Posts Tagged ‘movie review’

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.

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.

After a family gathering goes awry, with the death of the patriarch’s death, a master detective to arrives to investigate.

Director Rian Johnson returns to form in this wonderfully shot and edited murder mystery of sorts.Knives Out has a great ensemble cast, veteran actor Christopher Plumber is fantastic in his pivotal role. Chris Evan’s gets to shine (leaving his ingrained Captain America role thankfully behind him). Daniel Craig, (wobbly American accent aside) is on fine form. Ana de Armas is notable and perfectly cast as the maid and main murder suspect. Jamie Lee Curtis and the likes of Don Johnson to name a few provide a great backbone.

It may not have the on the nose comedy and theatrics of Clue (1985) or Murder by Death (1976), buts it’s modern, sharp and fun with enough twists to keep you throughly entertained.

A much needed refreshing piece of whodunit joy.

An expert hitman is pitted against his own clone run by a government sanctioned security service Gemini.

Director Ang Lee offers a solid fun actioner with an injection of science fiction that echoes the likes of Assassins (1995) and the 6th Day (2000) with a feel of John Woo’s Face Off (1997).

With a notable supporting cast that includes the likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Douglas Hodge, Benedict Wong and (somewhat wasted) Ralph Brown you’d think it would be a entertaining dramatic hit however everyone feels so relaxed that there’s no real sense of danger. With paper thin motive the Jason Bourne-like government conspiracy scenes never quite hit the mark lacking some much needed weight.

Even though the whole film seems an excuse for Will Smith to face off against the parallel universe Fresh Prince of Bel-air assassin, Smith is great in the duel young/old roles along side a menacing Clive Owen. Smith, however, like the reset of the cast feels flat, even during the emotional highs, possibly due to the colourful locations, cinematography and Ang Lee’s general directing style.

The CGI de-aged effects are a mixed bag at times as excellent as the wacky fight setups but at others not as effective as the young Sarah Conner in Sky Dance’s other release Terminator Dark Fate.

With global-trotting fights, chases and shoot outs throughout there plenty to like right up-to a little clone twist in the closing act along with a surprise death.

Overall, Gemini Man is a lot better then the trailer makes it out to be but it’s odd tonally flawed entertaining action film.

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.

After a fight gets out of hand a group of friends run for cover but find themselves fighting for their lives against ravenous creatures lurking beneath their rave party.
Over dramatic, low budget horror flick that has some fantastic makeup and special effects in amongst the unnecessary fights,hammy dialogue and slow motion scenes.

Underground starts off very promising with the opening of an army squad fending off some nasty looking super genetic humanoids, then director Rafael Eisenman introduces us to an underground rave in an air hanger on a military base that goes on far too long. Underground’s weakest link is that it’s not very tight and scenes are drawn out. It’s well lit and shot with some good pumping tracks.
The score is a mixed bag there’s some great music cues but then it borrows from familiar scores and overcooks them. Writer Charles Morris Jr. borrows heavily from Marshall’s Descent (2005) and Smith’s Creep (2004). The young cast of actors including Eric Abercrombie and Mira Antonova do there best with the script. The Eli Wallach with a German accent lookalike aside – there’s some nice touches, a creature bursting out of an urinal, torn off ears, lobbed off arms, spooky tunnels and creepy corridors.
A lot of effort has clearly gone into Underground, it has a ‘film’ look and with some tighter editing it may have helped the viewing experience. Rafael Eisenman uses every film trick in the book and clearly has ability but it just isn’t a polished enough production, nevertheless it’s a lot bloodier, effective and atmospheric than the abundance of cheap looking horror DTV films.
Despite it’s unevenness there’s worst ways to burn a hour and a half.

Love them or hate them they make loads of money – part Blair Witch Project, part REC, part Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted. It has spawned two sequels already – not it’s not Maniac Cop or Evil Dead its… Paranormal Activity. Whhooooaaa Spooky!
As it’s Halloween weekend I thought I’d put together my findings on the films that caused a 1000 manics and wannabe film makers to run-around their houses with the lights off, their night vision cameras in hand and pull objects supernaturally on piano wire or fishing gut. Unlike Blair Witch copies the amateurs can emulate PA in doors without having to leave the comfort of their own home – no cold, no damp and no snot running from their nose… Here are my thoughts on the films that launched a thousand screams and  possibly made youreconsider home security cameras.

Paranormal Activity (2007) 

A couple becomes increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home, wow sounds great? The films strong points is that it contains some quality direction by Oren Pel, fantastic plausible natural acting, some skilfully thought out camera work and effective sound effects.
However, it’s simply another story told through the eyes of a character, in this case Micah’s camera lens. In a nutshell builds up to a big scare at the end (depending on which version you see of the film).
It’s over ten years since the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity looks good, is well executed and constructed, it goes over the same old formula. If you enjoyed and were scared by Blair Witch you’ll love Paranormal Activity.

That said, if you thought Blair Witch was hyped and shock-less on it’s release and you have a preference for REC or Cloverfield, you’ll be disappointed.
If you’re a big fan of these point of view camera films, and you have to see another this probably isn’t it but if you like TV’s Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and the like this may do the trick.

A couple become increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home that maybe linked to their an infant son. His teenage half-sister against their father wish tries to uncover the truth.
This sequel /prequel contains some quality direction by Tod Williams who takes over the reigns for this instalment. With the usage of static security camera’s and some thought out camera work it gives P2 a slight edged and a grander film quality over it’s predecessor. However, the jump out sound moments aside the sound effects and design appear less creepy this time around.
The whole cast are fantastic. The acting is plausible and natural by the leads, notably Molly Ephraim who plays the inquisitive everyday daughter and Vivis Cortez as the ‘help’. Those with young children and pets will be left a little more disturbed by this follow up and fans of the first will be pleased by Katie and Micah’s return.
Sadly, for the most part its purpose is to build up to a big scare at the end. Again it’s simply another story told through the eyes of a camera lenses and the writers inject some unnecessary connections and exposition to the goings on which takes away some of the mysteries random edge.
It’s nearly 15 years since the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity 2 looks better than the first it goes over the same old formula.
If you enjoyed and were scared by 1st you’ll be blown away by Paranormal Activity 2. Yet, old school haunted house fans maybe left less chilled and thrilled.

Two girls befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home and their mothers partner sets out to film the strange goings on.
The two leads from one and two Sprague Grayden and Katie Featherston reprise their roles briefly. Part 3 opens with a brief insight of the events of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. It quickly moves to 1988 (you view the contents of some missing tapes) to a time when the sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and (Jessica Tyler Brown) Kristi Rey are young.
This prequel directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman Paranormal 3 is technically well filmed, exceeding the likes of Blare Witch in both look and sound. Because of the 88 setting, there’s lots of nice touches, the sets, the VHS imperfections, date/time stamps and noise of the camera zooming.
Like its predecessor, there are good naturalistic performances. Sceptic Mom Julie played by Lauren Bittner and boyfriend Dennis – Christopher Nicholas Smith are more than adequate. Dennis’ character is as likable as Micah from the first. Video obsessed he makes a swivelling camera from a fan to the annoyance of his wife.

Old ground is trod, characters filming themselves, waking up late at night, creepy images, bangs, shaking rooms, noises and so. There is nothing more creepy than children talking to unseen entities or babysitters getting scared.
You follow the characters on their journey as they investigate and interrogate the video footage and strange goings on in their new house. There’s a few stand out moments, the hair pulling and balloon bedroom part complete with blanket flying at the camera. The scene where Dennis’ friend Randy experiences the ghostly goings on is a highlight.
Paranormal Activity 3 is not a horror in the traditional sense- if you enjoy these camera point of view chillers and was scared by first two this will possibly exceed expectations. That said, it’s not as clever as part 2 in its narrative intertwining.
Ultimately once again it builds up to a big snapping scare, its more of the same. Nevertheless, it still manages to suck you in an be intriguing – why I’ll never know.
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For anyone else outside the UK here’s the 1985 Scotch video tapes famous for the slogan “Re-record, not fade away, re-record, not fade away…” Happy Halloween!
I’m a sucker for zombie films (see post – Zombies they Creep me out), from Junk: Shiryô-gari (2000) to Dawn of the Dead and a few effective low budgeters in between including Severed (2005), Devil’s Playground (2010) and Autumn (2009). But there’s a tonne of DTV tripe that I wont even name. In any case I’ve been following The Dead’s production for a long-time and with the film maker ethos reminiscent of  the makers of Monsters (2010) i.e on location low budget, with a big budget look- here’s my thoughts on The Dead…
The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. After surviving a plane crash American Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy teams up with a local army Sgt. Daniel Dembele and they try to stay alive in dead infested war-torn Africa.
The zombie market has been saturated with countless sub-par films. There have been a few welcomed additions- the Dawn of the Dead remake, cross genre Australian film Undead, 28 Days virus flicks, comedies including Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and actioner Le Horde. I personally I like sober zombie films and The Dead is probably the most grounded undead film since Romero’s original trilogy. Director and writer team Howard and Jonathan Ford manage to give their zombie offering scope, emotion and anxiety that arguably lacked in Land and Survival of the Dead respectively.
With the competent naturalistic visual style reminiscent of Monsters, less is also more in The Dead’s case. Imran Ahmad’s music score complements the on screen deeds and while not particularly memorable it is subtle and effective enough.
The African setting is a welcomed change, the on location shoot gives it an eerie real feel. The costume design appears authentic. Dan Rickard’s special effects and Max Van De Banks’ makeup are first rate, bones sticking out of legs, wounds, bites and the dead getting hit and shot at are executed perfectly. The traditional shambling sluggish dead are creepy enough and retain an air of menace.
Due to the constraints of the story there’s little dialogue. That said, what there is rings true and the characters are given time to develop. The acting all round is of a high standard, with fitting performances from both leads Rob Freeman and Prince David Oseia.
My only grumble is that there’s been so many zombie films lately it mars the freshness that The Dead delivers. Intentional or unintentional as with Romero’s films there is indeed a social commentary running though The Dead and the African setting is debatably no accident. The Dead may lack comradely wordplay but it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.
Overall, The Dead gives the viewer a much needed solid piece of realistic zombie entertainment. Recommend.

The Vindicator (1986)

A scientist working on a top secret experiment is killed in an explosion but the corporation that funds his experiments transforms him into a robot.

A resurrection science fiction film that despite being a B-low budget affair has a grander 80’s film quality feel thanks to some gritty, raw and rough round the edges special effects.

Richard Cox and cult favourite Pam Grier are watchable and some performances are above average. However, they are counter balanced by some very shoddy supporting actors. Edith Rey and David Preston’s dialogue is flawed, yet their story fairs better exploring some moral dilemmas.

Although it predates Robocop (1987) I remember the main draw to watch it was because of The Terminator (1984). That said, the Vindicator shares more with Frankenstein and The Wraith (1986).

Jean-Claude Lord’s Vindicator was more appealing watch in the 1980’s. It has some nice visual moments but little more. The certain charm it held in my mind since 1986 was really just warm nostalgia – as on revisiting The Vindicator it’s not as entertaining or fast paced as I remembered it.

While fun at the time, in retrospect – for comparable curiosity only.