Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Purge: Anarchy

Due to a series of events a group of people are unintentionally left on the streets right as the annual purge commences.

Whereas the first instalment was very much confined to a house, with the premises being interesting, it fell short turning into Panic Room by the end. With The Purge: Anarchy you get the sweeping feeling of scope across the whole city. Also you get an insight into the under belly of the Purge evocative of Hostel 2. Actor Frank Grillo is particularly notable and gives a great performance.

Reminiscent of Judgement Night and more recently Aftershock; being hunted down, chased through the city, it oozes tension. It's well filmed and acted and not a straight to DVD follow up like Hostel 3. 

While it may not answer all Purge questions, for example what happens if some dies after the Purge of injuries sustained during the Purge it gives a feel of what happens across America on Purge night.

What it boils down to is that if you enjoyed James DeMonaco's first the second will surpass expectations.



Deliver us from Evil

New York police officer Ralph Sarchie joins forces with an unconventional priest, to battle the evil which is plaguing their city.

Imagine the gritty on location feel reminiscent of Seven and Training Day mixed with the Exorcist 3 and you pretty much have Deliver Us from Evil. Packed with jump scares and given that added creepiness factor due to the based on a actual events, Scott Derrickson's offering (who brought us Sinister) is wonderfully filmed.


The supporting cast are excellent and lead Eric Bana's Sarchie is riveting as the flawed everyday man. Both Édgar Ramírez and Sean Harris give nonchalant stellar performances. Yes the final act is a little overblown but the believable tension filled first three quarters offers plenty of genuine shocks.

Recommend for the atmosphere and on location ambiance that Derrickson's and crew creates which spans from the Middle East to New York.



Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Mercenaries: Female Expendables

A group of female prisoners are assembled to infiltrate a people trafficking prison for a daring rescue.


For novelty cult value you can't beat this offering, shortly after watching The Expendables I made a wish list for a female version, and to Asylums credit both 80s stars Brigitte Nielsen and Cynthia Rothrock appear, sadly Grace Jones is not included, but there could always be a sequel (with Nielsen's return). 


Nielsen puts in an entertaining evil performance and Vivica A. Fox battles through. Okay so the characters don't have second names, yes the stunt men extras act like they just stepped out of the A-Team, granted the effects and sets lack some lustre but there's some solid action pieces mostly involving Loken or Zoe Bell. On top of that you have a few humorous one liners, violence and gun play. It's B action cult gold.


Yes it's a pity it doesn't have a big budget look but what it lacks in production values it makes up for it with it's fun ensemble cast, take it with a pinch of salt and you'll have a blast.


Robin Williams

R.I.P Robin Williams - a great talent.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Damned Gallows Hill


 After a car crash a group of people take sanctuary in an old hotel, only to find a girl in a basement that is not all she seems.


Gallows Hill A.K.A The Damned is packed with atmosphere and wonderfully shot by Richard D'Ovidio. As a creepy tale in a large decrypted hotel it works well but as horror piece it falls short. Sophia Myles (when not possessed) is on fine form and Carolina Guerra is simply outstanding as Gina leaving her co-stars in her wake.

There's blood, shootings, twisted heads and fantastic settings but unfortunately the well trodden Exorcist and Evil Dead style demonic voices fail to give big scares. This offering is debatably not as strong as some atmospheric horrors Livid, REC, The Beckoning (2009), The Orphanage to name a few.

That said, The Damned is still worth watching for eerie ambiance created in the first half and Carolina Guerra performance.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Machine review batteries not included

When a scientist is killed, Britain's Ministry of Defence clash with a lead scientist over plans for an artificially intelligent, self-aware and conscious android.

Inventive, visually interesting science fiction, packed with an array of sci-fi ideas. With an wealth of unapologetic camera light flare and well executed effects Caradog W. James The Machine delivers a thinking man's sci-fi with action thrown in for good measure. Computer scientists Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens give good innings with Lotz stealing the show in a dual role.

With echoes of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, Tom Raybould's score helps smooth over any flaws of the film. In addition, making up for some clunky paced and staged scenes is the design of The Machine with her stylised look and robotic soft voice which will stick in the mind long after the credits.

With some great special effects and some strong performances this is solid entry in modern British sci-fi. James delivers a brooding, stylish and highly atmospheric science fiction. Recommended.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, no monkeying around.

The ALZ-113 virus causes the collapse of human. Ten years later, Caesar leads a new generation of apes and an out of the blue encounter with the humans causes hostility between his ranks and the human survivors.

All the ape action one could hope for and more. It's very rare a sequel can equal it's predecessor but Dawn is an exception, it not only pays homage to the classic original series it successfully incorporates emotional throw backs to Rupert Wyatt's Rise notably when Caesar returns home.

The effects trump the first instalment and director Matt Reeves's film has a better pace than Rise. Using elements from the limited budgeted classic's follow ups from Beneath, Escape through to Conquest and Battle it also sets new ground in-terms of execution thanks to Reeves skills.

There's plenty of action set ups from Reeves and there some truly tense scenes notably from a menacing Koba playing a dumb chimp routine or the first human contact with the apes compound. The emotion oozes from Caesar thanks to Andy Serkis and some ingenious effects. With great sets and a real location feel coupled with the music score, immense sound design and some great acting from Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman (slightly under utilised here) it meets entertainment expectations. There's not just spectacle for spectacles sake, like Rise it feels very much grounded.

Dawn gives apes fans both new and old a fantastic cinematic experience. Granted the story by a handful of writers may not have a lot of twists and turns but Jaff, Silver and Bomback offer an intriguing enough script with both subtle subtext and blatant warnings of both past and present to the viewer. Dawn has plenty to say. 

With no time travel loop story element required (as in the original) lets hope the Icarus astronaut's (from Rise) return thread doesn't raise it's head too early and is handled with as much care further down the line as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has. Yes it's good. So good in fact you kind of feel guilty for not missing the fantastic Roddy McDowell bless him. Recommend.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

The Transformers are being hunted down by humans with the help of an interstellar bounty hunter. Optimus Prime aided by a human inventor set about to stop another annihilation by a device called the seed.

There's no doubt that the action set ups, sound design and special effects are fantastic. However, any trace of characterisation from the original TV series is all but extinct. The Transformer characters once again are given little dialogue nor interaction with each other, with the Dinobots not even getting a line of dialogue.

The Transformers on screen are as empty and soulless as the transformer copies created by an entrepreneur inventor/military contractor played by Stanley Tucci in a subplot with his company having the ability to create their own Transformers. Kelsey Grammar is on form but his evil Harold Attinger motivations are as interchangeable as his ties - queue disgruntled, unappreciated, shady CIA character. Sophia Myles talents are simply under utilised.

With a vast world of 1980's characters at their finger tips that could be updated/developed writer Ehren Kruger and director Michael Bay fail to use any of these typesets or even any basic personality dynamics from the series. Bring back Star Scream, Jazz, Soundwave and the others that prompted the people to make these movies in the first place - Glavatron (voiced by Frank Welker) is wasted. Age of Extinction borrows plot elements from Prometheus and Man of Steel to name a few instead of using anything Tranformer-esque.

T.J. Miller's likable character Lucas Flannery is disposed of in the first 20 minutes and its remaining few redeeming features Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz battle on trying to avoid cliché after cliché, also Optimus Prime has some character development. Actually if Shia
Labeouf's Sam had been by replaced Wahlberg's Cade Yeager it may have
been a better film series, that said, if Sam returned with Cade it would make some good character interaction but I digress, it's a one man and robot show with everything else falling short and brushed over thinly with new elements being added needlessly. Age of Extinction makes Dark of the Moon look like the Godfather.

Given its lengthy running time its themes and plot are never fully developed. Should the writers and producers have gone back to the source material the fans and film goers would have thanked them for it. This instalment once again banks on viewers desire to see a Transformers film and of course we come in masses but are once short changed as it doesn't deliver - it's like a shiny brand new convertible without an engine, looks good and cool but it is vacant.

It's clear that the talents behind of Age of Extinction have no love for Transformers (but are great at the movie business) - sadly not recommended.

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

A troubled antiques collector inherits a house from his estranged mother only to discover she was devoted to a mysterious cult. As they try to commune with each other a horrifying creature begins to reveal itself.

In the vein of the likes of Ti West's Innkeepers and House of the Devil, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is an old school chiller that works on a psychological level even more so than the aforementioned. Director Rodrigo Gudiño's slow burner explores lose belief and faith to name a few and takes it's time to build up the characters. Aaron Poole gives an outstanding subtle performance as Leon Leigh and Vanessa Redgrave's voice-over throughout as Rosalind Leigh adds a poignant touch.

Gudiño's camera work gives the impression that Leon is not alone in the house and the camera seemly acts as Rosalind's spirit at times. The house itself with the interesting location, prop and set design are the real star of the film, this coupled with the music and sound design deliver an atmospheric and immersible eeriness experience. The brief special effects are executed fittingly and add to the creepiness of the production. Rodrigo Gudiño's offering is wonderfully crafted and his restrained screenplay along with with Pooles' performance help build the tension of dread nicely.

Overall it's an original slow burning touching mystery that doesn't rely on shock tactics to create unease and successfully puts the view in the mind of its main character. Highly recommend.

Sleep Tight Mientras Duermes review

An apartment concierge Cesar has a personality disorder unknown to the tenants of the building. Cesar goes extremes to make himself happy, drugging a young woman each night to be close to her with murderous consequences.

Alberto Marini's screenplay is reminiscent of Hammer's The Resident however whereas The Resident was a satisfying stalker film, Mientras Duermes (Sleep Tight) elevates tension to another level without a sell out Hollywood ending.

Thanks to Luis Tosar's great delicate performance as Cesar and Marta Etura's likable Clara Sleep Tight is a rounded thriller. It's character driven and is as chilling and infatuation creepy as they come. From a school girl blackmailing Cesar, and Clara's boyfriend turning up, to Cesars intense and nasty conversation with an ageing dog owner and boss to name few there are moments littered throughout to help keep the picture on edge not just him hiding under a bed, and using Clara's tooth brush reminiscent of The Resident.

It has an on location feel (the look of the apartment is that of REC and REC2) with a naturalistic supporting cast of actors. Although elements have been done before,the insect infestation for example Jaume Balagueró delivers a crafted chiller, possibly one of the best of its sub-genre.

It's a twisted psychological tale with some great acting and directing. Recommended.