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An orphan child is brought up by apes and is latter introduced to his aristocratic family.
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is based on the original writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Made in 1984 director Hugh Hudson offers an origin story made in a time before origin films were common place. Hudson offers the same epic operatic grandeur he'd brought to Chariots of Fire (1981). Uncredited screenwriter, Robert Towne (Chinatown), goes under pseudonym of his dog (P.H. Vazak) and second screenwriter Michael Austin offer an interesting three act affair, beginning in 1885 the downfall of his parents and Tarzan as a child, then as an adult assisting Capitaine Phillippe D'Arnot (played excellently by Ian Holm) out of the jungle and Tarzan back in the United Kingdom.
Christopher Lambert' gives a fine performance as he learns to speak English and comes to terms with his heritage. Death hard hittingly runs though this adaptation, humans and animals are all put on the chopping board and it's quite a slow paced emotional journey. Notable are Ralph Richardson (in his last film) and Eric Langlois as preteen Taran. Interestingly, disputed the title, the name Tarzan is never mentioned and Andie MacDowell's Jane is curiously dubbed by Glenn Close.
Makeup genius Rick Baker's ape characters are for the most part convincing suit design. With cinematography by John Alcott it's visual rich from the African jungle to Victorian Britain and the London Natural History Museum. Greystoke oozes atmosphere and even though a somber affair it leads to the film's unsurprising conclusion. It's visuals and time passages are far more interesting than the central character and this is debatably why Greystoke isn't critical revered as it possibly could have been.
Overall, this is a serious retelling which takes a chance on effects (refreshingly pre CGI), storytelling and casting, they simply don't make film like this anymore.
The X Files: The Host (1994)
Stand alone sewerage
Mulder and Scully investigate a body found in sewer after being reassigned to different departments.
The Host is the second episode of the second season written by Chris Carter, directed by Daniel Sackheim. It's unconnected to the series' wider mythology and is a standalone episode (a 'Monster-of- the- Week' story) that said, it does develop Mulder and Scully's relationships and characters effectively.
David Duchovny gives a physical performance as bizarre creepy fluke-like man goes on a rampage in the sewers of New Jersey. The atmosphere is pretty grim. The bite make up is well executed. There's plenty of blood and gross moments notably where a man eats a tube of toothpaste, a worm-like creature appears from the body at an autopsy (performed by Scully) and where a man spews out the slimy fluke creature.
With long dark tunnels, moment of men being attacked and dragged under the sewerage water, if horror is your thing this is one of the stand out episodes.
Street Kings (2008)
An infamous undercover cop becomes a pawn when he is implicated in the murder of his former partner.
What could have been an average police corruption thriller is elevated by Keanu Reeves, the supporting actors and David Ayer's kinetic slick direction. Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie and Chris Evans are on form. Notable is Terry Crews as ill-fated Terrence Washington. Reeves delivers the flawed alcoholic cop Detective Tom Ludlow successfully, while the role may not be as suitable as John Wick, it certainly one of his more dramatic roles.
The film stands in the shadow of the like of Training Day (2001) but has enough punch, with bloody hard hitting scenes to stand on its own. It's probably on par with the comparable Dark Blue (2002, Ayer incidentally wrote the screenplay) but unavoidably falls into the trappings of the genre.
Ayer's is wise to use a predominately on location shoot and portray graphic violence to give credence and weight to the proceedings. As Ludlow is set up and goes about uncovering a deeper conspiracy screenplay writers, the profound James Ellroy and underrated Kurt Wimmer successfully dot i's and cross the t's crafting a satisfying if somewhat predictable tale. The ending emulates the feeling of the closing of Dirty Harry (1971). Always topical and prevalent, I suppose you can never have too many films which highlight the pitfalls of greed and corruption.
Overall, formulaic yet entertaining.
The Revenant (2015)
Brilliant crisp story telling
Thought to be a burden an injured man, Huge Glass, is left for dead. After his son is murderer he then begins a journey of recovery and revenge.
Set in 1823, like the comparable Outlaw of Josey Wales, the characters feel real and are motivated, they all have shades of grey. However, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu excels the aforementioned in scope thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, natural lighting and advancements in film making. The Revenant is beautifully shot and really captures the cold outdoors authentically. It's realistic, harsh and uncompromising, showing the best and the worst of man. It captures the bitter coldness that survival films, the likes of Alive, The Edge and Deadly Pursuit a.k.a Shoot to Kill only touched on. The relentless breathtaking bear attack is as intense as Leonardo DiCaprio's committed performance as he fights to survive and avenge his son's death.
Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald cements the absorbing drama, his character like the natives and French offer justified, cold, punishing brute force from each others perspectives in contrast to the silence and beauty of nature. Thanks to the excellent performances, props, costumes and locations it's easy to buy into the story.
The Revenant is a tour de force ultimate endurance tale and has heart and soul. The sober moments and relationship scenes with the indigenous characters are interesting, the history feels well researched. Gleeson as with Star Wars Force Awakens is average but engaging, DiCaprio and Hardy are outstanding along with the supporting cast. Will Poulter's involvement is particularly notable.
It's very serious and justly is void of humour, but has irony woven throughout. From a horse falling from cliff, to wolves attacking bison, eating raw meat, avalanches and waterfalls, log cabins, outposts and tepees. It's a great frontier revenge survival thriller with multi layers. Recommend.
The Muppets (2015)
Muppets as they should be.
The background shenanigans of Miss Piggy's show that's produced by Kermit.
Packed with gags and celebs, the personalities and voices are thankfully on point. The backstage set up works perfectly and the Muppets are always centre stage, where they should be.
Each episode gets better and better the Christmas one is particularly notable -every fun episode is sharp, witty and visually interesting.
All the main character's return, including Scooter and Rolf (the late Jim Henson usually voiced/puppeteered) and they have been omitted or reduced to appearing briefly in the past, it nice to see the characters back in full swing
The Wabbit is back
Classic bugs returns with a slight (differently drawn) makeover, the show is contemporary, that said, its still set in the woods and desert to name a few locations on occasion. The sitcom style of the recent excellent Looney Tune Show has gone, this returns to banjo playing Bigs, Mac, lions, Leprechauns, Presidents and barbarians. Some episodes including the Internet and mobile phones. It plays on Sam beginning out of time, there's Bugs new addition friend squeaks (who is great) and array of new and classic character return.
It's as funny as ever and captures the wacky, witty sharp Looney Tune style. It's another great brought up to date return, only here this time Bugs solely takes centre stage. The Wabbit is back!
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Great character play.
A blizzard forces a group of four to take shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery where they encounter four more strangers. With betrayal and deception, the eight strangers realise they may not make it to destination, Red Rock, after all.
The Hateful Eight offers impeccable framing, mountain landscapes, opening with a snow covered statue of Jesus. This film is all about justice and executions. The film is broken up with synonymous Quentin Tarantino chapter title cards. With Outlaw Josey Wales and Spaghetti Western coolness mixed with Tarantino seemingly nonchalant, yet, diligent story telling The Hateful Eight partly plays out like a heavyweight Cluedo mystery. Escaping an impeding blizzard menacing Russell known as the Hangman and bounty hunter outlaw Samuel Jackson ooze charisma and the whole cast clearly enjoy the wordplay. With its few locations (Reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs), as the group are isolated at a stagecoach passover (incidentally including Dogs' actor Tim Roth) it's mostly reliant on the actors talents and script. There's notably interesting flashbacks and a midway 4th wall voice over which brakes the confinement of the film up. Thankfully, the planets are aligned and all the elements like a jigsaw puzzle fit together in Tarantino's favour.
Ennio Morricone score is perfect, but Tarantino also slips in a track and later a song performance (by an almost unrecognisable excellent Jennifer Jason Leigh) which surprisingly work considering its a winter set Western. There's a fanboy moment in a snowstorm where they stake guide rods and Ennio's score pulses harking back to the remote beats and paranoia of The Thing. It has a small cast ensemble. As the opening credits run anyone with an appreciation of film will have a inclination it's a Tarantino film simply by its tight casting, from classic to cult actors. Many he has already worked with and some he's prompted a deserving career revival. Samuel L. Jackson is outstanding with his Sherlock-like prowess. Walton Goggins is particularly notable. The supporting cast are great and include the likes of Zoe Bell, (surprisingly seriously good) Channing Tatum, Michael Madsen (also of Reservoir Dogs) to name a few.
It's a fine production, packed with seemingly period authenticity, excellent costumes, props, right down to the mutton chops and facial hair. There's plenty of historical social commentary, modern mirroring subtext and choice language that intentional or not will no doubt cause ears to prick up as the array of characters interact. Cinematographer Robert Richardson, who has worked with Tarantino on various film along with the naturalist lighting and setting gives the proceedings visual weight.
Lincoln letters, horse carriages, shootouts, it's gritty, violent, hard hitting packed with punchy dialogue driven scenes. It's edgy, naturalistic with poisoning, double crosses, twists and turns synonymous with Tarantino's back catalogue. There's also a memorable gross out scene with sick and blood, also severed limbs courteous of make-up veteran Greg Nicotero. There's exploding heads and when the tension builds and shoot outs happen they have a brutal impact.
There are great character arcs and development but debatably Russell and Roth steal the show. It's undeniably talkie but with plot surprises, fine performances and sharp writing, if you like Tarantino's trademark style and Westerns in general it's doesn't get much better than this.
Not a horror or thriller, more adult fairytale
Leigh lives secluded and isolated in the mountains woods, normalcy is in sight when a stranger is unaffected by her affliction.
Not be be confused with cleavage packed Siren (2011). Jesse Peyronel's 2013 Siren is a lost gem, a finely executed indie film from Osiris Entertainment that has managed to stay hidden away like its security surveyed main character. Directed and written by Peyronel it's a slow burning contemporary dark fairytale with widow-like imagery.
Opening with a voice over that says, "Once upon a time..." a flower and candle filled large house, there's a flashback to a boys encounter with a showered with gifts (well cast) young girl called Leigh. The set up is wonderfully played out by the child actors who set the stage of what's to come. The captivating Ali Larter-like Vinessa Shaw (of the Hills Have Eyes rehash) holds attention throughout, her blood is being bottled due to its attractive pheromone powers. She is cursed, everyone can't help but fall in love with her and their life is subsequently turned upside down. However, charming Robert Kazinsky (of Pacific Rim fame) is immune to her allure having lost his sense of smell. With a dodgy perfume company over arching the proceedings it gives this Posion Ivy setup a sense of scale on what is quite a reclusive tale. At times, its forcible sexual relations are a little uncomfortable and the stalker, rapey moments are provokingly questionable.
It's more grounded and sophisticated than Milan Todorovic's horror Killer Mermaids. Siren has a fairly paint by numbers outcome but it's beautifully shot and framed, benefitting from a somewhat novel premise as men go crazy over the potent smells. There's a melodic violin and piano driven score which gives it a mysterious lazy Sunday feel.
Overall, don't expect an action horror thriller. Peyronel successful commits to screen a twisted romantic character study in the guise of a deadly modern fairy tale. Recommended for adult fairytale fans.
Retains the Star Wars magic, the force is strong with this one
Thirty years after the second Death Star's destruction, Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has vanished. An unlikely group get drawn into search for the Jedi before the First Order, a successor to the fallen Galactic Empire find him first.
J.J. Abrams flourishingly takes over the reins from George Lucas for Disney. The production values, effects and music are outstanding with writers Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams and Michael Arndt successfully handing over the baton to the new characters without leaving the beloved ones behind. John Boyega's Finn has depth and is very likable, as too is Daisy Ridley who is simply outstanding and steals the show as Rey. Oscar Isaac's X Wing pilot Poe Dameron is memorable and somehow manages to encapsulate the look, swagger and feel of the original Star Wars spirit.
If I were to nit-pick the CGI Supreme Leader Snoke hologram and the monsters hiding and attacking the Millennium Falcon as it hums back to life is not without its problems. That said, it's doesn't distract from the overall great quality of the effects throughout, from the impressive practical and visual effects right down to jolting storms troopers, desert creatures, spaceship base interiors and beyond. Yes, it's partly a rehash of the first film with a few welcomed twists and surprises but it's a really visual and emotional treat, with great sets, costumes, make-up and locations. The action set ups, shoot outs, spaceship dogfights and sabre duels are fantastically staged.
The mix of new and old characters returning works and there's array of familiar faces and quality actors including Max von Sydow and hidden Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma. Well loved characters not just the likes of R2-D2, Han, Leia, Chewie and C-3PO but less known ones like Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb also return. As the rebels face another threat, bigger than the Deathstar it manages to remain engrossing and gritty.
There's the emotional loss of a main character and Mark Hamill's screen time is fittingly limited which allows Ridley to shine throughout along with droid BB-8. Adam Driver's misguided Vader obsessed Kylo Ren is interesting.
Overall, the young cast carry the beats you wanted and expected from a sequel to the original trilogy but it also excels as Abrams manages to fashion an atmosphere of his own while retaining the Star Wars feel and magic. The force is strong with this one. Highly recommended.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Another must see Bond
007 and the Japanese secret service must find and stop the true mastermind of a series of spacejackings before nuclear war is forced.
Of course this is the one where Bond makes some ethnic cringe educing remarks in the opening before he is killed on a retracting bed and as my son said 'it's the one where he dresses up as Mr. Spock,' when he literally turns Japanese.
While it's known for its expensive awe inspiring volcano sets and the 'Little Nellie' gyrocopter dogfight, for me the better stand out moments are the fight in one of Ken Adams lavish set that packs a punch. And there's a genius segment by director Lewis Gilbert where Bond fights on a roof top all captured from a bird's eye view.
Sean Connery is on his usual cool form as James Bond, at one point he sports his Royal Navy uniform when he's buried at sea and later seemingly jumps off a building thanks to an old school stunt double switch. Roald Dahl's (yes the children's writer) screenplay has Bond shooting and killing without remorse which Connery pulls off effortlessly. It features one of the better Bond themes "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra and John Barry's music is delightfully fitting.
Charles Gray in his pre own turn as Blofeld is memorable as Henderson. Donald Pleasence is excellent as unblinking S.P.E.C.T.R.E head Blofeld, his incarnation defined the character and a place in pop culture. Bond girls Aki and Kissy do their best but lack screen presence of their predecessors. Actor Tetsurô Tanba (Tanaka) is notable. Burt Kwouk also famous for Kato shows up as Spectre 3. Regulars Bernard Lee's 'M', Lois Maxwell's Miss Moneypenny and Desmond Llewelyn as 'Q' are on usual great form.
You Only Live Twice is plenty of fun, while not as dark as From Russia with Love and arguably more exotic that Goldfinger, with safe-cracking gadgets and explosive lipstick to name a few it's another must see Bond adventure.