Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS’ Category

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.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Kong: Skull Island (#7 of 21)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A team of scientists are chaperoned by a war veteran to an uncharted island in the Pacific, however, things go awry and they must fight to escape the primal island.

The effects are impressive and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts skilfully creates a great sense of scale. What’s refreshing is that the handful of writers don’t rehash the King Kong story of a screaming female, the giant ape falling in love and being taken to civilisation only to die. This take on the 1933 landmark film is reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1960), Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997) and the ‘monster verses’ moments of Kong films to name a few.

The period Platoon-like (1986) soundtrack sells the 70’s setting along with Henry Jackman’s score complimenting the action setups. The cast are adequate including the likes of Tom Hiddleston and John C. Reilly. Samuel L. Jackson looks really infuriated throughout, and rightly so as Kong wipes out the majorly of his team. But to be honest it’s a good thing as I’d pay good money to see Jackson’s badassery (is that a word?) over CGI monsters any day. Hiddleston is surprising as tracker Conrad especially in his fight driven introduction. Brie Larson as photographer Weaver is sadly given very little to do. There’s a little confrontation dynamic between the parties when they find out that Kong is essential in keeping the equilibrium of the Island. Along with Conrad’s followers, Hank Marlow (Reilly) who has been stranded on the island since 1944, go against Jackson’s hardened vet’ Preston Packard who wants Kong dead.

Notable are underused John Goodman and Toby Kebbell as solider Jack. Kebbell no stranger to motion capture (Koba, Planet of the Apes) advises Terry Notary who is excellent as Kong. Regardless of how much is actually Notary’s performance, the completed monster design is impressive especially when Kong battles giant ancient creatures. The humour is largely hit and miss due to the dark tone and post Vietnam War backdrop. With hints of Apocalypse Now (1979) it’s more visually striking than Godzilla (2014), but it’s not as tonally consistent. Skull Island feels one-dimensional in comparison. Vogt-Roberts offers some stage interesting napalm moments, reflecting on sunglasses and exploding silhouette giant beasts. Stay for the after the credits as it teases a showdown with another aforementioned giant monster.

Stripped of effects it’s B movie stuff with a A list cast and budget. Most teenagers will no doubt love it, but Kong:Skull Island’s mishmash tone may leave others feeling underwhelmed.

Busanhaeng Movie Poster A group of terrified passengers fight their way through a viral outbreak while trapped on a bullet train ride to Busan.
Train to Busan is a blood-drenched South Korean zombie/virus horror, director Yeon Sang-ho and writer Park Joo-suk offer a serious zombie apocalypse yarn. Interestingly most of the bloody, milky eyed and black vein thrilled story is set in the daytime. Joo-suk offers a novel take on the infected, which cannot see in the dark, this makes for some interesting viewing during the more tense scenes especially as the train travels through darkened tunnels.
Sang-ho’s twitchy infected are a fast moving reminiscent of 28 Days Later and WWZ at one point there are piles of clambering dead hanging from the locomotive. In addition, this is a decent looking film, not a straight to video, DTV offering, the production values are high and the special effects are impressive. The locations are grounded which adds to the tension and you buy into the characters plight along with the punchy surprise deaths synonymous with the genre. With mistrust between the players there’s a social commentary about the division of class and its pecking order, its only apt it’s set on a train.
There are some action packed segments in stations and some subtler moments in tunnels and the city as the survivors encounter the army and contaminated. Surprisingly there’s plenty of emotion especially between workaholic Seok-woo played by Gong Yoo and his young daughter, Soo- an, delightfully played by Kim Su-an who wants to see her mother. Notable is Ma Dong-seok who plays Sang-hwa, a tough, working-class man. Dong-seok delivers some memorable zombie head bashing moments.
Sang-ho balances the intense infected action and drama perfectly. Highly recommended virus film.

Image result for Rezort  imp awardsAfter humanity wins a war against zombies, tourists are able to kill zombies for sport at the Rezort.

Director Steve Barker who debuted with Outpost (2008) offers a zombie flick which echoes

Westworld (1973)and Jurassic Park (1993) premise. While Rezort isn’t as tight as Outpost, quite choppy in fact the zombie resort idea is a winning formula. Despite some dubious casting and dialogue this modest budget horror has plenty of great zombie action. Its Island setting gives it an throw back feel to Fulci’s Zombie (1979) and Fear the Walking Dead (in which Dougray Scott also appeared) rather than Romero’s ‘of the Dead’ films and/or The Walking Dead series.

To writers Paul Gerstenberger’s credit there is an interesting novel aspect as guest Melanie, played glowingly by Jessica Elise De Gouw who wants to conquer her psychological issues caused by the zombie war. This take is clearly what brought Barker and Scott’s talent to the table. That said, it feel rushed in places especially when the park’s security begins to unravel. The on location shoot works in its favour and Gerstenberger comes up trumps with a social commentary of sorts around refugees and class reminiscent of The Dead (2010), The Dead 2 (2013) and WWZ (2013) to name a few.

As forgettable sub characters get picked off one by one Martin McCann is notable as Lewis, but Dougray Scott effortlessly steals any sort of screen presence from the rest of cast excluding De Gouw of course who plays the trouble everyday girl in a horrific situation well. There’s no lack of effort in the makeup department either, the effects are finely executed from the most part, rapid head shots, zombie bites, all the zombie staples are there. But technically there’s some short comings in the editing and staging notable when the group try to pass through a fence damaged by a jeep it loses its lustre and logic.

With Resident Evil (2002) Hive like rooms and an impending countdown to doom. Its far from a DTV or SYFY film. The issue with Rezort is not that its derivative, it’s just not slick enough or able to focus on a potential bleak tone or its unique and interesting aspects making it feel more like the entertaining Cockney Versus Zombies (2012) without the comedy rather than the Day of the Dead it should be.

Still the Michael Crichton themes with robots and dinosaur replaced for zombies makes Rezort worth watching just for the living dead hell of it.

Split Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

Three girls are kidnapped by a man and must try and escape before a frightful personality The Beast comes to get them.

With hints Red Dragon (2002) and echoes of Sybil (1976/2007) with a touch of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director, writer M. Night Shyamalan offers an interesting thriller. James McAvoy delivers a performance of a life time as Kevin who has 23 distinct personalities and one additional one, that all play off against each other, even imitating each other at one point. After kidnapping three girls and keeping them locked up in a cellar, surprisingly it is the edgy visits to his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, wonderfully played by Betty Buckley that provides the most tension as you never know when he is going to snap.

The slow undercurrent build up is Split’s strength as the girls attempt to escape and we get to know many of Kevin’s personas, Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / The Beast / Kevin Wendell Crumb / Barry / Orwell / Jade. While McAvoy’s 9 year old doesn’t ring as true as the other characters he encompasses, the distinction between each is impressive. Especially the 24th personality which builds up like a High Noon (1952) showdown. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke has a developed character and poignant story arc but always feel second to McAvoy.

The worn on location feel works, a cellar, long corridors, city apartments and a zoo, Shyamalan’s realistic setting has become a staple of his work, which helps draw you into the story. Two of the kidnapped girls feel under developed but possibly Shyamalan purposely does this for the viewer to focus on the third and in bid for you to sympathise with her and Kevin.

With a Bruce Willis cameo, the post story twist of sorts will be lost on anyone who hasn’t seen one particular film of Shyamalan. And to be honest unless you love this particular film or have a great memory, it will probably annoy rather than entice. That said, all that comes before draws the viewer in. Right down to Dr. Fletcher assessment of what advantage split personalities can have and its application. Fletcher concludes that ‘they’ may something more.

Although a mash-up of other films, thanks to McAvoy and Buckley it stands out from most in the genre. Shyamalan’s atmosphere and attention to detail gives it some gravitas. Overall, worth watching for McAvoy’s performance(s) alone.

*** This review may contain T-Virus spoilers ***

Humanity is on its last legs and Alice after being betrayed by Wesker has one last chance to end the Umbrella Corporation’s plan of world domination.

With writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson again helming the chair, the alleged sixth and final chapter never manages to recreate the pace, horror hi-jinx or atmosphere of 2002’s Resident Evil, yet, tonally The Final Chapter comes closer than any of the meandering stylised sequels.

Anderson (arguably wisely) sidesteps the teased epic fantasy war setting of its predecessor with this instalment set in the aftermath of Retribution. The full-blown war is dropped in favour to feature on a few remaining monsters and focus on the impending infected zombie horde. Anderson borrows George Romero’s Dead Reckoning-like vehicle under Dr Isaac’s (Iain Glen) control and Alice (Milla Jovovich) must get back to The Hive to release an antivirus and stop the outbreak with help from The Red Queen played notably by Milla/Anderson’s very own daughter Ever.

The Final Chapter will appease fans who loved the action orientated sequels but it also goes some way satisfying those who enjoyed the first film. Anderson offers littered Event Horizon and the original Resident Evil’s jump scares in the ominous moments. In amongst the edited (faster than the Bourne Identity series put together) imaginative action there’s a little character development. Paul Haslinger’s pumping synth score is fitting and enhances the action as well as the few and far between quieter moments.

While it’s a pity actors Colin Salmon, Michelle Rodriguez and others couldn’t return given the stories clone themed story line, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield return from previous entries. Both Roberts and Larter both look more at ease here in the mostly darkly lit well crafted sets.

With usual strong screen presence Jovovich is on fine form and the fights are fantastic if a little too frantically paced. Although some aged makeup is below par and the CGI is ropey at times Anderson offers a genuinely surprising twist which delivers a fitting close to the Alice character.

That said, the maker leaves enough room for another horror orientated follow up or overblown 3D actioner – hopefully the latter. Either way it ends the series on a high more rounded note.

*** This review contains galactic spoilers ***

An unlikely group of freedom fighters team up to steal the Death Star schematics.

An interesting mix of exciting heroic and tragic characters. Director Gareth Edwards Monsters, Godzilla) and team are careful not to take anything away from the iconic 1977 classic Star Wars and successfully add to it, i.e the Death Star here doesn’t blow up planets in this instalment not to take any impact away from its destructive powers in A New Hope. Still it shows it’s immense firepower as Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso goes about finding her father in a sea of defectors, rebels and insurgents including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). With great Star Wars action setups and battle scenes, that one could only have dreamed of recreating with toys as child this Star Wars story has plenty of thrills.

Loaded with nods to the series and standing on its on two feet. The costumes effects and sets are fantastic and it captures the feel of the originals and bridges the prequels, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) adds to this. Michael Giacchino’s music complements John Williams’ previous scores. Edwards creates a sense of urgency here which helps reinforce Episode IV stakes including the famous first ’77 on screen appearance of Darth Vader. It’s also co-written by John Knoll, who joined Lucas Industrial Light & Magic 30 years ago and worked on Willow (1988). J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens captured the original trilogy’s spirit holistically, but Edwards manages to conjurer up the feel of the 1977 Star Wars Magic.

The CGI characters of dead and favourites while not technically perfect are executed well enough too excite fans, namely the appearance of Tarkin (a resurrection of the great Peter Cushing’s character) and a pivotal female favourite who appears in the closing. Some X- Wing pilots, Red and Gold Leader have clever cameos. As well as an array of droids, littered throughout are the likes of the Cantina’s Ponda Babba and Dr. Evazan, R2D2 and C3PO. Extended purposeful meatier character appearances included General Dodonna, Mon Mothma, Vader himself (in three important scenes) who does not disappoint.

Director Edwards doesn’t get hung up on on these cameos of sorts and keeps his eye on creating a wonderfully crafted grittier Star Wars film. The acting arguably surpasses its predecessors with too many actors to mention. Hardened rebel Andor played by Diego Luna cements a place in Star Wars history but Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe steals scenes as a blind warrior. There’s plenty of heart courteous of Mads Mikkelsen and lead Jones’ Erso. Notable is Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO who provides some great one liners as well as a memorable emotional moment. The star though is debatably Ben Mendelsohn as villain Orson Krennic, with the bureaucratic gravitas and emotional depth to leave a lasting impression.

What it comes down to is that Edwards like Lucas manages to put on screen a Shakespeare-like tragedy mixed with Flash Gordon wonder that has all the familiar simple themes which makes stories great.

Solid Star Wars entertainment all the way.