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

The War of the Worlds (1953)

H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds is probably one of the most famous and influential science fiction stories in literature. The story has spawned films, radio dramas, TV adaptations, comic adaptations, videogames and even a record album. One of the lesser known works highly influenced by Wells work would be ‘The Tripods’ by John Christopher. This itself was adapted into a BBC TV series in 1984 which has since developed a strong cult following.

Of course the most infamous adaptation was a live radio broadcast narrated by Orson Wells in 1938. The story was presented in a news broadcast fashion which in turn led to many many listeners actually thinking it was real. Can’t blame them really, if you think about it back then the radio was all people had. No internet, very little television, and what was on TV would have been extremely limited. So if a serious sounding news bulletin comes on informing you about destruction from unidentified objects, chances are you’d believe it.

But its this 1953 movie that is probably the most well known adaptation of Wells story the world over. Not only was this a loose but solid adaptation of the book, it was also an excellent science fiction film in its own right. For the time this movie was groundbreaking with its special effects, effects that earned the team an Academy Award in 1954. What is incredible is looking back you’d think the effects would be pretty hokey these days (much like many sci-fi movies of the era), but surprisingly they still hold up relatively well.

wotw2

Of course the film is adorably cheesy and quaint, can’t avoid that. The feature begins with the typically standard 1950’s sci-fi narration accompanied with black and white stock footage. This footage shows us military technology as it progresses through the years, mainly through both world wars. It then cuts to colour with the movies title and then to a series of matte paintings of every known planet in our solar system. The narrator (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) informs us about each planet and its hostile environment, basically why the martian invaders would want Earth (but how would the narrator know this? Is the movie a story being told to someone by the narrator? Is the whole ordeal a flashback?). Anyway my point being the film unfortunately still relies on stock footage but also includes some lovely matte paintings.

The meat of the effects comes with the alien invaders themselves, although there were issues. Obviously for starters we all know the classic look of the Martian machines, huge towering tripods. Well at the time the effects crew had problems trying to create the three-legged machines so it was decided to alter the design. I have never really been happy with this look though, I realise there were technical limitations at the time so I’m not angry or anything, but the Martian machines just looked awful in my opinion. They essentially looked like a hovering, crescent shaped platform with a long periscope sticking out on top. They never really looked intimidating to me, more flimsy and fragile, and the green colour scheme was just ugly.

To make matters worse (in my humble opinion) the effects team did actually include the tripod legs…only they were force field legs and invisible. If you strain hard enough you can actually see the imprints (with a small pyrotechnic touch) in the ground as the machines move. Alas these look more like small explosions from shells or whatever than imprints from tripod legs. You can also see the wires holding the machines up in some scenes, which was amusing.

wotw7

Indeed the chaos and destruction seen on the movies posters are well imagined in the film. The model Martian machines slowly hover down city streets (some live action, some models), their wires quivering. At every opportunity they unleash their devastating heat-rays from their cobra shaped periscopic eyes. Brilliant flashes of white heat that reduce damn near everything to rubble. Oddly though, at first the heat-rays reduce military equipment, vehicles and men to either piles of white or black charred ash (or just nothing at all). Yet when they take to the city streets the same doesn’t seem to happen to buildings, they just crumble and catch fire. Theoretically there should be nothing left standing other than mounds of charred ash. Everything you see is a frantic blur of various effects such as superimposing, models, stock footage, matte paintings etc…That along with the terrific sounds effects for the alien weaponry (think Star Trek: TOS photon torpedoes) and you have some great sequences of action.

The actual aliens themselves were a real achievement also. The level of detail on the rubber puppet was incredible for the time. It had veins, skin texture, skin folds, and it was moist which gave it a more realistic ‘living’ look. Sure they look silly now but considering this was all done in 53 its extremely impressive for the time. I think the one main visual flaw for me was the ridiculous looking, large three-hued (red, green and blue) eye they had. The actual shape of the aliens body, their short stocky torsos with long thin arms and three thin suction cup fingers, was all perfect, quite scary for the time. The sequence where Dr. Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia van Buren (Ann Robinson) are holed up in an abandoned house, only to be met by one of the little aliens during the night, was executed excellently. I’m very sure that had viewers screaming back in the day. But alas that big colourful bug eye looked like a kids toy from the 80’s. It was neat to give the aliens this unique vision, but the three coloured lens sections looked a bit daft to me.

wotw9

Of course this being 50’s America you know it wouldn’t take long before the Yanks would break out their Atomic weaponry. Although lets be fair here, the humans get their asses handed to them on a plate. But there is a really effective build in tension as the Americans blast the aliens with everything they have, including nukes. But still the Martian machines keep coming, protected by their amusing bell jar shaped force fields. Eventually the military leaders realise they cannot stop the invaders, the fate of the human race lies in Gods hands (not literally). Its actually quite a haunting solemn moment.

This again leads to another element of the film I don’t really like. After getting separated the main duo (Forrester and Buren) meet up again in a church (now in LA). The Martian machines loom down on the church as they tear through the streets, nothing can stand in their way, not even the house of God. But low and behold just before they are about to destroy the church, the alien crafts falter and come crashing down. Of course I’m sure everyone knows why now, but the fact that its implied there may have been divine intervention from up above that saved the Earth (and that church) is somewhat off-putting. The idea that bacteria infected and killed the Martians was always a brilliant move, genius. Its also perfectly normal to accept that if something like this did happen in reality, there would of course be a lot of religious rhetoric flying around no doubt. But to end this exceptional sci-fi on the notion that mankind was kinda saved by God just sours the fun.

Whilst I recognise the brilliance of this film in everything it achieves, I can’t quite bring myself to say its a perfect movie. Yes it is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made and it does still hold up today, but the few issues I have with this adaptation I cannot ignore. I think the main peeve for me will always be the look of the Martian machines, I just can’t stand the fact they don’t have tripod legs. Any imagery you see of towering alien tripods is just so instantly recognisable and evocative, it pains me that they are absent in this film. Nevertheless there is a good balance between the action and exposition scenes. Its not bogged down and boring, its actually a really tense and eerie affair, and you do genuinely care about the main cast (all of which do sterling work I might add). End of the day despite its small flaws, this is an absolute must see for all ages.

8.5/10

wotw11

Stryker (PH, 1983)

It would be very easy of me to say this was a simple rip-off of the first two Mad Max movies but hey, come on, seriously…take a bloody look at this thing. Its a flippin’ rip-off of George Miller’s dystopian creation…visually at least.

The Earth is a scorched barren wasteland. Small pockets of people is all that is left of the human race after a devastating nuclear war. The most precious commodity now is water (sound familiar?), not food, not fuel, not bullets or guns because apparently there’s an abundance of that stuff, no its H2O. The remaining small groups of people fight amongst themselves for the water. Kardis, a tyrant with a loyal following wants the location of a colony that has a natural spring. Said colony is peaceful but remain hidden to fend off the violent Kardis and his black leather wearing minions.

There is seemingly only one man who can help the colony and stop Kardis, that man is Stryker (Steve Sandor), oh and his black leather clad partner Bandit…excuse me?. Stryker is your complete stereotypical 80’s anti-hero…that has been cobbled together from other movies. He’s a silent, roguish, gruff, tanned, muscular bloke with longish hair. Unfortunately the hair is slightly blonde, very curly (almost an afro) and doesn’t look very cool. He wears a tight vest to show off his big arms, he has on what looks to be armoured shin pads and camouflage type pants (similar to Snake Plissken in ‘Escape from New York’), and he often wears a cowboy hat and bandana around his face. Naturally he’s a dab hand with all types of guns and knives.

str2

His sidekick, Bandit, is also very quiet, slim, athletic, actually has more muscular tone than Stryker and has wavy black long hair complete with bandana. As already said Bandit wears all black leather and is also darn good with guns and knives. Both of these (apparent) butch blokes travel around the desert in…wait for it…a black, heavily modified 1970 Ford Mustang that just so happens to look very similar to the Ford Falcon in that other desert set flick.

The baddie named Kardis looks like Ben Kingsley and dresses relatively sensibly, albeit with a slightly Arabic look. Its his henchmen that look bloody ridiculous and are somewhat of a copyright infringement. All of his men are dressed in black leather, some wearing odd helmets, masks, goggles, body harnesses/fetish gear etc…It literally looks like they just stepped off the set of ‘Mad Max 2’, its so blatant. The only real difference is these bad guys travel around on tanks (which does look badass), although they do use the odd battered vehicle.

Again ripping ideas straight outta other specific movies, this movie also has a band of female warriors that are all incredibly sexy looking. Each and every female warrior is wearing very tight skimpy booty shorts that show more arse than anything (its very nice). They all wear white clothes (as do all the peaceful goodie people) and in another blatant copyright infringement some wear what looks to be white American football type shoulder padding (yes from ‘Mad Max 2’ again). All these female warriors also tend to use bows, arrows and crossbows rather than guns. So essentially these characters are just another stolen idea.

str6

There is very little dialog in this movie which is somewhat unsurprising I guess seeing as most of the actors are dubbed. But the lack of actual talking is still quite odd really, its like the movie is just one long collection of action sequences stuck together around a crap plot. That plot basically being, the baddies are after the water, the goodies have to stop them, guys wearing black bad, people wearing white good…and that’s it. There are various characters that do get captured and whatnot, there are some flashbacks to explain what happened between Kardis and Stryker etc…but none of it matters. Baddies wear black, goodies wear white…fight!

Admittedly there are a lot of reasonable action sequences involving vehicles. Nothing you hadn’t seen before in some other movies (ahem) but they have been directed and carried out pretty well all things considered. Yes there is a tanker sequence, of course there is, no its not as good as that tanker sequence. Yes there are many nice shots of Stryker’s souped-up car against sunsets, closeups, the roaring of the engine as it thunders down the deserted highways etc…Honesty the car is sweet, they’ve done their best to match (or copy) the iconic Ford Falcon pursuit special and its not half bad, I wouldn’t say no. Other vehicles are standard desert bound stuff like jeeps and various 4×4 things. The female warriors have a neat looking three wheeled motorbike thingy.

str8

Most of the action is pretty hokey as you might expect with men throwing themselves around when they get shot. Lots of explosive squibs to simulate gunfire, wounds and ricochets etc…The locations work nicely, I believe its all in the Philippines but I could be wrong. Sure some of it looks to be in quarries and some rundown ruins but it does the job. Everything looks yellow, dusty, rocky, sandy, battered etc…what else do you need for an apocalyptic movie in the desert? Steve Sandor is clearly having a ball being this supposedly ultra cool anti-hero, he growls and snarls when required, ignores the sexy women like a true badass would do…I guess. His sidekick Bandit is virtually mute but does get a sex scene, so not gay then? Jury is still out on that because he sure as hell doesn’t like it when Stryker leaves him at the end, dude almost breaks down in tears in front of his new hot girlfriend.

The movies poster is sexy stuff, its literally why I watched the film! I was predictably somewhat disappointed to discover the poster isn’t really accurate (how many times man? how many times?). Going in I knew this would be a mix of many things that have come before, twas bloody obvious, but is that bad? I mean, yeah sure its bad in a legal moral sense, but for entertainment purposes its actually alright. Yes the movie is cheap and tacky but thumbs for effort, credit where credits due, this ain’t half bad for a low budget B-movie. The fact that it looks like there was not much health and safety involved whilst making this makes it even more impressive and fun. Final thought, someone really needs to explain to me why there was a band of Jawas/Dinks in the desert. I…I really didn’t quite understand that, quite simply, why is there a band of little people in the middle of the desert?

5.5/10

str11

Outland (1981)

Well there’s no real mistaking what Peter Hyams set out to do with this movie. From the opening credits and score its pretty clear that Hyams had been heavily influenced by a certain Ridley Scott sci-fi horror. Yet despite that the story is actually a western set in space, heavily influenced by the classic 1952 cowboy movie ‘High Noon’. In all honesty this film feels more like an adaptation (to a degree) of the Gary Cooper classic, but either way you look at it, there isn’t too much originality going on here Mr Hyams.

The plot sees Federal Marshal William O’Niel (Sean Connery) starting his new tour of duty based on the Jovian moon Io. O’Niel polices a harsh titanium ore mining outpost on the moon. The conditions are tough, its bleak, O’Niel is away from his family and things are about to get even more uncomfortable for the marshal. When several miners appear to suffer from nervous breakdowns or massive fatigue due to ‘burning out’, O’Niel is told its all part and parcel of the job. General manager Sheppard (Peter Boyle) claims productivity has broken records since he took over, the shifts are long but the rewards are big. So the odd miner going nuts maybe isn’t anything to be too concerned over. However, O’Niel is not convinced and decides to dig a little deeper with the help of medic Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen).

out3

So its not really much of a surprise that this movie does indeed look like Ridley Scott’s masterpiece ‘Alien’. Hymas did in fact hire a few people that worked on the 1979 horror sci-fi, set decorator Stuart Rose, costume designer John Mollo and model maker Martin Bower. And boy did Hymas get what he wanted, instantly you can see the similarities between both movies with the industrial looking sets and very workman-like outfits of all the various crews. In all honesty this movie could almost be set in the same timeline as ‘Alien’ from a visual standpoint, it blends in so well. Now originality issues aside, this isn’t a bad thing, far from it, ‘Outland’ looks terrific with its bleak, dark, steamy, claustrophobic visage. That entire ‘blue collar workers/space truckers’ in space angle is captured perfectly.

Set wise you could say its like watching an entire movie set on the Nostromo (again). While this mining facility hasn’t quite got the same kind of scope or detail you can see the influences and it does work effectively. Personal quarters have a very metallic, industrial vibe with that familiar futuristic looking padding effect on the walls. There are lots of control panels with monitors and various lighting effects strewn around, large solid steel doors, brightly lit warning signs, lots of steel grating, minimalistic white coloured eating/kitchen areas etc…At the same time other sections of the facility are more dimly lit and more technical, walkways have a hint of ‘2001’ about them with bright white lighting and being hexagon in shape. And of course there’s the canteen or bar for the miners which is your stereotypical dimly lit, sleazy, smoky den of corruption complete with space strippers. The only thing missing would be skimpy plastic clothes and lots of neon.

out4

The facility exterior is also very impressive but a bit shaky looking these days. Front projection (I think, might have been rear projection) was used for many exterior shots which are kinda obvious watching today unfortunately. That isn’t to say they look bad, obvious but not bad, the colour tends to give it away. A combination of models, miniatures and sets were also incorporated which generally look pretty sweet but again obvious by today’s standards. Various shots of the facility look very realistic and, ahem…’Alien’-esque with lots of tiny surface details, flashing warning lights and of course a very heavy industrial metallic appearance overall. The models are decent but do tend to remind me some models you might see in an episode of Red Dwarf. Watching the actors spacewalk does unfortunately also look very much like they’re walking on a set…very…slowly. Again the spacesuits that are worn seem to be heavily influenced by that Ridley Scott movie, OK lets not beat around the bush here they’re virtually identical!

I feel the story does actually lose its impetus when the hired hitmen arrive to whack O’Niel (after he’s discovered what’s going on). Up to that point its very tense, very eerie, you’re not sure how many guys will turn up, whether they’ll be huge or maybe cyborgs or something. You get the classic moment when O’Niel walks into the space bar and asks for some help from the workers (ala ‘High Noon’). Its here when the excitement really does start to mount because you know he ain’t getting no help. But then it all goes down the pan when two very ordinary blokes turn up with shotguns, oh.

out2

Two! just two guys?? Surely you’d send a few more than that? Not only that but O’Niel could of taken them out the minute they stepped off the shuttle, the setup was perfect. Then when you start to think about it, there are plenty of ways in which O’Niel could have avoided these guys. Hiding in the packed space bar for starters, who cares about the patrons after they refused to help. But none of that really matters in the end because he kills them pretty quickly with ease. The facility interior simply offered up way too many options to jump and surprise the bad guys so you don’t really feel the tension.

The score does help with the sequences of action and build up. Its not really musical but more…industrial (there’s that word again). I really don’t wanna keep mentioning that Ridley Scott film but there are so many similar aspects here its impossible not too. But yes the score is very similar in tone to Scott’s masterpiece, its offers the same kind of slow, haunting, emotional tunes that will feel familiar and are admittedly effective here.

out5

But let me be clear here, this is not an action flick, there isn’t loads of gunfire, fisticuffs and plosions (maybe a little fisticuffs). There are some nice subtle hints of gore, just the odd dark flash of blood ‘n’ guts when the odd miner bites the dust. The infamous exploding head sequences are now most amusing, yet when I was a kid they were as terrifying as the melting faces in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Overall, and much like the musical score, this is a slow building, somewhat haunting, tense affair that is telling a very straight forward story with few fancy thrills. Its your standard heroic cowboy movie with a space backdrop. Sean Connery gives a good solid performance as the ‘sheriff’ as it were, who rolls into town and must clean it up. The difference here being Connery’s character isn’t gruff and butch as you might expect, but actually more quiet, calm, sensitive, a slightly broken man who pines for his family.

‘Outland’ isn’t a classic movie, its not gonna be in most people’s top ten sci-fi movies, in fact I’d say its generally forgotten these days. Alas its very familiar tones will turn some folk off I’m sure, simply brushing it aside as a rip-off, which I would understand. All I can say is I highly recommend the film to anyone who hasn’t seen it and to anyone who hasn’t seen it in a long time. Its a very simple but effective film that showcases nicely grounded, dark science fiction.

7/10

out6

Rogue One (2016)

It is indeed a strange turn of events when the spin-off movie with the shallow premise (which I admittedly, fully expected to be a poor cash grab), turns out to be a solid movie. Where as the official Star Wars saga sequel with way more solid plot behind it, turns out to be the poor nostalgia cash grab. So what worked and what didn’t and how does this single movie rank in the entire galactic Star Wars universe?

So lets start with the basic premise here, the plot and idea for this movie. Straight off the bat this entire idea is totally ridiculous lets be honest. The whole notion of showing us how the rebels managed to get ahold of the plans for the Death Star is pointless. This is the kind of thing that a TV series (just like the animated ones) is perfect for, covering the small sections in between the major saga movies which don’t need entire movies. I mean come on, we all know what happens here and that’s a problem because we know most (if not all) of the characters will probably have to die, tension gone. We know the rebels get the plans and we know that it probably involves lots of skirmishes on land, in the air, at sea and in space.

At any point in this movie was I concerned about the characters or their mission? No, no I wasn’t for very simple reasons such as continuity. Sure some characters could of survived for another movie, but the more that happens the more possibilities for a convoluted classic trilogy. I mean, where would they have disappeared to for so long and why? Obviously its easy to say a certain character just went off to the far end of the (uncharted) galaxy and lived on a remote undiscovered planet for whatever reasons. But that would make no sense, why would a central rebel character disappear during the most climatic time of the war with the empire? they wouldn’t. In turn this (in my opinion) did hurt the movie simply because I wasn’t really that engaged as I knew what was probably gonna happen.

sw3

Essentially this means that all we’re here for is nostalgia porn, winks and nods to what we all know and love. Shove some stuff from the classic trilogy in there with all new shiny CGI plosions and everyone’s happy? Well yes and no because bottom line you can’t really escape that in a Star Wars movie. While I fully admit this is nostalgia porn until the next saga installment turns up, heck…at least its good looking nostalgia porn that’s well made.

Its also worth mentioning quickly that the main plot is actually (and amusingly) about a rebel group of rebels. The entire mission they set out on is actually against rebel HQ orders, they in fact go rogue. And here’s me thinking they use that title because it sounded and looked cool, plus another word meaning ‘to rebel’. Nope they are indeed rebel rebels.

Lets look at the characters in this Dirty Dozen-esque type movie that doesn’t have a dozen main hero characters. Well as expected you have a ragtag bunch of desperadoes that all seem to have a special kill. One bloke has a bigass gun with ammo pack on his back. One guy is a roguish, Han Solo-esque looking sharp shooter. Another guy is a wise, blind, staff wielding martial arts expert type chap. One skinny dude is a mechanical equipment type expert. Our heroine is your standard all rounder but also seems to be good with a stick. There is a well spoken, Marvin the paranoid android, type robot complete with deadpan humour. And lastly we have the larger than life, half man, half prosthetic robot leader…who isn’t actually the leader but actually dies really early on. And yes, this time there is no Jedi hocus pocus.

sw2

So you have the stereotypical team with dare I say…box ticked diversity, but are they any good? Well yes and no, reasons being they are a great looking team of space mercs but I never really cared about any of them because I didn’t know them well enough. There is no real backstory to any of these guys other than a bit of exposition here and there. Is that all you need? Well again yes and no, on one hand it would be nice to see some history so we can understand each character a little more, get some emotions going. On the other hand I fully accept that you can’t do that all the time (run time) and to a degree less is sometimes more. Maybe we don’t need to see every nook and cranny of a characters past…?

But look at some of the scenes we get, Cassian Andor (Diego Lunar) for example. This guy kills another man in cold blood once he gets what he needs, clearly this guy is a bit of an anti-hero. He comes across as an untrustworthy, double dealing scoundrel in this sequence, yet this arc goes nowhere, we never see any of this again. The double team of Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) is never really explained despite their partnership clearly being of some importance. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is an imperial pilot who has defected but we never find out why or what he even piloted, I guess he just didn’t like being a baddie.

sw8

K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is an imperial robot who has been reprogrammed by Cassian but we don’t really know what he did for the empire and why Cassian even reprogrammed him. And finally our heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is quite simply our bland by the books heroine. Her mother was killed by the empire (totally her own fault I might add) and her dad created the Death Star so cue lots of anguish over all that yadda yadda yadda.

So lets turn to other things, sound, visuals and questions. Right so the movie looks fantastic, this truly looks like a Star Wars movie there is no doubt about that. In fact I was blown away at how well they recreated that late 70’s look and feel with the sets, lighting, costumes etc…The rebel base on Yavin 4 was superb and looked spot on in size and layout, not quite as grubby but hey. They even include the rebel soldier in that crows nest which always looked impossible to climb (how the fuck did he get up there? I don’t see a ladder). All other locations, sets, costumes, cockpit interiors, space battles etc…were gorgeous as you might expect (and better than TFA). The only really stand out bit of shit would be the very odd mind reading octopus that was just as bad as the large CGI alien tentacle things in TFA. Couldn’t they have just used some bit of kit for that? Why did we need such a terribly designed creature??

sw5

The full CGI Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) is of course a talking point, should they have done it? Hmmm…not so sure myself, even though his estate gave permission it still seems a bit off to me. The other question being could they have done this with a little more stealth and shadow? Perhaps hide Tarkin’s face away a bit more to make it more subtle and not so in your face? Tricky but I think it could have worked as we saw with his intro in a reflection. Both Tarkin and Princess Leia were bold moves that sorta worked but ultimately were too obvious and alas will definitely age badly over time.

Are there problems here other than the vanilla characters? You bet there are. The stormtroopers are still useless in every way, here they are beaten by a blind guy with a stick who doesn’t even use the force. Stormtrooper dolls for kids?? eh??? Deathtroopers…utterly pointless and do nothing, in fact they aren’t much better than regular stormtroopers. Deus ex machina anyone? oh hell yes! Various things happen right in the nick of time such as Jyn being saved by Cassian, who we all thought was dead. Cassian decides not to follow his secret orders to assassinate Jyn’s father because…why exactly?

Jyn’s father then manages to die in her arms for maximum effect, as they all do in these films. Malbus literally commits suicide for no reason whatsoever, just ups and decides to go out pointlessly, for nothing. Could a Star Destroyer actually slice through another Star Destroyer? Certainly looks to do so with ease in this movie, surely that wouldn’t happen. Also, why didn’t the rebels just join in the attack with Jyn and co initially? They end up joining in anyway so it made no real sense that they decided not to go in the first place. Had they not showed up, that would of made more sense, standing by their decision.

sw4

Lastly, when the Death Star makes its final destructive shot on the base on Scarif, I noticed the shot actually misses the base and hits quite some distance away in the sea. I did notice the blast takes out the main radar tower on the base which was the target but…why not just hit the base directly? This made no sense to me, we know a direct blast from the Death Star can wipe out a city instantly, as seen earlier with Jedha. So why didn’t they just make a direct hit on the Scarif base instead of miles away? Unless of course they were just aiming for the radar tower and didn’t mean to wipe out the base entirely? But surely they’d know the shock wave would still destroy it. This just came across to me as a way to give two of the heroes an emotional final scene, but it made no sense.

One thing I didn’t really like about this movie was the inclusion of certain new things. The deathtroopers, why? why were these guys required? They pretty much do nothing other than look a bit sexier than regular troopers. The Scarif shoretroopers, seriously? What the hell would you need shoretroopers for? What do they do that is any different from other troopers? When the battle kicks off on Scarif the regular stormtroopers, deathtroopers and officers were doing perfectly fine, why would you need yet another unit of troops for a shoreline?

Then you have the new TIE ships, again I find myself asking why? Why do we need new models of TIE fighters? In all cases you just end up asking…what happened to all these new things in the classic trilogy? Sure you could say they were new models/old units that didn’t work but that makes no sense. Deathtroopers are supposedly some the best so where did they go? They just scrapped those other TIE ships just like that? Remember this movie is set right before episode IV, would these ships be taken away so quickly that they are never seen again?

sw10

Of course we know this is merely for merchandise sales, a new Star Wars movie must include new things for new toys. Hence we have a range of pointless new troopers and ships that all vanish from existence in the classic trilogy, ugh! I mean at least the AT-ACT’s we see can be explained as different models that were used for different jobs (mainly cargo), hence we don’t see them again. But there is no real reason for not seeing deathtroopers or the other TIE ships ever again.

Anyway, I can’t deny this was an entertaining movie and a good Star Wars movie (way WAY better than TFA). It still has many faults and is not perfect by any means. The lack of the classic musical score was a hideous omission if you ask me. What they used was so fecking lame and ineffectual it could be seen as sacrilege, the action sequences would have really leapt out off the screen with some John Williams behind them. The characters are weak despite good performances in general. The plot is pretty stupid and really didn’t need to be told. The movie essentially plays out like ‘Return of the Jedi’, and the opening was terribly weak without the classic logo, crawl and score. In the end the movie is limited by its own purpose essentially, it can’t really go beyond the confines of what came before. Luckily this can be just about overlooked as its definitely a fun ride.

7.5/10

sw7

Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)

Yep we got another crappy poster contender right here, oh boy this a bad one. Its totally misleading, shows things you never actually see and it makes no real sense. Are we watching a movie about a flying witch of some kind? From the future or perhaps? Is this a children’s movie? The title is also way more exciting than the actual film itself, a common issue.

Now I’m gonna be straight up with everyone here, it took me some time before I really knew what the feck was going on here. Honesty, I was lost and bored amidst quite a bit of slow paced dialog and…errr…more slow paced dialog in various locations. OK…I actually had to go back and rewatch half of the movie to get the gist of it, yes it was that dull and uninteresting.

Nuclear physicist Prof. Howard Erling (Frederic Downs) and his assistant Victor (John Stratton) manage to construct a machine that can break the time barrier. The machine looks like a steel tub with a port hole window. Now if you thought the duo might start jumping through time you’d be sorely mistaken, alas! No in fact they manage to receive a small object from the future. Obvious questions such as who sent the object and why don’t come into this, just go with the flow here. Said object turns out to be highly radioactive too which causes more intrigue, but still no real action on their part. Anyway after a whole load of character driven bollocks that literally goes nowhere, we eventually find out that the professor has been trading objects with persons unknown in the future.

Eventually it also turns out that Victor has been secretly conducting experiments himself, on a higher power level, which has resulted in mutated creatures appearing in the tub. One such recent experiment has resulted in a human-like creature coming through also, of course that creature is now on the loose. This creature turns out to be a woman from the year 5200 (ta-da! and yes that is correct, not the year 5000 after all), but not just any woman, she is a mutant. Yes it turns out that the future of mankind is doomed to a nuclear holocaust filled with mutants that seemingly still have pretty good technology. Her mission is to bring Victor back to the future so he can help them…somehow. Will she succeed or will she…umm…not? Tension!

Right so as I’ve already mentioned, the main crux of this story focuses on this time machine thingy which transport objects. This is the what you assume will be the fun macguffin which will transport our hapless duo through time. But you know now it doesn’t, in fact it does very little for the entire movie. The problem with this movie is nothing really happens for the whole damn run time, until right at the end. But even then what we get is pitiful even for 1958. Heck we don’t even see any future Earth, not even a matte painting or model or anything, you might as well be watching a cheap stage play. The idea is fine, nothing original mind you but fine, but they just don’t explore it. I understand there were probably many obvious limitations but if you can’t do your movie justice then don’t do it.

There is so much padding in this movie its painful, painful pointless padding that goes nowhere and is draaab! The plot takes forever to get going and its all exposition dialog. Scene after scene of the professor and Victor working, discussing things, then working some more. Eventually an archaeologist is brought in to verify the items of the future. To make things more exciting there’s a completely needless car chase sequence for this character intro. This guy seems to start falling for the professors daughter (of course) who is actually the fiancee of Victor. This naturally causes a typical 1950’s love triangle type scenario that doesn’t actually go anywhere, but instead leads to us finding out about Victor’s skulduggery with the secret experiments. Victor is also upset because he thinks the archaeologist will discredit their hard work so…cue the obligatory fight sequence. Oh and there’s also some voyeurism by the local handyman too because why not?

The mutated woman of the future is bitterly disappointing. A simple bit of tacky putty makeup and false teeth, and a very bizarre catsuit of some kind covered in sparkles (mirrors?). This character literally looks like something that jigged to the boogie on Soul Train. Although, strangely enough at first the character is actually quite eerie and intimidating. The first time she is shown we only see her arm reaching from within the time machine, at least I assume that was her. Then when she actually comes through to the present, we get quite a scary fast moving silhouette dashing towards the camera accompanied by a terrifying scream. Twas pretty spooky truth be told. Not entirely sure if this woman had some kind of super powers or not but she seemed pretty strong, nifty face cloning/removal technology too. Actually that one idea and scene was quite impressive considering, definitely ahead of its time there and I would imagine very scary for a 1950’s audience. Although it has to be said, this mutated female of the future also has a damn good glittery nail polish hypnotising technique, don’t leave home without your nails all done up.

Amazingly there isn’t much stock footage in this movie, yes there is a bit at the beginning (can’t escape it fully) along with some narration, but its generally stock free. Apart from everything I’ve mentioned there isn’t really a lot to discuss, the movie is on the whole pretty bad. The movie title is wrong apparently, the plot is boring and just never gets going, there are no real special effects bar one tiny optical effect, and its features yet another apocalyptic future with mutants scenario. I was desperate for someone to go through the time machine and into the future, desperate! But alas!

1.5/10

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Again we have an…ahem…amazing movie title with a pretty sweet poster. It looks more like a children’s adventure book cover, one of those ‘choose your own ending’ type books (remember those?). It also has a nice noir-esque/comicbook vibe about it, overall an attractive and imaginative design.

So you could be mistaken for thinking this plot might be a tad similar to the classic 1933 film ‘The Invisible Man’. Well you’re not too far off but naturally this plot is somewhat different for copyright reasons obviously. Basically a former US army general (Krenner played by James Griffith) wants to take over the world with an army of invisible soldiers. He already has a machine that can make objects invisible (with the help of a stereotypical eastern European scientist type bloke, Dr. Ulof played by Ivan Triesault), but he needs further materials (nuclear) to perfect it. Said materials are rare and the only ones he knows of are under lock and key deep within government facilities. So his plan is to break out a brilliant safecracker (Joey Faust played by Douglas Kennedy) from jail, so he can steal the materials required whilst being invisible.

Of course there’s a bit more to this story. The invisibility doesn’t hold out for long periods, its a bit shaky, hence the rare nuclear materials needed to perfect the machine. Also Faust doesn’t really want to do the job for Krenner but Krenner blackmails him with threats of turning him over to the cops (even though he broke Faust out). There’s also Krenner’s dame (Marguerite Chapman) who Faust tries to charm into double crossing Krenner, and the fact that Krenner has Dr. Ulof’s daughter locked up to keep him in line (although that specific plot device goes nowhere).

tm2

So we are talking about an invisible man here, what are the special effects like? Well they’re sparse that’s for sure, this ain’t no special effects bonanza. Much of the film surrounds the various characters planning stuff, we get very little invisibility action. What we do get are some floating items on wires that represent Faust carrying them, and a very brief sequence where Faust becomes visible and invisible again during a bank raid. This optical effect is corny as hell for sure but actually quite effective and decent looking considering this is such a schlocky feature. Although it does raise the simple problem that while Faust is invisible, the item he is carrying is not. So surely people would see this floating item and suspect something…as it floated out the door.

We also see the moments when Faust is turned invisible whilst under the machine (invisibility ray), and the practice runs with a guinea pig which are again nicely done. The little sequence shows the guinea pig slowly losing full visibility one layer at a time, skin, then bone structure, then nothing…invisible. We also see some marvellous acting against nothing, such as fights with an invisible foe, the odd chat with a blank space and doors opening themselves.

I think the main problem with this movie is the lack of action and the lame plot. For a start Krenner wants to conquer the world with an invisible army, but why? and how will he achieve this exactly? Faust could quite easily kill Krenner when he becomes invisible, he does threaten Krenner but for some reason doesn’t kill him. Dr. Ulof seems pointless as he’s only there to work the machine and dish out scientific exposition. Again Faust could of killed Krenner and used Ulof to assist him with his invisibility issues. Ulof would be happy to help seeing as he hates Krenner for kidnapping his daughter, I’m not really sure why everyone doesn’t just bump Krenner off. Krenner’s dame Laura also comes across as useless because she does nothing really, I’m not even sure what her character motivation was. She wants money and power clearly, hence she hangs around with Krenner, but she helps Faust go against Krenner so…how does that help her??

tm3

Krenner also has a bodyguard (or hired muscle) in the form of a cowboy fella called Red. Apparently Krenner has told Red that his son is imprisoned in Europe and only he can get him out. No idea what his son is supposed to have done, how Krenner knows his son or how Krenner could get him out, I presume another breakout. So Red obeys Krenner like a good little bitch. Of course Krenner is lying and when Red discovers this he does nothing, absolutely nothing, the character merely exits the movie and is never heard from again. No clue why this character was in the movie.

Both Griffith and Kennedy really go for it in this movie that’s for sure. Kennedy does actually put in a decent performance as the bad tempered criminal who’s only looking out for himself. Griffith is suitably slimy as Krenner, in fact he has a face you just wanna slap. Kennedy was actually quite a big strapping chap in this movie where as Griffith is very slender, so its still odd that Faust never beats this guy to death because he probably could. I’m also pretty sure Griffith (in character) accidentally slaps Chapman across the face at one point in a moment of brutal 1960’s misogyny.

This is an odd movie in general. The plot is really patchy and never really goes anywhere with conviction. Most of the characters don’t really seem to have a goal. Krenner seems to own this lovely huge house and just wants to take over the world because of reasons. Whilst Faust is just a grumpy bloke who seems ungrateful that Krenner bust him outta jail and doesn’t know what to do with his life. The fact that the movie still manages to end with an atomic explosion is also hilarious frankly, its like every movie in this era had to include an atomic explosion (with no consequences) no matter what. To be honest its not totally unlikable, there is a charm to this pulpy nonsense, its just comes across as rushed and not well thought out. But with dialog like…’you know what one of these bullets will do? Rip out your spine and roll it up like a ball of string‘, how can you not like to some degree?

4.5/10