Posts Tagged ‘movies’

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.

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Iron Warrior

Ator must battle with Phaedra, an evil sorceress and her unstoppable warrior, who has a secret connection to our heroes past.

Director Alfonso Brescia ambitious Iron Warrior is a low budget mix of Excalibur, Clash of the Titans, with a touch of Alejandro Jodorowsky wackiness and Duran Duran music video prowess to name a few. Opening with Carlo Maria Cordio’s endless credit title music (oddly reminiscent of Star Trek The Next Generation), we’re then sold the aesthetically pleasing locations of the Mediterranean’s Malta and Gozo. However, the sunny visuals take away from Iron Warrior some much needed atmosphere. Nevertheless, Brescia’s Italian production doesn’t shy away from brief nudity, some Lucio Fulci inspired make up and shock moments.

Brescia at best offers stylised 80’s bold geometric shape makeup, and fan blown hair with vibrant costumes, reds, greens and flowing material passing the camera. There’s a handful of beautiful women thrown including Iris Peynado, notable is the stunning Princess Jana, actress Sabina Gersak. Offering a poor mans Conan swordplay, projection There’s Superman (1978) Krypton-like prison rings trapping a witch, with Ator played by Miles O’Keeffe, a chiseled lean He-Man, along with nemesis Trogar (Franco Daddi) a Skeletor meets with Action Force’s Destro type sword wielding nemesis. . He employs slow-motion, sped up film, wide shots and old Bewitched/Randall and Hopkirk vanishing editing tricks. The avant-garde mix of student-like experimental film elements is endless.

If theatrical, over the top, choppy Italian sorcery fantasy salami is your thing, Iron Warrior is a must see.

Mission spoilers ahead…

Ethan Hunt and the IMF team join forces with CIA assassin August Walker to prevent a disaster of epic proportions as group of terrorists known as the Apostles plan to use three plutonium cores for simultaneous nuclear attacks.

The excellently staged, outlandish, sweaty palm stunts feel even more real in this instalment as the IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time to stop two nuclear bombs being triggered. While far removed from the original ’60 TV series, the film offerings go from strength to strength and Fallout doesn’t merely rehash Rogue Nation’s approach.

Writer, director Christopher McQuarrie offers more high-octane action in this sixth instalment, the narrative is more complex, the stakes are high, the emotion well placed. McQuarrie goes out of his way to explain why Hunt’s marriage to Michelle Monaghan’s Julia Meade character from the third movie couldn’t last.

Here the cast are on top form Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill’s Agent Walker bounce perfectly off each other as they attempt to corner a despicable arms dealer named John Lark. Both Hunt’s IMF boss played excellent by Alec Baldwin and Simon Pegg get physical and Ving Rhames add some unexpectedly emotion clout. Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane who is as intense and nonchalant as ever. Vanessa Kirby leaves an impression, possibly for a comeback in a sequel, Milla Jovovich-ish Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is impressive especially during the action sequences. Notably Wes Bentley an actor who fell off the radar is given second life, briefly appearing as Patrick, Julia’s second husband.

The big action set ups in Paris and London are memorable, injected with exciting score by Lorne Balfe. Unexpectedly Fall Out feels fresh and moves the series forward. Even though you can see some story twists coming a mile off there are genuine surprise moments along with proper thematic substance in amongst the white-knuckle action.

Undeniably the best entry in the franchise, re-establishing Cruise’s status as an action superstar. Highly recommended.

Annabelle: Creation Movie PosterAfter the tragic death of their little daughter, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a orphanage into their home, but shortly after a demon begins to terrorize the girls.

Annabelle Creation is a solid entry that offer plenty of scares and the period rural setting sets it apart. Director David F. Sandberg injects a smidgin of Texas Chainsaw atmosphere into the proceedings as a group of girls and nun are terrified by a demon. The acting from Stephanie Sigman’s Sister Charlotte and the young girls is impressive. As too are Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto in small but pivotal roles.

It’s a demonic possession tale like the chronological follow up, not a killer doll film per-say if you’ve come in cold. Even though it’s an origin story midway through you can’t help but feel that thanks to some editing another prequel to an already existing prequel could be made with some misplaced flashbacks of Otto and LaPaglia thrown into what for the most part is a constant story from Gary Dauberman.

With dark creepy visuals, notably a lift, water well and scarecrow scene, eerie music and limited special effects but plenty of jumps scares Annabelle harks back to the simpler days of horror. Daunerman and Sandberg link the ending nicely to its 2014 predecessor Annabelle and there’s mid and post credit scene which are intriguing enough to leave you possibly wanting another.

Overall, a well shot, filmatic, rounded chiller with credit to child actors for their good performances.

In 1968, George A. Romero and co-writer John Russo made a black and white film on a small budget, it became one of the most successful independent films of all-time. It was Night of the Living Dead.

I won’t dig up old stories about copyright woes, remakes or go through his career and the like, there are plenty of documentaries, books and websites about his zombie films before zombie films (became let’s just say) mainstream, he revolutionised horror creating a whole sub genre of horror. Yes, Romero did make other films and TV shows, but Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead had a personal and lasting impact on me. Also without Romero there would be no 28 Days Later, Return of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, World War Z and certainly no Walking Dead to name a few, heck there’d be no zombie genre. His influence is so wide, it’s amazing how much money, flashy big-budget films and shows have been made off his back.

I digress, so big George – filmmaker, writer and editor, his touch stretched over to the UK in form of a tubed TV and touched a young Esmonde sometime during the 1980s. I don’t recall the specific years, a late night showing of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then at some point Day of the Dead on a VHS. I was hooked to his gore-filled and satirical horrors. He inspired an epidemic of imitators (myself included). In 2010 my own novel Dead Pulse was published (based my 2007 erroneously published short) and without Romero, this tribute pulp would never have existed. While George was busy with his adoring fans I remember talking to his wife Suzanne, she kindly took a copy to give to George, I didn’t want to give it to him directly, because I didn’t want him to get the impression that I wished him read it (I’d be embarrassed if he ever did, maybe he used it as tinder on a cold Canadian night) but I gave it to her to give to him at a later time out of respect because I wanted him to know what an influence he’d had on my writing and film-making work. “It’s debatably not my best one,” I’d said. We shared a laugh and had a conversation, Suzanne was every bit as pleasant as George himself saying that he’d be touched and she was every bit sincerer.

People say something like – ‘avoid meeting your heroes, you may be disappointed’, I’ve met two of mine and on both occasions they have been everything I hoped, both are now sadly no longer with us. George is one of them. Two years ago I got to spend sometime with George and basically thank him, I can truly say that and I was not disappointed, as well as a great talent he was a kind and gentle giant, full of humour, modest to the core and a down to earth gentleman. My thoughts are with his wife and family.

He a left behind a terrific legacy to be enjoyed. He will be missed.

Wonder Woman Movie Poster Diana leaves her paradise Island magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman is a pleasing film in a sea of other superhero flicks. What it gets right is a good mix of action and narrative helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. While arguably it lags in the final act, mainly due to the seeming obligatory big boss final battle showdown it for the most part swiftly moves along. Part new origin story on the island of Themyscira, home to the Amazons, you see the character honing her powers and becoming Wonder Woman. Later when she helps a spy (Chris Pine) and they journey to Europe circa 1913, she’s finds that she is a fish out of water in her new surroundings in searching for the God of War.

Allan Heinberg’s screenplay has a few twists and plays with the sexiest elements of the period. Nevertheless, it slightly sells itself out at times with all the tropes of a love story with at times Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman playing second fiddle to Pine’s American spy pilot. Thankfully these are few and far between, but it’s still an unnecessary dynamic.

There’s a top cast full of familiar faces including David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright with the sets and costumes being Oscar worthy. This incarnation supersedes Wonder Woman 1967’s pilot, Lynda Carter’s TV pop icon version complete with memorable theme and Adrianne Palicki’s failed pilot. Gadot may not be everyone’s idea of what Diana Prince/Wonder Woman should look like, however, she is great in the role carrying the naive innocence having been on a hidden island almost all of her life with the power and presence that we saw glimpses of in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). There’s also some present day scenes that fit nicely with Zack Snyder’s outing and Justice League (2017). With plenty fight scenes the new Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL Wonder Woman theme kicks in fittingly and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score captures the atmosphere of the respective settings.

Overall, Wonder Woman is probably one of the most rounded entertaining super hero movies out there with its war themes ironically just as relevant today.

John Wick 2 Movie PosterAfter returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, double crossed John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his head and must fight for survival.

Director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick 2 is everything a sequel should be, it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s a near perfect high octane sequel, same lead cast – check, great action – check, more visual style and pulse pounding music – check. While the amount of close combat shootings does get tiresome there’s enough story building by writer Derek Kolstad who expands the hit man’s world and rules to entertain. However, neither Kolstad or Stahelski bog the pace down with unnecessary exposition.

Stahelski’s second outing is gorier with a significantly higher body count and even though the fight scenes may not be a slick as it predecessor, it does what it says on the tin. Stahelski’s offering benefits from a filmed on location feel which grounds the outlandish action, this is rounded off by a fitting soundtrack and score as Keanu Reeves’ Wick battles his way through New York and Rome.

Well executed, pure action entertainment all the way, recommend.

Forsaken Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1872 Wyoming, a former gunslinger and his estranged father encounter a ruthless businessman and his posse of thugs.
Director Jon Cassar’s Forsaken is very much a paint by numbers Western, however, the draw (no pun indented) is having father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland share the screen. In addition, the supporting cast elevate Brad Mirman’s screenplay with the likes of Demi Moore, Brian Cox and Michael Wincott. Wincott’s Dave Turner, a dangerous principled gun for hire is particularly notable aiming for the heights of Tombstone’s (1993) Kilmer Doc Holiday and underrated Aaron Poole shines as thug Frank Tillman, both actors leave an impression.
Along with Jonathan Goldsmith’s score Cassar’s low-key Western captures the essence of the classics including Shane (1953). And while it’s not a novel as the recent Bone Tomahawk (2015) or as broodingly fun as In a Valley of Violence (2016) it ticks all the American West boxes. Kiefer Sutherland’s John Henry Clayton like Ethan Hawke in the aforementioned film is haunted by the war, Here writer Mirman doesn’t really offer anything new, however, thanks to Kiefer’s simmering cowboy performance he sells the heartache and torment of a repressed killer. The love triangle between Moore’s Mary, her husband and John adds some drama in amongst Cassar’s well staged fights and shoots out as people are force to sell of their land.
Donald Sutherland’s Reverend William Clayton only gets one scene with Cox (who sadly isn’t given much to do) an unscrupulous business man James McCurdy. But the Sutherland’s father and son relationship tensions offer some weighty telling scenes with tragic accidents, war, mother and brother back-story dynamics which hold interest. The preceding peak in the showdown closing act and Winacott and Kiefer cement their gun slinging positions in a satisfying close.
Overall, it doesn’t shake the genre up but is worth watching if only for the Sutherlands, Winacott and Poole’s performance.

In a Valley of Violence Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A drifter is left for dead and returns to the town that wronged him and his dog.

After a spate of disappointing low budget westerns including two featuring Scott Eastwood, In the Valley Violence is entertaining crafted with care. While it’s no Hateful 8, Unforgiven or Tombstone to name a few, known for his atmospheric horrors director Ti West offers a solid off beat modest Western.

With opening credits that are reminiscent of Sergio Leone’ Dollars trilogy and story beats which echo, John Wick and Rambo, West offers a Western in the vain of High Plains Drifter. It’s a dusty grim dead silver mining town, there’s no hustle and bustle. It’s a low key affair with a small cast including John Travolta as a tough mediating marshal who steals the show. Burn Gorman is notable as an intoxicated Priest. Ethan Hawke’s Paul is quite fleshed out, wanting to forget his past and get to Mexico. His dialogue with Taissa Farmiga’s Mary-Anne rings true. It’s really a James Ransone’s Deputy Gilly Martin versus Hawke’s Paul rather than Travolta versus Paul yarn. Abbie (Jumpy) the dog deserves a mention. Karen Gillan is worthy of note along with Eric Robbins’ cinematography who masterfully frames the makeshift town.

Although past West collaborator Jeff Grace’s score can be intrusive it oddly works better when it’s not channelling Ennio Morricone. Bloody and violent in places with a few shoot outs, a hanging and slit throat, Grace along with West build some effective tense moments and to Ti’s credit he also offers some humour that gives In a Valley of Violence a refreshing push.

It’s a pity that West’s marked as an army deserter Paul, didn’t emulate the Man With No Name rather than try hard to avoid clichés as the homage in context of the tale may have elevated the story more and satisfy fans looking for a resurgence of the Eastwood style.

While it’s paint by numbers stuff and won’t shake the genre, it utilises the emptiness in contrast to the big budget Westerns and wisely makes the small cast ensemble and empty town part of the story. Recommend.

Dubbed a Bruce Willis clone, Jason Statham former French Connection model was born 12 September 1967 and came into the limelight in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. I don’t believe anyone could have predicted that football fan, cockney sparrow Statham would go on to be the next Hollywood action star. That said, the amount of dedication to his physic and skills he fully deserves the title.

Although he’s starred in some unsatisfying flicks – it’s usually the production that’s the problem, Ghosts of Mars, The One, The Bank Job and remake The Italian Job were all muddled in tone. In Name of the King, a star studded cast but that no amount of talent could redeem. There’s nice cameo in Collateral and The Expendables was a well received blockbuster. And Cellular (2004) is arguably underrated. Transporter, Death Race (remake) and Crank are notable in their own right, it’s just a pity the sequels didn’t deliver the goods.

Statham has showed he’s not a one trick pony either and while not Oscar wining he’s not a bad actor, for example take his lesser well received but excellently made Killer Elite and Revolver .

As a tribute to the man who shrugged off Kelly Brook and cracked on with things (a testament to his character) with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley here’s a few thoughts on a handful of his outings.

Safe (2012)
Ex-cop and cage-fighter after his wife is killed contemplates ending it all. However, a chance meeting with a little girl holding information for the mob allows him a chance of redemption.

After Jason Statham’s weighty and drama driven performance in Killer Elite (2011) he returns to familiar Transporter style force in this action packed tale. Director/writer Boaz Yakin knows how to deliver high-octane action and his lead has perfected high kick and punches in his sleep. Like many on location shot films it makes everything more palatable and the Safe certainly has a budget.

It’s violent and bloody, despite being packed with clichés corrupt cops, Russian Mafia and Yakuza it’s fresh enough to remain entertaining. Concept wise it is reminiscent of Mercy Rising (1998) but where as Willis’ outing failed to deliver the Safe surpasses expectations being a bar above the average action flick. There’s a Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing play off against each crime syndicate but it all adds to the entertainment.

Notable is the ever reliable James Hong and Anson Mount gives a menacing, memorable performance as Alex. Chris Sarandon as the Mayor deserves a mention along with bent cop Captain Wolf played by Robert John Burke redeeming himself after Robocop 3. Although the relationship between the young girl Mei played adequately by Catherine Chan and Statham’s Luke Wright isn’t fully explored no doubt to avoid comparisons with Leon (1994) there’s enough emotion to make you care for the characters.

Statham is on form and overall the Safe is an engaging entertaining action film worthy of mention.

Killer Elite (2011)

One of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced out of retirement to undertake one last mission but soon finds he is a pawn in a bigger game.

What maybe deemed at glance as just another action film turns out to be a multi- layered action, drama and true story. It comes with a few twists and doubling crossings. There’s a fair share of shootings, fights, explosions and stabbings but director Gary McKendry handles the scenes in a realistic fashion, possible best described as a mix of Patriot Games, Syrina and Munich with the action similar to Bourne. Killer Elite is a very hard hitting violent drama set within 1980s.

The 80s backdrop and globetrotting on location filming gives the film creditability. Due to the source material and some interesting griping writing by Matt Sherring the characters are all shades of grey which adds to the appeal. This action thriller benefits from some big named actors giving their best and most subtle performances. Jason Statham is perfectly cast as Hunter’s (Robert De Niro) protégé Danny. Notable is Clive Owen in a solid supporting role and an almost unrecognisable Dominic Purcell gives an award deserving performance.

Killer Elite is an underrated ex-special ops story that highlights some of the shady dealings of countries governments and mercenaries. Highly recommend.

The Mechanic (2011)

An assassin’s abilities are tested when he takes on an apprentice, but things get complicated when he finds he’s been used on his last job.

Entertaining assassin/mentor yarn which tries to avoid clichés. Donald Sutherland puts in a welcomed cameo but is missed throughout the rest of the film. Jason Statham is hit man Arthur Bishop, while he can do these roles action roles blind folded Statham is subtler and more complex than most previous parts he’s played. Ben Foster gives a hard hitting performance giving an edginess and weight to the character of Steve McKenna and corporate bad guy Tony Goldwyn is notable.

Some logic aside the Mechanic stands head and shoulders above the mass of recent cheap and big budget flicks due to it’s 1973 source material, smart writing and Simon West’s gritty direction. The wonderful locations give it an air of realism and the soundtrack complements the setups.

With some thought out character development, twists and well executed action scenes it’s a pleasing above average hit-man thriller.

Revolver (2005)

A revenge-seeking trickster guarantees victory when a confidence trick is applied to any game of wits. However, he’s running out of time as could be ‘rubbed out’ by the corrupt casino boss first.

Don’t expect a rehash, the humour or the structure of Mr Ritchie’s earlier films Lock Stock and Snatch. This is Ritchie’s Mulholland Drive. This film makes more sense on a second viewing or when you’re satisfied what this 115 minute marvel has given you for your cash. This film is not for a lazy audience. And while the style of filming or the story is not entirely original the way the film is put together is.

If you’ve seen it and think Zach (Vince Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin) aren’t real or that Mr Jake Green (Jason Statham) is Mr Gold you may want sit down, watch the movie again and rethink your move. Or stick with what you originally thought. Whether it’s taken as it’s about symbolism, psyche, mysticism or take it at face value the themes are greed, tackling fear and egos to name a few. It’s up to the viewer to decide and it can be interpreted differently each time it’s reviewed. All the loose ends are tied up however you take it – just dig deeper. That said, admittedly this may put off the casual viewer who want a straight forward gangster flick.

The acting and whole production is above average. It has a strong cast ensemble, great dialogue, acting and locations. The music and colour scheme add to the retro surreal feel and set the mood in each scene. The end product is fantastic and not pretentious.

This film could be destined for a future large fan following.

A bold move for Ritchie.