Archive for August, 2015

Fantastic Four 2015When transported to an alternate universe, four young outsiders gain superhuman powers which test their relationships.

Director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is dark, oppressive and grim so grim some of the one liners feel out of place. The aesthetics aren’t what you’d expect, with major changes and the actors are possibly too young, but previous outings also had this issue. However, the characters are easily identifiable and encompass the essences of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s creations.

Although Lee serves as executive producer In terms of look and feel it shares very little with the comics or previous incarnations of the Fantastic Four. Without drawing comparisons to the 1994 Roger Corman (bootleg) version or the recent underrated 2005 and 2007 outings this version is surprisingly drawing.

Taking its time Trank’s offering spends the whole of its running time as an origin story about friendship, war policies and morales with only the last ten minutes to deal with their adversary, Doom. Due to the unorthodox story structure it comes to an abrupt end. Also oddly Fantastic’s tone feels more DC than Marvel.

Kate Mara is notable as The Invisible Woman. Jamie Bell’s performance as The Thing in the latter half is by design hidden by the effects. Toby Kebbell is excellent but his screen time is limited with the rest of the cast being effective in their respective roles.The music by Marco Beltrami Philip Glass score is exceedingly ominous and compliment the great effects, sterile sets, costume design and performances as they harness their powers.

Arguably all the recent superhero adaptations attempts while entertaining never seem to capture their subject matter spirit faithfully coming across as bloated, soulless money makers which try to cash in by appeasing adult fans at the expense of younger children which doesn’t always mix and this is no exception.

That said, if a slow burning, brooding re-imagining is your thing then this delivers exactly that and to its credit debatably more edgier than its paint by numbers same universe contemporaries despite an anticlimactic rushed showdown.

From Dusk Till Dawn season 2Three months after freeing Santanico from the Titty Twister, the Gecko Brothers are separately on the run; Seth and Kate are in Mexico; Richie and Santanico plot vengeance on the Culebra.

Opening Night, the first episode of the second season, continues with the spirit of the first season and encapsulates some of the DNA of the film. While some of the CGI effects fall short Greg Nicotero’s (Day of the Dead, The Walking Dead) practical makeup effects still are outstanding. Directed by Robert Rodriguez this series is no longer chained to the narrative of the film like the first season adaption, episode 1 is in fresh uncharted territory.

The main characters Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Kate (Madison Davenport) hiding in Mexico and Richie (Zane Holtz) and Santanico (Eiza González) planning an assault on the Nine Lords starting with a robbery told with a flash forward and flashback. Rodriguez’s direction is as sharp as ever and the atmosphere is dark and rich with reds. Freddie’s (Jesse Garcia) turns up in latter half and Wilmer Valderrama’s Carlos appears briefly. There is also an expanded Santánico Pandemonium back-story with flashbacks that now include a new character Malvado who sports a long-coat made of human faces played by Esai Morales.

Actor Danny Trejo from the film returns as a new character, Razor Charlie, with an introduction reminiscent of Creepshow 2’s Old Chief Wooden head story, his appearance topping this episode off for fans.

Fear-the-Walking-Dead-posterA divorced male teacher, with his new partner a female guidance counsellor and her children find themselves in the opening stages of a zombie apocalypse.

AMC’s original series Fear the Walking Dead takes us back prior to the outbreak that began with award winning Walking Dead. After an excellently executed bloody and gnarly opening in a crack house church where a drug addict (the son of Madison Clark) escapes a zombie attack. It then moves to everyday life slowly unravelling reminiscent of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake and Diary of the Dead’s news footage of the reanimating dead.

There’s plenty of suspense and atmosphere in the first episode, the pacing is spot on with a thought out introduction to the dysfunctional and estranged family. The family drama feel natural and unforced thanks to some attention to detail, effective writing by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson, Adam Davidson’s direction and solid acting. Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa and Kim Dickens as Madison Clark are particularly notable. With a drug hit subplot, murder, shootings, a hit and run and undead attacks there’s plenty going on but not at the expense of the characterisations.

The first pilot episode attempts to avoid the tropes/clichés but given the subject matter its unavoidable, hopefully going forward it doesn’t recycle too many elements of its predecessor nor follow its meandering footsteps.

The Los Angeles setting gives it scope, a fresh feel and like its predecessor it benefits from an on location shoot. Hopefully it’ll retain its grounded feel. Those wanting a fast paced ride or running zombies maybe disappointed. However for the old-school zombie fans it’s creepy, suspenseful, moody and engrossing.

AltarA young family move to an isolated house which the mother has been hired to restore only to discover that presences still linger casting a hold over her artist sculpturing husband.

Taking a leaf from a James Herbert novel and channelling countless haunted films Altar is an effective ghost story chiller, however, what sets director/writer Nick Willing’s offering apart are the practical and some special effects which have an optical natural feel as opposed to the usual ineffective blatant CGI.

Willing delivers some genuinely eerie visuals and creepy moments, this coupled with a great score and on location shoot help give some credence and atmosphere to the proceedings. Matthew Modine’s Hamilton sports a Shining Jack Torrence like woollen jumper (the writer character is replaced here by an artist) and mimics Torrence’s transformation (although quite speedy) still Modine gives an intense performance. Both the younger actors are effective, actress Antonia Clarke is notable as Penny. Olivia Williams gives convincing performance which complements the naturalistic writing and setting.

While it breaks no new ground in terms of ghost stories or twist endings it’s a solid old school British horror.

Arena (1989)

Posted: August 14, 2015 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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Arena (1989)All bets are off at a corrupt intergalactic fighting competition where a system removes the fighter’s advantage, no matter what species and puts them on an even standing.

Made and released in the UK in 1989, like Robot Jox, Crash & Burn, Oblivion and other Charles Band productions the lack of money is obvious but this B-film captures the imagination which many larger budgeted films fail to do. Arena taps into a time when fighting films had peaked and Rocky was deep rooted in the conciseness along with WWF specials. Director Peter Manoogian offers plenty of showdowns. His direction is fine and many of the makeup and special effects still hold up.

In a cast of outlandish aliens Claudia Christian features as Quinn and the Christopher Reeve-a-like Paul Satterfield’s Steve Armstrong works as the stereotype hero.

Despite its clichés and the fact it was never going to win any Oscars its many references to other science fictions and fresh concept makes it an enjoyable low budget science fiction.

Looney Tunes Rabbit RunLola Bunny makes a perfume out of a flower that unbeknown to her is sort after by unscrupulous characters including the government due to its invisibility properties.

Set in New York anyone familiar with the recent Looney Tunes sitcom style series will feel at home with the sharp writing, witty one liners and great set ups. While the background plates and background animation is a bit flat and static the animation of the main characters and forefront action is spot on great fun.

The voice characteristics sound correct with every day taxi drivers Bugs and Daffy (voiced by Jeff Bergman), along with an array of other well know characters come to life perfectly. Loved Looney Tunes including Speedy Gonzales, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn (who is in charge of the operation), Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Yosemite Sam, Lola Bunny (who is very funny), Cecil Turtle, Elmer Fudd appear to name a few.

This direct to video from WB Home Entertainment offers a sharp, Hitchcock-ish set up in this Bourne meets Bugs adventure.

100 FeetMarnie Watson after being released from prison and placed under house arrest is being haunted by her abusive policeman husband having killed him in self-defense.

Directed and written by Eric Red 100 Feet is very much a vehicle for the exceedingly likable Famke Jannsen in this Hitchcock Rear Window like set up only here Red plays on her police tag stopping her leave the house.

Reminiscent of Stir of Echoes and countless other horrors it works better when there’s practical effects rather than in your face CGl. What could have been played out as a subtle subtext pulls no punches as the abusive ghost angle is interesting, tackling the subject of marital physical abuse head on.

Bobby Cannavale’s small role is notable and the everyday borough setting gives the film some weight. While the tale is very straight forward Red offers some wince inducing violent scenes, some spooky set ups and to its credit it goes against the norm with some surprising ghost attacks during the day.

Jannsen fans will be pleased and for fans of the genre while not particularly scary the shocks are enough to pass the time swimmingly.

Anger of the Dead
In a world ravaged by a virus that turns people into cannibals, survivors endeavour to reach an island, however, it’s not just the zombies that are a threat

Right from the opening where a little girl gets eaten you know it’s not going to be a fluffy DTV addition to the genre. Writer/Director Francesco Picone’s offering looks bigger than it is with real locations, lots of gore and a steady pace. Zombie completists au fait with Eaters (2011), Apocalypse Z (2013) aka “Zombie Massacre” and Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead (2015) will be familiar with the makeup style and saturated look that the talented (and friendly) Luca Boni and Marco Ristori have delivered in the past. Here they hang up their directing hats and don producer roles (along with Uwe Boll who incidentally has very little involvement, House of the Dead – this is not).

Picone takes up the reins and delivers similar aesthetics to Boni and Ristori. Jokes aside I tip my hat to Boll and company who appear to be single handily reviving the Italian zombie scene with another sub-genre addition. However, Picone’s film is more refined, it’s void of comedy, the make up is more realistic and the script along with the acting are better.

The blood, bite wounds, severed limbs are effective. After the strong opening it then jumps four months after the outbreak with a road trip storyline that includes a pregnant woman Alice played memorably by Roberta Sparta. It has emotion and some tension between her and Peter as they are chased down by the sound attracted fast moving infected. The characters have to make hard choices along the way. Both Désirée Giorgetti as the Prisoner and Aaron Stielstra as Rooker are notable, their story thread is hard hitting at times with a nasty female abuse subplot reminiscent of Joe Chien’s Zombie 108’s (2012). However, when the story follows Alice and Peter and the zombies are in the forefront it works much better.

The acting, make up effects and camera work is solid enough, and even though all the players appear to be named after characters or actors synonymous with the zombie genre it’s not a Syfy channel production. Also refreshing its not set in the USA, the locations are quite interesting and to Picone’s credit it benefits from a nihilistic down beat ending.

Anger of the Dead (A.K.A Age of the Dead) is worth viewing especially if you liked the aforementioned films, that said Picone’s offering is appreciatively far more serious and debatably superior due to it’s darker tone.

imageCrewman Andrew Braddock survives the wreck of the sailing ship and is assisted by a mysterious scientist Dr. Moreau, however, he soon meets the inhabitants of the island who are far from natural and things are not as they seem.

Based on H. G. Wells classic and a remake of Island of Lost Souls (1932) with it’s 1977 film pace trappings aside Burt Lancaster is outstanding as Dr. Moreau with great screen presence and Nigel Davenport’s short screen time is impressive. While Michael York and Barbara Carrera’s performances don’t shake any trees the makeup effects are great (reminiscent of planet of the apes) but the abundance of daylight scenes rob them of much of the creepiness and the blood colouring is a little off and of the time.

The end twist is brave and bleak and director Don Taylor offers some nice jungle scenery, tension, staging and the closing showdown with real animals and practical stunts are finely executed.