Posts Tagged ‘film reviews’

I’m not a critic just a film fan, I love many b-films, even z-films which says a lot.
However, what drives me all Jack Nicholson is when films are well advertised almost pushed and are poor. Sometimes to a point where their marketing budget unjustly is more than the film. Which is fine if they’re good but what about when they are not so good.
Making films is hard work and a stressful process – no one goes out to make a bad film (do they?) and there’s nothing worse than your baby getting panned – it’s happened to myself. What’s annoying though is when people comment your work without even seeing it now that’s a Penn and Teller/ Dynamo trick that anyone would be impressed with. Why comment on something before you’ve seen it? I’ll never understand that.
I like to share my thoughts and my opinions any they may not be right or the definitive they are just my view. You should experience a film for yourself the world is full of Marmite lovers. In any case here are my thoughts on two horror films I had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing… If you’ve seen them what did you think?
Shark Night 3D (2011)
A weekend at a lake house turns into a nightmare for seven stereotype young vacationers as they are subjected to shark attacks, but its not only the sharks they need to worry about.
There’s some good effects and action set ups but Shark Night is poorly scripted, with an equally poor storyline that compared to Scooby-Doo makes it look like The Usual Suspects. It is certainly is a no brainer but if you want to see girls in bikini’s there’s more suitable places to get your fix or if you must even watch Piranha (2010). There’s really not much more to say about this clunker.
While slightly better in the production department compared to DTV films the whole film sinks of yesterdays fish which is odd considering its is the same director of entertaining The Final Destination (2009) and Cellular (2004) to name a few. It’s a shame as everyone loves a good shark film but this just isn’t one.
The Devil Inside (2012)
A daughter becomes involved in a series of exorcisms while trying to discover what happened during her own mothers exorcism.
Opening with some video news story of a police investigation showing three murders it quickly moves to present day. The Devil Inside is another supposed documentary footage film with some good sound design and few jump scares. However that’s about it. Unfortunately the format and story has been done so many times it’s become tiring and this is in the league of The Amityville Haunting (2011) as appose to Paranormal Activity 3 (2011), Rec (2007) or even The Last Exorcism (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011).
As a side note you may want to bring a pen with you for the ending, although it wont help wrap things up when you’ve viewed the site. As with the Fourth Kind (2009) you know it’s not real so it feels pointless to follow bread crumbs as it can’t create that willing suspension of disbelief.
Overall not bad for documentary type fiction but its just not that great when compared to the abundance of others out there.
Actual found footage that documents the horrifying experience of a family that moved into the infamous Amityville haunted house.
Opening with words in “1974” blah, blah “Defoe murdered his family”, blah,”Lutz” blah, “32 years later”, blah blah “what you’re about to see is real”. Then an aeroplane blonde graces the screen under torch light. After quick bloody death, your taken to the POV of a budding mini Steven Spielberg as he films his family.

It’s indicative of Paranormal Activity, the recent Grave Encounters and countless found footage films. With security camera’s installed it’s all be done and at one point it becomes a found footage within a found footage film.
Both female leads are effective enough, it’s not an awful film, the acting is at times naturalistic but the issue is that this style of horror has already been done and done better with more imagination. Every line is a cliché , opening doors, accidental deaths, the wife that doesn’t want to live in the house, no one believes the children, spook- less dark images, moving objects and so on.

At the midway mark as the ‘boyfriend’ vanishes and the police turn up you can help role your eyes as the acting and script take a turn for the worse. The son becomes annoying due to the unnecessary explanatory dialogue and the father goes laughable loopy as he goes head to head with the entity. There are a few moments in the closing scenes where director Geoff Meed slightly redeems the film but it’s too little too late.

The problem with The Amityville Haunting is that it perpetrates to be real and pushes the fact right to the end but nothing feels credible. The sound design is pretty effective if somewhat miss-placed missing the mark at times.
Overall, less effective than the Paranormal Activity series, clearly not much has improved since The Blair Witch Project.
Lance Preston and the crew of ‘Grave Encounters’, a ghost-hunting reality television show find what they’ve been searching for but is the public is public ready to see the horror they’ve encountered.
A missing episode of lost footage directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is probably best described as a mix of UK’s Most Haunted, USA’s Ghost Hunters (T.A.P.S) and Ghost Adventures although it’s shows what many have been wanting to see for series’. There’s poltergeist activity, ghosts and ghouls .

Actor Sean Rogerson’s Lance is almost a parody of Zak Bagans real life presenter of Ghost Adventures. And does an adequate job of carrying the show within a film. The support cast are great intentionally or unintentionally and are as annoying as these co-presenters/investigators in the real shows themselves.
It uses hand-held and static cameras mirroring the aforementioned Television programmes with a splash of colour and night vision for good authentic measure.

As the investigators night proceeds it gets more jumpy and intense with some slick visual effects. Although it never quite makes sense why these ghosts can’t pass through walls and prefer to bang on doors.
It’s better directed and executed than the mass of copycat films that have tried to capture the spirit of these reality investigations. Grave Encounters delivers plenty of chills especially if you are a fan of these paranormal TV shows.
The House on Haunted Hill remake closing aside overall it’s more fun than the Paranormal Activities trilogy but ultimately is simply an extended uber-version of the shows it’s emulating.
With Halloween closing in I covered the Halloween films that featured Donald Pleasence in the Pleasence years. Take a look at 1,2,4,5 and 6 Here. Again skiping Halloween III: Season of the Witch as it’s a stand alone story I thought it would be intresting to cover Jamie Lee Curtis’ return, demise and founder of heavy metal band White Zombie -Rob Zombie’s remakes.
 
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

 

20 years after the events of Halloween killings Michael Myers sets out to complete his unfinished job and kill his sister once and for all.

 

The most appealing thing about Halloween 20 Years Later is its very title and Robert Zappia’s story concept itself especially as it features the return of Laurie Strode, the heroine that started the series. It’s no secret that this instalment disregards parts 4, 5, 6 and has no tie to 3. Although it side steps the aforementioned and by default Donald Pleasence’s work, he’s there as Sam Loomis in spirit in newspaper clippings and Nancy Stephens reprises her role as his assistant Nurse Chambers.


 

It takes the action from Haddonfield placing it in a private school giving the film a different feel. Even though Laurie Strode has assumed a new identity, Keri Tate, she is still haunted by previous events unwittingly passing on her fear to her son played lethargically by Josh Hartnett.

 

Gone is the grittiness of the first and second Halloween, it’s sleeker and leaner, both in production design and direction. That said, it does feel set like at times, losing its on location feel synonymous with many of the other films. When Jamie Lee Curtis is on screen the film has weight and emotion but outside that it plays against the genre ‘rules’ with false scares, red-herrings and quip dialogue reminiscent of the Scream series courtesy of writers Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg.

 

 


Note worthy is Adam Arkin playing Strode’s boyfriend and LL Cool J is fine as the security guard although arguably too humorous. The rest of the supporting cast are Myers fodder. There’s a nod to Psycho with a cameo by Janet Leigh real life mother of Jamie. Chris Durand’s take on the Michael/Shape is realised well, he’s both menacing yet oddly vulnerable this coupled with Curtis performance holds the film together. Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty much faultless as a troubled individual and over concerned mother.

 

 

Director Steve Miner gives an eerie edge at times with reflections, Strode’s visions and the vanishing Shape. Miner creates some interesting set pieces, Strode hiding in the chapel like hall, confronting Michael in the kitchen and the van crash. Although the kills throughout are nerve racking and well executed with good effects it also feels glossy and staged. This may possibly be due to so many slasher films over the years numbing audiences to the blood and violence.

 

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

 

A group of students win a competition to spend a night in the house of killer Michael Myers while it’s broadcast on an Internet. However, Michael is living in a below his childhood house and the killings begin.

 

 

Continuing the continuity of H20, Resurrection takes the viewer back to Haddonfield. Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal returns with a run of the mill horror affair. It looks good and is slickly edited but disappointingly suffers from the horror trend of the day. In the vein of Scream, it has smart talking characters, packed witty quips and answers it also borrows from ogles of video feed footage horror films.

 

Busta Rhymes puts in a surprisingly entertaining performance as Freddie Harris who goes head to head with Michael, this time played by stuntman Brad Loree. Tyra Banks character Nora is a copycat Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers and gets little screen time. Like H20 the rest of the cast are just characters cut out from countless other films and meat for Michael to dispose of. The strong dark opening with Jamie Lee Curtis’ cameo is probably the most interesting and satisfying part of the film.

 

 

While trying to appeal to the teen film goers, it becomes the trend instead of setting it, this dilutes the scare horror factor that made Halloween successful.

 

As a plain slasher it’s an adequate ride, but lacks any of the previous Halloween magic including horror and fear.

 

Halloween (2007)

 

After being committed for 17 years in a mental institution, Michael Myers escapes and immediately returns to his hometown of Haddonfield where he begins a series of killings.

 

Despite how die-hard fans feel about giving Michael a background reasoning for his actions and departing from Carpenters scary unfounded killing motivations director Rob Zombie has chosen to include lengthy scenes of Michael as a young boy. This gives weight and credence to the character, Michael’s killing of animals, family and school issues follow a realistic progression mirroring real life serial killers. It’s clear that Zombie put some effort into the screenplays back story and its conception.

 

The characters have more shades of grey than its original counterpart. What Zombie does successfully is bring the fear factor back while constructing and surpassing the grittiness of the first. That said, as the perfect suburb setting is gone and the unsavoury world created by Zombie has a lesser contrast to the murderous Michael. In essence it’s a dark hopeless world that Michael already resides in, as oppose to the quintessential small town in the original that he assaults upsetting the calm balance.

Without drawing comparisons to the original the cast is very good, although very unlikable. Malcolm McDowell gives depth to Dr. Samuel Loomis and notable is Tyler Mane’s imposing and physical Michael Myers. There’s a lot of shock for shock values sake dialogue in Zombie’s screenplay similar to Devils Rejects. Some of what he puts on screen is gory and disturbing. There are many nods to the original and the inclusion of Danielle Harris from part 4 and 5 is appealing.

 

Overall, Zombie has made the film his own visually and retains the essence of Halloween, but arguably it’s an unnecessary remake. Halloween 2007 caters for Zombie fans and is only really appealing to those who are admirers of Rob Zombies harsh and unforgiving work.

 

Halloween II (2009)

 

Laurie Strode left mentally-traumatized after the Halloween day massacre finds herself dreading the one-year anniversary of the killings, unbeknownst to her Michael Myers sets about to finish what he started.

 

Writer director Rob Zombie returns with his trademark style. There’s more vulgar dialogue, violence and mayhem. But this time it’s all the more gritty, graphic and brutal. Zombie departs from the structure in original Halloween II and very little is set in a hospital. It isn’t a remake at all and Zombie takes it into a different direction.

Dr. Loomis has changed significantly hungry for notoriety, Laurie is has become an unhinged oddball and Michael a long haired homeless man who pops on a mask now and again. Michaels Mask is synonymous with Halloween and taking it away at times is like removing Freddy’s glove. Tyler Mane is not doubt menacing and makes a great Myers.

 

There are plenty of kills but like Zombie’s Halloween, there’s just nothing to like, especially the character of Laurie Strode. It’s not actress Scout Taylor Compton fault either, to Compton’s credit and the casting director she’s refreshing non Hollywood looking, its Zombie’s alienating screenplay that’s the issue. Oddly the visions of Michael’s dead mother played by Sherri Moon are the most interesting scenes of the film even if feeling somewhat misplaced.

 

As a grungy bizarre serial killer film Halloween 2 may appeal but as a Halloween movie it falls short of meeting expectations even more so than its predecessor. This leave the future of the Halloween series on a knife edge.
 

With the film already released in the UK last year I though I’d share my thoughts on Devil’s Playground prior to it’s American State-Side release 11th October.
The world succumbs to a viral/zombie apocalypse as group of Londoners try their best to survive and are torn to protect one person that holds the cure. (Sounds suspiciously like the plot to Dead Pulse)

Mark McQueen’s direction is more than sufficient and effective coupled with ominous lighting, realistic settings and great special effects. While the ‘zombie’ supporting cast are worthy of note and the make up well designed, the free running style infected is unnecessary and distracting.
Brit actor Craig Fairbrass (Cliff Hanger) gives a typical performance as hard-man Cole. The rest of the cast are adequate, notably MyAnna Buring, but there’s not enough meat on Bart Ruspoli’s script or character development keep them busy to show any talent. The flawless Jaime Murray is sadly wasted with a little amount of screen time and even cockney favourite Danny Dyer the diamond geezer doesn’t get enough to say.
If you must draw comparisons, it’s pale against the likes of 28 days later or Dawn of Dead (2004). But to its credit Devil has a crisp atmosphere and eerie London setting.
Overall, generic, yet, a lot more watchable and entertaining than many of the DTV zombie/virus flicks that are being churned out.
Taking some horror time out, what seems like a long, long time ago I opened up my Star Wars Blu–ray Saga set expecting a cardboard fold out like the Alien set, however, I was surprised to find them (the UK release at least) stacked like a book of blue plastic. From the off I should state it’s not the originals it’s the reworked 2004 with ‘some’ tweaks.
There’s some nice are work on each of the discs and as a bonus behind a little booklet with some more nice artwork I found concealed a Limited Edition Sentiype that contains a unique 35mm film. The film frame is mounted on postcard (right) that features the artwork from the Star Wars Blu-ray box. The Senitype is numbered for authenticity. A nice surprise as I didn’t realise it came with the set that was ordered.
Limited Edition Sentiype
The biggest problem with the set is not the 2004 updated effects (hated by diehard fan boys of the original) still light-years better than the 1997 release. But the real dilemma is which do you watch first? IV- VI then I-III. Mix it up a little as flash backs and forwards watching I,IV,II, V and so on or watching the documentaries first then the films. Oh my I am a Star Wars geek after all.
The menus look great and the bonus discs are broken up into films and sections, with headings – Hoth, Tatoonie, Endor and so on. Make sure you push left on the remote as it’s easy to think there’s no more, but the menus revolve round revealing more sections. In those sections are the deleted scenes, concept galleries, documentaries and so forth.
Even though there are three discs of extras what I would say is hold on to your original DVD’s if you have them and are a fan of extras as not everything has been shifted over. The Blu-ray is not a definitive collection which is a shame given that the majority of extras are of standard DVD quality. I don’t think it would have hurt to slap everything on.
The package
The first bonus disc covers I Phantom Menace – III Revenge of the Sith, the second New Hope – VI Return of the Jedi and the third disc includes spoofs, a 2010 doc about Empire, Dewbacks and more. Interviews are short and end abruptly. In the Star Wars there’s a handful of deleted interesting scenes including Biggs and an unknown male and female with Luke debatably drunk. You can’t help feel sorry for those actors in the deleted takes who may have gone onto do other things if they’d been included. There’s a very short snippet of an old woman on a dusty road and black a white rough cut of the Cantina that includes Han kissing a woman. If included this would have added three more women to George’s at the time predominantly male world of Star Wars.
There’s a lot of new stuff notably the aforementioned Empire documentary with Lucas, Kasdan and Kershner (R.I.P) , the fly through the Lucas ranch and archives are quite insightful. There are tones of documentaries that give you a broad insight into the making of the Saga over the three discs.
In any case I waited for the sun to go down to avoid glare on the screen and popping in Star Wars I got quite excited. The picture is great and new details are uncovered that could not been seen in other formats. Jabba still looks odd but sits into the scene better and to be honest his inclusion solidifies Hans motivation to leave in the final act. The Han who shoot’s first is corrected and doesn’t look out of place. There’s some new changes to this Blu-Ray notably R2-D2 hiding further behind newly inserted rocks, Obi-Wan’s Krayt Dragon call and some audio changes in the Yavin battle – none of which spoil the fun.
R2-D2 change
However, picture wise the Tatooine scenes are a mixed bag and a good as can be expected but Star Wars really kicks into eye-popping gear on the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star with vibrant colour, great depth and contrast. There are still some inconsistencieswhen Luke is using the lightsaber but the training laser ball now looks spot on. You notice how worn and dirty the Falcon is dispelling that everything is glossy in the world of Lucas. That said, the Death Star is pristine, reflections on the board table, shinny floors, glowing and flashing lights. The scene with old Ben switching of the tractor-beam, humming noises and green lighting are humbly exceptional. As too is the duel the lightsabers now corrected. The whole rescue to the final explosion has never looked so good, probably better than in 1977 theatre.

Watching Star Wars on Blu-ray felt fresh, it took me off autopilot, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the dialouge and action along with my children and enjoying Star Wars a lot more than I had in a long time. For some reason Star Wars had turned into a journey that you do so often you can’t remember the journey itself and Blu-ray injected something new. (and I’m not a Lucas film employee!)
Biggs where are the women?
The best thing is that my children want to watch them and I’m sure that their children and their children’s children will too. Despite the changes to Star Wars it has never looked so good and until something better than Blu-ray comes along this is it geeks.
Now I just have to decide which one to watch again next.

There’s an easter egg of sorts. ‘easy to miss. It’s a Boba Fett cartoon from the ‘Holiday Special’
1. Go to Disc 8, Episode V
2. Go to Pursued By The Imperial Fleet
3. Go to Collection
4. Go to Boba Fett Prototype Costume
5. Watch “First Look”

Watching the Boba Fett cartoon from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s clear that when Lucas said he’d changed the original trilogy editions because he couldn’t do things at the time and had always intended the additions he wasn’t doing a Pinocchio. For example, the flying searching droids that aid the Stormtroopers which appear in the special editions are also are present in the 1978 cartoon. Conforming that Lucas wasn’t just adding things on a whim. Kudos to the beard.

Picture notes:

Phantom Menace – while the picture quality is adequate it lacks clarity especially in some shots on Tatoonie. New CGI Yoda looks impressive, with a tone and look more true to Empire than what’s offered in still the excellent incarnation in II and III. (As a side note in the Naboo forest and in the desert Ewan still looks particularly odd with his ever changing hair and weight.)

Attack of the Clones – fairs a lot better than PM but at times the effects around the live characters leave a glowing blur.

Revenge of the Sith – excellent clarity, it looks the crispest of the bunch most likely due to lessons learned on the first two and that it was shot digitally.

New Hope – as mentioned Tatoonie segments differ from shot to shot but is excellent while in space. Music queues and sound are fantastic.

Empire Strikes back – as well as can be expected. Details are brought out for the first time.

Return of the Jedi – oddly the worst of the of the bunch, some scenes look mucky with a lot of noise that lack clarity. That’s said, the briefing scene amongst others look really good.

Founded in 1934, Hammer Film Productions is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s – notably a series of Dracula films that started in 1959 featuring Christopher Lee.
Although one of my favorites Hammer films is Countess Dracula (1971) many of earlier Hammer films were quiet formulaic and as well as Dracula included other iconic horror characters, The Mummy (1959) The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). That said Hammer produced a variety of other sub-genre films and in later years TV series. During its most successful years Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and financial success.
But all good things come to an end… Due to the saturation of the horror market by competitors and the loss of some international funding it forced changes to the Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and in 2000 the studio was bought by a consortium with the company announcing plans to begin making films again, however none were produced.
In May 2007, the company was sold again and new owners announced plans to spend money on new horror films and did with a bang. Their hit success Let me In (2010) was a remake of Let the Right One In and due to the source material and the movie template already set Let me In arguably couldn’t fail.
Regardless of Hammers ups and downs their films contain a unique charm and atmosphere with iconic imagery that you can’t help retain. Here are few thoughts on Hammer’s The Resident (2010) and Wake Wood (2011 film). No doubt I’ll update this with The Woman in Black (2011) their most recent production soon.

The Resident (2010)

Dr. Juliet Devereau rents an apartment in New York, large and affordable, but the owner Max begins to want more than just rent.

Director Antti Jokinen doesn’t glamorise New York showing the older side of the city and keeps things moving with plenty of cuts and naturalistic lighting. The music adds some tension to the on screen proceedings to what is essentially a stalker/ voyeur thriller.
The cast includes a seasoned and accomplished cast including Hilary Swank, Christopher Lee as the creepy building owner August and his son Max played excellently by Watchmen’s (2009) Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan is first rate as the deranged obsessive weirdo and the casting of Swank as Devereau avoids the teen slasher cliché. Amougnst the spy-holes, secret doors and cavity walkways of the apartment it’s great to see Lee in a contemporary role albeit small.
Anyone familiar with Single White Female (1992) or Pacific Heights (1990) will have an inkling what their in for. The Resident is a small tight thriller that has few surprises, yet, it’s keeps you watching due to Swank’s allure, the simplistic premise and Morgan’s craziness.
Overall, nothing new, but maybe disturbing for many due to themes of intrusion and privacy being violated.
As a fan of Hammer horror, with a few of their many films being a spiritual inspiration for my book Blood Hunger, Hammer sent me a brand new copy and I thought it rude not to say a few words on the iconic studios latest offering Wake Wood...

Blood Hunger

Following the unnecessary, yet excellent remake Let me in Hammer returns with Wake Wood a supernatural chiller in which a child is brought back from the dead to comfort her parents for three days. But she’s not quite the angelic child she was.

Eva Birthistle plays the grieving mother Louise and Twelve Rounds (2009) bad guy Adian Gillen is exceptional as the deceased child’s father. Reliable Timothy Spall and the child actress are notable and the supporting cast are solid.
There’s some effective bloody gore, grizzly births, severed spines, dog attacks and killings. Some supernatural elements take place out of shot to avoid the use of CGI, which adds to the believability and saves the budget.
Wake Wood is dark, damp and dreary just as it should be. Nevertheless, it is slightly stifled by a filmed for TV look. That aside, with a small budget director David Keating keeps the blood flowing and the pace going. It benefits in plausibility and atmosphere with an on location shoot. There’s plenty of shadows, eerie music, sharp editing and a grounded screen-play (by Brendan McCarthy) to keep you watching with a grin that Hammer may have a place in this century.

Wake Wood [Blu-ray]

With elements of Don’t Look Now, Case 39, Carrie, The Wicker Man and Pet Cemetery to name a few you could argue it’s all be done before and better. However, Wake Wood’s great ending debatably leaves you thinking sometimes less is more.

I watched alien comedy Paul (2011) recently which got me thinking about E.T (1982), where my dad would make me wear his Parker, hold a torch and say “phone home” – those warm a fuzzy days eh. It got me thinking about alien films in general. There’s been some turkeys recently The Fourth Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) to name just two. I’m a sucker for alien invasion films, call me a geek (but it’s hardly surprising coming from the guy who still recall the lyrics to the 60’s Iron-Man and Captain America cartoon theme tunes,the re-runs). I must say I wasn’t a fan of Independence Day (1996) or Men In Black (1997) maybe it’s that watered down/appease the masses/play it safe middle of the road stuff that entertains but doesn’t excite or entice. Whereas Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (1996) was all out dark comedy and Invasion of the Body Snatchers tackles the subject ominously sober for me it’s those films that are just more appealing.
Check out the Cellulord’s blog where he wonderfully breaks those Invaders down into five sub-genres.
Here’ a few thoughts on those mass invasion stories that you may have missed or simply avoided from various reasons.
Battle: Los AngelesBattle: Los Angeles (2011)
A platoon of U.S. Marines during a global alien invasion try to stay alive and take hold of Los Angeles while extracting a group of innocent civilians.
Battle: Los Angeles shares of much of the look and relentless extraterrestrial attack of Skyline (2010). However, where Skyline portrayed it from civilian point to view this is very much a story from the perspective of the Armed Forces.
Chris Bertolini’s screen-play pushes heroism and all its clichés to the limit, at times the film plays as a training or recruitment U.S. Marines video with each character needing to plug the name of every type of weapon used. Although there is a consistent overuse of a shaky handy-cam effect a credit should to go to director Jonathan Liebesman as the set ups are well covered with a feeling of geography so you never feel lost in the quick pans or sharp movements. It’s a serious stab at the subject matter and the effects are outstanding, mirroring the realism of Monsters (2010) and District 9 (2009) to name a few.
Both Ramón Rodríguez and Michelle Rodriguez are notable but it is Aaron Eckhart as a veteran SSgt. Michael Nantz who carries the most credence.
Reminiscent of Cloverfield (2008), Black Hawk Down (2001) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) – if there’s room for another alien invasion with a war element flick this will appease but if you feel you’ve seen it all before it’s probably because you have.
Overall, formulaic but still mildly entertaining.
V: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray]“V” (2009-2011)
Before Alien Nation, before Independence Day, there was V. A race of human looking extraterrestrials arrive on earth. These ‘vistors’ led by alien Anna come in peace, however, behind her smile is a sinister plan to take over the world.
The latest ‘reimagining’ of V is a competent rework of the original 80’s TV show. Despite some ropey CGI effects, the story, characters and script carry some weight, there are shades of grey, not everything is black and white… Unorthodox alliances, double crossings, morale choices and sacrifice are just some of the themes amongst a cloak and dagger alien invasion. There is action, drama and of course it’s played possibly as realistic as you can get considering it a show about lizard aliens.
Jane Badler the original female protagonist appears in season 2 as ‘Diana’ which is a nice nod for fans of the predecessor albeit as a different character with the same name. And also Marc Singer gives a cameo. Notable are actors Scott Wolf and Laura Vandervoort. Worth mentioning is Anna’s right hand man played by Morena Baccarin and tough guy Kyle Hobbes played by Charles Mesure.
Evil executives at ABC have cancelled the series after season/series 2 which is a crying shame as there were plenty of places V could have been taken with the right story writers and good characters already established such as FBI agent Erica Evans, played by Elizabeth Mitchell and Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry.
It’s said that it ends on a cliff hanger but that depends on who’s side your on, there is one winner, if no more are made… Worth seeing, I’ll now finish this sentence as abruptly as ABC’s cancellation.
MonstersMonsters (2010)
For six years large aliens have been on earth and inhabit the ‘infected zone’ between the US and Mexico border. After a monster destroys a hotel the daughter of an executive is injured and under instruction from his boss a photographer must ensure she gets back to the US. However, after a series of events it becomes more difficult than expected and they both must journey through the infected zone.
Début leads Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy are impeccably first-rate and would put any A-lister to shame. Any lesser casting could have ruined the film but the realistic portrayal they deliver, packed with emotion is easy to relate to, it’s surprising how they command the screen and keep you enthralled. The rest of the uncredited cast are exceptional and everything is played for realism. Note worthy is the ticket selling desk clerk.
The dreamlike score is fantastic, Jon Hopkins’ beats and hums capture and heighten the moments – it’s very memorable, reminiscent of John Murphy’s 28 weeks later subtler moments.
Credit must go to director/writer Gareth Edwards for the fantastic subtle script, great locations and fantastically executed effects. Whether intentional or not there’s plenty of social commentary, political values and society reflective parallels going on but those aside Monsters is a journey of two people finding themselves.
At first I was expecting another War of the Worlds rehash, District 9, a grounded version of ID4, or even a better version of Skyline but what I got was a journey story with aliens as the back drop. If only Jurassic Park could have been filmed in this style. Monsters took me by surprise, I didn’t expect it to be such a wonderful film.
Gareth Edwards is certainly a multi-talented individual and not one to watch – as he’s already there. Immersible cinema.
SkylineSkyline (2010)
Stop me if you heard this before. Aliens invade earth and a handful of survivors try to escape their impending deaths. It’s another War of the Worlds-esque invasion flick and what’s nice about this is that it’s played straight with no comedic one-liners and there’s not a teenager in sight.
Directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause are no strangers to special effects after bringing to life the Predators and Aliens in AVPR (2007) and the rest of the team behind Skyline’s extraterrestrials are clearly talented making the best out of a budget. It’s visually wonderful, the special effects are fantastic. Nevertheless, Aliens (1986) designers and suit wearers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. creature designs appear to be an unoriginal mix of The Fly, Independence Day, Cloverfield and The Matrix.
The acting is above average and the leads including Eric Balour and Brittany Daniel carry the emotion well. David Zayas is notable but his screen time is limited. That said, the script lacks enough meaty dialogue to keep you enthralled and you find yourself waiting for more glimpses and shenanigans of the alien invaders.
Overall, it looks great but it fails to connect and grip you. The Brothers Strause will hit gold but Skyline just isn’t it.
They Live Poster Movie 11x17 Roddy Piper Keith David Meg Foster George "Buck" FlowerThey Live (1988)
Humanlike, skeleton looking, extraterrestrial’s have taken over the Earth and walk among us, but are cloaked by a transmitter that makes ‘them’ appear like us. A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see what is being hidden.
Halloween’s (1978) horror legend writer/director John Carpenter does his best with a limited budget. The film for the most part has an urban realistic look, due to the on location shots, however, at times it appears very cheap and lacks the production values of The Thing (1982) or The Fog (1980). In true Carpenter tradition there’s a heart pumping and relentless score.
Amongst all the 80’s cheese there is a fantastic story based on Ray Nelson’s short story. They Live themes reflects consumerism, class and corruption to name a few. Underneath, Carpenter’s bland screenplay lay a fear that we are not in control and our society is led by ‘them’, echoing Invasion of the Body Snatchers and ‘V’. To join them would be to give I and we would benefit but we’ll pay a greater price. They Live is high concept sci-fi with great ideas, the sunglasses touch is genius, that’s original and allows some great visuals and interesting moments. There’s also the intriguing secret society aspect and space travel.
Suffering from the 80’s macho testerone Roddy Piper is entertaining as the lead but he’s no great actor, lucky there’s the likes of Meg Foster and Keith David to gives the film some weight and there are some good performances from the supporting cast.
Carpenter though a simple story immerses the viewer in the conspiracy and connects us with the heroes search for the truth which has a fantastic, un-Hollywood brave and downbeat ending. In addition, the effects are of the time but are still effective, there are some stand out set-ups, the supermarket, the underground segment and the discovery of the sunglasses. I’m hesitant to use the word, but They Live is cool.
With so many remakes in recent years They Live would benefit from a serious and heavier version. That said, taken at face value it’s a great fun ride, with one-liners, action and aliens.
The InvasionThe Invasion (2007)
An alien lifeform crashes to Earth, spreading tainted debris this in turn infects people bringing them under the invaders control.
Remake of remakes and based on Jack Finney novel, thankfully The Invasion borrows more from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and as a plus doesn’t try to recreate its daring chilling ending, coming up with its own penultimate finish.
The supporting cast are great and include ’78’s Veronica Cartwright. It is a fine cast ensemble that reunites Jeffrey Wright and Daniel Craig in two effective roles as they help Carol Bennell played by Nicole Kidman find her son and stop a virus that is turning humans into ‘perfect’ emotionless shells of themselves.
Already off to a head start, based on such excellent source material director Oliver Hirschbiegel brings David Kajganich interesting screenplay to life. It’s subtle at times but injects plenty of foot and car chases. The on location shooting sells the tension as you see the city’s people change. Make up effect are fantastic and not too overboard. The good use of lighting, camera angels backed up with a nail biting score helps to heightening the paranoia as everyone Bennell knows becomes one of ‘them.’
Kidman’s endless supply of unnecessary fitted clothing and botox aside, she gives a good performance and despite some surprisingly already dated effects shots of microscopic virus the film is well crafted.
Overall, if not compared to its predecessors, The Invasion ticks all the boxes as a retelling of a character driven, sharp, thrilling sci-fi.
John Carpenter's The Thing - Movie Poster (Size: 24" x 36")The Thing (1982)
After being freed from its ancient crash site an extraterrestrial life form infiltrates an Antarctic research station, imitating taking the appearance of the researchers that it kills.
An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I’ll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it’s own and is very different from its 50’s counterpart.
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It’s a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone’s haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston’s benchmark practical effects (which are to-date arguably unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It’s rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a ‘monster’ hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it’s a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.
Most have seen a James Bond film, most have a favourite James Bond actor, rule of thumb used to be a nostalgic whoever you grew up with was regarded your best.
 
While Roger Moore is best known for his UNICEF work, The Saint, The Persuaders and James Bond, for the record my favourite Moore film is The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970). It’s about a man who has an accident to find he has a less unsavoury doppelganger or is it just a case of a split personality. Oddly, similar to Moore’s Bond – on one hand you have the tough spy and on the other a tongue and cheek persona, (excluding Brosnan’s Die Another Day) Bond actors have been consistent in there outings, however, Moore’s have been grounded to outlandish. Maybe this is a testament to Rogers abilities as an actor and flexibility, and/or an acceptance of the material.
 
Here are a few thoughts on Rogers finest and lets say middle-of-the-road outings as Ian Flemings (with a raised eyebrow) Bond, James Bond.
 
Live and Let Die (1973)
 
007 is sent on a mission to stop a heroin drug baron Kananga and smack dealer Mr.Big but after a chance encounter he also finds himself in a race against time to rescue a young and beautiful tarot card reader.
Albeit Roger Moore’s first outing he’s slips right into the role of James Bond effortlessly, in retrospect it a shame they omitted to some of Bond’s earlier trademarks, there’s no Martini, no hat and no cigarettes. Felix Leiter appears and has a few one liners. As a side note the same actor (David Hedison) would return in Licence to Kill (1989) which incidentally shares many themes with Live and Let Die.
There are many stand out scenes notably Bond using crocodiles as stepping stones, his home briefing by M, the train fight with metal armed henchman and boat chase with Moore clearly visible in the action in a few places. Yaphet Kotto’s Kananga is one of the more grounded villains (possibly inspired by real life Gangsters “Nicky” Barnes and certainly Frank Lucas) and gives an emotional underrated performance. Jane Seymour is sufficient as Solitaire but hasn’t the screen presence of previous Bond girls, coming across weak in places, something that her older self would have execute with ease.
 
There’s a handful of memorable supporting characters, Baron Samedi, Tee Hee and Sheriff J.W. Pepper who has some genuinely humorous lines (and is much less annoying here than in 1974’s follow up The Man with the Golden Gun).
 
George Martin’s score replicates the traditional theme tunes while incorporating Wings original music from the title theme song adding to the atmosphere. It’s packed with stunts and action synonymous with the James Bond films. Live and Let Die even with it’s voodoo shenanigans and baddie lair is one of the grittier, evenly paced and rounded of the instalments.
The real locations, plausible drug cartel story line and Moore’s Bond give it lasting appeal. Recommended.
 
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
 
James Bond is sent to retrieve the Solex Agitator device— which pits him against expert assassin Scaramanga also known as the Man with the Golden Gun.
 
Amongst the usual clichés synonymous with Bond, director Guy Hamilton delivers some interesting visuals and great moments usually between Scaramanga played wonderfully reserved and refined by Christopher Lee and Roger Moore’s comfortable looking 007, these few scenes touch on what they stand for, and give the characters deeper meaning. However, Writer Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz move away from the grit of Live and Let Die, and give at times a caricature version of Connery outings, this feels as cartoonie as Diamonds are Forever and Golden Gun feels as if it’s taking a step back.
 
While lustre at times with great Asian locations, it also feels cheap and not fully realised, the ‘fun house’, karate scenes for example, possible due to the off screen problems plaguing the franchise at the time. This coupled with an anti-climatic showdown and conclusions on conclusion leaves you unfulfilled. That said, there’s lots to like, ground breaking stunts, including an amazing 360 degree car spin over a broken bridge that executed so perfect it almost looks like a miniature, which it isn’t. The famous stunt is sadly cheapened by an added sound effect. There’s a fitting score, a fast paced boat chase (where Roger Moore is clearly visible) fantastic aeriel shots and of course the wordplay between Bond and Scaramanga.
 
M, Q and MoneyPenny are present, there’s fewer gadgets. Britt Ekland as Agent Mary Goodnight is at her peak and notable is Hervé Villechaize as memorable Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s manservant and accomplice.
 
Nevertheless, Maud Adams steals the show as the ill-fated Bond Girl and Scaramanga’s mistress who perfectly draws you in emotionally.
 
Ekland’s character Goodnight possibly sums up The Man With the Golden gun -looks great, tries too hard and comes across clumsy at times. Still there’s nothing better than a film with two James Bonds even if one is a waxwork. And a villain more charming and dangerous than Bond himself.
 
 
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
 
A megalomaniac named Stromberg plans to destroy the world and create a new civilisation. British Mi6 agent James Bond teams up with a Russian agent Anya Amasova to stop him.
 
Quintsessential Bond that encapsulates adventure, fantasy and excitement. A strong score, cast and storyline help Roger Moore’s 1977 outing sidestep other Bond shadows with a fine script that feels more suited for Moore’s gentleman killer spy.
 
Barbara Bach while distant (possibly due to her steely character Anya) is a fine Bond girl addition who is given more purpose and motivation. Strongburg is played perfectly by Curd Jürgens who portrays the ultimate antagonist.
 
The locations are interesting, acting as a fitting background, the Egypt segments are particularly atmospheric and well filmed, veteran director Lewis Gilbert deserves credit for crafting such a lavish 007 adventure to the screen. As expected Ken Adams sets are superb, the effects, miniatures and stunts are outstanding, notably the Pre title ski jump. Maurice Binder’s titillating titles are a highlight coupled with the wonderful theme tune.
 
Debatably Spy has the best James Bond score (composed by Marvin Hamlisch) to complement the action and emotion. The sound design is bold at times, fitting and also not afraid to be silent. With Bond girls galore, celebrated series characters are all present- KGB Head, M, Q and Miss Moneypenny. All are reliable as ever putting in great performances and Jaws has his debut.
While not the most serious or hard hitting in the franchise, this instalment is the most fulfilling and entertaining. It’s a captivating experience with a wide audience appeal catering for young and old.
 
Its a spectacle, sharks, gadgets, underwater cars and hideouts, submarines, helicopters, henchmen with metal teeth and a fight on a train, it’s Moore’s Bond at his most balanced and best.
Extraordinary, a must see.
 
Moonraker (1979)
With loads of Bond girls Roger Moore returns with a tongue and cheek James Bond that is even more so prevalent in this entry.
 
Lead and strong Bond girl Lois Chiles as Dr. Holly Goodhead is more than sufficient and Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax is perfect. Calm, charming and debatably one of the best Bond bad guys.
 
The stunts are fantastic but the stunt doubles are usually so unlike the leads it takes you out of the moment particularly in Moonrakers case. There’s excellent sets, a great Barry score but the film has too many comedy moments and although the first half is not bad as soon as Bond goes into space it loses it’s way and the great special effects are wasted due to its outlandish laser beam driven ending that feels removed from what 007 is all about. This coupled with too many unsubtle nods to other movies hampers its enjoyment which is a shame for such a successful franchise.
 
It’s fun fast food Bond that overall fails to mix two genres and just cashes in on what was hot at the time. In this case science fiction and cash in it did, surprisingly becoming a smash hit in 1979.
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War spy games. Bond is looking for a missile command system known as the ATAC aided by a Greek out for revenge.
 
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
 
Despite Moonraker’s (1979) success it was a Bond and Buck Rogers mash up, thankfully For your Eyes Only is a more serious instalment. An elaborate villainous lair is not missed, that said, this entry is less extraordinary compared to the rounded and highly enjoyable Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
 
James Bond is once again played by Roger Moore, the opening scene closes a chapter on his wife’s death setting a serious tone for Moore’s performance and the rest of the movie. There’s less gadgets and while the steelier Bond is welcomed with the ending subtle and poignant, Bond girl Carole Bouquet (once the ‘face’ of Chanel) is less than stirring, mainly due to her lack of dialogue.
 
Bond bad guy Kristatos played by Indiana Jones and Star Wars actor Julian Glover is bland and forgettable, lacking weight especially when compared to other serious Bond outing villains like Kananga and Licence to Kill’s Sanchez or more recently Dominic Greene to name a few. Luckily co-star Topol as Columbo is there to inject life on to the screen with Lynn-Holly Johnson albeit a little annoying as Bibi. Both are good fun and Charles Dance show’s up as a henchman.
 
There’s plenty of on location filming giving For your Eyes Only a more realistic feel and while the lavish sets have been played down here, customary with 007 there’s some fantastic practical stunts. The ski chase, motor bike action, cliff scaling and so on.
 
The beach fight and chase is exciting, reminiscent of O.H.M.S.S opening. Cassandra Harris and Moore’s performances in their scenes particularly stand out. Even though Bill Conti’s score is uneven, at times pure genius and other 80’s rubbish tech-no pop, John Glen’s directing, Maibaum and Wilson’s writing ensure that this entry is more spy action thriller.
 
In retrospect, despite being a relatively less inspiring Bond credit must go to For your Eyes Only for simply bringing the series back to earth and on track.
 
Octopussy (1983)
Bond is assigned to follow a general movements who is stealing jewels and relics from the Russian government. This leads him to uncover a plot that threatens to use a nuclear weapon.
 
With a great ominous opening, 009 dressed as a circus clown being hunted by twin knife-throwers Mischka and Grischka to a forgettable assault on a palace it’s a mixed bag instalment. Although the theme ‘All Time High’ is sung wonderfully by Rita Coolidge it’s also very forgettable in the context of the film. The usually John Barry score features prominently and at times his classic theme is used for parody
moments breaking that ‘4th wall’.
 
Maud Adams returns after her memorable ill-fated role in The Man with the Golden Gun as Octopussy a sort of hybrid of Pussyglore with her merry band of female accomplices’, again she proves that she is a first rate actress but is underutilised here. Louis Jourdan plays Kamal Khan
and is probably one of the best Bond villains, elegant, calm collected and menacing, his performance seems out of place as he carries a lot of weight. His efforts are marred due to this humour injected outing which includes a gorilla outfit and more 4th wall bashing with Tarzan yells, tennis match head movement/reactions. Actor playwright Steven Berkoff makes the perfect Soviet general Orlov and Kabir Bedi deserves a mention as Gobinda Khan’s bodyguard.
Q gets a larger role but Moneypenny’s screen time is limited.
 
As the film progresses Moore appears to look more lost in the proceedings. The three writers give an intricate plot that is sadly cheapened, laced throughout with gadgets of gadget sake and director John Glen sells out at times reverting to Lewis Gilbert Moonraker’s absurdity. While Moonraker was half serious with the second half outlandish, Octopussy differs from scene to scene. It begins as weighty serious adventure (like For your eyes only) but then has everything from the kitchen sink thrown in possibly to compete with rival Bond Film Never Say Never Again.
 
Synonymous with the series there’s fantastic locations, in this case wonderfully filmed India, practical stunts notably the train fight and a few great moments involving Faberge eggs.
I have a soft spot for Octopussy (as a youngster it was my favourite)and while it’s a lot of fun it never commits to one thematic tone. Overall, it’s like an Octopus tentacles going in all different directions.
 
A View to a Kill (1985)
 
A horse-racing scam leads 007 to a mad industrialist who plans to destroy California’s Silicon Valley.
 
Taking part of the title of an Ian Fleming story ‘From A View to a Kill’ (a title that would make more sense with the ‘From’). Fittingly Moore leaves on the 7th of his 007 outings as James Bond, and by A View to a Kill he had become an endearing, jovial, embarrassing uncle that you can’t help but love. That said, amongst the humour and incredible Morecambe and Wise rapport with Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, Moore gives some weight to his performance displaying genuine concern at times. Despite his age he’s clearly putting every effort into his final Bond with tension filled scenes between him and Zorin.
 
Oscar winner Christopher Walken gives a fitting cold and intimidating performance as Max Zorin. While arguably not the best Bond villain he is one of the more interesting, being a product of Nazi experimentation during World War II given extraordinarily intelligence but is also psychopathic. As a side note, should David Bowie had been cast the antagonist instead, who knows if it would have changed the dynamics or enjoyment the film.
 
Grace Jones plays Zorin’s sidekick/lover Mayday and is menacing at times with great screen presence. There are several scenes especially Zorin’s meeting with his associates that echo Bonds gone-by which make the film feel tired rather than paying homage. The supporting cast are all adequate and by this time aged Q and Moneypenny can’t put a foot wrong. In addition, pre-fame faces pop up – Alison Doody (Indiana Jonesn and the Last Crusade) and Dolph Lundgren.
 
John Glen direction is again sufficient although Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson’s gives us some cringe worthy scenes and dialogue. That aside there’s plenty of fine moments including the ‘Snowboard’ opening, rock salt shootout, burning building escape, Eiffel Tower chase and jump followed by car stunts through Paris. The finale on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a highlight (despite some now dated effects) and the mine sets are superb. One of the better theme tunes and score comes from John Barry respectably and ’80s hit makers Duran Duran.
 
Although tired, it’s a fun filled adventure that admirably closes Moore’s stint as 007 James Bond. Perfect holiday viewing.
John Carpenter: The Prince of DarknessThe American film director, John Howard Carpenter was born in New York on January 16, 1948. As well as making successful thrillers he is creator of both Science-fiction and Horror film classics.
It was Carpenter who’s Halloween character, Michael Myers spawned a franchise, and anti-hero Snake Plissken became a cult character.

John Carpenter has always been a film-making influential anomaly, a film-maker, writer producer and musician that has both box office indiefilm success and mainstream. Interchanging between them both. He’s managed to make B-films that are far from cheap, they have been high concepts with lofty production values and stories that are also thought provoking. He has stayed on the fringe of Hollywood, to ensure that his stories are portrayed the way he envisages them. While sometimes the aesthetics maybe criticised the compelling stories are always the driving force and why he’s has stood the test of time.
Of course there are many great Carpenter films including, Prince of Darkness (1987) and Escape from New York (1981) to name a few, but below are my thoughts on my personal favourites.
They Live (1988)
They Live [Blu-ray]Humanlike, skeleton looking, extraterrestrial’s have taken over the Earth and walk among us, but are cloaked by a transmitter that makes ‘them’ appear like us. A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see what is being hidden.
Halloween’s (1978) horror legend writer/director John Carpenter does his best with a limited budget. The film for the most part has an urban realistic look, due to the on location shots, however, at times it appears very cheap and lacks the production values of The Thing (1982) or The Fog (1980). In true Carpenter tradition there’s a heart pumping and relentless score.
Amongst all the 80’s cheese there is a fantastic story based on Ray Nelson’s short story. They Live themes reflects consumerism, class and corruption to name a few. Underneath, Carpenter’s bland screenplay lay a fear that we are not in control and our society is led by ‘them’, echoing Invasion of the Body Snatchers and ‘V’. To join them would be to give I and we would benefit but we’ll pay a greater price. They Live is high concept sci-fi with great ideas, the sunglasses touch is genius, that’s original and allows some great visuals and interesting moments. There’s also the intriguing secret society aspect and space travel.
Suffering from the 80’s macho testerone Roddy Piper is entertaining as the lead but he’s no great actor, lucky there’s the likes of Meg Foster and Keith David to gives the film some weight and there are some good performances from the supporting cast.
Carpenter though a simple story immerses the viewer in the conspiracy and connects us with the heroes search for the truth which has a fantastic, un-Hollywood brave and downbeat ending. In addition, the effects are of the time but are still effective, there are some stand out set-ups, the supermarket, the underground segment and the discovery of the sunglasses. I’m hesitant to use the word, but They Live is cool.
With so many remakes in recent years They Live would benefit from a serious and heavier version. That said, taken at face value it’s a great fun ride, with one-liners, action and aliens.

The Thing (1982)

 
The Thing [Blu-ray]An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I’ll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it’s own and is very different from its 50’s counterpart.
 
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It’s a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone’s haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston (dog effect) benchmark practical effects (which are unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It’s rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a ‘monster’ hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it’s a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.
The Fog (1980)
FOG (1980)A fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge on the 100th anniversary of their deaths besieges a small California seaside town. Halloween’s (1978) horror creative duo John Carpenter and Debra Hill reunite with Jamie Lee Curtis (in a smaller role) for this effective ghost tale.
Adrienne Barbeau’s character Stevie Wayne is centre to this horror chiller, even though she spends most of her time held-up in a lighthouse, transmitting her radio show. Carpenter’s The Fog is more about the story than central characters. The cast appear to get equal screen time, including Janet Leigh (Curtis’ mother) of Psycho (1960), Tom Atkins notable The Howling (1981) star and George ‘Buck’ Flower of They Live (1988) to name a few. Veteran actor Hal Holbrook gives a fine performance as the guilt-ridden priest Malone.
Despite the dated smoke machine-like fog the silent ‘zombie’ ghosts, brandishing blades, with their glowing eyes are eerily effective heightened by an accompanying typical Carpenter pulsing score.
There are a few effective kills but like most good horrors some of these happen off screen. It’s mostly shot on location this adds a realistic atmosphere of dread to the proceedings. There are some cheap ‘jump’ scares in there but what’s noteworthy of The Fog is it’s set ups, the spooky opening, the creepy gallon and the paranormal effects on the cars and electricity of the town. The Fog appears to be a series of great idea’s brought together with a single horror tale as its backbone.
It’s not perfect, but The Fog’s absorption makes it entertaining nonetheless. Perfect on a dark night.
Halloween [Blu-ray]John Carpenters 1978 textbook horror slasher film.
What make this different to many other babysitter stalker films is the production value, Carpenters direction and score that reeks of dread. Perfect leads include, heavy weight Donald Pleasence and ever reliable Jamie Lee Curtis as they try to out wit an escaped psychotic murderer.
Halloween is a well produced basic, yet essential horror that contains very little nudity or blood for this type of genre. What maybe a little tame for gore hungry audiences of today, it still remains defining archetype horror film, as without the masked Michael Myers there wouldn’t be many of the horror’s there are on your shelf right now.
A must see for any horror fan.
Big Trouble in Little China [Blu-ray]An everyday Truck driver Jack Burton gets caught up in a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown and must rescue his pal’s fiancée.
Made the same year as a flurry of fantasy adventure films, including the The Golden Child, Flight of the Navigator, Howard the Duck and Labyrinth to name a few, Gary Goldman’s & David Z. Weinstein’s Big Trouble in Little China screenplay is rich and director John Carpenter unknowingly creates a rounded personification of an 80’s adventure film.
The leads are perfectly cast, a young Kim Cattrall’s delivers a defining comedy performance and Kurt Russell is perfect as the All-American beer drinking reluctant hero. A make-up enhanced James Hong is outstanding as mystical evil Lo Pan, the rest of the supporting cast is full of familiar faces.
Although the special effects are of their time, some of the makeup effects hold up well. Veteran cinematographer Dean Cundey’s show all gritty, sweat of this pure piece of entertainment fun. There’s fantastically dressed sets, great costumes and neon lighting. Director Carpenter delivers outlandish set pieces, some great action scenes, magic and sword fights. Packed with comedy moments, one-liners and dark, creepy supernatural Chinese spirits.
Big Trouble in Little China packs a lot punch for a film that didn’t do big box office bucks but found an audience on VHS. It’s a fantasy adventure that’s production values add to Big Trouble’s charm.