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The X-Fails: I want to heave.
26 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ouch, that was bad. I didn't have high expectations for this movie but I didn't expect for it to be as lame and tiresome as it was. Badly scripted, badly, badly directed and badly acted the new X-Files movie is still a massive disappointment even to someone with lowered expectations.

Things seemed okay for the first twenty minutes or so whilst the mystery was being established, kind of seeming like a middling episode of the TV series but it went downhill fast. The story might have done for an episode of the series but really does not do to fill out the length of the movie, providing some rather uninteresting foes for Mulder and Scully to face and the answers when they are provided are rather anticlimactic and pedestrian by X-Files standards. Two Russian guys doing some experiments with illegal transplants- woo hoo! Whilst I'm glad they dropped the convoluted alien 'mythology' story lines and opted for the 'monster of the week' approach couldn't the makers have come up with something more substantial and interesting than the plot we get? As it is Mulder and Scully getting little to in the way of investigating with answers largely coming the way of the psychic ex-priest played by Billy Connelly. There is little to justify the idea of the FBI pardoning Mulder for his help when he really doesn't get to use any of his supposed expertise or experience when what he mostly does is say "Yeah, we should pay attention to the psychic guy".

The movie clumsily lurches between the X-File investigation storyline and the personal stuff between Mulder and Scully and the two parts do not really gel together. The investigation of the X-File itself was only underwhelming and dully executed but the dramatic stuff between Mulder and Scully is excruciatingly painful. It contains the two of them exchanging what must be some of the worst dialogue I've seen, certainly since the Star Wars prequels, in a heavy handed po-faced manner which makes the scenes drag even more than they need to and makes the crap they are spouting seem even sillier. Mostly it is tedious bickering (If this is Mulder and Scully as a couple I sure preferred it when it was a will they or won't they situation) and pretentious failed attempts at being meaningful that will illicit either groans or giggles. There is also a tedious and heavy handed subplot about Scully reaching a dilemma over a patient of hers which is ultimately a regurgitation of the scepticism/belief crises she would face on the TV show on a regular basis.

The new FBI characters are given nothing interesting to do, the villains are boring and unmemorable and the only decent character is Connolly's disgraced priest, who at least has some personality with all the actors, including Duchovny and Anderson, simply spewing out their dialogue in a robotic 'I don't want to be here' fashion. It was nice to see Skinner back but his last minute appearance comes across as completely perfunctory and unnecessary.

Even if you were a fan of the TV series I would recommend steering well clear of this one.
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Ready or not, here I come.
8 August 2007
Hide and Go Shriek is probably a slightly better than average slasher movie. Kind of damning with faint praise really but it does what one would want from a slasher movie and doesn't really excel or stand out in any particularly negative or positive way. The plot revolves around a group of eight teenagers, four couples, who decide to have a post-graduation party in the furniture store, which is owned by the father of one them, one night. Unfortunately for them there is a killer in the building along with a scary looking ex-con who is an employee of the store and living there temporarily who might have some connection with the killer. Naturally they get up to the usual slasher teen hijinks and are picked off one by one.

It would kind of redundant to go into a detailed plot description of Hide and Go Shriek as it follows the standard formula or the slasher pic with little straying from the formulas. It begins with a pre-credits sequence in which we see the killer, a dude in cruddy tenement slum putting on a suit and liberally applying makeup to his face, although we don't actually see a proper shot his face, before picking a prostitute and knifing mid-coitus. I initially thought that there would be some kind of twist revealing the identity of the gender confused killer given they make such a point of not giving us a good look at his face but nothing like that happens. After this we are introduced to our leads before they move quickly to the slaughter point, were they are to be locked in for the night and are slaughtered. There're a fairly unremarkable bunch, complete with eighties big hair and styles, all quite bland and whitebread- there are no token dorks or ethnic minorities and are conceivably a group of individuals who might actually hang out together. I will give the director credit for casting a slightly hotter than average group of actresses and for getting three out of the four naked during the movie, with the fourth coming close. I think he should have, purely for the completion's sake.... no other reasons, honest.

For the first two thirds of the movie the plot seems to revolve around reason for the group of characters to split up. Playing hide and seek (Twice- once would have seemed a strange thing for a group of supposedly seventeen year olds to be doing but twice, even stranger), splitting off to have sex and looking for the missing members of the group once the killer finally starts to pick off some of their number. It actually takes a while and the kills are fairly thin on the ground as the killer spends a lot of time hanging around and acting creepy and menacing in the shadows watching the teens. The setting is actually quite good but the building seems like an odd choice for a furniture store- multiple stories, a seemingly labyrinthine layout, a clunky service life. The cat and mouse stuff is kind of fun. The killer has a penchant for disguise, namely dressing in the clothing of his victims in order to lure the others to their deaths. He particularly favours the woman's clothing, making use of the wigs from the store manikins, and at one point puts on the lacy black lingerie one of the girls had brought to surprise her boyfriend. Needless to say he is surprised. Just another thing you will never see Jason or Michael ever doing. For the most part he keeps to the shadows and when we do get a good look at him in the climax he is again wearing a lot of makeup and in S&M getup. He is certainly one of the more memorable killers from a generic eighties slasher.

To the films credit once it hits the fan and the teens realise what is happening they act in a reasonable manner for this kind of movie. They actually stay as a group and don't split up, even the more panicky ones don't completely spaz out and run off on their own at any point, and try to get out of the building. Despite a few bad decisions they do behave in a fairly rational manner for characters in this kind of dreck. The conclusion is over a bit too quickly and there is a very predictable 'twist'.

On the whole Hide and Go Shriek is an amusing runaround if you're in the mood for a cheesy and derivative eighties slasher. It has all the components you could ask for- gore, cheesy synth music (Reminded me of the works of John Carpenter), bad acting, gratuitous nudity, eighties fashion victims and a memorable and hammy bad guy.
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Netherworld (1992)
Never say Nether
3 August 2007
I had sinking feeling when I put the tape of Netherworld on and the first thing I saw on the screen were the words Full Moon Entertainment. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Netherworld isn't that bad. It isn't that great either but it's more watchable than one would expect for a Full Moon production.

The plot revolves around a young man called Corey Thornton who inherits a property in the bayous of Louisiana after his long lost father dies. When he arrives there to check out his property he finds a set of instructions written down in a journal by his father explaining how he had been involved in black magic and detailing how Corey can bring him back to life. Strangely enough Corey isn't all that freaked out about this and without much prevarication sets about in bringing his old man about from the dead. Corey's lack of reluctance to use magic to bring his father back from the dead might have something to do with the fact it involves having sex with an attractive woman. Thornton senior, or old man Thornton as the staff of his mansion refer to him, gained his abilities with magic through having sex with local prostitute and shaman Delores. I was worried that this premise might an excuse for lots of softcore shenanigins but it restrains itself on the erotic thriller front.

Not a lot happens, and the running time of 84 minutes is breezed through. There is a subplot involving the housekeeper and her 'jailbait' daughter, who looks like she is in her mid twenties- by the standards set in this movie most guys are pederasts or potential pederasts. The daughter falls for the handsome young Corey but her mother understandably disapproves, given Corey seems to be sinking further and further into the black arts and tries to use her own magic against him. There is also some stuff with Delores having encounters with local low-lives. The introduction deals with her dispatching a would be rapist by summoning a flying stone hand that can pass though walls. The mysterious flying stone hand is definitely the coolest thing in the movie. There is a whole bunch of scenes involving Delores and her cronies and acting creepy and also some stuff with a big, weird and probably gay guy, who used to work for Thornton senior, intermittently helping Corey in his quest to find out more about his father and threatening him with violence and/or unwarranted sexual advances. The character completely disappears from the story about halfway having done very little. There is a rather brief mystical showdown ending which seems rather abrupt and unless Hughie Lewis is involved somehow the whole 'power of love' resolution doesn't fly with me.

Netherworld is a serviceable piece of entertainment. It is quite succinct and it doesn't quite go in the direction I was expecting but on the flipside not a lot does actually happen and when it does it is all over with a bit too quickly. There are few mildly cool things about it. As mentioned, the flying stone hand. The movie has a distinctive atmosphere with an oddly laidback vibe and good use made of the eerie bayou setting. A fair amount of the movie is set in the whore-house and attached bar, which is an interesting, if goofy, location. There are brawls breaking out there constantly, weird masked figures roaming the corridors, it is big and creepy with a system of tunnels underneath, a jazz band playing constantly, lots of weird mystical trappings and a crazy prostitute who claims to be Marilyn Munroe brought back from the dead. Though to be honest if I were inclined to go to brothels I would probably pick one less creepy and weird, even if the prostitutes are as unfeasibly attractive as the ones at this place. There are a few other touches I liked, such as the bird motif. It is indicated the victims of Delores and her flying stone hand have their souls trapped in the birds she keeps caged about the place and those somehow affect by her magic find feathers growing out of the side of their heads, just above the ears. There is also a creepy lawyer (The best kind), who doesn't do much in the movie other than provide some exposition, who wears for no obvious reason protective leather gloves all the time, who is kind of cool. The soundtrack is quite good and there is an amusing post credits joke that you would have to watch the movie to understand. On the downside protagonist Corey Thompson is played and scripted in the ways of the bland is better school of characterisation and is pretty useless. There is also a really bad voice-over near the start of the movie which tries to be deep and mysterious by constantly using two or three adjectives when only one would suffice e.g. 'It was unknowable, unimaginable, inconceivable. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your tastes, it disappears for most of the film.

On the whole, you could do better but you could do worse. I just wish they had made a sequel focusing the flying stone hand.
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A cheesy oddity.
30 July 2007
Night Train to Terror is a crazy mess of a movie. The framing story for this anthology involves God and Satan sitting on a train together discussing various cases, each of which form the different segments of the movie. As far as set ups for these kind of anthologies go it's not too bad a premise. Needless to say it is done in an at times jaw-droppingly cheesy manner. It wasn't long into it that I began to suspect the truth about the nature of this anthology. Namely, that the makers had grabbed a bunch of old movies and edited them down to 20-30 minutes and used them as segments of this anthology. The wraparound material is as cheesy as all hell and the three movies, each wacky, sleazy or goofy in their own right become concentrated slices of nonsensical shlock in their truncated forms. There seems to be no logic to their inclusion in the anthology in their current states. The three movies from which they are apparently culled- Scream Your Head Off, Death Wish Club and Shivers (Aka. Cataclysm, Satan's Supper or The Nightmare Never Ends) are connected by writer Philip Yordan, who scripted all three, although Director John Carr was responsible also for the first two segments. Presumably they needed to make a quick buck of their own material (The movie from which the first segment was taken apparently never got a proper release other than a bootleg copy years after) and quickly put together the wraparound material. As it is none of the movies seems particularly well suited to being truncated in the form they are, with far too much going on. As such, none of the segments makes too much sense even with the clumsy narration to smooth over the plot holes and each is dementedly paced and edited. They don't even fit very well with the wraparound material. The supposedly main characters whose deeds are meant to be judged by God and Satan have increasingly little to do in each segment, with more time spent on the other characters in each story. The makers did make sure it seems to include all the gore, violence, sleaze and wacky SFX shots that they could from each movie though in favour of having a movie with any coherence.

In the first segment, the case of Harry Billings, the pacing of the story makes it seem more like an extended trailer than an actual movie. The plot, which is far too much for a short anthology segments whizzes through at a demented, frenetic pace and most scenes don't last for more than about thirty seconds to a minute. There are numerous and repetitive sequences of Harry picking and drugging women, them being strapped down and chopped up at the clinic which last for about 40 seconds each. There are also a whole bunch of subplots that hurdled through at breakneck speed. As it is the movie these parts are taken from seems to be a dodgy exploitive piece mostly centering around the death and dismemberment of young woman.

The second segment, the case of Gretta Connors is probably even goofier involving a young man who falls in love with a porn star getting forced into joining 'death-wish club',a group of decadent types who like to put themselves in outlandish dangerous situations involving elaborate death traps and killer insects. Effectively elaborate games of Russian roulette, whch they get a kick out of. This segment is even more disjointed than the last with even more of the plot being explained by the narrator, who in fact talks over characters at various points in the story. It is probably the most interesting of the segments with the elaborate death traps and the wacky premise.

The third and final segment is the case of Claire Hansen. It was watching this segment it was confirmed for me that Night Train to Terror was using condensed versions of existing shlock films as I had actually seen the full version of the film in question before. The plot is too messy and sprawling, with too many threads to go into much detail. I seem to recall that was the case with the full-length version and it is even more choppy and all over the place in its truncated form. Even in its shortened form this last segment drags a bit, despite the wacky nature of the story but there are some good aspects such as the the demonic villain Olivier, the Claymation demons and the over the top finale which involves a bloody open heart surgery.

For some reason the discussions of God and Satan are inter-cut with music clips from a very eighties pop group who are performing in another part of the train. Apparently the train is going to crash at dawn and God and Satan are discussing who will get the souls of the performers when it happens- the segments they watch in-between are apparently just a way for them to kill time. The music clips are incredibly cheesy and involves all that you would expect from bad eighties pop- big hair, leg warmers, halter tops, synthesisers, shoulder pads, mullets, headbands, gratuitous break-dancing and deeply cheesy and nonsensical lyrics.

On the whole, a weird little curiosity.
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Fear No Evil (1981)
Lucifer had a hand in this.
24 July 2007
Fear no Evil is on the whole a drab little early eighties horror movie but it does have a number of bizarre and/or memorable scenes buried in it, particularly toward the end. For a low budget eighties horror movie it sure sets it sights high, revolving around the battle between Lucifer who has been reincarnated in human form on earth after his fall from grace and three arch angels- Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, who have also been born into human form. However, it is an obviously cheap little film and is unable to pull of the story with any of the grandeur or scale you might expect.

Very little happens for most of the movie. Lucifer hangs around acting evil (Well dorky and non-expressive) but does very little. Apparently we are partly meant to think is weird and creepy because he gets good grades and isn't a pothead loser like the rest of the 'kids' at his school. We spend a fair bit of time watching some of his various school mates arsing around- drinking, screwing, showering etc, although these characters don't end up playing a particularly big role in things to come. They aren't really set up as opponents or even tormentors of Lucifer (Other than one rather odd scene) and are rather quickly dispatched in the end movie carnage.

There is a tiny bit of Omen style shenanigans, including a death bu doge-ball scene, but other than in a couple of instances Lucifer/Andrew doesn't really use his powers until the climactic conflagration. It seems almost like they were trying for a tormented loner vibe to go along with the satanic theme, trying to combine Carrie and the Omen, but if so it was badly done. There is a bizarre homo-erotic shower scene which is really the only overt humiliation we Lucifer suffer at the hands of his school mates, other than a few other scenes in which they are shown to be cold and unfriendly toward him but not overly cruel or aggressive. They understandably seem more wary of his cold and creepy demeanor.

A large amount of running time is devoted to the reincarnations of Michael, the old woman and Gabriel, who has taken the form of a teenage girl, one of Lucifer's schoolmates. Having two of the nominally male angels take the from of women is an interesting plot development for the movie- this and some other bits in the movie make me wonder if the makers were trying to tap into to some themes of gender roles and sexuality but I have absolutely no idea exactly how or why. Things get a bit more interesting toward the end as Lucifer unleashes his powers upon the mortal realm. The dead rise from the grave, a passion of the Christ pageant goes bloodily wrong, people go crazy, one individual undergoes a truly bizarre transformation, animals are sacrificed and there is an over the top light show for the climax, complete with bad eighties visual effects, which makes very little sense.

It's a pity that most of the movie is so tedious as there are a lot of over the top bizarre scenes, such as the shower scene, the dodge-ball scene and most of the climax which are amusing to watch even just for the WTF factor. As the video box and most reviews of this movie boast it has an impressive soundtrack for such dreck featuring music from popular bands such The Sex Pistols, U2, The B52s, The Ramones, the Talking Heads and others. Also of note is the fact that although he only made two other movies writer/director Frank LaLoggia apparently had a small role as a thug in The Wizard of Speed and Time, perhaps the most evil movie ever made. Just what kind of satanic connections did this guy actually have?
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Starquest II (1996 Video)
It may break your mind but not in a good way.
22 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The description of Mind Breakers (The title of this movie in it's Australian release) on the back of the VHS container is quite misleading. It makes the movie sound like it will be a dodgy and innocuous Thing/Ten little Indians variation with the last survivors of the human race trapped on a spacecraft fleeing the earth getting picked of one by one by one of their own, who might not be human. It doesn't mention the meat of the plot which involves the humans being used in experiment in copulation by some mysterious (and horny) aliens. If it had I mightn't watched it not having acquired a taste for having my sci-fi b-movies spliced with soft core pornography. The presence of real actors such as Robert Englund and Adam Baldwin here is a little surprising- okay, they're not hugely respected actors or stars and generally appear in B-movies but I would have though they were both above soft core porn like this.

Basically 70% of the movie consists of soft core porn scenes or stock footage from other sci-fi and action movies clumsily reinserted into the movie with some pitiful attempts to fit in to the narrative. I didn't realise to now Roger Croamn was involved. The opening 5 minutes of the movie is a compilation of snippets from different movies clumsily spliced together with a bit of voice over narration- a mixture of space battles, some contemporary war stuff, strip club sequences and what looked like some kind of genetic experimentation and surgery footage. I'm not sure but I think this was meant to indicate the breakdown of civilisation on earth as we know it and/or be the nightmares of the main characters. It is really hard to tell. Later on there is a lengthy space battle that clearly came from a different movie awkwardly stuck into the movie in between sex scenes and more of the same footage from the introduction used when the aliens are giving a lecture of the downfall of humanity (Which is awfully preachy for a movie like this). Each of the characters is given an introduction which seems to consist of snippets from other movies the actor/actresses were in- one guy was clearly in a few Kick-boxing movies.

Basically a bunch of humans, consisting of scientists, soldiers and exotic dancers, wake up on this space ship with no idea of how they got there. They soon meet some aliens, who have taken the form of humans, lead by Robert Englund who is pretending to be a priest of some sort, who corral them into a breeding experiment, which is basically an excuse for a whole lot of sex. The ostensible reason of this initially is to rebuild the human race but with only 8 people that is going to be one limited gene pool. It is later revealed that the aliens have some plan which involves interbreeding with the humans, I forget why. There is a confused subplot about a faction of the alien dudes wanting to stop the experiment to maintain genetic purity. It makes less sense than you might think as the only alien seen to get down and dirty with the humans is the one who wants to kill them all because her faction is opposed to the interbreeding thing. There is one head scratching scene with her and Englund, the only two aliens onboard the ship at this point- the other having been randomly killed by an android (Don't ask), in which he explains how he thinks one of them must be from the rival faction but doesn't seem to come to the logical conclusion. Given he presumably knows he isn't the guilty party himself it leaves him with a suspect pool of one and he is warning her he knows. I'm generously presuming this is maybe meant to be a warning on the part of Englund to alien chick to quit it already rather than the writers for this thing being the dumbest people ever (It brings to mind Danny De Vito's attempt to write a two character murder mystery in Don't Throw Momma From the Train). Anyway, there is a whole bunch of screwing, most of the characters die and there are some really bad make effects for the alien transformations and killings- I was starting to fall asleep toward the end of the movie so my memories of the conclusion I kind of hazy.

There one or two weird bits of note relating to the alien tech on the ship. You only have to mention what food you want to eat and a plate of that food will instantly appear in your hand. There is a scene in which Robert Englund orders a plate of meatloaf and mashed potato 'the way his mother made it' and gets it right down to the amount of garlic his mother put in the spuds. Other than this one godlike piece of technology none of the rest of the equipment the aliens use is quite as impressive- they can instantly create matter based on the sensory memories in someone's head but only if it is in the form of food. Strangely enough nobody else is seen to take advantage of this wonderful device- I guess they were all to busy screwing. The other strange device are these lasers that pop out of the ceiling the second that anyone dies and burn the corpse to dust (Leaving the clothing). Why, I'm not sure. I'm also not sure why if they have sensors and weaponry that sophisticated they don't just use it as a security system.

Basically, unless you want to see some generic soft core porn involving Adam Baldwin intercut with shots of a leering Robert Englund or you're some kind of sick, sick masochist stay away.
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Man on Fire (2004)
Needs some fat burnt off.
7 July 2007
A decent but not a great film. At its core Man on Fire has a strong simple revenge/redemption storyline- pretty basic stuff we've all seen before but can work well if done right. In other words it's all about the way it's mixed together, not the actual ingredients. To a certain extent Man on Fire gets a lot of it right in terms of its recipe but in other ways it drops the ball. The movie is pleasingly gritty and doesn't pull its punches making for some strong visceral storytelling and giving the movie an edge of realism. The acting is good. I'm not generally a big fan of child actors but Dakota Fanning does a great job. Denzel Washington is good at these stoic tough man kind of roles (And not much else- he's kind of good at what he does but is basically one of those actors who is the same in everything he does). The early part of the movie with them bonding could have been truly painful given how clichéd and saccharine the material is but it is pulled of fairly well due largely to the performances by the two leads. The contrast of these scenes with the more violent thriller material later in the movie works surprisingly well, somehow managing not to come of as obvious and manipulative. However, Tony Scott's increasingly 'stylised' style of direction was very distracting and pulled me right out of the movie. Techniques such as coloured lens filters and rapid cut editing can be used to good effect if used correctly in a movie but here and in a lot of Scott's recent films such techniques are used constantly with neither rhyme nor reason. Also the movie needed to be edited on the whole a lot better. It moved far too slowly and could easily have lost at least twenty minutes- the last few scenes really dragged not because the later scenes were badly done but because by that point the movie had lost all impetus. There wasn't really enough story for 140 minutes. The whole thing seemed over-baked with the excessive running time and over-direction. I'm sure there's a better, leaner film somewhere inside Man on Fire.
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It was fantastic for me.
7 July 2007
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is surprisingly good. It is not great but I would have to say it is probably the most entertaining of the big summer blockbusters of 2007 that I have seen so far. It a time filled with overlong, overwrought and overstuffed action movies is a breath of fresh air. It is fun, quick paced and has a breezy 90 minute running time. It is true to the spirit of the original Fantastic Four comics, from what I have read of them- it doesn't take itself at all seriously, it is fast paced and is a platform for whatever crazy and wacky ideas the writers could come up with for the superheroes and the uses of their powers. The movie is very jokey but a lot of it actually funny, even the slapstick kind of stuff involving the Four swapping powers. I even got a chuckle out of some of Johnny Storm's smarmy one liners and the interactions between him and Ben Grimm are generally pretty entertaining. Everyone fits there roles quite well and seem to be having a good time. The acting isn't great but everyone brings what is required to their roles. Even Jessica Alba doesn't suck to badly- they easily could have gone down the whole angry wife/fiancé route with Sue Storm and Reed Richards but they don't go overboard on the melodrama. The characterisation is fairly lightly etched but at the right level for this kind of movie. Each of the characters has a personality but the makers don't try to turn it into a character piece and get bogged down with it. The Silver Surfer comes across a but of a selfish dick though- he was perfectly willing to help Galactus destroy those other planets draws the line when a woman on one particular planet reminds him of his own girlfriend? The action stuff if pretty good as well.

The sequence with the Human torch chasing the Silver Surfer, as seen in the preview, is great and the battle sequence at the end involving two souped up multi-powered individuals is great fun. Even Galactus looks pretty cool, although is there was one element that could have had a bit more screen time it was the presence of Galactus, who's arrival and dispatch is a bit too quick. There is a lot material in this movie and at times in does seem a little rushed, hurrying from one plot point to the next but on the whole the movies swift pace is an asset. A slower pace is the kiss of death for silly, fantastical movies like this. There are some plot concerns, such as the fact that Galactus is willing to give a minion of who's loyalty he cannot be assured the capacity to destroy him but I was well inclined enough toward the movie to let it slide. It isn't a deep or a powerful movie but it is what is set outs to be, and what I wish more summer blockbusters would aim for, a fun movie with no delusions of grandeur.
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Transformers (2007)
Not too happy with what meets my eye.
7 July 2007
The Transformers movie is not in my mind a success. There is a potentially cool, fun movie in here but director Michael 'Monkey with a camera' Bay and the writers seriously dropped the ball. The movie starts out okay with the scenes of the soldiers encountering the Transformers is the desert and the introductions to the teen characters aren't too annoying. After this promising introduction things go nowhere fast. There is far too little Transformer action on screen for the first two thirds of the movie- what we do get is cool but there is too much lame filler material with the teenage humans that just goes on and on. Most of it is lame lowest common denominator attempts at comedy such as the whole masturbation scene with Sam Witwicky's parents, the cowardly hacker and the government spook played by poor John Turturro. The whole slapstick sequence with the Transformers hiding from Sam's parents is just painfully unfunny. Sadly, it is one of the few sequences where we get to see the Transformers in action without it being spoiled with shaky-cam. When all the Transformers have actually arrived on earth, well over half way into the movie and we finally get to see what we paid to –big robots beating the tar out of each other it is ruined by the editing and camera work. Yes that bane of modern action movies the shaky cam and the overly frenetic editing of Michael Bay make it really hard to see what the hell is going on up on the screen. These scenes look like they're amazing and should be tremendous fun. The CGI is excellent, the Transformers look solid and interact with the real world very well- almost real and the fight scenes show a lot of imagination and creativity – the stuff on the freeway, Transformers going through buildings. However, it is barely possible to work out what is going on screen or even what Transformers you are even looking at as they pummel each other. I wasn't expecting much from this movie- all I wanted was cool scenes of giant robots transforming and beating the crap out each other, I wasn't worried too much about plot or anything like that (How much plot can you expect from a movie based on a kid's cartoon from the eighties designed to sell toys) but they managed to screw it up. If they had lopped of about 30-40 minutes of the running time, mostly the lame comedic padding from the first half and actually shot the battle scenes in a halfway competent fashion this could have been a pretty cool movie. (Chauvinist moment- Despite the great CGI I would have to say the best visual effects shots are those lingering pans of Megan Fox when she is trying to fix Bumblebee).
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Stop the plane, I want to get off.
2 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I should probably stop choosing movies to watch based on the criteria of Rutger Hauer being in them. As cool as the dude is he has been in little but straight to video turds for the last decade or so. Case in point Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal. Not a movie I'd choose to watch normally being a straight to video sequel to two movies I have not seen and have no interest in seeing but Rutger is in and I seemed to recall seeing a trailer for it that made it at least look amusingly cheesy. The movie is actually rather tame and befuddling illogical and to make matters worse there is very little Rutger (Actually in one sense there is rather a lot of Rutger but I think he's cool enough to not deserve too many cheap shots about his weight).

The 'plot' revolves around a hijacking of plane that is being used as the venue of a farewell concert for Goth rocker Slade Craven which is being broadcast live across the net. Examined in any more detail than that the plot starts to unravel. The movie makes so little sense in such a way as to suggest that the finished product was made from an unfinished draft of the script or more likely that they changed scripts halfway through and didn't do any refilming. Most notably nonsensical is the sudden inexplicable explosion of the air traffic control tower and revelation that the Craven who is seen hijacking the plane is an imposter, replaced half way through the concert, when Craven was shown smuggling the guns onboard earlier in the movie (In a way which requires incredible slackness on the part of airline security). That's not mention the out of the blue sex scene lead in at the end of the movie, the awful music video, the contrived hacker subplot and the seriously wacky aim of the satanic terrorists to crash the plane into a church in the middle of nowhere because of its mystical significance.

Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal is a low budget production and it shows. There are only a few locations- a couple on the plane, Watt's apartment, the studio and a couple of others which are all rather sparse looking. None the action in the movie is very elaborate. The big explosion looks fake and the camera shaking when the plane experiences turbulence is as sophisticated as the camera-work gets. I have a feeling this was just some generic hijack script that they shoved the Turbulence moniker on to get what little name recognition they could as is often the case with these lame straight to video sequels. The characters are all bland or cliché such as the narcissistic entertainment report. Nobody in the production really puts in much effort, even seasoned pros like Rutger and Mategna are kind of dull here, given the boring material they have work with. Anwar and Shaffer give one note 'don't want to be here' performances. Anwar in particular seems like she was on Prozac. Sadly Rutger is hardly in the movie, his being a supporting role, but given the movie that may be a mercy. There was also a lot really bad dialogue a lot of which made no sense and supported my mangled script theory with characters some times seemingly referring to things which we hadn't seen or more often dialogue exchanges that just didn't add up. For example one of the metal fans on the plane gives a "You!" type reaction when the faux-Craven is revealed but we have no idea where he meant to have recognised him from. A "Not you!" reaction would seem more appropriate in the situation. I kind of wish I could actually remember some more of them but I can't be bothered rewatching the bloody thing again. Although, Slade Craven's repeated catch-phrase of "Let's do the hustle" really seems inappropriate for a badboy Marilyn Manson type.

Ultimately, despite the presence of Rutger, I can't truly recommend Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal even for the WTF? factor.
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Thor is a bore.
25 June 2007
Thor the Conqueror is a bottom of the barrel example of the low budget greased up barbarian sword and sorcery movie boom that took place in Italy in the early eighties. It was a regular cottage industry with reams of these god-awful little movies churned out by the Italian movie makers. This one actually has practically nothing to do with Thor or any Norse mythology. It is basically about some big greased up muscleman type who happens to be called Thor having adventures in a generic caveman world. There isn't a lot of plot to go around- basically Thor, who is some kind of chosen one, wanders around some forests randomly fighting other cavemen and quasi-cavemen guided by his misogynistic magical mentor before he teams up with some more civilised and friendly farming cavemen types and battles the head bad guy, is blinded, gets better and leads the nice cavemen to victory. That description might sound vague but the movie is pretty much that incoherent and meandering. There is much of interest to report there other than the at times draw dropping misogynism present be it Thor pretty much forcing himself onto most of the various he meets including his future love interest and rants from Etna the magician about women are there to be used by mean and are fundamentally stupid. It might very well be an accurate depiction of gender politics among cavemen but it doesn't make our protagonists very likable. Other than it has lots of cheap costumes, badly staged fight scenes by actors who look like they were rounded up as part of a work for the dole project and some very stagy and badly written narration by Etna the magician presumably shoehorned in to make the large sections of dialogue-sparse meandering go down easier.
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New Year's Drivel
4 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
New Year's Evil is a dull and thoroughly unentertaining slasher. The premise doesn't sound too bad, even if a little contrived but it is on the whole a joyless and drab affair- it goes through the required mechanics of the plot with no sign of life or spark from any of the cast or in the writing or direction. There are about two quasi-effective scenes and one actor who shows a spark of life and that's it. Everything else is dull and or annoying.

The closest thing there is to a main character is Blaze (Roz Kelly) the host of Hollywood Countdown, who is the recipient of the phoned in threats from Evil, as the killer dubs himself. She isn't on screen all that much and comes across as far too boring and uncharismatic to be the host of a supposedly hip and popular music show (Though I actually think the same of many real life TV 'Personalities' so what do I know?) She is equally boring off-screen and Roz Kelly has all the acting chops of a potato. Also, without wanting to sound shallow or cruel, she seems far too old and unattractive to be hosting this kind of show- I guess maybe she is meant to be a long established TV personality but this doesn't wash either. Given the way she dresses and acts she seem more like she would be more at home hosting games of bingo than a music show that seems to aimed at the punk rocker set. The movie early on establishes the studio audience at this show being hard core punk types, all sneering, leather clad and knife wielding but the music they are so into, it sure ain't punk. More like bad eighties soft rock- the movie would have worked better following the premise of some angry and violent punk gangs hunting down and killing the purveyors of musical dreck after a misadvertised concert. The bad news is the movie is heavily padded out with scenes of the band playing and the audience dancing around like idiots in some sort of mosh pit. That they are so deliriously enthused about music this generic makes it seem all the more ludicrous.

The other slightly less painful half of the movie, follows the exploits of the killer as he selects and kills his victims. The killer, as played by Kip Niven, who is eventually revealed to be the husband of Blaze, actually gives a good performance. He is low key and creepy and his homicidally misogynistic tendencies are all the more believable for it. As is often the case with these movies he only gets hammy toward the end when he has to start ranting for his final victim to show how insane he is. Even so, watching him pick up his victims and kill them is rather dull. There is no discernible logic to the killings when he rantingly explains his reasons for the killings toward the end- something generic about being emasculated by the wife. He doesn't even follow the new year's eve time zone pattern he set for himself. He kills some woman working at the studio before it would midnight in any time zone and fails to kill anyone at another time. He is a pretty inconsistent killer, he goes to the bother of setting himself a gimmicky and elaborate modus operandi and doesn't stick to it and alternates between victims he has some connection to and random strangers. There is also a long and pointless sequence that is pure running time padding when he accidentally runs down a biker whilst in his car and spend ten minutes eluding them whilst trying to find another victim. If the makers were going for the ineffectual killer angle, as opposed to the more familiar unstoppable killing machine model, good for them but they could picked a less silly way to go about it.

There isn't a lot going for New Year's Evil. When Evil catches Blaze the method of dispatching her is at least original. He ties by the neck with wire to the bottom of the lift in the studio so that as the lift goes up and down the shaft she is jerked up and down but sadly she is rescued promptly and lives. Evil doesn't even warrant a decent death scene, merely throwing himself of the studio building when he is confronted by the police. None of the kills are memorable or inventive so gorehounds will be disappointed and there is only one even half way suspenseful sequence as Evil chases down one of his victims about two thirds in and that is being generous. There aren't even any memorable cheesy moments or dialogue, unless you count the lines utter by Evil over the phone via his electronic voice disguising gadget which makes him sound like the offspring of a union between Kermit the frog and Dr. Claw.

Everything about the movie is cheap, scuzzy and ugly. The music as mentioned is annoying, everything has that grimy early '80s look, which can sometimes be used to good effect but just makes this movie look ugly, all the fashion and clothes are ugly and dated (And not in a fun way) and even all the actors are homely. Maybe this was all done intentionally to give the movie a grittier, more realistic vibe but that seems pointless given how dumb and unrealistic most of the proceeding on screen actually are and if you're going to cast annoying ditzy females to be the slasher fodder in this kind of movies you might as well make them attractive.

Being made by Cannon films, under the eye of the infamous Golan and Globus, who brought us such gems as the Masters of the Universe movie, the Death Wish sequels and numerous Chuck Norris movies I would have hoped for something entertainingly cheesy but New Year's Evil is just bad.
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Night Visions (1990 TV Movie)
Night Visions not worth seeing.
27 May 2007
Night Visions is an obscure made for TV movie directed by Horror-maven Wes Craven. Deservedly forgotten it seems like it was a pilot for a prospective TV series, which understandably never happened. Dull, in that way that only US made for TV material can be Night Visions is indeed a forgettable bore.

It revolves around two individuals investigating a series of killings- clichéd, tough as nails, on the edge cop detective Mackey (James Remar) and flakey, ambiguously psychically inclined psychology grad student Sally Powers (Lori Locklin). The Remar character is kind of fun mainly because he so ultra clichéd- he has in turned to alcohol after his wife left him, he does things his own way, bickers with his superiors constantly and is generally an obstinate dick. A good example of this is toward the end of the movie when he physically assaults the captain (Mitch Pileggi), grabbing him by the balls no less, after the captain won't give him back up rather than simply trying to explain the fairly valid reasons he has for needing it. There are even numerous references to how 'on the edge' he is in his first scene with captain Keller. In fact, this scene with its incredibly hackneyed loose cannon versus the by the book chief with its ridiculous over the top dialogue it easily the most entertaining the movie. The movie spends more time with the ditzy psychic who is far less entertaining. The main problem with her is that her abilities are never properly explained or clarified. Is she channeling spirits (If so who's?) or are they just different aspects of her own psyche when she goes into her trance states and seems to take on new personas? It isn't made clear and it doesn't seem to be a deliberately ambiguous plot point either. Her abilities seem simply there to push the script forward in whatever way is required to move things along rather than following any discernible internal logic. Either to lead them to the next clue or victim (Almost always a tad too late), to put Sally Powers (Yes, it is a silly name- they should just have changed it slightly and called her Silly Powers, which would have quite appropriate) in jeopardy in way she would not otherwise have been, to generate conflict between her and other characters, who understandably think she is crazy, or to have her dress in skimpy leather outfits. The fact that she spends a large chunk of the movie in the company of the killer and doesn't realise it, despite her abilities says it all.

Being a TV movie everything is watered down and incredibly predictable. The 'twist; identity of the killer is obvious the second he turns up on screen and I suspect most viewers will have worked out his modus operandi a long time before anybody on the screen does. You just know the second that anyone starts marking the locations of killings on a map in a movie like this linking them together will form a pentagram and the ultimate explanation of how it ties in with the 'body parts' aspect of the killings, is lame and contrived, especially when they name drop Leonardo Da Vinci. The repartee between the mismatched partners is rather flat, despite the best efforts of the actors and whole growing mutual respect is just another cliché Night Visions dutifully trawls through. James Remar has fun with his clichéd character, delivering his hokey dialogue with glee and Lori Locklin tries to what she can with her poor developed and sometimes annoying character but ultimately the only things she does well is wear a skimpy leather outfit. Mitch Pileggi more or less plays the same role he did on the X-Files, but as if I recall correctly Fox Mulder never crushed Skinner's testicles when he wouldn't support one of his wacko theories. Fans of 24 might also spot David Palmer's conniving wife in a minor supporting role. Wes Craven brings nothing extra to the proceedings- everything is rather bland and by the numbers. If you're looking for an undiscovered Craven masterpiece, or even a goofy but fun Wes Craven horror flick this is not it.
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Cyclone (1987)
Leave Cyclone well alone.
20 May 2007
Cyclone is a piece of dreck with little redeeming value, even on the so bad its entertaining front. A friend of mine took the tape from an overflowing St. Vincent DePaul clothes bin. Okay, that may be a little bit dodgy but it was meant to be a clothes bin, not a crappy old VHS bin, something the less fortunate members of our society don't really need to make their lives better. It could be considered a mercy. Watching a movie like Cyclone would really only add to their problems. Anyway the basic premise of a woman with a super-powerful motorcycle that it armed to the teeth with rockets and lasers isn't even properly exploited. The two 'high speed' chase sequences involve vehicles travelling at less than hair raising speeds of around 40 KMPH and a super-fast motorcycle that is in danger of being overtaken by a crappy old station wagon is not that awe inspiring when you get down to it. There is only one scene where the bikes goofy weaponry is used, at the film's climax, and it is laughably ineffectual, or just laughable, when it is. This includes laser beams that look like they should be coming out of the hands of an evil wizard in a cheesy eighties sword and sorcery that produced large bursts of flame which seem to have no noticeable effect on their targets even when they hit directly. The rest of the movie is just tedious hard to watch filler. Lots of bad actors, yes even Combs and Landau suck in this, most of whom seem like they have been lifted from the set of a porno movie stand around exchanging really bad dialogue in a desperate attempt to pus forward the barely coherent plot. There are a few badly staged fight sequences and some excruciatingly unfunny comic relief scenes with some cops and the owner of the motor cycle repair shop. Comedy of the sub Benny Hill horny old man can't stop staring at the female leads chest variety. Basically the 'money' scenes involving the bike actually doing stuff are few and lame and the rest is clunky filler material. Skip it.
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1 Weak Sequel Later
11 May 2007
28 Weeks Later sits comfortably in the unnecessary sequel camp. The first movie was good, a self contained story that had run its course and did not require a follow up. Things had come to their natural conclusion in terms of the rage virus dying out etc. and there was no need for a follow up. That said I could see some potential for a sequel just in terms of it being interesting in seeing what would happen next. How would the country be rebuilt? What steps would be taken toward containment? In what ways could the virus and the infected have survived and how would it be dealt with in this different scenario? 28 Weeks later deals with these questions and it doesn't deal with all of them too badly. The way in which the rage virus survives was quite neatly done. However, it is in a lot of respects a really, really dumb movie.

The biggest problem with 28 Weeks is the dumb way in which the military deal with the situation. There are staggering holes in their security system, which are just unbelievable. One dude, who is effectively a caretaker as it is pointed out by another character in the movie, has key card access to the highest quarantine section of the base? This same quarantine area, which contains the one individual who is infected with the virus, is not even guarded or under surveillance. This seems especially stupid after the movie has made a point of how tight and invasive the military presence is at this point. They're willing send a few squads of soldiers and helicopters after two kids who wander out of the contained zone but not bother with any real security precautions to guard the one potential remaining source of the virus? The plan after the virus has broken out is even stupider. If they wanted the virus to spread as quickly as possible amongst as large a group as possible they could not have done a better job than they did by shoving everyone on the island into one big confined space and then not securing the entries and exits so that one of the infected can get in. Despite the fact the base was put on an island, presumably for containment capacity, the island is not actually contained all that well, with numerous ways onto the mainland, which, strangely enough, are not properly secured or guarded even when the outbreak starts. Wouldn't it have been the obvious thing to do, to have sealed off the exits off the isle when were first setting up the safe zone or in the case of an outbreak, even if the personnel couldn't be spared, which is in itself unbelievable, to rig them with high explosives which could set off at the first sign of trouble? Did anybody making this movie think for a few seconds about creating a believable scenario or applying any common sense? Maybe the makers were too caught up with introducing a simplistic military force is bad theme. I hadn't even consider any Iraq analogies until I saw them mentioned online, and quite frankly if such analogies were intended, and I'm not sure they were, they would make the movie even dumber given the disparities between the situations. Obviously the film would have been quite boring if the threat could have been contained so easily but the makers could easily have come with some more plausible, less contrived ways to have brought about a continuation of the story? It would just have required a little more thought and effort on their part and the movie could still have contained all the scenes of carnage and anarchy that one could wish for.

All is not terrible, though. The scenes of the outbreak and the military's brutal containment are nightmarish and effective as are quite a few of the chase scenes. The one at the start, with Robbie Carlyle being chased across the open field was quite well done. The movie does wallow in the gore and nastiness a bit too much. There were a few scenes where the violence was lingered on a little too long- a cheap and easy way to make the movie seem more 'intense' or 'hardcore' I guess. Though one the whole, the brutal, kinetic style of film making worked although and I could have done with a few less shaky-cam moments.

Character and acting wise things were okay but not great. None of the characters really stood out, except for the Carlyle character, who had an interesting back-story and personal conflicts, although they could have used the character more than they did. The acting was competent all across the board, even the children weren't particularly annoying- a frequent problem for these movies is irritating and shrill child actors. Though they should have been bitch-slapped for breaking quarantine like they did.

There were other bits and pieces that I liked. The storyline about the children's immunity to the virus and the possibility of the creation of the vaccine was an interesting introduction to the storyline and it lead to a somewhat amusingly ironic ending. The scene with the helicopter slicing up the infected was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it, even if it did seem out of tone with the rest of the movie and was incredibly dumb. Though scenes like this and the one with the airtight gas secure minivan don't make the movie seem particularly intelligent. Not much of it does.
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Eragon (2006)
This review does contain spoilers but if you've seen Star Wars don't worry.
6 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The movie opens with a princess fleeing from a group bad guys lead by an imposing black clad sorcerer. She is caught but not before sending away an object of yet to be revealed significance. Said object is found by a young farm boy who is yearning to get away from his humdrum life but has obligations which keep him there. There is a scene of him staring wistfully into the sunset outside his home. He meets an old man who saves his life and who knows about what is happening and sees the boys destiny. It transpires that this old man is almost the last of a group of mystical knights who once ruled the world fairly and justly but were betrayed by one of their own and hunted down and killed, bringing in the current tyranny. He sees the boy has the power to be another of these knights but the boy is reluctant to join him, only doing so after the troops of the evil overlord have killed his adoptive family whilst searching for what he found earlier. The two travel to meet with some rebels, with whom the princess was allied and along the way the old man becomes a mentor to the boy, teaching him how use his powers. After a brief stop at a seedy town the mission is diverted to rescue the princess from the evil overlord and his henchmen. They sneak in to the overlord's domain and against all odds rescue the princess but the mentor figure is killed in the process by the evil sorcerer. After some blubbering the boy and the princess finally meet up with the rebels, unknowingly leading the forces of evil to the previously secret base. There is a big battle and the rebels win against the odds with the boy coming into his own, defeating the evil sorcerer in combat. The forces of good have triumphed for the time being.

Now, I am talking about Star Wars or Eragon?

The movie stars a bland young actor called Ed Speleers who is too much of a blank slate to carry a movie and lacks any supporting characters with any personality or charisma. Not even from reliable and colourful actors such as John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons and Robbie Carlyle, among others. There are no particularly good or exciting action scenes and despite the decent CGI and the purportedly epic scope the movie feels pokey and small. The script is clunky and full of bad, and more importantly boring, dialogue which even the better actors can't do anything with. There are lame plot contrivances and schmaltzy, saccharine scenes involving the young hero and his dragon. There are laughable character and place names that sound like somebody picked out letters at random, such as Alagaesia and Galbatorix.

Yes, I am talking about Eragon.

Okay, one of two of things could arguably be said about Star Wars but fortunately not the starring Ed Speleers thing. Basically Eragon is a poorly made fantasy film that apes Star Wars to a staggering degree, which was not a hugely original movie, way of the Lord of the Rings movies, but has almost none of the entertainment value. Unless you're watching it to rag on it, give Eragon a miss.
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Solarbabies (1986)
Avoid it like Solar-rabies.
30 April 2007
Solarbabies is a hilariously inept clunker from the eighties. Everything about the movie is either so dumb, puerile or ridiculous it is staggering at times. It basically involves a bunch of generic eighties teens roller-skating around a Mad Max style dystopian future chasing after a sentient glowing magical orb that can save the world. Words cannot express how ridiculous the sight of these dudes skating around the place in formation is. Or how ridiculous and hokey the scenes of them prancing around with the glowing ball of light are- the kind of scenes that would be too cringeworthy and schmaltzy even for a Disney movie. Or how painfully cheesy the synth heavy score is – it sounds like it belongs in a Care Bears movie and that it has been produced on a $10 Cassio. Or how nonsensical and threadbare the plot is- god knows what was meant to have happened at the very end of the movie or what the deal with Bodhai, the sentient glowing ball, was. It is kind of like they tried to combine E.T. with Mad Max but with more Roller-skates. That's not even mentioning the fact that two of our main characters, including the lead, are virtually indistinguishable. I wasn't sure how many members there were in the main group of teens for most of the movie- if it was one, two or three dudes I was getting mixed up. Nor is mentioning the goofy and superfluous quasi-American Indian character, the blatantly flaming leather clad prisoner warden, the embarrassed looking Charles Durning, the undeveloped subplot of the eco-warriors, the foggy motivations of the evil cooperation ruling the world, or the unfunny and inexplicable supporting roles of Alexi Sayle and Bruce Payne or… I could go on. Solarbabies is one long series of ultra cheesy cringeworthy eighties dreck. Recommended only for those with a high tolerance for that sort of thing.
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29 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Vindicator opens with the memorable scene of a monkey in a cage attacking a ripping apart a small toy robot as part of a scientific experiment. This random act violence sold it for me and I'm happy to say the rest of Vindicator provided a veritable feast of cheese.

The Vindicator is about a scientist (David McIlwraith) who is nearly killed an explosion in his lab whose tattered remains are put inside an experimental body suit/armour. For some unfathomable reason he is fitted with a Rage Response Activator, a device wired into his brain that will turn him homicidal if he comes into physical contact with any other person. They give some daft explanation about how it is a necessary defensive mechanism but I cannot see the logic in installing such a device unless you wanted a rampaging cyborg killing machine. It is especially ridiculous when it is indicated the suit Carl is wearing is actually an experimental space suit. What possible need would there be for an astronaut to turn into the incredible hulk whilst on a mission? He predictably breaks out of the lab and proceeds to battle the dodgy scientists who put him in the suit, along with the ninja assassin Hunter played by Pam Grier (No, really).

The Vindicator itself looks pretty damn goofy. It is basically a dude in a mangled golden foil suit. He also has a perpetually bewildered look in his eyes, that doesn't inspire fear or even compassion. I guess you can't blame him for that, most people watching the movie will have that same look on their faces.

The acting is of the really bad, stilted, 'I'm not sure what the character's emotions or thoughts are that this point so I'll take a punt and spurt out my dialogue in a random tone of voice whilst trying not look at the camera' school of acting. The actor playing the funky black scientist even struggles with this last part.

It is after this initial accidental death that the Vindicator goes after the scientists. Strangely enough the whole Rage Response Activator 'touch me and I'll kill you' thing doesn't play as big a role as you might expect with Carl going after his former colleges in a reasonably detached manner. There was one scene where he rather brutally kills some street punks who push him around. I know that it is de rigueur for street gangs to randomly assault the lead characters in eighties movies but surely one of them must have realised it might be a bad idea to attack the hulking cyborg guy even if he does look like C3PO's retarded cousin. As it is they don't even seem that surprised to see a mangled golden cyborg walking down the street as though it was an every day occurrence for them. The only other time this rage response activator comes up in the movie is when old Carl can't give his wife a hug. When Hunter tries to turn this against him by throwing her into him so he'll be forced to kill her he casually remarks he has reprogrammed himself (Off-screen naturally) so this doesn't happen. They could have left out the whole Rage Response Activator thing and just gone with a straight revenge story and it wouldn't have made a huge difference to the movie.

There is an amusing sequence in the sewers as Grier and her cronies track down the Vindicator. Due to his armoured hide they are all armed with weapons which fire 'vapourised acid.' For some bizarre reason when these weapons fire it is represented on screen by cartoonish red lines that streak toward their targets ala Ghostbusters. The Vindicator fights back by ripping a gas pipe out of the wall and incinerating all of Grier's goons in an enormous streak of flame that comes out. The resulting fireball is so huge and powerful that it comes out of the sewers out of a man hole and blows up the van a couple of the scientists are. Strangely enough Grier escapes by throwing herself down into the inch deep water despite the fact she was closest to the Vindicator. This is one of several fake fiery explosions throughout the movie, including the death of funky black scientist when the vindicator sends his van of a cliff. (This is after they capture The Vindicator by trapping him in a giant lump of gello- no, seriously).

There is also one unsettling and long and out of place sequence in which Carl's treacherous overweight friend, who looks like a poor man's Ned Beatty, reveals his infatuation with Carl's wife and tries to rape her. It goes on for about 5-10 minutes and is full of disturbing shots of the guy slobbering over the wife's face, gyrating on top of her and trying to pull her dress off. It is icky to say the least and seems really out of whack with most of the rest of the movie which is kind of cartoonish and larger than life in its violence.

The movies finale involves the Vindicator battling a whole bunch of other dudes in battle suits. For whatever reason all these other dudes are less kick-arse than Carl, some of them being dispatched by the wife simply by having a protruding tube in their side ripped out. Luckily for Carl the suit he is wearing lacks this crucial design flaw. The only really memorable part toward the end is the death of Grier. Doing something I've never seen a baddie do in a movie before, in the middle of her confrontation with the Vindicator she decides she really doesn't stand a chance against him and in a rather of matter of fact manner blows her own brains out with his pistol.
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Mortuary (I) (1983)
Unexceptional slasher.
22 April 2007
For the first two thirds Mortuary is a rather dull run of the mill slasher. Once the characters and the setting are established very little happens. There are very few kills, the bread and butter of low-brow slasher movies, and little is done in terms of generating suspense or atmosphere. Most of what happens seems like random filler material and obvious red herrings. The stuff with the wacky cult headed by Christopher George goes absolutely nowhere and the whole sleepwalking angle seems random and pointless. It is pretty obvious who the killer is going to be. It seems so obvious that it should be a misdirection, like the stuff with the séances, but there are really other suspects. The scene with the disco music and the lights going on and off was probably intended as being creepy but will probably only induce laughter, especially when that first burst of disco music comes out of nowhere. The characters are the usual paper thin ciphers played by forgettable actors with a couple of exceptions. Linda George is woefully bad in her role as the main girl's mother, although if you want to the crème de la crème of bad acting see her performances in Pieces, another trashy slasher from around the same era. She does deliver some of the movies worst and clunkiest dialogue. The line about mixing dreams with reality is pretty terrible in terms of scripting and delivery. The other memorable screen presence is Bill Paxton as the unhinged son of the mortuary manager. His performance is hammy and fun to watch, particularly given the zombies he is surrounded by. Things do pick up in the last third or so of the movie when the killer is revealed and things actually start happening. The killer, his motivation, actions and methodology seem genuinely twisted and kooky and the climactic scenes are actually kind of cool. The use of embalming equipment as the killer's tools works quite well. I can't really recommend Mortuary but if you do watch it you might as well stay till the end.
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I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990 TV Movie)
I'm an average piece of entertainment tonight
22 April 2007
I'm Dangerous Tonight is a functional piece of entertainment. Being a made for TV movie it is kind of bland and toothless. The blurb on the back on the case made me think it would primarily involve the Madchen Amick possessed by the evil dress for the course of the movie, sort of slowly turning her evil, kind of like Christine but with a dress instead of car. It doesn't quite work like that with the dress being worn or possessed by various different people throughout the film and turning evil to varying extents. The central premise of a dress, or a cloth that eventually gets turned into a dress, that turns those who wear it evil is one of those silly concepts that could provide cheesy entertainment and would require some really good scripting to work as a genuinely good film. I'm Dangerous Tonight does kind of try but ultimately does not succeed. There is some claptrap that is never really explored about inanimate objects being mystical focuses of belief and power, which is thrown in as an explanation for the Aztec cloak/dresses' power, which is quite forgettable. It does seem an enormous coincidence that the girl who comes into possession of the dress (No pun intended) just happens to be studying this very esoteric and specialised topic as part of her college course. There is also some stuff about the dress affecting different people in different ways, depending of their existing strength of character and their psychology etc. It isn't delved into very much, other than as an explanation as to why some people seem to turn more evil than others, but it is a fairly interesting plot idea. As it is the concept of a random object or artifact which turns people around it evil or makes weird stuff happen has been done a few times by now- I'm looking in your direction Amityville sequels.

What we do get on screen is okay but nothing to write home about. Tobe 'One Trick Pony' Hooper rattles through the proceedings with a predictable lack of flair. Madchen Amick is easy to watch, especially in the red dress, and Anthony Perkins provides the best entertainment in the movie with his giggle inducing scenery chewing. His histrionics and overacting are b-movie gold. By this point in this sad and sagging career it looks like he was just having fun. R. Lee Ermey has a small but amusing role as a gruff detective. There are quite a few plot contrivances and some scenes toward the end which are very choppily handled. There is one part where our heroine wakes up after being rendered unconscious to find the situation has changed in a way that doesn't make in sense in terms of plot logic or pacing. There is also a lame twist ending that everyone will see coming from miles away.

Bland, as one would expect for a made for TV movie but there is enough to at least hold your interest.
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Kaw (2007)
Nobody is going to be raven' about this movie.
21 April 2007
A silly and plodding effort, Kaw (Lame, lame title) is watchable but missable. The attack by animals thing has been many times before and Kaw brings nothing new to the table.

There is a lot of stupidity in Kaw. The explanation for the ravens going crazy is ludicrous- mad cow disease!? How the hell these ravens in Middle America got affected by mad cow disease is never really addressed and nor is the fact that this degenerative brain disease seems to make them way more intelligent and develop a sophisticated societal mentality. There is no scene sillier in the movie than the part in which the ravens attack the besieged school bus by picking up rocks and throwing them at the windows. Surely somebody at some point in the process of making this movie must have been aware how goofy this looked. The subplot about the Amish (Or Mennonites or whatever they were) is lame and brings nothing to the plot. It is hard to make the freakin' Amish look menacing, especially not half-arsed car driving, button wearing Amish like these and Kaw does not meet the challenge. Plus the men are wearing the fakest looking false beards you'll ever see.

The characters are standard horror movie archetypes. How many movies must we see set in a small town where a couple are divided over whether or not to stay, one of them wanting to pursue a career in the outside world and the other preferring quaint, small town life, reluctantly dragged along? The only good character in the movie is Clyde, the gun toting, recovering alcoholic bus driver played by the reliable and ever creepy Stephen McHattie ("Don't get ravens like that in Philly. But I guess you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, Joey?") Everyone else is bland or annoying. Actually, there is only one really annoying character- the smarmy teen bitch, who sadly survives when most of those around her from the ill fated bus trip die. I'm sad to say Sean Patrick Flannery never grew up to be like Harrison Ford in terms of charisma or screen presence.

On the positive side the special effects are actually quite good, seeming to be a mixture of real birds, perhaps some practical visual effects and some good CGI. The fact you can't always tell how the shot was done is a sign it was well done. Even the more ludicrous scenes such as the one involving the ravens picking up rocks and throwing them at the bus actually looks fairly realistic no matter how dumb what we are seeing is.
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Prom Night II (1987)
Has its moments.
21 April 2007
This is one of those dodgy eighties horror movies that I have a not entirely justifiable soft spot for. Eschewing the straight forward minimalist slasher approach of the first Prom Night movie, this sequel in name only goes for a more supernatural, fantastical style more reminiscent of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies with it's dream sequences, reality bending and revenge from beyond the grave plot. If anything it reminds me to a certain extent of a gender reversed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 with it's central possession plot, but with less homoerotic undertones, no exploding budgies and no Grady.

Hello Mary Lou seems to aim toward being a fun, cheesy horror movie as well as trying to be more serious and creepy. Given how silly and cheesy the movie it is not entirely successful at the latter aim but it does have its moments. Some of the nightmare moments are quite effective, such as the image of the rocking horse coming alive, which is a genuinely creepy. The entire locker room sequence works quite well and seems to be the only really memorable part in the movie not just for the unexpected full frontal nudity but for the creative kill and the generally creepy tone to the scene. This is one of the few occasions where a horror movie effectively pulls of the good girl turned evil/slutty/possessed angle. The scene of the possessed Vicki kissing her unresisting father is kind of creepy also, but quite random in the contest of the rest of the movie. On the whole the movie is dumb and cheesy, despite these moments. The kills are goofy, there is unfunny comedy, superfluous and annoying secondary characters, plot holes (The most prominent being the continued presence of the trunk at the high school), dodgy special effects and a baddie with inconsistent powers. The performances are on the whole okay. Lisa Schrage is satisfyingly malevolent as Mary Lou, Wendy Lyon is an adequate and likable lead doing well as the good girl and possessed and Michael Ironside is as fun to watch as ever.

If you like cheesy eighties horror you could do a lot worse.
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Conquest (1983)
Conquest of the Planet of the Wolfmen
16 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Shlock-merchant Leo Fulci takes a change of pace by making a trashy, barely coherent sword and sorcery fantasy movie instead of his usual trashy, barely coherent horror.

A wimpy Orlando Bloom type called Ilias, from some society vaguely resembling Ancient Greece travels across the ocean to caveman territory on some vaguely defined quest to battle evil, where he joins up with a animal loving hunter to battle the wolf-man and mutant minions of a vampiric topless evil sorceress. Wackiness ensues. The sorceress, is oppressing the local cavemen and wants the magic bow for herself. She sends various minions, each weirder than the last, after our heroes who win through in the end, striking a blow for oppressed cavemen everywhere. This movie contains a steady stream of WTF? elements and moments.

For some reason the entire movie is shot in soft focus and the picture is further blurred by the constant presence of mist on screen. This may have been an attempt to create atmosphere or to hide how fake everything looks. Either way, it failed. There is no atmosphere, unless it is one of scuzziness and mild bewilderment and there is no hiding how lame everything looks. The wolf-man minions look like a poor man's wookie. For some reason the director fell in love with shots of them leaping through the air in slow motion, Six Million Dollar Man style, toward our heroes when they attack. There are probably about a dozen of these shots throughout the movie and it gets goofier every time. The other minions of the topless sorceress, other than the generic leather clad humans, are some lumpy white mutants who appear to be covered in cobwebs. Needless to say they are slow and unthreatening and when they speak sound like gay Hispanic, lisping Daleks. The fights are stilted and unconvincing and the special effects are woeful. Oh yeah, the music is cheap synthesiser stuff that the makers of Doctor Who would have been embarrassed to have used.

Ilias, our nominal hero is bland and forgettable. He also looks a complete wuss, especially with his midriff revealing leather outfit and big hair, and is clearly a moron. Sure, he's a dynamite shot with his magical bow but he only takes about three or four arrows with him in his mission to battle this entire continent of evil. Needless to say he runs out of arrows within a few minutes and has to be saved by more traditional sword and sorcery hero, Mace. When he meets Ilias he establishes himself as the taciturn loner type, claiming he has no friends but no sooner can you say latent homoerotic subtext they are bosom buddies, traipsing the misty hills together. Mace promises to take Ilias with him in return for bow related favours. Ilias asks where he is going. "Wherever my legs take me," is his reply. Good enough for Ilias. Mace is also animal lover and outrageous hypocrite. He proclaims his great love of and affinity toward animals, citing the usual stuff about how he prefers them to humans because humans can be soooo mean. He says he would never hunt and kill an animal to feed himself but he will steal meat off other people who have hunted down animals. He is also not above randomly killing innocent passers by for no good reason. Not long after they meet, he is testing out Ilias' bow and the movie cuts to some random caveman, minding his own business, walking along and Mace shoots him dead. There is no indication this poor soul did anything to deserve this and even Ilias, who supposedly hails from a more moral and civilised society doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

The films villainess is quite unusual. For the entire movie she is completely naked except from a g-string and a golden mask that encompasses her entire head. It's like Fulci included her to make the movies obligatory T&A quotient but decided she was bit too much of a butterface at the last minute. She spends a lot of time seemingly being pleasured by her pet snakes and dreaming about being shot by a faceless bow wielding man who is dressed like Ilias. Wow, such symbolism! Later on in the movie she wimps out when she can't beat Ilias and Mace and promises to make herself the sex-slave of some ancient warrior dude if he kills them for her. Hardly the world's most scary villain and not really a step forward for women's rights. I think he sic's the cobweb creatures on our heroes and impersonates Mace in a situation where there is no no-one else around but Mace to fool. Was he really worthy trading your self respect for, Ocron?

There are quite a few other WTF? moments. Most of them come toward the end of the movie. Ilias wusses out, I forget why, possibly his permed hairdo got mussed, but realizes the error of his ways and returns to aid Mace in fighting the forces of evil. All of a sudden, for no reason, his bow can suddenly fire out multiple target seeking bolts of energy. The bolts can also shoot through solid rock when necessary. Needless to say his makes short work of the hordes of bad guys who have captured Mace.

The climax is also rather nonsensical. Mace decimates Ocron's remaining forces using the bows targeted laser attack capability. He then is able to shoot Ocron from a kilometre away using its shoot through rock capacity. She starts dying. Her mask is ripped of revealing a hideous Muppet head. She staggers around screaming and turns into a dog and wanders off with another dog. Mace smiles. Roll credits.

Strangely enough as far as these dodgy low budget sword and sorcery movies this one is reasonably lucid and focused. Any one who has seen Wizards of the Lost Kingdom can tell you how nonsensical and meandering these movies can truly be.
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Buried Alive (1990 TV Movie)
An okay revenge movie.
9 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Buried Alive is a simple little film, which is a passable way to spend an hour and half. It's basic plot- man buried alive by wife and lover and seeks revenge is fairly bare bones and running at a slight 90 minutes the story feels like it was stretched as far as it could go. The story as it is seems like it might well have worked better as a segment of a horror anthology or an episode of a Tales From the Crypt type show. There is some fun to be had but there simply isn't enough meat on these bones, resulting in a somewhat enjoyable but anaemic movie.

The actors are all fun to watch; all are cast in what are typical roles for each of them. William Atherton as a duplicitous slimeball, Jennifer Jason Leigh as a self centred, scheming wife, Tim Matheson as a slightly clueless everyman who is pushed too far. They do these roles well and have some fun with them. The plot is somewhat thin to say the least, with numerous contrivances and absurdities. The ease with which Clint Goodman is able to escape the grave is a bit hard to take, even if the wood in his coffin was rotten and the escape only seems possible as it was buried in a very, very shallow grave. Perhaps nobody making the movie had heard the phrase 'Six Feet Under' or they at least mistook it for inches. The nature of Goodman's ultimate revenge is also incredibly silly. Even with the skill we are repeatedly informed that he has with wood the contraptions he rigs up are quite elaborate, especially given the limited amount of time he would have had. At the end of the day, despite its failings, Buried Alive is fun, macabre little movie.
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Wilderness (I) (2006)
An effective thriller.
1 April 2007
Wilderness is an effective and brutal thriller/horror movie. The premise is straight forward- a group of juvenile offenders and their keeper out on a camping trip are picked off one by one by a mysterious and ruthless killer with a crossbow a pack of attack dogs and a skill for booby traps. It is brutal, violent, fast moving and visceral. It is quite well made- the tension and pace never drops, which is essential for this kind of movie and there is a gritty, unremitting feel to the movie which works in its favour. The deaths are unpleasant and violent and the characters aren't likable keeping it somewhat unpredictable as to what is going to happen, who is going to die and so on. Wilderness doesn't hold back in terms of the violence and nastiness but still keeps, for the most part a gritty realistic vibe and it works.

The movie shows you don't necessarily need likable characters but only believable ones to make a movie work. The more likable characters are only more likable by comparison i.e. they are only cowardly or selfish as opposed to being sadistic and cruel. The one character that seems like they may actually be competent and a decent human being is out of the picture comparatively early on. This comes across as lot more credible than those movies which contain groups of supposedly hardened criminals or delinquents who prove to be suitably heroic and noble and band together when it comes to the crunch. The characters here aren't over the top nasty either- they are full of petty meanness and posturing, selfishness and banality without being irredeemably evil as you would probably expect such kids to be in real life. The acting, mostly by fairly unknown young British actors is pretty good and low key- the Brits are generally better at this sort of thing. This gives the film its grittier edge and helps make it a little bit less predictable than it could be. Okay, the designated hero is obvious from the get-go and it isn't too unexpected when most of the unsavoury cast is wiped out but it isn't cloyingly obvious all the way through that things will happened the way you would predict in accordance with movie conventions.

The movie is not without flaws. The plot isn't always particularly believable or fresh. It seems strange that there is on one prison guard with this group of about ten juvenile offenders out on a supposedly deserted island and the killer seems almost too effective is dispatching his prey although to be fair it works for the movie in terms of the scariness of the villain and some explanation is provided for his skill in this regard. Toward the end when the hunter and his motivation is revealed he is far less effective a bad guy, his motivation and presence slightly contrived (Though still plausible) and he suddenly seems to become a lot less competent in order for him to be defeated. It might have been better if the makers had left the killer a mysterious motiveless figure. There are a few times when the movie does seem to go a bit too far with its nastiness, the flip side of the movie slack of restraint. The way in which some of the gorier death scenes, such as the first dog killing, are lingered on is a bit too much and toward the end some of the character's abhorrent behaviour comes across as a bit much also (Okay we already knew these guys were scum, can we get on with it).

On the whole a slick, well made and exciting movie which is both helped and hampered, but mostly helped, by it's willingness to be mean spirited and harsh.
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