Review Roundup - Darmok and Jalad

ARRIVAL (2016)

In a time when Star Trek has been reduced to nonsensical action schlock, it's nice to see something that seems to have been made using real science fiction ideas to tell a proper story. Once struggling through opposing ideals and communication problems to solve a crisis would have been prime material for the series to cover, but today it's been left to a smaller scale, far smaller budget release like this to do something truly interesting. It's visually cold, it looks sterile and bleak. But under the grey and uninviting surface there are strong character moments, engaging emotional hooks, and one or two central concepts that have real weight to them. It also adds a new genre to the filmography of Denis Villeneuve, signalling a promising future for his upcoming sci-fi endeavours.


Retrospective - Crystal Balls

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

Revisiting this was never going to be pretty so I apologise in advance. Nearly a decade later I barely remember the film in question. Instead there's just a mental block covering over the let down of what could, and should have been. A vague feeling of frustration, denial... and boredom. It took so long to make. Surely that means all the best ideas have been used to create it I told myself. It's got to be good because they took some time and care. To bring back an icon like this takes some effort right? As it turned out the opposite was true. Nobody really cared or even tried. I have to temper my thoughts, after all this is following up a classic series containing the greatest film of all time. I've been through worse. But I suppose I just need to get this one off my chest. Going back to see if things look any better with a few years just makes the flaws much more apparent.


Retrospective - Ape Escape

KING KONG ESCAPES (1967)

Somewhere out there, you can find a movie box set that includes the original stop motion classic King Kong. It comes packaged with several other tenuously linked features including the butchered US edit of King Kong vs Godzilla and the ape versus robot madness that is King Kong Escapes. I have to wonder why, did someone include them just for laughs? Did someone working for the distributor actually think these made enough sense as sequels? Maybe both are true; at least I certainly like to think so.

In any rate, once upon a time this oddball bundle led to me what was one of my first viewings in this genre; an entry in the wave of films which followed 1954's original Gojira. This particular monster mash is still entertaining now, and it has since become a firm favourite of mine amongst the many rubber suit creature movies which have been produced over the decades. It's a shame Toho didn't keep the rights long enough to make more of these, instead opting to use other monsters along the way whether it makes sense or not. I would have certainly liked a few more instalments which feature their take on Kong.

What could possibly go wrong?

Review Roundup - One Last Time

LOGAN (2017)


For whatever reason, the X-Men series on screen has had a wildly oscillating tone when you consider the last 17 years of releases. The films erratically move from laughably bad CGI to sombre deaths and concentration camp memories, sometimes in the same story. This time around the title provides a clue of what they are aiming for; much like other comic book adventures in recent years that deemed it necessary to swap out the colours and camp, they've dropped the usual superhero alias for a more serious moniker. If the number of years since the initial Bryan Singer outing introduced us to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine makes you feel ancient, then this is a movie which will certainly magnify that feeling. Like the tone the quality also varies within the franchise, but fortunately this one hits a high point... while being a depressing and down beat affair. If you thought the changes between his first and second solo outing made quite a difference, then this takes things to new extremes -- while maintaining a few staple ingredients, for better or worse.

Scorecard

FEBRUARY


FILM OF THE MONTH: The Time Machine ☆☆☆☆
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆
Hard Eight ☆☆☆☆
Inception ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ☆☆☆☆
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ☆☆☆☆
Inglourious Basterds ☆☆☆☆
Jurassic Park ☆☆☆☆
Return of the Jedi ☆☆☆☆
Rise of the Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆

HFC Review - Papier-mâché Menace

THE NEON DEAD (2015)


The title of this movie throws up a lot of warning signs, whether it’s the zombie fatigue of non stop flesh eater stories in modern day mainstream media, or the quirky technology angle which highlights that this will be a wacky comedy. Both ideas are pretty exhausting to even think about. I’m pretty sure the name isn’t an attempt to have it confused with a certain Danish film maker’s psychological horror release from this year. But they did previously call it Invasion of the Undead so I can’t be certain. Fortunately the makers are a little less cynical than someone as jaded as me, and they have a few interesting ideas up their sleeves to lend this all a certain likeable quality. This is a film about home made monster masks, sword duels and grinning creatures with flashing eyes and torch light smiles. Let’s take a look into how this all fills out as an actual feature.

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Retrospective - Top. Men.

PERFECT SCORE: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

"South America, 1936" 

With that subtitle, something small and innocuous, begins the greatest adventure ever filmed. It has to be one of the best openings on film, a slow atmospheric build up that hides the lead character in the shadows waiting to show his face, and his abilities. Following a sinister trek through the rainforest our hero makes his entrance with the crack of a whip. The no nonsense approach shows us what we need to know; Indiana Jones is revealed through actions and not words.