Friday, 10 July 2015

Celebrate five years of vampire mayhem!


 Celebrating 5 years of my top ranking novel Blood Hunger. Get your free copy of Blood Hunger HERE on Kindle Unlimited. And also watch the slow burning prelude film Terminus today. 

Terminus from A. M. Esmonde on Vimeo.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Terminator Genisys - 1984 Jim but not as you know it.

Kyle Reese travels back in time to save the mother of the saviour of mankind only to find himself in an alternative time-line.

Despite being void of the gritty feel, thematic depth, simplistic conceptual thrills of the 1984 scifi classic Terminator Genisys is fast paced and slick. 

While surround by state of the art special effects, super costume and set design, Jason Clarke is solid in his functional incarnation of John Connor. Without drawing too many comparisons to the original actors who portrayed the characters Sarah & Kyle respectively both Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney do there best but are never given the staging or dialogue to stir the same believable emotions in this science fiction. Lee Byung-Hun, J. K. Simmons are great in their supporting roles but sorely underused. There's also Matt Smith's bland and minimal, yet pivotal role being underutlised for possible future instalments.

The T-800 versus T-800 fight and Pops upgrade is a fanboy dream. You have to commend Schwarzenegger's efforts here who is fine and the glue that tries to hold it all together as they travel from 1984 to 2017 to stop Skynet and yet another Terminator with higher stakes than before. 

There's some genuine relationship and heart buried in Genisys but it never explorers these themes or slows down for you to attach to the characters. Director Alan Taylor offers nods to the first instalment, it's fun when its retreading and twisting past events but is less effective when it goes it alone becoming just another action going from one location and confrontation to the next, mindless, car, van and helicopter chases, complete with a setup on the Golden Gate Bridge as every film needs to have one these days. Debatably this makes Salvation look like the Godfather.

(Partly reminiscent of Rick Kingerski's short film Final Transmission: John Connor which captured the Terminator spirit and had better twist) with its fan film like premise Genisys is crisp, glossy, with big set ups, great effects and a nostalgic score by Lorne Balfe to match but like many big budget contemporary films less is sometimes more.

(Partly reminiscent of Rick Kingerski's short film Final Transmission: John Connor which captured the Terminator spirit and had better twist) Taylor's effort leaves loose ends for another sequel with a mid end credit sequence that points to it's now Sarah Connor and company that actually create a hybrid Skynet but it also makes you ask yourself, do you really want one. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead (2015)

Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead (2015)

WWII battle worn soldiers come across a Nazi complex where experiments are taking place to resurrect dead prisoners. 

Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead (2015) is dark, gloomy and more serious than 2011's entertaining ride Eaters and more sombre and grounded than Zombie Massacre a.k.a Apocalypse Z.

Again filmmaker talents Luca Boni and Marco Ristori deliver a grim competently constructed bleak zombie horror that is stylishly shot with some good blood and gore effects presented on a saturated colour palette. The practical effects come better off that some of the CGI explosions and splatter. The sets and location look outstanding for the budget.

With actors Andrew Harwood Mills, Dan van Husen and Lucy Drive who is stunning as Erin the rest of the cast are on form and give performances as their picked off one by one that far surpass those in the first outing. 

Zombie Massacre 2 is slower and more dramatic than Boni and Ristori's previous work, and while the story isn't the most original there's plenty of gore, creepy visuals, dead soldiers and vertical white stripes zombies, creepy faces and the like. 

Boni and Ristori are become somewhat cult directors and need a breakout mainstream film but for the moment we have to wait a little longer, nevertheless, it's still agreeable zombie fodder.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Jurassic World a fast pass of entertainment

*** This review may contain dino DNA spoilers ***
22 years after the Isla Nublar incident, brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell go to Jurassic World, a fully functional dinosaur theme park to visit their aunt but things go awry and she enlists the help from an old flame to save her nephews.

Do you want to see Spielberg's Jurassic Park overgrown and in ruins, the original T-Rex, Mr DNA, Dr Wu, Ian's mug on the front of yet another novel, Richard Hammond's statute and a fully functional Jurassic World (park)? Then you've come to the right place.

Director Colin Trevorrow offers state-of-the-art CGI, however, less is more and as visually impressive as it is it looses it's organic feel. The background CGI of the park it's self is more awe inspiring than much of the dinosaur set ups. Even with the amazing giant water dinosaur it can't match the original for impact, but it works in its own right as a good ride and piece of entertainment with some notable stand out moments, including an aviary escape, a 
velociraptor chase and aquarium killing to name a few. To Trevorrow's credit it flows from scene to scene rather than in the originals set up to set up, yet due to its pace it's never spends enough time with its characters for you to really feel for them deep down. 

Michael Giacchino score and sound design are great complementing the visual effects, especially the climactic fight scene. The film takes a swipe at American 
war policy, commercialism and the like, however, even with four writers including Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Trevorrow the dialogue is not as credible as the previous instalments. There's plenty of nods to the other films, even a throw away line about why the Jurassic Park and World dinosaurs may not look like the dinosaurs that roamed the earth 65 million years ago cleverly batting off any criticism of the creature designs and any factual inconsistencies. 

Thankfully there's no part III annoying screaming and Chris Pratt's and Bryce Dallas Howard (as Claire Dearing) performances are great. The cast are enjoyable, funny even if a little ridiculous at times. The exploitation military subplot feels a little unnecessary and the dinosaurs are humanised a tad too much robbing World of its fear factor.

Louder and bigger doesn't mean better and it lacks any subtly, but it undeniably entertains. It's Westworld with dinosaurs with a few moments that even encompass the Jurassic Park novel, a reminder as to why you fell in love with dinosaurs all over again in the first place.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Poltergeist 2015 haunted by the original

Contains haunted by the original spoilers.
A father at a low point in his life is forced to move to a new neighbourhood but their new house is riddled with angry unrested spirits. 

A remake of the 1982 film its difficult not to draw comparisons, it is generally entertaining yet fundamentally unnecessary. While the remake revisits and reincorporates 'Poltergeist's' themes, hitting the beats as if plotted on a graph throughout, an ominous tree, the supernatural stacking of objects, an eerie clown and investigator's visions it's hard to pin down a single moment where it does it better.

Thanks to Sam Rockwell's Eric Bowen an everyday dad and Jared Harris in a celebrity medium role it does provide a fast paced ride, retaining the family humour of the 1982 version, however, it lacks that idealistic, innocence in contrast to the sinister side that the original Spielberg/Hooper combo provided. 

Writer David Lindsey's script is fine and the contemporary monitoring equipment, including GPS locators that the investigators use and the roles shuffled highlights that with all its updates, it becomes clinical losing the organic feeling of the original. Yes some effects out do some of the optical effects of its predecessor but not many. Even with a solid supporting cast and Sam Rami on board as producer with the likes of Sinister, Insidious, Conjuring to name a few doing the rounds I t's odd why anyone would want to remake Poltergeist in the first place. Following the template of the first, with slight of hand, the ending dispiritingly borrows elements of the 1986 sequel for the 2015 closing. 
Gil Kenan's offering is by no means a travesty and it has some great acting talent on board but it's not enough to cause a remake celebration and maybe a re-imagining would have been a more fitting semi-original route to take.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Burying The Ex zombie review

*** This review may contain dead girlfriend spoilers ***
A guy's overbearing girlfriend, who he's afraid to break up with dies in a freak accident. However, she rises from the grave hampering his new relationship.

Written by Alan Trezza reminiscent of IZombie, Big, Over Her Dead Body (2008) only with the ghost aspect replaced with a zombie and Death becomes Her to name a few just a few, Burying The Ex has its own inner city charm. Packed with horror references, it's a genre aficionados dream thanks to Joe Dante's magic touch, effects, score and on location shoot. 

Things get interesting when vegan Ashley Greene's Evelyn returns from the grave and Anton Yelchin as Max tries to juggle his new crush, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) and possessive ex. Yelchin gives the same great every guy performance as he did in Odd Thomas. Greene steels the show with some good makeup effects, from spewing up embalming fluid to being a drop dead gorgeous psycho corpse.

There's touches of the Howling (1981) with the old reference books and Amazing Stories (1986). Some jokes fall flat, but most of the lines, gross out gags are on the money. There's some eerie scenes, vileness and blood when Evelyn realises what zombies enjoy. The film then takes a macabre turn in the latter Evil Dead-like half.

Dante creates a unique off beat atmosphere as he did with Gremlins and Small Soldiers. While zombies have become stale and saturated lately Dante injects some life in what could have been a Twilight Zone, Monsters, Tales from the Darkside or Crypt anthology episode into a snappy horror comedy film. It's not John Landis' American Werewolf but it's a hoot for old school horror, practical effects fans.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Supergirl 2015 TV show review

 *** This review contains super spoilers ***

Durning the destruction of Krypton a girl is sent to earth to escape and to protect her cousin but when she arrives her mission becomes something very different.

In episode one Kara goes undercover becoming a regular person with a few knowing her true powers. There's a nod to the DC Super franchise with cameos from Dean Cain, Helen Slater and a flash of the Man of Steel himself. While debately not as striking as 1984's Slater, Melissa Benoist looks far more comfortable in the duel Kara geek/ Supergirl superhero role. Opening with a expository flashback, an explanation of her delay in The Phantom Zone, arriving late to earth it turns out there's no need to protect Kai-El. And maybe no need for two alien super beings.

Its fittingly goofy at times, it's fun, with some good action setups, it has nice effects for a TV show, the tone is also serious at times reminiscent of the Adrianne Palicki Wonder Woman pilot.

After Supergirl reveals herself to the world it gets interesting when her presence has a far more of a rippling effect than her cousins and she's introduced to an underground alien monitoring organisation. It's also humorous when Kara begs her boss Calista Flockhart not to coin the 'Super Girl' name. There's some warm scenes with her sister Alex and her mother and it finishes on a teaser with the introduction of her aunty.

With a predominantly female cast, it has a positive young vibe and comic book feel, which may give it some longevity in a saturated superhero TV schedule. It's up, up and okay.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Mad Max Fury Road is buggy good after all

Set in a future desert wasteland a woman is hunted down after smuggling out five wives of a cult leader who have been specially selected for breeding aided by a caged slave who is being used as a blood donor.

Without drawing comparisons to Gibson and George Miller's previous three Mad Max outings and the countless cash-in Italian films it spawned what's clear from the get go is that with some great camera work Miller knows how to give a film a contemporary look and feel while retaining a Mad Max vibe.

Mad Max Fury Road looks absolutely gorgeous, with sweeping shots of deserts, fitting costumes, great make up, sets and vehicle designs. The sub character are likable and the unlikely alliances formed are interesting. Even though the dialogue is limited there is never a dull moment with some fresh, original, dare I say unique action setups. With people leaping from one car to another using poles reminiscent of giant dune buggy aerials to name just one. It's one long road trip in a strange, post-apocalyptic world from start to finish with branding, skin tattoos, siren like females and a combination flamethrower/guitarist on a bungee to name a few. 

Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris' basic screenplay has plenty of surprises and it tries to move away from the paint by numbers actioner that have flooded the screens for an age. 

The acting is solid, Charlize Theron has fantastic presence as the one armed Furiosa, lacking any levity which gives credence to the character who is trying to help a group of women (including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who also shows she can act) escape for a better life.

Tom Hardy is on fine form as the dream and nightmare vision afflicted Max but is on a equal footing with Theron in terms of screen time as they face danger together throughout against rival nomads and the memorable cult leader Joe played menacingly by Keays- Byrne. Nicholas Hoult Nux leaves an impression and characters develop and refreshingly change. Even the eccentric characters and over the top stunts, gun-play and explosions feel grounded because you buy into the world where gasoline and water are scarce.

Its not glossy like the Jurassic World nor Terminator Genesys, Fury Road is dusty, gritty, surreal in places, visually impressive entertainment, perfectly executed and more than just another action movie.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Ex Machina love for a robot

A 26 year old coding expert wins an opportunity to spend time with a bearded, tetchy, technology genius and his latest experiment, a humanoid robot.

Opening with an environment of modern architecture, mod cons and technology in contrast to natures wonderfully filmed mountains and forests Ex Machina is a crisp looking film. Mirroring much of The Machine's (2013) elements (turing test, similar score, robot conspiracy even the same main characters name) it's a much different delivered film. Ex Machina is more grounded and a less action orientated Frankenstein tale but like the great low budget aforementioned and the recent Automata (2014) it tackles the relationship between humans and machine.

There's a small ensemble cast with good supporting actors, lead Oscar Isaac is excellent as the dislikable intelligent alcohol fuelled scientist Nathan, Domhnall Gleeson's Caleb, a student questioning his love for a robot is interesting but the star here is Alicia Vikander as Ava the world's first artificial intelligent beautiful female robot.

Writer/director Alex Garland's offering is intriguing, with its atmosphere enhanced by a fitting futuristic pulse percussion score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow which complements its modest, near enough photo real effects. With the facility nestled in the wilderness, a fantastic picturesque location, there's impressive designed rooms, with great lighting and colour shemes to match.

With no outside contact permitted it's claustrophobic at times as Caleb builds his relationship with Ava and Nathan in the compact mirrored rooms and narrow frosted glass corridors of the mini facility. It's thought provoking, with tension and some surreal moments. In the closing it becomes a cat and mouse mind game duel with a nice fulfilling twist.

Ex Machina has great production values, it's finely filmed, nicely paced and while not as punchy, conventional or mainstream satisfying as The Machine it has a subtler more stylised polished take on the same theme.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Maggie - Schwarzenegger comes down to earth

A Midwest father ensures he spends time with his a teenage girl who has contracted a disease which will eventually turn her into a zombie. 

Arnie disposes of a zombie within the first ten minutes then another two before the half hour mark. But this isn't the frantic pace of many of the contemporary outbreak flicks, it's pace is the opposite. Here Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't play Arnold the action hero, he plays a 6 foot odd dad whose daughter has weeks to live and with his neighbours expiring around him the locals want his daughter quarantined. To Schwarzenegger credit it's a refreshing change of pace and even though he's done the dishevelled look before, here he gives one of his most deep performances. 

The Midwest looks ominous thanks to cinematography from Lukas Ettlin. It's a slow pace character driven piece wonderfully filmed by director Henry Hobson with a muted pallet accompanied by an effective eerie score from David Wingo . As the decay takes hold there's some effective Icky makeup effects including, cloudy eyes, sores, a severed finger and garbage sink disposal scene. 

While John Scott III screenplay doesn't offer the sub genre any great shakes it's well written and subtle. Grim, touching in places with some creepy dream like images, notably a little dead girl that will give chills, don't expect Romero or WWZ for a big budget film it captures an elegant indiefilm feel reminiscent of The Battery or Autumn. With a subtext of death, terminal illness, suicide and euthanasia, from the simple things to a kiss on a forehead to flowers in a garden, it's like watching a film about the Titanic with the inevitable lurking in the shadows.

Worth viewing if a change of momentum floats your boat.