? Sure it’s cool seeing Superman in more modern takes doing crazy flying and other cool shit but who cares if you don’t get invested emotionally? This film nails that balance. The use of miniture sets for grand Superman disaster/rescue sequences may be obvious but have lost none of their impact nor charm. There’s also several impressive actual to scale stunt sequnces in this flick, one involving a aircraft, which still had me on the edge of my seat. You know these days when I’m seeing whole cities being brought down by two dudes fighting I don’t care as much because I know it’s so obviously all just CGI. It doesn’t feel real. Doesn’t matter what it looks like.

Christopher Reeve was/is/will always be my Superman. I was born in ’83 so it goes without saying I grew up with Reeve as Superman and I assumed he would be forever. He’s brilliant as both Superman AND Clark. It’s a performence no actor since has quite been able to pull off as good as Reeve. Kidder is awesome as I mentioned earlier. Then there is Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and he puts in a fun and brilliant performence. You even get Marlon Brando is this film and you know that guy is just a masterclass when it comes to acting.

The score, by John Williams, is the stuff of legend. You could whistle the theme from Superman to a stranger on the otherside of the world today and chances are they’d know where it was from. This film gets so much right. I read Superman, not as much as Batman or the X-Men but I have read my fair share. This film, this film from FORTY years ago, is the closest a movie has gotten to nailing the character in my eyes. When this whole Superman reboot was first tossed around at the close of Nolan’s Bat trilogy I have to wonder why this Donner classic wasn’t used as a jumping off point. This is what the DCU can be and what I hope it one day manages to return to.

 

 

 

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The Meg (No Spoilers)

Posted: August 13, 2018 in Movies
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Back in the late 1990’s I read, on Dark Horizons I believe, about this giant shark movie possibly gearing up production for a late 1999 release. That shark movie was The Meg. Here we are, let’s round it off to twenty years later haha, we finally have an adaptation of the Steve Alten novel. Sometimes the gears in Hollywood move REAL slow. In between this film’s long journey to the big screen I read and became a big fan of Alten’s Meg series of books (there’s six of them to date in case you were wondering). After a false start two years ago, with splatter king Eli Roth ready to direct, the film finally went before cameras last year from director Jon Turteltaub.

After Roth lost the gig of directing – according to sources Roth wanted to make the film a hard R and keep a budget of one hundred and fifty million which the studio would not gamble on – I was torn. I sort of feel, for me, Roth’s movies get a bit too silly with misplaced humour but he would have nailed the horror. Where as Turteltaub is more known for his family friendly Disney stuff like the National Treasure movies. If you know the books then you know how gory and adult they can get. So how did the film turn out?

The Meg is fine. Straight up this is a decent, perfectly okay monster shark movie that you can probably get away with bringing the family along to. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with that. I spoke to my buddy yesterday, he loved it, more than me I think and that is the difference I feel. If you go into this expecting the horror and gore of the books or a film like the Deep Blue Sea in tone and execution you will need to readjust those expectations. If what you are after is a fun and well paced giant shark movie with likeable actors/characters and some great special effects then you’ll probably have a good time with The Meg.

Thankfully the shark looks brilliant. It’s pretty much the stuff of nightmares and the fact these existed millions of years ago is so scary! I was nervous the shark would be a CGI mess. It isn’t. I don’t know how they pulled it off, be it by a mix of practical and CGI, either way it works. In the book the shark is albino but that’s not the case in the film. Not sure how that would have traslated to live action either. What is there more than does the job of instilling awe and fear into the viewer. The set for the undersea research facility a lot of the film takes place in is impressive and hints at a more fantastical angle which compliments the whole thing. For some reason I assumed this was being made on the cheap but nope, it’s estimated budget is $150 million! It’s all on screen too. The film looks great.

What took me by surprise was how much I liked the characters. I expected them, save Statham’s hero Jonas Taylor, to be there to add to a body count. That’s not the case. The film is an esnamble. Bingbing Li, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee and Ruby Rose all do good work. Their characters being a team, each of which brings somthing to the table once the Meg is loose and in open waters. I didn’t want to see either of them become lunch. There’s not even really any bad guys. Just, as is the case with Rainn Wilson’s character, people making unwise decisions in bad situations.

Once the shark is loose her trail of terror isn’t as chaos filled as I expected. The horror lover in me would have loved to have seen a bit more carnage and I did feel some awesome moments from the book should have been translated onto the screen. The kills in the movie are pretty quick and bloodless for the most part. That makes sense seeing as the shark is over seventy feet. If you got gobbled up by one that big there probably wouldn’t be much to see.

Apparently the initial cut of The Meg was rated R for gore but the film was cut down in order to appeal to a wider audience. If the opening night box office is any indication that move looks to have paid off. Also, in the book, they play around with the notion of killing or capturing the shark more than in the film. At the end of the day the shark isn’t evil. She’s just doing what she does. The humans went into her realm and messed around before she got loose. The film does touch on that but not in a big way.

The Meg is a fun shark movie. For fans of these sort of films it’s worth checking out. With several sequels to the original novel there’s plenty of content there for further adventures and many more threats that go beyond a giant shark… Check the books out. I’ll say no more.

 

Escape from New York

Posted: August 10, 2018 in Movies
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John Carpenter is a legacy of film and genre. His movies have gained a huge fanbase over the many years he has been working in Hollywood. Honestly the guy needs no introduction. His work speaks for itself. Escape from New York, his science fiction/thriller from 1981, is notable for not just being a great film but for introducing – arguably – one of the writer/directors most loved characters to audiences. With his signature eye patch, couldn’t give a shit ‘tude and swagger Snake Plissken won over audiences and, along with his movie, became a classic of genre film.

Escape from New York takes place in 1997 (which was the future in 1981 HA!). Crime in America is out of control. In order to combat this rise in crime and violence New York has become one gigantic prison. There are no wardens. The prisoners simply live out their lives, many branching off into violent gangs, with no hope of escape. As fate would have it Air Force One goes down over the prison and the President is taken hostage. It falls to soon to be prisoner Snake Plissken to get in there and rescue the President with the promise of freedom as his reward should he succeed.

Carpenter co-wrote this movie with Nick Castle. Fans of the director will recognize that name. Castle played The Shape in the original Halloween movie and will return to the role later this year in the sequel. The duo deliver a tight script and Snake is such a bass arse character. From his look to his swagger. If anyone can pull of this rescue mission and face down death at every turn you believe this guy can. I like how the script fleshes Snake out as the film goes along. We never get his full backstory but what we do get is just enough to paint a picture of this cool anti-hero. Snake ain’t into breaking his back to save lives and bring an end to the unjust. He just wants to stay alive and I liked that aspect about his character. The film had an under the radar knock on effect on action movies with many, many more attempting to rip off this film’s tone and ‘tude but none ever matching it.

On the action front what you get is well shot but the film is not what I’d call an action packed classic like Die Hard. No, this one is more of a sci-fi thriller with some well executed action thrown in from time to time. Carpenter seems more interested in creating this grim world and highlighting its dangers and horrors. What the film does feature is outstanding use of lighting and sets. Death or confrontation could literally explode from a dark corner or doorway at any moment and that anticipation of attack is what drives Snake and the characters and us through the film.

As with a lot of John Carpenter’s films the musical score is excellent. Once the music cues set in you know the vibe of this flick from the get go. I am not sure what the budget was for this one but I can’t imagine it being massive. What you see on screen is really impressive from sets, to costumes and set pieces. It makes me yearn for more from Carpenter in 2018 but the guy is enjoying the fruits of his labor over the years and who can blame him?

Kurt Russell was vital to getting Snake right. The actor is awesome in the role and I guess his talent speaks to why Carpenter and he worked together as much as they have over the years. Fellow Carpenter regulars Adrienne Barbeau, Donald Pleasence and Tom Atkins put in great turns in strong supporting roles. Cinema legend Lee Van Cleef is a joy to see in the world of John Carpenter. I just wish his character could have somehow got more involved. Rounding out the cast is Isaac Hayes. I know Hayes mostly from South Park and his music and had no idea he had acted as much as he has. He’s great.

Snake would return one more time in the sequel Escape from L.A. and while it has its fans I don’t think it’s held in as high regard as this movie. One more sequel, Escape from Earth, was rumored at one point but sadly that never came to be. Sometimes all you need is one awesome flick though and a classic is born and that is what you get with Escape from New York.

 

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When it comes to remakes or reboots of classic films I generally consider myself open minded. So if I hear, say, The Thing is getting a remake (cough) I say to myself “Well okay. I hope it’s good. Let’s see how this turns out. Heck the Carpenter classic is a remake so why not?” However cast your mind back to 2009. A remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street was on the cards. Robert Englund would not be playing Freddy.

My once open mind began to close. I had a tough time with the idea of that. Then I saw the remake and we all know how that turned out. So when it comes to Freddy I’m actually not sorry to say I just can’t see anyone else but Englund in the role he made iconic back in 1984.

Sadly there is currently no news at all regarding anything Elm Street related. The last I read were rumours that a script was in development for yet another reboot. That was around two years ago and nothing has happened. Nor does, I hate this, anything seem to be on the horizon in the near future.

Recently out on a press tour the great man himself, Robert Englund, was asked about how Freddy could work in the current climate of horror and his answer was golden. Englund said –

“If I had an Eli Roth budget I would have cast different actors to play Freddy for every potential victim, because Freddy is only alive in the imagination of his future victim. They would talk about it at a slumber party or in a locker room at school, or on the bus going home. All we know about this Fred Kruger is he wears a hat, wears a red and green striped sweater and has clawed hands. That’s the specifics.”

I love this pitch. Look back to Dream Warriors, Dream Master, Dream Child and Freddy’s Dead. The dream demon is not shy when it comes to taking on the appearance of others to fool his victims in order to secure a potential kill. This notion of different actors being the worse, most evil version of Freddy for any one victim makes a lot of sense. Imagine the creative aventues this route would open up and the endless possibilites for some classic genre actors to take a bow as Freddy. You could have a female Freddy! Hell you could even get Englund back himself for one sequence. Why not? I know he’s on record as saying he’s hung up the glove for good but I don’t buy it. You can tell he just loves the series. That won’t change.

Up and coming genre director David Sandberg has thrown his hat into the ring for a shot at bringing Elm Street back. Having watched and been impressed by Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out I would be beyond on board for that. New Line cinema should really just call Mr Sandberg and be like “What do you need to make this happen?”

If (or when) Elm Street invades our dreams and turns them into nightmares once more what approach would you like to see the series take?

 

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Some news broke last week regarding popular genre shows. The biggest was the Star Trek news but we will get to that in a minute.

First of all there is a small update on this new Buffy reboot. During a big TV event last week one of the big bosses at FOX had this to say – “It’s not on an incredibly fast track, but we’re hopeful. There’s actually no script to see. We’ve sat down with creators and had conversations with them about it. It’s a very exciting prospect. It’s fairly early. We haven’t pitched it to any possible licensees yet, all of that is still to come.” Confirming what I figured. If this show happens it will more than likely be a 2020 debut instead of next year. Various cast members from the original show have given their support for the reboot with James Marsters, who played Spike, saying he would be open to return for the reboot. Let’s just see if this all comes to be first of all.

Next up is Scream and the news ain’t good I’m afraid. Netflix, who act as distributors for MTV’s Scream in the U.K.  are no longer under any obligation to stream the already completed third season. The new show was to be a total reboot, after mixed reaction to a messy second season, with a brand new cast and creators. Fans got excited too because the news broke the show would be more faithful to the movies and include the original Ghostface mask! Now the show is in total limbo. There are currently no networks nor streaming services optioning the show. Will it ever see the light of day?

Finally, I have saved the best for last, Patrick Stewart delighted legions of Star Trek fans over the weekend when he announced he was returning to the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Stewart played the popular character for seven seasons on the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and went on to appear in four Star Trek movies after the TV series had wrapped. This new take on the character is said to explore the twilight years of the fan favourite character as he continues to research and explore the mysteries of the galaxy. This new series will be a companion show to the currently airing (and awesome) Star Trek: Discovery. No word yet when the show will debut or if we can expect (you can) any other of The Next Generation characters to return with Picard. Like Buffy I think this will be making its debut later rather than sooner. I’d expect a early 2020 premiere.

 

 

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The first official look at Tim Miller (Deadpool) and James Cameron’s Terminator reboot popped up online this week. In it we see the leading ladies (Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes) of the film looking tough and ready to take on whatever threat may come their way!

Fans of the Terminator series are excited to have Hamilton back as Sarah Connor. I think she looks awesome. Details on Davis and Reyes characters are slim but both are thought to be the leads of the film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back too as the Terminator but will he be a good guy or face off against Sarah Connor yet again? We will have to wait and see.

Cameron and Miller have stated that this, like this years Halloween, will ignore all of the sequels post T2: Judgement Day. Cameron going as far to say he looks at this as the true third chapter in the Terminator saga he began back in the early 1980’s. The icing on the cake would be if they could manage to get T1 and T2 composer Brad Fiedel back to compose the score. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Terminator is due out late next year. I would not hold your breath for a trailer this year seeing as the film is a ways out yet.

 

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Sometimes They Come Back is a strong slice of horror from the mind of Stephen King, based on a short story from the famed horror author and directed by Tom McLoughlin. The director is well known to the horror community. He directed Friday The 13th: Jason Lives. That just so happens to be my fave Friday The 13th movie. I knew this film was out there. This movie was released in 1991. The early 1990’s, a big time for King on film, with tons of his books making their way to the big and small screen. Despite being a made for TV movie this holds up thanks to a strong story, decent acting and some cool practical effects work.

The film’s story is boss. Two young brothers fall foul of a gang of bullies one day and tragedy strikes. Years go by and we follow one of the brothers as he moves his family back to his home town. This is where he and his brother were brutally attacked. He is now a teacher, with an anger management issue, desperate to make this new start work for himself, his career and his family. Enter the horror. His students start to go missing! As each one vanishes a transfer student takes their place. Each of these new students looks horribly familiar, bringing back painful memories and demonstrating how sometimes the demons of the past can come back.

Tom McLoughlin has a great eye. His camera captures mood well and always makes the best of his film’s locations and settings. The small town American town feel and look is spot on here. Being both beautiful and spooky. The pace of the film is great. It flips along to a strong conclusion and features effective frights and some gruesome kills. The actings is pretty good too from a likeable cast. One of whom happens to be Robert Rusler who horror fans will recognize from his memorable roles in Vamp and A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy’s Revenge.

Despite being a massive fan of Stephen King I haven’t read Sometimes They Come Back. I literally saw the movie for the first time recently. The poster for the movie is cool and I remebered it over the years because the cover popped out each time I would go to the video store as a kid. It’s just weird that I never got around to catching this one over the years. You’d think it would be a no brainer with me loving horror and Stephen King. But there you go. Some films just pass you by but it is never to late to catch them down the road.

Some of the effects when the film moves into more supernatural waters are a bit corny but that stuff doesn’t bother me. The horror stuff and strong story more than makes up for that. I love the use of practical make up in this flick. It looks great and once again is a great example of why I wish modern directors would always go the practical route with horror effects over CGI.

For horror fans I say check this less well known Stephen King adaptation out. It’s aged better than a lot of the 90’s adaptations of his work. It’s not a straight up chiller but it defo does the job of being a fun ride with a heart underneath the death and scary stuff. Plus if you have a brother, as I do, then I think the film will hit home more so than it would otherwise. By no means a genre classic but not every movie needs to be. Sometimes They Come Back is a decent addition to the genre and if you missed it then I hope you find it and enjoy it as much as I have.