Archive for March, 2016

mv5bmtm5mzcwotg4mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwotqwmzqxmde-_v1_sx640_sy720_*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An orphan child is brought up by apes and is latter introduced to his aristocratic family.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is based on the original writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Made in 1984 director Hugh Hudson offers an origin story made in a time before origin films were common place. Hudson offers the same epic operatic grandeur he’d brought to Chariots of Fire (1981). Uncredited screenwriter, Robert Towne (Chinatown), goes under pseudonym of his dog (P.H. Vazak) and second screenwriter Michael Austin offer an interesting three act affair, beginning in 1885  shows the downfall of his parents and depicts Tarzan as a child, act II, then as an adult assisting Capitaine Phillippe D’Arnot (played excellently by Ian Holm) out of the jungle and the final act has Tarzan back in the United Kingdom.

Christopher Lambert’ gives a fine performance as he learns to speak English and comes to terms with his heritage. Death hard hittingly runs though this adaptation, humans and animals are all put on the chopping board and it’s quite a slow paced emotional journey. Notable are Ralph Richardson (in his last film) and Eric Langlois as preteen Tarzan. Interestingly, despite the title, the name Tarzan is never mentioned and Andie MacDowell’s Jane is curiously dubbed by Glenn Close.

Makeup genius Rick Baker’s ape characters are for the most part convincing suit designs. With cinematography by John Alcott it’s visually rich – from the African jungle to Victorian Britain and the London Natural History Museum. Greystoke oozes atmosphere and even though a somber affair it leads to the film’s unsurprising conclusion. It’s visuals and time passages are far more interesting than the central character and this is debatably why Greystoke isn’t critical revered as it possibly could have been.

Overall, this is a serious retelling which takes a chance on effects (refreshingly pre CGI), storytelling and casting, they simply don’t make films like this anymore.

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

batmanvsupermanCriminal mastermind Lex Luthor, obsessed with defeating Superman, manipulates Batman into preemptively battling him.

Despite its short comings director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel and The Dawn of the Dead remake) offers a brooding intelligent take on the seminal figures of our 20th century pop culture. Ben Affleck is surprising perfect as the aged Batman and Henry Cavill once again proves he is rightly another generations Superman. While slightly out of place Jesse Eisenberg does his best at putting a new spin on Lex Luthor. Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Costner return and Amy’s Lois Lane gets more to do in this installment.

Jeremy Irons’ limited screen time is welcomed but with its excessive running time both Holly Hunter and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman are underused. DC fans will be pleased as Snyder and writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer slip in live-action portrayals of Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. The film’s plot twists are interesting and include the killing off of some main characters, the plot also includes Man of Steels’ Zod. However, disappointingly once again the hero’s face off with the typical effects-driven, end level bad guy in the closing act, smothering a potentially powerful story. Its also crammed with overt man versus god references.

Snyder thankfully though offers a fittingly dark toned grim whirlwind with a visual grandeur thanks to Larry Fong’s cinematography. Notable are a few edgy jarring dream sequences. Wonder Woman’s untold story with a Belgium 1918 photograph peaks interest. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice pays tribute to the characters’ roots, offering great modern incarnations of them but Dawn of Justice loses momentum by the end with a clichéd effects driven Doomsday battle.

Additional Note: The Ultimate Edition of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice has 30 minutes of extra footage, while it doesn’t change the comments above, there more of our heroes and violence- notably in the opening of Alfred’s narration is replaced with Bruce Wayne. You see more of Bruce’s father. The North Africa sequence plays out differently with the following conspiracy investigation aspect, framing of Superman and bomb aftermath expanded. This clarifies character motivations and actions. And dots the I and crosses T’s on logistics. The ending is longer, but this doesn’t necessary works as it puts some editing issues around Lanes character actions and burial timings. Nevertheless, the extra half hour gives the film a more epic feel akin to The Dark Knight.

51ovzzepxdl-_sy450_*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A Dallas man is witness to the death of a cop and there’s more to his story.

With a video cover in the vain of the Vindicator, echoing The Wraith, The Terminator, Mad Max and Robocop, this low budget tail end of the 80s is like none of the above.

Cullen Blaine’s offering Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research (R.O.T.O.R) has an informative title voice over, packed with exposition and flashback that adds very little to the proceedings. What it does have is a nostalgic soundtrack from synthesiser beats to some country music. It’s also nicely framed.

There’s a robot which looks its just rolled out of Buck Rogers, and R.O.TO.R, correctly dubbed “a tin marionette,” is like a stop motion endoskeleton with daft Punk shades.

The dialogue is a pretentious and cheesy as it comes. Even when the motor bike patrol cops goes all Westworld/Hitcher stalker-ish it sadly remains one of the most uneventful films of 1987. Not even some toy robots or The Terminator P.O.V shots can help. With Dallas’ 80s fashion R.O.TO.R never lives up to or delivers on its premise of a directorate driven, judge and executioner super cop.

It picks up briefly in the last half hour as leather clad, moustache sporting, ChiPs sunglasses cop takes on some locals and later blows up when his arms and legs are tied up. There’s a little twist killing that amounts to nothing, with a twist ending that won’t make you spill you coffee.

Despite its faults it’s better filmed than 90 percent of the DTV films produced these days. Worth watching for nostalgic value only. Stick on Class of 1999 instead.

movie_1562Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov travel to the planet Mongo to fight the evil emperor Ming the Merciless who is secretly giving military technology to Hitler.

Despite Filmation reuse and overused of recycled cells (notably Ming laughing) this truly is one of Flash Gordon’s greatest adventures. The setting and scenes ooze the imagination, with giant statues, palaces, space crafts and monsters. The 1980’s live action movie borrows plenty from this Filmation film. Although shown in 22 December 1983 in the UK on ITV it was split up and used as the bases of the Saturday morning series Flash Gordon (1979).

Written by Samuel A. Peeples, whose credits include the original Star Trek series packed with great action set ups and array of memorable characters including the voice talent of Melendy Britt as Aura (later she voiced She-ra) and Ted Cassidy’s Chewbacca lion like Thun. It’s only short coming is that Dale Arden is sorely underused, reduced to a damsel in distress.

It’s edgy, has a great atmosphere and even delivers a twist ending that outdoes it’s 1980’s live action counterpart.

So this blog is a little (well way off) what I usually post. My son and I decided to do a little restoration project. I’m not talking ‘American Restoration’ more Antique’s Road Show. So the geek in me got a 1980s He-Man vehicle from an auction site, incidentally the person selling it had a leather suite as well (see before pictures). Gave it a clean, got it working, put some new stickers and a new battery cover on. Voila – now a little bit of 80’s joy has been restored by my 7 year old and I.





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Run by a failed Broadway director a Midwest work release program which rehabilitates young offenders as an alternative to jail puts a group of  teens through the mill when a pesky curse is played out.

To cut a long story short director/writer Phil Wurtzel’s Haunting in Cawdor is a rework of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a ‘Venus in Fur’ touch about it. Now some horror fans reading this maybe be thing ‘eh, what?’ That’s because Friel Films’ Haunting in Cawdor is not a horror film per say, it’s more of a thriller with the associated Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre which will cause disaster.

The budget is clearly small, the camera work is crisp and the goings on are centred on one interesting and fitting location. Any work based on Shakespearian play is, as you might expect dialogue driven leaving the special effects waiting in the wing. Wurtzel clearly loves the source material. Pouting, innocent eyed beauty Shelby Young plays the deeply disturbed Vivian faultlessly. The acting is theatrical and fits its offbeat tone which suits Cary Elwes’ (secretive Lawrence O’Neil) acting prowess perfectly.

Haunting in Cawdor panders to the Twilight generation of teen angst but also covers suffering and graver abuse issues. Incidentally, Twilight star Michael Welch appears as rouge Roddy. As the curse increasingly starts to look like a reality there’s some jump scares, smidgens of blood and dream-like visions but generally it’s jammed with teen summer camp-tropes and Elwes pensively looking over his glasses.

It’s a wordy, low budget character piece with at best creepy theatre shenanigans, dressing rooms and running through the rain. Don’t expect 100 minutes shock and terror and you may ‘break a leg’ finding some teen cinema charm in Cawdor.