Horror Bites - Turtle Power

GAMERA 2: ADVENT OF LEGION (1996)

I can't be certain, but if I had to guess I would say that the Bible verse being quoted here in the title might be misquoted. I've no idea if the old 'we are many' excerpt refers to an actual swarm, and it's one of those clichés that must be out of context most of the time when it appears. But it's probably not referring to a swarm of giant bugs. But I digress, Gamera the other big G in Japanese monster movies is back. After being rebooted in the 1990s this is the second of three films, and this is probably the best of them. For the genre it definitely holds up fairly well. That is, considering it's yet another film featuring a giant turtle with super powers. As you'd expect this is a big creature clash movie with rubber suits, a lot of collateral damage, and a few ecological messages.


HCF Review - Future Echoes

THE PREMONITION (1976)


There are a lot of ways to discuss a strange, eerie and rather unpredictable thriller like this. Are the surprising twists and turns an effective way of keeping the suspense levels high? Or are all the odd forks in the road just too weird to keep things from becoming muddled? There’s a lot to break down here in a film which is part kidnap plot, part telepathy story, and at least partially a tale of mentally unstable outcasts on the run from the law. There are a few false starts along the way before the narrative gets going and the interesting moments start to arrive. They even throw in some intriguing thematic ideas about loss and parenthood. But like a lot of storylines that seem to lack focus or a solid central idea, some of these inclusions work better than others.

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Review Roundup - Ape Escape

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)

It doesn't really feel like it was that long ago, but it's been quite a few years since the first entry in this new trilogy, and now here we are at the conclusion. Not a sequel baiting, cinematic universe expanding semi-conclusion, but a real final note that wraps all of this up. Of course there's always room for more, I would be surprised if it didn't happen. But for now it's a trilogy in three parts. As I mentioned at the time with the Dawn review it was a surprise that not only did the first instalment overcome the problems of a re-imagining, but part two was more complex and more interesting. But that leads us to the third episode, something which traditionally is where things go to pieces and our good will is sapped away. It's often the case that best ideas have all been used up, and while the visual effects reach an all new high things are not quite as good on paper. So how do things a fare in the case of Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his followers?


Scorecard

NOVEMBER


FILM OF THE MONTH: Stand by Me ☆☆☆☆
Dr Terror's House of Horrors ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ☆☆☆☆
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ☆☆☆☆
The Nice Guys ☆☆☆☆
Spider-man: Homecoming ☆☆☆☆
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ☆☆☆☆
Star Wars ☆☆☆☆
Superman ☆☆☆☆
The 'Burbs ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Monster Mash

WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966)

AKA Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor foot note in the Toho back catalogue. A weird pseudo sequel without any big name monsters. How it actually works as a follow up to Frankenstein Conquers the World (AKA Frankenstein vs Baragon) is never clear. The idea of a direct follow up was dropped somewhere during production, so you get some vague hints this is a continuation of a previous story but nothing solid is ever set out.

You can clearly make out the Japanese actors saying that the creatures are 'Frankensteins' for some reason, but the flashbacks used are new footage. Even disregarding the usual naming error they're more beast-like rather than resembling a reanimated corpse. The gigantic size just makes it all the more strange. Perhaps they just couldn't decide on what the story should be, but even so the results are still entertaining.

Horror Bites - Grand Guignol


When taking a fresh look at any number of Vincent Price films, it's always tempting to revisit some of the old Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. There's a lot to choose from when considering his colourful filmography, and there are a lot of releases featuring the classic Roger Corman and Richard Matheson combo. But then struck by inspiration I thought it would be best to start at the very top, and talk about his best - Theatre of Blood.

Review Roundup - Damage Control

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

So let's be realistic here, they killed Spider-man on the big screen. They squashed him. Sony Pictures took a big newspaper and no amount of precognitive senses could save him. I feel like I'm over stating things, but without getting bogged down with even more analogies about bugs circling drains ... let's just say it was not looking good. News of yet another reboot to try and clear up the big mess they made was pretty absurd. But of course then the Civil War movie came along, Electro and his wacky scheme was promptly brushed under the carpet, and things started to feel vaguely promising. So here we are with a big flashy inter-connected film full of tie-ins and cameos, and even Star Wars products. But as it turns out this is pretty good after all, and nobody was more surprised than me.


Horror Bites - Riders On the Storm

THE HITCHER (1986)

The suspense of a good car chase is rarely transplanted outside of action cinema for some reason. It's something that seems like a missed opportunity. Beyond Stephen Spielberg's classic road movie Duel the two ideas are mixed together rather infrequently. Why are there so many Jaws imitators and not more truck versus car thrillers? Slashers on wheels, it's a whole sub-genre that could have been. However there is at least one example of the horror genre colliding with the chase movie (beyond The Terminator which takes these ideas to so many other places). I'm of course referring to the high speed chills of The Hitcher.


Review Roundup - You Must Whip It

WONDER WOMAN (2017)

While generic origin stories haven't really been something the DC juggernaut has been interested in developing so far, it seems like they've taken a second look at the idea with this latest instalment. It's always a crowd pleasing plot structure, but of course things always feel far too familiar. On the other hand this is never an entirely negative attribute. While I was fairly lenient with Man of Steel, the subsequent hero on hero slug-fest was a huge mess that could have KO'd any chance of something smaller and more light hearted making an impression. However with Gal Gadot finally getting an proper introduction into this series it seems as though a fresh approach might be exactly what was needed. At least someone remembered how a three act superhero adventure was meant to work.


Scorecard

OCTOBER


FILM OF THE MONTH: The Last Battle ☆☆☆☆
The Comedy of Terrors ☆☆☆☆
Airplane! ☆☆☆☆
Bad Taste ☆☆☆☆
Blade Runner ☆☆☆☆
Children of Men ☆☆☆☆
Creepshow ☆☆☆☆
Hellraiser ☆☆☆☆
The Usual Suspects ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Meow Mix

CAT'S EYE (1985)

Another day, another Stephen King anthology. Now while I probably complained about Creepshow 2 enough already on here in one guise or another, I promise to be more genial this time around. Sure this still only has three chapters, something I can never entirely forgive in a series of vignettes no matter how interesting they are. But with a little working out and some good pacing they can still be enjoyable. Like in Three Faces of Evil this collection has its qualities distributed rather unevenly, but they're still well worth your consideration.


Horror Bites - Don't Say The Z Word

CONTAMINATION / NIGHTMARE CITY

While these sort of marathons are generally a fairly satisfying sort of length, there are always a few that manage silly genre movies that slip past due to time or other factors. There are always more. Which is fine, since a quick jaunt into the vaults of Italian horror is hardly something I need an excuse for these days. We've got some zombies lined up, but first off we have a story about alien visitors with Luigi Cozzi's 1980 Alien rip-off Contamination.


Horror Bites - The New Taste Sensation

BAD TASTE (1987)

There's always a feeling in the back of my mind that this is just a rough first attempt, rough draft kind of deal. My recollection of Peter Jackson's debut is that it's a test run on the road to his grand zombie outbreak comedy Braindead. However that might be a bit too judgemental, since on repeat viewings the enjoyment factor is always surprisingly high. It's not a high quality production, sure. But there's always a certain pleasure in seeing this kind of ultra low budget story unfold. Perhaps it's just because you can feel the energy involved. It's the sort of thing I'd imagine most of us can picture putting together at a certain age if we had the right equipment and a little twisted inspiration.


Horror Bites - Vault of Horror

CREEPSHOW (1982)

As we slip into the season of the witch it's probably quite appropriate to revisit such a classic blend of horror and comedy. After all, the combined talents of Stephen King and George A. Romero are what bring us this outing into the macabre. The idea to simultaneously create a throwback to the old style anthology movie while at the same time writing a fond love letter to EC Comics from the 1950s is pretty much a master-stroke. It's a winning combination of elements even before we look at the cast listing which features plenty of period talent and familiar faces for anyone into kind of thing. So get yourselves comfy as we turn the pages and enter a world of people turning into weeds, zombies demanding cake, and mysterious boxes under the stairs.


Horror Bites - The Guest

VISITOR Q (2001)

Takashi Miike's films often go from one bizarre shift in tone to another, sometimes within one film and sometimes inside of a series. This is the case in both something like the Black Society Trilogy where the horrifying sleaze in Shinjuku Triad Society switches to the restrained and dour melancholy of Rainy Dog as well as the the classic bait and switch reveal in stand-alone nightmare Audition. The ease at which things move from sickening to sickly sweet is integral in his body of work, which remains startlingly diverse today. However when the boundaries of genre and tone are less obvious things become rather more unsettling. Enter Visitor Q.


Review Roundup - Replicator

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

In what must be the apex of reviving brand names for the whole 1980s nostalgia trip crowd, this is a direct sequel to Ridley Scott's original cyberpunk noir. After all it's a cult favourite rather than something that was a hit in its own time. In a time when reboots and fraudulent sequels made decades later are all over the place, this is one that I had no real interest in visiting. But at the same time my interest was piqued after seeing that this was going to be from the director of Arrival and Sicario. Is this another arresting detective story in a believable world where the high tech causes a lower quality life? Or is it just a visually stunning but cold and detached story that pushes a simple tale to an overly long running time?


Horror Bites - Mr Driller

TETSUO TRILOGY

A bespectacled man sits waiting to meet his train at the station. There's a big plaster on his face, covering over a cut he made after finding a weird metal shard growing out of his cheek. He's really not having a good day. Then just as things seem to be normal he gets chased by a fellow commuter, a crazed woman whose arm has grown into a writhing mass of rusted scrap metal and junk. After a bizarre chase through the building he escapes, but later that day his own body starts to turn into a similarly grotesque collection of tubes and wires.

Why? Because of reasons. Well why not I guess. After this the really weird stuff begins. Tetsuo, sometimes subtitled with its English translation The Iron Man is a dark and bizarre nightmare sequence in black and white. It's full of strange imagery, crazy music and ear piercing industrial sounds. It's also a lot of fun despite some outlandish and disturbing sequences of sex, violence and metamorphosis. As an example of the Japanese take on the cyberpunk genre, it has a lot of unique and entertaining ideas.

 

Horror Bites - Contamination

ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

Call me crazy, but in the five year gap since the release of Prometheus, I was kind of expecting them to have come up with some really great story material for a follow up. It's a long time to wait for a sequel in an era where every franchise entry is treated as a stepping stone to the next money spinner. More and more focus is given to connected stories these days. However for whatever the reason, this latest instalment feels surprisingly hollow. Maybe it was something to do with the cancellation of Alien 5, or the studio pushing for more recognisable series motifs and creatures. There are certainly elements here that feel far more like action schlock than they should, perhaps clashing with Neill Blompkamp's ideas. Whatever the reason the outcome is just the same, this is a weak and uninspired addition to an already pretty shaky brand.


Horror Bites - The Divorce

POSSESSION (1981)

A lot of films like to try and avoid categorisation, branching away from horror into other realms of drama. They usually lose something along the way, sticking more closely to one genre than another. This is one of those. However for all the non-horror elements ... it is generally still pretty horrifying. Unlike late 1970s classics like Suspiria that assault the viewer with eye watering visuals and crazy nightmare music, this is a sensory barrage of an entirely different kind. Despite familiar names like Sam Neill appearing in the main cast there's nothing really to latch onto that makes any of this seem comparable to other releases from this era. Even the title is a kind of red herring, and the story itself breaks away from anything expected right out of the gate.


Horror Bites - This is what you pay for...

HARDWARE (1990)

Okay I hate to say it but this one is really disappointing, after hearing a lot of promising details. Sorry Mr Roboto wherever you may be today, I just don't agree. I'm well accustomed to cheap b-thrillers and ultra low rent science fiction fare. When done right they can be vastly better than the kinds of mass produced Hollywood popcorn fodder out there, and they can have heart and charm. So I was kind of excited to see that this one had been given a shiny new high definition re-release. I was all set for for some low grade acting and mechanical mayhem in a story about killer robots gone awry.


Horror Bites - Secret of the Ooze

PROMETHEUS (2012)

This is one of those releases that I really didn't feel like experiencing. I put it off for a while in fear of it being detrimental to some of the mystique held by the original Alien, but in the end it doesn't really change it a whole lot in the long run. Of course I also felt it could be a massive, crushing disappointment, so I was anxious about that at the same time. While this isn't the immense failure of writing and plot problems it could have been, overall it does feel slightly pointless. It's a strange mixture of great wide landscapes, expensive effects shots, and unexpectedly hilarious b-movie splatter.


Horror Bites - Road Rage

PET SEMATARY (1989)

Well it's that time of year again. Where better to kick things off than with a 1980s adaptation of a Stephen King story? Will this one rank somewhere up there with the likes of Misery or will it slip into the realm of those which are simply forgotten? Well, the screenplay is by the man himself, which may be either a good or a bad sign. After all, many of the most memorable big screen versions changed a lot of things. He's also in this. But then the same can be said of anthology classic Creepshow. There's a nice simple premise, a catchy title and a spooky setting. But how these elements come together is questionable as this is all too often guilty pleasure material.


Scorecard

SEPTEMBER


FILM OF THE MONTH: The Killer ☆☆☆☆
They Live ☆☆☆☆
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad ☆☆☆☆
The Flight of the Phoenix ☆☆☆☆
Pulp Fiction ☆☆☆☆
Captain America: The Winter Solider ☆☆☆☆
Jason and the Argonauts ☆☆☆☆

Weekend Retrospective - Glass Story

POLICE STORY (1985)


Jackie Chan's output between the late 70s and early 90s is often something I find difficult to choose a favourite from, with hits and their sequels cropping up almost as soon as he began working for Golden Harvest after a brief stint at Seasonal Films brought him into the public eye. Fans of hair raising stunts, action comedy and goofy facial expressions are pretty much spoilt for choice in this era.

It's often an embarrassment of riches, whether you prefer the classic old school thrills of The Young Master or the later more refined period adventures in Project A. There are plenty of team ups with his old opera school pals to choose from with familiar faces popping up throughout. Where to even begin? For me though it always comes back to the eye watering, glass breaking, shanty town destroying madness that is Police Story.

Weekend Retrospective - A Wizard Did It

THE MIRACLE OF DYNAMATION

There are a vast number of fine old school movies to sit through on a miserable wet Sunday afternoon. But even today it remains a treat to watch a few of the swashbuckling adventure stories that feature the creations of effects wizard, artist, and all round genius Ray Harryhausen. Harry who? I recall asking as a youngster -- but realising it was the classic film with the Cyclops battling a fire breathing dragon, I would undoubtedly spend the next few hours being mesmerised.

For one reason or another the realistic look of physical models and maquettes hooked me instantly, the kind of movement, the detail and textures. He worked in a recognisable kind of personality to even the most brutal monsters, imbuing them with real character. This style of hand animated effect has great appeal to me, a lasting charm. In some ways I kind of feel bad for the directors involved, but it's also great to know that an artist got such recognition. They remain his films in the memory of anyone reminiscing about this stuff.


Martial Arts Mix - Little Fortunes

PART 3 - YUEN BIAO MOVIES

If you've ever sat watching any number of Jackie Chan movies from the late 70s through to the early 90s, as well as the other action movies and comedies from Hong Kong in this period, a few faces will start to become very familiar. Not only because many of them are part of the JC stunt team but also the fact that so many actors and stunt performers were taught in the same opera schools as children. They had to make a living on the silver screen when demand for traditional entertainment died out.

If you ever have time to check out Jackie's biography (which is well worth reading) he talks about some of his 'brothers' from those days such as Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao who both went on to become stars in their own right. Here I'll be taking a look at the latter, the younger of this trio. As the acrobat of the group he often can be found doing hair raising physical feats alongside Sammo (Eastern Condors, Millionaires Express) Jackie (The Young Master) or even both (Project A, Dragons Forever) which are all worth seeing as genre classics in their own right. But for now I'll try and stick to the features where he gets to show his stuff and have top billing.


Martial Arts Mix - In the line of Duty

PART 2 - MICHELLE YEOH MOVIES

During this latest Hong Kong cinema marathon, I took time out from the usual Jet Li and Jackie Chan vehicles to look at a few of the best adventures from Miss Malaysia herself, Michelle Yeoh. Sometimes credited as Michelle Khan or Michelle Kheng possibly because of studio interference (and overseas marketing) I wish there were more of them, as many of those with her as the lead are very good. She has the acting chops and enough screen charisma to match her male contemporaries, as well as doing plenty of her own stunt work. Her screen debut (as the lead) is a typical example of this, as she takes on gangsters with Cynthia Rothrock in Police Assassins aka Yes, Madam. It's a fun buddy cop feature with a lot of silly humour and plenty of painful looking stunts, a staple of the HK action genre. It would prove to be the first of many successful outings.


Martial Arts Mix - A Man of Determination

PART 1 - JET LI MOVIES

'If you want to kill somebody use a gun... 
...Martial arts is about maximising your body's energy'

Is it blasphemy to consider Jet Li's Fist of Legend a better film than Fist of Fury? Perhaps not. As remakes go it's certainly amongst the better ones, retaining the original spirit while adding a lot of added extras. It certainly has some more progressive attitudes, and presents a more educated central character. It remains my personal favourite from the Wushu champions extensive back catalogue, though there are a lot of high points. The story provides more balance in terms of the Japanese characters; both heroes and villains are shown having varied personalities regardless of which side of the occupation they're on.

They also add a few extra layers in terms of romantic sub plots. Even the guy who poisons the master whose death kicks off the story has a more sympathetic cause for doing so here, rather than it being simply race related. Of course, it helps that the hand-to-hand action set pieces are also excellent. The standout moment is the big showdown with General Fujita with all those high kicks in stiff formal outfits, and the great improvised belt-come-nunchaku. It's a film that holds up to repeat viewings.


Martial Arts Mix - Die Harder

MELTDOWN (1995)

Tonal shifts and hard cuts from comedy to extreme violence are often an issue with action films from Hong Kong in the 1980s and early '90s. You don't have to look far to see this sort of thing occurring, and it often feels like a cultural difference; something unique to this period and region in cinema. The earliest progenitors in the kung fu comedy genre showcase this to some extent, for example the serious feel of the opening death from Drunken Master (1979) effectively introduces the villain, but is quickly dropped in favour of wacky teenage hi-jinks and disobedience.

Later it can be seen in something like Armor of God II: Operation Condor (1991) at a time where it's evolved into a far more extreme version of this trope and an unarmed group of desert travellers is brutally killed by mercenaries, immediately before a series of incredibly juvenile gags involving Jackie Chan and his female companions. There are examples all over the place, but in some ways the kind of tonal incongruities from Jet Li's Meltdown (aka High Risk) are among the most jarring and absurd.


Scorecard

AUGUST

FILM OF THE MONTH  Day of the Jackal ☆☆☆☆
Iron Monkey ☆☆☆☆
All About Eve ☆☆☆☆
The Blues Brothers ☆☆☆☆
The Empire Strikes Back ☆☆☆☆
Kong Skull Island ☆☆☆☆
Monty Python and the Holy Grail ☆☆☆☆
On the Waterfront ☆☆☆☆
Phantasm ☆☆☆☆
Groundhog Day ☆☆☆☆
The First Great Train Robbery ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - The Island

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)

There are a lot of things that concerned me about this latest monster mash blockbuster, whether it's the silly title, the fact this is yet another reboot, or the way it fits in the so called MonsterVerse series. It's an all round recipe for cringe. I'm not a fan of all these grand schemes for expanded universes, and I didn't really like the sound of a story which connected with the 2014 Godzilla film by Gareth Edwards. The previous instalment was drab, grey and lifeless without a hint of popcorn fun or any satisfying spectacle beyond a handful of interesting moments. However thankfully this new incarnation of King Kong is the polar opposite of that previous Kaiju effort in more ways than one.


Horror Bites - The Film with Balls

PHANTASM (1979)

Don Coscarelli's weird and wonderful funeral home escapade finally got a remastered release (from Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams of all people) so it's time to venture into the Tall Man's domain and see how things hold up nearly four decades years later. Is it a strange nonsensical horror story, a laughably silly film about beings from another world or just a tribute to the Italian traditions of shock cinema? Perhaps all of the above. It's certainly a movie that provokes a few laughs and a few creepy feelings along the way due to things like the structure and the random nature of the events that transpire. These are certainly bizarre in nature even without the editing and the music choices. But let's take a closer look and see how this all comes together.


Review Roundup - Chasing the Dragon

T2 TRAINSPOTTING (2017)

Fraudulent sequels made decades after an original movie (or series) are one of my least favourite kinds of release. There's usually huge amounts of hype ... followed by a period of denial, regret, and self imposed amnesia. Remember this? It's back! Just older and more lacklustre! Once in a while a film maker will have retained all their marbles into later life, but these magic moments are the exception to the rule. Trainspotting is still Danny Boyle's greatest directorial effort, something that holds up - perhaps looking better than ever today. It's awful, it's funny, and it's engaging. But despite a lot of unease about a follow up, I tried to look at the positives. The sequel book did take place some years later, and everyone involved in adapting it to the screen seemed to be back. But whether this succeeds or is just another failed attempt to recapture past glories needs closer examination. The results are pretty uneven.


Scorecard

JULY

FILM OF THE MONTH Subway ☆☆☆☆
Goodfellas ☆☆☆☆
Predator ☆☆☆☆
The Birdman of Alcatraz ☆☆☆☆
Back to the Future ☆☆☆☆
Bernie ☆☆☆☆
John Wick 2 ☆☆☆☆
Dead or Alive 2: Birds ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Got Milk?

GOZU (2003)

I feel trying to write an introduction to a Takashi Miike film is often of a pointless endeavour, since just finding his work and watching it without any research is probably the best approach. You generally know what you're in for - to expect the unexpected. Whether the synopsis features yakuza thugs or modest businessmen, the stories never really stick to any standard archetypes. So when I offer a brief explanation that Gozu is about two gangster friends, one who is tasked with taking his colleague to be killed because he has begun to lose his mind... you know that this is probably not going to be an exploration of the expected tropes. While there are some themes of brotherhood and loyalty, much of the plot here is far more bizarre.


Horror Bites - Meat Train

TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

It takes something a little more out there to get me interested in yet another zombie film these days, beyond just making them run around like rabid lunatics again or having the setting be something mildly novel like a train. In this case things did seem to be looking up, with an emphasis on adrenalin fuelled chases and claustrophobic passenger compartments instead of the usual focus on bloody effects. I was certainly interested to see how a Korean take on the genre would pan out and what outlandish elements might be introduced outside of Hollywood. However a few too many of the old clichés have been retained along the way.


Review Roundup - Double Down

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)

While Sad Keanu Chapter One was a slick sleeper hit that struck a nerve with many people who were tired of shaking cameras and censored violence, part of me was left wanting more. It was stripped down and stylish, but there was always something a bit restrained about it all. I may be hard to please but I've sat through Hard Boiled far too many times to immediately accept something like this as a new breed of shoot 'em up spectacle. But it laid some interesting ground work and showed people that actually being able to see movie violence could be a thing again. Fortunately a second time around means that they can push things a little further, and it's just the kind of push a sequel like this needs. Is it the double tap hit of adrenalin that I was hoping for previously? Well yes and no.


Review Roundup - Making Bacon

OKJA (2017)

After a number of years, director Bong Joon-ho returns to mixing up different genres under the guise of a creature feature. Just like the 10 year period in this story where the titular 'Super Pig' has been grown in the rural wilderness of South Korea, it's been a long time coming. Since The Host visual effects technology has developed and the cinema landscape itself has mutated and evolved. This is of course a Netflix release which has seen only a very limited theatrical run. But what has changed for the film maker over this time? Does the blend of satire and giant monster feel more refined after this lengthy period? Do the shifts in tone feel more natural and more finely tuned? Those anticipating another quirky but charming story know what to expect, but those stabs at the modern world are still pretty blunt.


Scorecard

JUNE


FILM OF THE MONTH: To Live and Die in LA ☆☆☆☆
Don't Breathe ☆☆☆☆
Ghostbusters ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ☆☆☆☆
Ronin ☆☆☆☆
The Full Monty ☆☆☆☆
Tomorrow Never Dies ☆☆☆☆
Total Recall ☆☆☆☆

Weekend Retrospective - No Ticket

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

Like the third instalment in the Star Wars trilogy, this was always a favourite of mine as a youngster. It's sillier and has more action, so I suppose it makes sense. However looking back the series suffers from a clear, if minor, effect of diminishing returns. And yet, it still remains a classic that caps of the trilogy in ways that are satisfying. The faults - things like recycled ideas from Raiders or a weaker first act that tries to explain away far too much of Indy's back story - are always very obvious on repeat viewings. But they are still essential viewings. There's still a lot to enjoy in terms of characters, action, music and set pieces - the essential ingredients in each of the films.


Review Roundup - Blind Fury

DON'T BREATHE (2016)

After the Evil Dead remake, Fede Álvarez apparently decided that it was opposites day; to take another shot at horror but in different direction. The excessive gore is nowhere to be found, and the home invasion plot is flipped so that the thieves quickly become the victims. So while his take on the Sam Raimi favourite left me less than impressed, it's appropriate that this is far more effective and ultimately more satisfying as a taut thriller with a few sharp moments of grotesque horror and panic. It's a fine example of taking a simple idea and running with it, in this case the set up being that our would be burglars are trapped in the home of a blind war veteran. It might push things beyond their limits as it progresses, but this is a minor misstep that I will get into shortly.

Short Film Safari - Rakka

Review Roundup - Near Miss

HEADSHOT (2016)

Despite the tired premise of an amnesiac action hero trying to figure out their past whilst fighting against sinister forces, the idea of an Indonesian Bourne Identity held some appeal for me. Starring Iko Uwais from The Raid series under the direction of  Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto AKA the Mo Brothers, there were certainly a few good elements that could give it enough flair to escape the trite plot ideas at the centre. If anything the mixture of horror and action expertise would be interesting to see. However despite the names involved this doesn't really come together as a solid martial arts adventure, and unfortunately it falls short of the potential for satisfying mayhem they could have brought to this kind of project.


Scorecard

MAY


FILM OF THE MONTH: Trainspotting ☆☆☆☆
Blow Out ☆☆☆☆
Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD ☆☆☆☆
Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible ☆☆☆☆
Mon Oncle ☆☆☆☆
RoboCop ☆☆☆☆
Shallow Grave ☆☆☆☆
The Big Lebowski ☆☆☆☆
The French Connection ☆☆☆☆
Where Eagles Dare ☆☆☆☆

Weekend Retrospective - Back in Black

PERFECT SCORE: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

'Good morning, Dr. Silberman... how's the knee?'

It's a big cliché but it is really hard to imagine a time when computer effects were so primitive that film makers couldn't just do anything they felt like. Someone would have an idea they wanted to see on screen, and more than one approach could be considered. Throw in some puppets, a bit of animation, a couple of miniatures. It's all part of a bag of tricks. Even Jurassic Park, lauded for its computer advances was planned as a feature that would use stop motion as well as the big practical creations. It could have been the swan song for Ray Harryhausen's style of movie monsters, or even boosted the popularity of those classic techniques. But there was a new deal breaker on the horizon. Shows like Insektors and ReBoot began to use computer animation and it gained traction even before Pixar broke new ground with Toy Story. All it would take was one idea to make it a big deal for live action films.

 

Weekend Retrospective - Bullet Ballet

PERFECT SCORE: HARD BOILED (1992)

"John Woo is..."
"...God"

These words appear on a series of title cards that are show in a trailer for this Hong King cinema classic. The press quote they've chosen to splice into the footage sums up the madness that is Hard Boiled, a crime thriller created by a master at the height of his powers. It's also described as 'gob smacking mayhem' and 'more exciting than a dozen Die Hards'. All of this hyperbole seems ridiculous but it's a pretty apt description of the story's content, an exaggerated and often excessive exercise in explosive action.

After setting the stage with the previous action greats A Better Tomorrow and The Killer, John Woo returned to the heroic bloodshed genre he helped create to give us his magnum opus. It would be the perfect distillation of everything that had come before, showcasing his fascination with meticulously staged gun battles and brotherhood themed tales. Ideas of loyalty and corruption would be explored one more time, while giving the forces of law and order a chance to be the heroes.


Weekend Retrospective - This Time It's War

PERFECT SCORE: ALIENS (1986)

'These people are DEAD Burke! Don't you have any idea what you have done here?!! Well, I'm gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this! You're not gonna sleaze your way out of this one!! Right to the wall!'

The behind the scenes history of the sequel to Alien being made sounds like a horror story all by itself. People from either side of the Atlantic fighting over things like work schedules and tea breaks while filming in England sounds like a nightmare. It's the sort of thing that should never happen, but the culture clash and lack of respect from the crew for the film makers set on doing a sequel to Ridley's 1979 classic created a lot of problems. It's been said they refused to even watch a private screening of The Terminator to see they weren't being pushed around by a complete hack.

On top of that there was also friction between two Jims Cameron and Horner as deadlines to finish the music approached. The original DOP was fired because he refused to light the set the way the director had envisioned. James Remar was let go because of drug problems. So it has to be asked, is this a true story of art through adversity? Perhaps, but luckily all the stress paid off. Much like the first two Terminator films, I have often had trouble deciding which is the better movie. They're all fantastic in different ways but let's explore why this particular sequel works so well.


Weekend Retrospective - State of the Art Bang-Bang

PERFECT SCORE: ROBOCOP (1987)

"Thank you for your co-operation. Good-night."

Aside from being one of my all time science fiction favourites, RoboCop is a film which contains so many things to enjoy. It's a story that goes beyond just being a blend of futuristic ideas and contemporary 80s culture satire. It's a film that has it all. It has the biggest squibs, and the biggest guns. It has the best mens' room scene. It's got a frequently horrifying mixture of grim, nasty violence, and offers a particularly bleak and cynical look at privatisation and greedy ambition. But at the same time it manages to be consistently funny. It's frequently excessive from the amount of blood to the over acting, but these ingredients are perfect in portraying a world full of, well excess. A film about a cyborg that fights crime is a recipe for some of the most trashy kinds of cinema, however the whole thing is crafted in such a way that all the moving parts are engineered to be exactly right, from the script, the performances, and the robot effects.


Review Roundup - Father and Son

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2 (2017)

With the exception of The Winter Soldier, the ever expanding Marvel franchise hasn't had a great track record with those tricky follow ups. Because of the nature of this universe it doesn't generally have that typically bigger and better first sequel (and inevitably disappointing third entry) that other distinct trilogies usual manage - these are all pre-planned as a single behemoth. Or so they say. Which means that they usually focus on sequel hooks and cameos to tie things into upcoming releases. However here James Gunn has apparently been left to his own devices, to write characters that are allowed to develop and expand as they face more personal challenges instead of simply fighting against bigger, louder problems. Of course the galaxy itself is still under threat, and there are plenty of eye melting visual effects sequences - but how these two elements combine to form the difficult second album is worth looking into.


Scorecard

APRIL


FILM OF THE MONTH: Duel ☆☆☆☆ 
A Shot in the Dark ☆☆☆☆
First Blood ☆☆☆☆
The Prodigal Son ☆☆☆☆
Time Bandits ☆☆☆☆
Nikita ☆☆☆☆
Paths of Glory ☆☆☆☆
Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆
Goodfellas ☆☆☆☆
Slither ☆☆☆☆

Retrospective - What awful people

PERFECT SCORE - TIME BANDITS (1981)

'Heroes? What do they know about a day's work?' 

Terry Gilliam's body of work has always contained a certain amount of abstract, eccentric, and utterly absurd things and nonsense; whether it's tales of piracy and banking in The Crimson Permanent Assurance, or the time travelling nightmare future of 12 Monkeys. But one feature stands out above his other successes, defying classification as either a simple children's adventure or just another series of bizarre Monty Python sketches. It's a richly detailed, layered story, filled with amazing visuals and memorable characters, as well of lots of rather silly jokes and dialogue. The plastic clad henchmen and eerie set pieces are all present and correct, but it's a film which grows beyond the sum of its parts to become truly one of a kind.