Archive for April, 2017

The Void Movie Poster

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A group of people become trapped in a hospital by a gathering of hooded cultists and discover that the hospital has been taken over by grotesque creatures with a sinister agenda.

Though Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s writing/directing offering takes reminiscent cues from The Thing, Halloween and Hellraiser to name a few it has enough kicks and story beats to stand on its own two tentacles. With a page of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu The Void befits from convincing practical effects, old school film making and filmatic aesthetics which harks back to the high-end days of horror.

After a shooting a woman is mysteriously set ablaze, Deputy Daniel Carter picks up an injured man in the road and akin to Halloween 2 and Assault on Precinct 13 a group hold up in a remote hospital after encountering creepy, white sheet covered figures offering Wicker Man and The Fog chills. There we become acquainted with the players and things go pear shaped with killings, mistrust shenanigans and gross out mutations. Kostanski and Gillespie effectively couple this with sporadic modernised Fulci visuals (City of the Living Dead) thrown in for good measure, it has its surreal moments. Yes, it oozes John Carpenter in the first half and Clive Barker with a bit of Polanski in the second but that’s not a bad thing, it’s one of the films strengths as it plays as a homage of sorts.

The acting is first rate, with the edge of De Niro Aaron Poole (Forsaken, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) as Carter simply shines as the out of his depth officer is thrown into a maze of blood and gore with its darkened corridors and basements. Although Kathleen Munroe’s (Survival of the Dead) screen time is limited, she puts in a solid performance as Allison. Notable is Stellan Skarsgård looking Daniel Fathers as the hot head parent who wants to destroy the mysterious cult, pealed skin antagonist and his monsters. Kenneth Welsh (also of Survival of the dead fame) knocks it out of the park as Dr. Richard Powell. Like the supporting actors including Ellen Wong and James Millington, both Munroe and Poole set up a good emotional character rapport and you buy into their plight.

With some twists and as the story takes place over one night it gives it an intense ride feel with a score that adds to the on screen tension. Kostanski and Gillespie give The Void enough symbolism as to not spoon feed the viewer and top it off with some surrealism. It’s not some sub-par cheap looking digital addition to the genre, they offer serious suspense with excellent staging and full on displayed visceral practical effects as the characters try to survive the night from the weird shrouded cult and icky biological monsters.

Overall it’s a must see sci-fi horror hybrid, The Void is for old school effect house horror fans as well as new comers.

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

On a Trans-Siberian train journey from China to Moscow an American couple get caught up in a conspiracy of deception and murder when they encounter a mysterious pair of fellow travellers.

With a handful of main characters director Brad Anderson offers an American fish out of water thriller with a meandering off beat story by Will Conroy which helps build the tension, especially cultural throughout. There are some shootings, attempted rape and torture, in addition for a low key drug smuggling yarn there are stunts and an impressive train crash.

Woody Harrelson interestingly plays against wacky type cast as an everyday nice guy husband of Jessie (Emily Mortimer). Mortimer gives a convincing performance and has some depth which helps sell the situations she finds herself in after befriending drug traffickers Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara).

Ben Kingsley is fitting as Grinko, a snooping Russian narcotics officer. Notable is Thomas Kretschmann as Kolzak Yushenkov, Grinko’s right-hand man. And Noriega’s dodgy Carlos is particularly convincing. While Mortimer steals the show, Mara also well cast as the lead astray out of her depth partner of Carlos.

There’s plenty of double cross and simmering character dynamics, imposing quiet Grinko befriending the couple to solve his smuggling case. Abby and Jessie’s rivalry and Carlos’ sexual tension with Jessie to name a few. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Citizen X (1995) with its snowy cold on location feel.

Anderson creates some grounded fear and suspense as Jessie is put through the mill in this traditional taut thriller with a few twists. Recommend sleeper thriller.

Image result for ghost in the shell impawards*** This review may contain thermo-optical camouflage spoilers ***

A young woman is brought back to life as a cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier and must stop a terrorist who wants to destroy the Hanka company that created her.

Without drawing too many comparisons to Shirow Masamune’s 1989 Manga and Mamoru Oshii’s animated 1995 counterpart, director Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell adaption is interesting, if somewhat plodding in places. Scarlett Johansson’s Major is devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals but Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger’s screenplay never really explores these missions and we are immediately thrown into an origin story of sorts where the missions are intertwined with the main plot of Major discovering the truth about herself.

Heavily Blade Runner influenced, whereas Deckard was a character in a world, Major’s world seems to revolve around her which limits Sanders’. That’s not to say it’s not a full realised world, it looks visually stunning. There’s political also business corruption, cyber-drugs, human trafficking and Yakuza activities touched upon. The sets and striking costumes are finely put together. Scarlett Johansson’s Major anti tall, skinny Hollywood typecast aesthetically excels and Pilou Asbaek is great as Batou with his cyborg enhanced eyes. Notable are Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki, Majors dirty Harry-like boss and Julia Roberts looking Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet. Michael Pitt as Kuze is sadly given little to do aside from deliver theatrical lines cloaked in distracting, yet, excellent CGI. Also Michael Wincott has an extended cameo and is sorely missed early on.

Edited by Billy Rich and Neil Smith it appears purposely but jarringly choppy in places, who knows possibly to cash in on the younger age rating or a home media extended marketing ploy, either way this hampers what could be a decent if somewhat condensed adaption as Major, a brain in her mechanical body, or shell fights her way through cyber- enhanced foe at times utilising her tantalising thermo-optical camouflage. You’d think though that the screen writers would have the opportunity to deep dive into the themes, rather than dull them down. Also the cumbersome spider tank steals from the closing some much needed tension. There are a few twists and emotional scenes in amongst the handful of action set ups but the premises are material we’ve seen explored before. Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell’s music is moving and perfectly fitting, to Sanders’ credit it has quiet times, Asbaek particularly shines in these moments.

Essentially this incarnation of Ghost in the Shell is a journey of self discovery and one finding themselves, not about Major becoming more. It’s reminiscent of Robocop, Strange Days, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet and countless others and that’s the snag with the timing of this live-adaptation, a good movie is (usually) a good movie no matter how original or unoriginal it happens to be but it doesn’t feel fresh enough to break the mould.

Overall, it’s worth your time if only for the visuals, comic book action and robotics. Now with the origin-like story already told a sequel could be very appealing indeed.

Image result for Ibiza Undead impawardsIn a world where zombies are rumoured and known, a group of youngest head to uninfected Ibiza for the holiday of a lifetime – only it’s not as zombie free as they thought.

A low budget comedy yarn, with sex, partying and zombies. It’s not in the league of productions values as The Rezort or the likes of Cockney Vs Zombies. Writer/director Andy Edwards offers a watchable rough round the edges undead romp.

Some of the lines are funny but without Ed Kear as wise cracking Big Jim this would have completely fallen flat. Dealer Karl played by Richard Brake, Rhys Ifans-like Matt King is notable and plays a good psycho, but he’s too good compared to the rest of the cast and feels out of place. Also UK’s Alex Zane cameos as a Club Host in amongst the rubbery makeup and fake blooded zombie extras.

It’s not Shaun of the Dead, as a gauge picture a low budget The Inbetweeners Movie (2011) mixed with Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000) versus zombies. With limited production values and a sod’s law twist at the end it has its limitations but to Edwards credit, you can’t fault his effort as he works with what he has and makes the most of the sun, sea and location.

Teens who want to see some bikinis and a pair of boobs should enjoy but everyone else, well…

Bastille Day Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A young pickpocket and a unorthodox CIA agent find themselves working together to prevent another terrorist attack in France.

Tragic real life terrorist events caused Bastille Day to be renamed The Take in the UK and events sent it somewhat into obscurity with the marketing toned down. Director James Watkins offers a well thought- out action thriller in the vein of Die Hard and the best of Luc Besson.

Watkin’s The Take is a surprising piece of entertainment with a few twists thrown in for good measure in what could have been a simple frustrating actioner. Not only are the action fight setups impressive writer Andrew Baldwin’s story cleverly gives a broad stroke insight into terrorism, activists and corruption. Even with its shootouts, punch ups and chases it’s not action for action sake, it is plot driven.

The characters are shades of grey, packed with screen presence Idris Elba is on fine form as hardened agent Sean Briar. Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones fame) is pickpocket Michael who is at the wrong place at the wrong time and who gets accused of being a bomber gives a solid performance. The array of supporting actors especially the bad guys are quiet developed and add some weight to the story. Notable are memorable José Garcia as Victor and Thierry Godard’s Rafi.

It’s no Leon or Bourne but it’s up in the the action thriller scale of the likes of London has Fallen, From Paris with Love, but the on location feel to the underside of the French capitol to Watkins’ credit gives the film its own unique look and down to earth credence compared to the latter. The Take has characters that you can care about tide up in a very compelling yarn.

Overall, it’s well filmed and entertaining, hopefully it’ll find itself with a sequel as the chemistry dynamic of the selfless subtle two leads works well. Predicable at times but recommended.