Warcraft (2016)

The world of Warcraft is a massive franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1994. I say world, but maybe I should say universe because world simply seems too small for this sprawling product. Warcraft is mainly made up of five core videogames for PC’s which revolve around; online multiplayer role-play, strategies and digital card collecting. But it doesn’t end there, the franchise also includes novels, comics, manga, tabletop games, collectible cards etc…Now some may recognise a similarity to Games Worskshop’s Warhammer franchise, and I don’t blame you. Legend has it Blizzard originally wanted to make Warcraft a game set in the Warhammer universe, but things just didn’t work out. And as they say, the rest is history.

So onto the movie and trying to condense this ginormous Tolkien-esque universe into a reasonable length runtime. Basically what we have here is a story from two perspectives, one from the human side and one from the orc side. On the orc side of things, Draenor, the orc homeworld is being destroyed by a power called fel magic. So the all powerful (and nasty) orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the realm of Azeroth (where humans live). Obviously their aim is to conquer this new realm/world, and make it their own. On the flip side the humans that dwell within this realm are none too happy about this, so they take up arms against the orcs. On the orc side we follow Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and a generally level-headed orc. Durotan isn’t too sure about Gul’dan’s evil plans. And on the human side…well we follow many characters, Kings, knights, mages etc…

wc

Dare I mention an amusingly unfortunate parallel? You know, masses of invaders swarming across a foreign land occupied by a predominantly white people (clearly of medieval European influence). Obviously this is a large coincidence, but the minute it dawned on me I had to laugh.

The huge worry with this movie (for me) was whether or not I would be able to become engaged in the story not knowing that much about the Warcraft franchise. I know of the franchise, the basics, but I’ve never played the games or read the books etc…I’m pretty sure this would be the general worry for all, how could they squeeze all this information into one opening movie without overwhelming people. What about people who are newbies to the franchise. Well in all honesty they don’t really address this problem too well in my opinion as questins are raised almost immediately.

OK so fel magic is destroying the orc world, right…what’s fel magic then? Unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) they don’t actually explain what this mysterious force is. What happens to the orc world of Draenor? Does it end up being completely uninhabitable? How does Gul’dan know of Azeroth? I realise he’s a powerful sorcerer but are these different realms/worlds common knowledge to orcs? Did Gul’dan know that humans lived there? Again I realise Gul’dan is a bad guy but maybe they could of entered Azeroth and used diplomacy? Or maybe he could of found a realm/world that didn’t have lifeforms living in it? I know some of these points would negate the whole point of the movie but I’m just throwing them out there ya know.

wc7

There were also other small plot devices that just didn’t seem too well explained to me. Fel magic seems to be the bane of the orcs, seeing as its destroying their homeworld, yet they also rely on it quite a lot. Gul’dan appears to use it all the time, in fact his powers seem to revolve around fel magic. He uses it to harvest souls from captives (the Draenei, another species on Draenor) in order to power the portal through to Azeroth. He also uses it to save Durotan’s baby when it is stillborn. So it does appear that fel magic can be used for many things, good or bad depending how you look at it. But again later on in the movie, Medivh the guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster, a goodie), somehow becomes infected with fel magic and it consumes him, turning him into a powerful demon. But why a demon? How does this magic work exactly? Are there any limitations? Does the magic have a natural leaning towards good or evil, or does it depend on who uses it?

Leaving fel magic aside, what about the rest, the visuals? Well I have to say I really enjoyed what I saw, much to my amazement. The orcs do actually look really good in a comicbook kinda way. Let me explain, basically Warcraft has a lot in common with Games Workshop’s Warhammer; and Warhammer fantasy has a very comicbook-esque/graphic novel-like vibe about it, I think. By that I mean its very lively, bold, stylised, highly detailed and outlandish. Its all very different to the darker and more serious tone in Tolkien’s work. The orcs in this movie have that highly stylised, highly detailed look about them which is both over the top and genuinely fun to look at. I loved how each orc had his own unique armour, some adorned with trophies; weapons, haircuts, horns, facial features, skin colour, battle or clan standards etc…Orc chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown) was a good example with his matching trophies of some creatures skull and spinal column upon each shoulder.

wc5

The CGI was really solid for the orcs I felt, they really had a lot of weight to them and they genuinely looked intimidating. In turn this did make the battles against the humans kinda daft because I really couldn’t help but feel the orcs would/should be squatting the humans like flies. Sure the orcs are slower but the human knights were encased in heavy armour so they would be slow too. Surely the orcs would just sweep through the human ranks no sweat, hell even a horse was no match for a regular orc. I must also give kudos for the design work on the knights of Stormwind, along with all the other characters magical or otherwise. I really liked the costume designs, colours, patterns, armour, weapons etc…It all looked really great, very colourful and again very comicbook-esque. I honesty loved how the knights looked, really brought back memories of The Empire from Warhammer.

I think the only thing that did look completely off in the movie was the character of Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), half-orc half-draenei (but spoke English?). This character was not CGI but the actress under heavy makeup, or so you would think. Unfortunately this makeup looked very hokey with the silly fangs sticking out of her mouth; it literally looked like they just sprayed her up with green body paint. Mind you the all CGI dwarfs looked a tad iffy too, as did the elves with their long thin ears and glowing eyes. But still despite the amount of CGI in this movie I can’t believe I’m reporting that most of it was actually pretty fine. Much was obviously CGI but nothing terrible, your standard large CGI creatures/animals were all passable if obvious. I did quite like the large wolves the orcs rode, again harking back to my Warhammer days here.

wc3

I’m not gonna lie and say this movie was plain sailing, far from it. There are a shit load of peculiar names, magical terms, species/race names, location names etc…that will confuse and disorient you. Many of the characters will refer to places, events and characters that will mean nothing. Much of the time you will forget who’s called what, or who or what they’re talking about (unless you’re a fanboy of course). There is a large cast here and their characters all have generally odd names. Some of the cast don’t really work, some surprisingly do, but overall the choice to use mostly unknown or little known actors was a very good decision, voice work and live action.

Whether or not the hardcore fanbase was pleased with this I don’t really know. Would a newbie to this world be engaged? I think so yes. I firmly believe this fantasy does tick all the boxes most fans of the genre would expect to see, on a satisfactory level. Durotan is a likeable…umm…greenish monster, a solid late in the day hero. Gul’dan is your typically evil pantomime-esque villain with a deep gravely voice (also covered in lots of bone trophies and horns). Garona does the divided loyalties bit with aplomb. Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh spouts enough mystical mumbo jumbo to please any avid Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. You’ve also got a stoic King and Queen, and of course the main handsome hero (and poor mans Aragorn) Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel.

wc4

The movie isn’t as wide in scope as the Tolkien universe, it does feel a bit confined to a few locations, mainly some interiors and battlegrounds. You can see a lot in the visually pleasing backgrounds, but that’s all you get, pretty backgrounds. You never really feel like this world is explored much. The action is brutal and fun, but not bloody or gory which was a bit disappointing with all the mega sized orc weapons. The heavy CGI is excellent in places but somewhat insubstantial in others (there is of course a tonne of flashing, glowing magical effects and greenscreen). And lastly the main problem is the array of human characters that are generally generic and lifeless, in short you don’t really care about them.

Yet despite the numerous faults with this huge huge fantasy franchise undertaking, I liked what I saw. Yes as strange as it may seem, I did like and enjoy this movie…and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Probably the combination of the visuals, various details and some lovely bits of stylistic flair from director Duncan Jones. Wrap all that in a nice warm blanket of nostalgia from my old table top Warhammer gaming days; and I actually find myself liking this bloated CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster.

7/10

wc6

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

Over time this franchise has virtually become a mirror image of the Resident Evil movie franchise (the crappy live action franchise not the animated franchise). Both formulas have become almost identical to the point that you could simply swap out zombies with either vampire or werewolves and no one would notice or care. And of course the big question for both is how they have managed to keep going??

OK so I’m not going to explain the plot here simply because that would require going over all the previous movies and I simply can’t do that. Why? because I cannot remember what happened in the previous movies and I’m not gonna rewatch them. The same argument can also be used for the Resident Evil movies coincidentally. But don’t worry because this movie actually recaps all the previous movies in a somewhat lengthy flashback with added narration, so you’re all covered. But put simply, lots of vamps and lycans fight each other amongst a multitude of double crosses and character plot twists.

The first thought that hit me as this movie get into gear was how bad it looked, what a come down from what has come before. In general this movie looks terribly dull, washed out, dreary and unexciting. Now I realise the whole point of the movie/franchise is to look like this because its a gothic action horror series. But here’s the thing, all (or most) of the previous movies had interesting and imaginative visuals and ideas. You could see the people involved wanted to showcase the gothic magnificence of the story with lavish sets and costumes, unique camera viewpoints, creative action sequences and some genuine classic horror vibes. But as the franchise has progressed these elements have slowly drained away leaving this totally drab and frankly cheap looking fifth entry.

The first action sequence is a shambles of obvious greenscreen, an obvious set, terrible transformations and CGI lycans, CGI blood spurts and tired action. The entire sequence looked like it was made for TV or straight out of a videogame. Dated and cliched remark there I know but there is no other way to describe it. Things don’t really improve from that point either. Most of the makeup for the vampires is obvious with their straightened hair, highlights and shadow. All the vamps look like fashion models whilst the lycans look like a bunch of hobos or eastern European gypsies, still. No one ever seems to change their outfits apart from the women who change for every scene (except Selene who never gets out of her catsuit). But more importantly the whole movie is just so boring looking. Its like they had limited locations to shoot on with a limited budget. There is not a single scene or shot that looks interesting, cool or has a nice traditional gothic vibe about it. Its all just a series of badly envisioned sets saturated in a limited colour palette of black, grey and dark blue.

uw2

As for plot points, well holy shit this becomes a convoluted mess fast. Most of the main characters in this movie are either a secret lover of another, or a secret child of someone else important, or they’re double crossing someone. I kid you not it all becomes such a mess of character names and backstory it doesn’t surprise me that there are so many flashbacks to all the other films for assistance. To top that you’re never really quite sure if a certain character has actually died or not, which of course is deliberate (sequels!!).

Lets talk about the new vampires we meet in this movie, the Nordic vampires. Yep you guessed it, they are Nordic, which is Scandinavian, which instantly makes people think of blondes and snow. Yes that’s right, all the Nordic vampires have blonde (or platinum blonde/white) hair and eyebrows and they all dress in flowing white robes (because snow is white and they’re in the snowy region of Scandinavia. See how that works). This section of the movie was genuinely laughable. The vamps looked like elves from a certain fantasy novel, they all used basic weaponry (no guns). There was also a never-ending supply of them apparently, and they carry out some underwater ritual or meditation that gives them teleporting powers (I didn’t get it). Of course Selene eventually goes through this when you think she’s dead (don’t be stupid) and ends up with said teleporting powers…oh and blonde highlights because new movie, new look!

For a movie about vampires fighting werewolves there is certainly a lot of fighting between just normal looking people (with guns, lots of guns…and hoodies, lots of hoodies). There is of course lycan action but the shit CGI mixed with how apparently useless they are made it all seem rather pointless and uneventful really. Lycan chief Marius seems to be some kind of úber lycan or hybrid, not really sure but he has a humanoid face when transformed. Naturally despite him being HUGE and muscular he still doesn’t tear off Selene’s head in the first five seconds of their face-off. I don’t understand how or why he doesn’t do this. I also don’t get how Marius and David (vampire chap from last flick) can expel bullets from their bodies yet none of the others do the same when shot. Is it something to do with how many bullets or vampire/lycan hierarchy and strength?? I’m sure I’ve been told at some point but cannot recall.

So was I disappointed with this new entry in the never ending battle between vampires and werewolves? Well its hard to answer that really. On one hand no I wasn’t disappointed because I knew exactly what to expect, as I’m sure others will do to. I knew very well how it would look, feel and play out. I also knew very well that it would finish leaving the franchise open to carry on further. I would say I was left underwhelmed by the movies lack of imagination, vision and excitement which up to this point has been the franchises saving grace. Yes we know it will do the same thing all over again but come on, at least look good doing it yeah.

3.5/10

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

I always said after seeing the first movie that it should have been kept as a stand alone, a one off action flick. Yes the movie was a surprise hit out of nowhere but does that mean you automatically whip out a string of sequels which could potentially ruin the films name? When something does well (unexpectedly), should Hollywood proceed to milk it dry? Slowly drain away the imagination and originality until only a cliched predictable shell is left (‘Taken’ much?). There’s nothing wrong with having a good stand alone movie with no sequels.

With that we have the second chapter in John Wick’s rather stressful life. It now appears that Wick has an outstanding debt, of sorts, with an Italian crime lord called Santino D’Antonio. In this world of the hitman there is such a thing called a marker. A medallion containing a sample of blood from both parties, basically a blood oath or pact on an agreement, or hit. Previously Wick had gone to D’Antonion for help, now D’Antonio wants the favour returned. Wick being the stubborn fool he is goes against the oath and promptly gets his house blown up and he is forced to take the job. Once the job has been completed, and D’Antonio naturally double crosses him, Wick sets his sights firmly on revenge.

The movie starts off a few days after the events of the last movie. In that we see Wick tracking down his precious Mustang muscle car to the brother of Viggo Tarasov, one Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare). Abram obviously knows of Wick and his skills and comes across as somewhat worried and regretful. Abram knows Wick wants his car, he is clearly concerned about what may happen with Wick, yet he doesn’t tell his men to stand down? This just seemed rather odd to me, Abram obviously doesn’t want to die, he doesn’t want the trouble, so why not just give Wick his car? Let him come in and take it, no worries. Of course that doesn’t happen and we get what appears to be a rather pointless action sequence. Seeing as this subplot goes absolutely nowhere (including the inclusion of John Leguizamo’s character again), it was indeed all pointless.

wick2

Once we get into the core plot things become much more familiar, and by that I mean repetitive and unoriginal. The job he must undertake as part of the marker agreement with D’Antonio involves Wick going to Rome to assassinate D’Antonio’s sister (another crime lord type person). Naturally this all takes place at night and within some sort of outdoor clubbing event. Cue lots of flashing neon lights, a live band, people dancing around frantically, scantily clad ladies and a thumping soundtrack. This seems to be the bread and butter of locations for hitmen to frequent in movies.

Its also here that we get the first real action sequence from Wick that we have now come to expect. And by that I mean Wick running around whilst somehow not getting mortally wounded and taking out an absolutely absurd amount of henchmen. I swear its like watching a live action sequence from Operation Wolf or Time Crisis (videogames). Literally every faceless henchman is utterly useless and never seem to aim for Wick’s head. There is a never ending stream of these dumb henchmen who never seem to hold back or move in tactically (considering they outnumber Wick 10 to 1). And all the blood is really obvious CGI which just looks lame.

Along with that (or before that) there was the inevitable James Bond-esque guns, gadget and general weapons sequence where Wick tools up. I don’t really need to explain it as its pretty self explanatory. What I don’t get is why Wick needs to do this. The amount of men he kills, who in turn drop their weapons, Wick basically has unlimited guns and ammo. He need only pick them up off the ground after he’s killed the henchman.

wick4

As the movie progressed it just became even more ridiculous in my view. Wick keeps on taking knocks, blows, cuts and eventually bullets, yet he still manages to continually take out all his opponents. Over time Wick must start to fend off numerous other assassins also (because of the contract D’Antonio puts on his head) which gets daft as they pop up everywhere. Hell we even get a giant sumo wrestler trying to take out Wick at one point. This really spoilt the movie for me because there were far too many hitmen and women coming out of the woodwork. The final sequence of movie really highlights this nonsense, is half the population of New York undercover assassins now or something?! And all the while regular folk never really notice what’s going on, no one ever freaks out, we never see any cops…like what the hell???

I also fail to see how Wick can get anything done because literally everyone in the business knows him, everyone! How on earth can this guy be so stealthy and lethal when he’s so flippin’ recognisable?! Anyway the plot pretty much reverts back to the exact same idea we saw in the first movie, which I guess was to be expected. I have also noticed a pattern with Wick. Every time he gets into a scuffle he seems to do the same thing. He’ll shoot a guy but not kill him outright. Throw or wrestle him to the ground with a fancy move, then take out a couple guys approaching. And then he’ll finish off the guy he’s got pinned to the ground. The question is why? Surely this is wasting energy and not particularly efficient…but I guess it looks good on camera huh.

I didn’t hate this movie, there are some really inventive elements which I liked. The whole Continental hotel idea was something I liked from the first movie and the expansion of that idea was well done here. I do like this idea of aristocratic blokes running these ultra posh hitmen hotels like some kind of gents country club. I like the whole Continental hotel operation and how it runs with its many secret separate branches that cover all fields. Sure we’ve seen it all before with Bond and more recently with ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ but for some reason it never fails to intrigue. But that’s as far as it goes for me, the rest is basically the same guff we saw in the first film but not as slick looking. The fights didn’t look as good, the CGI blood was dreadful, and of course this second movie lost all the originals wow factor.

5/10

wick3

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Ah a freshly rebooted monsterverse, no not that dark monsterverse…that’s some other rebooted franchise wannabe. This is a different rebooted monsterverse from Legendary Entertainment, not to be confused with the multitude of other cinematic universe franchises, failing or otherwise (ugh!).

As this is yet another reboot attempt Legendary and its director decided to go a slightly different route for this monster mash. That slightly different route was setting this movie in 1973 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Basically everything you’d expect to happen in a Kong movie happens here (bunch of military and scientist types go to explore mystery island, find monsters, double cross, fight for survival etc…), but its in 1973 during Nam. Now I initially thought this was quite a neat idea because it was different, and because they did a really good job for the first half of the movie making it look like a Nam war flick (loved seeing all the retro gear).

But dare I say that maybe, just maybe, they went a tad too far in trying to make this Nam element look as authentic as possible. As I’ve already said the movie does look great, they have recaptured the mood of many Nam flicks perfectly with the grubby visuals, presumably using a specific type of film to get that retro look or just fiddling with it in the edit. You could easily be mistaken for thinking you were watching a Nam flick from the 80’s. All the regular Nam cliches and stereotypes are all present and correct with the soldiers and their goofing around, their personally modified military attire, their language, the sweeping camera moves to capture helicopters in flight, the way the soldiers ride their vehicles etc…It all looks really really good.

kk8

Thing is I couldn’t help but think to myself, this is a King Kong movie, not a Nam war movie. Are you trying to make a monster mash movie here or just recreate the Vietnam war era? This leads me to another little peeve of mine, the soundtrack. Again, I realise the movie was set during Nam, I realise the director and co were going for an authentic vibe, but Jesus Christ the constant music playing became annoying. Yes we get it, this is during the Vietnam war, you really [b]really[/b] didn’t have to have the soldiers playing music for the start of every new scene. Overall I just thought they were trying a bit too hard with this section of the movie.

Anyway, the Nam section comes to an end and we enter the meat of the movie. We reach the mysterious Skull Island that is shrouded by a massive swirling storm, keeping it hidden. OK so the storm has kept the island hidden from sight but you’re telling me no one had ever seen this massive storm before? No one has ever ventured into it out of scientific curiosity? And how does this perpetual storm remain in place?

Skull Island itself is a lush Jurassic Park type affair that is infested with all manner of giant beasties. From huge spider-like insectoids with legs that look like bamboo. Another giant bug-like insect that can camouflages itself as a felled log. A giant squid living in the island waters apparently. Mega sized…errr…ox? And of course the main beastie baddies which look like large reptilian creatures with an exoskeleton covering their faces (Skullcrawlers). The creatures were imaginative and well designed but more importantly believable. Although, you still have the issue of when these creatures battle each other there doesn’t often appear to be consequences, initially. When Kong fights the large reptilian Skullcrawlers (or anything) he’s throwing them around, beating them with tree trunks, stomping on them etc…but they just keep getting back up apparently unharmed. The old tactic of throwing the opponent happens often in these movies, we see this in superhero flicks too. Of course Kong eventually kills his opponent but they like to drag these things out.

kk7

The same can be said for the human characters that whip out their guns and barrage these creatures in a hail of bullets. Yet nearly every time these creatures don’t appear to be affected by the gunfire (which I don’t understand). No matter how big or powerful the gun, they never seem to do anything against these monsters, yet the humans keep relying on their guns. Its like…don’t they see the guns are having no effect? I realise that’s all they’ve got but dude come on, stop firing and get the hell outta there. That’s not to say it isn’t exciting to watch, its just dumb at the same time. Its kinda like the numerous times that Kong appears out of nowhere and surprises a human character. How in the hell does an ape of that size manage to casually walk around and not draw attention to himself? At the same time how could anyone not know this mega sized, 100 foot tall, bipedal ape was coming in their general direction??

As for the human characters, well they’re all a predictable, dull, hollow bunch really. Samuel L. Jackson plays the patriotic military leader who’s basically gone a bit off the rails seeing his men killed by Kong, thusly he is obsessed with killing Kong. Yep despite all the odds this guy simply doesn’t take no for an answer, he’s gonna take down Kong and that’s that. Tom Hiddleston plays the good looking, heroic, macho adventurer in a tight t-shirt that can do no wrong and saves the day. Brie Larson is merely the attractive female that still manages to tame Kong even in this movie.

Something that felt completely outta place and crowbarred in. John C. Reilly is your standard marooned bearded bloke who’s gone a bit loopy (kinda like Alan Parrish outta ‘Jumanji’). And John Goodman plays the devious Monarch official who lies to everyone about going to Skull Island (he’s basically Burke outta ‘Aliens’). Then throw in some random diversity box ticking for some other background characters who literally didn’t need to be in the movie.

We do see the native people of Skull Island and their home but unfortunately that is not explored in any real way. We get hints at their lifestyle, how they somehow survive, their culture etc…but nothing more. They are just there to help the plot along. Most of the US troops are faceless expendable monster fodder bar one or two, but you don’t really care about any of them. One soldier decides to kill (or sacrifice) himself towards the end, no clue why he does this, he just does presumably because the director thought it would be cool? I dunno. Then in the climatic battle between Kong and the mega (Queen?) Skullcrawler, I noticed Kong somehow manages to rip out the creatures innards with the same hand he’s holding Brie Larson in. Or so it seemed to me.

kk6

I haven’t mentioned the visuals simply because you should all know by now they will be good, very good. Kong looks incredible, the other creatures look incredible, the island looks beautiful and the action is extremely agreeable. There is also a reasonable amount of blood and gore here too which was a nice surprise, certainly not for the family this one. Overall you don’t actually get much Kong for your buck (much like ‘Godzilla’) so there’s that. Although the finale throwdown is highly gratifying (lots of throwing being key here). You obviously spend much more screen time with the human characters, but alas they are all pretty throwaway in my opinion. There are too many characters, we don’t get to know them and in the end you simply don’t care about them. The off-kilter humour at times also did not help.

If I can say this, the 2014 ‘Godzilla’ movie felt like a slightly more sensible affair, a touch more of a monster action thriller vibe about it. This movie has more of a comicbook vibe about it if you ask me. It felt a bit more silly and leaned more towards something like 1995’s ‘Congo’, mixed with bits of ‘Apocalypse Now’ or any number of Nam war flicks. And of course we have the usual issue of this movie coming across more as filler for a bigger better movie later on down the line that features a famous giant reptilian monster. That’s not to say this was a bad movie, its not, its essentially about King Kong punching and destroying stuff, how is that bad? Well its not, its fun and it looks cool. Unfortunately that’s about it, overall its very shallow, tonally mixed and is clearly riding Marvel’s coattails…but I did enjoy it.

7/10

kk.jpgkk5kk4kk2

 

 

The Ice Pirates (1984)

Oh George Lucas, what did you bring upon us with your earth-shattering movie of 1977. The answer to that is of course an absolute multitude of knock-off’s, clones, wannabes and homages. This long forgotten oddity is what you might call a very light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek Star Wars knock-off.

The plot takes place in the distant future, presumably in a galaxy far far away, where water has become an extremely scarce and valuable resource (not too original eh). In fact H20 is so valuable that its actually used as a form of currency in ice cube form. Naturally only one planet is not affected by this, Mithra, home of the evil Templars. And of course they want to keep it this way ensuring their dominance over the galaxy. But as expected there are space pirates that battle the Templars for their control of the water. One such band of pirates (led by Jason, Robert Urich) stumble across a Princess whilst trying to pinch the watery cargo from one Templar ship. In turn they also discover that this Princesses father is thought to have discovered a planet with water, thing is he has also disappeared. So the Princess hires the pirates to find her father and hopefully the watery planet. On their tail are the Templars who do not want this secret being discovered.

OK so the first thing I have to point out is, this is quite literally a film about pirates in space. The movies title isn’t just there to look and sound cool. The heroes literally steal ice, and they are all literally pirates complete with cutlasses, wide belts with big fat belt buckles, cavalier type boots, and poet shirts with lacing down the front. This whole pirate look is blended in with the more typically cliched futuristic sci-fi look. On one hand a shabby, used and weather beaten universe. On the other hand shiny uniforms and ships (basically Mad Max and Star Wars). Interestingly they also throw in some medieval fashions in there too. Yep the Templar foot soldiers (on-board ships) appear to wear medieval knight attire such as full body chain mail etc…

ip6

Now despite how the movie may come across with its obvious similarities to other space set fantasies in its poster and trailer, this movie isn’t really for kids. OK sure there are lots of childish elements like the various silly robots, the slapstick etc…But this movie does have some moments of violence, gore, sex and umm…castration. Let me be clear, this isn’t an R/18 rated type movie, but it has fun bits for the adults. There is a very wet and somewhat in depth softcore sex scene.There are a few scenes of people losing limbs complete with blood. One of the pirates (Zeno, Ron Perlman) loses his hand early on. In one of the more shocking sequences the sexy female pirate (Maida, Anjelica Houston) gets into a sword fight with some bounty hunter fellow and cuts his head off! Its actually quite unexpected and there are no cuts, you see it come right off. And yes in one sequence it is shown that the Templars turn prisoners into slaves by cutting of their balls with a set of robotic steel jaws.

I didn’t really get the whole eunuch slave thing. They go through the process of having their balls cut off (and a lobotomy as well apparently), and come out afterwards with white hair and eyebrows? I guess the shock of having your balls bitten off by a steel trap could be the reason why your hair turns white; but when they are all lined up to be inspected (in white lycra catsuits) its quite clear that these eunuchs still have a lunchbox. One potential buyer even comments on a slaves lunchbox, but surely they shouldn’t have lunchboxes?

Anyway what space fantasy is complete without a generic desert planet or desert scene. Well don’t fret because of course this movie has one of those. Its actually one of the more interesting looking locations, just a shame we don’t spend much time there. For some reason desert terrain always looks good on camera, it always looks authentic and suits fantasy films perfectly. I always liked this part when I was a kid, I think it was that [i]Mad Max[/i]-esque battering ram with huge wheels. This little action sequence is probably the best in the movie despite being very brief. Some nice explosions, a few stunts, a bad guy getting run over and crushed under one of the huge wheels, cool stuff.

ip3

Anyway what space fantasy is complete without generic scantily clad, female amazonian warriors. Well don’t fret because of course this movie has some of them too. They are all highly sexy, they are all very scantily clad, they are all seemingly submissive to their male leader (phew!), and they all seemingly hate outsiders…men and women (indeed). Yes you guessed it, it isn’t long before our hero gets restrained in a very hot and steamy situation after the amazonians wrestle him to ground. Oh no! please don’t straddle me and wrap your legs around my face, scantily clad sexy ladies! This movie seems to have an obsession with body parts too because the male character we meet in this location (Wendon, Bruce Vilanch) appears to be just a head. Presumably another robot but I’m not actually sure, but its another opportunity for a head to roll around.

Anyway what space fantasy is complete without a sequence set in a smokey, scummy space bar complete with aliens, space mercs, bounty hunters, space wh*res, ruffians…you get the idea.

The movie is a bit jumbled overall in hindsight, there are many many ideas being thrown around from many sources. Its like the director was overwhelmed and couldn’t decide which ideas to rip-off, so he did them all. Hell there’s even an ‘Alien’ rip-off (homage?) subplot with this little worm thing that hatches out of an egg and slithers amok on the ship. At one point this thing bursts out of the crews turkey dinner. Turns out its space herpes, which I’m guessing was suppose to be a crude joke at the time, but now falls totally flat. This subplot simply goes nowhere despite it running for most of the movie. Its just there as a joke.

ip5

The effects are also a very mixed bag. There are one or two matte painting shots with live action foregrounds that look really good (and familiar). Some of the sets and props are well designed and built; some look reasonably authentic as if they could actually work. The spaceship/space effects are pretty poor though, considering this came along way after ‘Star Wars’ its a bit shameful really. Then you have the various robots which include actual real robots of the era that do fit in quite well, but were limited in movement. The bulk of the robots are men in suits and very hokey. Rudimentary robotic movements, you can see the suits bending and creasing, plus the God awful slapstick and fights they get into are extremely stupid and infantile. I complain but I don’t really think the effects were ever meant to be taken seriously. Sure they tried but its clear to see this feature was more of a cheeky comedy, hence the effects were never supposed to be groundbreaking (think ‘Spaceballs’).

When I was a kid I loved this movie because I obviously enjoyed it, and it felt like I was watching a movie for adults. It felt like I was being a bit naughty, I felt like I was more grown up…even though my folks were fine with me watching it. Looking back this movie has faded somewhat and lost its excitement factor for me. Robert Urich is certainly an underrated hero with his looks and might have been a better Lone Starr than Bill Pullman, who knows. The rest of the cast is definitely a curiosity and quite star studded these days but none of them really added much to the proceedings. It just doesn’t really feel like a movie, more like a made for TV movie, the style of the end credits kinda reinforce that vibe. A product of its time for sure.

5.5/10

CHiPS (2017)

‘chip happens’…really?

Yeah this one tagline should sum this entire movie up for anyone, if it doesn’t then…umm…like I dunno, wow!

So CHiPs was a light-hearted American police drama based around the Californian Highway Patrol that ran from 1977 to 1983. These guys patrolled the highways of California on their rather slick looking police motorbikes complete with cool looking uniforms and shades. The duo were young, good looking, slim, wore tight uniforms and looked dashing on their bikes, twas all about that baby. Essentially this was a TV show for young lads who looked up to cops or wanted to be cops (big change from the present day huh) and enjoyed cool vehicles.

The late 70’s to mid 80’s was full of these types of cool shows featuring cool vehicles and stuff. The Dukes of Hazzard gave the youngsters a cool muscle car to ogle at. Airwolf had an ultra cool all black helicopter. Starsky & Hutch had another cool muscle car. The A-Team had a cool looking van and lots of plosions. Knight Rider had a seriously cool all black, talking secret agent car. CHiPS was basically the same type of thing but it offered cool looking motorbikes.

chip2

What I found disappointing about this movie was the simple fact that they try to do exactly what almost every other movie adaptation of these cult shows has done. Firstly they have made it an adult movie with adult content. Secondly its a comedy bordering on spoof of the franchise. And thirdly the main characters aren’t actually doing the job of the original characters, they are using the positions as cover or just starting off. Yes I know they are trying to revamp the idea for the present day and yes I know they are also trying to add a fresh element. But these angles have been done before, this isn’t new or clever.

So the movie is actually quite violent and chock full of profanity and sexual/toilet humour. Yes I’m sure the teens may like this (maybe) but talk about alienating the core fanbase that maybe wanted to see something a bit more sensible for Pete’s sake. Not only that but as I’ve already stated the original show was quite a light-hearted affair with little violence, so this movie has completely rejected that. Maybe a more lighter approach might have worked guys, you know instead of poo, cock, ass, drug use, masturbation gags. I mean for Christs sake! Ponch (Michael Peña) is a sex addict in this movie, every time he sees female ass he has to go jerk off. Is that the best you can do with this material??

Jon Baker is played by the director & writer, Dax Shepard (gives himself the lead role huh), and boy he is bad. Apart from trying to look and sound like Owen Wilson (seriously the hair was a dead give away), this guy can’t act, he’s not funny, the hair just looks weird…almost like a wig, and he constantly goes around trying to show off his torso…like all the bloody time! Not only that but his uniform is clearly custom made to look as tight as possible to try and emphasis that. Peña’s uniform looks normal, Shepard’s looks like its bordering on skintight…yet he has no real physique. But seriously this guy was cringeworthy all the way through, a complete hit and miss mate, stick to…well actually just quit.

chip3

Obviously the plot surrounds trying to catch some criminals (robbers) and obviously there is a twist involved, not that you care because the movie tells you straight away. Baker is an ex-freestyle motocross racer so that inevitably means we’ll be getting some ridiculously over the top bike stunts later on down the line. His body is also wrecked from all the injuries sustained from that previous profession so there is this subplot about him having to take tonnes of medication all the time. Didn’t really catch on with that but without his painkillers his body locks up or whatever, I dunno. Basically it means that Ponch has to help him into the bath tub naked at one point because hilarity! Cue cock and balls in partners face visual gag.

The movie clearly has a deal with Chevrolet because that’s what all the main characters drive, its so fucking obvious. Towards the midway point the duo realise their bikes aren’t fast enough so they ditch them and, of course, get super fast modern bikes. Yep they both get a new sexy full body leather biker uniforms complete with police insignia; and two red hot motorbikes also with police insignia. Its at this point that the entire movie concept goes out the window and it could literally be anything. Just two leather clad stuntmen on turbo charged bikes, looking über cool and performing boring meaningless stunts.

This has to be one of the most lazy, mundane and pointless movies I’ve seen for some time. This falls into the xXx category of utter garbage of the highest order. I can’t even say the action was good because it wasn’t, in fact there was hardly any action at all. What you do get is so flippin’ dull its really quite amazing. You have a movies essentially about fast motorbikes and you fail to make it thrilling…or even look good??!! The humour was dreadful whilst the violence profanity and gore was completely unnecessary. Shepard shouldn’t have been cast and actors like Peña and Vincent D’Onofrio embarrass themselves. Almost the entire movie is just a series of setups for lame gags later on down the line, which you can see a mile off.

2/10

chip4

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2016)

Some people have been wanting to see a different angle on James Bond, perhaps diversifying the main role, well look no further. Yes I realise its a bit old hat to label this franchise as a mere Bond clone, but hell…in this movie they even go as far as to clone a classic Bond moment. That moment being the immortal sequence where Ursula Andress strides out of the sea in her white bikini. Said sequence was then cloned (or paid homage to) by Craig Daniels in ‘Casino Royale’, and now we have Vin Diesel doing the exact same thing in this movie.

So what’s this movie all about? Well not a lot really, and that’s just one of the movies problems. The basic plot surrounds the CIA recruiting Xander Cage (again) because they need him to track down and find a mcguffin that can control and bring down satellites from orbit like missiles. Yes Xander Cage was thought to be dead but low and behold he’s not, because of course. Get used to nonsense like this because in this franchise apparently no one dies, they could come back at any time.

So the bad guys who have stolen this mcguffin are of course a small diverse band of villains consisting of Xiang (Donnie Yen the martial artist). Talon (Tony Jaa the kickboxing martial artist), Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone an Indian actress) and Hawk (Michael Bisping a British MMA fighter). To combat these guys Xander brings in his own little diverse band of misfits consisting of Harvard Zhou (Kris Wu a Chinese model/singer/actor). Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose an Australian model/DJ/actress/TV presenter), and Tennyson (Rory McCann a Scottish actor).

xxx2

Anyway I’m not having a go at diversity but when you have these little teams of people that appear to be so painfully and obviously picked so as not to upset anyone and to try and include literally everyone, it just comes across as kinda daft. Dare I say unrealistic, but Christ what am I saying, look at the movie I’m reviewing here. The intro sequence sees Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to recruit fecking Neymar Jr. for flips sake! For anyone not in the know he’s a soccer/football player.

But yeah, five minutes into the movie and I almost switched off. The entire intro is an utter shambles of stunt doubles, greenscreen and CGI, its horrendous garbage. Cage climbs and then jumps off some huge aerial tower with skies attached to his feet. He then proceeds to land perfectly in the jungle and skiing down the hills through the thick undergrowth. He then picks up his personal skateboard from some shack and proceeds to whip down the mountainous road dodging oncoming traffic or just bouncing off it. At the end we see his skateboard actually has his xXx logo on it. I swear it was some ‘Batman and Robin’ shit right there.

Amazingly I expected the movie to continue along this absurd line of bullshit but I was actually wrong! The movie does in fact take time to try and build something of a plot. It of course totally fails because this movie literally has no villains. What do I mean? Well the small band of diverse bad guys I mentioned turn out to be Triple X agents and are in fact trying to do the same thing as Cage. Yes there is indeed another villain in their midst, not hard to work out really, standard plot twist stuff. But when you do find out you’ll also realise what I mean by this movie having no real antagonist.

xxx4

But going back to my original take, a Bond clone/rip-off, yeah it kinda is really. It has all the standard spy guff that you’d expect including a young sexy female equivalent of Bond character Q. There is nothing new here, stupid stunt sequences like riding motorbikes with skis on water, jumping out of planes with no chutes, fighting on top of moving trucks, fighting on a highway in traffic, getting hit by cars but not getting injured, slow motion gun battles by the sexy female characters etc…All this but with shitty looking CGI and shitty looking greenscreen work. Oh and to top all that, Ice Cube makes a cameo when the good guys are in trouble…but then just disappears into obscurity again. Why would his character just pop up for one shoot out and not help out further? Why wouldn’t his character be in the entire movie?

Honesty I can’t remember the original two movies in this franchise. I know the second was more of a straight to DVD affair but the first movie was better than this surely? This doesn’t even feel like a stand alone movie, it just feels like a Fast and Furious spin-off flick. Hell this movie and the newer FaF movies are virtually the same shit! Just a bunch of over the top action sequences slapped together around a flimsy, non-existent plot. Stick in a load of half naked girls, rap/hip hop music and rave/party sequences where everyone looks sweaty and voila! Apparently movies like this make lots of money nowadays. This movie was so artificial, simply aiming to be hip, trendy and cool (über marketable to impressionable teens). All style no substance, tacky, lazy, definitely not sexy and definitely not cool. Just cringeworthy on every level.

1.5/10

xxx7.jpg