Archive for August, 2018

Bride of Re-Animator

Posted: August 31, 2018 in Movies
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Re-Animator is the sort of film you do not forget seeing. The same can be said of its sequel Bride of Re-Animator. Bride was released in 1989 and was directed by Brian Yunza (Society, Return of the Living Dead 3) and stars Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott and Fabiana Udenio. Combs and Abbott’s characters being the only ones – living at least – to return from the first movie. Cool aside though – original leading lady Barbara Crampton was also set to come back for this sequel and indeed shot scenes but re-writes saw the character written out of the film. If you’re curious the recent release of Bride from Arrow Films goes into the subject in its special features. They are well worth a look for fans of this film and the first.

In Bride of Re-Animator Comb’s Dr. Herbert West and Abbott’s Dr. Cain are up to their old tricks once more. See the thing is with these two guys is they like to experiment on flesh. As doctors, sadly, they get a lot of access to bodies that are, well, not exactly living. So their experiments you see, for the most part, tend to get out of hand and get really gory and sick. I’ll just say it like it is this movie is not for those who have a weak stomach.

The effects work in this sequel are fantastic. No surprise when you factor in Yunza was able to secure the work of several special effects heavy hitters. Amazing work can be seen from KNB, Screaming Mad George and John Carl Buechler to name just some of the creative talent involved in the film’s effects work. No CGI here. The level of GROSS is off the charts. Throughout the film you see some crazy shit. For reals. Messed up spider-finger things, flying (AND talking) severed heads and people running around who clearly should be dead. It’s sick stuff but I must point out never in bad taste. The film although high on horror and gore has its tongue placed in its cheek. Never being overly mean spirited nor nasty. This is a fun, if twisted, horror flick.

The plot for Bride is arguably the weakest part of the film. Even Yunza goes on record to say they could have spent a bit more time working on the script. The original idea for this sequel sounded even more insane than what we ended up with. Again info on that can be found in the recent Arrow Films release (this review is not sponsored by Arrow Films haha). As a result of what I’d say is a bit of a messy plot the film does sort of stumble to begin with as we figure out what these characters have been doing since we last saw them. Once the film finds its groove though the pace picks up and before you know it you’re in the middle of one of the most over the top and goriest last acts I’ve ever seen. Seriously there are things in this film that once seen will not be unseen.

The cast are great, the direction is solid and it goes without saying the make up and special effects are pure sights to behold. Amazing work on display in this movie. Now is a great time to check it out thanks to HD and more modern viewing methods because you really get the chance to see how much care and effort went into the special effects. For a lot of horror fans Bride of Re-Animator is a classic of the genre. I’m not too sure if I would go that far, least not yet, I’m still coming to terms with it all haha, but it is very good and a must see for horror fans.

 

 

 

If there was one series I hoped to see make a return it is SEGA’s classic beat em’up series Street of Rage. Sometimes dreams come true. This week SEGA & developer Lizardcube announced Streets of Rage 4.

Now that reveal trailer is gorgeous is it not? Hand drawn sprites from the looks of it which give the game a stunning look. Lizardcube developed Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, another SEGA title, which used a similar art style and was met by strong reviews. So it appears fans of Streets of Rage can breath easy knowing the sequel is in good hands with Lizardcube.

From what we can make out in the trailer the game is not a remake, as I said, this is a sequel to the twenty four year old Streets of Rage 3. Character wise we get to see series vet’s Axel and Blaze kicking arse. Will there be more characters revealed closer to release? I would take a guess and say expect at least one more in there. Heck even if it is just those two I don’t mind.

No release date. Yet. Nor word on what systems the game will be available on or if it will be digital only. I want this beauty on Switch and I think that will be a given. Nintendo’s wonder seems like the ideal home for Streets of Rage 4. Word is there will be new gameplay mechanics. I think if it ain’t broke, which this series is not, don’t bother messing around with an already solid foundation. Hopefully whatever Lizardcube brings to the series gameplay wise will prove welcome.

One question I know a lot fans will want to know the answer to is if series composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima will be back to score the game. The music in the Streets of Rage series ranks as some of the best from the history of video game music. It perfectly set the tone for the world the player was about to loose themselves in. With any luck both will be back but if not then I can’t get dissapointed because to be clear I’m just really glad the series is back and looking great.

Check back here for more news and reveals on Streets of Rage 4.

 

Superman II

Posted: August 27, 2018 in Comics, Movies
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Superman 2 is a odd film to look back on. Not because it is a bad film because it is not. Superman 2 is very good. Sadly, at the time of release back in 1980, the movie went through a number of reshoots and had its original director, Richard Donner, who did the first film, replaced. The man behind A Hard Day’s Night and The Three Musketeers, Richard Lester, was brought in to complete the film. Sounds a bit similar to this years Justice League right? Outside of the shake ups behind the scenes the actual theatrical cut is a solid sequel to the 1978 movie. Stars Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder were back along with several other actors and that’s a given as Superman and Superman 2 were shot back to back like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The opening credits act as a recap of the last film. I thought that was a nice touch to bring audiences back up to speed. With the actual opening scenes of the film revisiting the Kryptonian terrorist plot point which the first film teased. During those scenes we learn more about the tyrant General Zod and his minions Ursa and Non. Sentenced to life in the Phantom Zone for terrible crimes the terrorist’s find a stroke of luck in their despair when a freak twist of fate sees them released from their prison. Their destination? Earth. So it falls to Superman to face off against them before Zod can take over the world and rule. If that wasn’t bad enough Lex Luthor is on to Superman’s secrets and makes it his mission to bring down the Man of Steel, even if that means forging an alliance with General Zod!

One of the most obvious changes in Superman 2 compared to the first film is the level of action. The entire third act of the film is one big fight between Superman and Zod and his soldiers in the middle of Metropolis. For a film from 1980 the level of destruction on display is impressive and the action is shot well. For younger readers I’d agree that effects wise there’s nothing that would blow your mind here if you’re used to the smackdown action of the MCU or DCU today but there’s a weight here missing from those films. Once again it comes down to practical and in-camera effects work. Clever use of scale models and other wizard like stuff to nail the effects goes a long way and here we are today seeing it has stood the test of time.

Superman gets to fly around rescuing people from time to time before the all out showdown in the film’s last act. An Eiffel Tower hostage sequence is really good and there’s some cool stuff that occurs in and around Niagara Falls which adds more scope to the film than what the first offered in terms of location. It helps to give the impression that Superman and his powers are almost limitless. So when he comes up against Zod and then struggles it’s like “Well what the hell is he going to do to stop this guy?” Plus it’s exciting seeing Zod, Ursa and Non wrecking havoc across the United States and on the moon!

Reeve and Kidder are once again excellent as Superman and Lois Lane. Their relationship is explored more in this sequel and takes some unexpected turns. One aspect of the source these two early films nailed, I think, is this love story and it’s awesome to just watch these two actors play off one another. Hackman is a hoot as Lex. He takes more of a backseat to Zod but still gets some good scenes and it is funny watching him try to make himself useful to Zod, his own ego acting as his shield against the threat of death. Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are brilliant as the bad guys. Scenes of them in space, just flying around, man they used to freak me out when I was a kid and still do. They really see humans as ants compared to themselves and when addressing them or attacking they show no remorse. I know you’re not meant to like the bad guys but I do, I wanted them beaten sure but they’re so fun to watch.

I think this is a great follow up to Richard Donner’s first film. As most everyone knows there is another cut of this film out there under the title of Superman 2 The Donner Cut. I have not seen that. I hope to check it out and see how different that film compares to this. I have heard it’s even better and if that is the case then I guess I am in for a treat ’cause I already like this film a lot as it stands with this, I guess(?), theatrical cut. Superman 2, along with the first film, stands out as one of the best DC movies out there decades after its release. I’m sure it will continue to shine far into the future.

 

Manhunt

Posted: August 24, 2018 in Movies
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Movie going audiences must be a tough crowd today. Take a look at John Woo’s action movie comeback Manhunt. Pre-release I saw reactions that went from luke warm to outright calling the film a dissapointment. I saw the movie recently and had a blast. Manhunt is not on the same level as the directors best but if it’s a solid action movie you’re looking for, one which wears its heart on its sleeve and can laugh at itself then look no further cause this flick delivers. John Woo is best known for his action classics The Killer, Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow. Western audiences will no doubt know Woo for his big Hollywood movies with Face/Off, Hard Target, Mission: Impossible 2 and Broken Arrow to name a few.

Manhunt, which is like a spiritual sequel in some ways to Face/Off, focuses on Du Qiu (Hanyu Zhang) who is a laywer working for a huge pharmaceutical company. This company is working on some seriously dangerous drugs and their testing procedures are super unethical. Du Qui, who isn’t exactly in on all the shady stuff, wants to move on from the company but they are having none of it. He could know too many secrets they don’t want exposed. Things get bad Du Qui quickly and he ends up on the wrong side of the law, on the run and on a quest to clear his name. All the while evading (mostly) crooked cops and deadly company assassins! The plot is a riot and come the last act goes into full on science fiction territory but overall it works well and it is never, ever boring.

I ain’t no John Woo expert. Just to clear that up but I have seen a lot of his work – mostly all of his ace action movies (Eastern and Western) and Manhunt defo earns a respectable place in the directors filmography. The action scenes, how they’re shot and staged are pure Woo. You get your gunplay, hand to hand combat, slow-mo, air dives and of course the doves. The doves are back in Manhunt and are put to clever use in one showdown in particular. Another highlight of the film is that almost everyone fights in this movie. Characters you would expect to shy away from violence get stuck right in and deal just as much damage as those who would dare go up against them. There’s some serious female representation in Manhunt and I loved that. It shows Woo is all for equal representation on the action front and the ladies are just as deadly as the guys.

Some fans have taken issue with Manhunt having a slightly self aware vibe in some scenes but honestly I found those exchanges not only charming and funny but somthing Woo has, at this stage in career, more than earned. Woo has nothing to prove when it comes to action movies. He’s given audiences some of the absolute best of the best. If he wants to take a step back and make a laugh of how crazy it all can be then what’s the big deal? It lends the film and its characters serious charm. If I’m nitpciking there’s a bit of green screen that is put to use during one chase sequence (at least it looked like that to me) that stands out but like if that’s the biggest complaint I have about the film then who the hell cares?

Director and cast all seemed to be game to deliver not just a decent action fest – and this film is action packed – but a film that celebrates Woo’s legacy and the genre in a good way. In a way Manhunt is similar to the slasher love letter The Final Girls. It knows exactly what it is, what its audience expects and is more than happy to deliver. Manhunt is no The Killer or Hard Boiled but it’s nowhere near the let down some reactions would lead you to believe. Had this come out in the late 90’s you can bet Hollywood would have been working on a adaptation of this right now, probably moulding it into some sort of Face/Off sequel.

 

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Jason Lives, you better believe he does(!), proving as much as he SLASHED his way across cinema screens in 1986. The sixth entry in the adored Friday the 13th slasher franchise is a soft reboot of sorts.

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI acted as a slight course corrector for the series, after a bit of a departure with the previous movie, putting the focus back on Jason and Camp Crystal Lake. The movie is written and directed by Tom McLoughlin and despite being tame, violence wise, for a slasher movie (especially for a Friday the 13th) Jason Lives ranks among the very best in the series. For a lot of fans it’s considered THE best entry to date and I have to say I would have no argument with that. The vibe of the film is assured, knowing and most of all (and most welcome) it’s fun. Sure this is a horror movie and while it delivers on that it also has no issues with having fun.

So just why does Jason Lives have such a standout style and pace? For that us fans need look no further than McLoughlin’s excellent script. I always refer to Jason Lives as the Scream of the 80’s. The film is like a love letter to the series that has managed to actually become a part of said series! The characters are great and smart. They know what it means when you see a guy in the woods holding a machete and wearing a mask! Try as they might though few manage to get the upper hand against Jason! Jason Lives and clearly McLoughlin know all too well the conventions of this series and have a great time playing with them. The film boasts, arguably, the most likeable bunch of would be victims. These characters seem more than morgue fillers in the waiting and you want to see them get away.

Tommy Jarvis, who for all intents and purposes is the final girl of the Friday the 13th series, or final guy sure, is set to put an end to Jason once and for all. Plagued by nightmares and hallucinations due to his past encounters with Jason he figures it’s time to put the nightmares to rest forever and destroy the rotting corpse of Jason Voorhees. Tommy’s plan doesn’t work out too well for him. His mission backfires and Jason is ressurected and back to his killing ways! And wouldn’t you know it but summer camp season is just starting and Jason is heading home taking out anyone who should cross his path. These films work because the set up is simple – Camp Crystal Lake + Camp Counselors + Jason Voorhees + Mayhem & Bloodshed = Friday the 13th. McLoughlin knew that and delivered.

The cast in this movie are great. It’s full of genre veterans from film and television. Everyone does great in their roles but it is Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke and David Kagen who really make an impression. This trinity work so well together. Their characters play off one another really well. It’s a pitty these three never came back for another round with Jason! I’d have paid them whatever they wanted to secure their return for the next chapter. Kagen most of all. This guy’s character is just a force of nature in this movie. He is awesome. The ‘final girl’ of Jason Lives is a stand out. Although she is seperated from the scenes of murder and mayhem throughout most of the film when the time does come for her to face Jason she more than steps up and shuts that shit down straight away!

If all of this wasn’t enough none other than Alice Cooper contributed three rock songs to the flick. This one has one of the best original scores/soundtracks in the series. Hey, look, what I am saying is this Friday the 13th has it all. Sure the film ain’t as violent as some of the other entries but that’s not to say it has little gore but just it’s all executed in a different way. The opening of the film alone is pure old school horror from the way it’s staged and shot and to how it looks. The film has a fast pace, brutal kills, likeable characters, heck there’s even a high speed chase and a solid story. I have to say it…when it comes to the Friday the 13th series this ranks as one of the ones to beat for any future entry.

 

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Picture this. It’s 1994. You love the Nightmare on Elm Street series but as far as you know it’s over. Then one night, during a preview on TV, you catch a glimpse of somthing…familiar. Right away you know what it is. It’s Freddy Kruger. Not only him. It’s Nancy Thompson! What the hell is going on?! It’s a brand new Nightmare on Elm Street movie and it looks scary as hell! Wes Craven, unimpressed with how Freddy Kruger had been laid to rest, had returned to his creation to see it got a proper send off and that arrived in the form of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

The film was notable for being shot in a kind of documentary style (in parts at least but very much becoming a movie as it develops) and being set in the real world and not the fictional world of the Elm Street series. Despite the movie being a total work of fiction (I hope!) and very much being A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. One of the best in the series in fact. Another exciting aspect about the build up to the film’s release was the lack of information about what exactly it was. Check out the theatrical trailer. You can’t quite make out if it’s a documentary about the movies or a legit movie! It was very clever.

New Nightmare picks up ten years after the release of the first movie. Original Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp has a stalker. One who sounds very familiair. But Freddy isn’t real is he? Those associated with the Elm Street series are having nightmares about Freddy. Only this version of the dream slasher is darker than the one we remeber. Things turn deadly. People go missing. Heather’s son, Dylan, is acting strange and soon it becomes clear that the worlds of fiction and reality are about to collide in a very real and very deadly way.

Back in 1994 when this film was released it was a hit with fans of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series and critics. The reason it proved such a hit was the way Craven went about making the film. Nothing like this had been attempted. It must have been a massive gamble but one which paid off in a big way. This movie, the seventh entry in a franchise many assumed was over, would prove to be the installment that could stand proudly next to the original for the way it told its story, delivered the frights and did justice to its iconic characters played by the excellent Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp. One the eve of this film’s release Freddy Kruger had become watered down. No longer scary. He had become dilluted and the biggest acomplishment of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is how it made a slasher icon not only relavent once more but absolutley terrifying. New Nightmare is one of the darkest entries in the series.

Craven is a genius. He’s an icon as not just a director but as a writer too. Nothing in horror has come close to matching his output to date for me. His ideas are always creative and not shy of thinking outside of the box. This movie acting as a great example of that. A lot of fans, rightly so if that’s how they feel, don’t see New Nightmare as part of the original series but I absolutley do. I think it fits perfectly into the Elm Street world, one in which reality can be changed and the rules can be broken. Least I forget this is a perfect cap to the series. If we never get another A Nightmare on Elm Street it’s okay because I’d find it hard to see how anyone could match the imagination Craven was able to put into his entries.

 

Mission: Impossible 2

Posted: August 17, 2018 in Movies
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Anticipation was high for Mission: Impossible 2. Back then, in the late 90’s, Cruise was not known for coming back for sequels. For a while we didn’t know if he would be back or if the sequel would have a new team. It turned out a bit of both happened. See when the sequel went ahead the agenda for these films was for each one to be distinct. The only connecting tissue to be Ethan Hunt, Ving Rhames’ Luther Strickell and an impossible mission. It would be the next installment in the franchise, MI3, which would introduce characters and plot points which would continue across further sequels but with this first sequel Cruise & co. were still figuring out what this franchise was. That is why this one comes across as set apart from other entries in the franchise.

John Woo signing up to direct Mission: Impossible 2 was a big deal. Throughout the 80’s and the 90’s Woo had earned a reputation as one of the best action directors working in the industry. His films and his name carried a huge amound of weight and expectation. The mid-90’s saw Woo move into Hollywood and he turned out several hits such as Hard Target, Broken Arrow and Face Off. For a budding action franchise like Mission: Impossible Woo was a sure bet. The first publicity stills for this film showed Cruise’s character scaling a cliff face without a rope. Hardcore. Then the teaser trailers started to arrive, the interviews in Empire and Total Film magazine were gearing up anticipation and the footage in the trailers was impressive. Everyone assumed a home run, a more action focused/heavy film than the first movie and backed up with a solid cast.

The results are a mixed bag. See the finished film is a servicable action movie, a tad on the long side, but it’s mostly well done and entertaining. It’s not a great example of Woo’s amazing talents as a filmmaker nor can it be called one of the better entries in the Mission: Impossible series which, to date, is known for quality sequels. The best way to sum up this experiment is that sometimes what seems great in theory doesn’t always result in the outcome you want. I can’t say what went down during production but I can relate what I felt worked and didn’t for the sequel.

Some of the best parts of the film are the IMF scenes. Prepping for the mission, recruiting agents, infiltration, face masks or engaging with the bad guys is when the film feels like a Mission: Impossible movie. This film’s McGuffin is fine. A deadly virus. It could wipe out millions of innocent people if the wrong people get a hold of it. Okay. We got it. That works. The notion of one of Ethan’s peers going rogue is a good touch too. What brings all of this down a bit is the execution in how the script deals with all of this.

The virus stuff for example. One minute you think it’s a case of the bad guys have it and will unleash it but then it’s like oh no hang on… no one has it, no one is sure who has it and the baddies actually just want to sell it. It just feels a bit too dense for such a simple concept.

Then there’s Thandie Newton’s character Nyah. Talk about wasted oppertunity. First of all I think Newton is awesome and I like her character in this. Yet the film seems intent at keeping her away from all of the action and excitement! Instead she’s there just to take part in this weird over the top romance between herself and Ethan which comes out of nowhere. The worse part is how the script/movie introduces her as this cool Catwoman like master theif who Ethan has to recruit and THEN his boss is like “Actually we don’t need her skills as a theif. We just want her to go back to her ex-boyfriend-“ and be a damsel basically. Why build her up if that’s all you want to do with her? I think she should have been involved in the infiltration stuff, like actively over seeing it and kicking arse.

The action, as you’d expect, is well done but I would not say it’s brilliant. There are some neat Woo staples. A bit more hand to hand combat which is always boss to see and a decent shoot-out or two. The irony creeps in on the action though once it starts being a bit too John Woo in style. It just feels misguided. Ethan Hunt as a John Woo hero, for me, doesn’t work. It comes across as surprising at best and – sorry – corny at worse. All billowing black leather jackets and shades AND doves. That stuff works great in the right movie but this is not the right movie. Even the high speed bike chase doesn’t seem natural to this world. BUT – you gotta always see the positive guys – I do appreciate the care and detail that went into pulling off those stunts and action scenes. Cruise goes all in on all of the hand to hand combat and the results are great.

Mission: Impossible 2 is a decent addition to the series and as an action film it’s good. Sure there’s better out there. I just feel this one has gotten a bit of a reputation over the years as being the lesser entry in this franchise and while I can see it has issues it’s hardly what I would call a bad movie. Don’t forget this was uncharted land for Cruise and his fellow producers. For all we knew the next film would have an even more distinct auteur style because that was the direction Cruise felt the series should go. As we know now it never but as a glimpse of what way this series could have went this is an interesting take.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.