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Ride Along (2014)
Tepid "comedy" with little-to-no redeeming features
I feel the need to watch a lot of comedies these days as my mood is often grumpier and more irritable than Ice Cube (in general, not just every character he plays). Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy stupid humor and low-brow comedy just as much as any genuinely moronic and slovenly mouth-breathing member of Joe Public, but Ride Along is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.
The "buddy cop" sub-genre is apparently alive and well, despite the 1980s being a distant memory. Kevin Hart is a feckless school security guard who dreams of being a real cop. In order to impress his girlfriend's overprotective big brother (the Cube) he agrees to a ride-along for a day, unaware that he's being set up for humiliation. But his convenient geekiness just so happens to help solve an important case involving a local crime boss. Honestly, the plot is so thin it could be written on the back of a postage stamp and Tim Story (an ironic surname, for sure) seems to have learned nothing since his days directing Taxi, allowing his stars to improvise to save the weak scripted material. It doesn't work.
Set in the cheap, tax-break city of Atlanta, the movie looks ugly, not just because of the non-cinematic locations but because Tim Story has no idea how to use a 2.35:1 frame and photographer Larry Blanford uses the unfortunate modern aesthetic of hard contrast with oversaturated colors instead of creating an atmosphere in-camera. It's shot in amamorphic Panavision, but you'll never notice as it is so flat and nasty looking.
Kevin Hart is funny but this is not a good vehicle for him. It made a lot of money, hence the sequel, but I honestly thought that this sub-genre died with the painfully unfunny Showtime back in 2002 (Remember that? No?). If you've seen one, you've seen the other, you've seen them all.
Always, always, always be ex-treme-ly weary and cynical of movies that have outtakes over the end credits.
I should have just watched Dragnet.
If there is one thing that I'm a sucker for it's a horror movie featuring a gothic, gloomy old castle (preferably in an archaic corner of Europe) and an unashamedly hocus-pocus plot. Baron Blood certainly does deliver in this regard, but it's still a bit of a disappointment overall.
Bobby Ewing prototype Peter Kleist travels to Austria to meet with his uncle and take a gander at the old ancestral home of Castle Nuremberg (never specifically referred to as such in the English version). There he meets his uncle's beautiful assistant Eve (Elke Sommer) and quickly develops a thing for her. Later, he tries to impress Eve by reciting an incantation that can bring his evil, sadistic great-grandfather, Baron Otto Von Kleist, back to life. No woman is worth impressing that much.
Much to their horror, the incantation works and the Baron is free to start a new reign of terror. An opportunity he doesn't really take much advantage of.
There's barely a drop of blood to be had in this movie. There is very little suspense, no tension, and not much in the way of dread. It's a totally missed opportunity in this regard but what it does have in its favor is a ton of atmosphere thanks to the wonderful lighting and cinematography. If only more horror movies, especially in the modern era, were shot this way. The use of genuine locations, with not a single studio set used, also adds to the authenticity. It's just a shame that the story is so bland. Baron Blood could have been way more memorable if it went over the top but instead it stays sober and sane. I guess in some regards this approach keeps it thoughtful and prevents it from being a nasty exploitation flick, though a better balance could have been found.
I feel bad giving this movie an average score as it does have merit. It's not boring but it's not the gorefest I wanted it to be either.
Samâ uôzu (2009)
Really stupid and not what I expected
From the cover art I assumed that this would be a 90-minute affair about some kind of village annual games and that's what got me interested. It's not like that at all. It's a 2-hour techno-thriller, and a badly misconceived one at that. I can't remember any of the characters names, so it'll be hard for me to give you a rundown of the plot, but in this version of 2010 the whole world is plugged into a overlarge social networking site and a sinister entity within is using it to...I dunno...something...and knock a satellite out of the air to land on a nuclear power plant and blow up...some place. Only an extended family of eccentrics can band together and stop it because they all just-so-happen to be involved in the tech business and have everything that they need at their disposal.
This is nonsense. There is a really good core concept here, but this is not the right way to tell it. Some ideas in Summer Wars are clever and they are wasted. It's too quirky, overlong, and seems like a mash-up of two unrelated scripts that got mixed together when two interns collided in a hallway and didn't bother to keep their papers separate. I won't be watching this again.
The Peacemaker (1997)
Back in October 1997 I was not too impressed by The Peacemaker. As the debut picture of then-new Dreamworks SKG it came across as a rather flat and forgettable combination of Jack Ryan and James Bond. Both Clooney and Kidman are horribly miscast and don't have much chemistry, though are not completely unwatchable. This was back in Clooney's head-lolling days when he thought that having a floppy neck made him look debonaire and charming.
The opening to the movie is very well done and atmospheric. A steam locomotive charging through remote Russian darkness is hijacked by a second train sneaking up in its wake and a cargo of nine nuclear warheads are stolen with a tenth warhead detonated to cover the tracks (pun intended). Col. Tom Devoe (Clooney,sans-vertebrae) knows just about everyone in Russia and is given the mission of proving the nukes went missing and finding them before a terrorist strike can take place.
As a pre-9/11 post-Bosnia movie it still feels quite topical and Marcel Iures is especially good as a broken man overcome by grief who will do anything to share his sadness with the world. It always stood out as a bold move and a powerful antagonist, it's just a shame that the film surrounding it is fairly bland for the most part.
There's an amazing scene on a bridge and a tough car chase in Vienna, Mimi Leder doesn't shy away from blood and violence, and commits a fair amount of muscle to some scenes, but the movie just fizzles with the two leads failing to create any spark between them. Kidman could be replaced with a chest of drawers and it would have more charisma.
A decent timewaster, but void of anything that would make it a classic.
The Enforcer (1976)
A sorry lack of good punks
A hero is nothing without a decent villain, and in this third entry in Clint Eastwood's lucrative franchise there's a sore lack of good villainy.
In an alarmingly contemporary move, the SFPD decide to partner Harry with a new female sidekick as there are not enough women on the force and they want to be seen as "progressive". Harry it's a bad idea, and he's right, but that female just happens to be Kate Moore, a young (and actually quite beautiful) Tyne Daly - dead ringer for Clea Duvall. She's bumbling and naive, but they end up making a good team.
As Harry goes about his usual carefree method of taking down the secondary bad guys who always seem to cross his path, a group of paramilitary types are planning a terrorist attack in San Francisco and earn Harry's wrath when they kill DiGiorgio. Together with Kate, he shakes down the usual suspects across town leading to a showdown on Alcatraz Island (before he escaped it).
While it is a fun watch, the bad guys are simply not a consistent, or interesting, threat for the 96-minute duration. They were completely one-dimensional and I didn't care about their evil plan. The final confrontation on Alcatraz is poorly staged and written and it seems like they were just rushing along the production to get the film finished as soon as possible.
Not a bad movie, just not up to the standards of the first two.
Magnum Force (1973)
Better than the first movie
The longest Dirty Harry movie, clocking in at 124 minutes, Magnum Force actually gives us a plot with multiple threads to follow, and is, as a result, a much better movie than the original.
This time around Harry must solve a series of brutal vigilante murders, gradually narrowing it down to a group of corrupt cops. He does actual detective work this time and uses his cunning to track the bad guys. The trick with deliberately missing his mark at the shooting range to retrieve the incriminating bullet was a smart move. There was nothing like this in the, frankly overrated, first movie.
The violence, even by today's standards, is graphic and upsetting. Seeing corpses writhe in agony after getting shot directly in the forehead, is hard to watch. Imagine suffering such a would and, knowing you were dying, lost control of your limbs. You don't see this in movies anymore. Gun violence is often overplayed and made to look cool while the grim reality of being murdered in this horrible way is rarely seen. I appreciate the movie for having the moxie to show us a more realistic depiction.
Director Ted Post, who directed Eastwood in Hang 'Em High, uses the anamorphic Panavision framing very well and there are multiple awesome compositions in the film. The slow, laid-back pace of Don Siegel is gone and the movie feels broader in scope while at the same time being an ironic response to the negative critical backlash that the first received. There's more weight and wit in Magnum Force, there's more to talk about, giving it higher re-watch value.
I know my opinion is controversial, but Magnum Force is simply more enjoyable and prompts deeper debate.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Just add soap
It's somewhat ironic that Clint Eastwood would become a household name by playing "the man with no name" before transitioning away from Westerns into contemporary movies, and then the movie that made him a superstar for the second time was a larger than life character than be identified first as a classic archetype and cinema icon and as a Eastwood role second.
Everybody knows Dirty Harry. The attitude, the scowl, and the one-liners have been mimicked and parodied so many times, and the original movie, and it's sequels, have spawned countless new generations of similar hardcore heroes. Without Harry Callaghan there would be no John Matrix, no Cobra, no John McClane, no Martin Riggs, etc.
Is the original film itself any good? Well, it's certainly controversial, even in the present day. Though much of the film's politics seem to be projected into the movie by its audience than actually part of film itself. In reality it's a very straight-forward, laid-back affair with minimalist dialogue, editing, and a subdued style.
There's not much in the way of plot, and there's very little detective work or puzzle solving on Harry's part. He's just a blunt tool used for a dirty job, hence the name. For a movie that barely nudges past the 100-minute mark it does feel a lot long, with lingering shots, huge chunks of purely visual storytelling, and a few detours that feel like padding. The central story of a crazed sniper offing random civilians in San Francisco, inspired by the real life Zodiac murder case, isn't strong enough to last the already thin running time.
It is a movie that is about style over substance, and for its day it was very slick and high key with gorgeous anamorphic Panavision photography. Does it hold up? Just about. It's not a movie that I watch for the entertainment value, but merely to study how certain classics were made.
This is not a game. This is...nothing!
I had this frisbee back when I was a teenager and I didn't quite know why I hated it back then. I do now.
This isn't a game. This is nothing.
Crippled by long loads, poor interface, and the Mega CD's mind-blowing lack of colors and compression issues that make animated GIFs on Twitter look like a grand 70mm cinema projection, the "novelty" (there will be a lot of air quotes in this review) of FMV was this coaster's only selling point. Take that away, as it barely exists in any workable form here, and you will quickly realize there is absolutely nothing else to this.
From a production value perspective, the sets are cheap (it seems that they just redressed one room over and over), the soap opera acting is atrocious, and there is zero atmosphere. For a Sherlock Holmes adventure that is simply unforgivable. Seriously, the accents of the "actors" is all over the place, ranging from American, English, Canadian, Scottish, Australian, Neptunian...all within one sentence. It's like these people have never spoken words before and are having trouble forming sounds with their lips. It beggars belief. Holmes and Watson are played by Peter Farley and Warren Green...who have NEVER acted in anything since. Farley himself looks like a cross between Jonathan Hyde and David Schneider, hardly the aquiline Holmes we are used to. He even looks right into the camera at one point!
There are three cases featured on this first volume: The Case of the Mummy's Curse, The Case of the Tin Soldier, and The Case of the Mystified Murderess. What you basically have to "do" is watch the video scenes, identify a circle of characters, visit said characters from the lists in your index, and then establish who did what based on their stories when you go to see the judge, which wouldn't actually happen as Holmes was a "CONSULTING" detective. It's in the title for heaven's sake! The information would be passed onto Lestrade or another representitive of Scotland Yard and it would be them going to court.
There is a Steam version features better interface and improved video (which only enhances the cheapness of it all) over the Mega CD, but there are no trophies/achievements or trading cards, which really would have added some much needed dimension to the "gameplay" and it's just as worthless. There were three volumes in this dreadful series but only Volume 2 made it to the Mega CD as they probably realized that their system was tanking due to wretched software.
Never ever purchase this "game". It's a total waste of money and not even worth it from a nostalgia point-of-view. It's because of FMV trash with no real substance like this that the Mega CD got such a bad name and underperformed. Sega really did put their eggs in the wrong basket with this concept.
T.Bag's Christmas Turkey (1991)
Another weak special
I am surprised and disappointed that T-Bag has only delivered average Christmas specials. As I have complained before, the 25-minute running time probably isn't enough to get a real plot going. Here we have Tabatha travel with T-Shirt to her mother's castle where she quickly erases Christmas and insists others spend it in misery.
But when the "local King" decides to visit Mother Bag decides to host a circus to entertain him, while Tabatha tries in vain to spoil it all. The slapstick is lame and it doesn't feel very Christmasy. I guess they were just running low on ideas.
T.Bag's Christmas Ding Dong (1990)
It's just okay
With Tallulah gone, T-Shirt attempts to surprise surrogate aunt (I guess) Tabatha by inviting her to an opera (one again in a Victorian setting) only for T-Bag to encounter her deceitful cousin Vanity (V-Bag?), played by Glenda Jackson, adding a dose of double Oscar winning credibility to the show.
Vanity plots to oust the rightful leading lady of the Opera, while T-Bag tries to get in on the act too. James Saxon shows up, once again playing a disturbing man-child (why did they go with this guy so often?) and, as usual, no one listens to T-Shirt's logic or common sense.
The slapstick is okay, and Georgina Hale is amusingly over-the-top but this special ain't going down in history. I did like seeing her in the bathtub though, even if she was covered in bubbles.
T.Bag's Christmas Carol (1989)
An improvement on "Cracker"
In some chilly Arctic lair, T-Bag convinces her long-suffering surrogate son T-Shirt to help torment poor Sally Simpkins. Hang on...didn't T-Bag destroy herself at the end of Revenge of the T-Set? How is she alive again? What sort of sorcery is this?
Sally is drawn into a dream-like state where is whisked away to Victorian London (well, there's a surprise) and left in rags to freeze on the street much to the wicked amusement of T-Bag. The plot pretty much revolves around her attempts to keep her alone and miserable despite being surrounded by kinder, oddball characters, including a Dickens clone looking for inspiration.
Without a greater story arc this Xmas Special once again feels rather weak, but it feels livelier than "Cracker" and Estensen is funny, as always. However, the end of this episode does not properly align with Revenge of the T-Set or Pearls of Wisdom, which came after it.
T.Bag's Christmas Cracker (1988)
No Xmas Classic
There's not really much as stake here in this T-Bag Christmas Special, and it's not much of a "cracker". One Xmas Eve old Bag Tallulah plots to replace all of Santa's gifts with a hypnotic device that will help her enchant all of the planet's children for her own evil desires. Naturally, T-Shirt is the first victim of this and becomes her unwitting assistant once more.
The bulk of the plot centres around a young Victorian boy (what century is this set in, exactly?) and his nanny after T-Bag misses her chance to incapacitate Santa at the North Pole and awaits his arrival in a London townhouse while posing as a Mary Poppins-type nanny.
There are a few laughs but it feels like an extended skit rather than a self-contained special episode. Elizabeth Estensen is, as always, a delight to watch and is every bit as mad as you'd expect her to be, so I can't really complain.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
A potential classic ruined by greed
Developed by Criterion, the same team behind Burnout Paradise, you can definitely feel a lot of Burnout DNA in this Need for Speed entry. Sadly, since it's published by EA, do not expect to get the full game, you'll have to plonk down a further £45 on the PSN for that privilege. And since the game is now almost 8 years old you can expect online play to be dead. Trust me, this is one Platinum trophy that you won't be winning.
As either Cop or Criminal Racer you take to the roads in the fictional Seacrest County and all of its varied wilderness on various missions including simple time trials, races, duels, takedown missions, utterly infuriating rapid responses, interceptors and, obviously, hot pursuits in which you must obliterate all other rivals. The game can frequently be very exciting and is very addictive but it is bogged down by lengthy crash cut-scenes, long load times, an overload of visual information bombardment between missions, and cars that handle simply terribly. The aforementioned rapid response missions are a nightmare as for every strike on any object the counter will add 2 seconds to your already tight time limit. Once you slam into the guard rail you'll never get control of your car back and you'll just be slamming from side to side across the road. You'll never beat the mission.
Also, unlike Burnout Paradise, the XBM option is not available, meaning you cannot play your own tunes during the game and must stick to the licenced soundtrack. It's decent, but it's nowhere near as innovating and visionary as the soundtrack to Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed. Though, overall, it's a much better game than Need for Speed: The Run.
I managed to unlock just 37% of the trophies. Any higher would require online play and purchase of the DLC. It gave me a few days of fun, but I'll never go back to this.
Adjust your brightness
Contrast has a brilliant idea - what could happen if we could shift into shadows and live in the umbral world? The developers really had lightning in a bottle here, and the 1920s setting is just perfect. The game also deals with two of my favorite themes in fiction - that being "what is real?" and the image of the double, the reflection, the...other.
You play as Dawn, the "imaginary" best friend of Didi, a young girl who appears to be retreating into fantasy to deal with the break-up of her parents. While running around a beautifully imagined world you shift into shadow to solve various puzzles. I want to live in this video game. There are not many games I can say that about, the only other one being Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The atmosphere is just THAT good. This would be the perfect game if it were not for one molar-crunching flaw. The controls are a nightmare. The sticks are too twitchy, the buttons are unresponsive and the camera is epileptic. You'll be shouting and swearing a LOT during this game. I finished it in four hours and I'm happy I stuck with it to the end, it's just a shame that no updates have been made to fix the bugs.
And if you think that the voice of Didi's surrogate dad is familiar, it's none other than Elias Toufexis who also voices Adam Jensen in Deus Ex.
There is amazing potential here and, for the most part, it's a wonderful game, but the controls cripple it.
There are 22 trophies/achievements (I could only manage 15) and trading cards included, as well as a lovely soundtrack album.
Mr. Holmes (2015)
Young Sherlock once mused "I never want to be alone" when asked what he wanted to be after school. In 1947 Old Sherlock, Mr. Holmes, his memory failing him and life nearing an imminent end laments the fact that his terminal alone-ness has driven too many of the most important people away from him. Set long after His Last Bow, Holmes is living a simple life, tending to his bees in Sussex. Watson is long gone, and so is his happiness.
His housekeeper and her son are the only family he has, though the chore of caring for him is beginning to have a negative impact on them. As his memories and recollections vanish like ghosts into the aether, Holmes struggles to reminisce about his final case and the huge failure that led him to isolating himself from the world. Watson gave the story a happy ending, tricking the world into believing that the case was a success, but Holmes has kept the truth secret and very personal.
It's not so much a mystery as much as it is a drama about an unhappy man trying to come to terms with his past mistakes. The thing about movies is that they have to be concise and tight when it comes to character development. Soap Operas, sitcoms, and even cartoons don't have this problem as the history and development of a single character can occur over many seasons and years. Sherlock Holmes is probably THE most portrayed character of all time with dozens, maybe hundreds, of actors giving their own unique spin across movies, TV shows, theatre productions, spin-off novels, radio dramas, and even video games. But I have never seen him portrayed so weak, sympathetic, and so far removed from the classic image of the cape, deerstalker, and pipe ("an invention of the illustrator", he admits).
Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, the movie presents the "true" fictional detective, elegantly played by Ian McKellen with Laura Linney doing a truly dodgy West Country accent as his housekeeper. Their relationship is fraught and confrontational, but heartfelt and sincere. The presence of Nicholas Rowe as Holmes in a movie adaptation of his failed last case is what you call a super- meta-meta-meta-fictional moment.
Though shot in 2.35:1 (I suspect it is cropped from 1.78:1, a sort of digital version of Super35) it seems quite televisual, so I can't rate it too highly. Bill Condon stages this story like an episode of Midsomer Murders with very little of it feeling theatrical. It's a shame, but the production design makes up for it.
Girlfriend Rescue (2015)
A somewhat decent timewaster
First off, the product description isn't too accurate. This game is more like a cross between Pokemon and Earthbound. The RPG and beat-em- up elements are rather light, which I am thankful for as too many RPGs are slowed by lengthy cut-scenes and rambling dialogue. But there are enough choices in combat to require skill and smart tactics to progress. The learning curve is just right and some of the items and upgrades are fun.
Sadly, it feels a bit generic, with the character sprites not changing as you upgrade and the long, repetitive, maze-like levels failing to keep my interest after 10 minutes. There are 69 trophies/achievements which require multiple play-throughs and need you to play the game for an eternity to unlock. Sorry it's just not that much fun. Decent for a single play-through, with okay music, and some pleasing fight scenes, but utterly forgettable soon after. Trading cards also included.
Pinhead Goes to Hollywood
Things get dumber and sillier in this second sequel. The series could have ended with Hellraiser II but there's profit to be had, folks. And so the series endured. The original ending for Hellraiser II had Julia rise up out of the mattress after devouring the delivery man, but as it was filmed, it was the torture pillar (which doesn't make sense, but I'll accept it). If Julia had come back then the series might have went in a more thoughtful direction, alas, it was Pinhead and the new owners, Dimension Films, wanted to milk every last penny out of him.
The torture pillar (looking nothing like it did previously) is now on sale in an art gallery where it is purchased by arrogant rich kid JP Munroe. The pillar is installed in the private sex chamber of his club The Boiler Room, where early 90s kids go to listen to their "edgy" rock music. The Lament Configuration is broken off the pillar and destroys a club-goer, leading TV reporter Joey Summerskill to hunt down the truth and discover the horror of Pinhead and the Cenobites.
When Kirsty revealed the truth to Pinhead at the end of the second movie it separated his human side from his Cenobite half, creating two individual entities. Now, without the balance of his suppressed humanity, Pinhead is unbounded and free to create as much mayhem as he wants.
With the move from hardcore British cult horror to shiny, hip, Hollywood the movie is considerably less scary and much goofier. Pinhead's make-up has been slightly altered to make him look less intense and now with a slight overbite which makes him look, dare I say, cute. But make no mistake, Doug Bradley OWNS this role once more and the entire movie. Given a LOT more to do this time around he is the best thing in it. His monster army is very silly and the movie eventually becomes quite cartoonish but the plot is good and it is very fast-paced.
Christopher Young didn't return to give the score some much-needed grace but composer nobody has ever heard of, Randy Miller, steps in and recycles Young themes with some of his own generic filler.
The intention was to make this gruesome franchise appeal to mass audiences and, in that regard, it's a perfectly fine popcorn flick.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
The Harrowing of Hell
I don't know why it took me so long to invest in and review Hellraiser II. I've been a fan of Chris Young's score for years now but never actually seen the movie itself until now. Perhaps this is for the better, as I have a feeling that I would have misjudged this movie in my youth.
Immediately after the events of the first movie Kirsty Cotton is institutionalised by the evil Dr. Channard. She's babbling about the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration and Channard not only believes her but has extensive research into the artefact and wants to see hell for himself.
With the mattress that Julia died on in his possession he sacrifices one of his mentally ill patients to bring her back, albeit without her skin, in a brutally unpleasant scene that had me hiding behind the cushion. Soon, Julia is fully human again (and looking like a LOT like Emma Stone thanks to a far sexier haircut) and ready to grant him his morbid wish. Channard gives the Lament Configuration to Tiffany, a mute savant with a knack for solving puzzles. Pinhead and his cronies come forth, as expected, but allow Kirsty and Tiffany to run free in hell so they can stop Channard before he reaches the Leviathan, the unexplained (and probably inexplicable) God of Hell.
While I did enjoy this movie a lot, it really does come across as an over-the-top mish-mash of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Dungeons and Dragons (all relatively new at the time). The script is a little hokier but still convincingly expands this mysterious universe. What I wasn't expecting, however, was how much I would like Pinhead.
The image of this character is iconic and often used to sell, or perhaps oversell, the franchise. I didn't think I would be able to accept him a movie monster and it might be the reason why I kept this series at a distance for so long. But Pinhead is REALLY likable here. He's no hero, no villain, and nowhere in between, just an impartial observer who is as much a victim as the people he tears apart. Doug Bradley nails this character (haha) and his place in horror movie history is rightfully deserved.
As I said, Chris Young's beautiful, operatic score is a leviathan in it's own right and some of his best work. I would argue that the first two Hellraiser movies have the best horror scores of all time and an absolute must-have for anyone who enjoys and appreciates good music.
A sequel that falls short of the original in some ways but matches and exceeds it in others.
Tales of Terror (1962)
Mildly amusing but no classic
Long before Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, or Treehouse of Horror this 1962 Roger Corman effort attempts the unholy trinity anthology style by giving us three Edgar Allen Poe stories adapted for the big screen. Though Corman was no stranger to taking a few meagre pages and expanding them to feature length with previous films such as The Pit and the Pendulum and The Fall of the House of Usher, he wisely keeps the running time to roughly 30 minutes each here.
The first story is an adaptation of Morella with Vincent Price brooding in his gloomy castle, pining for his long-dead wife and the daughter who's birth killed her. It's good, with some nice sets and morbid ham acting from Price.
The second story bills itself as an adaptation of The Black Cat but seems a bit more like The Telltale Heart. In it Peter Lorre is a drunk who bricks up his wife and her lover (Price again) in his cellar so he can spend her money on drink. The cat imagery doesn't seem like it even belongs in this story but Price's over-the-top acting makes this one more comedic.
Lastly, we have an adaptation of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, which is the weakest of the three. Here we have Basil Rathbone put Price under hypnosis at the moment of his death as a way of controlling his ghost for eternity. It's not very good and I was getting bored before the end.
Overall, an okay movie but hardly the finest hour for anyone involved.
Garou: Mark of the Wolves (1999)
This 8th, and final, entry in the Fatal Fury series might be the best one. I've been a fan since 1993 so the series has been my favorite of the VS fighting genre for a long time. Mark of the Wolves features the best animation, combat, and locations, an even a nice sense of humor. The character sprites are colorful, the fighting has an easy learning curve and the music is pretty funky (with contributions by Robert Miles, no less). Even though it's the 8th and last Fatal Fury game I can still call it accessible for newbs to the series and genre as it it very easy to pick up and play.
This Steam version features 10 trophies/achievements, no trading cards, and online play is dead. I didn't have any trouble with lag or resolution issues. I'd love for the whole series to come to the PS4 but for the moment either Steam or the old Dreamcast editions is your best bet.
Put it together in your own time
Saw has had many ups and downs as a series. The "final chapter" in 2010 was about as limp as soggy bread, giving us nothing shocking and a long-expected twist.
Jigsaw begins anew (don't expect Hoffman or Dr. Gordon to return) and features new characters and a new set of games. But...how can this be if John Kramer died over ten years ago? Is he really dead? He has to be. Right?
There are definite improvements here. The cinematography and production design is light years beyond the previous movies. I used to refer to Saw having "faketography" with some of the rudest, ugliest, and cheapest filters and color corrections ever to dirty the big screen. Jigsaw, being the first to be shot in 2.35:1, actually looks cinematic and it's the film's best feature. The games and traps themselves are gruesome but not overplayed, which took the focus away from torture porn and gave it a bit more of the psychological edge we got in the first movie.
Sadly, it fails elsewhere. The story gives us YET MORE cops, YET MORE coroners, and YET MORE doctors (all of them forgettable) filling up the side story. Sorry, but after a seven-year hiatus this should have been more unique and subversive. I gotta admit though, that twist ending had me kicking myself, and Charlie Clouser's score is as intense as ever.
Not a bad film, but not the huge comeback it should have been. I rank it somewhere in the middle of the series overall.
Cult of Chucky (2017)
Child's Play 7 - don't laugh, it's good
While most 30-year-old horror franchises would be running out of steam by the time they hit a 7th instalment, Chucky has had a surprisingly solid run so far by constantly reinventing himself (pun intended) and having fun by reversing audience expectations. I credit writer/director Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner with this curious quality control. They have been with the series from the very beginning and are careful when it comes to telling a new story rather than just cranking out a cheap cash-in. It's strange to think that Chucky, as a series, has far more integrity than any of his peers.
Fiona Dourif (hauntingly beautiful and her dad's exact double) returns as Nica, now confined to a mental hospital after no one believes her claim that Chucky is alive. But one person out there does believe her - Andy Barclay. He's lived his life in seclusion and become a loner after his struggle with Chucky in the past, to the point where Chucky has imprinted on him in some irreversible way. They might even be friends (to the end) in a strange twist.
Nica's psychiatrist produces a Chucky doll during their sessions to help get over the fear and find out what is truly going on in her head. Meanwhile, two more Chucky dolls show up in the hospital and fellow patients start dying horribly. Which one is the real Chucky? Are they all Chucky?
Mancini handles the suspense very well and takes a far more sober and sombre approach (especially when compared to the 5th movie) with a quiet, chilling winter atmosphere (dare I say Xmasy) and the right amount of teasing and fake-outs. Brad Dourif is hilarious once more, bringing back the humor that was missing from the previous movie, while Jennifer/Tiffany hints as something else brewing outside of the hospital.
Cult of Chucky is one of the best in the series so far. I just wish that Mancini would bring back Graeme Revell as his themes from Child's Play 2 and Bride of Chucky were the best of the series. Joseph LoDuca does a fine job however.
Don't brush this off as a cheap cash-in. Chucky is not going downhill just yet and fans of the series will surely love this one.
Ibara no O (2009)
Thing of Korn
Knowing nothing of the movie, I looked at the box art and thought that this might be an interesting, thoughtful sci-fi/fantasy with dark fairy tale elements. It's not.
A space-born virus is petrifying (literally) the human race so a zillionaire sets up a cryo "ark" deep underneath a Scottish castle to send a handful of lucky randoms to live in a better future. Of them are Japanese twin sisters Kasumi and Shizuku, who has not been chosen and is only there to see her off. The sleepers are rudely awakened by horrific creatures (who are apparently CGI and rendered in a lower frame-rate) who tear them apart as they attempt to escape the castle, which has now been infested with thorny vines.
It's an intriguing premise up until this point, but then it all begins to fall apart, quickly. With each attempt at explaining the mystery it becomes more and more moronic. Horrible dialogue and a muddled, confusing plot turn it into a borderline comedy. The allusions to Sleeping Beauty are ill-conceived and just don't work. If anything, this movie is much more like Resident Evil than the thoughtful fantasy I wanted it to be. An attempt at a plot twist just about saves this from a lower score.
It's a Sunday afternoon mild distraction while you do the ironing or the dishes. Don't go into this nonsense expecting a Miyazaki epic.
Distracting nonsense with some charm
A side-scrolling beat-em-up with RPG elements featuring Japanese schoolgirls? How can I resist? Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a fun button masher. If you liked the Scott Pilgrim game from 2010 then this one has similar pixel graphics and chiptune music. The spoken dialogue is all in Japanese with English subtitles. I'll be honest, I had no clue what was going on but I did enjoy smashing my way through the levels, until it got derivative and repetitive.
It seems to take forever to fully upgrade your character and after my second play-through I still did not have enough experience to max- out so I just gave up. For a good few hours this game is a pleasant distraction but is hardly likely to go down as a classic with anyone.
The soundtrack (forgettable as it is) is available separately for purchase, there are 46 trophies/achievements, and 5 trading cards to collect. Worth getting in a sale, for sure.
Too primitive to have lasting appeal
A review of the Steam edition
While I did find this game cute and fun in the same way that I enjoy Monkey Island and Sam & Max (look for a cameo from your favorite hound and rabbity-thing near the beginning) I do find it to be quite dated, especially for a game from 1990. The sound effects are appalling and the music sounds like something from the Atari 2600. I was very surprised by this. Also, the cursor is not very precise and you'll constantly be re-clicking to do what needs done.
The story is changed from the movie just a little bit in order to fit the "point and click" style of gameplay and there are three different endings available, but I found the last chapter to be too frustrating to bother with seeing more than one of them. It was fun to play, but I can't see myself going back. It just felt too primitive, which is crazy considering this is a game from the 90s. You might be better off playing the Mega Drive version, which is a more traditional action game.
The game is window-boxed, there are no Steam Achievements/Trophies and no trading cards either.