Archive for March, 2014

The people of San Francisco are being duplicated by an alien organism and replaced while they sleep with an emotionless copy. A handful of citizens who realise the truth try to escape the invasion.

Opening with a distant planet and it’s life-form’s journey to earth with its spore spouting (thanks to some well executed) effects, it’s a quality production. Like it’s 1956 predecessor what’s interesting is the refreshing angle how a scifi invasion flick can be handled without spaceships and green men. As well as the number of subtexts to discover there’s also a San Francisco undertone of a city changing. Here so convincingly true to life are the expected reactions including terror, humour and wit from the characters. It’s relevant covering inherent fears of paranoia which is probably a testament to why the 1978 version is so well regarded.

A lot of attention has gone into the background activities on display as the characters discover something is not quite right, there is great self aware camera work and realistic settings, natural lighting and so on, it’s hard not to like director Philip Kaufman’s finely constructed science fiction. Overall, subtle in places, it’s intense in others with chases and effective hard hitting scenes featuring ghastly half formed pod people, including a part man part dog alien. The special effects holdup and are still creepy.

Complete with a cameo for Kevin McCarthy of the original this is both Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams (complete with hairy armpits) arguably finest performances, with the likes of energetic Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Leonard Nimoy in their respective supporting roles.

Thanks to a convincing script from W.D. Richter, Kaufman’s fine direction coupled with Jack Finney’s solid novel source material and the natural delivery of the actors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is still a credible, mature and tour de force of mistrust and conspiracy.

A must see for serious science fiction fans.

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A king’s land is under an impending threat from an ice lord and his army. After his daughter is kidnapped a warrior assists the princess to reunite her with her people.

Like Ralph Bakshis’ The Lord of the Rings (1978), Fire and Ice has plenty of atmosphere, it actually oozes it but it’s dispensable story leaves it lacklustre given its similarities to other tales. It also appears unusual that the sub character, namely Darkwolf is more fleshed out than the main lead Larn. That said, there’s some nice fantasy elements notably the sub-human ape-like beings, flying dragon hawk-like creatures and sorcerers to name a few.

Given the adult nature of the film it may have been rounded by more blood splatter and Cynthia Leake/ Maggie Roswell (voice) Teegra either being topless through-out or less scantly clad as she almost becomes a titillating distraction.

That said, there’s no shortage of ambiance with wonderful background paintings on display. The rotoscope technique and animation give it a magical unearthly feel. The Teegra flesh on display and a Conan-esque witch scene that makes it worth a viewing alone. Yes it’s flawed but it’s also visually masterfully crafted.

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After Merlin the magician brings up Arthur to be king, forces conspire to tear Camelot apart.

John Boorman’s retelling of the King Arthur tale is debatably the definitive version to date. It’s an advantageous production which benefits from a dreamlike quality with stylized lighting, effects and sweeping cinema photography. It’s violent, sexually overt, yet, intentional or not the blood is comic-like with bright reds and crimson. Based on Thomas Malory’s book with a handful of writers involved in the screenplay it commendably covers a lot of ground cramming in all the main segments you’d expect from the legend.

The performances are theatrical which makes the dialogue more palatable. Arthur Pendragon’s (Nigel Terry) journey from country bumpkin to King is a joy and the famous affair, love, loss and betrayal themes are handled terrifically. Nicholas Clay as Sir Lancelot is perfect and has a short character arch. The quotable lines come thick and fast, Nicol Williamson’s over the top quirky, witty Merlin is a delight to watch and a young Helen Mirren as Morgana lifts the ensemble. While Cherie Lunghi may not be everyone’s idea of the perfectly cast Guinevere there’s still a star studded cast which includes the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart to name a few.

Some of the effects may have dated but it oozes atmosphere and spirit benefiting from an on location feel, coupled with the lavish set design It is a visual treat, yes it’s exaggerated reality but that’s part of Excalibur’s allure. Recommended.

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Astronauts are left stranded in space when debris hits their shuttle, with a limited air supply they are left fighting for survival.

Director Alfonso Cuaron offers an interesting, intense tour-de-force that will leave most viewers with sweaty palms and a lump in their throat. Sandra Bullock is above her usual form as Stone, while Matt Kowalski’s cock sure character played by George Clooney’s is as exceptional as the first rate special effects on display. Considering the small cast the pace is fast with never a dull moment as it moves from one spacewalk to the next.

The film feels very much based in reality, the first person perspective shots are used sparingly and effectively, they add to the claustrophobic feeling in contrast to sweeping views and emptiness of space which adds to the tension. Orbit and space has never felt or looked so real thanks to the benchmark effects.

While the story doesn’t break any new ground, it’s a basic yarn, visually it excels all expectations, Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón’s screenplay has some interesting touches and dialogue one of which notably features Clooney’s character and overall it comes full circle to a satisfying conclusion. Cuaron and crew’s faultless execution, coupled with a fitting soundtrack, score and some fantastic sound design deliver a heart pounding and moving tale.

A milestone cinema, which raises the special effects bar, highly recommended.

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A small band students escape the post-zombiefication of their school to discover their families fates while battling some unsavoury survivors and zombie hordes.

The teen focus for the most part works, although it plays a little awkward for viewers given the abundance of up-skirt and cleavage shots. Still it’s an interesting perspective. Some of the scenes granted are childish and overly comedic but these are few and those familiar with the anime style wont bat an eyelid. The interplay between the teenagers and adult protagonists are handled well and the highschoolers especially Psycho and Takashi come across older than they are.

There’s cursing, violence, action, blood and gore aplenty, the slow moving zombies are perfectly realised, gruesome and scary which gives the show the required edginess to hold its own. High School of the Dead is designed and drawn skilfully with the sound design and soundtrack as equally pleasing.

Yes, it suffers from the all zombie genres clichés and stereotypes but it’s fulfilling, exciting and fun.

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Yorkshire, 1974: the Maynard family moves into their dream house but soon discovery it is already occupied by a violent spirit.

Based on what is regarded as the most violent poltergeist haunting in Europe and not to be confused with the ‘Enfield Poltergeist’, from the metal bins to glass milk bottles, cigarette filled pubs, Buckaroo, Kerr plunk, wood panelled walls, seventies patterned wallpaper and 70’s TV to name a few When the Lights Went Out is worth viewing for the 70s nostalgia alone.

Director Pat Holden takes some queues from some well know horrors and parts of his offering are unavoidably reminiscent of The Amativille Horror, The Exorcist and Poltergeist. Although the closing is unnecessary effects laden, the overall unassuming setting adds to the ominous and uneasy feel, this coupled with the minimal melodic music and lighting create some good tension.

With haunting figures and things going bump in the coal shed and dwelling as the family becomes more convinced their house isn’t right, it becomes quite compelling viewing especially for those also familiar with the well documented alleged haunting. The creepy sound design makes the most mundane objects jumpy and menacing as the incidents escalate throughout. Along with the on location feel amongst the expertly recreated period, the everyday UK setting adds to an air of realism.

Part horror, part family drama what’s interesting is the haunting events and its effect on the daughter and family and the reaction of the school and local community. It’s well filmed and acted, notable are Kate Ashfield , Steven Waddington, Tasha Connor with Craig Parkinson Martin Compston and Andrea Lowe providing some good performances in supporting roles.

With a bit of artistic licence, based on The Black Monk of Pontefract, Holden gives the events context and structure to a story that’s well acted amounting to a solid British haunting film.

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