Posts Tagged ‘film review’

On the research station lab on the planet of Xarbia a flesh-eating mutant is loose that feeds on the dwindling scientific group who created it.

With the same vibe as Galaxy of Terror (1981), Roger Corman’s Forbidden World a.k.a Mutant is an excuse for director Allan Holzman to put some cheap icky specimen effects, jumpsuits and scantily clad actresses on screen. It also comes complete with some disco/electronica music from Susan Justin and a little robot called SAM104 who looks as if he should be in sci-fi films Silent Running or Saturn 3.

June Chadwick’s blonde Barb bloody life form encounter scene is short but impressive. Jim Wynorski fingerprints are all over this, Brunette Dawn Dunlap lights up the screen screaming with unnecessary skimpy outfits throughout taking off her clothes whenever the script calls for it. Hammy Fox Harris doctor is entertaining enough, reminiscent of, but predating Brad Dourif’s Alien Resurrection performance. There’s also an interesting desert scene which echoes an episode of Star Trek in terms of style and execution.

Forbidden World is as clunky as some of ‘Subject 20’ effects, editing and dialogue. To its credit and inconsistency aside many scenes are well lighted and a handful of the practical special effects including the cocoon and kills are not too shabby. It’s common knowledge that some sets and footage is recycled from other Corman productions, including Battle Beyond the Stars and Galaxy of Terror but it’s all seamless unless your already privileged to the knowledge as it fittingly looks as if it belongs to this low budget production.

Overall, it’s energetic and amusingly gruesome even if at times for all the wrong reasons.

SPOILERS!

In the sleepy small town of Centerville, the dead return to life when the earth shifts on its axis.

The Dead Don’t Die has an unprecedented atmosphere of doom and gloom in a small town which captures an odd eerie feel
echoing The Night the Living Dead. However, it’s marred by hanking issues that prevent it becoming what could have been a cult classic.

Jim Jarmusch’s writing decision to break the fourth wall and have the characters talk about the script within the film steals all the novelty from the zany characters and their convincing emotional sentiments. Especially from Cloe Sevigny who gives her deputy believable touching grief. It simply sucks the life out from his solid directing offering.

Adam Driver’s Ronnie and Bill Murray’s Chief Robinson are wonderful as the smalltown law men along with the rest of the cast. Steve Buscemi as a small minded farmer, samurai swinging Tilda Swinton and Danny Glover’s Hank are notable, even if a little wasted. Iggy Pop’s coffee yearning zombie extended cameo is memorable.

As a side note, it’s reminiscent on places of the 2003 Australian film the Undead, including borrowing a wacky alien contact moment. Along with three teens who escape there’s another subplot involving Selena Gomez’s Zoe and her two friends. Neither story threads really pay off, aside from fleshing our Driver’s officer character with Zoe’s demise. This leaves the two separate groups fates slightly wasted and if not moot. That said, the knowing observational hobo in the woods played by Tom Waits strings the film all together.

The make-up effects, Frederick Elmes’ cinematography and location setting is great, even if some CGI is a little iffy. It’s rare for a film to seemingly go out of its way to spoil itself especially when it was so wonderfully setup. It takes away the multiple reward of rewatching value. The abruptness of the ending doesn’t help either.

When it’s being played straight the comedy wit presents itself like the joy of Lake Placid’s satire. But when it’s breaking the fourth wall and trying to be too clever, it stumbles, sadly pulling the carpet from under Driver and Murray’s stellar performances.

Overall, the haphazard script decisions rip the heart of what could have been a contemporary zom-com Return of the Living Dead type classic.

An eccentric uncle reveals himself to be a warlock and with the witch next door, Florence Zimmerman and Lewis must find the clock in the walls of their mysterious old house before its ominous countdown ends.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly supernatural adventure based on the 1979 children’s book of the same name written by John Bellairs. From horror realistic gore master Eli Roth, the director moves away from his usual adult fare for a impressive 1955 period set piece and well created magical adventure based mostly in Jonathan Barnavelts’ large house that formally belonged to Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLahlan).

Jack Black sporting a Orson Welles-look is his usual likeable kooky type role self as Barnavelt, young Lewis played by Owen Vaccaro is impressive. Cate Blanchett’s fleeting Florence Zimmerman is good fun along with killer pumpkins, a room full of spooky clockwork dolls, a dog-like chair and lion hedge to name a few. MacLahlan’s troubled war vet Izard is fanstatic even if sorely underused. The his eerie makeup gives chills. Knock Knock’s Lorenza Izzo (Roth’s real life wife) is underliningly menacing as the Mother. It’s thematically heavy, with death, loss and youth fitting in at its core, it’s not a simple cash-in. The sets an special effects are well executed with an enjoyable score to match.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls echoes C. S. Lewis Narnia, with a Goosebumps feel and a Disney Haunted Mansion vibe. Creepy at times with impressive sets, its one of the most enjoyable well made family films in a longtime.

Contains Spoilers!

A bus filled with colourful mentally stressed military try to stop an intergalactic sports hunter to save sniper’s son who is in possession of alien tech that his dad unintentionally sent him after his P.O. box was closed.

Following the events of Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990) notably including Peter Keyes’ son (as confirmed in the prequel tie-in novel and set presumably after 2010’s Predators, although not directly referenced), director Shane Black along with co-writer Fred Dekker echo the modest fun of past Predator movies. They offer a mix of gore and humour, while adding new elements and leave narrative breadcrumbs setting up future sequels.

Alan Silvestri’s Predator theme music is expertly reworked but is arguably heavily used by Henry Jackman. The on location night-time shoot adds atmosphere along with the dawn space ship crashing last act. The weaponry that the Predator wields is as fanboy neat as the original character design and effects on display. Even if the Predator dogs are not a menacing as in Predators.

Plot wise the writers give the classic Predator, here more agility, personality and motivation for helping the humans (as he is part human) without spelling it out in your face. They subtly explain why the “Tracker” Predator can see in heat POV without his mask due to his inbuilt biotech/biometric enhancements.

Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) is on usual form and is excellent as army sniper Quinn McKenna who encounters the Predator during a mission in Mexico. Know-how, gun-toting biologist Olivia Munn is impressive alongside the soldiers including actors Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane and Alfie Allen. Also in the castings favour is child actor Jacob Tremblay who doesn’t come across as annoying as Rory, Quinn’s autistic son. At times you care about the characters and morn when they meet their demise, Rhodes’ Williams in particular. Actor Sterling K. Brown is notable as the unscrupulous Govenment Agent.

The Predator is non-stop entertainment, mixing expected lowbrow dialogue and macho talk with no holds barred action sequences and special effects. Yes it’s exciting but the action does grow more outlandish in closing followed by off the wall human Predator robotic weaponisation.

This entry ups the ante, Uber style with larger action sequences bigger thrills but doesn’t reinvent or progress franchise (especially the Yautja species history or social structure as well as in previous films) as much as touted or deserved.

Contains Spoilers

Davey Armstrong suspects his local police officer is a serial killer, along with a group of his friends they spend their summer gathering evidence but with dangerous consequences.

With the popularity of the 1980’s at an all-time high, TV series Stranger Things, the IT film remake to name a few, imagine if the Goonies and Stand by Me teens went on the hunt for a serial killer instead of looking for a dead body or treasure! Directors Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell’s Summer of 84 offers a modest dark adventure which delivers just that.

The cast are impressive, the teens have family struggles which ring true. Lead Graham Verchere is impressive as conspiracy fan Davey Armstrong. Judah Lewis, reminiscent of a young Rob Lowe and Michael J. Fox is notable along with likable Tiera Skovbye as Nikki Kaszuba providing the typical yet timeless (before Xbox ans PS4) crush interest.

There’s a great score with John Carpenter vibes, contrary to what the critics say there isn’t an over reliance on nostalgia of the titular decade, the soundtrack is 1980s minimal, the pop culture dialogue references are only littered throughout, with the E.T, Poltergeist-like neighborhood location sprinkled with just enough 80s for you to buy the period setting as they spy on their neighbor Rear View Window and Burbs style. It not just in your face nostalgia but also has that teenage discovery, angst and your first love element which crosses generations.

Technically the pacing of the three directors falters in the dark themed closing as the last act, jarringly it goes off the predicable beaten track, but thankfully everything isn’t wrapped up satisfying like an episode of Scooby Doo, hats off to the writers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith avoiding a paint by numbers ending we all wanted.

With a surprise death, this offering goes out of its way to avoid expectations. This goes both for and against Summer of 84. But there again as the story tells, life isn’t always roses and doesn’t go the way you’d expect.Excellent 80’s style teenage thriller which plays on expectations

Warning – SPOILERS AHEAD.

A billionaire experimenting on bull sharks, soon cause havoc for a visiting group of scientists.

One of the oddest deja vú experiences for all the wrong reasons. Deep Blue Sea 2 is less of a sequel and more of a straight to video remake of the 1999 original. Complete with a smaller shed on the water with a state-of-the-art facility below the surface.

Director Darin Scott offers a darker look, more buckets of CGI blood but it’s not cinematic, it’s hampered by the lack of budget, bottom of the barrel TV look with filtered lighting. The actors do their best with the recycled script and storyline from the original. Bull sharks replace the Makos.

There’s a few tweaks – the sharks tunnel rather than jump fences, they attack an illegal shark finning duo instead of partying teens in the opening, the sleeping shark doesn’t eat the entrepreneur Durant, it eats another cast member instead, there’s no parrot just lots more CGI. It mocks some of the original urinating in the wind dialogue. The story beats are pretty much the same only they destroy the compound themselves. And there’s a tagged on ending where the sharks head to attack some beach goers.

Why Warner Bros. went all 90’s Disney straight to video with this sequel/remake only Samuel L. Jackson character knows. Maybe to cash in on the release up and coming The Meg or off the back of the better 47 Meters Down and The Shallows.

It’s notable redeeming features are American Emily Blunt-a-like Danielle Savre and some real great white footage.

If you’re interested in seeing what the flawed but entertaining original would have looked like with a first draft script and Syfy channel budget, this is a must see, for the less curious swim as far away from this as possible.

*** This review contains major ECTO-1 cameo spoilers! ***

A group of varied personalities form a paranormal company in order to catch ghosts and save New York City.

Based on Ivan Reitman’s “Ghost Busters” written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis without drawing any comparisons to the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters 2016 is 116m 28s of stylish sleek fun. Ghostbusters writers Katie Dippold and Paul Feig interestingly bring the team together with clean cut modern cinematic swagger. Feig, director of 2015’s Spy, turns his hand effortlessly to an effects driven comedy friendship rework.

With a Disney Haunted Mansion-like opening with a genuine jump scare, to animated mannequins and joy riding ghosts (including Slimer), there’s plenty of ectoplasm on display (that appears to follow) the excellent cast, especially Kristen Wiig’s Gilbert. Haunted by a paranormal encounter as a child, Gilbert who’s co-written ghost book loses her job when a ghost encounter video goes viral. Wiig along with kooky hot engineer Holtzmann played by Kate McKinnon light up the screen (no pun intended) and  soup loving Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates and Leslie Jones’ subway worker Tolan provide the comedy backbone.

While the scripted comedy doesn’t go for subtle wit, with some physical gags its mostly more on the nose comedy, infused with pop culture references, including Ghost and The Exorcist to name a few, it genuinely has its laugh out loud moments, Feig even throws in a fart joke for good measure. There’s lots of chuckles to be had, many come from Gilbert’s and Yates former, later rekindled friendship. Feig offers excellent set-ups and set pieces as proton packed armed they go about busting spooks in a rock concert (where Ozzy Osbourne cameos), the city street and subway at one point using some new toys. There are many memorable moments, a scene where they run some tests like Peter Parker trying out his web, along with a moment where Holtzmann goes all Clint Eastwood western to name a few. McCarthy and Jones’ comedy timing is impeccable, with smart Wiig and wacky genius McKinnon bouncing off wonderfully  – firmly stamping their mark. But overtly focal Chris Hemsworth sends his persona up somewhat as dim witted eye candy Kevin and steals many of the best moments.

As the team discover there’s a disturbed bell boy Rowan North (Neil Casey) amplifying paranormal activity in New York, during a carnival of phantoms we get to see the Marshmallow Man in balloon form and a pilgrim ghost take on the team. If anything the excellent CGI spirits on occasion are more spectral beings rather than the departed traditional dead, there’s a giant Gremlin-like flying creature and holographic like ghouls trapped in mirrors. Ghostbusters moves along at breakneck speed, and while the main bad guy may lack weight and grit thankfully this is counteracted by the genuine likable and watchable main cast.

While the CGI may lack that Indiana Jones/Poltergeist 80’s optical feel. The colourful ghost effects on display – reminiscent of The Frighteners, Beetle Juice and akin to the original second outing, along with the Ghostbuster (universe) cartoons, comics etc. have a charm of their own. At one time their Ghostbuster logo literally appears animated when Rowan mocks the team prior to him trying to destroy the city in a vortex, which lucky for the insurance company leaves little, if any mess. There are some fridge logic moments – why build a containment unit if you can just zapping the spooks into slimey gloop, unless it’s to study, either way I’m sure Ghostbuster aficionados will be able to explain.

There’s an array of welcomed cameos for series fans from the likes of Ernie Hudson, as the undertaker Bill and uncle of Tolan, to Bill Murray, in a surprising extended cameo as Martin Heiss, who accuses the Ghostbusters of being fraudsters. Dan Aykroyd, has an excellent brief appearance as the all knowing cab driver. Even Annie Potts appears as a hotel desk clerk, snapping the crowning, “What do you want?” Andy Garcia shows up as the Teflon Mayor and humorously loses it when he is compared to the Mayor in Jaws. While Charles Dance’s small role is fittingly cast as Gilbert’s uptight University Dean.

Feig offers along with the familiar theme tune supernatural hijinks and enough jump scare frights to give the youngsters the heebie jeebies. Dedicated to Harold Ramis, stick around for some end credit antics plus a post credit scene where Sigourney Weaver briefly appears as Holtzmann’s mentor Rebecca Gorin and the team discovers the name Zuul for the fist time, setting it up for a sequel.

Overall, with the controversial backlash and odd marketing now in the grave, as with any kind of rework comparisons will be made, taking my nostalgia glasses off, as a film in its own right, it’s spectre-tacular fun and comes recommend.

UK film distributor 88 films once again thankfully deliver a guilty pleasure of mine on the latest film medium. While an improvement on the transfer of the first and falling slightly short of third probably due to the source material, coming with another collectible booklet and an array of vintage extra and some new surprises it’s a must for puppet master fans.
The puppets return, this time they hunt down some locals and paranormal researchers to assist their master in his evil plan.
Charles Band’s story and David Pabian’s screenplay is almost a remake of the first film. Effects wizard David Allen in the directing chair exceeds the 1st certainly in terms of effects and atmosphere.
While this installment reduces Andre Toulon / Eriquee Chaneé to a walking nod to the Invisible Man and other Universal classic characters, in contrast to how he is presented in the later adventures, it is by far the creepiest of the bunch. Steve Welles performance is wonderfully over the top and steals every scene.
Veteran Nita Talbot is on fine form and the remaining cast are a mixed blessing, Charlie Spradling and Elizabeth Maclellan give solid performances while here at least Collin Bernsen and Jeff Celentano are as mechanical as Tunneler’s innards.
Despite it’s editing and story flaws Allen gives us a darker faster paced and eerier film than it’s predecessor. The flashbacks are welcome and the paranormal investigation angle, while not totally original, gives the proceeds some weight and intrigue. Notably Blade running and jumping from a bed to slice his victim is probably one of best low budget horror moments to date. There are many stand out moments in part 2, Leech Woman’s demise, Torches encounter with a toy whipping boy and the unworldly human puppets reminiscent of the aliens in Carpenter’s (1988)They Live to name a few.
As with all the films in the Puppet Master series they always leave you with one burning question, in the case of two: Why didn’t Julianne Mazziotti/Nita Talbot’s Camille get her own sequel with your favorite little puppets?
Update 28/1/2013: The folks at Full Moon were kind enough to give me an answer: “Many story points in Puppet Master II were influenced by Paramount, not us. That’s why we rebooted the series with PM III.” There’s your official answer.
Some prequels have budgets big enough to buy a small country yet fail to satisfy even the most causal viewer. The third installment of the PuppetMaster series was made in the wake of the 1980’s video boom, in a time when direct-to-video productions were still being shot on in film.

With the recent release of the 1989 original on blu-ray and even though a cult classic the presentation was only a semi-adequate transfer.

However, stop the press, after owning a 1991 VHS and a dubious German DVD version UK distributor 88 Film’s have outdone themselves with this latest blu-ray release. Coming with a collectible booklet I’m happy to say PuppetMaster III exceeds expectations in terms of picture quality (given the budget of the film and the 22 year passage of time), and blu-ray extras.
PuppetMaster 3’s glaring narrative, production faults aside (for which there are countless pages on the net) and budget restrictions, this prequel gives an intriguing insight how those little killer puppets came to be. Set in Berlin 1941, evil Nazi’s want Toulon’s secret formula which animates his puppets to re-animate the Führer’s soldiers and make an unstoppable army for the Aryan race.
The puppets get a run for their money in the acting department this time around. Gestapo officer, Major Krauss played excellently by Richard Lynch steals the show along with James Bond recurring actor Walter Gotell as General Mueller. Both Guy Rolfe as Andre Toulon (previously played by William Hickey) and Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 and 2) as Elsa Toulon bring some emotion to the film.
Naturally there’s Richard Band’s music and thanks to director David DeCoteau and the effects team it’s a blast to see the creation of both Blade and Leech Woman. In addition, Jester gets a fair amount of screen-time.
In a film with reanimated dead soldiers and Nazi’s versus psychotic puppets, you should already know what you’re in for.
Without selling the surprisingly good cast ensemble short it’s a low budget affair but what a recommended  guilty pleasure of entertainment it is. Thank the PuppetMaster for 88 Films!
Where as the first film had the burning question of – What happened to Theresa? The burning question with three is – if Toulon shot himself in 1939 what is he doing alive and well in 1941? Answers on a postcard…

Get a slab of cheese and pop David A. Prior’s classic in the VHS…

Deadly Prey (1987)

 

 

A man is kidnapped by members of a private army to be hunted down and killed as part of their training. Unbeknownst to them he is an elite ex-marine who was trained by their leader Colonel John Hogan.

1986’s Deadly Prey directed by David A. Prior may have been made for adults but is more fun for teenagers who shouldn’t be watching. It’s reminiscent of many macho one-man-army, 80s Italian action B-films, borrowing heavily from Rambo First Blood and Commando. But it’s set in its own amusing world, in a jungle just South of LA.

Ted Prior is superb as Mike Danton, part Dolph Lundgren, part Christian Bale – all rock band mullet, he is perfectly cast as the military one-man killing machine. Danton takes on a tank, Danton beats a man using a severed arm, Danton builds deadly traps, camouflage Danton pops out of the ground, Danton wields a knives and a machete, Danton fires guns… Lots of guns, Danton eats worms and rats. You get the idea. All the action is accompanied by a beating surprisingly likable score.

Curiously veteran actors Troy Donahue and Cameron Mitchell cameo. Dawn Abraham as Sybil encapsulates that 1980s femme fatale permed hair appeal. Sadly, delightful Suzanne Tara’s Jaimy Danton is Lt. Thornton’s (Fritz Matthews, also stunt co-ordinator sporting sunglasses) and Hogan’s (David Campbell) fodder.

The amazing thing about Deadly Prey is that it takes itself totally seriously, containing themes war, mercenaries, rape, Vietnam, survival to name a few. Ho
wever, there’s no getting away from the straight to video limitations which comes with the sound, special effects, acting, editing and all the script trappings you’d expect.

All it faults side, it is possibly the greatest piece of ridiculous entertaining fluff ever made and is truly one of those guilty pleasures. It really is so bad it’s good. Prior’s screenplay and Richard Connell’s story is actually quite good and like his Lost Platoon concept has inspired other film makers. What’s notable and arguably a narrative accident is its nihilistic tone, the end is bravely down beat cancelling out its own hammy existence.

Deadly Prey really is the epitome of an ’80s action flick I remember. The VHS should be placed in a museum for historic and cultural interest. It’s a must see, possibly the worst, yet, best crossbreed action film ever made.