Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS’ Category

With the aid of his companions, a man seeks to defeat his evil brother who murdered their father.

On its release Hawk the Slayer was every kids dream, the VHS complemented your He-Man collection. However, on revisiting it seems to have paved the way for slightly better films in the genre namely Krull.

Hawk features to of my two of my favourite actors, the late legend Jack Palance and Lucio Fulic collaborator Catriona MacColl in a pivotal bit part as Eliane. To Marcel’s credit actors synonymous with British film pop up Bernard Bresslaw, Annette Crosbie, Patrica Quinn Patrick Magee and the great Roy Kinnear to name a few. The casting is impressive even if the actors are somewhat under-utilised. William Morgan Sheppard as Ranulf is notable and upstages much of the acting.

In the vain of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars, the team is made up of magic sword welder Hawk (John Terry), Peter O’Farrell’s tall dwarf, Bresslaw’s short giant and a hyperactive elf. They set off to confront hammy Voltan, Hawks older brother played by Palance, who is awkwardly partially hidden by a helmet.

Debatably the main issue Terry Marcel’s offering is the staging, it’s clunky. That said you could argue it’s more timely than The Sword and the Sourcer and certainly lengthy The Beastmaster. Musican Harry Robertson does an outlandish Jeff Wayne/John Barry. The effects are not too shoddy for the budget, the locations make up for what some of the sets lack.

It bests the endless recent DTV CGI low budget films of it’s genre. It’s sword sorcery fantasy comfort food and just the ingredients to make it a cult favourite, my 8 year old self would still enjoy. In retrospect though the poster art was better than the film. Watch for Palance and MacColl if nothing else.

Two post-collegiate friends in Italy watch a traveling sideshow and get drawn into mystery of cursed supernatural horrors.

The story by Charles Band and screenplay by
Dennis Paoli feature drugging and raping women in the name of a dreamy take on Beauty and the Beast. On revisiting since it’s release it is at times a little uncomfortable viewing unless gratuitous sex scenes are your thing.

It opens up like The Church, with an interesting titbit about crypts and oil paintings all in Italian dialogue, there’s impressive locations, sets, music (by Pino Donaggio) and some special effects etc but it’s not long before it becomes an erotic, Gothic mystery that’s gives off a Meatloaf music video vibe. Thankfully there are a few twists to the tale which gives it some much needed weight.

Actors Sherilyn Fenn and Charlie Spradling are solid enough. Hilary Mason as Martha is her fantastic creepy self. Vernon Dobtcheff is first rate as the priest. Malcolm Jamieson does his best with the duel twin role but looks uncomfortable at times even when emulating the best and worst of Hammer Horrors.

Meridian has a hazy, dream-like quality which offers mood and atmosphere, to its credit it hasn’t a direct to video visual look, Band delivers a filmatic quality of Full Moon’s Paramount days.

Overall, some themes are dated even more so in these conscientious times and rob Meridian of being Bands Howling. Watch for curiosity if nothing else.

Four African American vets battle the forces of nature and a group of gunmen when they return to Vietnam looking for a hidden fortune of gold.

Director Spike Lee offers a meaningful and heartfelt film. The handful for writers inject something reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino with its sharp dialogue and flashy twist story telling. That said, everything political in Lee’s ‘Bloods is covered in depth in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War (2017) or in bite size Platoon (1986).

The cast are outstanding, with too many great performances to mention them all. Chadwick Boseman is subtle and pivotal Delroy Lindo is memorable and Jean Reno cameos. Notable are Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Clarke Peters, who steals the show.

The pumping score by Lee’s longtime collaborator Terence Blanchard complements the drama and graphic-like kills of Rambo (2008). Da 5 Bloods explores the consequences of the Vietnam War. But what’s most interesting and emotional is a subplot of GI’s relationships with local Vietnamese women, namely Otis and Tiên along with their child. It’s odd structure allows the long running time to fly by as it closes on a profound note of hope.

Overall, a part greedy ‘Nam caper flick, come loose history lesson that is both uplifting and hard hitting at the same time.

Defeated by the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again.

Andrés Muschietti’s offering is jammed packed with imaginative images and he throw everything but the kitchen sink in. This hampers the follow up to the emotional friendship driven first.

Chapter Two is too self aware with too many pop culture references that take you out of the moment, many are 1980s which appear off for the 2019 setting. Muschietti and
Gary Dauberman’s screenplay delivers fr a spider head homage to The Thing complete with the classic, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding,” line to The Shining, “Here’s Johnny,” quote. Visual horror nods including a timber-truss bridge and Exorcist-like movements. There’s even practical effect Creepshow like ghouls, Twilight Zone monsters, one liners and the CGI heavy scares. Bill Skarsgård is again disturbingly effective but is at times lost amongst the overstuffed monster effects.

The child cast have chemistry and are once again the glue Their talented adult counterpart cast are fine and include Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, memorable Bill Hader and best of the bunch is Isaiah Mustafa
who is particularly notably encompassing his younger character if not the heart of all the players more successfully. There’s a nice cameo from Stephen King. Nevertheless, IT Chapter Two is shoehorned with gags, some moments are almost parody which takes you out of the moment diluting series of scares littered throughout.

The production design is outstanding, Muschietti is at the top of his game, it’s well-made, visually fantastically, epic in scale, with wonderful staged setups and a handful of effective jump scares. But it feels slightly lost and not as punctual as it’s predecessor.

Overall, the first built a beautiful stage but Chapter Two pulls the carpet from under its own feet.

A stolen child grows up with the ability to communicate telepathically with animals and begins to fulfil a prophesy after a village is destroyed by warriors under the control of an evil sorcerer.

Directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm (1979) fame this sword and sorcery film is very much of 1982. It’s not as well put together or has the production values as Conan the Barbarian (1982) or the comparable Krull (1983). That said, Coscarelli clearly enjoys putting plenty of flesh on display, namely Tanya Roberts (which was cut from the UK version).

It’s good too see some practical makeup effects, notably the witches, but Rip Torn’s nose is an unnecessary distraction along with the real life tiger dyed black. Some of the sets are impressive but the unevenness in quality and choppy editing hampers it throughout.

Even though going onto star in two sequels Marc Singer does the best with what he has as Dar but looks sorely miscast. Roberts is surprisingly good, John Amos is reliable as usual and Torn as Maax appears uncomfortably off.

Overall, it’s a fantasy comic book adventure come alive that isn’t as good as its poster art work.

In 1881, cattle baron John Chisum pays a bounty to Patrick Garrett to kill outlaw Billy the Kid.

Geoff Murphy’s sequel to the brat pack MTV cowboy Young Guns feels bigger than its predecessor. It has a more filmatic look and the characters are a little meatier. It’s interesting to see it told through the eyes of Brushy Bill Roberts who attracted attention in the 50s claiming to be the western outlaw Billy the Kid.

Set just after the original, it follows the last years in the life of William Bonney/Billy the Kid. Again, Emilio Estevez’s witty central performance is a scene stealer, however, he’s a little more wiser, even if still jovial.

It has the staple funny lines and exciting set-pieces, it’s well-shot and acted. MKiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips return. New comer to the gang is Christian Slater who shines, understated Alan Ruck and Garrett played by William Petersen delivers a good innings as the turncoat. There’s a fine supporting cast of familiar faces. Excellent James Coburn gives a welcomed cameo along with a blink and you’ll miss it Jon Bon Jovi.

The film’s original score by Alan Silvestri is memorable. Murphy’s offers the sweeping landscapes of the West and the grubbiness of the wooden shacks.

As with it’s predecessor is doesn’t hold up to the likes of Leone and Ford but it’s a well paced, entertaining tribute to the classic Westerns. That said, to it’s credit it did popularise the lines, “I’ll make you famous” and “You are not a god.”

When a gang of wayward youngsters’ mentor and father-figure John Tunstall is shot dead, Billy The Kid and his new friends plan to stop the corrupt officials in an unorthodox revenge that turns the gang onto outlaws.

Christopher Cain’s Young Guns is a likeable Brat Pack Western with snappy editing, slow motion action and a TV-like atmosphere.

It doesn’t have the traditional sweeping feel of classic Westerns but it has enough shoot-outs and horseback chases for this a witty, fun, unlikely friendship movie to have its own legs.

The cast look as if they’re having a hoot playing cowboys. Young Emilio Estevez steals the show as unhinged Billy The Kid. He has all the best lines and quips, playing it confident, crazy and larger than life. Kiefer Sutherland offers sophistication and humanity. Lou Diamond Philips oozes charisma, Charlie Sheen (Estevez’s real brother) gives weight and seriousness even if his screen time is short. Casey Siesmasko and humorous Dermot Mulroney are solid enough. Jack Palance and Terence Stamp’s extended cameos are perfect as you’d expect.

Naturally, it’s no Tombstone or a patch on the Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon A Time in the West to name a few but if they set about to make an entertaining, flashy MTV Western with an ensemble cast Cain delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

Anna (2019) Review

Posted: June 2, 2020 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS

An assassin forced to model tries to break the chains of her troubled life, KGB and the CIA spy system.

As Anna goes undercover as a fashion model and completes various missions and assassinations you can’t help but feel it’s a Sasha Luss star vehicle (which works) with its sole purpose as to backdoor her into a resident evil reboot. The cast are on fine form although Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy and especially Helen Mirren appear to be too higher caliber actors given the sexy espionage subject matter. Nevertheless, Mirren seems to to having a fantastic time as the KGB handler Olgar. Eric Godon is notable, even if brief as KGB head Vassiliev.

Anna is reminiscent of Salt (2010) and the type of film Luc Besson would usually produce and/or write. It’s tightly edited, with plenty of pace. Although the time period setting and recreation doesn’t always hit the mark, the action setups and hard hitting shoot outs are finely crafted. It has a Bourne and graphic flavour of the week John Wick style. To Besson and Julien Rey’s credit the editing forms part of what makes Anna more interesting than most action films, it’s there to serve the story not just to be clever or flashy.

Overall, it’s more fun than 2014’s Lucy, that said, it hasn’t a scope of the likes of Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997), Valerian (2017) or the grit of criticality acclaimed Leon (1994) nor Subway (1985) but it is a modest, solid, Cold War action with plenty of twists and turns.

Spoilers!

A rescue team from Earth are against the clock and must save humans on Sirius 6B from the robot Screamers before the planet is wiped out by a class 10 solar meteor strike.

None of the original cast return in director Sheldon Wilson’s offering, we are told that Peter Weller’s grumpy, in search of love, Joseph A. Hendricksson committed suicided on reentry to Earth, presumably in a tussle with the killer teddy bear screamer left on the spaceship.

The visual effects are surprisingly effective with some convincing composites and some impressive practical effects. There’s more gore, chopped of limbs, torsos, heads split open, impalement, a fist punched through a body and a head. The sets and production design are great but it’s has a direct to DVD look (especially in the first half) and lacks the filmatic feel that its low budget predecessor managed to achieve.

As the contingent of soldiers get picked off one by one, we’re introduced to some annoying feral people better placed in Mad Max. We find out that Victoria Bronte is Hendricksson’s daughter giving fans some much needed connection to the first. Arguably this could have been revealed much earlier on. Lance Henriksen turns up briefly as Orsow injecting some weight into the shenanigans. Both actors Gina Holden and Stephen Amell are notable.

Unfortunately, the Miguel Tejada-Flores (who also co-wrote the original) script lacks execution, it can be clunky in its delivery and at times lacks logic. What Tejada-Flores and Wilson do well is expand and attempt to build on the Screamer mythology. That said, sometimes less is more.

Amongst the explosions, shootings and blood the pacey sci-fi setups are more or less recycled from the first film. It lacks Philip K. Dick‘s philosophical questions, paranoia and sense of desolation that its predecessor attempted to touch on.

It’s a passable sci-fi B-movie, if somewhat cliched especially in the Alien/Terminator-like closing act. In fact, as DTV film and sequel, to Wilson’s credit, it’s probably one of the best of its kind.

Spoilers!

After his traumatic experiences in the haunted Overlook Hotel, troubled Danny Torrance as an adult tries to resolve his past. Soon he crosses paths with a teenage girl who is being stalked by the True Knot, a cult who want to extend their lifespans by consuming the psychic essence from those who have the shining.

Director Mike Flanagan’s production of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep masterfully incorporates Stanley Kurbrick’s vision of the Overlook hotel, aesthetics including the maze and likeness of the characters drawn from King’s source novel. Incorporating Hallorann and the ghosts of the Overlook to name a few. Flanagan expertly recreates scenes from the original with new actors including the likes of Wendy (impressive Alex Essoe), Jack and young Danny.

Doctor Sleep at times tries to scare you but with the child murders it also shocks and sickens. Opening with a nod to Frankenstein, where a young girl is by a lake, Doctor Sleep is very vampire-like with the True Knot gang feeding off the Shining, instead the blood of virgins to extend their mortality. You then have to watch an overdose and toddler death. Flanagan doesn’t pull punches.

The acting is on point from every character. Ewan McGregor is outstanding as Doc/Danny, carrying a hefty character arc. Rebecca Ferguson menacingly simmers and Kyliegh Curran is notable, all supporting cast offer great support. Emily Alyn Lind steals some scenes as new True Knot recruit Andi. Henry Thomas (Eliot in E.T.) as The Bartender Jack Torrance has an uphill struggle, it’s difficult not to compare him to Jack Nicholson, that said, without the aid of CGI tweaks (which may have fared better) he does a decent incarnation of Danny’s father.

The special effects, especially the skull faces of the gang during their demise is impressive. The recreated sets are exceptional (painstakingly recreated exceeding the Thing (2011)). Flanagan offers a well paced film, plenty of character development and of course chills, especially the directors cut! His visuals are stunning and handsomely executed (the homages to Kubrick’s Shining, including music reworked by
The Newton Brothers and sound cues are especially welcome) and the third acts return to the Overlook is a joy.

Doctor Sleep is a good adaption of the novel and is an advantageous sequel which builds on the characters and makes connections to the film. While it could never compare to Stanley Kubrick’s weighty original, this pastiche sequel is fresh and unsettling enough to justify its existence