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A funny sequel even if there are parts that don't work as well
21 February 2018
Prior to the start of the 21rst century, movie franchises that had sequels were more or less on time with their releases. Other sets of movies were created not long after. This was due to movie studios finding it to be profitable and producing a sequel almost every year. Whether or not they actually were of good quality is a separate matter. The point is, sequels came in a rather systematic fashion. Rarely were sequels made years later except for some. A very mainstream movie series that has quite a number of years in between its entries was James Cameron's The Terminator (1984) film. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) came several years later and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) was even longer still. However the longest awaited sequel ever to be made might in fact be this movie since its predecessor goes back three decades!

The Odd Couple (1968) was based on a play written by Neil Simon. This story would then also receive a TV show adaptation. But as for this sequel, the script was also written by Neil Simon but was completely original. Nothing had been written before as to what would happen if the two main odd balls would reunite. For this film, it just so happens that the daughter of Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) and son of Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) are getting married. When Oscar and Felix cross paths, the madness begins. The question is, will they reach the wedding in time? For being a sequel that came far after its original, the play out to this feature is not as bad as one might think. Heading the production was Howard Deutch. He's mainly known for directing TV shows now. Deutch also worked with Matthau and Lemmon in Grumpier Old Men (1995).

What does work here are the two stars and thankfully much of the supporting cast. Even for thirty years later Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are great at reprising their all time famous roles. Lemmon still plays Felix as about as stressed as ever, while Matthau plays Oscar just as relaxed and out of touch as well. Both still have the same likable chemistry and great wisecracks towards each other. The next actor to have some funny scenes is Richard Riehle the local sheriff. As Oscar and Felix try to reach their family's wedding, they continuously run into Riehle's character. Seeing his reaction every time after the first gets more comical. As for the couple getting married, Brucey (Jonathan Silverman) and Hannah (Lisa Waltz) are both okay in their roles but they really don't have a lot of shine time.

The parts that aren't effective in the story deal a lot with how the script was written. The plus side is that Neil Simon takes the scenario between the iconic duo and shows the audience what happens when these two are let out of their cages. Yet somehow there's a lack of witty dialog among the whole running time. Matthau and Lemmon are wonderful no doubt, but they can't work alone. Part of what made The Odd Couple (1968) funny was the funny supporting cast. Aside from Riehle, there's not many other actors to find hilarious. On top of that, there a couple of scenes that have the two leads dropping the "F" bomb. The original movie did not use that word at all and it was still hilarious. So what was the point of using it now? Lastly there's a brief subplot that comes up out of nowhere and is quickly settled, so again, why bring it up to begin with?

But aside from this there are appearances from other actors like Mary Beth Peil, Christine Baranski, Jean Smart, Rex Linn, Jay O. Sanders and even Earl Boen. For camerawork, the shots captured are decent for the picture. Credited as cinematographer was Jamie Anderson. Unlike the original where much of the settings took place in the apartment, now the whole adventure takes place outside and there's lots to see. Anderson was also the DP to movies like Piranha (1978), Unlawful Entry (1992) and Small Soldiers (1998) that same year. Lastly, bringing forth the music was composer Alan Silvestri. Being known for all kinds of scores Silvestri did a great job revisiting the famous main theme from the original and it is repeated quite often in full orchestra. A job well done.

While the script may suffer from unnecessary add ins and occasionally less energetic dialog, the rest of the viewing experience is still enjoyable. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon remain the highlight of the feature, with great exchanges, acceptable cinematography and respectable music.
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For the first CGI outing, pretty good
11 February 2018
The year 2009 was a big year for the Thomas & Friends franchise. After the failure of Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000), a transformation began to occur to the series that would change the show forever. Creative consultants began to retire from their roles and new ones took their places. On top of that the rights to the show transferred to different hands, leading to new ideas being added. Still though, live-action physical models were being used, that is until the 12th season when CGI faces were added to the models. This was a big sign to those watching that the show, it was headed in a direction many thought would not happen. But by the time the 13th season rolled around, Thomas & Friends had been fully converted to CGI with the release of this home video special.

Even more surprising was that the director to the special was Greg Tiernan. Prior to this Tiernan had only worked as unit director and not much else. He would later go on to direct the adult animated film Sausage Party (2016). The exact opposite of Thomas & Friends' demographic. Aside from this the story to adventure has Thomas and his friends going about work as usual until Spencer the fast silver engine arrives on Sodor. According to Spencer, the Duke of Boxford is having a summer house built and will be around all summer. This means being harassed by Spencer nonstop wherever he goes. Thomas becomes fed up and races Spencer only to discover in the process another engine by the name of Hiro, abandoned long ago in the brush. Hoping to help Hero, it's up to Thomas and his friends to help put Hiro back together.

With a script written completely by Sharon Miller, the story itself isn't the smartest but also isn't the laziest either. Being that she's written screenplays before for this franchise, it's acceptable to a point. The biggest issue this story has is trying to cram in a bunch of different characters by only giving them a few lines. Toby, one of the oldest characters in the show has one line of dialog; impressive. However what will lessen this burden is hearing all the unique voices all the engines have now. Prior to this, every story was told by the narrator only. Now the narrator talks along with the engines having their own voices. Both Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon act as the narrator respectively while the rest is performed by other voice actors.

As for them, there really isn't an actor who out performs the other because they all do well. For the US dub, Martin Sherman voices Thomas and Percy and he sounds youthful enough for it. Jules de Jongh voices Emily and Mavis. William Hope voices Edward, Toby, Rocky and the Duke of Boxford. Kerry Shale voices Henry, Gordon, James and Sir Topham Hatt. Voicing Spencer is Glenn Wrage. Finally voicing Hiro, the new main character is Togo Igawa. All of which give their roles life and something unique to hear. The animation was also quite the departure from past features. Being that everything has been converted to CGI, several iconic places have also been transferred over. Much of it is well done when taking it all in.

There is a new area to be featured though and that's the Sodor Steamworks lead by two new characters. Kevin the crane (Kerry Shale) and Victor (David Bedella). Other places like Tidmouth Sheds, Knapford Station, Gordon's Hill, and Brendam Docks are remarkably kept intact. It is a bit jarring at first though because no longer are the sets physically limited. Now the locations can be expanded to have many layers of colors, textures and the scope can expand far beyond any physical set. Those will be missed but seeing how much detail is put into these settings is still respectable. Acting as animation supervisor was Jeff Bailey who had held similar positions prior to this production. Music was thankfully well composed with Robert Hartshorne continuing to score the franchise. The unfortunate part is that the music is no longer a large center piece to the overall picture. Much of it seems to be over shadowed by sound effects and other things. With that there isn't any new character themes to hear except for a the second original theme song. Lastly there's one pop song called "Go Go, Thomas!" at the end, which is fun to listen to. Aside from this not much else.

With the newest transition of the show moving from practical effects to CGI, the conversion is pretty good. The characters, sets and animation is rendered well. The voice actors for their respective dubs are also performed competently. Writing is slightly above average with an okay story even though it tends to leave some main characters in the background. The saddest part is the lack of iconic music that was once so profound in its presence, no longer at the forefront.
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Hush (I) (2016)
A thriller that has more to it than one would expect
26 January 2018
Throughout history, there have been all kinds of stories dealing with mysterious killers. Some of which still have not been named or captured and have lived in infamy for their obscene crimes. For horror films, the horror genre has made use of these stories to give viewers a better understanding how things went down. Whether certain liberties were taken with the material varies, but it's how the film makes the viewers feel after coming out is what matters. Several horror films rely more on gore and violence when really a movie with the exact opposite in traits can be just as terrifying. This is exactly what happens in this movie, which at first felt like it was going to be a by the numbers killing type horror film, when really, it wasn't at all. Prepare to feel the most restrained you've ever felt in some time.

The story to this killer thriller is about Maddie (Kate Siegel), an author of a popular book. Hoping to strike gold and create another great novel, she continues to write in her home on her own. What may not be evident is the fact that she is mute and deaf. The only way she communicates is through sign language and mouthing words. She has a few friends but none that live with her on a constant basis. Unfortunately for her, a stalker (John Gallagher Jr.) discovers her house and realizes she has these disabilities. With that said he decides it would be great to slowly mentally torture her. Written and directed Mike Flanagan, this movie is one of the more taught ones shown in a while. Since much of the story revolves around these two, the development only happens here. Much of it is placed on Maddie, who goes through several strategies on how to escape the evil that has fallen on her.

The weakest link is actually the killer because nothing is really explained about him. The character name is just called "the man", and that's fine. Not every psycho has to have a name, it makes it all the more creepy. However, having no reason for the motivation of killing is something else. This is exactly the problem with Gallagher's role. He has no rationale as to why he's doing what he's doing. That doesn't mean he has to have a connection to Siegel's character either. But there must be something that is making this guy do what he's doing. Yet this part is overshadowed as to just how creative the heroine lead becomes when she realizes she's starting to run out of options. That's where things become so white-knuckled, it becomes too difficult to just sit and watch. Some viewers may feel the need to retroactively try and yell recommendations to the screen. As if the individuals on screen could hear.

Kate Siegel as Maddie does a great job. She truly makes a viewer believe everything she goes through. And as cliché as it is to have a female lead in a horror film, she deserves this one. Siegel has been in other productions prior but this would be her breakout role. It's truly impressive to watch this film unfold because of how well it was directed. Normally writer directors have tough times producing adequate films because the task of doing both isn't easy. However being that this was a small production, this might've lessened the burden. Flanagan was also the director to movies like Oculus (2013), Before I Wake (2016), Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) and Gerald's Game (2017). Being that these movies have all had mainly positive praise, this shows Flanagan has a knack for the genre. This goes hand in hand with the tension delivered. Much of the execution remains silent to make the viewer feel like Maddie, which helps a lot. In some ways it reminisces to that of James Wan's Dead Silence (2007).

Camerawork was well put together too. James Kniest was the director of photography to this feature. Even though the overall setting changes very little, Kniest manages to find ways of showing every inch and crack of the house Maddie lives in. Kniest worked on other movies like Annabelle (2014), Within (2016) and The Bye Bye Man (2017). Adding to that is the violence that occurs throughout the running time. There's not a lot of gore, but what is shown still can get pretty gnarly. Some of it can really make a viewer cringe. Sadly this could also be said for film score. Composed by a duo who go by the Newton Brothers, the music to this movie isn't that impressive. It is understandable as to why it isn't heard much, but when it is used, it's not ultimately that complex. Thankfully it has no jump stings, but the organics of it does not blend with the visuals and comes off rather forgettable. Even if they worked with director Flanagan before.

While the music and antagonist motives are not that well rounded, the rest of this thriller is tense in its structure. The two main actors work their parts well, the cinematography is engaging and the whole situation presented to the audience reminds us just how vulnerable we all can be alone at home.
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A comedy classic
1 January 2018
Not every pairing is a perfect match. Everyone has their idiosyncrasies that only suits them. It's this part of living with someone else, one must learn to accept those differences. There's a give and take when it comes to these kinds of set ups. During the mid 20th century and before, married folks were under much more pressure to maintain their vows. If a divorce occurred, it was frowned upon, so many stuck it out. However, if one partner did leave the other, sometimes it was never brought to light. As time has progressed though, the notion of marriages not lasting forever isn't as uncommon. But would any of the separated ones hang out with another person from another divorce? Well look no further than to Neal Simon's film adaptation of one of his famous plays. Best known for putting the show on Broadway, Simon took it to the next step by writing a screenplay for the film.

The story follows two men divorced by their wives that find some level of compensation through each others' tendencies. Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) is a slob who can't get his act together for anything, especially maintaining any sort of common cleanliness. Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) is the exact opposite. He finds keeping things neat and tidy something that's fulfilling. However, Ungar took it to the extreme; finding almost EVERYTHING not to his liking because it was no according to his level of order. Yet somehow the two boneheads manage to make it work, at first. Until they start to realize how polarizing their preferences are, that's when things go bananas. And for what's shown, the execution is well done thanks to director Gene Saks. He may have not directed that many films in his lifetime, but he did helm Barefoot in the Park (1967), Cactus Flower (1969) and Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986).

There's a great mix of comedic timing and writing handled by the actors and Simon's writing. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are a funny duo in this feature film. Lemmon perfectly drives up the hypochondriac scale past its peak, making cleaning and timeliness feel way more important than it should be. While Matthau distorts any sort of reality by feeding his guests with varying color assorted sandwiches. But of these two, the actor who steals the show was Matthau. His comedic talent shines through with some of the most hilarious lines ever spoken. And though what's said at times may not make sense immediately, the reasoning can be validated. There's also appearances from Herb Edelman, John Fiedler, David Sheiner, and Larry Haines, who play Oscar and Felix's gambling buddies. They two have their funny moments. One of the greater interactions however performed between Matthau and Lemmon were with Monica Evans and Carole Shelley.

These two actress really nailed their skills in sounding like sisters. Their giggles and reactions to either Matthau's and Lemmon's lines or themselves is well articulated and timed. Walter Matthau was known for several films like JFK (1991) and Grumpy Old Men (1993). Jack Lemmon is best known for other films too like The Great Race (1965), Airport '77 (1977), Short Cuts (1993) and Hamlet (1996). Both would also star in The Odd Couple II (1998). John Fiedler was best known for playing Piglet in all the Winnie the Pooh related films up until his passing in 2005. Herb Edelman was mainly a TV actor in shows like The Golden Girls and The Love Boat. The same could said for David Sheiner and Larry Haines. For Monica Evans, her career would not go much further but she would still voice Abigail from Disney's The Aristocats (1970) and Maid Marian from Robin Hood (1973). Carole Shelley also voiced characters in those two films but also voiced Lachesis from Hercules (1997).

The only component to not really come out looking unique was the camerawork. Provided by Robert B. Hauser, the cinematography is adequate for the movie. The problem is that it just doesn't have a real iconic setting. Sure, Oscar Madison's apartment is one of the more well known places to be featured in a movie, but it's just an apartment. The camera lens is wide enough to take all of the den and then some. Yet the audience only gets a good view of that, the kitchen and the main hallway. There's a bunch of other rooms but they're not explored that much either. Hauser also filmed for The Sweet Ride (1968), How to Steal the World (1968) and Soldier Blue (1970). For the film score, Neal Hefti brought the popular main theme to life. Although he only scored for a couple other films after, it would be this motif that would forever make his name recognizable. Throughout the movie, music isn't that abundant. But when it is, it's a classic sound.

While the cinematography is professionally crafted, it's just not that engaging when it comes to variety of areas to explore. Aside from this though, everything about this classic comedy works amazingly well. The music is catchy when heard, the comedic timing from the actors is well done and Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau steal the show with their funny lines.
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A comedy with a surprising amount of heart
9 December 2017
Among hobbies that come and go when it comes to movies, the internet film critic persona really exploded in the early 2000s after the show Siskel & Ebert initially started the trend decades before. But with that, many sensations most notably The Nostalgia Critic played by Doug Walker gained a lot of attention after covering what was supposedly the worst movie ever made. Yet as much as they bashed it, everyone still recommended seeing it and that was because of the man behind the whole production. That man, Tommy Wiseau has now gone from complete movie reject to film celebrity because of The Room (2003) he had released so many years ago. Although there are several things known about Wiseau, there are still many basic facts nobody knows about him like his ethnic background and how old he is. Nevertheless, with his movie now having a collective fan base, there was bound to be a movie made about it whether it be a biopic or documentary. Really the biopic was the only option left because the documentary was already done.

With a script adapted from a book based on the experience of Greg Sestero (one of the actors from the original film), the story seems to have all its cards in place. The adaptation was handled by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (Paper Towns (2015)), who worked together since their start. The components to the screenplay that really hit home for many fans of the movie, or to those who were indirectly introduced to it, was the overall message in plot and the story behind the making of The Room (2003). If Tommy Wiseau is quoted as being 99.9% happy with the finished product, then it is safe to say that the events shown on screen are true. And if that is a fact, then as much as people think Wiseau is a strange person, he really does teach a lesson to viewers. For us the audience, that means to never give up on your dreams and to never let anyone tell you otherwise. In life there will always be things that try to stop you from what you want to do. In order to succeed, one must learn how to work around it.

Seeing that notion repeated over and over throughout the running time is something everyone needs to tell themselves. If this is truly what Tommy Wiseau believes in real life, he is a much deeper individual than many people think. As for the actors who play Wiseau and company, the main cast was great. James Franco who plays Wiseau (and directs this feature too) did an amazing job becoming Wiseau. Franco easily grabs the attention of the viewers with his spot on take of Wiseau. One would really have to sit back and remind themselves that it's only Franco and not Wiseau himself. Playing Greg Sestero is James' brother Dave Franco and although it may seem like cheating, that two brothers are playing the starring roles, the two work well together. That goes even for the times where friction occurs. For supporting actors, Seth Rogen as Sandy the script supervisor has a number of funny lines. Ari Graynor who plays the Lisa character does a good job at replicating the infamous scenes from the film as well.

Playing Denny was Josh Hutcherson who plays the character from the original movie accurately too. There also appearances from other actors like Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Judd Apatow and even Bryan Cranston. Seeing all of this happen though is still astounding due to the fact that Tommy Wiseau went from a complete nobody on the Hollywood radar for a decade or so. Later to transform from incompetent filmmaker to glorified genius. This just proves the fact that no matter what you do, if you keep pushing the direction you want to go, you will be recognized for it. Tommy Wiseau wanted to have his shot at being famous back in the early 2000s, and now he really is. Sometimes success, fame or money does not come instantaneously like some think. The same could also be said for Greg Sestero who had a bunch of opportunities pop up. But in the end, he's best known for this feature and has openly welcomed that notoriety as much as he hesitated about it at first.

The one element to this film that was not the best was the camera-work. Brandon Trost was the cinematographer to this feature and it's a mixed bag of visuals. At times the camera lens flows easily over the scene at hand and does capture a number of backgrounds that are appealing to look at. However, there are moments where the camera moves around while filming like it's being held via camcorder. It wobbles and jiggles to the point where it gets frustrating to watch. I understand the usefulness if Trost wants to replicate the quality of technology at the time when The Room (2003) was made, but most of those times are not used to show that. Trost also worked on Crank: High Voltage (2009), Halloween II (2009), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), Neighbors (2014) and The Interview (2014).The music on the other hand was composed by Dave Porter. Though it did not have a signature theme for the film, it's probably best it did not since this is not a film that really requires it. He also made the music to Smiley (2012).

While the camera-work can be erratic at times, the rest of the movie prevails in being an underdog story about one of the most mysterious underdogs in all of cinema history. The biopic of how Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero met and make The Room (2003) is actually quite an uplifting adventure.
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Better than the last few films involving all these characters
21 November 2017
With Marvel Studios now seemingly perfected the concept of making every superhero film fresh and new, several critics continue to bash Warner Brothers for continuously failing to replicate any of those elements into their comic book movie adaptations. That's actually hard to fully get on board with. As much as Warner Brother Studios continues to play catch up with their rival film studio, they have managed to pull through in certain areas. As divisive as Man of Steel (2013) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) were to many viewers, Warner Brothers has managed to finally establish their set of shared movie universes. And as much flack as they get for stumbling along the way, they are persistent, you have to give them that. Now with their magnum opus here, finally bringing to life famous characters and successfully uniting them altogether, their end result is just okay. They got Wonder Woman (2017) right, so how did this turn out to be just okay? It's just a lot when it's all said and done.

Directed again by Zack Snyder, the plot follows the events of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) with the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). Fearing that with Superman gone, earth won't be able to defend itself from a new evil named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) as backup. There's also a subplot about the possibility of resurrecting Superman using what is called a "mother box". According to Wonder Woman, there were three and if all were combined it would be the beginning of the end. The script was written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon of which both have had their share of successful films. Whedon is obviously known for leading Marvel's The Avengers (2012) and Serenity (2005). Chris Terrio was the writer to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Argo (2012). But even with this premise and setup, there are still problems to be had with the script.

Recurring supporting characters are almost pointless in this entry, except for a few. Actors like Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Joe Morton as Silas Stone are used because they are necessary for certain characters. However, other characters like Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and even Mera (Amber Heard) are all characters that either can be reintroduced or debut for their first time in a another film. Jamming in all these other individuals throughout the movie just feel like the producers want everyone to remember these people exist. Another blunder is the whole cataclysmic plot device that somehow makes its way into every superhero film. Can there ever be a time where these kinds of things aren't used in ensemble movies? It's just a really tiresome setup. Lastly there's the concept of Superman's memory if he were to be brought back to life. If his memory does remain, how is it that he seems to remember only certain things?

However even with that said, there are components that do work in this film's favor. Gone is the dark and and ho-hum atmosphere of Man of Steel (2013) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Now the tone has shifted to where things are more as one would say, normal. On top of that, the actors who share the lens together share great on screen chemistry. Momoa, Gadot, Affleck, Miller and Fisher all have their moments to shine. Momoa and Miller are really the ones who steal the show; which is impressive. Especially for Momoa, since Aquaman has always been thought of being the harder superhero to adapt correctly. Some of their interactions together are based on prior decisions, while others are analyzed through the time a choice is made at that very moment. Either way, the dialog held between these individuals are done so in a way that is enjoyable and lets the audience know that these protagonists are not serious all the time. Yet when a call to arms is made, this is another area where this movie shines.

One thing's for sure, Zack Snyder knows how to create action spectacles and that's no different here. The action is better than his other efforts because the live-action doesn't look so much like a video game cut scene. This also in due part to Fabian Wagner's cinematography. Wagner, who has mostly used his skills on the small screen did an adequate job for this blockbuster. Many of the shots capture a lot of geography and hardly any of it is too close to make out. Wagner has filmed for the Game of Thrones and Sherlock series, and for Victor Frankenstein (2015). For music, the film score was composed this time by Danny Elfman. Thankfully Elfman really knows how to make a score work correctly. The drowning soundscapes of Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg are hardly ever heard here and that's great. The Man of Steel (2013) theme is heard once but Elfman rightfully reuses John Williams' Superman (1978) theme and his own Batman (1989) theme during the film. That's classic music and it works better than anything else.

While it may still have its problems of over bloated character appearances and overused plot devices, this entry has slightly improved over passed blunders. The action still entertains, the on screen chemistry between actors is great, and the film score is more organic in sound.
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Samurai Cop (1991)
Crazy stupid but entertaining to some degree
20 November 2017
There are just some people in life that seem to have no idea how to do certain tasks. Yet their profession in life is the exact thing they cannot do correctly. How does that work? Well it doesn't matter because people like this exist all the time and sometimes, there are no answers. So the only way to deal with this matter is to either ignore it or embrace it. When it comes to bad movies, there's only a select group of filmmakers who can make ones that are so bad they are good. But occasionally, others make it into this category solely due to one production they had ever made. For director Amir Shervan, this feature would be his claim to fame. Yet prior to this film, his name was not well known. Even with the 29 other credits he had listed under him, it would be this movie that would bring his name into a conversation. Who would have thought though that such a ridiculous title would even get anyone's attention? Nobody probably did, but this is one of those films where that's the least silliest thing about it.

The premise to this action film is about Frank Washington (Mark Frazer), a cop who needs help cleaning up the streets. However, the Japanese gangs that run around are ruthless. So for help, he recruits Joe Marshall (Mathew Karedas) also known as Samurai. Why? Because he was trained in the way of the samurai as well as your local urban cop. With that, you have your samurai cop. Running the gangs are Fujiyama (Cranston Komuro) and his henchman Okamura (Gerald Okamura) and Yamashita (Robert Z'Dar). The only connection Washington and Marshall have to Fujyama is Jennifer (Janis Farley), Fujiyama's girlfriend and business partner. So as to how they get closer to their enemy - it's rather obvious. The script was also written by director Amir Shervan. With that said, this gives a clear indication as why things are the way they are throughout the whole film. There are several things about it that are just hilariously stupid about it and yet it works in its favor.

The two biggest flaws the screenplay has are the dumb choices certain characters make throughout the film and the other being the over the top nonsensical dialogue said between characters. There are so many scenes that add nothing to the plot or develop the characters. Joe Marshall is somehow able to convince every single female he meets to sleep with him without even really saying much. How repressed were these women? Some just flat out ask Marshall whether or not he wants to fornicate with them. What world does this take place in? Like this happens in public settings, not your local strip club. As for the acting performed by Frazer and Karedas, they are okay to laughable at most. Karedas seems like he can act when he wants, but there are other times where no emotion exists. Meanwhile Frazer looks like he was on something the whole time during shooting. There's not a moment where he's serious whatsoever. I'm just curious if Karedas really saw himself as an actor. He looks more like a GQ model.

Aside from these two though, the best actor of the whole cast was in fact Robert Z'Dar. An underrated thespian in general, Z'Dar may not be in too many big hit films, but he did have way more than the two stars mentioned before. Being in movies like the Maniac Cop (1988) franchise and Tango & Cash (1989), he was certainly someone to recognize. Here Z'Dar is mildly controlled but is in the best shape of his life for this movie. As for the rest of the actors, Gerald Okamura is known for being in other big budget films like Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), The Shadow (1994) and Blade (1998). As for Cranston Komuro, the only movie he's known for is this one. There is also Melissa Moore playing Peggy, another cop but her role isn't that significant. Now with acting being mostly on and off, is there anything to expect from the other components? Some of it yes. The action sequences and effects are not one of them however. Being that filming was rushed and edited poorly, almost nothing works.

Many of the action scenes are boring and not that energetic. Several shoot outs sound as if they were all practicing and not aiming at one another. Some of the sound effects are not even placed on the right scene with some noisy shots falling silent. Only the sword duel finale was moderately entertaining, but nothing else. The cinematography was at least average. Handled by Peter Palian, a frequent Amir Shervan collaborate, the camera-work at least provides some sights to this action flick. When it comes to the backgrounds, especially the ending, audiences will get a clear view of what surrounds the main characters. When it comes to interior set pieces, they look okay as well. For music though, that needed some work. Composed by Alan DerMarderosian, the score sounds almost to that of a Gameboy Color start menu. It's not bad, but it's association to the story feels mismatched. Plus there are several times where the music will abruptly cut off when scenes change. That is never a good thing. Oh well.

There are things to find enjoyable about this because it is so horrendously put together. But that doesn't mean it's in anyway a good movie. The story is bare bones, the action, effects and music are all sloppily edited. The only saving grace is it's cast and the insanely goofy script.
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Not much better than the first special but has made improvements
7 October 2017
Once Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) failed to make a lasting impression in theaters, HIT Entertainment, who recently acquired the rights to the show made their first experimental special in 2005. Thomas & Friends: Call All Engines! (2005) was a trial run for the studio to see if whether or not home video release movies would be profitable or not for the show. As time went on though, it was decided that the show would enter the realm of CGI and leave the practical sets and models behind. Entering the start of season 12 was the beginning of this next experiment where CGI was mixed with live- action. However HIT Entertainment released one more home video special. This would be their last special completely filmed with live- action models. And for what they were able to make, it is not vastly stronger by comparison to Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005), but the studio did make several improvements. This shows that they're listening to the people who watch the show.

Making this particular feature all the more unique was the inclusion of James Bond star Pierce Brosnan to narrate the story. At one point Brosnan was going to be the narrator to replace Michael Brandon and Michael Angelis respectively. However when HIT Entertainment moved fully to CGI production, his status was changed to temporary. The story for this special is about how Thomas ends up discovering the town of Great Waterton. An area on Sodor that had been lost to the ages. However with Thomas discovering it, Sir Topham Hatt gave him full reign over the reconstruction of it. Hatt also brought on Stanley to help out, a new tank engine that the rest of the engines found a liking too. This unfortunately causes Thomas to feel threatened. As an overall story, this kind of plot isn't unheard of. Nor is the story of Thomas feeling no longer like the number one engine that uncommon either. But being that this was Thomas' final adventure in physical model form, it's apparent the film crew wanted as much as possible.

The script to this special was written by Sharon Miller, a frequent collaborator with the franchise that would end up annoying many fans. Right now though, the work she completed here is harmless by comparison to her future work. The story may be somewhat cliché in certain areas but it isn't horrendous. This was also her real first feature credit. Directing again was given to Steve Asquith, which at this point was the most trusted hands that could and should handle the execution. So here's what has improved since Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005). Remember those learning segments placed in almost every major scene in said special? Well no longer! There are none of that here and that's great. Many of those learning segments contained no value and felt more like filler just to complete the hour. This special shows things like that are not a necessity. Making things even better was the wider use of all the characters introduced into the Thomas & Friends show so far.

In this entry, not only the main eight steam engines (the steam team) are used, but several other minor characters. Narrow gauge engines that belong to Mr. Percival are also featured as well as the Jack the Sodor Construction company. The set of characters that were to start the spin-off series, but would end being canceled. As for Thomas feeling threatened about the newcomer engine Stanley, that's understandable to some degree. The thing is though, Stanley never came across with bad intentions to begin with. So it's odd Thomas would make such an assumption without trying to further judge Stanley. Guess that's what happens when you're the number one for so long. These are easy misunderstandings but they are ones treated to the extreme. The real drawbacks to this film though are some real obvious things. That being the lack physical limitations. There's a derailment that occurs where an engine flips off the tracks. This is done so to not frighten little viewers but most trains are unusable after a full rollover.

The other is the use of flimsy bridges and engines jumping gaps. These kinds of things are to make the adventure exciting but this just feels improbable. A thinly constructed bridge will not hold a heavy metal tank engine. However, this does not take away from the set pieces used. Several sets and miniatures used within the running time are full of detail and make the visuals that much more realistic. There's also a collapse of a giant metal truss bridge and it looks awesome. Brosnan's narration of the story is also unique. He's like no other. His vocals are much smoother by comparison to anyone else and it works well. It's sad he didn't go further as the narrator. For music, the score and sing-along was composed by only Robert Hartshorne this time and not with Ed Welch. Everything there is done really well. The best of the songs are probably "Jobs a Plenty" and "Where oh Where is Thomas". Oddly enough the ending also includes a rap/pop song for Thomas. It's not bad but feels definitely like a fish out of water.

For the show's final special filmed in live-action, the plot itself isn't exactly the most unique. Also some scenes feel like the physics behind it aren't true. Yet with catchy songs, the use of as many characters as possible and having Pierce Brosnan narrate helps make this adequate to watch.
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Much more entertaining than the last couple sequels
7 October 2017
Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been around for quite some time now. While it is one of the few film series that was based on a theme park ride, it has shown to be quite profitable nevertheless. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was a surprise hit, while the next two sequels after it were more or less just guaranteed to come with it. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) was about as entertaining and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) tried to finish off with a bang, but ended up making things overly complex. In an attempt to bring it down a notch, Disney made Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). The idea was to have a one-off story about Jack Sparrow and his adventures. According to critics, that wasn't why so many people enjoyed the initial three, thus it was the lowest earning sequel. Finally after a long wait, the mouse house made this sequel, which in all honesty is a much more glorified return to its roots.

The story turns its focus to that of Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who now serves the Flying Dutchman. Wanting to free his father from the curse, he sets out on the search for Poseidon's trident. He who is able to break the trident breaks all of the ocean's curses. While on his search, he meets Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who is also looking for the trident and is a gifted astronomer. It is then at that point, they cross paths with Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his crew led by Gibbs (Kevin McNally). Following closely behind is the zombie Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew hoping to kill Sparrow for his untimely demise. On top of that, Salazar hijacked Captain Barbossa's (Geoffrey Rush) ship in order to find them. The separate plot threads may sound a bit all over the place, but they all converge easily into one another unlike the stories presented in prior films like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). Plus the script has great character connections.

Much of the original background crew members have changed and surprisingly, it's almost like nothing was replaced. Penned by Jeff Nathanson instead of Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot, the script stays faithful to the earlier movies. The reintroduction of older and newer characters is handled fairly well. Occasionally there is mistake like how a character played by Golshifteh Farahani manages to get her hands on item that belonged to Jack Sparrow. It's not explained. But overall the execution is clear on how the story is told. Nathanson was also the writer to Rush Hour 2 (2001), Rush Hour 3 (2007), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Tower Heist (2011). These may not be the greatest sequels in existence, but they aren't the worst either. Directing duties were also delegated differently. Instead of Rob Marshall or Gore Verbinski returning, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg took charge of the production. This was probably the biggest gamble the studio had ever taken.

The reason for this being that Rønning and Sandberg had only made one other American made film, that being Bandidas (2006). And that movie was just okay, nothing that really stood out as a breakthrough film. They did however direct two other films, but it was in their homeland of Norway so there's a good chance no one outside of Norway knew about it. Here they did a good job, which is great considering how little experience they have. One other big issue that comes up from this story is how if the trident is broken, it breaks all curses. For one thing, this could undo a lot of other things already laid to rest in previous films. Also this can make the fantasy end of stories harder to tell in future narratives. Oh well. The actors all have their moment to shine though and it's all done in a way that doesn't feel forced. Johnny Depp's return as Jack Sparrow is always welcome as well as the rest of the original cast members from previous movies. Even the new actors like Thwaites, Socdelario and Bardem do a great job.

The action is also well done. The scale at which these sequences are set aren't as big in scope but this is okay. There are still plenty of visual spectacles to behold. The designs of Captain Salazar are unique in look and the same could be said for their pet sharks. Helping make these scenes look presentable was cinematographer Paul Cameron. Unfortunately he is no Dariusz Wolski from every other Pirates film before it, but Cameron does capture a lot of beautiful horizons. There's actually more shots of the sea than there is land in this entry. Cameron also shot for Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Deja Vu (2006) and Total Recall (2012). Lastly, the film score was not even composed by Hans Zimmer shockingly. To think he would pass up such an opportunity. However one of his students picked up the reigns and his name was Geoff Zanelli. Realizing that, the sound of the music itself very much sounds like Zimmer. The theme is still there too. Zanelli also scored The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (2015).

While the crew who produced this film are no way close to the original people who made the first couple so great, they actually maintain a lot of that greatness. The story also recalls much of what made the originals so fun as well. There still may be some questionable areas but it is far less than the other sequels. The actors, music, action and visuals are all entertaining to watch.
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Not a bad start for the first of all the specials
3 October 2017
The tales of Thomas and Friends created by the Rev. W. Awdry have been around for a long time. First being made into books and then being adapted into a live-action children's show by Britt Allcroft were things that were never thought of being done before. However it soon proved to the world that railways do have their appeal and these stories in particular had very much garnered a strong following. Unfortunately as many fans as the books and show had, very few were pleased with the release of Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). A film that was supposed to be Britt Allcroft's magnum opus of sorts that would bridge the gap between Thomas & Friends and the short lived show Shining Time Station. Normally when a property fails on the big screen, it will almost immediately guarantees a halt in everything else as well. Thankfully that didn't happen, but with HIT Entertainment now owning the rights to Thomas & Friends, they decided to make a home video release special. For the beginning it's decent.

With it being released at the start of Season 9, it was to commemorate the franchise's 60th anniversary. The story is about the summer season beginning on the island of Sodor. And for Sir Topham Hatt, the plan was to build a new airport to allow more visitors to come to island. This creates a lot of excitement among Top Hatt's engines, but it also causes much more friction. The reason for this being that both the steam engines and diesel engines were going to make this happen. But seeing that steam and diesel engines were rivals, things don't go as smoothly. Making things worse, a destructive storm whips through Sodor and completely destroys Tidmouth Sheds. Now twice as much work needs to be done. Written by Paul Larson and Marc Seal, who have worked on the TV show before this, manage most of the story okay. The same could be said for Steve Asquith who has been with the TV show very early on. Yet there are still some very basic issues. The biggest problem is abrupt motivation changes in characters. Some of which do not fit at all.

The other issue is the learning segments inserted into almost every other transitional point within the feature. It's apparent that HIT Entertainment had a different idea on how the show would be displayed to kids, but that was the show. For a TV special, there's no need for this. A movie special is a movie special, learning segments are not needed. What is pleasing to see though is that Larson and Seal incorporated both Diesel 10 and Lady into the story. This shows they were trying to keep the continuity from Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). Of course this connection is only half baked though because it is never explained as to how Diesel 10 came back to Sodor or how Diesel 10 doesn't immediately set off to destroy Thomas when considering the past these two characters have shared. The overall moral though of showing how to work with others even with strong differences is an important thing for children to understand. It's a lesson everyone must understand, to get through everyday life.

Aside from this though everything else works within the realm of which the story goes. Michael Brandon being narrator for US audiences since Season 7 is no shocker. He and everyone down to Carlin have been giving different voices to all of Thomas' friends. Ringo Starr and Michael Angelis are the only two who pretty much kept their narration the same throughout as the actual storyteller. Either way, the reading of the lines are acceptable. For set pieces, we see a lot of very familiar settings. The more interesting bit is when the storm comes through Sodor. Seeing all the destruction that occurs during and after the event is a sight to behold. Imagine making a wreck of all those practical sets? What a mess to clean up. That could also go for when the engines begin causing friction with each other. A lot of the train models will get covered in all kinds of elements that would also mean much of the time would require cleaning later. This is why movies dealing with physical props need so much more respect.

Lastly for music, the score and songs were composed by Robert Hartshorne and Ed Welch. Prior to boarding this TV franchise, both Welch and Hartshorne had their periods of experience in documentaries and other film based projects. But in all honesty this duo come in second best to the original duo; that being Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell. Hartshorne and Welch produce a likable score that matches the tone and personality of the original classic series that made it so memorable. Making it even better was that the songs they created utilize children vocals and it is just as on target. Songs like "Busy", "Try to do Things Better" and "Together" are all catchy tunes. Busy is a bouncy energetic song that really could get people motivated. Together is a great feel good composition that really feels like it can bring people together. The rest of the score uses other types of synthesizer instruments that sound close to the Campbell O'Donnell style. All in all, it was decent.

For the first home video release special to come out after the failure of Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000), this isn't a bad start. The story doesn't always have the best continuity and the learning segments are obnoxious. However, the overall morals taught, the narration by the respective actors and music all help make it watchable.
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An unfortunate downgrade but not THE worst sequel in history
2 October 2017
Sequels are difficult to make right especially when their parent film made such a high impression on its initial fan base. The crew who made Highlander (1986) were almost entirely against making a sequel because of how well received the original was. Unfortunately when it comes to film contracts, it's not so easy go against what is wanted. So that already created friction between the film crew and the studio itself. Then on top of that, deciding to drastically make edits to the finished script last minute is never a thing that's going to roll over well. Nobody was happy with how things were being changed so frequently and it led to one of the most disappointing sequels to a promising start up franchise. Many fans considered it to be a lot like Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), where it completely ignored anything that was setup in the first film. Thankfully over time Mulcahy was able to form his own cut of the film. It may not be good but it is also not the worst sequel in existence.

Being written by Brian Clemens, William N. Panzer and Peter Bellwood, the story has some points that are good, but most of it is completely deviant from that of the first film. What's even stranger is that both Panzer and Bellwood had worked on Highlander (1986); producer and writer respectively. Clemens had certainly enough years of experience to help in the writing process but it's unknown how much he contributed. The story takes place in 2024 where the ozone has depleted and shield has been placed around the earth to protect it from the sun. The person behind this successful project is none other than Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert). However there's a resistance group lead by Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen) who believe the shield can be destroyed because the ozone has recovered. Meanwhile an antagonist by the name of General Katana (Michael Ironside) is out to kill MacLeod because as the tag line goes, "there can only be one". This is the simplest way to describe this and it certainly needs work.

From what is elaborated on, it turns out both Ramirez (Sean Connery) and MacLeod were sent from another world to earth. This place is where all of these immortals come from. However with that said, it entirely negates and washes out any heart Highlander (1986) had to begin with. What was the point of killing Ramirez in the first film only to bring him back again? Not that viewers wouldn't want to see Connery again, but his exit was in such poignant way, it's weird to resurrect him. Having the script explain the background to MacLeod's situation was fine but it gets lost really fast with the inclusion of the sci-fi element of ozone depletion and shield use. It just feels like the wrong genre considering what the first film had established so well. The script does however reference the history of the first film so it's not like omits everything, which is why so many people make the claim that it is the worst sequel. Thankfully the writing for the characters is half there too.

Christopher Lambert maintains his character's personality even with the odd story he's given to work with. Sean Connery although having him return in general is off putting, has a performance that is very affable. He has a number of good scenes that involve him getting familiar with the new surroundings of the future. Even Virginia Madsen, who doesn't do a whole lot at least has a few lines that can grab a viewers attention. On the other hand, all the villains on screen are way over the top than they should be. Michael Ironside can be a menacing villain but here he walks around with a wide grin overacting every line. The same could be said for his henchman. There's also a subplot about the head of the shield business David Blake (John C. McGinley) wanting to overthrow the co-creator of the shield, Dr. Allan Neyman (Allan Rich). McGinley is about as evenly matched to Ironside in this movie. Every bit of dialogue from this guy was given way too much energy.

Speaking of energy, the action is also lacking in that too. For a story about an immortal swordsman, there's only a few scenes that involve sword fights. Other times its gun fire or not at all. And when these scenes do occur, they aren't that exciting. Old fashioned action should be though. It's sad when even that becomes boring. Unfortunately camera-work wasn't all that impressive this time round either. Captured by Phil Meheux, the shots are uninteresting. Most likely because the setting is so different from that of the original. Meheux did however work on The Mask of Zorro (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999) and Casino Royale (2006). The music was a little better though. Composed by The Police Band member Stewart Copeland, the score to this film is unfortunately hard to find but does provide some adequately constructed material. Even if some of the original themes Michael Kamen created seep into the cracks as well. That's cheating. Copeland also scored Wall Street (1987) and Taking Care of Business (1990).

Some say this is the worst of the worst. Not so, there are sequels that far surpass this. Sure, the antagonists are way too silly and the script makes significant changes to what the original film laid out. Even the sci-fi edge is all wrong and really should have been omitted or worked in another way. Still though the protagonists are likable and the music is acceptable. It's not a good story at all, but it's not the worst.
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They Live (1988)
An interesting horror thriller that could use some improvement
1 October 2017
Director John Carpenter has been known for many unique films in cinema history. Mainly his forte has been in the horror genre, but he has spilled over into other types of stories that remain just as memorable. Escape From New York (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fog (1980) and Halloween (1978) especially, were the ones he is the most famous for. Even Starman (1984), which was the most deviant of his projects had a heartfelt story. However, if there were something that a lot of his projects had in common, it would be the idea of alien beings inhabiting the human body. It's not in everyone of his movies, but there are a bunch that push the idea of what were to happen if there was life beyond Earth and if they happen to look like us. Would they be threatening like the alien from The Thing (1982)? Or would they be innocent and genuine like Starman (1984). This question is also explored here, but with a different kind of lens. What if aliens ran our lives? At least on an everyday life kind of level.

That's more or less what Carpenter examines here. Adapted from a short story originally written by Ray Nelson, the story is about if humans discovered that their lives were being driven by an alien life force and not they themselves. How do they realize this? With the help of sunglasses that actually see right through the impostor human. The person to have the gumption to bring this to light is Nada (Roddy Piper), a drifter. Initially, he was looking to find work to keep his life going. Instead he changes careers to vigilante when he finds out the earth has been subjected to these phony people. Convincing Frank (Keith David), a newly met acquaintance that he's not seeing things, the two set out to stop the invasion. Along the way he also meets Holly (Meg Foster), a broadcaster who reveals to him that all the subliminal messages these aliens put out are through a main signal distributor. For an overall story, it is decent for its setup. But there are certain qualities that are repeated from prior movies.

Aliens looking like humans but nobody can tell they aren't humans? Sounds very much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Although that is not a film Carpenter is directly related to, his film The Thing (1982) has used those key elements before. Here is no different in that respect. What is done in the script that hasn't been seen in other Carpenter films was the use of political undercurrents in an unbiased manner. This is displayed when Nada compares the world around him with and without the special sunglasses. A poster will say "visit Hawaii", when really it means "marry and reproduce". Other messages like "watch TV" or "don't think independently" are signs of conformity. These are things corrupt people want to see in the everyday citizen, because the less informed the better. It's a clever spin and instead of the corrupt people in real life causing the issue, it's aliens that look like real people. The other problem this film suffers from is the pacing. Sometimes scenes drag on longer than they should.

Character wise Roddy Piper is an entertaining main lead for this film. Widely known for his WWF days, Roddy Piper demonstrates in this flick he can be a convincing actor given the right script. It is interesting though that Carpenter cast him so not to overuse Kurt Russell. However Piper doesn't look that different from Russell, being that he has blond/brown hair, a mullet and plays a tough guy spewing one liners. Keith David as Frank is another great actor. David is known for playing very grounded down to earth characters and he too has some lines that are comical that he exchanges with Piper. Meg Foster is another nice addition to the cast. She of course is cast as one of those complex characters that is tough to determine a motive on. Sadly there's no man villain to really talk about but the aliens that have the human like appearance are the enemy. Although they are not really scary looking, their design is freaky and is more grotesque than anything else.

The rest of the visuals are adequate too. Sadly for those looking for gore won't get that in this movie. It's surprising since Carpenter is known for his gruesome spectacles like The Thing (1982) and Prince of Darkness (1987). The practical effects are still noteworthy though. Gary B. Kibbe was credited as cinematographer. Having experience in other camera related positions in movies like Halloween II (1981) and Prince of Darkness (1987), Kibbe keeps the camera focused and clear on the shot needed to be shown. He would later be the cinematographer for In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and RoboCop 3 (1993). Lastly, the music composed by Carpenter and Alan Howarth was probably one of the largest highlights to this piece. Seeing that Howarth is consistent in synthesizer instruments, the score to this film also utilizes these components. What's unique about is that the sound comes across like a smooth jazz western and it works really well since it fits Nada's personality. An underrated film score indeed.

While it may drag in some spots, the gore / horror isn't there and there are elements borrowed from other familiar films, the overall experience is still fun to watch. It could have used improvements in those areas but it works okay even with that. The main cast is likable, the script has engaging undertones and the film score is relaxing in its sound.
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Wonder Woman (2017)
An undeniably great DCEU movie
20 August 2017
Comic book movies have long been underway for a few decades now. It was only until the 1990s were more properties beginning to show up. This was the trial stage for characters that were very much obscure to most. Then during the early 2000s, more properties were getting adaptations and with greater receptions. Though there were still flubs along the way, the code was for the most part cracked on making successful superhero films. After the 2010s, Marvel Studios had found a method of perfecting their films that many would envy for today. Of those Warner Brothers was struggling for a while to get their famous heroes going. Superman Returns (2006), Jonah Hex (2010) and Green Lantern (2011) all pretty much fell flat in getting an expanded universe going. It was only Christopher Nolan's Batman series that really got any attention. At last Warner Bros. made Man of Steel (2013), Suicide Squad (2016) and Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), but all were mixed. Here though we have something much better.

As popular as Wonder Woman is, the character had not had a live action venture into cinemas once. Before this she had only been portrayed in fan-made shorts, animated home video films and her own TV show in 1975. That's it though. Plus seeing how things turned out with Warner Brothers few entries in their shared universe, it was a bit worrisome thinking how this might turn out. The good news is, this feature is much better than anything so far. Written mainly by Allan Heinberg, the screenplay was well crafted for this adaptation. Surprisingly Heinberg had only worked on TV productions before this. Gal Gadot plays Diana, an Amazonian who is protected by her fellow sisters and mother from Ares, the god war. The thing is Diana does not know how powerful she truly is. When a pilot by the name of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes nearby, Diana learns of World War I that's going on around her. Believing she can make a difference and that Ares is the cause of the problem, she goes where no man would ever want to.

Directed by Patty Jenkins, the director of Monster (2003), the vision she had for the film is competently fulfilled. The top actors all do a great job under her wing. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman gives a charming performance, with strength and tenderness all in one. Not only can she play a likable heroine but also can really pull off some tough sequences. Her development is also handled very well. There are so many points in which she learns about mankind. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor plays an admirable soldier. He too learns off of Diana for her lack of understanding. The rest of the supporting cast act enthusiastically too. Connie Nielsen as Diana's mother can stand her ground quite well. Danny Huston as Ludendorff, the main backer behind the Great War is intimidating in his portrayal along with his mad scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya). There's also appearances from Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Ewen Bremner. All of which follow Diana in her journey to stop Ares.

The only thing that might pose a problem to viewers may the portrayal of some characters. One character in particular is played by someone who doesn't exactly fit the role. Although in the end, they are not seen that much, it still may be a bit off putting. The action scenes shot in this film are well staged too. Unlike the past DCEU films, this one uses a mixture of CGI and what feels like practical effects. As the film reaches its third act, it is already assumed CGI would be the biggest driver in visuals, but at least here it doesn't look like video game cut scenes. That was all too abundant in movies like Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Plus the progression of the action scenes change over time too. This gives the viewers a nice dose of all kinds of firepower. Whether that be sword fights, superhero powers or trench warfare, it keeps the experience new and interesting. The best scene was probably in "No Man's Land", where Diana takes over the battleground. Can't do that in Call of Duty.

The camera-work was another pleasing element. Managed by Matthew Jensen, the cinematography was put together very professionally. No shaky cameras were used in the making of this production and the lens is as wide as it gets for the ultimate landscape view. The color pallet is also a great addition to the settings. Where Diana grew up as compared to the land where the war was being fought had drastic differences. This was used to emphasize the contrasts in man's corruption. Jensen had also done work for movies like Chronicle (2012) and Fantastic Four (2015). For music, the film score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, the brother Harry Gregson-Williams, another composer. For his work, Rupert did an adequate job. Unfortunately as important as reviving an original theme is, Rupert brings back Hans Zimmer ugly electric cello theme for Diana. It just doesn't fit. Nevertheless the music (including that theme) work in making a unique sound for Wonder Woman. It's an effective score with a number of good moments.

Finally, the DCEU has a film that can be called a great movie. The best part is, is that it's of a character who hasn't gotten their own movie yet. Aside from the portrayal of a couple characters, the rest of the film in its entirety works great. The music, camera-work, action, actors and writing are all top notch.
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Drive Angry (2011)
A fun, little nasty Nic Cage action film
15 August 2017
Nicolas Cage has gained a reputation for playing all kinds of characters with all kinds of backgrounds with all types of personalities. These range of behaviors have covered the banal, to the deranged. Nicolas Cage knows no bounds when it comes to acting. People love and hate him for both his dramatic performances as well as his idiotic ones. During the early 2010's, Cage was on the border of his popularity. He was still getting cast into films that were guaranteed to get a larger release, yet he also signed onto films that got less notoriety. Only some of which were critically well received. Much of them on the other hand failed to make their money back or leave any kind of an impression. Of them though, one action film that kind of went under the radar that should have gotten more attention was this feature. There have been plenty of hard R action films that contained enough interesting characters and witty humor to keep things going. Yet the premise to this movie feels fresh in ways others have no shown in a while.

Nicolas Cage plays John Milton, a dead man who escaped from the underworld to rescue his granddaughter from a satanic cult worshiper by the name of Jonah King (Billy Burke), who killed Milton's daughter. On his travels Milton gets the attention of Piper (Amber Heard), a wanderer looking for a purpose. All the while the devil's right hand man known as the accountant (William Fichtner) is looking to retrieve Milton and bring him back to where he belongs. Written by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, the two seem to have taken what feel like a mix of different characters and made them into one. As an end result, the story is not the most unique, but it serves its purpose in creating likable characters. Patrick Lussier also directed the film, who has mainly served as an editor to other projects like Scream (1996) and two sequels after it. Todd Farmer has been more of a writer to movies like Jason X (2001) and My Bloody Valentine (2009). The real problems in the script are abrupt motivation changes and an unclear backstory.

Nicolas Cage as John Milton gives a familiar performance but nevertheless, the way the Milton character comes across is comical. So many lines are stated with such deadpan, it's hard not to laugh. So many things happen to Milton that he just rolls off, it becomes quite entertaining. William Fichtner as the accountant is another comical individual. The moments the accountant shares with other cast members is humorous just for the fact that nobody understands his purpose, which frustrates him. Also the fact that Amber Heard does not play a love interest to that of John Milton is a plus. Not every protagonist needs to have someone to fall in love with. As portrayed in the running time, Milton has no time for that. Billy Burke as Milton's enemy plays a fairly considerable opponent. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty and does not hesitate to kill. Burke is also known for playing in Lights Out (2016) and in the Twilight (2008) series. For supporting characters there are also appearances by several others.

These characters do not affect the plot in any real way, but they do bring some recognizable faces to the show. David Morse plays a friend of Milton by the name of Webster. His sarcasm is about an equal match to Milton's. Jack McGee has a small role as Fat Lou, the owner of a local diner. He has a funny exchange with the accountant. Also, Tom Atkins shows up to play the head of the police department. It's a role that only Atkins would easily fit in to. The action and special effects are well handled here too. The violence in this film vary with all kinds of sequences. Sometimes people are shot with guns, others are run over by vehicles and some suffer worse than that. Those kills are normally attributed to the accountant, since he is the most supernatural character in this story. The thing is, although it looks like he's having fun doing it, he comes across more inconvenienced. With these types of kills are the blood and gore, which looks pretty good. Gore fans should be well satisfied here if they want guts.

Working as the cinematographer to this project was Brian Pearson. For majority of the movie, Pearson's work was great looking. Hardly any of the action scenes involved shaky cam and much of it helped in the pacing of the experience. The lens used wasn't a wide angle but it was large enough to get the full scope of the surroundings. Pearson also worked on movies like The Fear: Resurrection (1999), Final Destination 5 (2011), Into the Storm (2014) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015). Topping things off however was the musical score composed by Michael Wandmacher. The film score has a unique mix of a hard rock guitar theme for Milton and a southern sound for Piper. There's also hints of horror cues that sound very close to typical stings. Being that Wandmacher also produced music for Punisher: War Zone (2008) and Piranha 3D (2010), it's no surprise this guy can combine both genres together with no problem. Thankfully a release of the score is available so anyone can listen because it is a lot of fun.

This may not go down in Nic Cage's career as the greatest movie he's made, but it sure is an enthralling one at that. There aren't many things to find wrong in this production other than a few minor holes in its writing. The action, camera-work, and music all coincide together to create an engaging experience. Plus the actors seem to be having a lot of fun in their roles.
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Almost on par with Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003)
31 July 2017
Awful movies exist everywhere. Each one is released under different circumstances. Some are produced to intentionally be bad, while other times they just come across bad, but never wanted to be interpreted that way. The ones that are purposefully made to be horrible are made by filmmakers and studios who are just looking to make a cheap cash-in no matter how terrible the end result is. The best example many people might think of, that comes close to those descriptions would be either The Asylum or Uwe Boll. And then there are people like Tommy Wiseau or the man who made this movie, Neil Breen. It may be hard to believe but these two guys have a lot in common when it comes to how much they think they are a gift to the world. Both have a never ending ego that propels them to continue making their movies no matter what others say. They truly think their work is a high art that is at the same level as many of the other critically acclaimed films that have been released. Or so they think. As bad as this is, it is worth it.

Crediting himself to almost every single film crew position available, Neil Breen has taken on more roles than other thespian in existence. This is also probably why his film makes practically no sense. Neil Breen plays Dylan, a man who once found the love of his life before he hit his teens. Together, he and his then love Leah (Jennifer Autry) discover a magic token. Skip decades later and Dylan still holds this thing dear to him. Even after getting into a serious car accident. His current girlfriend Emily (Klara Landrat) is a struggling drug addict and a neighboring family is having their own strained relationships next door. Jim (David Silva) and Amy (Victoria Vivieros) have differing motives. Amy wants to relax because her job is hard and Jim wants to fornicate, mostly because he's always drunk. Plus Amy's stepdaughter Aly (Danielle Andrade) has to deal with their bickering. All the while Dylan has found a way of hacking into corporate systems that contain secrets and suffering from paranormal headaches.

Everything is about as fragmented as it gets. The writing is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn't work. What Breen did here was try to make a movie that have every single genre in its story. As a result, the play out is generic and feels alien. There are several unfinished subplots mainly because nothing is done with them to begin with. Throughout the running time there's a character in black that goes around walking from place to place and it is never revealed who they are, what they want, what they represent, etc. The subplots themselves don't exactly fit together either in any smooth way. The Jim and Amy couple argue to no end, but have no impact on Dylan or Emily in development. So why bother including them? Also the stepdaughter has a sequence where she waltzes into Dylan's house naked to arouse him, only to be sent away by Dylan. And the significance of this scene was? If it's not going to go anywhere, why include it in the script? Breen's storytelling is like a maze.

Later on Dylan meets Leah again all grown up but for the most contrived reason, being that one had written in a notebook way back and held onto it for years. Really? Let's not forget the acting from the cast or the dialog to boot. Wow is this treasure trove of people who are not invested in the project they are making. Everyone from the top down can't deliver a line in any form that sounds natural or believable. What probably aided the deliveries to be so bad was due to how bad the lines are written. Some conversations don't even relate to one another, making the association incoherent. There are only a few redeeming qualities to this horrendous film. Of the cast, the only actor who stands out is Neil Breen and not because he's the best actor. Far from it. What makes his performance so amazing is because of how he has control over this whole thing, stars in it and can't even be a leading man. No emotion is put into his lines; everything is monotone. And this guy thinks he is making mainstream movies? What a laugh.

And that's by far the strongest highlight. It is because of Breen's emotionally void showing is what makes this viewing experience so funny. The main genre this film takes place in is a fantasy, science fiction thriller. Yet comes off like a comedy because of Breen. And this isn't his only stinker. Breen made two other films before this and basically gave the same kind of product. The two films were Double Down (2005) and I Am Here...Now (2009). The next best thing to Breen's acting is the cinematography handled by John Mastrogiacomo. Mastrogiacomo also has one other credit, which was to Breen's I Am Here...Now (2009). For what it's worth Mastrogiacomo gets some pretty background shots of the desert. Much of that is clear and vivid in its display. Interior shots are mostly okay but could use some improvement. The music was also adequate but that's probably because the music was just stock audio. There's no way Breen was a music director like he so proudly credits himself at the end. Yeah OK.

Recommendation wise, if you don't like indie or amateur films in general stay away. But if you're interested in seeing how unbelievable a guy like Neil Breen can be, now's the time. The camera-work and music might be okay, but don't expect anything else to tell an understandable story whatsoever. The actors don't even know what they're doing in it.
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Grizzly (1976)
Entertains to a point but isn't the greatest
23 July 2017
Animal attacks are not uncommon things in the contemporary world. Humans can sometimes cross paths with a wild animal at the wrong time and place. Of course not all animals are intentionally setting out to harm individuals, but there are those moments where they had it coming. Whether it was due to their lack of awareness or just plain ignorance, certain animals should not be domesticated because it's just shouldn't be done. As explored in Steven Spielberg's ocean thriller Jaws (1975), the shark had proved to be a formidable force that should only be observed from far distances. It made a lot of people think twice about going back into the water. Smartly capitalizing on the fad and everyone's deepest fears, a producer by the name of Edward L. Montoro made this independent film focusing on a dangerous land animal. The animal of choice for this feature was the grizzly bear. So now instead of scaring the living life out of beach goers, Montoro wanted to make people fear their own backyard. Well done Mr. Montoro.

Although the film has its own credited screenwriters, the parallels between this movie and Jaws (1975) are all too familiar. Written by Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon, the script has few differences in its story. Michael Kelly (Christopher George) is a ranger at the local park and the season for backpackers and hikers has just kicked in. To his dismay a couple of campers were mauled by a grizzly bear and now he's on the hunt with helicopter pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) and nature boy Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel). Breathing down Kelly's neck is park owner Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), who wants the bear gotten rid of. See the similarities in how the events reflect what goes on in Jaws (1975)? The noticeable changes are that it deals with a bear instead of a shark and it's on land and not at sea. There are even scenes where after the campers are attacked, a posse of hunters go out to kill the bear themselves. Even Kittridge becomes greedy and becomes okay with having the publicity.

The minor changes within the story though deal with Christopher George's character. Unlike the main character of Jaws (1975), Mike Kelly is a single man who hasn't found the right woman in his life yet. Co-starring in this film is another actor by the name of Joan McCall playing Allison Corwin. She initially comes across like she could turn into Kelly's love interest but then goes nowhere. From the start Corwin explained to Kelly that she was trying to finish a project she was working on, but two thirds of the way through she completely vanishes from sight never to be heard from again. Something's a miss here. And McCall's character isn't the only one with an unfinished thread. There are a few others, and doesn't resolve much in the story. It's unbecoming that so much of the screenplay resembles another movie only to not completely take what they've learned and apply it correctly. Why bother introducing a character that adds nothing to anything?

The only true actors to come out unscathed is Christopher George and "Teddy" the bear actor. Although much of his other co-stars have been in several films like him, George is the only actor to try and make his role his own. Christopher George is probably best known for playing a role in the so-bad-it's-so-good film Pieces (1982). This feature would be his next best. The rest of the acting by Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel act passably but do not stand out from any other cast member. Andrew Prine would take a minor roll Ronald F. Maxwell's epic of Gettysburg (1993) and Richard Jaeckel would also play a minor role in the science fiction drama Starman (1984). For animal actors, "Teddy" the portrayed grizzly bear killer was quite a looker. In all honesty, the thought of having a real bear on scene was not thought to be likely. Apparently they did have a real bear on set though, and he is something to watch. There are some pretty serious injuries that are filmed too but the actual mauling isn't too believable.

The camera-work that goes with film is mostly doable. The only time it's too unconvincing is when the camera represents the animal attacks. The lens just moves too much to figure out everything. Other than that, the wide panning shots by William L. Asman are visually pleasing. The forest is a big place and the landscape is vast in its scope. The camera is also used as the eyes of the grizzly which has it pushing through brush so as to look like the viewer is the bear. That looks fairly accurate. Although Asman has done cinematography, his main credit is as a camera operator to films like The Rocketeer (1991) and Speed (1994). The music by Robert O. Ragland is also a supportive element to the film. It's by no means anywhere close to as recognizable as John Williams' music, but it has its moments. Sadly there's no main theme, which could've helped the movie greatly. Ragland also made the score to both The Fear (1995) and The Fear: Resurrection (1999). Hmmmmm okay.

As a calling to what could be said as the land version of Jaws (1975), this film fairs out alright but nothing truly great. Only a few actors work among the whole cast and the cinematography is the only good looking visual. The gore is average at best and the script is in a lot of ways very much the same to Jaws (1975). The music is decent but it's difficult to remember it.
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The Return of the Native (1994 TV Movie)
A forgotten romantic drama
13 July 2017
People get caught up in all kinds of things in their everyday lives. Whether it's their career, hobbies or other peoples' problems, some individuals can't seem to let go of their insatiable interest in certain things. Too much of anything isn't good for you in general. However, the most toxic of all topics is getting trapped on a consistent basis is in one's romantic life. Lovers fall for each other all the time, 365 days a year. What they don't understand is how quickly overrun they can become with their emotions. Once this occurs they can become completely distracted and not even see the flaws in the person they desire or the mistakes they might make themselves. It can also cause that same person swamped with lust to neglect anything else that might required some kind of obligation. This is dangerous and must be stopped. For novelist Thomas Hardy, these were themes he focused on a lot. With other written works like Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native also visited this subject.

Eustacia Vye (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is an attractive young woman who lives on a heath in England, but wants to move to France. Her reason for this being that the rest of the town thinks of her as a modern day witch. She's already known for partially seducing Damon Wildeve (Clive Owen), the soon to be husband of Thomasin Yeobright (Claire Skinner), of which Wildeve is more keen on moving away from the heath. That is until Clym Yeobright (Ray Stevenson), the cousin of Thomasin returns from France. When Eustacia and Clym first meet, they become quite infatuated with each other. Not long after they get married and move out of the heath, but not to France. In turn, Vye still longs for France and Wildeve hopes to see Vye once more. Adapted by Robert W. Lenski, the teleplay for this film operates in a way that shows just how muddled people's emotions can get after finding the one they love. There's lots of back and forth between characters and that's normally how events like these happen. Lenski has written almost all teleplays.

Primetime Emmy nominated director Jack Gold governed this picture. With drama genre films being his strength, Gold knows mostly how to keep the plot engaging. With the threads of Vye, Yeobright and Wildeve taking up much of the plot, Gold and Lenski also work in Diggory Venn (Steven Mackintosh), a field worker who had hopes of marrying Thomasin but was too poor to do so. The person behind this roadblock was Mrs. Yeobright (Joan Plowright). She also feared, like the rest of the town, that Eustacia was the cause of all problems. What doesn't exactly work within the feature are two small areas. The first being that by the finale, one character thread is left unresolved. It's so noticeable, it could make the viewer wonder if the production crew just forgot to film a scene or something. Second, the issue of how English was spoken at the time. According to the story, it is set in 1842, yet the way English is spoken sounds like it belongs to Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur (2004). And yet that took place way before the 1800s.

The emotional drama that occurs throughout the running time though is executed properly by the cast. Since this film is much older now, it is quite a sight to see such big name actors in their younger years. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Eustacia Vye is quite the onlooker and is very skilled in getting what she wants from the people who can't resist her. That is until she meets Cylm Yeobright. For Clive Owen as Damon Wildeve, it's unusual seeing him play a character that's not so caring of others. Owen doesn't play it as a jerk, but is somewhat difficult to sympathize with. Ray Stevenson was the right choice to play Clym Yeobright. Stevenson plays Clym like a true gentleman and is also the one viewers should condole with mostly. Both Stevenson and Zeta-Jones have good chemistry on screen and are quite a pair (as some minor characters stated in the movie itself). What's more surprising is that Owen and Stevenson would end up starring together a decade later in King Arthur (2004). Fancy that.

For supporting characters, Claire Skinner as Thomasin is a caring young woman. Although she may seem slightly weak at first, she does manage to take hold of the reigns and lead the way occasionally. Steven Mackintosh plays rather an underrated and overlooked character as Diggory Venn. He's also the best example of how patience pays off when it comes to treating your enemies with respect. Mackintosh was also in Brian Henson's The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). For visuals, even for a TV film, the cinematography was very palatable by Alan Hume. Much of the picture contains the 1800s homes and surrounding grasslands in the country. It's very beautiful to look at, even with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Hume also worked on Zeppelin (1971), Octopussy (1983) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). As for music, another unreleased soundtrack this time by composer Carl Davis was well produced too. Containing a repeating main title, the tune isn't completely memorable but does replay often.

Looking past some very minor places within this feature, this old romance story is a fascinating drama that will keep the attention of its audience. The actors are younger than ever, the music has an outlining theme and the camera-work is very pretty.
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A touching story about family bonds
12 July 2017
Movies based on true events can be a challenge to make when it comes to keeping the facts straight. Depending on who's making the movie and how much they want to bend the truth, the end result can come out resembling nothing like the narrative that motivated it. Another factor would be how heavily involved the originating source was to the production. With their input, much of the authenticity remains intact. For the story of a filly that got the chance to race in one of the biggest racing cups, the actual horses associated with the event may not be in it but they are represented accurately. For John Gatins, the writer of Coach Carter (2005), Real Steel (2011), Flight (2012) and Power Rangers (2017), this story in particular must have struck a chord with him in some way. Being that this was the only production he directed and wrote simultaneously, this project really must have meant something. Directing and writing is not easy to do. However Gatins seems like he can handle such an assignment.

Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is a professional horseman who races horses. At one point he used to raise horses but soon got caught up in the business end of things. His father referred to as Pop (Kris Kristofferson) doesn't speak much to him because of his career change. His wife Lily (Elisabeth Shue) is a hard worker and loves both him and Pop. Above all else Crane's daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning) is the biggest horse enthusiast. Constantly curious and trying to understand what her father is up to, Ben brings Cale to a race track to see a horse by the name of Soñador (Spanish for Dreamer). Although Soñador indirectly was telling Ben she couldn't race, Ben's boss Palmer (David Morse) pushes him anyway. As a direct result Soñador ends up having an accident fracturing her cannon bone. Fearing she may be put down in front of Cale, Ben decides to buy off Soñador from Palmer and nurse her back to health. There after starts a chain of events that leads to bigger and tenser events.

The whole film by itself is something hard to find a problem with. The story is well written, has characters that go through the right kind of development and demonstrate that sometimes it's not always business as usual. If you fight for what you want no matter the length of time, more often than not the odds will favor you. The only part that might seem a bit unrealistic for this movie is when Ben Crane looks into the eyes of his horse and can understand what they're telling him. Okay, it's kind of believable if a person has that much experience with a certain animal but it is also somewhat far-fetched. A step away from that, the script handles the plot well. Kurt Russell as Ben Crane is favorable lead and has a character arc that is rightfully sympathetic. Kris Kristofferson as Pop Crane as the grizzled version of his son is a good anchor for the family. The casting is also spot on because Kristofferson does look very much like an older Kurt Russell to some degree. Out of them though, Dakota Fanning stands out the most.

Having a child actor as the lead can be a gamble sometimes, but Fanning as Cale Crane is an enjoyable young star. Her smile and honest demeanor shows that she truly liked the part she was cast for. She's also the one who drives the story along with Soñador. David Morse as Ben's competitor does a great job at showing just how good of an antagonist he can be. He's not an irritating one, but does know how to get under one's skin in an effective way. David Morse was also in other big name films like The Rock (1996), The Green Mile (1999), The Hurt Locker (2008) and Drive Angry (2011). Rounding out the supporting cast was Freddy Rodríguez and Luis Guzmán as the secondary caretakers to Soñador with Ben and Cale Crane. Both Freddy and Luis in their respective roles added small portions of comedy to help lighten the mood at times. Rodríguez has gone onto participate in more TV shows like The Night Shift and Bull. While Guzmán remains an actor on the big screen being in films like Keanu (2016) and The Do-Over (2016).

Even from The Mummy (1999) fame, actor Oded Fehr has a minor appearance as certain character who affects the fate of the main characters. He may not have a lot to say but it's a credible showing. For what's on screen, the cinematography shot by Fred Murphy looks wonderful. Caught on a wide screen aspect ratio, Murphy's work can be really appreciated. Majority of the shots contain green pastures and other rural landscapes. The best shots though belong to the racing scenes, which really capture the beauty of how the horses run and the way they maneuver. Murphy also worked on films October Sky (1999) and Secret Window (2004). Completing the final component for this feature was the film score composed by John Debney. With other family projects to his credit like Spy Kids (2001), Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015), this particular genre feels natural. Debney's score is one of those prime examples of how a non franchise film can use a reoccurring main theme that works.

There's very little that doesn't captivate here. The script has a small part that gets a little beyond credibility but overall it's hard not to find it engaging. Actors, cinematography and music all converge on one another to make a gratifying viewing experience.
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Ed Gein (2000)
The best representation of the Plainfield butcher
11 July 2017
After the gruesome discovery residents of Plainfield had made when entering the house of Ed Gein, no one knew the genre of horror would change forever. With Robert Bloch publishing his thriller novel "Psycho" in 1959, Hollywood would end up taking the story and twisting it into various iterations. Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Psycho (1960) of the same name frightened many at the time. Skip a decade or so and Tobe Hooper would do the same thing in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Without Ed Gein or his contorted history, the stories of horror, fans have today to enjoy would not exist. It is unfortunate though that such events had to occur in order to develop such iconic creations. Up until that point though nobody had really made a movie based on the actual inspiration himself. Ed Gein had only been written about prior and was still alive up until the mid 1980s. Putting a production together that solely focused on the background / life of Ed Gein is just as intriguing as the other popular horror movies.

The running time mainly follows Ed Gein (Steve Railsback) to the point of where he begins to commit his heinous acts that many never saw coming. Inserted at different points are flashback sequences that show what brought him to that point. These flashbacks pursue his upbringing from young boy to middle-aged adult. Living under the strict rule of his mother (Carrie Snodgress), Gein transforms from a timid adolescent, to a man with a distorted sense of reality. Writing the screenplay to this indie film was Stephen Johnston. For the most part, the story feels pretty solid. Certain scenes within the movie do contain moments that are unrealistic, but this appears when Gein has already hit his psychosis so it can be assumed that only he is seeing these things. However there are factual errors to the story. Certain names and events were changed. For example, the owner of the hardware store that Gein had killed was Bernice Worden. In this feature it was Collette Marshall (Carol Mansell). Maybe it was legal issue?

Or the deputy who arrested Gein was named Arch Sly, but here his name is Sheriff Jim Stillwell (Pat Skipper). Even the way of which Gein's disgusting hobby was discovered has a slightly altered telling as to what other sources say. Perhaps director Chuck Parello modified these scenes to make it more dramatic. But why - a true story is way more convincing. Aside from this, the rest of the story execution is captivating enough. The subplot between Gein and Mary Hogan (Sally Champlin) is fascinating. Parello even delves into what might have happened to Ed's brother Henry (Brian Evers), since his death still remains unknown. This is by far the best personification of the life of Ed Gein in the most realistic fashion. From an upbringing with his religious mother, to his plunging mental health on his own. After this movie, Johnston also wrote for psychotic films like Bundy (2002) and The Hillside Strangler (2004). Parello is best known for directing this feature and Henry II: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1996).

Gein is displayed as a truly lost individual with no clear sense of control or guidance. Steve Railsback as Ed Gein puts in the right amount of effort to show how much he studied the role. Railsback brings the deranged individual to life with quiet and restrained intent. There's enough to show that there's something not all there. Railsback has been in several film productions, his most famous being The X-Files and Lifeforce (1985). Carrie Snodgress as Augusta Gein is even more convincing being that she was the force that drove her son into lunacy. Citing biblical stories and forewarning her sons of the dangers of sinful people. Snodgress was also in other films like Easy Rider (1969) and Pale Rider (1985). The third actor that best fits the mold of their character was Sally Champlin as Mary Hogan. Not only did she fit the character visually but matched Hogan's described personality as well. All other cast members within the film work well too but do not stand out because their roles are not as prevalent.

Being that this is an independent film, the visuals are not as perfected but help paint the story. Some of the digital effects look lightly rendered onto the picture, which isn't horrible but not great. There are practical effects though for the skin / bone cannibal like activities that Gein was interested in and what psychologists suspected. The cinematography shot by Vanja Cernjul worked for the film. It wasn't filmed in a wide aspect ratio, but it did get the needed shots in order to convey the correct atmosphere for how Plainfield might have felt at the time. Cernjul was also the cinematographer to American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002). For music, Robert McNaughton composed the film score. For an unreleased film score the music does its job efficiently. It's unfortunate that there was no main theme of any sort. McNaughton also scored both Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), its sequel and is related to the director of the first; John McNaughton.

By no means is it a gory horror film with the most recognizable icon. The script also adapts certain parts of the history correctly, while other times is misses the mark completely. No matter what though, the main leads fill the shoes professionally, the story is tempting to watch, the music fits the atmosphere as well as the visual style.
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Better than the previous but only average
10 July 2017
When the first Universal Soldier (1992) film came out, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren were very much in their prime of popularity. Both had been in their fair share of widely known movies and were often included into the same category as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. It was also the movie that had one of the earliest collaborations between the big name action stars aside from Rocky IV (1985). Later on the series went underground to TV sequels but did not fair well financially due to the lack of star power. A few years later, Van Damme came back to the series in Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) but it too failed horribly. The poor writing in general and silly nature of the end product felt nothing like the first movie. With that it was no shock that the franchise remained dead a good decade before producers thought maybe another film could be made. When they did, it was met with open arms but also rolling eyes. It was passable at best but not good.

Instead of being a third story time line to the original, one could consider this the first real sequel to Universal Soldier (1992). The reason behind this being that it completely ignores the events of Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) and has a more serious tone. The Ukranian Prime Minister's children have been captured by terrorist leader Topov (Zachary Baharov) and held in Chernobyl as ransom. Special forces are developing a plan to get them out but are stuck because Topov has teamed up with scientist Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) from the UniSol project now known as Black Tower. On their side they have the next generation UniSol or NGU (Andrei Arlovski), an emotionless killing machine. After a few attempts it is decided by Dr. Porter (Gary Cooper), another scientist from the Black Tower project, to bring back Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme). However Colins has a backup and that's having Andrew Scott's body (Dolph Lundgren) on standby if a problem arises.

For a continuation of the original story, the writing is average at its greatest. Yet there are still a lot of unanswered questions. So what did become of Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker)? How is Andrew Scott's body intact after the finale of Universal Soldier (1992)? Again, the UniSol project was only known by a select group of scientists so where was Dr. Colins and Dr. Porter? These questions just begin to add up over time. Written by Victor Ostrovsky (in his only credit ever), the only thing in the script that is relatively untainted is the fact that Deveraux has been in rehabilitation since the end of Universal Soldier (1992). But as for development very little of what Deveraux feels is explained and his reconvening with Scott only triggers old memories. Nothing is explained as to how both of them feel. It even seemed at one point that Scott was thinking about something but he ends up getting cut short. Why throw in something that might work only to completely negate it?

There's also appearances from others like Corey Johnson, Mike Pyle, Emily Joyce and even son of the star himself, Kris Van Damme. Directing this feature is John Hyams, the son of director Peter Hyams. Hyams Sr. was the man behind 2010 (1984) and would later direct End of Days (1999). The direction here by John Hyams isn't that impressive. It's very linear in story structure. However when it comes action, the stunts and sequences are well staged. Much of the action that occurs throughout the running time are energetic by default and are very lively. The types of violence ranges from hand-to-hand combat, shootouts to improvised weapons. Also the interactions between Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are noteworthy to view. Since these two characters share a history together that boils both their blood, it's interesting to have the two meet in a situation that is very familiar to them. Andrei Arlovski as NGU is a competent fighter too but since his character has very few words, not much can be said.

Camera-work was managed by Peter Hyams, which was unfortunately disappointing. Seeing that Hyams Sr. has had previous experience in doing cinematography, it's surprising that here the look to this picture is so unappealing. With credits to movies like 2010 (1984), Running Scared (1986), Narrow Margin (1990) and Timecop (1994), the visuals to this film should've look at least okay. Instead many scenes have dull colors and the backgrounds look to much like everything else surrounding it. Music was another problem when viewing this sequel. Composed by Kris Hill and Michael Krassner, the music is just as forgettable. Featuring only a few different cues, much of the sounds are just electronic clicks and warps. There's really no main theme and the cues for various sequences are about as anonymous as they get. As far as it's known, not even an official release of the music has been announced. So it's even harder for a fan of the music to really enjoy it. Although it would be hard to say whether it's worth it or not.

Stepping up from the previous sequel, the script attempts to connect to the first film. Yet only a couple places does it actually work. Camera-work and music aren't that good but Dolph Lundgren and Jean- Claude Van Damme are fun watch on screen again and the action is good too.
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Power Rangers (2017)
Not a bad start for long theater absence
4 July 2017
In the early 1990s, the Power Rangers TV show was a big thing when it came out. With its big action set pieces and varying evil characters to combat, many kids found the show to be a lot of fun growing up. Since then the show has continued to be superseded by different kinds of rangers. The style and execution of the show very much remained the same but the difference was in the designs and settings. Every few years seemed like a new version of the Power Rangers were being made. Prior to that, two movies were made featuring the original rangers. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie (1995) and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie both attempted to bring about more fans but only succeeded with the first. The show was what really kept the franchise afloat. Being that it's so popular though, producers finally thought it was time to reboot the series with a brand new film. Modernization of the characters, suits, and villains were something that was bound to happen. In the end, it was alright.

Seeing that this is a reboot film, the script was handled as an origin story. Written by John Gatins, audiences are introduced to a bunch of misfits that can't seem to find a break in their lives. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a football player who just blew is last shot at getting a scholarship for a dumb prank he tried to pull. Kim (Naomi Scott) was once a cheerleader who made an ill-fated social media post that got her in trouble. Billy (RJ Cyler) is just a book worm techie and gets caught in the wrong situations. Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.) are both outsiders who try to stay as secluded as possible from the town they live in. Before they know it, they cross paths together after discovering mystical colored coins. Upon making this discovery, they then run into Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the original owners of the glowing coins. There they learn what the power rangers were all about and that an ex ranger by the name Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) must be stopped before she destroys their world.

The development of the main leads are adequate. Although they make questionable decisions at first, viewers can get attached to them. The actors portraying those characters do an acceptable job. With the cast only having big name actors as the supporting roles, this gives ample time for the lesser-known thespians to shine. Out of that group, nobody takes the spotlight more than the other. They all have their moments to grow and that's always a sign the writer is thinking properly. What doesn't make sense though is that once these individuals start to train as power rangers, everyone in school treats them exactly the opposite. That's not realistically believable. On top of that Billy is a wiz at almost everything and even discovers an important plot device that Repulsa is looking for. How he finds is not explained and makes no sense. Putting that aside though, the rest of the storytelling is decent. Gatins was also the writer to Real Steel (2011), Need for Speed (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017).

The direction was also competently controlled by Dean Israelite. What's more surprising is that Israelite had only directed one other theatrical feature which had a much smaller budget and only made twice as much back. The film was Project Almanac (2015), which was released in late January. When movies are released then, most are because they are not very good films. But all the power to Israelite for moving up. The action sequences that begin to occur around the middle of the film are well staged. Any CGI that was used in those scenes were also rendered effectively not to look fake. One of the more unique designs was to Repulsa's Goldar. Made completely of molten liquid gold, the flow of how the liquid gold moves is not seen on many creatures. The power ranger suits was another change that was done in order to not date the costume. This worked in their favor because although it's metallic armor, it looks much more durable than to that of the older style suits. Like they actually could take a beating.

Camera-work for this film was a mixed bag however. Shot by Matthew J. Lloyd, the cinematography is a hybrid of shaky cam, rotating panoramic shots and traditional shooting. The classical filmmaking parts were fine; nothing to mention there. The shaky cam and rotating shots are another problem. Shaky cam is always an issue because the motions can be nauseating even if the idea is to create realism. As for the rotating shots, it can get very dizzying. Lloyd got some professional shots but anything else is nothing to be impressed with. He also filmed for Cop Car (2015) and Project Almanac (2015). Rounding out the technical elements was music composed by Brian Tyler. In the past, Tyler's music has been used for many different action films and here it sounds very stock in its own way. For some reason he doesn't translate the Power Rangers main theme but it's not all neglected. Tyler seems to have taken an alternate approach to his music. In certain areas, cues will sound close Daft Punk's sound. Interesting.

Modernizing the power rangers franchise wasn't a bad idea at all. Much of the work put into this feature manages to stand out with relatively necessary development of characters. The action is permissible and the music fits the genre to a degree. The only problem is the script misses some key points and the cinematography is uneven in presentation.
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The Hunley (1999 TV Movie)
A good movie but predictable
18 June 2017
The American Civil War is one of those times that history buffs love to revel in because of how tragic the war was. There have been so many personal stories revealed over decades about various people on both sides who fought the odds to prove themselves to others. Even in bigger events, there were people who had stories like this. Ronald F. Maxwell's Gettysburg (1993) and Gods and Generals (2003) were just a couple from a cluster of films made to shed light on these individuals. By far the most ingenious invention ever made during this period was the Hunley submarine used shortly by the confederates in 1864. Not long after, the Civil War would end in 1865. What's surprising is that not only was the Hunley the first of its kind to be a fully functioning combat sub, but it also vanished quickly after it was brought into the world. Discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1995, it was then salvaged in 2000. In 1999, this TV Movie was made to try and explain what might have happened the last time it was used.

Written and directed by John Gray (White Irish Drinkers (2010)), the story follows Lieutenant George Dixon (Armand Assante), a real life officer who volunteered to be the leader of the Hunley sub experiment. After a couple failed launches, Dixon tries one last time and recruit a team that'll make the mission a success. Soon he finds Simkins (Chris Bauer), Collins (Sebastian Roché), Wicks (Michael Stuhlbarg), Miller (Jeff Mandon), Becker (Michael Dolan), White (Frank Vogt) and his second in command Lt. Alexander (Alex Jennings). After being given the "go-ahead" by General Beauregard (Donald Sutherland), Dixon begins his preparation with his crew to use the Hunley. The script was also co-written John Fasano, the same writer to some bad to decent films like Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), Sniper: Reloaded (2011) and Sniper: Legacy (2014). For a story based mostly on fact, it's a decent watch. The problem is that it is predictable in a war drama sort of way. It's rather obvious as to how it'll play out.

This can be troublesome for viewers because this does not permit the experience to be very suspenseful. It's unfortunate that that is how the story structure comes across. John Gray seems like a competent director but the execution follows a structure very close to other heroes who were believed to be a lost cause. However this particular issue does not take away the quality of the main leads. Both Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland emote correctly for the scenes required. They are also given backstories that allow the viewer to understand why they are who they are. Before Lt. Dixon went off on the Hunley mission, he was a regular infantryman and was narrowly saved by a gunshot that struck a coin given to him by his wife (Caprice Benedetti) before leaving. As time goes on, Dixon also realizes that he and General Beauregard share the same interests. The supporting cast is what suffers the most in development though. Although their actual histories were unclear, this gave the liberty to play with that.

Chris Bauer as Simkins is the brawn and misses his wife. Sebastian Roché as Collins is frequently combative with others. Alex Jennings as Lt. Alexander gets seasick easy but will loyally follow his first in command. Aside from those three, everyone else has brief backgrounds given just to give them one character trait. One can catch fish with his hands and another speaks French. Not exactly the most important of attributes. Even the individuals focused on more like Simkins, Collins and Alexander aren't that greatly developed. Visual aspects to the film were largely credible though. For 1999, there are some bits that contain CGI, but they're not extensive enough to carry a full act in the film. That goes for things like quick cuts to the Hunley submarine underwater or a few explosions. The rest of what was put on screen were mainly practical sets and props. Clips that had city structures and interior shots of the Hunley were impressive to look at. The team behind making that prop made an accurate representation of it.

The camera-work handled by John Thomas was relatively good. Although the film was made for TV and did not have a wide lens, the shots were nice to look at. Exterior scenes that contained the city sets look voluminous and the inside of the Hunley certainly looked cramped and uncomfortable for anyone to enjoy. Each shot gave what was needed in order to convey the correct setting to the audience that was watching. John Thomas would later shoot for big name movies like Sex and the City (2007) and Sex in the City 2 (2010). Randy Edelman composed the film score for sound. Being that Edelman had produced the widely underrated music to Gettysburg (1993), it's only appropriate that he scored this film as well. Since the story is not on large a scale, the music is not as grand in sound. The tracks contain more solo pieces from either trumpet or snare drums. Both contribute equally though and bring the right feeling for each scene especially dealing with Dixon. All in all it's a good watch but not as unique as one would think.

Structurally the execution is not anything special, the supporting characters are not well developed and a lot the suspense is removed since it is known what happened to the civil war sub. However the actors are believable, the visuals, cinematography and music all help bring it to a level that is doable for a civil war film.
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Continues to uphold the bar
29 May 2017
Putting all criticisms aside, it is truly amazing how quickly this franchise has expanded. In a matter of less than two decades, a simple race car thriller known as The Fast and the Furious (2001) has created practically as many sequels as the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) did. That's mind blowing. This should prove to viewers who do and don't enjoy it that the producers must know what they're doing when each film passes its predecessor. However being that actor Vin Diesel has clearly stated that there will only be 10 entries in the story, it's rather difficult to think anyone would stop there. Some fans might have hoped that after Furious 7 (2015) was released, would mark the end of the series. Looking at it that way would make sense because of how well the film sent off Paul Walker and his character. With that, there was concern of how the next entry would deal with this absence. Don't worry though, everyone on board seemed to have thought of everything.

Sometime after the events of Furious 7 (2015), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are relaxing when Toretto is confronted by a person called Cipher (Charlize Theron). Not long after blackmailing him, Cipher begins using Toretto to do her dirty work. This in turn betrays the family he has been so heavily involved with from the start. Trying to stop Toretto, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) arrives and adds Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to the crew, which many hesitate on. Yet Letty, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) all know they need all the help they can get. Cipher also has a deadly yes-man by the name of Rhodes (Kristofer Hivju) who isn't afraid to kill. Meanwhile Mr. Nobody added a newbie to his roster too, that being Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). But that's not all, there's several other character appearances. Writer Chris Morgan seems to know just how to give a wink and nod at every turn.

Character development is continuously growing throughout the entries. New roles are added, which then in turn begin to build on their foundation with a series of trials that'll prove themselves to others. All actors within the story give amiable performances. This goes for protagonists and antagonists. The fast crew all have great quips with each other and even manage to respectfully squeeze in a reference or two to Paul Walker's character. The comedic elements are what really help push the likability of these characters. Seeing Tej and Roman or Luke and Deckard bicker, is all for a good laugh. Little Nobody shows that even he can be funny due to his lack of understanding with the original crew. Charlize Theron and Kristofer Hivju as the two baddies are great at being the villains. They show no mercy in their killing. This will also show to the fans that the people working on this movie know how to play with one's emotions. Not everything is green pastures for the fast crew.

The sequences involving action are well staged. It's also great to know that director F. Gary Gray utilized as many practical effects as he could. And like always, the action is turned up another notch to the point of being unexpected. Each time, the stunts get crazier and crazier. Lots of cars were destroyed, there's no doubt about that. Unfortunately there is one minor gripe about this. When things start to get harry in New York, the scene will possibly become a little over gratuitous in its delivery. There's a point where so many cars are getting wrecked, it can get comparatively overwhelming. At some point viewers might ask, "Okay we get it, how much of that is needed?" kind of question. Labeling that as an isolated issue, the rest of the sequences are fine because it is not so blatant in its destruction. As for the physical possibilities of handling these scenarios, it's highly unlikely. This franchise is at a point though where belief has to be suspended to a point.

Camera-work has always been a strong point in the franchise's last few entries and it remains that way. Thanks to Stephen F. Windon, the way the camera captures all action and visuals blends very well together. Again this all goes back to finding ways of being creative. There are several angular shots that work to give the viewer a better of idea of what it's like to be in a certain situation. This also applies to the non action related shots. Wide scope panning shots are also much appreciated in letting the viewer take in the sights to see what and where the characters dwell. All visually pleasing. Another weak point however is Brian Tyler's musical score. Although he has been scoring the franchise for a number of entries now, there's not much to mention over it because its sole purpose is just to elevate the experience with no emotional weight. That's not to say it isn't composed competently, but it does not add to the pressure of what is being presented on screen. All in all though, another solid entry.

Fortunately for this franchise, the cast and crew know how to keep pushing each new film to entertain. The music is sadly undetectable and one action scene feels a little too much, but other than that, the rest of the action, the actors, camera-work and story make another great installment in the series.
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Not that great in general
24 March 2017
In Stan Winston's career, he was known as the master of visual effects. Whether that was practical or special effects, filmmakers could always rely on the creativity and quality of Stan Winston and his team. With credits belonging to films like The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986), it would be difficult to find someone match his integrity. As good as he was at his craft, Winston did delve into other positions of the movie industry. Being in the makeup department was his second most utilized role. However in 1988, Winston took a stab at directing a feature film and thus ended up producing Pumpkinhead (1988). Although it did not achieve the accolades that other horror films had garnered before it, Winston's directorial debut has gained much love over the years. It was not a masterpiece in every aspect but it sure entertained. The film is underrated and rightly deserves its cult following. But like every starter film comes sequels that baffle. Unfortunately not even Winston's creation was immune.

In this sequel, Sean Braddock (Andrew Robinson) is a new sheriff in town who's looking to do some good. Regrettably, Sheriff Braddock is not greeted with warm smiles. A local by the name of Judge Dixon (Steve Kanaly) feels he's entitled to whatever he pleases because he's rich. On top of that, Braddock has an unstable connection with his daughter Jenny (Ami Dolenz). Meanwhile Jenny has a love hate relationship with Danny (J. Trevor Edmond), the son of Judge Dixon. Trying to fit in, Jenny heads out with Danny and his gang when they end up crossing paths with a witch who has the spell book to summon Pumpkinhead. Believing it to be a myth, Danny goes through the ritual and ends up summoning the demon he thought wouldn't appear. Interestingly enough Constantine and Ivan Chachornia are the writers of which never went anywhere after this. It's quite sad because this film has several flaws in its execution. Even weirder is that three of the writers from the original film served as creative consultants. And it's still bad.

Of all things, the biggest sin this sequel commits is dating itself. The story is all too familiar dealing with characters that are in over their head and others that know things before the main leads. There really is no value to this kind of twist. Then there's the actors themselves. Aside from Andrew Robinson and Ami Dolenz, the rest of the actors are largely annoying and forgettable. J. Trevor Edmond and his gang consisting of actors the likes of Soleil Moon Frye, a very young Hill Harper (CSI: NY) and Alexander Polinsky are all very obnoxious. The overall attitude is "let's take things to the extreme", a very 90s mentality. Of course once chaos erupts, then everybody fends for themselves in the silliest ways. It's all very stock and unoriginal. Nobody cares for these people. There's also several areas that go unexplained. The reason as to why Pumpkinhead is brought to life isn't for the reason a fan might think. The good news Pumpkinhead doesn't have any particular bloodline that he follows.

However the reason that is used, carries little emotional weight because it is all indirect in its story telling. There's also unclear continuity as to when and if this story is tied at all to the original Pumpkinhead (1988) movie. There's another scraggly old lady in this movie,...so is it the same witch from the prior film? If so when does this story take place? Before? After? Does it matter? Plus there's a subplot about the mayor (Roger Clinton) of the town popping in and out of a few scenes discussing whether Pumpkinhead's killings would bring in revenue from the media. Not a necessary plot thread. Poor director Jeff Burr. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre III: Leatherface (1990) was an average film at best and now he has another sequel with lackluster quality. It's obvious that Burr likes making horror films but the studios that oversee him always give him problems. Surprisingly even the minor characters are played by other familiar actors. Gloria Hendry, R.A. Mihailoff and Joe Unger are some to name a few.

For a direct-to-video film, the practical effects are acceptable. Mark McCracken as Pumpkinhead has the height and the costume itself looks similar to that of the original film. It is apparent that the facial articulation and smoothness in its movements aren't as polished as before though. Even the violence and gore is alright. This makes up for some of the dull writing seen throughout. The cinematography by Bill Dill was frustrating to watch. Several times the lenses move in and out on Pumpkinhead as if to look scary when all it does is make the experience feel cheaper than usual. It won't give the viewer a sense of the surrounding and it's also a bit disorienting. The music was thankfully a plus for what it was worth. Jim Manzie a composer who worked hard with Jeff Burr to release his score to the third Texas Chain Saw film, unfortunately did not get a chance to do it in full here. The main title although recognizable doesn't sound as creepy as the original but works when it has to. Mostly.

By all means it could've been a lot worse, but it is not good entertainment either. The effects aren't bad for a home video release and the film score isn't out of place. Yet a very small number of actors come off trying and the story lacks continuity and compelling storytelling.
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The Shining (1980)
Dark and creepy but not scary as some say
14 March 2017
For many horror fans and filmmakers especially, site director Stanley Kubrick as a part of their inspiration to make movies. Kubrick had a reputation for being a director with a unique vision. Many of his films had aesthetically pleasing visuals and shots that were hard to find amateurish. He was after all a photographer before a filmmaker, which helped give him that edge. When it came to stories, another person who was constantly sought after to get permission for their works was Stephen King. Although King was not in the Hollywood business full time as other people, what he did provide were foundations to creating new horror films. Since its release, Kubrick's interpretation of Stephen King's The Shining text was widely praised for how intense the viewing experience was. Since then, much of the crew members have surfaced and spoke about the film and the level of involvement Kubrick demanded. Oddly enough, King wasn't that impressed with it. Believe it or not, King might be right.

Adapted by Kubrick and Diane Johnson (in her first and only screenplay), the story is about writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) looking to find a place of seclusion to finish his project. He ends up finding an opening position as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Finding it worthy of his goal, Torrance brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to live with him from the fall to the summer of next year. Little do they realize that the hotel harbors an ominous spirit that has connections to a horrific past. As an overall story, the execution is very well done. However there are certain elements that if omitted, would not have impacted the experience in a negative way. Danny has a psychic ability where one can see events from the past and future. This talent is called "shining". This is only revealed to Danny and the audience when Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) concedes that he can do it too. What isn't mentioned is how on earth anybody knows what "shining" is.

How does one contract such a power? Is it through genetics or by other entities that be? The other big hole in the story is the lack of explanation for certain key events. How is a viewer supposed to understand what Kubrick's message is? It doesn't make any sense and it's sometimes sillier than it is disturbing. Everything else about the production on a written and visual level all work effectively to create a dark and disconcerting haunted house feature. The performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall are neck and neck in quality. Nicholson easily can look off his rocker while Duvall reacts perfectly to her co-star's outbursts. Nicholson's eyebrows also add to his menacing look (as weird as that sounds). Danny Lloyd is definitely not as skilled as Duvall or Nicholson but can still freak out the audience with his mouth agape look. Very unsettling. There's also other short appearances from Barry Nelson as the prior caretaker to Mr. Torrance and Mr. Durkin (Tony Burton).

Scatman Crothers as the cook to the hotel is an interesting character. It is because of his talk with Danny that adds to the suspense of the dangers that lurk within the building. The imagery that is displayed however is what really drives home the concept of dread that precedes the hotel. What is great about how Kubrick directs this film, is that it is not treated like many other mainstream horror films. Jump scares do not exist in this film. It all relies on mysteries and off-putting flashes of different scenes. These quick scene cuts are not annoying either. They're intriguing because it makes the viewer question "what is going on". At first "REDRUM" is a questionable component to the narrative but overtime, the meaning is exposed. Though it may be obvious or rather uneventful to some when light is shed on the matter, it will be for those not use to the Kubrick method of execution. Remember, Kubrick was also the director to Paths of Glory (1957), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971).

If anyone is looking for gore though, the volume is very low. Is there bloody violence - yes, but not enough to satisfy someone who enjoys lots of victims. Camera-work by John Alcott was wonderfully captivating. Having worked with Kubrick before, Alcott knows how a scene needed to be shot. Every scene has wide angle lenses that have static movements that rarely rotate. Also the technique of very slow zoom-ins are implemented and that helps the viewer focus in on what Kubrick was trying to convey. Alcott also worked on Terror Train (1980). Music on the other hand was a mixed bag. Composed by Wendy Carlos (best known for her score to Tron (1982)) and Rachel Elkind, the music used is effective but only in certain areas. In some parts its perfect with its deep drawn out strings and synths, which represents the dire threat that lives with the Torrance family. While in other places, it gets dragged out far too long when a scene is no longer that worrisome. It's not bad but could've been used better.

Some parts within the script could've been left out completely and the story would've run smoother. The music works but far extends some scenes for no reason. Aside from this, the acting, creepy imagery and unique cinematography make this a different horror film worth seeing.
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