phubbs

IMDb member since May 2007
    Lifetime Total
    250+
    Top Reviewer
     
    IMDb Member
    12 years

Reviews

The Principal
(1987)

The Principal
Ah the old, teacher gets sent to a high school in a area where all the kids are unruly and is tasked with trying to turn them around, routine. How many times have we seen this idea played out? I thought I had seen them all but up pops this James Belushi vehicle. So yeah, think along the lines of 'Dangerous Minds' and to some extent 'The Substitute' and maybe 'Toy Soldiers'. The last of which also starred Louis Gosset Jr. I might add.

OK so the plot isn't quite the same as all of those movies, they each deviate but still have a common theme. In this movie whilst out drinking teacher Rick Latimer (Belushi) spots his ex at a bar with another guy. He attacks the guy and ends up damaging his car. For his punishment, the Board of Education sends him to another school in another district where there is a crime/gang problem (and lack of willing teachers). Not really sure why he wasn't fired truth be told. Or put in prison either as a matter of fact. Anyway naturally Latimer hates this decision but once at the school decides to try and clean it up...with predictable outcomes.

So as you can imagine the school is chock full of all the classic 80's stereotypes both with the students and teachers. The students are mostly made up of minorities and range from Latino gangster wannabes, punks, sluts, extras from a Vanilla Ice gig, jocks, and rednecks. Whereas the teachers are mostly white, middle-aged, wholesome looking, weedy looking, geeky looking, and completely out of their depths (although they seemingly know how to handle the kids to a degree). Gosset plays Phillips the school head security guard. An aging man who once had a shot at going somewhere in sports but got an unlucky injury. You get the impression that Phillips being black means he would be able to see eye to eye with some of the students. Talk to them on their own level, gain a bit of their respect or trust. One reason why he has survived in the job for so long. But this trope doesn't actually come up.

You could also look into the old 'white saviour' motif in this movie, if you see it that way. You could say that Belushi plays the stereotypical white character that comes along to a poor area made up of minorities and saves them all. I mean you could look at it that way. But on the other hand, if the main character was also a minority then you wouldn't get that clash of cultures which is obviously the main crux (the only movie I know that has reversed that idea being 'One Eight Seven'). You also have to acknowledge that in reality the truth hurts, and that truth is there are many schools like this and mostly they tend to be made up of minority students. The school doesn't even have to be in a poor area to have the same issues really. The old class/poverty argument can be more of an excuse in my personal opinion. Being poor doesn't mean you have to join a gang or act like an arse in school.

Obviously things are deliberately to the max in this movie. The school (a very typical huge American high school) itself is really dated looking and in a bad state. Literally everywhere is covered in graffiti. The entire place needs a paint job. Everything looks rusty or dirty. All the equipment is dated. The place looks like a literal health hazard truth be told. I can't believe there would be any schools that actually looked like this in reality, at least these days.

As for the story and characters, well its exactly as you'd expect. You can virtually predict every scene, you know exactly what's gonna happen its that cliche. Latimer is a tough guy but manages to get through to a few of the kids. He visits one female student to try and bring her around, eventually succeeding of course. He gets into some scraps, some situations. Phillips acts more like the wise sidekick on occasion although he isn't of that much help generally. And in the end, in a long sequence that is typically over the top, Latimer must face-off against the main gang that rules the school. Although considering what has happened in schools over the years with shootings, maybe this isn't over the top anymore (it would have been when I was at school).

The real problem with this movie is the casting of Belushi. This supposed to be a crime thriller but Belushi is badly miscast. Around the time this movie was made Belushi was mainly a funny guy actor, comedies or action comedies. This type of serious social commentary, mixed with some thrills, isn't really right for a young Belushi. Every scene which is clearly supposed to serious, and at times emotional, it just gets lost on Belushi. He isn't even that good with the small bits of action either as he looks terribly unfit and sweaty. Nowhere near as cool as he clearly thinks he is. Not that this movie would have been anything special with anyone else, its a cliche fest, but Belushi was just a bad choice in my eyes. The criminal students are actually the highlight here, much better performances from the 'bad guys'.

Visually this looks quite good. I liked the sprawling ramshackle all-American 80's high school, and I liked some of the shots with the lighting effects. But apart from that its all very meh. Watching a chubby Belushi thinking he's ice cool as he rides around on his dated looking motorbike was cringeworthy to say the least.

4/10

Pink Cadillac
(1989)

Pink Cadillac
In the long long long filmography of the mighty Clint Eastwood, this has to be one of the most unusual. Unusual in the fact that whilst watching it you're wondering just why the hell he agreed to star in it (other than lots of money obviously). In short, this movie is absolute hot garbage, red hot trash, and I'm not being funny. It's just odd because this is Clint we're talking about and this movie really is THAT bad.

So basically, Lou Ann (Bernadette Peters) is white trash living in a trailer park (yep the stereotypes come thick n fast here). Her other half Roy (Timothy Carhart) is a member of a white supremacist group (perfect political commentary for this modern age as everyone loves white supremacists these days). The group has a large sum of counterfeit money (turns out to be real but that matters not one jot in the grand scheme of things) which Roy is supposed to look after. Alas he gets busted and Lou Ann takes the fall.

Feeling somewhat fed up Lou Ann does a runner in Roy's pink Cadillac (ah ha!) which is exactly where he stores the loot (see where this is going yet?). So Roy and his nasty white male friends go after her. At the same time Tommy Nowak (Eastwood) is hired to track down Lou Ann and bring her back to Sacramento (I think it was) cos she skipped bail. Naturally Tommy finds her but falls in love and ends up helping her yadda yadda yadda. Oh and there's also a baby involved which probably would have been killed by the end of this story considering all the danger.

OK so firstly Clint is clearly too old in this movie. He was too old way before this but its really showing here. Yeah he looks sort of OK but he can barely move with any speed and its painfully obvious in all action sequences which don't involve simply standing still and punching someone. There are far too many obvious stunt double moments and one sequence where Tommy runs after this other guy in downtown Reno (unfortunately an aged fat bloke) is hilariously awful looking. Both guys are CLEARLY running at a snails pace and CLEARLY having trouble at that! It really does look very very bad.

The very first time we see Tommy bust some criminal he's been hired to track is also really stupid. Tommy is supposedly a master of disguise (oh yes) and he goes to this huge amount of trouble to set this criminal up. But in a wholly idiotic move he reveals himself to the criminal BEFORE he gets the guy fully in his car. This of course leads to a fight which totally could have been avoided. Now let's focus on Tommy and his disguises, and by that I mean Clint and his God awful acting. Yep Clint can do the steely-eyed, somewhat muted tough guy, but sure as hell can't do comedy. The scene where he's pretending to be some kind of brash casino contest host is pure cringe, 100% face behind your hands cringe. Later on he then pretends to be a slack-jawed yokel type, oh Jesus!

But wait, that's not all. The movie is titled 'Pink Cadillac' after the car they use for most of the runtime. This is completely pointless though because they could have used any car, it really didn't make a blind bit of difference. I guess it just sounded kinda cool. Much of the movie is set in Reno which I have been to and here lies another problem. Reno is a small city, the main casino strip is actually very small, just two or three rather short streets that don't actually have that many casinos (as of 2019). So it's pretty clear they must have driven around in circles to make the car chases and in-car shots look good.

And then we have the bad guys, oh boy. Now these guys are your stereotypical gun wielding, redneck, yeehaw yokels that seemingly do nothing all day but get drunk and fire guns in their homemade firing range. They all dress as you'd expect in military fatigues or jeans with big belt buckles, and they all have guns, knives, and big 4x4 trucks. Their homemade base is just like some Scout camping activity centre complete with a fake town to run around in and shoot guns. And their leader Alex (Michael Des Barres) is a short scrawny little guy with a greasy ponytail. The bad guys literally look like a bunch of dads at Scout camp trying to look cool.

Yeah so this movie will probably pan out exactly as you might expect...except for one thing, we don't actually know what happens to most of the characters at the end. Yes believe it or not but this movie isn't that violent. In fact you hardly see any bad guys getting killed at all. I would have bet my bottom Dollar on some of the arsehole baddies getting killed off but nope. But referring back to my original point, we don't actually find out what happens to most of the bad guys. Do they simply stop being supremacists? Or do they even live? Dunno. Same goes for Lou Ann's other half Roy who is a main character. No clue what happens to him. The movie just ends after a car chase just as you were expecting the boss to get killed, did he? You just hear the sound effects of a car crashing (low budget? Lack of time?).

So yeah, a cheap looking pile of poo basically. The final showdown really highlights how poor this movie is. It's like a TV show. The only plus point that I can think of was the nice locations and backdrops. It feels like an ill-conceived comedy spin-off from the 'Dirty Harry' franchise. A huge misfire trying to ride the coattails of another Clint hit.

3/10

Atomic Blonde
(2017)

Atomic Blonde
Set in the late 80's around the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'Atomic Blonde' is yet another swish spy thriller that kinda rides on 'James Bond' coattails but also throws in some 'John Wick' and 'Jason Bourne' for good measure. This film is actually based on a graphic novel called 'The Coldest City' which is something I never knew. Sounds like all the ingredients for an absolute sizzler.

The Twisty Plot: Under MI6 orders and with the help of the CIA, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is trying to get her hands on a list, a list of spies that if it gets out will naturally compromise said spies lives. David Percival (James McAvoy) is an MI6 Station Chief located in Berlin who is assigned to help Broughton. Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella) is a French agent who falls for Broughton whilst trying to help her. And of course there are various other (Russian) characters who are trying to get their hands on said list to either sell or utilise. Oh and there is also an East German secret police (Stasi) agent who originally had the list and also memorised it, so Broughton has to save his ass too.

I must also point out that this entire story is actually told in flashback as Broughton recalls her entire mission in a debriefing to both MI6 and CIA heads. Personally I thought this was a daft thing to do simply because it just gives the whole game away doesn't it. Broughton is all beat up so we know she's gonna get into some major fisticuffs. She's alive so we know she isn't gonna die at any point. She also seems to have no major visual injuries (other than cuts scrapes and bruises) so again this takes away from any possible tension. And lastly she's alone so that could indicate no one else survives. Basically this direction kinda takes away the stakes of the plot, cos you know she's OK at the end. These sequences also tend to bring the film to a halt,

But the real problem with this film is the fact it's trying way too hard with all its various little branches. There are so many twists and turns which lead to you the viewer not really trusting anyone or anything you see. It sounds devilishly cool but it isn't, it's actually frustrating. Every character has their own basic reason for wanting the list, but you don't really get much beyond that. Yeah some wanna sell it, some wanna use it, Broughton is trying to presumably save the spies on it. But despite all the spy intrigue the characters are pretty shallow. Also, as I said you can't really trust anyone so again you can never be sure what their actual motivations are.

The absolute epitome of this is the ending. Spoiler alert, this film has around three different endings and each one makes a complete U-turn on Broughton. It literally feels like the writers and director couldn't decide on which ending they liked best so they rewrote them in order to cram them all in! You think it's over...and it isn't. You think Broughton is on this side...and she isn't, or that side! I couldn't even be sure if she was actually on the side she finishes with, fully expected another twist.

Yes all the reports are correct in that the action is superb, what there is of it. Yes the action is very John Wick-esque (director David Leitch directed 'John Wick') when it happens, but this is far more of a complicated spy thriller than 'Jane Wick'. Pretty much all of the action sequences are top notch in execution (except for the odd bit of greenscreen and CGI) and highly savage. Theron trained to do the scenes and it shows. One scene in particular, in a stairwell, seemed to be one long continuous shot of non-stop bone cracking, impossible to live through, carnage. Highly impressive, highly unrealistic if you think about it, but highly engaging. Had this come before the original Wick flick then it would be even more impressive.

I don't wanna keep bringing up the 'John Wick' franchise but considering the links here it's kinda hard not to frankly. So yes overall this film does essentially LOOK like a John Wick film only with a lot more neon and 80's nostalgia. On one hand it looks great, on the other hand it again looks like they're trying too hard. Seriously why so much neon?? Its like Leitch tried to make the entire film look like that nightclub scene from 'The Terminator', or an early MTV music video. This also goes for the soundtrack which becomes wholly annoying. Almost every scene has an 80's tune in it for no real reason other than to remind you its the 80's. A lot of this simply felt like style over substance and overall it tries to be too clever for its own good.

5.5/10

The House with a Clock in Its Walls
(2018)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Another children's book series adapted into a potential movie franchise? Ugh!!! Directed by Eli Roth?? Wha??!!

So in this story (originally published in 1973 so it predates a lot of most children's book movie adaptations), a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle John (Jack Black) in his large creepy 'Addams Family' style house after his parents are killed in a car accident. From the outset it's pretty clear that all is not quite right within this house. Unsurprisingly the boy's uncle turns out to be a warlock, a good warlock, and his best friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a good witch.

Eventually Lewis grows accustomed to his new supernatural surroundings and begins to learn the ways of witchcraft. Unsurprisingly Lewis finds out that the old house was once owned by an evil warlock called Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) who has hidden a clock within the walls of the house. He has done this because he wants to turn back time to the point that mankind never existed and the hidden clock will somehow allow that to happen via some magical alignment or something, I dunno. Of course this can't happen because Isaac has been long dead and buri...oh the young boy disobeys his uncle's orders and uses a magical book to cast a spell which raises Isaac from the dead. Of course.

So what does this movie offer that we haven't seen before? Rhetorical questions my dears. Yep this movie offers NOTHING, quite literally nothing. Am I being harsh? No I genuinely don't think so. The highlight of the movie is clearly and obviously Jack Black as Lewis' uncle. Yes even though we have seen these kinds of Black performances before they are undoubtedly enjoyable every time. Whilst they have clearly tried to give Black a kind of Dr. Strange-esque/Vincent Price-esque look and quality which does actually fail, it's still charming. The way Black interacts with his spooky house is a fun element.

The rest of the cast are drab predictable and uninteresting whilst the villain could have been played by literally anyone because it really didn't matter. There is a coming of age element in the story with Lewis' parents not being there and him having to learn to come to terms with that and his uncle. There is also the usual school bullying aspect thrown in there too and Lewis making friends with a random kid who helps him. It doesn't turn out the way you expect it admittedly but it's not groundbreaking stuff. Will kids pick up on it? Maybe, maybe not, I lean towards them being interested in the flashy effects more than anything.

Other than Black the only other element I did like was the 50's setting in a typical all-American 50's small town (or so it looked). Yeah we've seen this before but there is something so cozy and charming about these kinds of settings. A warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia even though I wasn't even alive at the time. I think it's down to all the old sci-fi and horror movies I've seen and enjoyed from that specific era that draws me in. Obviously I'm not alone in this because many of these kids flicks tend to have these small town settings. The interior house sets were also a plus for me with their thick wooden design and gorgeous old-worldly supernatural decorations. I LOVE a good solid well dressed period-set haunted house.

But that is also the problem with this movie, it just feels too similar to so many other movies. To be more specific, this movie basically feels like another 'Goosebumps' movie. I mean its literally the same spiel with the same lead actor! The special effects look no different, the same obvious CGI throughout. The various monsters and creatures could easily be straight out of said franchise. It's all the same, if Slappy had turned up it wouldn't have looked a bit unusual at all.

The plot also didn't really help. I have not read the original book so I cannot say how accurate everything is, but Jez is this a mess. The evil witch wants to rewind time right back to a point where he can stop mankind from ever happening, but why?? Why would anyone want to actually do that if they could? Wouldn't that mean that the evil witch himself wouldn't exist? What would he gain from this? Then there was a whole load of hocus-pocus about the clock in the wall turning back time so he can erase mankind or whatever. What's so special about that clock? Why hide it in the house? Then the lower half of the house (which seems to get bigger and bigger the further into the movie, like the Tardis) turns into a big clock of sorts with huge cogs and gears which gets stopped by merely dropping a magic 8-ball into them.

I mean I realise this is a kids movie but it's just too meh and despite being based on a book, it's completely the same as many other kid flicks. I mean how many supernatural children's movies have there been now?? (all trying to ride the coattails of 'Harry Potter'). Heck even the movies poster isn't much to shout about and it looks fairly derivative. The plot is boring and makes no sense. The visual effects are terrible (CGI baby Jack Black?) but the actual sets are top banana. Black is good but much like everything else here too familiar. And lastly there's no real tension because the villain and his plan is utter nonsense.

This basically felt like a Poundland/DollarTree 'Harry Potter' and the third generic sequel in the 'Goosebumps' franchise.

4.5/10

Mortal Engines
(2018)

Mortal Engines
OK so let me start this review by explaining my initial thoughts on this movie and its basic premise. As I'm sure many are aware the basic idea in this movie is how civilisation has crumbled after a devasting war and the remaining humans have, for some reason, decided to mount all the remaining cities on wheels so they can 'drive them around' so to speak. Well although this sounds cool on paper (in a kind of GamesWorkshop related way) I also found it to be simply ludicrous.

Obviously I know this is based on a fantasy novel and the entire concept is outlandish science-fiction, but really? So firstly I would have to ask how the feck mankind is supposed to have put their cities onto such huge chassis. This would mean they would have had to dig up famous landmarks (such as St. Paul's in London), load them onto the chassis, and then somehow fix them in place to said chassis. I then found myself asking what about the rest of London? How did they decide what to save? Are all the other buildings custom made for the new London-on-wheels or have they also been dug up and planted on the chassis?

I then found myself asking the most fundamental question (I think). What is the actual point in building (or putting) a city on wheels? How does that benefit the city? I mean yeah sure you could move it to the coast in the summer but it just seems so utterly stupid. Just looking at these things they look so fragile, vulnerable, and in one case completely top heavy. A neat fantasy idea for a cool image and again it sounds wicked on paper, but when you actually see it in live action and try to think about it logically it raises SO many questions. Also the fact that mankind has done this after an apocalyptic event really makes little sense. Not to mention the fact they still seem to have a lot of technology, materials, food, water, and working men to actually build all this stuff. These vast mobile cities are damn impressive feats, yet they go around destroying each other.

My last nagging question relates to the land itself. It seems that the surface of the Earth has changed since the '60 minute war' and countries like the UK have now joined mainland Europe (?). Anyway, considering how vast the mobile city of London is (and I assume some other cities), it got me wondering if there was enough space on the land for all these mobile metropolises. Heck even the smaller mobile cities are pretty big and its indicated there are many of them. I mean you could ask the same about ocean-going cruise liners in our present day and obviously there is plenty of ocean for lots. But if there were loads all roaming around on their own accord I'm sure there would be problems. This also led to me ask what state the land would be in. These gigantic mobile cities tearing and grinding up the earth as they piledrive along. The land would be wrecked, flattened, no trees, no plant life, no animal life, a complete wasteland.

As for the actual movie, well its a mixed bag really and does indeed remind you of some other large budgeted sci-fi movie failures of recent. First off it is very much your bog standard 'Star Wars' type clone with all the usual bog standard characters. Mix in some other very common elements from some other well known classic franchises (I don't even need to mention them) and this is the inevitable result. The only aspect of this movie that was slightly fresh was the steampunk aspect, which I liked.

But yeah you have your standard unwilling hero who finds himself thrust into a war of which he was somewhat naive about (and in this case looks disturbingly like Justin Trudeau). The standard strong female character who is trying to get revenge. The standard well-spoken leader who is actually behind closed doors the nasty villain. And then basically a whole load of background characters doing the usual stuff for both sides. I also have to mention that yet again we have a clear case of all the goodies being a multicultural bunch. Whereas all the baddies are all white, just like in 'The Last Jedi'. A strange and increasingly obvious Hollywood trend.

I mean in all honesty, aside from the admittedly cool and intriguing visuals, there isn't really that much going on here. It has the exact beats (both character and plot-wise) you would expect from a sci-fi feature of this ilk, literally scene for scene. In one sequence the main villain Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) wants to unleash this cyborg from a prison so it can hunt down and kill the main hero Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). Now Weaving's character is highly important in this movie, he has sway and power. Yet in order to release this cyborg he destroys the entire prison killing everyone. Couldn't he get this thing out without doing that? This attack also highlights how vulnerable and badly designed these mobile vehicles are, in this case a spider-like walking prison. One shot to a leg joint and down it goes.

And speaking of the cyborg (a clear Terminator rip-off called Shrike), what was that all about? From what I can gather these things were men that have been killed in battle and then resurrected with mechanical body parts. And apparently there was an entire army of them. This particular one looked after Hester as a child after her mother had been murdered. Why this killer cyborg decided to do this I don't know. But the really odd thing is the fact that the cyborg offers to turn Hester into an undead cyborg (because she is suffering depression from the murder of her mother). Hester agrees (!!) and makes a promise with Shrike. But in changing her mind Hester breaks that promise which triggers Shrike to continually hunt her down in order to kill her and transform her into an undead cyborg (eh???). This entire subplot was just idiotic and was completely pointless to the movie. You could literally remove it all, utterly aimless.

Of course Shrike eventually tracks Hester down to a city in the sky (yes that's right a city in the sky, in the clouds if you will...ahem) and in the ensuing battle the city starts to fall apart. Shrike gets badly damaged and Hester does find her original love for Shrike is reignited as the cyborg is obviously about to expire. And in typical action movie fashion despite the entire city falling apart around them with explosions and debris, both Hester and Shrike manage to muster enough time in order to have an emotional farewell (in true 'Terminator' fashion).

So yeah suspension of disbelief is required for this movie. Whilst that might sound obvious for a sci-fi fantasy it's a bit different for this one seeing as its sorta supposed to reflect upon certain obvious political issues of our current time such as capitalism, climate change, easily manipulated governmental systems, non-renewable energy etc...Cities that 'eat' and 'absorb' other cities which only benefits the few (in the cities) instead of everyone which would possibly lead to a better future. Basically saying, or highlighting, how society can/could eat itself. This can be easily detected in the story but the sci-fi element is so zany with its wheeled warrior cities the social commentary kinda gets smothered. Not to mention the sheer quantity of horrendous greenscreen effects and shots. Stand aside 'Star Wars' prequels, there's a new joker in town.

So yeah, the wheeled tank-like cities concept is engaging but ultimately really stupid. The rest of it is by the numbers science fiction which can be somewhat fun but only when the characters are actually onboard some kind of moving vehicle (they aren't very good characters that's why). Once they fall off onto the ground the movie literally stops dead, which is weird when you think about it. This is a highly imaginative and packed world for sure but as said before it owes so much to other films and tries to do too much. I felt like I was watching the final movie in a trilogy (or more!). The movie really feels like it needs sequels but I doubt that will happen. One thing I will say, I reckon this has future cult status written all over it.

5.5/10

The Wraith
(1986)

The Wraith
A young lad comes back from the dead to take revenge against the ruthless gang (of slightly older lads) that murdered him. There is no crow to help this young man though, no this lad comes back from the dead as a supernatural highly skilled street racer so he can...umm...race the gang members one by one and kill them in bizarre car accidents. You wouldn't think it though as the start of the movie feels more like the arrival of an alien being more than anything. Anyway, REALLY not too sure why he doesn't just come back and simply shoot them or whatever, but the gang are street racers themselves so I guess that explains it, kinda.

So yes, the plot of this movie is your typical revenge thriller. Your typical supernatural tale of an innocent person coming back from the dead to avenge their untimely death at the hands of some baddies. But it is indeed strikingly similar to the bird-related graphic novel that sprouted from the brain of one James O'Barr that's for sure. One has a heavy rock theme whilst the other a heavy car theme. The genesis of O'Barr's supernatural tale started way back in 1981, with the graphic novel eventually coming out in 1989, and finally followed by the movie in 1994. Of course the similar plots could just be coincidental, but it does get you thinking.

Anyway, as I said the very start of this movie is hella cheesy and looks more like the introduction of an alien being landing on a deserted desert highway, in a souped-up car. The effects are of course incredibly 80's lookin', naturally, but boy do they look good. Think of the speedy visuals from 'Tron' but set against a silvery full moon in a desert and finishing with a reveal shot of the mysterious hero clad in an all-black with a racing helmet. The whole sequence is gloriously goofy yet at the same time the epitome of retro coolness.

The Baddies: Now these dudes are a small bunch of (five) young guys, probably in their early 20's, led by one much older guy named Packard (Nick Cassavetes). Not sure if he was actually supposed to be older or that was just down to the fact they cast Cassavetes as a young man in his early 20's when he clearly wasn't. Anyway these guys are, again, the epitome of the classic 80's gang. Nick the leader is a bit of a greaser with his hairstyle and black leather jacket. Whilst his young henchmen are a mix of drugged up punks, weasely rats, and your cliched high school bully type all with silly names. It's an odd blend really because Nick is shown to be quite mentally unhinged and perfectly happy to actually kill people. Whilst his cronies are often more light-hearted, acting as comedic relief being all goofy and dumb. Clint Howard (who looks too old for the part) plays the brains behind the gangs car mods and sports a weird haircut that's straight outta the 1977 film 'Eraserhead'.

The bad guys are an interesting bunch. They mostly seem to be young adults that don't appear to do anything of use. Yet they seem to own this huge garage chock full of mechanical equipment for maintaining cars. We know they take part in crime, petty and serious. And we know they force people to race their souped-up cars and keep them when they win (by cheating). But we only see two of them with some kind of manual labour job, whilst Packard does nothing accept cruise around lookin' for fights, races, and watching his girl. So how do they afford to keep this large garage with all its gear? Do they actually run a service for people? Or do they fix up their victory cars and sell them? How have they not been busted by the cops yet??

The Girl: I did find it amusing that the sweet innocent girlfriend of Packard (Keri played by Sherilyn Fenn) actually continues to go out with him despite the fact he's clearly bad news. Don't get me wrong she knows he's bad news but never really seems too upset over it. She lodges some complaints here and there sure but she never really goes for it. The fact that he constantly threatens her and claims he owns her should really be an alarm bell to get the hell outta that relationship; nah she just protests a bit then carries on. I was like, girl go to the police for God's sake.

The Hero: So Packard and his mates killed this poor kid Jake (Charlie Sheen). Luckily he comes back as a supernatural force to take revenge...in a supernatural super-powered car. Again don't get me wrong its a super cool concept but...really? Like why does he need the car? If you're able to come back from the dead (or given the powers to do so by a greater force), you don't need a supercar surely. Anyway we know this is just an excuse for fast car racin'. The bad guys steal and race cars so the only way to beat them is race them, apparently. Jake is decked out in an all-black tinted helmet with an all-black jumpsuit which is covered in metal parts which represent other victims. I didn't quite get this, were these parts supposed to represent former victims of Packard's gang?

Another thing I didn't get was what Jake was supposed to be. For starters he comes back from the dead in a different body, he says it was the closest to what he used to look like. But what's going on with that? Why doesn't he come back in his original form/body? Who's body does he come with? Next up, is Jake a ghost or not? At the end Jake and Keri leave town together to start afresh. But is Jake actually alive? Is he a rotting corpse? A ghost? Reborn completely?? Immortal? Invincible?

The Car: The car in question was a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. A high-performance supercar designed and built in 1981for demonstration purposes. It most definitely looks the biz in this that's for sure. All black, completely tinted all round, low to the ground, and with a very sleek curvy aerodynamic spaceship design. The car is very effective throughout the movie (much like the DeLorean was for 'Back to the Future') and certainly emits a mysterious, dangerous and speedy quality. Alas the actual races we get are clearly filmed at low speeds which spoils the fun but the sight of this car lining up against some other classic all-American muscle cars is a sight to behold (for petrolheads anyway).

Another aspect the movie seems to hint at is the fact that Packard knows of The Wraith (never called that in the movie I think). When Jake turns up at their garage (in his all-black attire) and shoots up the place, Packard acts as if this has happened before. He doesn't actually seem particularly scared either, as if he's seen this black-clad vigilante before. All in all Packard is as cool as a cucumber when you'd think he'd be terrified like the other guys. So it kinda seems there's a history here which is odd because Jake only turns up in the area at the start of the movie so...what's going on here?

This movie really is the quintessential naff 80's action flick. It has all the ingredients from the wacky villains to the wicked cars to the plot that really doesn't add up when you think about it. But somehow none of that really matters. The supernatural element isn't really that spooky or tense or anything, it's just quirky and fun. The special effects are actually pretty solid. The race and crash sequences are fairly well done in a Saturday morning cartoon kinda way ('Pole Position'). Sheen's lifeless performance is odd but Cassavetes and his henchmen are clearly enjoying themselves while they chew up the scenery. Whilst Randy Quaid as the local sheriff pretty much plays a character we've seen him do before. If you like comicbook type flicks then you'll like this. In fact it does feel like an update of a 30's pulp comic character, kinda. Highly enjoyable fast food trash.

7/10

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
(2018)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
This inevitable sequel apparently seems to be an entirely new story which isn't linked to the original, something that took me by surprise. Not that I recall much from the first movie as almost all movies these days are the same garbage over and over, but the original did leave off with that invisible boy writing a new book. So we're not going to see what happens with that then??

Instead this movie takes us on another route to yet another sleepy small all American town with another bunch of kids. Its the usual spiel, two young boys out for adventure, an older sister trying to get into college, the apparent single mother, and the local school bully. It's your bog standard setup all round. Naturally the boys eventually stumble across Slappy the dummy who eventually reveals himself to be alive. At first the boys think this is great but soon discover the dummy is evil. Alas its too late because Slappy is already setting his plan in motion to bring everything Halloween related to life in order to make Halloween forever...just because.

So essentially what we have here is exactly the same story as the first movie (Slappy trying to take over a town), but with a different set of kids. There really doesn't seem to be any proper rhyme or reason to having everything turned into a cheesy Halloween festival, not really sure why Slappy is so obsessed with this idea. I mean, once everything is looking like Halloween town with goofy monsters and trick or treat decorations running around, then what? What is Slappy's endgame here?

This movie is so damn cliched and predictable too. Right from the start when we're seeing the local town with all the various Halloween decorations up everywhere, you know straight away all these things will be coming to life at some point. And sure enough. Not only that but many of these creatures are the same damn creatures from the first movie! We've got the werewolf again, the abominable snowman, the gnomes etc...The only difference this time is they replaced the massive gnome attacks with gummi bears (of which there was only a small toy bucket full of gummi bears, yet when they attack there's like millions of them). But what's more, the visual effects are awful! The CGI throughout this movie is really average to say the least. Not even on par with the first movie.

Everything is as cliche as the Halloween decorations. Yes admittedly this is based on a kids book franchise and yes this is supposed to be for kids, but come on! The cast isn't specifically bad per se but simply safe and unimpressive. It's like this is their first gig after being picked up from some crappy kids cable channel. But it doesn't help when the script gives them the corniest dialog possible and they're doing the most cliche things possible. It's like the writers got their ideas from the big book of movie cliches that have been done a gazillion times before. I mean seriously, the whole school bully angle, Jesus Christ how generic can you be??

The only highlight in this entire cliche-ridden movie is the brief return of Jack Black as R.L. Stine. From the second Black steps up to the camera with his first line of dialog the movie goes up a gear. But this is only temporary as Black flits in and out of the grand finale until its all over (he misses it). The kids save the day and Stine turns out to be of no use after all. I suppose its good that the big Hollywood movie star doesn't save the day but clearly this movie needed more Black. The difference in quality he brings with his comedic acting is as clear as day (loved the 'IT' reference). Big mistake leaving him out.

Spoiler alert! The movie ends on yet another cliffhanger which theoretically should lead into the inevitable third movie. But firstly, they did the same at the end of the first movie and didn't follow that up so...And secondly, this sequel failed at the box office so I'm not sure if we'll see a third.

4/10

The Transporter
(2002)

The Transporter
Written and produced by iconic French action director Luc Besson, this was his second attempt to bring Asian action to the mainstream in Europe (and kinda crack into the US on a personal level). Yes Asian action was no secret back then (although it wasn't huge outside of Asia) but this was Asian action with French flair.

The story is pretty simple. Ex-military man Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is a transporter, a transporter of anything no questions asked. He has three rules; no names, no alterations to the deal, and don't look inside the package. Whilst delivering a package he notices it moving. Eventually, after much deep thought, he opens the package and discovers a bound and gagged female. He is somewhat shocked but carries on with his delivery.

Upon delivering the package to the client he is offered another job. Midway through this job the package explodes and almost kills him. The client, a Mr. Bettencourt (Matt Schulze) tricked him and tried to whack him because Martin broke the rules, he opened the package (kinda understandable actually). This obviously forces Martin to return to Bettencourt's estate and take vengeance by killing some of his men and stealing a car. Alas the car has the bound and gagged female inside. Martin must now protect himself and the woman who has also revealed that Bettencourt is trafficking people, so there's that too.

Now, this movie was never very original, not by a long shot. The fact that Besson was involved helped as he was seen as more of a cult director at the time. The Asian action blend and influence from director Corey Yuen was seen as fresh at the time. And Statham drew intrigue because here was an action man who wasn't your standard handsome A-list movie star with big muscles; he was British and looked and sounded more like a villain...with muscles.

With that being said there is enough to like here for sure. The first half of this movie is easily the better half as we are given a very likeable action thriller that is clearly very Besson-esque. We meet Martin who is a disciplined, calm and collected, suit-wearing professional who only speaks when necessary. He drives a souped-up, high spec, black BMW which he drives like a badass, but again only when required. The plot is basic but engaging and the action is swift and brutal but believable. It is only once Martin inadvertently saves the girl that things start to go downhill with silliness.

For a start it takes an age before we actually find out why this female (Lai played by Shu Qi) has been kidnapped, which is stupid. When she is picked up by Martin she has no real idea who he is and if he's trustworthy, yet she never really tries to escape. Hell, even when Martin takes her back to his place she STILL doesn't try to escape! I mean, this guy could be planning to rape and kill her, but she ends up totally trusting him, covering for him when the police show up, and even making him food! She basically gets all cozy with Martin without even knowing him or what his plans are and considering her situation, it's weird.

Things get even more out of hand when the bad guys show up in the middle of the day armed to the teeth with guns and rocket launchers and destroy Martin's residence. All this in clear view of anyone, but nothing happens and no police are called. Luckily Martin has yet another luxurious residence not too far away (of course) so it's all good. And the female he rescued (who is kinda his captive now) offers sex to make up for all the trouble she's caused, because of course she does. The really odd thing though is Lai trusts and helps Martin so much throughout the movie, but when it comes to a point when Martin really does need her verbal assistance with a confrontation between the police and the bad guys, she doesn't say a word!

I must also point out the quite terrible musical score throughout this picture. An odd blend of your typical action themes with soft orchestral moments which feel completely out of place for the most part. It really is quite weird because at times it makes the movie feel like a low budget production, like it's been tacked on because they had nothing else to use.

Anyone who knows Luc Besson will know this movie and just what to expect. We all know Besson has a hitman/hitwoman fetish and since his 1990 offering 'Nikita' has essentially done the same thing time and time again switching between male and female leads. Although 'The Transporter' is nowhere near as solid in overall quality as his earlier hitman flicks (the other being 'Leon' in 1994), this first offering does still have plenty to enjoy. It's just a shame that the movie slowly degenerates into a stupid mess which was eventually doubled down on with the even stupider sequels.

6.5/10

The Tall Guy
(1989)

The Tall Guy
In the long quirky career of Jeff Goldblum there sits this 1989 British comedy that feels somewhat out of place, an oddball offering, much like the man himself really.

Directed by the late great chubby British comedian Mel Smith, this movie follows the somewhat dreary and lonely life of one Dexter King, a tall American actor living and working in London. He is single, something of a nerd, a frustrated and desperate thesp, and renting a room from his nymphomaniac landlady friend. When he goes for injections to help with his hayfever allergies he stumbles across Kate Lemon (Emma Thompson) the nurse.

Instantly becoming smitten he keeps going back trying to build the courage to ask her out. Eventually he manages this and the two hit it off. The pair enjoy a wild ride together while Dexter gets fired from his straight man job on a long-running comedy revue show to netting a role on an upcoming West End show. Despite this success complications arise and Dexter loses Kate. It then becomes his new mission to win her back.

This is a rom-com with a difference. It is of course outrageously British but because of the time it was made it is also highly cheeky, highly naughty, brilliantly witty, and actually highly intelligent. Yes the movie is somewhat smutty and rude, but it clearly has much thought behind it. Smith's direction definitely seems to be homaging Mel Brooks on some level (minus the spoofing) when taking into the account the quite brilliant mocking of your typical West End musicals. The latter half of the film is indeed a really solid take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber scene. You watch it and think they could actually make this musical on the elephant man, the stage sequences are that well done. But it's not just that, its the clever editing of the comedy, the quick flashbacks that Dexter has gelled with the top writing from Richard Curtis (another British comedy legend).

But it's all the performances that really help sell this. Rowan Atkinson plays an extreme version of himself (I'm guessing it's not what he's really like) as Ron Anderson, a highly popular comic genius who is a complete and utter bastard. This guy basically thinks he's God's gift to comedy and cannot stand to be upstaged by anyone. The disdain he holds for pretty much anyone, but especially Dexter, it's most amusing. As is his apparent arse kissing stories involving the Royal family.

Goldblum is basically Goldblum but his style fits like a glove here. Dexter is just your everyday guy, a tall guy, but an everyday guy. He is relatable, his experiences are relatable, you feel for him, you like him and want to see him succeed. Goldblum is able to engage you with his likable persona. Its actually quite surprising how good Goldblum is with comedy here, both physical and subtle. There are so many great scenes and little moments where a simple facial gesture or double take are hilarious. One highlight has to be the sequence where he ends up getting multiple travel inoculations.

Then you have Thompson as Kate. Again another entirely likable character who is also entirely relatable in every way. Just your average woman doing shift work, renting in a crappy London maisonette, looking for love? I mean really, in this film Thompson is the absolute prime example of 'the girl next door' type. Neither her or Dexter are particularly pretty people, they are both oddballs in their own ways, but love is in the eye of the beholder is it not.

There is of course a whole host of other cameos and smaller roles played by top British talents from both the big screen and British TV. Some are straight, others are quite bonkers much like Geraldine Carmen as Dexters sex obsessed landlady Carmen and Mr. Morrow the blind man who likes being blind. But none more so than Suggs of Madness fame in a cameo which is essentially a small music video. If you think along the lines of 'The Young Ones' then you're halfway there. In the middle of this film there is a musical interlude with the lovely song 'It Must Be Love' by Madness where almost everyone breaks the fourth wall (except for Dexter and Kate). It's most odd really as you'd think this would be better in the closing credits.

As with everything there are some silly bits, inescapable I'm afraid. The entire sex scene (which was quite infamous when I was a kid) is way too silly and overblown. I get the idea of it being a deliberate attempt to be overblown but it doesn't really work. For starters why on earth does she throw her duvet cover out of the window?! Could of just put it aside. Then there's all that food they keep rolling in, eww. They do it on a piano and eventually fall out of a cupboard that was closed, eh?

When Dexter goes to get his travel inoculations for his imaginary trip to Morocco (all so he can see Kate and try to ask her out), Kate has to leave for an emergency. But instead of leaving Dexter remains and allows the eccentric trainee doctor to give him the shots, much to his alarm. Why didn't he just leave? He didn't actually need the shots. During the film they mention how tall Dexter is a good number of times as if he's the only person in London to be tall. Like they've never come across a tall American before.

And in the end when Dexter must rush to the hospital whilst still in his elephant man makeup, he gets pulled over by the police. Seeing his deformed face (makeup) the police think he's really needing help so they give him a police escort. When at the hospital Dexter tears off a portion of the makeup, yet the police don't stop him? Wouldn't they be somewhat pissed that they'd just been tricked? This eventually leads to the rather daft finale where, of course, Dexter and Kate get back together in front of a crowd of patients. It's cute but really silly.

By today's standards this is a somewhat cliched film with its typical rom-com tropes. Indeed Curtis has reused many of these tropes again in his subsequent movies. That's not a bad thing as said tropes do work well but to anyone seeing this for the first time they will stick out like a sore thumb. The film is obviously incredibly British in its approach and humour which I'm sure many non-British folk would find both charming and confusing (there is an American cut for this film I believe). It's definitely a forgotten gem of British comedy and easily a forgotten gem in Goldblum's filmography too.

7/10

Coming to America
(1988)

Coming to America
Wait up, there has been a movie made by a major Hollywood studio which focuses on a story set in Africa. Which then shifts to focus entirely on African Americans. With an almost entirely black cast, focusing on various parts of African/African American culture. And it was directed by a white man!! Bu..bu..but! 'Black Panther'! yadda yadda yadda...

Yep believe it or not (and many won't) but this was done many many years before all the 'woke' left-wing media would have you believe; and what's more, it was actually directed by a white male! Shock! Horror! Social media outrage! Luckily that white director was the genius that is John Landis. Yeah it helps when you hire people based on merit rather than race and gender, but I digress.

The Plot: Very much in the vein of a classic fairytale if you will. The Prince of a fictional wealthy nation in Africa (Zamunda) grows tired of his privileged lifestyle. His every want and desire is pandered to, he is mollycoddled and spoilt. He may be a good man who is young and good looking but finding a true woman is hard because of the fact he is a Prince, a King in waiting. Unfortunately this is made even harder by the fact that he is down for an arranged marriage. So in desperation he flees (sort of) to America in order to find true love. To find a Princess (or future Queen) who will love him for who he is and not his wealth (tall order).

'I want you to bathe him thoroughly'

Right so first off this movie has an amazing cast all round, I think we can all agree. But undoubtedly this was and always will be an Eddie Murphy tour de force. There are many things to like and hark back to in this movie but surely Murphy's array of distinct characters must be at the top. From his genuinely solid performance as an African Prince Akeem. To his gold-toothed loud-mouthed barber Clarence. To his greasy perm haired crappy soul singer Randy Watson (easily the best). Each performance is incredibly unique showcasing Murphy's versatility. Indeed when I was young I never even knew Murphy was behind these characters, straight up. But that can also be attributed to Rick Baker's fabulous makeup throughout. I think the stand-out example of this has to be Murphy's old Jewish barbershop customer Saul. The makeup (essentially whiteface) is so flippin' good for years, as a youngster, I never knew it was Murphy.

The rest of the cast was like a who's who of African American actors at the time. The legendary James Earl Jones played King Jaffe Joffer, a big man with a strong sense of national pride and tradition. Wearing a pair of thick rims on his face, typical 80's suits adorned with some unique jewelry and an amazing, if somewhat un-PC, lionskin complete with head around his torso. Its like he was born to be an actual African King. Arsenio Hall played Semmi, Akeem's close friend, along with his own selection of classic weirdos. He was another of the old ranting men in the barbershop, an ugly female in a nightclub which was fudging hilarious, and his best performance as Reverend Brown. A buck-toothed balding raspy-voiced man of God...who was kinda creepy.

Alongside there was also John Amos as Cleo the concerned father of Akeem's Princess-to-be and owner of 'McDonald's' rip-off McDowell's. Shari Headly played Lisa, the Princess-to-be of Akeem's desire. Madge Sinclair was the more down to earth Queen of King Joffer (they had an arranged marriage). And Eriq La Salle was fantastic as Lisa's also greasy perm haired creep of a boyfriend. Smaller roles and cameos included the likes of Calvin Lockhart, Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Don Ameche with Ralph Bellamy playing the same characters from John Landis' earlier movie 'Trading Places'. So this officially means 'Trading Places' and 'Coming to America' are in the same cinematic universe. Akeem gives the duo a large wad of bills (as they are homeless after the events of the 1983 movie). We are left to assume they use it to get their fortune back, but did they succeed?

Another strong element in this movie is the locations. The American set parts of the movie are filmed around various New York boroughs and just like 'Trading Places' New York sells the movie brilliantly. There is no better city to film in than Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs for atmosphere and culture, especially when it's cold and snowy. Again just like Landis' 83 rags to riches movie each location sets the scene perfectly and gives you the viewer a really pitch perfect vibe. The cold weather also helps sells the reality of the situations making you glad you aren't right there at that point in time. There's just something so cool and photogenic about old 80's New York in the cold and wet, so gritty vibrant and real.

I should also point out that the African sequences, although clearly done on sets, are highly effective too. The costumes all look very well designed, authentic, rich and vibrant in colour. The royal interiors all look lovely and again very colourful, and I'm sure based somewhat on reality. And the large ceremonial dance sequence is also impressive in scope and I'm sure also based on reality, with some artistic license.

But how can I not mention the biting comedy here?? Back in the day this movie was considered by my folks to be off limits, oh yes. Even the cut TV versions were frowned upon. Obviously they knew it was a comedy but the near-constant profanity and odd bits of nudity were a big no no back then. Far too raunchy (don't laugh, different times). But yes this movie is like a flippin' gold mine of errr...comedy gold. Cruel, unapologetic, definitely not for the faint-hearted liberals, and epic. There are moments of cutesy humour such as Cleo's obvious grovelling towards Akeem when he discovers he's mega-rich. He then goes on to really kiss King Joffers ass which is done to a tee, only to then stand up for his daughter when the King rebuffs them both which was heartwarming.

Then there are the moments when Murphy and Hall let loose and bring the house down. Hall as a slutty big-haired nightclubber who wants a threesome has to be a small highlight. The other crazy women are also very funny too (actual actresses). Murphy as Randy Watson and his band 'Sexual Chocolate' is another top spot. He preens himself as he struts across the stage whaling out his tone-deaf lyrics. Meanwhile Hall as Reverend Brown bounces around the stage praising Jesus and his adoring followers. When Akeem and Semmi decide to blend in with Americans and get kitted out in local attire. Queen Aoleon telling Joffer to put a sock in it as he yells at Akeem for going after Lisa against his wishes. Nice little moment that, you're thinking...yeah you tell him! And of course the constant pressure Akeem feels to look poor so Lisa doesn't catch on to the fact he's a Prince of an African nation.

'bit of an insect problem but you boys from Africa are probably used to that'

In the end one of the most interesting aspects of this movie is the simple fact that it's actually a very good story. Yes its a somewhat crude and crass comedy at times. Yes there's plenty of silliness and hijinks that now comes across as kinda daft. And yes there are many many elements that would be deemed offensive by today's overly sensitive society. But in amongst all that is a truly heartwarming fairytale of searching for love in a big city. There is a solid sense of family in the movie, on both sides on the coin, and every character is generally likable including the 'bad guys'. A touching tale of two different cultures (effectively visualised) coming together and living happily ever after. Arguably Murphy's best comedy/film.

Question is, what happened to McDowell's? I wonder if Maurice became manager?

10/10

Dragged Across Concrete
(2018)

Dragged Across Concrete
A movie plot that is, for all intense and purposes, centred around modern media outrage and the 'film everything' culture on mobile phones? Interesting.

OK so it's not entirely based around that. The basis for the main story stems from the fact that people film everything on their smartphones these days; and the fact that things can easily be perverted by media outrage (and social media outrage). Not an entirely new notion over the course of history but it can be argued that in our present day, in this moment of time, both are reaching their zenith. These highly contentious issues play a strong role in the plot of this film.

The Plot: Two cops, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) arrest a drug dealer. Unfortunately the duo are filmed whilst doing so and find themselves accused of police brutality (Ridgeman held the suspect down by placing his foot on the back of the suspect's neck). Both are suspended for six weeks with no pay. In order to keep their heads above water financially (for their family purposes mainly) Ridgeman uses the criminal connections he's developed over time as a cop to get info on a possible heist that they can hijack.

The info they get leads them to a potential bank robbery organised by a mysterious man called Vogelman (Thomas Kretschmann). Vogelman's team consists of two other mysterious men who are always masked, and two African Americans, Biscuit (Michael Jai White) and Henry (Tory Kittles). Both Biscuit and Henry are merely hired guns for the heist and so discover Vogelman and his two assistants are highly vicious killers. The heist goes off without a hitch and the team escape...but with both Ridgeman and Lurasetti tailing close behind.

So when I first heard about this I thought it was going to be a high octane action thriller. I mean look at the two protagonists for heaven's sake! We've got Mel Gibson who's looking more and more like your average blue-collar dad having a grumpy day...but in behind closed doors he's actually a hard as nails badass. And then you've got Vince Vaughn who you know would be the perfect wise-cracking smartass partner in this epic buddy cop action flick. But it SO isn't this!

K this is not a bad thing. This movie is actually a slow-burning cop drama noir where we follow the duo around, slowly, as they come to terms with their predicament and then slowly form a plan to rob some robbers. When I say slow I mean slow. Not that this is a boring movie no, but director S.Craig Zahler simply takes his time in building the characters. He allows us to get to know both cops inside out. We get to know what is driving both men, what they need to do and why, and eventually just how good they actually are as cops. These guys are not a pair of bumbling half-wits oh no. Turns out they are damn good cops...that have been forced down a dark route in order to save their humble family lives.

But what's really interesting is the fact that neither of these guys are particularly politically correct and the film does tend to glorify this (to its credit). Ridgeman is an old school cop who doesn't fudge around. He gets things done the way he sees fit and if that upsets social media, well fudge em'! It's also Ridgeman who comes up with the idea to track and rob a heist. He is a solid cop, true blue. He knows the score and clearly won't hesitate to get dirty if needs be. Oh and he even smokes...on camera! What kind of apocalyptic doomsday chaos is this?? Will someone please think of the children!

I found myself feeling sorry for the duo (especially Ridegman) when they are suspended for their actions. The film perfectly captures in one scene of dialog how infuriating modern society and social media can be. The fact that some prying member of the public was at their window filming everything, probably for their own social media standing. To gain 'likes' and attention. The fact that the media blew the whole thing up in order to boost their own ratings. Outrage clickbait to mobilise the online SJW outrage mobs. 'the indelicate treatment of a minority who sells drugs to children', a powerful and clearly controversial piece of dialog but one that explains a lot in the context of the movie. Yes Ridgeman stood on the neck of a minority suspect, which is wrong, but lets conveniently overlook what this guy was doing.

Zahler is also brave enough to take on social issues surrounding communities in poor areas. Ridgeman's family live in a poor area of the city with many different people from different backgrounds. A diversity of cultures all packed together tightly. During the film we see Ridgeman's young daughter assaulted by a group of young African American boys. We are told this has happened a few times before (three I think it was). 'you know, I never thought I was racist before living in this area'. 'we really do need to move'. Is what Ridgeman's wife states to him one evening. Again hard dialog but Zahler isn't sugarcoating this drama.

His partner Lurasetti is also a solid cop with a solid work ethic. He technically didn't do anything when Ridgeman assaulted the suspect. Yet he was also suspended and follows Ridgeman down this corrupt path, but not without concern of course. It is Lurasetti who points out the moral issues when the duo follows and watches the gang rob their target bank and people are brutally killed. Ridgeman acknowledges his concerns but stays focused on the goal.

We also get a good in-depth look at the counter character of Henry. His mother is a drug-addicted prostitute and his son is wheelchair bound! So everyone has some major family issues in this film, no one is left out. Henry takes up the gig of being a getaway driver for Vogelman only to earn some money for his family. Alas he gets caught up in a night of betrayal and murder. As for the bad guys, well they are bad alright. Not as much is known about these gents. The ring leader Vogelman seems to be German I guess (although that's probably because Kretschmann is) and is very Hans Gruber-esque, minus the laughs. He knows exactly what he's doing and appears to be highly precise. His two henchmen remain anonymous throughout. We never see their faces as they are hidden under masks. All we see is their lips, so we know they are caucasian at least. Both are outright maniacs with psychopathic tendencies.

Zahler really delves deep with this film. He doesn't just throw out action sequences with explosions and car chases. Everything is methodical and played out as if it were in real-time. So in the end the big finale isn't a fast shoot-out, it's another slow burn situation where the cops must think about how to defeat their opponents. Essentially a long drawn-out yet highly engaging game of chess in a way. Who will make the first move and will it be the right one? Whilst many scenes are like this in the film it does seem at times like its padding. For instance, we see the masked bad guys rob a small liquor store and a couple of guys in a car. But why? What was the point of those scenes? Just to show us how psychotic they both are? Then we get a subplot surrounding a young woman going back to work after maternity leave (to the bank that gets robbed). Again why did we need that? I understand that it gives us even more character development, an insight into one of the bank workers before the robbery, but ultimately it did seem like padding. Did we really need that?

I could also question what on earth any of these guys would do with all that gold bullion they stole. I can't imagine you could melt it all down easily (I guess), or just sell it without raising lots of questions. Would it be trackable? I get that someone with the right knowledge or contacts might have an idea, but what about the Ridgeman family who get a box of gold right at the end. What the hell are they supposed to do with it??

With all that being said this is a very different animal to what we've been getting recently. It's very slow yet multifaceted, highly detailed, gritty, extremely hard-edged, chock full of explosive dialog...enough to make a liberal faint, and with two archetypal yet highly engaging protagonists (anti-heroes). The violence and gore can be shocking, the bad guys are some of the most merciless we've seen for some time, and there is also a surprisingly strong undercurrent of dark edgy humour. It goes from looking dull to eye-popping in more of an artistic manner and the performances are top notch (Gibson getting better and better with age...somehow, cos he was never this good way back. Whilst Vaughn is now a solid straight actor? What the flip is going on??).

Overall it's good, it's surprisingly very good, but maybe a little overstuffed at times.

7/10

Bumblebee
(2018)

Bumblebee
The sixth (sixth!) installment in this tired crappy epileptic fit inducing CGI fest sees us going back to the 80's. Yes we're going back to the 80's yet again, well a 2019 politically correct revision of the 80's that is. Because we all wanted to know the origins of the Autobot Bumblebee right? Like how he got his name etc...ugh!

The Plot (and a brilliant start!): The story kinda harks back to the original 1986 animated which saw Autobots fleeing Cybertron as the Decepticons gain an advantage in the war. Here we see the Autobots on the brink of defeat and Optimus Prime evacuating his last warriors to other planets. B-127 (Bumblebee) is chosen to go to Earth so he can set up a new base of operations for the Autobots. What follows is a pretty safe stereotypical plot where Bumblebee meets a teenage girl, makes friends, and must stop two other Decepticons from alerting the rest of the Decepticons and bringing them to Earth.

The brilliant part of this movie (as I'm sure most will agree) is in fact the all CGI beginning showcasing the Cybertronian war on Cybertron. THIS is exactly what we the (original 80's) fans have wanted all along. This sequence was fantastic! Why? Because they actually recreated all the characters and Cybertron as they appeared in the classic cartoon and toy franchises. Cybertron looked like the Cybertron. Prime looked like Prime. We actually got Soundwave and Shockwave looking like Soundwave and Shockwave! And if you paid attention (throughout the movie, not just at the start) we also saw classic characters like Wheeljack, Brawn, Starscream, Cliffjumper, Thundercracker, Ratchet, and a wonderful little sequence with Ravage...including the original transforming sound effect!

I can't stress how much I loved this opening sequence! It looked gorgeous! This was exactly what I've always wanted to see in a modern Transformer movie. The little flashbacks we get from Bumblebee give us some more of these sequences (which eventually gives us Ravage) and frankly that's all I wanted. I had literally no interest in the live action trash that followed.

Live Action Trash: Yep so after the superb all CGI opening we got the rest...and it was just as crappy as all the previous Bay garbage. Naturally the lead protagonist is a strong female character, because that's all you're allowed now. Naturally her sidekick is a black guy, because that's the Hollywood standard couple now. Naturally the evil Decepticon was female, becau...ah fudge it.

Bumblebee himself looks as he did in the Bayformer movies with minor changes which is fine I guess. Megatron is also not present, so I'm guessing this is for continuity reasons? I'm guessing this movie does tie in with the Bayformer movies?? Like what the hell is this supposed to be?? It hints at being connected...but how can it be??

Unfortunately we still have the same damn issue of the people behind the movie creating new Transformers. Why??? Why do they keep doing this??? I know it's for toy sales but still...just use existing classic characters for flips sake! There are so many awesome characters to choose from. Stop creating crappy looking new characters! And why do they fire regular human-made bullets?? That literally makes no sense. And why do they know martial arts?? Stop it!

There are other weird and annoying plot conveniences too such as Bumblebee's power core being damaged when he arrives on Earth. But when the girl finds him he's suddenly fine and dandy. So did he recharge or fix himself or something? John Cena's military character is literally the most stereotypically cliched military character you've ever seen with the most stereotypically cliched plot arc you've ever seen. Also when Bumblebee is on Cybertron he's a kickass Autobot warrior. When he's on Earth he acts like a little child or scared puppy...literally. What the hell is that about? A lame way to try and suck emotion from us the viewers as we watch a teenage girl play with her large Autobot puppy? Pfft!

'you sound like a bumblebee, I'm gonna call you that'...What?? Literally what??

And then you have the 80's nostalgia, good God. Both teenage characters bedrooms are like an advertisement from an 80's era Toy 'R' Us advert. That might sound logical but there was just something so clinical about the look, too perfect, too neat, too on the nose. I mean I grew up in the 80's but I never had multiple movie posters on the wall because back in the day movie posters weren't actually a thing you'd have or could get easily (unlike today).

The locations were good I'll give it that. That classic sunny/misty Californian coastal town setting always seemed to suit the era. But just in case you forgot we were in the 80's you had the soundtrack. I think the movies smashes out a classic 80's tune every five minutes or so. Literally every scene change gets a new 80's track, its insane. One after another no matter what's happening, doesn't matter if the songs match the scenes, they just cram as many as they can in.

Is this the Transformers movie we always wanted? No. Is this any different from the Bayformer movies? Not really no. Is the all CGI beginning of this movie what we always wanted? Hell yes! Why are they still making this live action rubbish? It's definitely the best Transformers movie so far, but it's not got much competition lets be honest. This movie only gets the score it does because of that beginning sequence. Other than that the rest of this movie is the usual bland safe rubbish you've come to expect from movies these days. Watch the CGI start then switch off and ponder what could have been.

5/10

The Relic
(1997)

The Relic
A movie (based on a novel) where Tom Sizemore is the lead role? The protagonist? The gruff hero? Yep, there was a time when this happened.

The Plot: Now it's easy to think this was essentially a bog standard 'Alien' or 'Jaws' rip-off merely set in a museum. A simple creature feature with a nasty monster running around eating folks one by one. And you would actually be correct. But the story behind this is actually a bit different, if somewhat confusing, I think.

In fact I'll be honest and say I'm still not entirely sure how this story works. Some anthropologist is working out in the South American bush with a local tribe. They give him some kind of drink made from a specific type of leaf which also has some fungus on it. Over time this mixture of leaf and fungus mutates this guy into a huge beastie which eventually ends up at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. It's here that the monster goes off on its rampage eating people's brains. Why brains? Well the leaf (or fungus) contained a hormone similar to that found in humans, specifically in the brain (?). And this monster needs that hormone to survive...and there's you're carnage.

What I'm not entirely sure on is, why did the tribal people give this dangerous drink to the scientist? Did he upset them somehow? He also seemed to understand what would eventually happen to him judging by the start of the movie, but how would he? Was it actually the leaf or the fungus that contained the hormones and caused the mutation? At one point a mutated bug is discovered and we are told it was down to it consuming the leaves. I'm pretty sure we are also told the leaves contain the hormone, so what was the fungus about? The monster is also supposed to eat the leaves to survive. So I'm guessing its a mixture of both leaves and fungus?

The funny thing about this creature feature and all others is the fact that the monster itself never gets full. It goes around killing and eating one person after another nonstop and never once thinks, blimey I'm stuffed! Think I'll go have a lie down for a half hour. Also going back to the whole mutation thing, how does a human mutate into a huge dragon-like monster? Even for a horror fantasy it seems implausible. Like he'd have to grow on a massive scale for a start.

Anyway for the most part this movie is a typical creature feature horror, almost in the same vein as 'Deep Rising' but without the humour. As the monster chomps its way through people in corridors and tight dark spaces it eventually makes its presence known and attacks a large gathering in the main area of the museum. Up to that point the movie is very much in the same vein as a creepy slasher flick. You don't see the monster. All the kills are off-screen but clearly violent. Plus the camera and lighting work is very typical of that genre.

As things start to ramp up the action is more focused, more in your face, and of course you see the monster more and more. The lighting is still strategically used with beams from flashlights, lots of shadows, reflections, roof lights, the odd sparse light here and there. All of which does add tension and atmosphere giving the movie a solid element of quality. They have clearly taken a lot of influence from 'Alien'. But naturally as you see the monster more and more it loses impact. This is primarily because the monster is generally CGI for the full body in motion shots...and it's reasonable. Overall the monster (created by Stan Winston) is solid but too familiar. Winston is great but you can see familiar elements of the Predator in its face. It's basically a large reptilian lion with a Predator's face.

In general the special effects are pretty solid, when they're practical. Having the great Stan Winston at the helm it's hard to go wrong really. Most of the gore revolves around decapitating people, or biting the heads of people. Remember the monster likes a specific part of the human brain so it grabs its victims between its two front pincers (mandibles?) and slowly separates the head from the body. This results in lots of very well done fake heads bouncing around the place. Although there is one quite memorable scene where we get a full-on full frontal, no cuts, decapitation of a victim by the monster. A combination of live-action to CGI which is a little hokey but pretty cool.

Its certainly a highly engaging monster flick it must be said. As said it kinda starts off like a slasher flick. Then slowly moves into a creature feature. Then as the plot progresses and people have to flee the museum through underground tunnels it becomes a disaster flick of sorts (taking heavy influences from 'Aliens'). Yes it's all entirely predictable of course. All the folk trapped inside the museum when the monster attacks (the power fails causing all security to lockdown. Although I'm not sure museums have huge thick steel doors that lock shut like a bank vault) are upper-class elites of society. Its all the aristocrats of Chicago being hosted by the Mayor at a posh exhibition opening shindig.

So naturally you have all the stereotypical uppity assholes that refuse to listen to advice. The hysterical women, the bigwigs threatening to fire the protagonist's cos basically they can't the dangerous scenario going on around them. It's stupid really, the Mayor threatens to fire Lt. Agosta (Sizemore) because...he messed up the posh shindig I presume. Then one of the leading museum curators (Linda Hunt) fires this other dude in the heat of a situation because he refuses to leave the main area and go into the tunnels. I'm like...what the hell is this?? Who cares about firing people and careers when your life is on the line because a man-eating super-sized dragon thing is on the loose in your museum!

Overall this is most definitely an underrated forgotten gem of a horror/creature feature. Certainly its a bit corny, predictable, cliche, and totally rips-off other classics, but it does with an element of class. Something which is surprising considering the rather lowkey cast line up (Tom Sizemore??). But yeah overall the movie looks terrific. The museum sets are totally believable. The acting is really quite good (again...surprising). And the plot does go from strength to strength. Somehow this rather unoriginal idea manages to keep racking up the tension and keep you glued to your seat. The only downside is the science related mumbo-jumbo crapola which is used to try and explain how this monster came to be. But other than that, yeah its great fun watching this dragon/Predator/Godzilla hybrid gruesomely chomp its way through Chicago's wealthy benefactors.

7/10

1990: I guerrieri del Bronx
(1982)

1990: The Bronx Warriors
So the story goes that produced Fabrizio De Angelis was in New York and accidentally missed the subway station for his hotel ending up in the Bronx. For anyone not in the know, the Bronx was an area in New York that was a hotbed of crime, poverty, and arson/vandalism from the 60's through to the 80's. Twas on this little excursion that De Angelis came up with the idea of people having to fight their way out of the area. Of course influence from classic movies like 'Escape From New York' and 'The Warriors' didn't go amiss either.

So with that (and the title of the movie) I think you can guess how the plot goes. Its the distant future of 1990 and the Bronx has been declared a wasteland, a no man's land due to the out of control gangs that roam the area. Into this danger zone comes the young heiress to the arms manufacturing giant, The Manhattan Corporation. Anne (Stefania Girolami) has deliberately run away because she is guilt-ridden over the fact she will inherit a company that makes weapons of death (pfft! Typical liberal youngster). Eventually the silly girl is picked up by a gang called 'The Riders' led by Trash (Marco Di Gregorio).

Luckily for her Trash decides to protect her from the mercenary Hammer (Vic Morrow) whom the Manhattan Corp has hired to find her. At the same time Trash must also contend with other Bronx gangs whom the merc has deliberately managed to turn against each other in order to get to Anne.

I think the first thing I noticed about this movie was the beautiful camera work. One of the first big sequences we see is Trash and his gang meeting with The Orge (Fred Williamson), the self-proclaimed 'King of New York'. This takes place on the banks of the East River in Brooklyn (I think) which at the time was clearly a very run down squalid area. The location is very close to the Brooklyn Bridge and gives a scorching panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline with the Twin Towers (World Trade Centre) front and centre. The cinematography work here is gorgeous. Sergio Salvati pans in out and around the two opposing gangs and their array of vehicles as they stand-off against each other. At the same time a lone drummer sitting on some old theatre seats (that have clearly been ripped out of somewhere) beats a rhythm to add tension to the meet.

Bit of interesting trivia. The lone drummer was simply some random guy who happened to be on the location at the time when the crew turned up. Director Enzo Castellari liked the cut of his jib and decided to leave him in the sequence without giving any explanation as to why this guy was there. Another bit of trivia, due to Italian monetary regulations (or whatever) 50% of the movie had to be shot in Italy. To solve this issue interior shots were done in Italy, whilst exterior shots were obviously done in New York.

As for the gangs well if you think along the lines of 'The Warriors' mainly, with other bits and pieces thrown in, you'll know what to expect. 'The Riders' are your typical biker gang; all black leather, blue jeans, bandanas, shades, tattoos, knuckle dusters, lots of spikes etc...Then you have 'The Tigers' led by The Orge. Not sure why these guys were called 'The Tigers' when they should clearly be called 'The Pimps'. Yep these guys all dress like characters from a blaxploitation movie, think 'Superfly', including all the jazzed up pimpmobiles.

Then we have 'The Zombies' who are a gang of dudes that get around on rollerskates, fight with hockey sticks, and wear German Nazi helmets painted white. Not sure why they call themselves 'The Zombies' though. I would have thought that monicker would have gone to the gang that literally dress in rags, walk around as if they were hobbled, and apparently live in piles of garbage in the sewers? Like why would anyone join a gang like that?? There was also a gang that appeared to look like the Droogs gang from 'A Clockwork Orange' who tapdance when they fight in their sparkly outfits. There was a gang wearing pastel coloured zoot suits. The Orge's sidekick was a thigh high boot wearing blonde with a bullwhip; whilst Hammer comes across like an out of shape Paul Kersey crossed with Harry Callahan.

Just to be clear, this movie does in fact come across as the perfect live-action adaptation of Sega's 'Streets of Rage', from time to time. Whilst the action is somewhat daft and at times crude, you can't deny there is a certain charm to it all that makes you smile. Watching all these different gang members fight each other in big fisticuffs screams videogame adaptation and hilariously is possibly the best I've seen, in a corny way. It's also amusing that despite being set in New York the movie feels so small in scope. Sure the backdrops can be delightful and it is quite historical looking back at the slum that was a mid 80's Brooklyn and the Bronx, but they clearly use the same streets and interiors over and over. Indeed the interiors are clearly very Italian-esque compared to the all American exteriors. The Orge's lair looks like the sewers of a Roman Amphitheatre.

But aside from the crazy costumes and copyright issues, the cast is undeniably one of the best parts of this movie. Lead actor Marco Di Gregorio as Trash is by far the strangest casting here. Apparently he was only 17 at the time of filming but you'd never guess. Marco has quite the body with strong arms, the perfect pecs, and a long mane of dark wavy hair. His acting is understandably weak but his strong firm tall bod with handsome Italian features allow you to look the other way. He is a surprisingly striking lead character (especially with his odd way of walking).

The rest of the gang is an odd mix frankly that includes some actors, such as George Eastman, that director Castellari has used before in his other features. You have some actors like Joshua Sinclair who don't really fit the part of a biker gang member. Christopher Connelly who looks to be struggling throughout the whole process. Fred Williamson who seemed to be king of the crappy Italian rip-offs at the time. And one of Trash's henchmen looks like Freddie Mercury. Come to think of it, all the gang members were pretty old apart from Trash, hardly any youngsters.

Naturally the big finale sees all the gangs join together to fight against the dastardly Manhattan Corporation in an epic showdown (well kinda). Things get crazy with gang members and faceless corporation soldiers being killed left right and centre. Explosions, knives, guns, rocket launchers, martial arts, bikes, sweat, blood etc...It's all there in glorious Italian B-movie fashion. I mean what can I say?? How can I sum this up? The cheap facepaint, the ridiculous outfits, the outrageous 80's rockstar hairstyles, the trashy dialog, the absurb gangs with their names, and the blatant copyright infringements on some Hollywood movies. It's like 'The Warriors' but set during the day. Yes it's terrible, but its also fabulous God damn it!

7/10

Mary Poppins Returns
(2018)

Mary Poppins Returns
So there's a lot of history to the eventual release of this sequel. The author of the books P.L. Travers basically never liked the original Disney movie, except for Julie Andrews casting, and was never shy about making it known. Bottom line there has been a Poppins sequel gestating for decades but Travers has always put the kibosh on said plans because of how she believes she was treated over the original film (methinks she exaggerated personally). But anyway long story short, Travers died in 1996 which essentially gave Disney a green light to go ahead. Pretty low if you think about it, but I guess that was always gonna be the only way forward for Disney.

So what we have here is a belated sequel set twenty-four years after the events in the original 1964 movie. Michael and Jane Banks have now grown up, with Michael having his own kids. They both still live in their childhood home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London. Michael is unfortunately a widower and looking after his kids with the help of his sister. Luckily they still have the now aging Ellen the housemaid to help out too. Despite being set twenty-four years later Admiral Boom and his first mate Mr. Binnacle are still alive and living next door!

The Plot: Michael (Ben Whishaw) has taken out a loan from the local bank to help keep ahold of their magnificent house. Alas Michael is having troubles paying this back and the house is on the brink of being repossessed. The only way Michael can hope to pay back the loan is via his bank shares...which he cannot find. Meanwhile bank chairman Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth) knows about these shares but is secretly trying to prevent Michael and Jane (Emily Mortimer) from knowing of them because he wants their house. Once again luck is on the Banks side as Mary Poppins ((Emily Blunt) arrives to save the day and help...everyone basically.

So I believe this sequel is based upon all the Poppins books, or bits and pieces from all of them. The original 1964 movie was based on the first two books I believe. I have not read any of the original books so a few of my complaints could easily be explained, but I'm gonna mention them anyway.

Firstly we have the character of Jack the lamplighter. Now apparently this chap was an apprentice of Bert (Dick Van Dyke) from the original movie. Now of course this character might be in the books but I don't recall him from the original movie. So to me this just seems like a weak excuse to have another chimney sweep-type bloke in the film to make it more relatable. What happened to Bert? Why not just have an aged Bert? Also the guy they cast as Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is American, why?? I know Van Dyke was American but did they really need to copy that? Why not cast an actual English actor instead of having a Yank who can't do a British accent. This really seemed like a stupid decision to me.

Another glaring issue was the films pacing and structure. Let's not beat around the bush here, this film is literally a scene for scene copy of the original. They virtually copy the original step by step. This also makes the film incredibly predictable; although even without the same scenes you can guess a mile off what's gonna happen. The whole thing is very Potter-esque. But yeah, of course there's the obligatory animated scenes. There's a song sequence with a crazy person (original had Uncle Albert). There's a scene where the kids and Poppins are told off by the father. There's a song sequence with all the lamplighters (original had the big chimney sweep song sequence). There's a scene with an old lady selling balloons (original had the old pigeon lady) etc...Heck they even copy many of the original films moments such as Poppins and her mirror reflection.

And then there is the big finale. Let's not sugarcoat this, its nonsense. In order to get to the bank on time to prove the existence of the bank shares to Wilkins (who already knows because he's a dastardly villain), they all decide to turn back time. But they don't actually mean going back in time, oh no. What they mean is they will simply put Big Ben back by five minutes. How does that work? That's not solving the issue because you're still late by everyone else's time. Anyway in order to do this Jack and his mates must scale Big Ben in order to alter the clock (laugh out loud!). So they do this and it looks incredibly dangerous. But when they run into trouble Poppins merely flies up to the clock hands and does it effortlessly. So why the flip didn't she just do that in the first place?!

So long story short they succeed in getting the bank shares to Wilkins who tries to get around it but is ultimately fired by Mr. Dawes Jr. (Dick Van Dyke). Now if you recall this character was the little smarmy guy with the squeaky voice in the original 1964 movie. The little guy who looked after Mr. Dawes Sr. who was also played by Van Dyke. Well he's now old and in charge of the bank yet curiously he looks identical to his father, literally. I understand why they would cast Van Dyke here but it does, for a moment, confuse matters. I had to think about it because you can't help but ask yourself, how is that old guy from the first movie still alive??

The last part of the movie has all the characters buying balloons from a mysterious magical old lady and they all float off. It's definitely typically Disney but also completely nonsensical and cloying. As for Poppins and Blunt's performance, it was solid, but I didn't like her tone of voice. I mean was it just me or did she come across like a snooty, upper-class, somewhat cold rich bitch? Personally I think Andrews had a much more caring aura about her. And then there was Poppins cringeworthy cousin with a ridiculous name and essentially the most Potter-esque moment in the entire film. Ugh! Terrible sequence.

Don't get me wrong it's not all bad, far from it. The movie looks truly sumptuous! I think this has to be the best looking film I've seen in ages. They recreated Cherry Tree Lane perfectly, down to the last detail, and it's beautiful. 1930's London is also truly stunning in its scope and fairytale-like visuals. There is realism but its also highly romanticised with a gorgeous colour palette. All the costumes are highly detailed, very realistic looking, and again gorgeous looking with the colour palette. The highlight of the movie has to be the animated section which as you might expect showcases Disney at its best. The addition of CGI really boosts this (and everything else) into the stratosphere as you really don't see the join so to speak, totally seamless. Something that did surprise me in all honesty because so many movies abuse CGI these days.

Alas I must go back to being negative again concerning the soundtrack and score. Yep this totally lets the entire movie down big time. It's inescapable I'm afraid. All of the songs are horrible plain and simple. Firstly there are too many and secondly not one of them sticks in your head. I realise its not an easy task to try and compete with the 1964 classic, damn near impossible! But in my opinion they simply failed here, there is nothing more to say on the matter. The songs were awful and unmemorable, whilst the dance sequences unimaginative and boring.

So after all that would I call this a bad film? No I wouldn't. Would I call this a good film? Meh, it's fine. It just about does the job. As I've said I have no idea how accurate this is to the original source material, it might be spot on, I dunno. Visually this is a masterpiece of modern cinema. Yes I kid you not it's incredible looking, a real treat which most kids will adore. As for the rest its totally meh. It's really obvious that they're trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle that was the original classic and they just can't do it. I have to score it over 5 simply for its stunning visuals, I have to. But overall this again feels like something that didn't really need to be made. The original does everything you need and it simply can't be topped.

6/10

Venom
(2018)

Venom
Another day, another comicbook movie. When will it end??

So after the somewhat dismal iteration of Venom in 'Spider-Man 3' Sony went back to the drawing board. Initially plans seemed to revolve around having Venom get in on the action in the rebooted 'The Amazing Spider-Man' franchise, but that failed. There were ideas to have Venom kickstart his own franchise which would share the same universe as other Marvel characters. There was also an idea to have Venom in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'. There was also an idea to have a low budget adult version. Whatever rumours or stories we can all agree that for some reason the powers that be really wanted a Venom movie.

So eventually we got this movie. Whilst on a deep space mission a corporation led by the evil Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) manages to discover a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms. Bringing four specimens back to Earth one escapes and causes the shuttle to crash which unleashes it. In the meantime Drake starts to experiment on humans, trying to get the aliens to match with a host. The aliens need an oxygen-breathing host to survive.

As you might imagine Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) eventually gets into this corporations HQ (with help from an employee) and is accidentally taken over by one of the symbiotes. We then follow Brock as he adjusts to the alien inside him, Drake and his goons coming after Brock, and eventually the last surviving symbiote taking over Drake resulting in Riot.

Now I'm not up on every Marvel character so I don't know how accurate this movie is to the original source material. I'm guessing there have been many changes. But I do have some large queries. The symbiotes are looking for a planet with hosts they can take over and consume, OK. So what exactly is their plan of action for Earth? Eat every human and...? Then what? Is this all they do?

At the start of the movie we are led to believe that it's hard to find the correct match for the symbiote. Drake is going through loads of human test subjects trying to find a human that will bond with the symbiote. OK that's fine. But at the same time, the symbiote Riot seems to be jumping from human to human no probs at all. Add to that, later on in the movie the symbiote Venom seems to have no problem taking over Brock's ex-girlfriend and a dog. Riot also takes over Drake no problems too. I dunno if I missed something but this just seems inconsistent because we are led to believe that it's hard to find the perfect match for the symbiotes, and when Venom finds Brock it's treated like a shocking breakthrough.

I also found kinda odd that the aliens have names from our human language. I thought (in the comics) Brock came up with the name himself once combined with the symbiote (?). But in this movie the symbiotes seem to already have their names. I also thought Venom changed its mind way too quickly about Earth and humans. The symbiote seems to take the choice of betraying its own very easily purely based on liking Brock. And it had only been combined to Brock for a day or so, maybe not even that! Far too convenient for me.

Aside from that the movie is generally incredibly dated in style and outcome. This REALLY feels like a movie that came out in the 90's. It looks like a movie that came out in the 90's. The CGI ranges from really sweet lookin' to really terrible lookin'. Close-ups of Venom are great, most everything else is bad. Most of the action sequences are woefully bad in both execution and visuals. The stunts are clearly stunts. There are tonnes of obvious greenscreen shots. Venom looks rubbery at times and plastic at others. When Venom fights Riot its an indistinguishable CGI mess. And the bad guys are astronomically cliched. This is the present day 'Spawn'.

Yet despite all that, for some reason, I kinda liked this. I like that they tried to make this somewhat dark and gritty, and for the most part, they succeeded. The start of the movie is quite eerie, playing up some horror tropes. And Hardy definitely helps with his unhinged, dirty, druggie-esque performance. Personally I think they should have gone for broke with an all out R/18 rated flick because the head biting scenes needed to be seen. As they stand its stupid because there's no blood or gore and I'm pretty sure onlookers would be more horrified (the Asian shopkeeper at the end much?).

But yeah, can't quite put my finger on it but I sorta liked this. Kinda reminded me of the trashy mid 90's flicks I'd see at my local Odeon on a Wednesday afternoon. Its not a good movie, its legitimately bad with poor...everything truth be told. Still, in an odd way, this is just...dumb fun.

6/10

Above the Rim
(1994)

Above the Rim
There was a time (the 90's) when films like this were all the rage. Set in somewhat run down, working class, urban areas with heavy minority demographics. Lots of profanity and lots of guns and violence. These films were seen as hardcore, edgy, brutal, gritty etc...They exposed the real urban experience of what life was like 'in da hood'. And for the most part, they succeeded.

I was born in 1978, England. Having lived most of my young life in entirely white populated areas throughout the 80's, when the 90's hit with movies like this it was indeed a real eye-opener for me. I recall how movies like this were treated like really hard adult flicks that you had no chance of seeing because they were deemed FAR too controversial with all the swearing, guns, and violence. They were virtually placed above the horror video nasties because they were almost seen as snuff films by parents of the day. There would be rumours of how maybe one kid in school (usually the tough troublemaker) had seen one of these films; and they would usually be held in high regard. Often going down in the school's folklore as being well 'ard.

Anyway enough of my nostalgic ramblings. This movie was indeed one of those types of films as mentioned above. Amusing nowadays of course because it's so laughable to think that this was ever controversial. What we have here is a very standard sports drama set in Queens, New York. It follows the young high school basketball star Kyle (Duane Martin) as he trains and plays his balls off to try and make it to Georgetown University on a scholarship. In the meantime there is a small local streetball tournament coming up and he must choose between playing for his coaches team or his so-called friend (and gangster) Birdie (Tupac Shakur).

So basically what you have here is the local high school sports star, the golden boy, facing a tough moral decision whether to play for his aging (white) coach; or increase his street cred and play for the local gangster (who has his own streetball team). In the middle is the high school security guard Thomas 'Shep' Sheppard (Leon) who just happens to be the high school's old basketball star from back in the day but got jailed for accidentally killing his best friend (in a really ridiculous way I might add). Shep is also seeing Kyle's mum which pisses Kyle off making it hard for Shep to give him advice on life and hoop dreams.

Yeah so the whole movie is really really cheesy. Its got every cliche on the book I tell ya. Kyle is the hot-headed young star who can't decide between right and wrong despite the fact that the wrong is REALLY obvious. I mean if this dude can't tell that his friend Birdie is bad news then he deserves to flunk out in life frankly. Birdie the gangster is your typical gangsta from da hood. He's literally all baggie pants and top (literally two sizes too big for him). Lots of gold bling dripping around his neck, wrists, and adorning his fingers. Big tan CAT boots, bandana, facial scar, and a close personal henchman to do his dirty work. Oh and his streetball team wears all black...because they're the baddies? Or was that some kind of activist thing?

The plot is incredibly predictable right down to almost every scene. Its literally paint by numbers. Kyle doing well with his school team. Kyle getting slowly lured to the dark side by Birdie as he tries to get him to play for his baddie team. Kyle needs time to think about it. Kyle rebuffs Shep's advice. Shep watches over Kyle like a quiet Jedi or spiritual guide. Kyle's high school coach pisses him off so he decides to play for the evil Birdie. Shock reveal! Birdie and Shep are brothers! Birdie eventually reveals his true colours. Kyle shocked by Birdie decides to return to his coaches school team. The big finale tournament sees the school team play against Birdie's violent baddie team. The goodies are losing badly at first. But they eventually come back to win when, low and behold, Shep enters the game and helps them win.

The core point of the movie is supposed to be how Shep left the neighbourhood after his best friends death, leaving his family in the lurch. It was Birdie who helped get the family off skid row with his nefarious antics. But he was at least there for the family, unlike Shep. This is all explained in one scene which is pretty much the highlight of Shakur's performance amidst lots of stereotypical gangsta acting.

Alas the rest of the plot is a bit light and at times daft. I guess Birdie has his own streetball team because he likes basketball? Or is it simply a tool to reinforce his dominance over the small area that he technically rules (?). And what real importance does this street tournament hold? It seems to be a local thing, nothing of importance. I can see why Birdie would wanna win it, but I dunno why Kyle is bothered about playing in it. Kyle's mother looked about 20 years too old for Shep. Shep playing basketball, on his own, at night, without an actual ball was weird. Obviously meant to be a psychological thing surrounding the trauma of seeing his best friend die, but it looked plain stupid.

The acting overall is actually pretty poor I thought. There are so many occasions when it felt like I was watching a mediocre TV drama. The worst offender is Leon who's character is supposed to be a bitter, introverted and somewhat sullen man; but often comes across like an actor desperately trying not to smile in his scenes. His body language and moody looks are so over the top because he's clearly trying too hard. It's the same for all of the cast in all honesty. They all come across like B-list TV series actors really really trying to act gritty and serious. It's like they're all auditioning for something else and throwing everything they have at the screen. The corny dialog doesn't help things either.

I think the worst thing about this film is the horrendously cringeworthy moment when Shep heroically strides onto the court in the tournament final to play against Birdie's team when the good guys are on the brink of defeat. It's genuinely amusing because its taken SO seriously. Then in the wake of defeat Birdie orders his crazy second in command (and star player) to whack Kyle right there on the court in front of everyone! Luckily Shep throws himself in front of the bullet to protect Kyle, what a guy! The final nail in the coffin for me was the preachy and vomit-inducing last sequence showing Kyle playing for Georgetown on TV with everyone else proudly watching (yes he makes it). The entire movie wrapped up in the perfect little bow of good morals.

The film is obviously of its time. Like the soundtrack, the styles, and the attitudes, it offers a solid representation of 90's America that is now heavily nostalgic whilst also being somewhat cringey. It's definitely not as hardcore and brutal as some similar outings and its definitely not the best sports drama out there either. For me looking back this actually comes across as a very safe film for both genres of gangsta and sports. It doesn't really go all out for either but merely decides to plop itself right on the fence. I also get the impression that had this film not had Shakur in it, it wouldn't be remembered much at all.

5.5/10

The Thing from Another World
(1951)

The Thing from Another World
This was a first time viewing for me and to my surprise we are introduced to some amazing opening credits with the title screen. Yes the title sequence for this movie is in fact exactly the same as the title sequence for John Carpenters 1982 movie (that 'slow-burning letters through the background' effect). That is because this 1951 original came up with the concept first and Carpenter homaged it in his version. Firstly, I never knew this and secondly the effect looks just as fantastic in this early 51 original.

So the story of this thriller was actually another surprise to me. By that I mean this movie doesn't actually follow the original novel ('Who Goes There?' by John W. Campbell), unlike John Carpenters remake which was more faithful. In this movie a team of scientists and military types are deployed from their Anchorage base in Alaska to check out a crash site at the North Pole. Once there they discover a UFO in the ice but accidentally destroy it. Luckily they also discover a frozen body too and take it back to their base for examination. Sometime later the body is accidentally thawed out and the alien is let loose. The alien proceeds to kill husky dogs and eventually people by draining them of their blood.

However, despite all this lead scientist Dr. Carrington wants the alien unharmed so he can communicate with it, whilst Air Force Captain Hendry wants to kill it. So its the usual struggle between science and the military. Is the alien misunderstood? Is it maybe scared and trying to defend itself? On one hand you have the scientist that would risk everyone's life to simply try and communicate and learn from the alien (noble but highly dangerous). And on the other, the military officer who simply wants to save his men and the scientists by shooting first and asking questions later (again noble but maybe gung-ho?). It's not quite as low and underhanded as the battle between Ellen Ripley and Carter Burke but there are similarities.

But as I was saying this movie doesn't follow the original source material. Firstly in this movie the alien drains the blood of its victims like a vampire. It feeds on blood. Secondly the alien itself is humanoid (very humanoid) and doesn't shape-shift at all. Obviously there were technical limitations with effects back in 1951 so the alien is unfortunately a man with some basic makeup on. He has some claws and a Herman Munster shaped head and that's about it. But most importantly, the alien has a cellular structure more akin to vegetation. In other words it's a humanoid plant...that feeds on blood? Well I guess that's not unheard of in the plant world, but still. The fact it's essentially a large plant (that looks like a human), that also makes it impervious to bullets which is handy because the humans fire a lot of bullets at it.

So none of the characters in this movie have the same name as the original source material. There is also a large number of characters in this movie making it hard to keep track or feel anything for any of them. The alien is nothing like the alien in the original source material. The plot is by and large totally different. And the alien is killed off in a completely different manner. So overall I was kinda disappointed with this.

Of course being a movie from 1951 there are lots of amusing bits and pieces that were typical of the time. The interior of the Anchorage base looked like the interior of a stately house with bookcases, posh desks, wood panelling etc...When the team accidentally destroy the crashed UFO nobody seems overly bothered! They act as if it was just one of those things, you know, an everyday mistake. Oops we just destroyed the first discovery of alien life on Earth with our explosives, ah well. The movie is hella slow with a load of dialog and pointless romantic crap between Hendry and the lone female character (Margaret Sheridan). The movie REALLY takes time to get going and I found myself yearning for just something...anything to happen!

Alas when things do happen it's also pretty slow, pretty tame, and pretty disappointing when you learn the plot is nothing like the source material. The alien is also a massive disappointment visually but I guess it was better than a big rubbery alien on wires. I admit some of the effects and shots were done well. The sequence where the alien kills some huskie dogs was quite graphic (all things considered). The moment Carrington and co discover a dead drained Huskie stashed in a small compartment was quite shocking (again considering the films age). The fake dog was also quite effective looking too I might add. I'm sure that would have scared the pants off people back in the day. And the sequence where they torch the alien is pretty impressive because the stunt guy is really getting his ass torched! Looked like they almost set the whole set alight too!

So in the end the movie supports the military faction of the large character roster and we're led to cheer for killing the alien. Would Carrington and his fellow thinkers gotten somewhere by trying to communicate with the lifeform? Maybe, but seeing as the alien slapped Carrington to the floor when he tried to have a chat I guess maybe not. Remember this was 1951 America, you always trusted the good looking gruff guy in the US military uniform (and with a production company named after a rifle, Winchester, says it all really). But the fact they kinda portray Carrington as the bad guy is also somewhat frustrating. I mean come on, give this character a break, he's just trying to learn from the newly discovered alien lifeform.

But it's hard to get engaged with this one despite the fact its known as a classic. Essentially the alien lifeform is a humanoid bloodsucking vegetable or plant. But really its nothing more than a vampire, kinda crappy really. It does show how John Carpenter really nailed his 82 version and how terrifying the alien lifeform could be. So overall what could have been a real cracker turns out to be another run of the mill 50's sci-fi basically. It doesn't really offer anything fresh or dynamic and kinda squanders the great source material.

5/10

Robin Hood
(2018)

Robin Hood
It seems that as more time passes by heroes of old become more of a nostalgic twinkle for many. Legendary tales of heroic warriors, knights, Kings, and outlaws no longer ignite our imaginations it seems. Either that or modern films are not able to capture the magic anymore. But when you combine a classic historical outlaw with modern comicbook styling, shouldn't it work (for the target audience)? Or is that the right angle to take with such a character?

Well I'm not gonna bore you with the story of Rob...oh they totally changed it. Yep, going into this movie you have to understand one very important thing, this isn't a traditional Robin Hood tale. Director Otto Bathurst made the decision to essentially change everything about this historical English tale to the point that it's almost unrecognisable. So apart from the basic story being jettisoned, we are now faced with some weird quasi-Nottingham set within some weird quasi-England.

To be clear. Nottingham now looks like something from a Tolkien novel. The city now looks more like a sparkling sprawling Elven citadel mixed with your typical poorer areas that look like Orc ramparts. Within the city (from what I could tell) there are now VAST mines with VAST steel infrastructures and minecart tracks. There are HUGE crucibles filled with gallons of molten steel suspended upon high. The architecture of the building interiors seem quite modern and everything is spotless both inside and out. And there appears to be people of various races within the city! Bear in mind this is supposed to be England in the 15/16th Century.

Then alongside all that you have the look and attire of the people. Firstly most everyone is nice and clean with relatively smart haircuts and facial hair. Secondly they all appear to be wearing relatively modern clothes. Robin (Taron Egerton) parades around in a waxed Barbour looking jacket, a machine stitched hoodie...well machine stitched everything! Whilst the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) seems to be wearing suit jackets which are immaculately made...and clean! Heck in the common folk are well dressed and clean, even in riot attire. But then the regular knights of Nottingham (the Sheriff's men) look like gladiators out of a 'Mad Max' or 'Conan' movie.

The action and weaponry in this movie is also bizarre. I when I say bizarre I mean its been hyper-modernised to try and attract the kids. At the start we see Robin and Guy of Gisborne fighting back to back in the Crusades (absolutely no St George's Crosses of any description anywhere I might add, oh and one of the Crusaders is black??). The Crusaders move around holding their bow and arrows like a modern soldier. They move like modern soldiers. Their attire is all identical and has similar colours to modern US soldiers. The arrows they fire make bullet-like impacts with a spray of debris. Some soldiers seem to have machine-gun like crossbows. There is even a large mounted machine-gun like crossbow! Hell even the rocks thrown by catapults cause explosions, it's laughable.

It's here Robin meets a Muslim/Saracen (Jamie Foxx) whom he saves after his son is brutally executed by Gisborne. Although I'm not sure why Robin gets so upset seeing as this was commonplace at the time seeing as they were at war. Long story short this character becomes Little John, he's not actually the character of Little John (they have excluded him for some reason), he takes that characters place (for quota reasons presumably. Can't have too many white guys can we). Hilariously this guy gets back to England by stowing away in the bowels of a small ship (literally!). Not sure how he survived without food and water though considering they would have been at sea for months but I guess I'm being picky.

I guess I'm also being too picky when I question how a Saracen can walk around Nottingham freely without raising any suspicion or outright outrage because he's a Muslim! Errr...hello? Did no one stop to think why a Saracen was walking around their English city at a time of war??

Then we have the horse-drawn cart chase sequence, oh boy. This is exactly what you're thinking, maybe. Robin and Marian try to escape on one cart whilst Gisborne chases on his cart along with his men on horseback. They both crash through the mine area at breakneck speed until Robin is forced onto a single horse (after the cart is hit with an explosion), outruns a huge crucible spilling its molten steel and carries on at breakneck speed across sky-high rickety wooden walkways. All in a days work for this superhero.

This isn't a Robin Hood movie. If you took out the name Robin Hood (and everything relating to it) it could be an acceptable fantasy/quasi-historical adventure yarn, maybe. Even then its a generic and predictable mess. In the pursuit of the modern young audience they have infused modern action, modern culture, and Marvel movies into a part historic fable. Now whilst that could work, it simply doesn't here. This just feels all kinds of wrong, it's painful to watch. I don't want to say this but it almost feels like a liberal revisionist take on history at times. Its like they have deliberately tried to jam modern day ideologies into this period of history to comply with a specific section of society who might get upset otherwise.

I think what really pissed me off was the bloody comicbook-esque ending. Oh yeah this ends on a question mark with a fresh new baddie (complete with nasty facial scar) eager to kill Robin and his recently acquired merry men. Feck me we are only introduced to Sherwood Forest at the end because that was saved for the sequel! The sequel we're never getting. Yep, its another case of a movie essentially being a long setup or trailer for another movie which would have given us all the core things we really wanted to see in the first place. Because modern movies ladies and gents.

So yeah, in essence this is basically Robin Hood...the modern (Marvel) superhero version. He can fire arrows in rapid-fire succession. He can fire arrows rapidly in mid-air. He never runs out of arrows. He gets shot by arrows but doesn't die through loss of blood. He fires off witty quips. His sidekick looks like Nick Fury. His merry men are politically correct. He is known as 'The Hood', and he looks like a 'Mortal Kombat' ninja when suited up.

So, going back to my original question, should this have worked? Is it the tale that doesn't hold up or the movie that was poor? Well I realise the director wanted to try something new here but I think what he really wanted to do was make a comicbook movie because that's all this is. In that sense it should have worked but I just don't think kids are interested in Robin Hood anymore. Bows and arrows are of no interest to the younger audience unless they belong to 'Green Arrow' or whoever. On the flip side I don't think older folk are bothered about seeing a superhero-esque Robin Hood because frankly, it's a stupid idea.

2.5/10

It Came from Outer Space
(1953)

It Came From Outer Space
Well here we are again with another Ray Bradbury story ('The Meteor') given the big screen treatment. But this time the movie just happened to be the first 3D release by Universal International, the first movie in the big 3D science-fiction wave of the 50's. Not only that the picture was directed by the one and only Jack Arnold who was no stranger to this genre. What could go wrong?

Well first things first, the plot is kinda unexciting to be honest. You're stereotypical smartly dressed (dare I say...white) leading couple happen to spy a meteor as it crashes to Earth...once again in the deserts of the American West. Of course it isn't a meteor but a crashed alien spaceship, of course. The duo try to explain this to the locals but no one believes them and a rockslide has since buried the ship. Soon enough various locals start to disappear and then reappear but in a zombie-like state. This eventually leads to the Sheriff believing the story and delving deeper.

Having tracked down the entrance to the crashed alien ship through a mine, our protagonist attempts to communicate with the aliens before the Sheriff blows them away with his trusty gun. He discovers that the aliens are quite harmless and merely crashed on Earth whilst on route to another destination. They are in fact shape-shifters and take the form of humans they have kidnapped in order to move around and gather the materials they need to repair their ship. The kidnapped humans are not harmed. That's literally it! That is the plot in its entirety.

So as you can imagine the story is the usual slow pace you would come to expect from a picture like this. That's not a bad thing but when the plot is as thin as this it ain't great either. Most of the run time is spent following the protagonists around as they literally drive back and forth through the desert to various locations to speak to various people (usually the same ones!). I swear you see the same locations and backdrops in shots over and over (but I guess the desert does look similar). Yep as with most of these old sci-fi flicks its all desert desert desert.

You'd think the movie might have become more creepy or fun when people start disappearing and reappearing as zombies, nope. People pop up in a zombie-like trance and merely walk around without showing any emotion. Sure the musical score does it best to try and convey pending doom and terror but it doesn't really work. It might have been more interesting to see some kind of mark or defect on the zombie humans to add intrigue. Admittedly you are thinking that the aliens have taken over their brains or killed the humans replacing them with copies, but alas it's not that cool.

The aliens themselves aren't seen much at all. We get a small glimpse of them towards the finale as one leaves the mine. What do they look like? Well they look like large pulsing slimy blobs of veiny jelly with a single big eye slap bang in the middle. They also appear to have tiny arms with claws. I believe they move like snails as they leave a shiny glittering trail of something on the ground as they go.

They basically look like H.G. Blob in 'Futurama' or the pleasure GELF Camille in 'Red Dwarf' (both probably inspired by this movie). Its a good job they are shape-shifters though because their original form would be no good for anything...such as basic construction. Naturally they are also hyper-intelligent and seem to be able to project holograms of themselves or appear in spirit form before people? I dunno. We get these weird sequences from an alien point-of-view as they watch and approach people in the air...or something, like an apparition. Still, they are admittedly quite eerie looking.

Gotta be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with this one. Having read up on it the movie did relatively well and is now seen as a bit of a classic! Personally I don't see this. It's not a bad movie it's just very slow with nothing much to show in the outcome. Heck the movie even carries on for some time after we have discovered the aliens are friendly and merely trying to rebuild their ship, yet still nothing really happens. I mean, there's nothing wrong with the plot, the movie just feels like a waste of time. It feels like maybe it should have been a 'Twilight Zone' episode.

I guess the one highlight in this movie is the fact the aliens are, for once, intelligent friendly. They have to hide their true forms because they know humans would be afraid. They try not to cause panic and alarm (although kidnapping people was a wrong move). In the end the aliens are actually more afraid of humans, or at least alarming humans, than the humans are of the aliens. Although I'm not sure if the aliens are genuinely afraid of Humans simply hurting them, or afraid to allow their technology to fall into Human hands. Inadvertently giving a dangerous aggressive species more potential to cause harm. Not wanting Humans to know of life beyond the Earth.

Anyway, it looks good, well shot, solid acting, and a solid looking alien, but overall so very dull and aimless overall.

4.5/10

My Stepmother Is an Alien
(1988)

My Stepmother Is an Alien
Hello what have we here? A lost gem from deep within the archives of Dan Aykroyd's filmography? Nah.

Apparently the early drafts for this story were supposed to be based around...child abuse? Clearly a serious matter. Yet, apparently, the bigwigs at Paramount thought the idea might work better as...a comedy?? Anyway long story short the idea never came to fruition until many years later with a fresh rewrite and director. Somehow after all that we got this wacky sci-fi comedy which has to be based on those old 50's sci-fi B-movies surely...?

Its the basic old fashioned science fiction spiel. The somewhat eccentric scientist Steven Mills (Dan Aykroyd) accidentally sends a radio signal beyond our galaxy, into the next, which strikes an alien planet causing disruption to their gravity (we don't see any of this naturally). So these aliens send one of their own to Earth in order to find out who did it, how, and why. The spaceship lands on the beach in plain view of an urban area but no one sees or hears a thing. Did I forget to mention that this alien (called Celeste) is Kim Basinger? Well there you go, and naturally Mills falls in love with her.

Yes its the old notion of an alien race coming to Earth and just happen to end up looking like a stunning blonde Earth woman. At first I thought the human appearance was a cover for their true alien features, but no! Apparently all the women on this far off alien world look like supermodels, because of course they do. Oh and just to make matters even cornier, these super hot sex bombs don't know what kissing is and gave up sexual intercourse many many decades ago (because they found it pointless and icky...don't question it) and have forgotten what its like. So it looks like Steve is in for a treat right here folks!

The odd thing is, apparently the males of this alien world are all white middle-aged men in what looks like nuns attire? So are all the males like this or are the ones we see the elders? I only ask because we are told that all the women look like sex bombs, so...Also the fact that these aliens from a galaxy far far away look identical to humans and...ah who cares.

So these aliens are basically identical to humans in the looks department, but they have superpowers it would seem. Again the rules to this movies universe are somewhat all over the place but from what I can tell these aliens can do pretty much anything. They have super strength. They can resist extremely high temperatures. They can make objects fly and hover. They can make solid objects pass through other solid objects. Oh and they drink, or live off, battery fluid. So what the hell are these things?? What kind of organic creature would live off battery fluid??

Then there's the little snake-like alien with a single eyeball that lives in Celeste's special handbag. What is that supposed to be?? Another alien lifeform? Something the humanoid aliens created? What??!! It also has tonnes of magical superpowers. This snake is also able to project large holograms of information for Celeste at any given moment. Not sure if only the aliens could see these though, I'm guessing so cos the humans never react to them.

Now I'm a big big fan of Dan Aykroyd, I think he's a comic genius and has been involved with multiple classics both large and small. But alas here he falters. I can see exactly what he's trying to do throughout this movie, but he fails. His genuine wacky charms, fat physical comedy, facial expressions, and endearing technical jargon which he often delivers at breakneck speed, are all present here, but it just feels lacking. He's clearly trying to capture that Ray Stantz magic for this story but it falls flat amongst the cheap effects, bad sets, and weak costars.

This movie came along one year before Tim Burton's Batman so Kim Basinger was still technically small fry. She was mainly known for her steamy antics with Mickey Rourke in '9½ Weeks' so this goofball family comedy seemed like an odd choice. Who else would you cast as a super sexy blonde bombshell at this point? So Basinger naturally fits the part of the sexy alien, but anything else? Not really no. I have always thought Basinger was all looks and not much else (even in Batman 89) and this doesn't sway me. She really cannot act at all. She has no comic timing, looks uncomfortable in many scenes, and isn't funny. Unsurprisingly the only scene where she does come to life is where she has to strip for Aykroyd's character. It's plainly obvious they stuck that sequence in because that's all she could do and what she was known for.

As for the rest. Well there's classic actor Joseph Maher. A young and thinish looking Jon Lovitz. The voice of Harry Shearer as Carl Sagan. And the very young trio of Alyson Hannigan, a seriously young Seth Green, and a blink and you'll miss it cameo from a teen Juliette Lewis.

So in the end Steve manages to send another radio signal to Celeste's planet and stop the gravity issue from destroying it. Hurrah! But wait! The snake thing in Celeste's handbag has orders to wipe out the planet because they thought the humans did it on purpose. Funny how they don't try and communicate with any high ranking humans to talk about this, considering they're intelligent beings and all. Nope they just decide to blow up the Earth. Luckily this plot is foiled and the middle-aged male aliens decide not to blow up the Earth after Celeste shows them how great it is (and the sex and sneezing, yes sneezing).

Instead they allow the pervy character played by Lovitz (who basically plays the same character he's ALWAYS played) to go back to their alien homeworld so he can teach them all about humans, Earth, and how they have sex...lots of sex. You know cos all the women look like supermodels...remember that? Yep hilarious.

So in the end I really can't recommend this. I hadn't seen this since I was a mere sprog and couldn't remember a thing. Clearly I had high hopes for this being a wacky sci-fi starring Dan Aykroyd but alas no. The whole thing looks cheap as chips. The sets are poor and the effects are terrible with hideous bluescreen. The acting is dire as is the humour and bottom line the story is just utter nonsense. Yes its a nutty comedy but you gotta have SOME ground rules. Disapointing ain't the word!

3/10

Tag
(2018)

Tag
Believe it or not but this movie is actually based on a true story about a group of adult men that actually play tag for an entire month each year. This story came to light via an article in the Wall Street Journal. I don't think any of the movies characters were actually based on this group of gentlemen, but their actions do seem to be, albeit over the top.

Long story short, if you can call this a long story. Five chaps have been playing tag since they were kids. During the month of May its open season for the man who's 'it' to try and tag another and so on. Last man 'it' at the end of the month remains so until the following May. This time four of the men (Ed Helms as Hoagie, Jon Hamm as Bob, Jake Johnson as Chilli, and Hannibal Buress as Kevin) decide to team up to try and tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner) as he has never been tagged due to his overall awesomeness. Jerry plans on 'retiring' from the game untagged.

Now I know what you're thinking, how the fudge can you make a movie out of the kid's playground game tag? Well bottom line you can't, and this movie pretty much shows that. The entire notion of grown men running after each other or trying to covertly touch each other and claim 'tag! You're it!' is absurd. When you start to think about this logically, and whilst watching this movie, it just doesn't add up at all. Like sure you could sneak up on someone and tag them, but considering they could be in a crowded supermarket or at home on the couch completely oblivious to anything, well it's hardly challenging is it.

Naturally this movie does its best to conjure up these inventive scenarios where the guys are trying to basically use military manoeuvres to tag their prey. And yes I can't deny there are some great little sequences here showcasing some inventive chaos. I did enjoy the slow-motion action sequences as the guys try to apprehend Jerry whilst at the same time being accompanied by commentary from within Jerry's mind (lovely 'Point Break' homage in here also). Overall it's a nice humorous touch hearing how Jerry breaks down each attempted attack so he can evade being tagged. But God damn you gotta suspend your disbelief because there is just no way someone could evade being 'touched' in these over the top spats. I was sitting watching this movie just thinking...'it looks cool, but seriously, just jump on the guy!'.

Despite the sheer lunacy on display here the characters are also quite relatable and enjoyable to watch. The crux of the plot is Jerry getting married and the guys agreeing to hold off on the game at wedding related events. But as said time after time each attempt is foiled by Jerry's skillful athleticism and trickery. This all culminates in Jerry's fiancée having a miscarriage just when it looks as though the boys will actually tag Jerry. But is this another of Jerry's clever tricks? Up to this point the characters have generally been your typical goofballs, but when the action takes a serious turn it's actually quite impressive how moving and engaging these guys become.

Admittedly Ed Helms pretty much plays the same character he always does, but his characters U-turn ending is definitely unpredicted and showcases some genuinely solid acting. Both Hamm and Johnson are fun but at the same time Hamm kinda seems miscast, he looks too stern, too good looking, too strong, like he should be crushing the others. Renner is also believable as the super suave tag player Jeremy, he does 'cocky' well. But I felt that maybe Hamm and Renner could of swapped roles. As for Buress, I have literally no clue how this guy was cast because he can't act, he isn't funny, and he can hardly talk or walk properly (was that part of the character or a real-life problem?). I can only guess it was the usual quota box-ticking at play again.

Whilst the plot does indeed get better as it progresses (surprisingly) you cannot deny that overall it's insanely stupid. At one point the guys pay some dude $2500 just for information on Jerry! Really?? They actually have a golf cart chase sequence. Jerry sets up numerous Ewok-like booby traps throughout some woods to ensnare the others. A reporter who was originally doing a story on Bob (he was a CEO) decides to follow the guys around to record their antics instead when Bob goes off with them (would a reporter just go off to record some blokes literally acting the fool?).

This movie basically relies on a few key elements such as physical comedy, frat boy humour, and spoofery. Overall it does actually work in part although it's wholly outlandish to the max. The whole time you just can't get over the fact these guys are playing tag! It's an odd one, whilst the cast is solid none of them gel much as a team or as friends throughout the story. It's like none of them have anything much in common despite being friends their whole lives. But you could argue that was the whole idea and this silly game was keeping their friendships alive. Or you could say that's a cop out and the actors just don't gel (bad casting). Either way the movie is surprisingly enjoyable when I fully expected a load of tosh honesty.

7/10

The Christmas Chronicles
(2018)

The Christmas Chronicles
Ho, Ho...Ho?

A Netflix movie with a title that kinda suggests a cinematic universe? The hell you say. Anyway I think its fair to say that most of you should guess what the premise of this flick is gonna be. It this the usual Santa schtick or is there some kind of surprise to be had?

Wait for it!! Deep breath!! Aaand...no it's the usual Santa schtick, sorry. Bottom line, a widow is getting over the recent death of her husband which has of course led to problems in the home with her two kids. Her daughter is generally OK but constantly watches old recordings of her father and fights with her elder brother who has gotten mixed in with a bad crowd and is stealing cars! Nevertheless as you might expect on Christmas Eve they both decide to try and catch Santa and end up fudging up old Saint Nick's plans good and proper. Thusly they all have to work together to save Christmas (ugh!).

So I basically heard about this and wasn't overly bothered at first but when I saw Kurt Russell standing in that Jack Burton-esque pose on the poster, I was sold. Yes I saw this movie solely based on the fact that Russell was Santa. Had this been anyone else I probably wouldn't have bothered. But is Russell worth the admission? Well yes and no. Firstly yes it was inspired to cast Russell as Santa. I would never have thought of that as Russell just doesn't leap out at me as a Santa type guy. But blow me he sure as hell looks the part with his thick wavy hair dyed grey and white and that glorious beard of his. My only real complaint would be he looks too good, too fit and rugged to be Santa. Is that bad?

Admittedly Russell can only work with what he's given and that's not entirely anything original let's be frank. The whole secret Santa thing has been done to death over the decades and there really is little to bring to the table now. So with that said yes everything that happens is kinda neat but totally 'been there, done that, seen it, and bought the t-shirt'. His slay typically has all the modern day technological gadgets. His reindeer do what most other magical reindeer do in these films. Santa can magically zoom about in a flash of CGI. Santa also has magical powers like a magician. He uses some kind of time portal to travel around the world. And his sack of presents is bottomless which also leads to his elf driven workshop...I think. Either that or the elf homeworld or Santa's grotto, not actually sure.

We also have the usual reoccurring questions that pop up with these Christmas adventures. How come no one has seemingly EVER seen or exposed Santa before? Until now. He roams about in this movie using his powers and chatting about his unique role quite happily, so one assumes he's always done this, yet nothing has ever cropped up? No news reports, witnesses, or video evidence of any kind? Surely by now Santa would have been exposed. At the start of the adventure they just leave the slay where it crashed, just like that! Yet no one comes across it? No one comes across the large lost sack of presents just hanging in a tree in the middle of the city. No one has ever seen any of the elves (which are essentially cutesy copies of 'Gremlins') etc...Basically, with the amount of magic that flies about the place you'd just assume it was impossible that Santa would still remain a secret.

And I haven't even mentioned the song and dance routine yet! Yes in one of the more original aspects of this movie Russell dons some shades and thumps out a little Christmas number with the help of a small backing band. Despite it all looking very Blues Brothers-like, very quickly any film buff will recognise Russell's Presley-esque techniques which he displayed back in 1979 for John Carpenter's TV movie 'Elvis'. So what we have is Kurt Russell, dressed as Santa, essentially doing Elvis, epic much? But once again this kinda makes you wonder how on earth this guy has managed to remain hidden when he does things like this and doesn't even try to hide his identity (he magically flies up a vent in a puff of red glitter at the end).

It also amused me how Santa allowed the young girl to record almost everything on her old camcorder. Sure he takes the tape in the end but still, kinda risky. As for the young duo that accompanies Santa, well they're just your bog standard kids really. The girl is all happy happy, totally believes everything and is full of wonder, rainbows, and unicorn poo. Whilst the elder boy is of course more doubtful, cynical, and harder to convince. A lot of which is down to him struggling to cope with the loss of his father. But as the adventure progresses the duo (mainly the boy) must learn to help each other, be nice, use their brains, and believe in the spirit of Christmas (naturally). Its all about emotions, feelings, and being nice...all that cliched gooey crap. They might have been in a race against the clock but there's always time to stop for some sentimental schmaltz.

Of course you know exactly how everything will turn out in the end with Santa and the kids. Kinda silly how they ruin the story by essentially hinting at the fact that everything was a setup by Santa to merely get these kids back on track with their mother. Then even more ridiculous when Santa essentially looks towards the camera and suggests he and Mrs. Claus watch the adventure he just had with the kids (all recorded on that old camcorder), which is basically saying to us the audience to keep rewatching this movie. At the same time suggesting it will become a new Christmas classic, we'll see Netflix.

So overall it's cliched, predictable, and completely unoriginal. The effects are acceptable but obvious CGI and greenscreen abound especially for the slay sequences. The youngsters are fine, the elves are oddly violent (chainsaw??), and Santa's long red coat is leather. So yes as you may well have expected its all about Russell and his hip blues singin' Saint Nick. I can honestly say without Russell this would be just another dull jingle bells without the fun. So put simply, it's worth seeing for Russell and that's it, the rest is complete meh.

6/10

The Cyclops
(1957)

The Cyclops
This was director Bert I. Gordon's third movie in what would become a long line of (50's) classic sci-fi/giant creature movies. Almost any movie Gordon directed could easily fall into a top ten of 50's schlock B-movie sci-fi epics. Epics such as 'King Dinosaur', 'Earth vs. The Spider', 'Attack of the Puppet People', and 60's legend 'The Magic Sword'.

But like some of Gordon's other movies (and many other movies of the time) the basic story here is all too familiar. Essentially a team of experts travel to a remote part of the world only to discover giant creatures living there, and that's it. And yes once again the reason for these giant abnormalities is a dose of good old-fashioned 50's radiation. The only real differences here from other similar themed movies are, the team of experts is searching for a missing person and the remote location is in Mexico; not the usual distant undiscovered island. Alas everything else we see here is by the books and highly formulaic.

The lead scientist Russ Bradford (James Craig) is a well built, well rounded, good looking chap with a stylish Flynn-esque moustache. The second expert Marty Melville (Lon Chaney Jr.) is the more trigger happy unpredictable character who gets upset and flustered quickly putting the others at risk. Pilot Lee Brand (Tom Drake) is the in-between character so to speak, he is sensible and well rounded but also easily led astray. And naturally you can't have a movie like this without an attractive female character to put in peril and so you have Susan Winter (Gloria Talbot), the woman who has organised the search and rescue mission.

The giant creatures discovered are all regular creatures such as lizards, birds, bugs, and some small mammals. All of which consisted of the usual stock footage which had been crudely projected against live action footage of the actors. Twas the standard effect for movies like this at the time but here it looks especially poor, mainly down to a lack of budget and time restrictions. What's amusing is the fact that the animal footage is clearly completely different location wise to the live action location footage with the actors. In some scenes the actors were obviously in some botanical garden area somewhere (in Hollywood probably) whilst in others its clearly a set.

On top of that the actors really don't seem to be reacting to the giant threats all that much. Clearly they had no real idea how to react and where to look, plus their lack of amazement at the discovery of giant creatures is somewhat of an eyeopener frankly. Most people would be understandably shocked and amazed by finding giant animals alive and well roaming around Mexico. Not these experts, it's just an inconvenience for them. Also, did they actually show footage of a small rodent actually being killed by a bird of prey??

The location for all these giant radioactive animals also raised some questions. Supposedly these creatures dwell in the jungles of Mexico, but initially the search and rescue mission was clearly flying over a mountainous desert region of Mexico. And when the team land they are still in a mountainous desert region. Now I'm no expert on Mexico but the northern part is more desert and the southern part is more green I believe, so where exactly where the team supposed to be? And not one person had ever reported these giant creatures? Not even the giant human cyclops?

Ah yes the giant human cyclops, the titular character. Now this character turns out to be the missing person but, like the animals, has mutated due to the radioactivity in the area. Not sure why he has become a disfigured one-eyed mutant seeing as all the other creatures just got bigger but whatever. Also not sure why this person didn't manage to leave the region in search of help before he mutated into a cyclops but again whatever. The makeup for this giant mutant was actually well done (for the time) and pretty disturbing. His huge bulging non-blinking eye, bald head, and nasty disfigured mouth with protruding teeth were probably quite terrifying for folks back in the 50's. Sure he does literally nothing other than lurch around and growl (why is he unable to talk?) but kudos on that makeup job.

In the end it's actually pretty typical and amusing that the team of experts manages to find this missing guy...but end up killing him. Yup, they go through all that and just end up blinding him before killing him...somehow. Before the credits role we see the cyclops lying dead (in a horrendous projection shot) but I'm not really sure how. They don't try to help this guy, they don't seem to care about the giant animals, and they don't seem overly bothered about the large deposits of radium in the area that caused all this. They just kill the cyclops and fly away to safety in a happy ending. Maybe they looked further into these things when they got back to the good old US of A.

So in the end I can't really recommend this Gordon directed feature I'm afraid. I wasn't expecting anything groundbreaking here, I knew exactly what I was gonna get, but it's just not on the same level of enjoyment as other similar themed movies. Dare I say its actually just a poor movie? Everything about this was just badly done, seemingly lacking any sort of real passion. Not even Chaney's stupidly rash character could elevate this much. I found myself somewhat bored to be honest although I do appreciate how this early project was a building block for Gordon and later (better) features.

4/10

Space Cowboys
(2000)

Space Cowboys
Teaming up aging iconic stars, a kind of elderly brat pack if you will. Always a solid formula that generally wins over all viewers of all ages. On one had these movies are usually great fun, on the other hand a little sad because you know they're kinda doing it before the inevitable

The Plot: Its the 50's and our four protagonists are in the US Air Force. Hawk (Tommy Lee Jones) is a pilot. Tank (James Garner) is also a pilot and navigator. Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland) is an engineer. And Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is pilot also. Both Frank and Hawk are two of the best pilots in the Air Force that are aspiring to be astronauts. Alas their dreams are hampered when the Air Force is relinquished of space test flight duty and its handed over to the newly created NASA.

Fast forward to the present day (back in 2000) and NASA has an issue with an old Soviet satellite which is on a collision course back to Earth. NASA needs this satellite working again but its electronics were designed way back in the 50's...by Frank. So NASA begs Frank to help them, he agrees with one condition, that they allow him and his old team go into space to fix the problem seeing as no one else knows his old design. At first NASA scoffs at this but eventually, knowing Frank is the only man who knows the workings of the satellite, they agree.

This movie is pre-digital de-aging so for the early sequences which show a young Jones, Eastwood, Sutherland, and Garner, young actor look-alikes were used. But that wasn't all, these young actors were given a touch up with makeup to highlight some of the iconic stars features. For example the young Eastwood had a little mole on his face plus some extra recognisable Eastwood facial wrinkles (by the looks of it). At the same time all the young actors had their voices dubbed over with the actual older stars voices. Sounds cheesy but it worked flawlessly for a very good overall outcome finished off in black and white.

As for the characters themselves, well they're a sweet cliche bunch to be sure. Let me be honest here, this movie isn't really stretching any limits, it plays it safe and straight. Clint plays gives us his usual tough guy persona, the 'don't take no crap from anyone' routine which he does so well. Garner plays the more sensible down to earth type fella. He was a preacher before joining in with the mission, but one gets the feeling he may have been a bit of a slightly dodgy geezer behind the scenes; not as Godly as one might presume. Then you have Sutherland as the ladies man who literally chats up every woman in the movie. And lastly we have Jones as the fast talkin' daredevil wildcard who acts first and thinks second.

As you might expect these old fogies have to go through the rigorous training programme to prove they can make the grade. And as you might expect this is where most of the charming chuckles come in as we see these old men trying to keep up with the youngsters (and impress the officials). The entire notion of this is of course completely and utterly ridiculous but you gotta just go with it and enjoy the light-hearted ride. Watching these guys puffing and wheezing as they try to get through the daily workouts is definitely amusing and genuinely tiring to watch. The best sequence (which is coincidentally their best performance in these tests) is when they get through the eyesight test. Although the idea that O'Neill memorised the eye chart and it hadn't changed since he was a young man (a good few decades) is somewhat preposterous.

Twas pretty creepy watching Sutherland's character chatting up all the women in the movie. Every time he sees a woman he leers at them and tries on his best lines (even when naked). Can you imagine that these days! That kind of thing is virtually forbidden. But to make things even more corny, creepy, and cheesy is the fact that some of these women actually liked these old geezers coming on to them; and both Hawk and O'Neill actually manage to get something going with two women! Hawk manages to pick up one of the NASA officials for crying out loud (hardly professional). Although this was clearly to give the movie some extra emotional oomph in the big finale.

The meat of the movie kicks in when the team eventually get into space to carry out their mission. Naturally all is not what it seems as the Soviet satellite turns out to be an old nuclear warhead launch platform. And of course one of the young astronauts has an alternate mission (ordered by the slimy NASA project manager Bob Gerson, played by James Cromwell) which leads to all sorts of problems. I wasn't entirely sure why Gerson wanted to keep the satellite in orbit though, surely it would get discovered eventually and the accidental launch danger would always remain. No win scenario for him, might as well just reveal it and get it sorted.

But yeah basically what we get is a long section of the movie with loads of high-tech space jargon that none of us civvies would understand and loads of very cool but very complicated technical visuals. Don't get me wrong the visuals are wonderful considering how old this movie is, lovely CGI all round. But half the time the various satellite sequences are simply a mass of glistening metal, hoses, nuts and bolts which you just take for red as realistic (because basically, who the flip knows). Sure there are some shots and sequences which highlight some obvious CGI and greenscreen, but like I said this is quite an old movie now. They do also utilise some stock footage of real rocket launches and landings but its blended in well.

For all the visual glory and charming performances the plot here is pretty predictable and hammy frankly. I mean they literally hit every emotional cliche you can think of. Everything is blatantly obvious, all the characters are dated stereotypes, and the action is very tame. You know someone isn't coming home, at least one, and you do get a clue with Hawk earlier in the movie. But credit where credits due, it's not overly obvious. The only thing I would say is the moment its time for the grand sacrifice it's not as emotional as you'd think. Director Eastwood really missed a chance to pour on thick layers of easy schmaltz if you ask me.

In the end this is a by the numbers affair really. Eastwood plays it so safe it's almost unforgivable, almost. But at the end of the day the movie is just so damn delightful and endearing it's really hard to not enjoy it. I'm still not sure if the final little sequence at the end of the movie is a happy ending or not. I suppose it is kinda, depends on how you look at it.

7/10

See all reviews