Three Amigos (1986)

By simply reading this premise on paper it could well come across as utterly ludicrous, just a totally off the wall mess. Three of the 80’s best and wackiest (white) comedians as gunslinging, Mexican/Hispanic inspired cowboys that do battle against Mexican bandits. I mean…my God! Can you imagine the outrage if this was released today! Holy spitballs!

The plot: This idea has been around for a long long time. Its been used a good many times and still pops up from time to time. The Three Amigos are famous movie stars of the silent, non talkie pictures era (1916). They generally make heroic pictures that involve stopping dastardly, moustache twirling bandits that threaten small villages. Meanwhile in Mexico a real village is being controlled and extorted by a local gang led by the infamous El Guapo. One of the villagers sees a movie of the Amigos and believes they are real, so she sends a telegram calling for their help. The Amigos, thinking the whole thing is just another gig for them, decide to take the job and head down south. Eventually, after a warm reception from the locals, its time for the Three Amigos to face El Guapo and his men. Could this end up being the Amigos greatest performance? Or their last?

I gotta be honest here but for a generally average to small sized movie (I think), just a silly spoofy comedy, this movie looks fantastic! The opening sequence showcasing a small black and white reel of an Amigo movie, really does look terrific. They really capture that early 1900’s vibe with the heavy makeup on the actors, the film being slightly sped up, the snappy random editing, and of course the dialog intertitles with the fancy decoration. This short little intro for the main protagonists sets up the entire movie, and the characters, perfectly. We then move onto the studio back lot (somewhere in Hollywood) and again it all looks really authentic with those very old wagon-esque automobiles dotted around, the sandy dusty ground, the large billboards, the costumes etc…

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Overall the movie is highly effective in conveying the various locations from early Hollywood, the deserts of Mexico, and El Guapo’s Mexican fortress. Well, for me at least, being a Brit. Maybe for an American who knows California it might all look a bit familiar, seeing as scenes in Mexico weren’t actually filmed in Mexico, but in California.

But its of no surprise that this movie is all about the cast, the main trio. And what can I say? Its damn near perfect comedy casting, three of the greatest comedians in movie history, Chase, Martin and Short (Short the lesser of the three). But the funny thing is, back in the 80’s we were spoilt for choice with these now classic comedians. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Gene Wilder, Eddie Murphy etc…Just think about it for a minute, you could of easily teamed up any one of these legends and this premise would have still worked flawlessly. The era was perfect, the talent was perfect, the story was perfect, the writing was perfect, and overall it was perfectly directed by John Landis. Pure unadulterated lightning in a bottle.

We have a plan. First we break into El Guapo’s fortress…

…and then??

Well, we really didn’t expect the first part to work so we have no further plan

Quick shout out to the added bonus of Joe Mantegna as the studio boss Harry Flugleman. With Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz as his personal lackeys. Again amazing casting, even in the small cameo roles. Its actually such a shame we don’t see more of these characters because they looked great; you can see the potential for more great scenes from these guys.

Naturally the cast indicates the type of humour to expect (folks over a certain age will know), and that would be pure lunacy epically delivered. In general the comedy includes slapstick, clever camera trickery, stunts, wordplay and simple spoofing of the genre. Each cast member clearly had their own schtick based around their own individual style which they incorporated into their character. Lucky Day (Steve Martin) is the more intelligent, well-rounded leader of the Amigos. He’s somewhat brave and does all the talking/negotiating. Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) is probably the least intelligent Amigo, a bit simple perhaps, easily led astray. He’s a bit of a ladies man, a bit flashy and brash, but also a bit of a sycophant and creep. He’s also the most cowardly. Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) is probably the bravest of the trio and the dark horse; he often manages to surprise his compadres with hidden talents.

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There are so many small nuggets of comedy gold throughout this movie its impossible to do it justice right here. But take it from me, aside from the more outrageously obvious laughs, there are plenty of tiny facial expressions, poses, quips, and winks that will make you grin from ear to ear. The moment the trio are breaking into El Guapo’s fortress by scaling the walls. They reach the other side just as two guards walk by. The trio literally freeze where they stand despite being in full view; the guards just walk by without noticing a thing. The way the trio act towards El Guapo thinking its all an act, then start to cry when they realise its real. Then at one point a plane flies overhead, Dusty asks ‘what’s it doing here?’. Ned replies ‘I think its a mail plane’, Dusty replies ‘How can you tell??’. Ned responds ‘well didn’t you notice its little balls?’.

Aside from the outlandish comedy on display the movie isn’t perfect, you still find yourself asking questions. Like why is there an invisible swordsman? What’s his story?? Where exactly did the trio get the instructions that led them to the singing bush and the invisible swordsman? Why is there a singing bush? The singing bush is terribly fake looking, doesn’t even match the scenery. Why do the Mexican bandits constantly fire their guns in the air?? Doesn’t that waste bullets?? Lucky got shot…what happened to that??! Where did they get all the correct material from to make so many Amigo outfits in the finale? What exactly does El Guapo get out of this tiny village?? Him and his men never seem to do anything. Lucky gets shot in the foot…what happened to that?? On the very (presumably deliberate) obvious desert night time set, why does the tortoise speak? In the end, after saving the village, the Amigos refuse the monetary reward and ride off into the sunset. But where to? they have no money, just like at the start of their adventure, so what exactly are they gonna do?

Of course many of these questions just don’t matter because the movie isn’t supposed to be looked at in such depth, its just a very light-hearted spoof-esque comedy. The overall balance between the characters is absolutely perfect. Each cast member gets their time to shine with gags they may well have thought up themselves, but often feature all three. The villains and village folk appear to be actually played by real Mexican actors, or at least look like or come from Hispanic countries. Something which is actually quite surprising (the SJW’s would approve I’m sure, maybe). The movie is very bright, breezy and colourful with moments for both youngsters and adults alike, but its the cheeky wit that is so alluring. The real mystery is how this movie continually seems to be overlooked and forgotten.

9/10

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Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)

After the first (successful) movie surrounding shrinkage, and being heavily influenced by some classic sci-fi flicks of the 50’s, it was inevitable that we’d see this. Again heavily influenced by some classic black and white sci-fi movies of the 50’s, we now find the Szalinskis’ with a bigger problem. Yep its basically ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Baby’ or another ‘King Kong’ clone/homage.

The plot: Well the title says it all really. Oh OK, set five years after the tiny events of the first movie, the Szalinskis’ now live in Nevada. They have a new two year old son called Adam, Nick is now a teenager and Amy has gone to college. Funnily enough Wayne (Rick Moranis) is now working on a ray gun that will increase the size of objects. On a routine trip to his work space at Sterling Labs, little Adam is accidentally zapped with the ray but nothing seems to happen. Later on at home Adam is exposed to electrical waves from the microwave which appear to trigger the enlargement process. Slowly Adam begins to gradually grow bigger and bigger; Wayne and Nick must now try to reverse the process before Adam becomes a danger to himself and others.

So again the main draw here are the effects, the big breezy colourful effects. How do they stand up? Well not too well really. OK lets start positive, there are numerous sequences where it appears that they used someone in a large bodysuit. In some scenes we see live action shots Moranis with a live action giant toddler, but if you look closely this does appear to be a very good bodysuit on an obviously tall person. These shots are always from behind the large toddler so as not to give the game away but they are very effective. This showcases the innovation of the effects crew which unfortunately could only go so far. Other than the usual oversized and undersized props, which are always highly effective if sometimes a bit rubbery looking, much of this movie has to rely on bluescreen and rear projection.

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And this is where the movie really falls down, the terrible terrible bluescreen/rear projection effects. The bulk of the effects are unfortunately reliant on these techniques and alas it all stands out like a sore thumb. There are clear brightness differences between the live action in the foreground and projected background. Thick black lines outline much of the effects and the colours are faded throughout. Overall the effect is just way too obvious and really takes you out of the movie. Heck even some of the large sets are bad looking, when Nick and his young female counterpart are riding in Adams oversized pocket, it just looks poor. There are some nice touches of forced perspective in a few shots but again you can see right through them. Don’t get me wrong I give them an A for effort but clearly the effects team needed more money or skills, many movies came out before this and looked way better.

Other than the effects there isn’t a great deal on offer here frankly. The plot sees a cliched company villain (John Shea) going after the oversized Adam for his own nefarious dastardly deeds (still not entirely sure why he gets fired by Sterling, for being mean?). This inevitably brings about the inevitable ‘King Kong’ homages as they use helicopters to try and tranquilise Adam. Lloyd Bridges pops up as Clifford Sterling, president of the Sterling company, a company that does…scientific type stuff. Obviously Bridges brings his own brand of spoof-esque humour which is fine but a bit childish, yeah I know its a kids flick but still. Moranis brings home his lovable nerdy Louis Tulley-esque character again; complete with more outrageous inventions which are admittedly pleasing to the eye. Nothing new really, they reverse or mirror some scenes and dialog from the first movie.

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The movie ends in Vegas which generally looks horrendous from start to finish effects wise. The movie also becomes very stupid as they apparently evacuate the Las Vegas strip in around five minutes. They also manage to coordinate getting all the lights switched off down the strip in five minutes, like all of them! No one gets hurt, nothing gets damaged, and the way they placate Adam is vomit inducing. I guess its all understandable seeing as its essentially a kids movie but its still very lame, lazy and dull.

Doesn’t help that the kid they use for the role of Adam is just kinda annoying, but that’s just me. I think the problem here is the over use of an idea, the Kong sized threat. Add to that the fact its a giant toddler which isn’t particularly interesting or threatening, and of course the fact the first movie used a less common theme which was executed way better. Overall its all adds up to a relatively fun movie with the odd decent moment. Its just fails to capture the magic of the first movie; in this case miniature things are more fun I think.

5/10

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Could there be anything more cliched and corny than the idea of a weedy, crazy haired, spectacled, crazy inventor type nerd who’s wacky creation gets out of hand? Probably not, but that didn’t stop this idea becoming something of a monster hit back in the late 80’s. I remember the time well, this movie was almost like the Jurassic Park of the day with everyone going nuts over the special effects and innovation of the story (despite the fact the idea had been explored thoroughly during the 50’s). And who better to portray this lovable geeky inventor than Rick Moranis, the man who made a career out of playing lovable geeks.

The plot: Its pretty simple really. Eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Moranis) manages to construct a large ray gun that is capable of shrinking objects in size. Unfortunately he is unable to perfect his machine resulting in much frustration and him being mocked at a conference. Its during said conference that Wayne’s kids (and the neighbours kids) are accidentally shrunk by the ray gun which had previously been accidentally switched on by a lone baseball. Eventually Wayne and his wife Diane realise what happened and start to hunt for the shrunken kids. In the meantime the kids are in a life and death situation after being ejected into the garden and are trying to reach the safety of the house (whilst trying to grab the adults attention).

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The movie does start off slow as we get introduced to all the various characters; indicators for the pending adventure. Nick Szalinski is obviously much like his father, looks a bit of a nerd, scrawny, spectacles, but has brains. Amy Szalinski is the attractive, older level-headed sister of Nick. Ron is one of the Thompson kids from next door, he is a bit chunky and a bit of bully. And lastly there is Russ Thompson, older brother of Ron and again like Amy he is more level-headed and has some looks. In fact he has a crush on Amy that flourishes over the course of the movie. And of course both sets of kid have issues with their folks that cause friction at early points; which of course get addressed and ironed out during the adventure. So overall its a stereotypical little gang, no real surprises.

As with many other fantasy movies the real core interest was in the adventure and how the special effects came across. I remember at the time it was hard to escape the media attention this movie got for its shrinking effects, there was a lot of hype. Looking back now its very amusing how quaint these effects look, I’m not being negative but you can’t help but smirk when harking back. In general this movie was definitely a case of, certain shots and sequences would look really great…even now. But then on the other hand certain shots and sequences would look really bad…even worse now.

The best moments are easily when we see the kids on oversized sets against large props; these are the classic shots that obviously hark back to certain golden oldies of the 50’s. Its these shots that really sell the idea that the kids are truly microscopic. Just simple things like the texture of the wooden floor in the attic, giant toys, Cheerios, nails, screws, dust, cookies (which served as a food source) etc…Its also other small details such as a little trickle of water in the garden being a gushing river, and the odd dead insect floating around. The fact that the garden becomes a dense dangerous jungle for of all manner of hazards. It doesn’t sound overly amazing or anything but its these tiny details that really sell it. I also liked how they didn’t shy away from gross things like dead and scary bugs.

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Not all the bugs were scary though. At one point Nick accidentally rides a very obvious rubbery bumblebee after falling into a very rubbery looking nectar patch on a flower. The kids also befriend a very rubbery and limited animatronic puppet baby ant (which to them was a giant rideable creature). The ant doesn’t really do much for the kids until it is called on to defend them from a scorpion (would there be scorpions in this type of garden environment?). Alas the baby ant is easily killed by the scorpion and we are presented with one of the most tear jerking moments for kids since Optimus Prime died, maybe. Yes the ant was blatantly fake looking and could hardly move…but God damn it hits you hard when the little blighter dies (sniff!).

Indeed I mention rubbery items there, that is one factor that stands out a lot when looking back (probably even at the time). There are a lot of things that do look terribly rubbery or plastic. Some things look great, some things do not. The giant insects do suffer in this way I’m afraid, the giants plants also suffer in the same way. It doesn’t ruin the movie but I’m just saying it does stand out. Unfortunately it doesn’t help when rubbery things are accompanied with horribly dated bluescreen effects (greenscreen now). Again the bumblebee ride really suffers here as does various shots/sequences of the kids against live action actors or pets. The now famous sequence of the kids running off the dogs snout onto a table is a terrific idea but boy does it look fake in motion. When Wayne is about to eat Nick in his bowl of Cheerios, great idea, looks pretty awful now. Although the close up shots of Nick in an actual bowl of milk with giant Cheerios looks sweet.

Its kinda ironic that this movie actually feels way more like a Disney theme park experience than an actual movie. The whole visual escapade seems so perfect for their theme parks it makes you wonder how no one thought of it earlier. The array of big chunky colourful props and sets, and the brilliantly geeky inventions of Szalinski such as the shrink ray gun or the ‘keep off the grass’ robot, all marvellously visualised by Joe Johnston and his crew. So yes this is clearly a very visual movie experience (perfect for 3D). On the flip side if we’re honest, the plot is pretty shallow and the characters are simplistic and cliched. This isn’t a big problem here but I think Rick Moranis saves the rather drab casting. This is just one of those roles where you can’t really picture anyone else in it, hmmm…maybe Christopher Lloyd. Anyway to sum up, not quite as epic as you might recall, but certainly a good all round family romp.

7/10

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Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Or, curiously, as it was known in the UK ‘A Night on the Town’. Funnily enough I can’t seem to find out why this change was implemented in the UK. I know the UK version was cut by about 8 seconds for profanity and since then the movie was released with those cuts back in and the original title restored. I guess the title change could have been down to possible confusion with some other movie, I guess. That being said, the plot is essentially a kids version of Martin Scorsese’s 1985 movie ‘After Hours’.

Not only that, this movie always seemed like a bit of an oddity to me. Its most definitely a classic 80’s movie yet somehow…I always felt like it should of had a more classic cast. Its the strangest thing, every time I think about this movie I keep putting other classic actors of the era in it, knowing full well they weren’t in it. I guess what I’m saying is this movie really needed some A-list talent in it. The movie really does yearn for a standout comedic performance to add some punch, the best bet being the villains (‘Home Alone’ being a good example). To me this always felt like a huge missed opportunity.

The other main issue I had with this movie is the plot. Basically Chris Parker (Elizabeth Shue) has taken on a babysitting gig after her boyfriend blows her off. Her job for the evening now is to look after teenager Brad (Keith Coogan), 8 year old Sara (Maia Brewton) and next door neighbour Daryl who gate crashes the situation. Now the entire backbone of the story hinges on one thing, Chris Parker’s friend Brenda running away from home and getting stuck at the city bus station. Brenda uses up all her money to run away to the bus station, changes her mind and wants Chris to come pick her up. To me this was always really weak and really annoying too, I’d be like…not my problem, ring your parents. So Chris feels obliged to help her idiotic friend, but to make matters worse the kids blackmail her into taking them along, cue the nightmare.

The movie moves from one set piece to another introducing more and more problems for Chris as her night becomes more and more convoluted. The whole scenario is one long chain reaction of events intertwined. Its also one of those scenarios in a film where you sit there, at times feeling uncomfortable because you just know the characters shouldn’t be doing this that or the other. You find yourself saying things out loud because you know what’s gonna happen. One of the first major setbacks for Chris and co is when their car gets a flat and after a string of events they end up losing it. This is something that I found to be a constant worry while watching the kids get deeper and deeper. Will they find the car? Where is the car? Is it in one piece? Obviously you know everything will be OK; but you know the movie is working when you’re thinking about it.

Of course everything that does happen is pretty cliched, kids being trapped in the city (Chicago) at night you know what to expect. Nothing horrendous obviously as the movie was for kids but the usual stereotypical 80’s stuff. Lots of bums, hookers, weirdos, criminals that are generally black or mafia-like, some classic 80’s street gangs in some attire to die for, and of course frat boys. Because what 80’s flick is complete without frat boys, required or not. But the main crux surrounds the kids being continuously chased by some criminals because they accidentally picked up a Playboy magazine with some important criminal details written inside.

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Chris and co manage to stumble into a jazz club where they are forced to sing the blues. This whole sequence was certainly silly and embarrassing that’s for sure. I know this is a movie but who would have time for a sing song in this situation?? But this sequence did also remind me very much of ‘The Blues Brothers’ especially with Albert Collins on show. Later on in the movie the kids wind up at a frat boy party (because…80’s) where we see the usual beer chugging tomfoolery along with high school sluts. But we also see another musical cameo from Southside Johnny Lyon which again gave me those Blues Brothers vibes. The soundtrack for the movie is very good overall, some nice soul and blues going down.

As the adventure progresses the kids meet up with various folk who either help them or don’t quite simply. All the while annoying Brenda is having a nervous breakdown in the bus station over not very much really. The whole deal with Brenda felt really out of place, just too stupid. I understand she’s a teen but Jesus Christ get a fucking grip girl! Gotta say, Maia Brewton who plays little Sara was annoying too with her Thor obsession (yes Thor). This all plays into the sequence where the kids meet up with Dawson (Vincent D’Onofrio), the mechanic who has their car towards the end. This guy has long blonde hair (a terrible wig on D’Onofrio) and carries a sledgehammer that looks like Thor’s hammer, so Sara thinks its Thor (ugh!). They owe Dawson $50 for a tyre (only 50! how times have changed), but only have 45, so Dawson refuses. But then little Sara offers him her kids Thor helmet (cos she’s dressed as Thor the entire movie), and Dawson suddenly changes his mind, just like that. Deus ex machina Thor helmet moment.

Hell in the finale the kids end up at the top of a skyscraper and Sara flippin’ climbs out of the window and shimmies down the glass onto a ledge! She’s being chased by one of the bad guys yes but my God! Its at this point I started to question director Chris Columbus’s motives. Clearly he did this just to raise the stakes, make things more thrilling, but its essentially really stupid because no kid would do that. Also the carjacker that initially helps the kids, knocks out his criminal boss to help them finally escape. But what happens to him? Does he wind up getting whacked for punching his boss? Or does he give up his life of crime and start over? Who knows.

Naturally everything works out in the end with a Ferris Bueller-esque finish that is reasonably enjoyable. Even though I was engaged in the unfolding events I was never worried about things not working out, obviously. Even though (as I’ve said) this is a classic 80’s flick, in all honesty there are better ones out there in my humble little opinion. This movie is fun but lacks some real talent of the time. There are so many characters that could have easily been cameos for big name comedians of the era. The movie tries to be funny, witty and at times edgy but it tends to fall a bit flat. The music is a highlight as are the glorious retro inner city visuals; but the main characters are kinda irritating and can’t hold a candle to other 80’s movie casts. In the end its still hard to believe that this entire chain of events happened simply because of one ditzy girlfriend and her own foolishness.

6/10

The Mummy (2017)

I feel I must point this out just in case, for the younger generations. This movie is not entirely based upon the oddly popular Brendan Fraser trilogy that started in 1999. Believe it or not there was in fact an original horror movie from way back in 1932 starring Boris Karloff that kick started the entire idea. But lets be honest here, this new movie takes many ideas from many classic horror movies. So much so it feels more like a long trailer of highlights from other movies redone with better effects (I still can’t believe the nerve of them frankly).

So the main change in this modern reboot is the titular Mummy (Princess Ahmanet) wanting to resurrect Set, the God of war and chaos (instead of a dead lover). Initially she was inline to the throne in her native Egypt, but her fathers second wife has a baby boy which takes her place. Out of anger and frustration at losing her rightful place as Queen, Ahmanet murders her family and plans to resurrect Set using her lovers body as the vessel for the Gods spirit. She must do this using a special dagger to transfer Set’s spirit. Before this can be done she is captured and of course mummified alive.

What follows is (now) pretty much your bog standard action flick all because Tom Cruise was cast. Yes that’s right, probably one of the worst choices ever for this type of movie. Cruise would easily be in my top ten of actors that I would never consider for such a dark tale of mysticism and terror. Apparently Cruise had much of the control in the creation of this movie, and boy does it show. The opening sequence could quite easily be from any Mission: Impossible movie as his character Nick Morton and sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are caught by ISIS-esque insurgents as they try to pinch ancient artifacts from a small town (which the insurgents would have destroyed anyway).

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The pair are actually on reconnaissance for the US military at the time but are moonlighting as black market traders for ancient artifacts. Amidst the carnage of gunfire and airstrikes (with no apparent casualties) the tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At the same time a sexy blonde archaeologist (Jenny) appears out of nowhere who Morton was supposedly bonking and naturally becomes his love interest for the rest of the movie. Its around this very early point when you realise this movie isn’t gonna be very good. Apart from Cruise merely playing the same character he’s played for years now, the entrance to this tomb is ridiculously vast!! and they treat these priceless ancient artifacts like spare parts from Ikea.

Lets not be too negative here, there were some good points in the movie. The horror element was actually nicely done. The movie isn’t scary or anything but the various CGI effects for people having their souls sucked out of them with their bodies being reduced to shriveled up zombies, was pretty cool. The undead themselves were also really well rendered using CGI and makeup; they did look pretty terrifying visually and the way they moved was well choreographed.

Its just a shame that’s about all I can say on the positive side of things. The fact they basically stole the whole undead guide/corpse idea with Vail from John Landis classic ‘An American Werewolf in London’ is damn near unforgivable. I can’t even say it was a homage because they just outright copied the entire concept! Then there are things that don’t really add up; why exactly does Ahmanet need to use this specific ruby encrusted dagger? What connection does that dagger have to Set? During the movie Morton is told numerous times the curse cannot be broken, then apparently it can be broken just by destroying the ruby. In one scene the undead cannot swim (they just sink), then in another they can swim. In another sequence Morton and Jenny are escaping in an ambulance at top speed when some zombies attack outta nowhere. How did they get on the ambulance?? There were clearly no zombies on the vehicle in one shot, then they’re all over it.

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Then we have the secret organisation known as Prodigium headed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Or call it what it is, the very very blatant and obvious attempt at copying Marvel’s cinematic universe building, Universal Pictures S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent. Aside from the fact this one idea has been used a gazillion times, ‘Van Helsing’ for example. There is no imagination here whatsoever, its literally all about setting up future movies with small easter eggs dotted around, there is no other point for it. The fact Universal don’t even really try to hide this fact, and everyone knows it, makes it worse!

Observation: So within Prodigium there are lots of little teasers as I mentioned already. One such teaser is the forearm of a creature that clearly hails from the movie ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’. But here’s the thing, there was always only one creature from the classic movie/s, but this teaser indicates there are possibly numerous creatures that have already been seen and maybe killed (unless the main creature is now missing a forearm). But seeing as its unlikely that the first new movie will have a one-handed creature (unless it grows it back?) I must assume there are more than one.

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Even then they couldn’t even do anything interesting with this; when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde…nothing happens! Crowe simply turns a shade of grey, his eyes seem to go yellow, he adopts a cockney accent and that’s it I think. Don’t get me wrong I think its good they didn’t go with some huge CGI creation that we’ve all seen before, but the character definitely needed something else. Also Prodigium has Ahmanet all chained up for the most part, but guess what? One minute she’s all chained up and helpless, the next she simply decides to break free and escape. As already pointed out, this does seem to happen a lot in this movie, things just changing on a whim. Much like Morton being taken over by Set, only to quite easily retake control of his body seconds later (so much for Set). Oh and Vail being resurrected at the end of the movie, did Morton resurrect everyone that died in the film? He could have.

I think everyone knows the problem with this movie, it stands out like a sore thumb. And that is quite simply, the movie is torn between being a proper fully fledged horror movie and a Tom Cruise action vehicle. Clearly the entire production didn’t know what to do with the director being in limbo and the studio basically giving Cruise full control. The whole movie is a mess of ideas from start to finish with Cruise running around alongside his much younger female love interest, and grinning a lot (much awkward and unfunny comedy). The movie fails on such a large scale its embarrassing; they essentially tried to map stereotypical Tom Cruise action flick tropes onto this horror classic of the silver screen. There are some nice touches here and there yes, but ultimately it fails on almost every level.

4/10

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

So here in old blighty we have this sprawling legend of one Arthur Pendragon, King Arthur, King of the Britons. The King who is said to have defended Britain against the Saxon hordes in, umm…a long long long time ago. Arthur was supposed to have beaten the Saxons and established an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. Along with Arthur other apparent legends have also been scooped up and added such as Merlin, the Sword in the Stone (a different item to Excalibur in some tales), the lady in the lake, the Holy Grail and various knights such as Lancelot. All of this and much more comes under what is known as Arthurian legend.

In the opening battle sequence of this movie I was shocked, gob-smacked! Firstly the visuals are undoubtedly incredible, expected but even still, whoa! But wait what’s this? Gigantic battle elephants that wouldn’t look outta place in a Lord of the Rings or 300 movie?? Yep looks great but literally what the hell? Of course this is just the start of numerous gigantic animals we will see. Later on expect giant bats, snakes, rats, a large eagle and a whopping mega gigantic snake that actually eats people, oh yes.

But the other rather silly thing that happens, Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon is watching as his army is getting wiped out and Camelot is being destroyed. So he casually grabs his trusty sword Excalibur, gallops towards the giant battle elephants by horse taking out all enemies, leaps across a huge drop between Camelot’s ramparts and the elephant (the horse presumably falling to it death) and hacks his way into the huge portable armoured mount on top of the elephant. There he casually takes everyone out including his arch nemesis Mordred and wins the day. All this kinda leaves you wondering why he didn’t do this straight away, and why he even needs an army.

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Its also around this point you start to notice the casting, and I’m gonna have to bring this up. Turns out in this Guy Ritchie directed version of events Sir Bedivere is played by Djimon Hounsou. Not only that but Sir Tristan is also portrayed by a black actor (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and in the end we get a knight who is of an Oriental background (not sure where, I’m guessing China). The fact he’s called George gives no clues but at least he seems to be created for the film. OK so let me be straight here, if Ritchie wanted to include diversity in this movie, that’s fine with me. It would be perfectly acceptable to have included some new characters that came from other realms, such as Africa, the Middle East or the Far East. In fact it would probably be relatively historically accurate. But to race swap two of Arthur knights, two Englishmen of legend, is honesty unforgivable.

As for the cast on the whole, its fine, nothing spectacular, but fine. Everyone speaks with a cockney accent which is completely bullshit but this is a Guy Ritchie movie after all. Apparently Ritchie thinks everyone in the UK has a cockney accent. There are a few scenes which are 100% pure Ritchie which was…awkward. You know what I mean, a group of fast talking cockneys with stupid names describing events which involve other folk with equally stupid names. Pretty sure no one was called Mike or Blue or ‘Goosefat Bill’; mind you I’m also pretty sure no one used the word ‘fuck’ back then either.

So its obvious that various elements of the Arthurian legend have been jettisoned or rejigged. This isn’t too much of a problem though because the Arthurian legend has many versions, angles, viewpoints etc…But for example, the actual existence of King Vortigern is as equally questionable as Arthur himself. Castles didn’t actually exist during Arthur’s life, they didn’t turn up for at least another 500 years. The same can also be said for armour. Characters such as Merlin and the knights of the round table are thought to be entirely fictional. The sword Excalibur is also thought to be entirely fictional. And alas all the giant creatures, watery squid witches, demon knights and supernatural/superhero abilities we see are of course all bullshit to make this movie more exciting.

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And that’s the real problem here, this movie doesn’t really feel like a historical film about King Arthur. It feels more like a superhero movie with Arthur being an X-Men type character with a supernatural weapon. Ritchie has taken a historical piece and revamped it into a videogame/comicbook-esque action movie for the youngsters. Just look at the final battle between Arthur and this Mortal Kombat character in some dark alternate dimension. Literally the epitome of a modern day movie for youngsters. But that isn’t a problem per say, revamping old things can be good and this movie does have good elements. But this whole venture feels so contrived and artificial, the fact they deliberately left out Merlin, most of the main knights and the round table (tacked onto the ending) for future sequels was all too obvious. So obvious in fact I think that one factor really hurt the movie because people are getting really sick and tired of these predictable cinematic universe setups.

Apart from all that none of this makes a great deal of sense either. Why are there watery witches living in an underground rock pool in the bowels of the castle? What exactly are they supposed to be? Why do they need dead bodies? I presume they enabled King Vortigern to be able to turn into a demon knight? What was that alternate dimension? I thought it was simply a nightmare Arthur kept having, apparently not? So upon death Uther Pendragon turned himself into the stone that would hold the sword Excalibur…wut??? Or was that just another nightmare from Arthur’s mind?

Anyways, if you were expecting a film in the same spiritual fairytale-esque vein as John Boorman’s cult classic, you might be disappointed. This movie feels more like a loud, in-your-face Robin Hood tale with some fantasy monsters and a roided up King Arthur (who wears very natty stylish clothes including a quarter length coat!). The visuals are admittedly lavish and beautiful and there are some nice touches. Unfortunately its also a typical Guy Ritchie affair mixed with silly videogame-like traits which overall makes it feel, tone wise, very muddled.

5.5/10

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The Great Wall (CH/US, 2016)

K so in China there is this huge wall that was slowly constructed over the ages by various Dynasties. The earliest construction starting back in the 7th century BC. This great wall ran along the ancient border of northern China to protect against various groups of invaders from various areas that now make up some of eastern Europe, Mongolia and mainly Russia. This is fact, but this movie deals with legend (but not a real one).

The plot: A band of European mercenaries are in China searching for the magic black powder that kills many (gunpowder). After losing all of their men to Khitan bandits in the region, the last two mercs, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), stumble upon the great wall (unsure how they didn’t see it). There they discover a special division of the Imperial Army of the Song Dynasty called ‘The Nameless Order’. Turns out this special division was put in place to protect the Chinese Kingdom from a race of alien monsters (yes that’s right, alien monsters). Unfortunately for the Europeans this must remain a secret so they are held captive indefinitely. Luckily they both display great courage and fighting skills when the aliens attack which pleases the Chinese, so they end up helping with the struggle.

Yes its an age old tale which we’ve all seen a fair few times for sure. The question is does this movie get around this cliched plot and give us something special? Well first things first, lets look at the enemy, the alien monster horde. For starters the design is absolutely terrible, truly, this is no lie. The woeful CGI doesn’t help its case of course but what the fuck is going on with that design? It looks like something from the 90’s, I can’t even describe it. Its kinda like a mutant alligator crossed with a vicious dog, with its eyes just above is fronts legs, a mohawk and some gills down its back for communicating in high pitch screams.

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These aliens apparently came to Earth via a meteorite that struck a mountain, which turned the mountain green because…I don’t know. This happened two thousand years prior to these events, sooo…did these aliens evolve in that time?? Whatever happened it must have happened quickly because there are apparently millions of these aliens. This in turn leads me to ask how on earth these aliens haven’t been discovered by anyone other than the Chinese yet?? How have the aliens not managed to overcome the wall thus far considering how great in number they are. Why do they always attack the same spot on the wall? Why not somewhere else or split into two separate attacks? Are there other attacks elsewhere on the wall we aren’t seeing? Why do they only attack every 60 years??? Seriously what is that about? Are they hibernating in the meantime?

The aliens also appear to be somewhat invulnerable because they can only be killed by being struck in their incredibly small eyes?! So…no other body part being struck has any effect?? We also learn that these aliens have a Queen and she controls the hordes via their high pitch calls (with the gills). But we also learn that if the Queen is neutralised (or killed obviously), so that the rest cannot hear her calls, the hordes will freeze or sleep or just become statues or something. Oh and there’s some crap about magnets hypnotising the aliens into a deep sleep, whatever I dunno. The ideas and story behind these creatures are so stupid and messy I can’t believe they went ahead with them.

Lets take a look at the Chinese warriors in this movie, The Nameless Order. Well each warrior is split into individual units with special skills and different colour uniforms/armour. For example there are the archers which wear all red armour and the, ahem, acrobatic unit which wear all blue armour. Oh and the acrobats are all women. Yeah seems a bit unrealistic for an entire unit to be made up of women, but I know women warriors did exist back in ancient China so I’ll give that a semi-pass. Now all these units make perfect sense…except for the ladies unit. These female warriors bungee jump off the top of the wall, spears in hand, to attack the aliens below. It sounds exciting but is in fact completely and utterly pointless and merely offers juicy meat for the aliens to snap up. Seriously, with all the arrows, flaming boulders, harpoons, spears, explosives etc…taking out lots of aliens at a safe distance, why would you need women to leap to their inevitable deaths simply to skewer one single alien?

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This leads me onto the wall itself. This isn’t just a simple wall, oh no, this is a wonder wall with lots of hidden features that are revealed by moving sections. Not only can soldiers exit at the foot of the wall through secret moving wall sections; half way up the wall also reveals sections that allow giant scissor-like blades to thrash out and dismember climbing aliens. The interior of the wall is also highly intricate with lots of rooms, corridors, prisons, machinery, store rooms etc…They also seem to have a never ending supply of ammo like arrows and giant circular boulders, oh and they have hot air balloons too.

I have to mention the bewildering amount of deus ex machina moments in this movie. There is so much it just makes a mockery of the entire thing. The whole sequence where William scales down the wall to capture an alien, in thick mist, is one long joke. The moments where the Chinese rain down arrows, explosives and flaming boulders onto the ground below, completely blind due to the mist, but conveniently miss William is laughable. Then of course Tovar saves William out of literally nowhere, like where the fuck did he just come from?? There are so many shots in the movie where a character is saved at the last second, or something happens and they avoid certain death. Or a character makes some miraculous shot or move or whatever in slow motion (oh my God the slow motion!!). I’ve never groaned so much in my life!!

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Both the Chinese and western cast are acceptable but nothing special. Damon’s historical action figure has got nothing on Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, or Mel Gibson’s William Wallace. Pedro Pascal is actually a little more engaging with his little touches of comedic relief, even though its pretty simple, amateurish stuff. Willem Dafoe is here but it doesn’t matter because his character is unimportant and does nothing. And the Chinese actors are generally as you would expect, taking it all too seriously whilst not acting too well (but they have great hair). And yet again I have to address controversy (almost every bloody movie now). No this is not whitewashing because Damon’s character isn’t supposed to be Asian, he isn’t replacing an Asian actor. His character is European, a European mercenary which was common at the time. Is this a white saviour movie? Hmmm…it could be, but not entirely, Damon doesn’t really save the day. But even if it was, who the fuck cares eh??

I really do get the impression this movie would possibly have done really well, had it come out back in the 90’s. This really felt like a cheesy, hokey 90’s CGI schlock fest that would have been lapped up at the time (due to the wonder of early CGI). I mean, I really really wanted to like this movie as I liked the premise, but its so fucking stupid with so many issues its simply impossible. It does looks good at times (landscapes) but then at other times it looks like a Lord of the Rings wannabe with all the Chinese warriors looking like old colour-coded Lego men. It starts off OK but just becomes more and more absurd as it goes, until we reach the abysmal ending. This really is a thoroughly dated movie in every aspect.

4/10

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