Archive for May, 2016

Backcountry Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A landscaper takes his girlfriend on a nostalgic camping trip but the couple find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear.

Very loosely based on the 2005 true events of Jacqueline Perry and Mark Jordan, Blackfoot Trail A.K.A Back Country has a simmering build up as the two leads trek into the wilderness. The first 45 minutes is broken up with a tension filled scene where Eric Balfour’s Brad make’s a subtle move of sorts on (Jeff Roop) Alex’s girlfriend.

Refreshingly, its’ not a found footage film and traditionally shot. Director/writer Adam MacDonald is wise to take a less is more approach keeping the ‘monster’ hidden for the most part. After the couple become lost the first major attack comes in around the hour mark and it’s worth the wait, the bear and gore effects are particularly brutal. MacDonald uses an unconventional interesting pull on focus. This unorthodox technique adds to the on screen proceedings especially as Jenn, played realistically by Missy Peregrym, is put through the mill.

The small cast ensemble are effective right down to the bit parts, notable is Nicholas Campbell as a Ranger. Although Balfour’s Irish accent is unnecessary, it’s a shame that his part is only an extended cameo. It’s fitting MacDonald plays against expectations as Balfour’s Brad doesn’t simply save the day, but it would have been effective if MacDonald had weaved Balfour’s character into the story a little more. But it’s a little quibble. Frères Lumières music complements Christian Bielz’s raw cinematography and MacDonald’s on location shoot adds to the realism.

The real black bear moments sell Blackfoot Trail, expect a slow burner with great scenery and grounded performances. With the recent spate of killer bear features MacDonald’s sober offering is probably the best of the bunch since The Edge.

Galaxy of Terror Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On a desolate, storm-lashed planet called Morganthus, survivors of a crashed spaceship are attacked by their fears.
Director Bruce D. Clark offers a choppy edited and scripted affair. Nevertheless, there are some interesting kill scenes including a man fighting his doppelgänger, a woman being consumed by a giant maggot (Taaffe O’Connell’s notorious death scene), another man being killed with a throwing star by his own severed arm. As with most Roger Corman productions there’s plenty of imagination but low budget production values.
The cast are an assortment of familiar TV and film actors from Happy Days to V and a Nightmare on Elm St. who do their best with the script and ill-fitting costumes. There’s Sid Haig, Robert Englund to name a few. There’s some nice effects on display, along with matte paintings and sound effects. Interestingly as a precursor to bigger things, James Cameron serves as production designer and second unit director, there are reminiscent smidgens of The Terminator and Aliens visuals on display, even though not as well lit or executed.
Galaxy of Terror is unashamedly a series of kills strung together with gore moments and effects. But so were the majority of films in its genre at the time. Worth viewing if only out of interest for the practical effects work.

10 Cloverfield Lane Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***
After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men.

Director Dan Trachtenberg offers a well directed solid suspense thriller, that borrows from Stephen King’s Misery, War of the Worlds and of course Cloverfield in the closing. 10 Cloverfield Lane’s minimal main cast are on fantastic form, notable are Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. but it’s John Goodman who steals the show and is given more depth than the other characters.

What starts out as a seemingly typical torture kidnap thriller turns into something quite different. With the claustrophobic location of an underground bunker complete with air shafts, which Winstead has to worm her way through, it does have it tense moments. Loyality and trust themes builds the tension throughout thanks to Goodman’s questionable character Howard. He gives a stellar performance with Bear McCreary’s score adding to the edgy proceedings. With fine effects and some tight writing from Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle it works as a stand alone film as well as a ‘side-quel’ to J.J Abrams earlier 2008 outing. Clearly the small cast and few locations transparently function to warrant and somewhat set up a big budget third instalment. but don’t expect any alien action until the latter half.

It’s fast pace, unconventional story telling holds interest and makes it worth while viewing alone. Cloverfield fans will be pleased but those who aren’t aware of the Cloverfield link may get more satisfaction from the alien twist ending and Howard’s real intentions.

Shark Lake Movie Poster

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Swimmers and land-lovers begin to become part of the food chain In a quiet town on Lake Tahoe.

After Legendary (2013) Dolph Lundgren returns to another creature features themed film in this slightly better than a Syfy feature thanks to some murky CGI. Lundgren with limited screen time plays a black-market exotic species dealer named Clint, I kid you not.

With a setting reminiscent of Lake Placid, there’s plenty of fake blood, CGI and attacks in two feet of water. It warms up slightly in the last twenty minutes and as the water gets deeper, but don’t go expecting Jaws or The Reef, as Dolph and company thump their way to survival. It’s played straight and the actors do there best, notable is the young actress Lily Brooks O’Briant and Sara Malakul Lane as cop Meredith Hendricks.

To director Jerry Dugan’s credit the fantastic location gives it some atmosphere and the night-time scenes hide much of the production’s low budge short comings. With an air of seriousness it’s better than the endless amount of CGI shark versus… fill in the blank, or spoofs doing the rounds. Its not good or memorable enough to achieve cult status, a lot of effort has gone into this but it’s probably no coincidence they’re hunting a Bullshark.

The Jungle Book Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a tiger on the hunt, a young boy embarks on a journey of self discovery with the aid of a panther, Bagheera and Baloo the bear.A welcomed retelling of the 1953 Disney cartoon as oppose to the original Rudyard Kipling source material. However, you can’t help feel that director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks arguably should either kept all the Disney songs instead of a select few or omitted all of the songs. Because of this Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa scene feels cut short.
The death of both of Mowgli’s human and wolf father offers some emotional weight and its is dark in places, both Christopher Walken’s King Louie and Idris Elba’s Shere Khan are fantastic and quite menacing. The effects and voice characterisations work well for the most part and actor Neel Sethi Mowgli deserves credit for his outstanding performance against the life like CGI characters including Ben Kingsley’s notable, Bagheera. There’s enough story tweaks, drama and visuals to allow Favreau version to stand on its own feet.
Entertaining, both Favreau and Disney are on form here but it’s debatably still not as good or as fun as its cartoon feature counterpart.