Posts Tagged ‘review’

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Kong: Skull Island (#7 of 21)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A team of scientists are chaperoned by a war veteran to an uncharted island in the Pacific, however, things go awry and they must fight to escape the primal island.

The effects are impressive and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts skilfully creates a great sense of scale. What’s refreshing is that the handful of writers don’t rehash the King Kong story of a screaming female, the giant ape falling in love and being taken to civilisation only to die. This take on the 1933 landmark film is reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1960), Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997) and the ‘monster verses’ moments of Kong films to name a few.

The period Platoon-like (1986) soundtrack sells the 70’s setting along with Henry Jackman’s score complimenting the action setups. The cast are adequate including the likes of Tom Hiddleston and John C. Reilly. Samuel L. Jackson looks really infuriated throughout, and rightly so as Kong wipes out the majorly of his team. But to be honest it’s a good thing as I’d pay good money to see Jackson’s badassery (is that a word?) over CGI monsters any day. Hiddleston is surprising as tracker Conrad especially in his fight driven introduction. Brie Larson as photographer Weaver is sadly given very little to do. There’s a little confrontation dynamic between the parties when they find out that Kong is essential in keeping the equilibrium of the Island. Along with Conrad’s followers, Hank Marlow (Reilly) who has been stranded on the island since 1944, go against Jackson’s hardened vet’ Preston Packard who wants Kong dead.

Notable are underused John Goodman and Toby Kebbell as solider Jack. Kebbell no stranger to motion capture (Koba, Planet of the Apes) advises Terry Notary who is excellent as Kong. Regardless of how much is actually Notary’s performance, the completed monster design is impressive especially when Kong battles giant ancient creatures. The humour is largely hit and miss due to the dark tone and post Vietnam War backdrop. With hints of Apocalypse Now (1979) it’s more visually striking than Godzilla (2014), but it’s not as tonally consistent. Skull Island feels one-dimensional in comparison. Vogt-Roberts offers some stage interesting napalm moments, reflecting on sunglasses and exploding silhouette giant beasts. Stay for the after the credits as it teases a showdown with another aforementioned giant monster.

Stripped of effects it’s B movie stuff with a A list cast and budget. Most teenagers will no doubt love it, but Kong:Skull Island’s mishmash tone may leave others feeling underwhelmed.

Busanhaeng Movie Poster A group of terrified passengers fight their way through a viral outbreak while trapped on a bullet train ride to Busan.
Train to Busan is a blood-drenched South Korean zombie/virus horror, director Yeon Sang-ho and writer Park Joo-suk offer a serious zombie apocalypse yarn. Interestingly most of the bloody, milky eyed and black vein thrilled story is set in the daytime. Joo-suk offers a novel take on the infected, which cannot see in the dark, this makes for some interesting viewing during the more tense scenes especially as the train travels through darkened tunnels.
Sang-ho’s twitchy infected are a fast moving reminiscent of 28 Days Later and WWZ at one point there are piles of clambering dead hanging from the locomotive. In addition, this is a decent looking film, not a straight to video, DTV offering, the production values are high and the special effects are impressive. The locations are grounded which adds to the tension and you buy into the characters plight along with the punchy surprise deaths synonymous with the genre. With mistrust between the players there’s a social commentary about the division of class and its pecking order, its only apt it’s set on a train.
There are some action packed segments in stations and some subtler moments in tunnels and the city as the survivors encounter the army and contaminated. Surprisingly there’s plenty of emotion especially between workaholic Seok-woo played by Gong Yoo and his young daughter, Soo- an, delightfully played by Kim Su-an who wants to see her mother. Notable is Ma Dong-seok who plays Sang-hwa, a tough, working-class man. Dong-seok delivers some memorable zombie head bashing moments.
Sang-ho balances the intense infected action and drama perfectly. Highly recommended virus film.

Split Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

Three girls are kidnapped by a man and must try and escape before a frightful personality The Beast comes to get them.

With hints Red Dragon (2002) and echoes of Sybil (1976/2007) with a touch of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director, writer M. Night Shyamalan offers an interesting thriller. James McAvoy delivers a performance of a life time as Kevin who has 23 distinct personalities and one additional one, that all play off against each other, even imitating each other at one point. After kidnapping three girls and keeping them locked up in a cellar, surprisingly it is the edgy visits to his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, wonderfully played by Betty Buckley that provides the most tension as you never know when he is going to snap.

The slow undercurrent build up is Split’s strength as the girls attempt to escape and we get to know many of Kevin’s personas, Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / The Beast / Kevin Wendell Crumb / Barry / Orwell / Jade. While McAvoy’s 9 year old doesn’t ring as true as the other characters he encompasses, the distinction between each is impressive. Especially the 24th personality which builds up like a High Noon (1952) showdown. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke has a developed character and poignant story arc but always feel second to McAvoy.

The worn on location feel works, a cellar, long corridors, city apartments and a zoo, Shyamalan’s realistic setting has become a staple of his work, which helps draw you into the story. Two of the kidnapped girls feel under developed but possibly Shyamalan purposely does this for the viewer to focus on the third and in bid for you to sympathise with her and Kevin.

With a Bruce Willis cameo, the post story twist of sorts will be lost on anyone who hasn’t seen one particular film of Shyamalan. And to be honest unless you love this particular film or have a great memory, it will probably annoy rather than entice. That said, all that comes before draws the viewer in. Right down to Dr. Fletcher assessment of what advantage split personalities can have and its application. Fletcher concludes that ‘they’ may something more.

Although a mash-up of other films, thanks to McAvoy and Buckley it stands out from most in the genre. Shyamalan’s atmosphere and attention to detail gives it some gravitas. Overall, worth watching for McAvoy’s performance(s) alone.

*** This review may contain T-Virus spoilers ***

Humanity is on its last legs and Alice after being betrayed by Wesker has one last chance to end the Umbrella Corporation’s plan of world domination.

With writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson again helming the chair, the alleged sixth and final chapter never manages to recreate the pace, horror hi-jinx or atmosphere of 2002’s Resident Evil, yet, tonally The Final Chapter comes closer than any of the meandering stylised sequels.

Anderson (arguably wisely) sidesteps the teased epic fantasy war setting of its predecessor with this instalment set in the aftermath of Retribution. The full-blown war is dropped in favour to feature on a few remaining monsters and focus on the impending infected zombie horde. Anderson borrows George Romero’s Dead Reckoning-like vehicle under Dr Isaac’s (Iain Glen) control and Alice (Milla Jovovich) must get back to The Hive to release an antivirus and stop the outbreak with help from The Red Queen played notably by Milla/Anderson’s very own daughter Ever.

The Final Chapter will appease fans who loved the action orientated sequels but it also goes some way satisfying those who enjoyed the first film. Anderson offers littered Event Horizon and the original Resident Evil’s jump scares in the ominous moments. In amongst the edited (faster than the Bourne Identity series put together) imaginative action there’s a little character development. Paul Haslinger’s pumping synth score is fitting and enhances the action as well as the few and far between quieter moments.

While it’s a pity actors Colin Salmon, Michelle Rodriguez and others couldn’t return given the stories clone themed story line, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield return from previous entries. Both Roberts and Larter both look more at ease here in the mostly darkly lit well crafted sets.

With usual strong screen presence Jovovich is on fine form and the fights are fantastic if a little too frantically paced. Although some aged makeup is below par and the CGI is ropey at times Anderson offers a genuinely surprising twist which delivers a fitting close to the Alice character.

That said, the maker leaves enough room for another horror orientated follow up or overblown 3D actioner – hopefully the latter. Either way it ends the series on a high more rounded note.

*** This review contains galactic spoilers ***

An unlikely group of freedom fighters team up to steal the Death Star schematics.

An interesting mix of exciting heroic and tragic characters. Director Gareth Edwards Monsters, Godzilla) and team are careful not to take anything away from the iconic 1977 classic Star Wars and successfully add to it, i.e the Death Star here doesn’t blow up planets in this instalment not to take any impact away from its destructive powers in A New Hope. Still it shows it’s immense firepower as Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso goes about finding her father in a sea of defectors, rebels and insurgents including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). With great Star Wars action setups and battle scenes, that one could only have dreamed of recreating with toys as child this Star Wars story has plenty of thrills.

Loaded with nods to the series and standing on its on two feet. The costumes effects and sets are fantastic and it captures the feel of the originals and bridges the prequels, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) adds to this. Michael Giacchino’s music complements John Williams’ previous scores. Edwards creates a sense of urgency here which helps reinforce Episode IV stakes including the famous first ’77 on screen appearance of Darth Vader. It’s also co-written by John Knoll, who joined Lucas Industrial Light & Magic 30 years ago and worked on Willow (1988). J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens captured the original trilogy’s spirit holistically, but Edwards manages to conjurer up the feel of the 1977 Star Wars Magic.

The CGI characters of dead and favourites while not technically perfect are executed well enough too excite fans, namely the appearance of Tarkin (a resurrection of the great Peter Cushing’s character) and a pivotal female favourite who appears in the closing. Some X- Wing pilots, Red and Gold Leader have clever cameos. As well as an array of droids, littered throughout are the likes of the Cantina’s Ponda Babba and Dr. Evazan, R2D2 and C3PO. Extended purposeful meatier character appearances included General Dodonna, Mon Mothma, Vader himself (in three important scenes) who does not disappoint.

Director Edwards doesn’t get hung up on on these cameos of sorts and keeps his eye on creating a wonderfully crafted grittier Star Wars film. The acting arguably surpasses its predecessors with too many actors to mention. Hardened rebel Andor played by Diego Luna cements a place in Star Wars history but Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe steals scenes as a blind warrior. There’s plenty of heart courteous of Mads Mikkelsen and lead Jones’ Erso. Notable is Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO who provides some great one liners as well as a memorable emotional moment. The star though is debatably Ben Mendelsohn as villain Orson Krennic, with the bureaucratic gravitas and emotional depth to leave a lasting impression.

What it comes down to is that Edwards like Lucas manages to put on screen a Shakespeare-like tragedy mixed with Flash Gordon wonder that has all the familiar simple themes which makes stories great.

Solid Star Wars entertainment all the way.

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.

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A survival documentary filmmaker runs into trouble when he comes up against more that just the local animal life.

With a major spoiler from the outset, imagine and episode of Bear Grylls mixed with the Predator (1987) and an alien design reminiscent of District 9 (2009) and you’ll sort of get feel of Man Vs. Half of the fun of director Adam Massey’s offering is guessing for the first half what is the main character up against.

Man Vs. echoes the likes of Exists, Blackfoot Trail, Bigfoot County (2012) Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) Willow Creek (2013), The Hunted (2013) while not a found footage film per say, thankfully it’s a mix of presenter Doug’s camera views, go-pro POVs and a traditionally shot film perspective (similar to REC 3 (2012) and The Pyramid (2014).

In terms of execution Massey’s film surpasses genre expectations due to traditional shot segments and well executed practical and ‘monster’ special effects in the last quarter. It has a very small cast ensemble. Thanks to a great performance from Chris Diamantopoulos as Doug, channelling Grylls, he single handily keeps Man Vs. interesting while he does his TV show bits for the majority of the film and believes he’s being hunted by a bear, wolf or even a crazy fan of his show.

The Canadian natural forest setting framed by Miroslaw Baszak sells Massey’s story. Writer Thomas Michael leaves enough clues – skinned bodies, chess boards, black goo, dead fish to keep you guessing what Doug is up against but if you’ve seen 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) you’ll see the twist coming. That said, Michael and Massey successfully create a small scale paranoia tale on the backdrop peripheral of something larger going on. John Rowley’s score is effective throughout, but especially in the closing where realisation hits Doug and rescue by his team and acquaintance are skewed.

While the genre is worn, if you like the aforementioned movies you’ll get a kick out of Massey’s addition to the genre. Three quarters survival show and a quarter sci-fi. Recommended.

The Exorcist Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The exorcism of Casey Rance has finally arrived and all those involved must make a choice that will change their future forever.

Chapter Five retains the series gritty dark feel and The Exorcist continues to exceed expectations in ‘Through My Most Grievous Fault’. It’s partly a mile stone turning point for the characters, Alfonso Herrera’s Father Tomas Ortega is tricked and later finally gives into temptation. With dramatic range the excellent Ben Daniels as Marcus Keane tackles the demon and his own inner demons head on. As an outsider looking in and believing it is a medical issue not a possession, underrated Brianne Howey as Katherine Rance former ballet dancer logically calls the police and has Marcus arrested.

Director Jason Ensler balances the real and supernatural world elements with finesse. Hannah Kasulka’s Casey Rance (in almost a duel role is on form) the surreal inner demon fight with Robert Emmet Lunney’s evil Salesman is developed further with creep execution. While the practical effects and makeup are welcomed debatably other effects are unnecessary, The Exorcist seems to work best when its focused on the characters and subtler moments rather than spectacle.

Writer David Grimm delivers a note worthy twist which connects it to the novel and subsequently the film. Alan Ruck’s Henry Rance get more too do here and is key in revealing Geena Davis’ Angela to be Regan MacNeil, also Sharon Gless appears briefly as Chris MacNeil. Its a chilling and dramatically weighty episode, there’s nothing worse than gnarly demon feet on your chest, recommend.

*** This review contains spoilers ***

Rick must make a choice that will decide the groups fate.

Gone are the days of Miami Vice killings and Dallas like twists. This is brutal unrelenting with a revelation of not just killing one, but two main characters. Where’s as the penultimate episode of seasons 2 Fear the Walking Dead raised the bar in graphic violence, The Walking Dead’s season 7 opening episode knocks it out of the park.

“The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” contains excellent makeup special effects and pure tension and exists mainly to show who died and where Rick now fits in the world of the dead. TV doesn’t come much more  dangerous or horrifically sadistic as this. Director Greg Nicotero’s atmosphere is thick with blood and mist. From zombie killings to head bashing and eye popping action it’s genuinely gut turning relentless from beginning to end with Rick having to make a series of decisions to save his son and friends. Both Jeffery Dean Morgan as Negan and Andrew Lincoln as Rick are outstanding here. Morgan offers some much needed viewer nervous levity, notably the vampire line about his baseball bat named Lucille, while Lincoln is fittingly shell-shocked throughout echoing the viewers disturbed surprise.

With some solid direction, writing from Scott M. Gimple and a fitting score it raises the bar in terms of harrowing nauseatingly TV violence and it emotionally surpasses expectations. Recommend piece of zombie entertainment.

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.