4 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Thing (I) (2011)
The ultimate in Alien mediocrity.
27 December 2011
If you are a fellow horror fan, there really isn't any point bringing up the fact that John Carpenter's "The Thing" is a golden oldie and a classic for the ages - you already know that. So what about the weird pseudo-remake/attempt at a prequel? To be honest, the film is just.... meh. When it comes to horror remakes though, that's actually faint praise. I'm not going to lash out against this one like I've lashed out (numerous times) against remakes such as The Hitcher, A Nightmare on Elm St. and so on. If anything, I'll just forget that this one exists. I'll give it this: It does not insult the status of the original, but nor does it compliment it.

Which is a shame, because the film so desperately *wants* to compliment the original and to be fair, there are a couple things that work. I'll give it this, it does have some of the atmosphere that the original carried - the antarctic tundra still feels real, still feels desolate, and the setting can still instill a sense of paranoia. But the fact is that it's just too familiar, and there are many chinks in the films armour that reduce the films atmosphere. If the films writers had spent less time rehashing ideas from the original, had the actors put on a better facade, and the effects looked believable then maybe - just maybe, this could have worked. But there in lies the problem, that "better movie" already exists.

See, a lot of people forget this - but the 1982 version of "The Thing" was itself a remake and in some weird way, even moonlighted as a minor sequel to the 1950s classic "The Thing from another World." It wasn't a full on sequel, but there were nods to the original (Including footage) that were more than just references or attempts to actually masquerade as a remake and not a re-adaptation, so that makes the 1982 version of the film a lot like the 2011 version - it is a film attempting to reinterpret a classic, while keeping lingering ties to the original. But the 1982 version succeeded, and the 2011 version fails. It shows that it cares about the original and does no harm to the original either, but it lacks the effort and spirit that Carpenter gave in his 1982 picture - and it was that effort and spirit that made it the classic it is today. Watch that instead.
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Monkeybone (2001)
Selick sells himself short
26 December 2010
Henry Selick is a very talented man. He proved this talent when he directed "A Nightmare Before Christmas" (It's a shame so many fans of that movie just assume Tim Burton directed it and ignore Selick's achievement.) and made great use of his team of talented animators to bring Burton's original idea to life. Selick once again proved himself a good director with the stunted but visually stunning (And still somewhat enjoyable) adaptation of "James & The Giant Peach." Recently, Selick did yet another fantastic piece of cinema with "Coraline;" but in-between James & The Giant Peach and Coraline... there was Monkeybone.

Something tells me Selick regrets this one. Monkeybone is a film in which Selick sells himself short. His talents are on display in several portions of the film, and yet some portions are clumsily directed. Yet even if the whole film had been as visually impressive as his other works and as tightly directed, the movie would still fail with the script it is given. I have not read the graphic novel "Dark Town," so maybe I should cut the script-writers some slack and blame whoever wrote "Dark Town" for inspiring this lazy, immature, and often annoying script.

The film follows animator Stu Miley, creator of a popular animated show called "Monkeybone," about a mischievous and perverted monkey that lives inside a timid students backpack. Stu gets in a car accident, and is sent into a coma. He soon finds himself in an abstract and insane underworld where he meets Monkeybone, who promptly sets out to drive Stu (and the viewers) insane. Stu wants to return home, but is duped by a devil in pajamas named Hypno - who instead, sends Monkeybone into Stu's body.

The problem with Monkeybone is that the "humor" if you will, is immature and insulting. We are shown a Monkeybone cartoon early on, and it is cringe worthy. It baffles me how some people in the movie claim that the show is a children's cartoon as it is wildly inappropriate; and more-over, I don't know how any adult could laugh at such juvenile material. The cartoon focuses on how the Student is sexually attracted to his old teachers huge, sagging flaps of arm fat. He gets an erection, and Monkeybone (Who more or less is an anthropomorphic erection. Goody.) pops out and starts harassing the teacher while the student is humiliated for his quite visible erection. Funny? No? Well, get used to that kind of humor and trust me, it gets worse unless you REALLY like fart jokes.

It is a shame that so much talent has to be wasted here. Brendan Fraser is actually fairly likable as Stu Miley (However when Monkeybone takes over his body, he becomes annoying and only makes Monkeybone's character more annoying as well.) and Selick has once again brought on board tons of playful and creative visuals. Monkeybone is animated quite well using stop-motion, and arguably the best part of the whole picture is the underworld and its abstract, bizarre, and downright weird denizens. There are even a few jokes that work through these weird visuals, like the Grim-Reapers mode of transportation being a little tricycle or how the gate leading back to the real world is known as "The Great Emancipator" and fittingly, the exit appears as a giant Abraham Lincoln head. There is also a genuinely disturbing (Yet memorable) scene in which Stu is forced into one of the nightmares that he himself painted years ago, where Selick shows off yet another fantastic visual effect that only makes me wish the films script was redeemable.

However, when the film takes place in our world - it is clumsily directed and is made twice as painful to sit through due to the lack of any creative visuals. Monkeybone was already annoying in the underworld, but when he takes Stu's body - actor Brendan Fraser goes from likable to cringe worthy. The on-going shtick is that Monkeybone is still an animal, and acts like one and is hyper-active, perverted, and crude. One of the most insultingly idiotic scenes is when Monkeybone gets turned on by watching animals mate on The Discover Channel, and then we are forced to a 5 minute scene of him doing a bizarre sexual display in nothing but his underpants hooting like a monkey and doing a mix of dancing and animalistic moves. Barf. Oh, and did I mention he wants to give everyone nightmares by giving out monkey bone toys that fart nightmare gas? Yeah.

All in all this is bad - really, really bad. I would have given it a rating of 2 if it had not been for the fantastic visuals in the underworld, and one genuinely funny scene where Stu is in prison in the underworld and runs into the likes of Stephen King and Genghis Khan. That means this gets a 4. It's a shame because you can catch glimpses of Selick's talents, but the script is just too clumsy, offensive, and rude to be enjoyable.
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Tron (2010)
It isn't as smart as part 1 - but it is just as fun and awe inspiring.
20 December 2010
Sadly, I am not old enough to have seen the original "TRON" back when it came out in 1982. However with that said - I still have an understanding of just how revolutionary its effects were at the time; my mother was a huge fan of the original and had been lucky enough to see it in theatres. She showed me the film when I was a kid, and despite having seen movies like the original "Toy Story" that had made strides since TRON, I was still dazzled by the effects and smart, creative story. I have loved computers all my life, and part of that may be because of TRON.

When this movie was announced, my mum and I went nuts. A new TRON film? On the big screen?!? HELL YEA! My mother joined my wife & I for a 3D IMAX screening of 'Legacy,' and it was well worth it. While "Legacy" may not be as revolutionary as the original was, it still manages to capture what made the original great by having a polished technical sheen, great action, and some clever computer references.

The story's progression from the first film is in Real-Time, as it takes place 28 years after the original film. Apparently after the events of the original film, Kevin Flynn left his program CLU in charge of The Grid in order to "Create the perfect system." A year after, he had a son and became the new CEO of Encom. Flynn's son, Sam, becomes the majority share-holder but isn't too interested in Encom's affairs and has little to do with the company. Then, his father goes missing. Sam gets a message from him beckoning him to his arcade, where he finds his fathers computer.. Oh, and the digitizing laser just so happens to be there and Sam finds himself in The Grid, and the film continues proper as he tries to find his father and solve the mystery behind the Grid's new problems.

The story is arguably the least important element of the film, and while I didn't expect a work of literary genius - I will admit I was a little disappointed with it. I refuse to give out spoilers for any movie, but the ending felt mildly anti-climactic and I also feel that the story left a few holes that need explanation. Tap-dancing around spoilers here, here are some of the main questions I have. What exactly did the ISOs do? How did Kevin recognize TRON during his appearance when he was masked?? What was up with the ending scenes??? It simply isn't as smart as the original in this regard. Truly, the original isn't a masterpiece of story telling either; but it had a much more adventurous quest, slightly more interesting characters, and it had a nice little sub-text about big corporations in the 80s.

The movie isn't just a treat for your eyes, it is also a treat for your ears. The sound effects are great, but even better is the music. Daft Punk did the score and it suits the film perfectly. It sounds both electronic AND epic. It is one of the most memorable soundtracks in recent memory and it is one of the first times since "The Lord of the Rings" soundtracks that I immediately went out and bought a copy of the films soundtrack CDs.

This is a bit nit-picky, but I do wish to express my opinion on one thing in the art-design. As neat-o as the art design is, I do feel as though the new design has a few flaws. In the original, the computer world was almost pitch black but with white lines intersecting; machines like The Recognizers were mostly coloured and shapeless, made from some sort of ethereal data and could change shapes. Here, they are clearly made of some sort of glass or metal with lights on, and they aren't as flexible which somehow makes them less threatening. The "Blank Spaces" are also often filled in by a glass like reflection, and I kind of liked the more surreal "Blank spaces;" even the highly underrated 2003 game 'Tron 2.0' found a more satisfying expansion of that style, with weapons and guns often being made of various open shapes that can morph but appear to be missing black spaces. That's just a VERY minor gripe though. :) Overall - Tron: Legacy is what it is, a blast! It won't revolutionize the capabilities of computer graphics as the original did, but it still looks and sounds incredible and it is one hell of a lot of fun!
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Book of Blood (2009)
A tale worth hearing
1 December 2010
The imagination of Clive Barker has always fascinated me. His greatest work is, indeed, the 6 Books of Blood. An unnerving and fascinating anthology. So going into this, I was confused as how they would adapt it. I expected it to be an anthology comprising of some of the more memorable stories, but what I got was quite different - and ultimately I was quite pleasantly surprised.

The movie itself is not based on The Books of Blood, but rather the eponymous "Book" itself - a man named Simon. It must have been a tricky process as this portion of the actual Books was short and only served as the introduction; never truly mentioned again. However there is enough creativity here to make the story interesting.

One of the strengths of this picture is that while it embraces cliché at time, it knows how to use classic spooks and suspenseful tones rather than blood and gore. There is some gruesome imagery - especially with a murder taking place at the beginning, but this is not a film where guts are spilled regularly. This is a clever and inventive ghost story, and like the ghosts in this film; it is a story that is begging to be heard.

The film follows Simon McNeal, a humble but troubled man with an interest in the supernatural. He agrees to take up an offer granted by his tutor, Mary Florescu, to investigate a home in which two very unnerving deaths have occurred that is flocking with supernatural activity.

The film explores an interesting take on the afterlife. There are "Intersections" that cross their world with ours, and the dead are trapped in these intersections... begging for their tales to be told. However - no one will Listen, and the story mostly follows Simon, Mary and her partner Reg as the dead begin to take interest in Simon and the revelations of their intents. It is well thought out, clever, and the ending is quite smart.

There are flaws. The acting is a mixed bag, and while the film can use cliché to its advantage (Actually making classical ghost effects somewhat creepy again) the use of it in some of the scare scenes don't work. It's also strange and even uncomfortable when sex scenes come in to play, as they always seem to play out at an inappropriate time; usually directly after the more disturbing events.

All in all... you should give Book of Blood a chance. It is one of the better films based on a Clive Barker piece, and it has the imagination of all the other stories that were told. It makes a great companion to the books themselves - and it saddens me that this is relatively obscure.
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