Saturday, 23 July 2016

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988) Revisited

*** This review may contain talking head spoilers ***

A mixed group of townsfolk team up to destroy the reanimated dead that have taken over their town to eat brains.

With lines that mirror and hark back to the 1985 surprise hit, it's more of a remake despite being called part II, akin to Evil Dead 2 in relation to part one. Here three kids, find a canister which contains a Trioxin enriched body. The barrel which (literary) fell off a back of a lorry is unlocked by two of the three teens, releasing a gas which make the two bullies ill and also revives the occupants of the local grave. 

Young teen lead Michael Kenworthy's Jesse Wilson and Marsha Dietlein as Lucy Wilson are worthy of note (possibly named Wilson at a stretch to possibly link the two films with Burt Wilson from the original). Jesse who is locked up by the young bullies escapes their fate while locked up in a mausoleum. Director/writer Ken Wiederhorn offer excellent practical and make up effects, (despite continuity errors where Tarman 2's design inexplicably changes between shots), there's plenty of Thriller styled undead on display. Unfortunately the soundtrack (recreating the vibe of the original) was replaced due to license issues and the replacement music sadly takes away some nostalgic and complementary value. 

The supporting cast are solid, if somewhat hysterically panicked. With a good mixture of horror and comedy there's Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks) as Tom, notable is Suzanne Snyder as Brenda, whose dressed in her best Tiffany outfit. At one point military men wielding guns show up, one of which is actor Mitch Pileggi pre-X-Files. Memorable is Philip Bruns eccentric Doc Mandel. The excellent James Karen and Thom Mathews return as grave robbers who release Jesse from the mausoleum. They ineffect reprise similar characters from the first outing, echoing the same slow changes into zombies, at one point Mathew's Joey even gives an acknowledging line of, "I feel like we've been here before. You... Me... Them!" and as a viewer you'll feel the same as many of the setups give a feeling of de ja vu right down to another leathery talking female corpse. 

The setting including a graveyard, contrasting suburbs and town offers enough chills as the lumber dead horde go in search of brains, at one point even breaking into a pet shop. There's hands (reminiscent of Adams Family's Thing and Ash of Evil Dead's appendage), talking decapitated heads, plenty of body parts, worms coming out of faces, rotten flesh and every kind off blood guts and severed spines a horror fan could want.

As the survivors lure the zombies with carts of brains and Jesse faces off against his now dead bully there's a satisfying conclusion including a Michael Jackson thriller style zombie thrown in just for the hoot. Wiederhorn's offering doesn't get under the skin as much as its predecessor nor does it have the nihilistic ending that made part one standout. Nevertheless, the special effects hold up much better than the mix of horror comedy and its still a cadaver load of zombie fun.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Revisited


Return of the Living Dead Movie Poster

*** This review may contain grave dancing spoilers ***

A group of teenage punks and business owners deal with the accidental release of a horde of brain hungry zombies.

The late Dan O'Bannon writes and directs this novel zombie film; no stranger to horror he's notable for collaborating with John Carpenter and co-writing the screenplay for Alien. With its foggy graveyard, crematorium, chapel of rest, dimly-lit factory basement and empty wet streets O'Bannon creates some atmosphere. Return of the Living Dead while not a sequel to George Romero's The Night of the Living Dead (1967) connects it amusingly with Frank, played wonderfully by James Karen making out that the movie was based on real events to his bumbling sidekick Freddy Thom Matthews (who both return for the sequel). It's more comical than Romero's films, with a morbid humour, eccentric dialogue and some slapstick comedy. While it may not have Romero's political satire, O'Bannon worms in a subtext of mortality and what it means to be dead.

As the loud characters attempt to destroy the zombies, flee in panic, and/or sometimes become a zombie there's plenty of entertainment to be had. Clu Gulager plays up his straight lace typecasting as Burt who'll do anything to save his business. Actor Don Calfa is excellent as Ernie the mortician, stealing every scene with a Peter Lorre kookiness. The group of teenagers are on fine form, capturing an array of 80's stereotypes with their fashion, music taste and attitudes akin to Lamberto Bava's Demons (1985) of the same year. There's a great 80s soundtrack along with some significant nudity where Linnea Quigley infamously dances on a grave. In addition Quigley's Trash when in turned zombie is menacingly eerie. With some great effects the icky superb Tarman zombie is performed by actor and puppeteer Allan Trautman.

It's a satisfactory zombie movie, with some genuinely creepy and amusing scenes, notably where Ernie deals with rigor mortis, pieces of a cadaver wriggle in black bags, Frank and Freddy being pronounced dead, the attack on paramedics and where a cut in half rotting female explains why they want to eat the living. Memorably, at one point after a horde of zombies eat a police unit one of the ghouls gets on the radio and asks dispatch to send more cops. Amongst the cinematic zombie tropes of main players barricading entrances, trouble comes from within and just about everyone dies, you know you're in for a scary ride as the Tarman may pop up at any moment.

In retrospect O'Bannon's unchained offering is a little rough around the edges (notably recycling the grave and skeleton footage prior to the end credits) but it has a certain 80s (timeless) charm thanks to the setting, supplies of great grisly special effects, reanimated cross-sections of lab specimen dogs, severed limbs and dried out zombies to name a few. The grim but admirable nihilistic ending is the icing on the cake and to O'Bannon's credit Return of the Living Dead popularises for the first time zombies eating, specifically - Braaiinnsss!

Overall, its good gritty zombie cult fun.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Nice Guys (2016) Review

The Nice Guys Movie PosterFate turns Holland March, a down-on-his-luck private eye and Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer into unlikely partners when a woman mysteriously disappears.

Filmmaker Shane Black - writer of Lethal Weapon, Predator and director of Iron Man 3 offers a dark comedy with a Chinatown-like detective story. The Nice Guys is set in 1977 on an LA sleazy vibe back drop which is convincingly recreated, topped off with the music of the time.

With their own reasons for getting involved the duo team up to achieve one shared goal both reliant on each other's different skills. It's a different era of wild celebrity disco parties, cigarette smoking and lenient police involvement, allowing unlikely partnership of drunkard PI Holland (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson (Russell Crowe) paid hard man to go about their business. What's interesting and surprisingly works is Holland's young teen daughter (Angourie Rice) who helps her dad and dicey new partner as they investigate the murder of a porn star, Misty Mountains and its mysterious link to environmentalist wild-child Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and politically connected mother, Judith (Kim Basinger).

It feels likes it's all shot on location, the period setting is at times the star of show, injecting plenty of atmosphere and mood, the cars, the fashion etc. The supporting cast a great, notable are the excellent Matt Bomer (White Collar, American Horror Story Hotel) who plays a professional hit man and thug Keith David (The Thing, They Live) who want Amelia dead. Black offers corruption, some surprise deaths and twists but it's a comedy at heart. Gosling and Crowe are kind of 70s version of Laurel and Hardy, yelping and mumbling through scenes. Their chemistry is great, it's an interesting and brilliant casting with the leads displaying a naturally comedic zaniness along with Crowe adding a believability that he can bust heads.

Thankfully Black and writer Anthony Bagarozzi create enough back- story for Holland and Jackson to ensure your buy into the characters' plights as they work through clues looking like Starsky and Hutch in Boogie Nights. Both Gosling and Crowe somehow feel they belong to the period. Rice equals Leon's Natalie Portman in terms of a young girl being in an improbable adult world. Gosling is disinclined to being a good dad, in contrast to Crowe's deadpan character wanting to be liked and you find yourself rooting for the at times unsavoury characters.

With its period setting, some hard hitting action and taboo comedy there's plenty of entertainment to be had, recommended.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) review



*** This review contains major ECTO-1 cameo spoilers! ***

A group of varied personalities form a paranormal company in order to catch ghosts and save New York City.
Based on Ivan Reitman "Ghost Busters" written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis without drawing any comparisons to the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters 2016 is 116m 28s of stylish sleek fun. Ghostbusters writers Katie Dippold and Paul Feig interestingly bring the team together with clean cut modern cinematic swagger. Feig, director of 2015's Spy, turns his hand effortlessly to an effects driven comedy friendship rework.
With a Disney Haunted Mansion-like opening with a genuine jump scare, to animated mannequins and joy riding ghosts (including Slimer), there's plenty of ectoplasm on display (that appears to follow) the excellent cast, especially Kristen Wiig's Gilbert. Haunted by a paranormal encounter as a child, Gilbert who's co-written ghost book loses her job when a ghost encounter video goes viral. Wiig along with kooky hot engineer Holtzmann played by Kate McKinnon light up the screen (no pun intended) and soup loving Melissa McCarthy's Abby Yates and Leslie Jones' subway worker Tolan provide the comedy backbone.

With a Disney Haunted Mansion-like opening with a genuine jump scare, to animated mannequins and joy riding ghosts (including Slimer), there's plenty of ectoplasm on display (that appears to follow) the excellent cast, especially Kristen Wiig's Gilbert. Haunted by a paranormal encounter as a child, Gilbert who's co-written ghost book loses her job when a ghost encounter video goes viral. Wiig along with kooky hot engineer Holtzmann played by Kate McKinnon light up the screen (no pun intended) and Melissa McCarthy's Abby Yates and Leslie Jones' Tolan provide the comedy backbone.



While the scripted comedy doesn't go for subtle wit, with some physical gags its mostly more on the nose comedy, infused with pop culture references, including Ghost and The Exorcist to name a few, it genuinely has its laugh out loud moments, Feig even throws in a fart joke for good measure. There's lots of chuckles to be had, many come from Gilbert's and Yates former, later rekindled friendship. Feig offers excellent setups and set pieces as proton packed armed they go about busting spooks in a rock concert (where Ozzy Osbourne cameos), the city street and subway at one point using some new toys. There are many memorable moments, a scene where they run some tests like Peter Parker trying out his web, along with a moment where Holtzmann goes all Clint Eastwood western to name a few. McCarthy and Jones' comedy timing is impeccable, with smart Wiig and wacky genius McKinnon bouncing off wonderfully - firmly stamping their mark. But overtly focal Chris Hemsworth sends his persona up somewhat as dim witted eye candy Kevin and steals many of the best moments.



As the team discover there's a disturbed bell boy Rowan North (Neil Casey) amplifying paranormal activity in New York, during a carnival of phantoms we get to see the Marshmallow Man in balloon form and a pilgrim ghost take on the team. If anything the excellent CGI spirits on occasion are more spectral beings rather than the departed traditional dead, there's a giant Gremlin-like flying creature and holographic like ghouls trapped in mirrors. Ghostbusters moves along at breakneck speed, and while the main bad guy may lack weight and grit thankfully this is counteracted by the genuine likable and watchable main cast.



While the CGI may lack that Indiana Jones/Poltergeist 80's optical feel. The colourful ghost effects on display - reminiscent of The Frighteners, Beetle Juice and akin to the original second outing, along with the Ghostbuster (universe) cartoons, comics etc. have a charm of their own. At one time their Ghostbuster logo literally appears animated when Rowan mocks the team prior to him trying to destroy the city in a vortex, which lucky for the insurance company leaves little, if any mess. There are some fridge logic moments, why build a containment unit if you can just zapping the spooks into slimey gloop, unless it’s to study, either way I’m sure Ghostbuster aficionados will be able to explain.



There's an-array of welcomed cameos for series fans from the likes of Ernie Hudson, as the undertaker Bill and uncle of Tolan, to Bill Murray, in a surprising extended cameo as Martin Heiss, who accuses the Ghostbusters of being fraudsters. Dan Aykroyd, has an excellent brief appearance as the all knowing cab driver. Even Annie Potts appears as a hotel desk clerk, snapping the crowning, "What do you want?" Andy Garcia shows up as the Teflon Mayor and humorously loses it when he is compared to the Mayor in Jaws. While Charles Dance's small role is fittingly cast as Gilbert's uptight University Dean.



Feig offers along with the familiar theme tune supernatural hijinks and enough jump scare frights to give the youngsters the heebie jeebies. Dedicated to Harold Ramis, stick around for some end credit antics plus a post credit scene where Sigourney Weaver briefly appears as Holtzmann's mentor Rebecca Gorin and the team discovers the name Zuul for the fist time, setting it up for a sequel.



Overall, with the controversial backlash and odd marketing now in the grave, as with any kind of rework comparisons will be made, taking my nostalgia glasses off, as a film in its own right, it's spectre-tacular fun and comes recommend.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Judge Dredd (1995)


*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Judge Dredd's past catches up with him and a former Judge reappears he's framed for a crime he didn't commit and Mega City is thrown into chaos.
The first film adaptation based on the popular British comic book character Judge Dredd, director Danny Cannon (The Young Americans) delivers a visual treat complemented by Adrian Biddle's cinematography. While some of the special effects, back projections etc. have aged, many elements, especially the sets, practical effects and makeup still hold up nicely. The costumes designed by Gianni Versace are a mixed bag and Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd is wise to discard the clunker unpractical 2000 A.D. costume pieces at every opportunity. 
At times it feels choppy, especially in the last act. What's seems evident as you watch Cannon's offering is that it's uneven, this apparently is due to studio interference, creative disputes and script changes. The other thing which takes the edge off the mix of Blade Runner and Bravestarr inspired aesthetics, aside from it feeling lighter than it's comic source material is it's similarities to Stallone's Demolition Man (1993) which came out two years earlier. They're both police films set in the future; feature comic relief Rob Schneider, the main character is framed, there's corrupt officials - the list goes on and you can't help feel a slight case of déjà vu.
Despite Dredd nontraditionally removing his helmet Stallone does a good job as the shamed Judge, John Spartan, er I mean Judge Joseph Dredd, sentenced to life imprisonment. Again Stallone's Dredd works best when he's playing it straight, training cadets, sentencing and offering emotion with his mentor Chief Justice Fargo played by the excellent Max von Sydow. 
The comedy throughout is humorous – but it just doesn't fit Dredd's tone and would have been better placed in an action movie that doesn't take itself too seriously like Demolition Man. Judge Dredd for some reason tries to be both a violent action and one-liner Schneider buddy movie. The cast are on form and the characters are fleshed out. Notable is Diane Lane as Judge Hershey. Jürgen Prochnow's Judge Griffin the the rest of the cast are effective in their respective roles, right down to a small bit part by Ian Dury.
The mystery story is fleshed out and plays out quite well with reactivated projects, faked evidence and doctored photos. There's some stand out scenes which include Dredd fighting psychotic Rico Dredd played wonderfully by Armand Assante as his clone Judges are awakened. With some great makeup there's the Angel Gang, a family of cannibalistic scavengers. There's Rico escaping from prison and reactivating a giant ABC Warrior robot. And a part where Schneider's Fergee and Dredd must run through a tunnel in 30 seconds or be burnt alive.
With Alan Silvestri's score adding weight, Cannon pacts in a lot of story threads which gives it scale. And to his credit Judge Dredd has plenty of visuals and some interesting darker sci-fi elements.
While its 2012 attempt fairs better, Judge Dredd '95 remains a scifi action worth checking out.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) Revisited

The Island Of Dr. Moreau Movie Poster*** This review may contain mutant spoilers ***

A misunderstood DNA tinkering scientist performs human-animal vivisections, but things go wrong when his creations begin to regress.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is the third major film adaptation of H. G. Wells and plagued with production issues (later extensively covered in Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr Moreau) and unfairly (debatably) panned by critics. Director John Frankenheimer offers plenty of visual treats and along with the writers injects enough double crosses, surprise deaths and story twists to hold interest. The themes of nature, law, religion and society simmer behind the strained wacky nature of the characters.

Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) survives a plane crash in the Java Sea and is eventually rescued by a passing boat which arrives on an Island, soon he finds that the inhabitants are human-animal hybrids. Writers Richard Stanley (the intended original director) and Ron Hutchinson offer a disciplined enough script. Referred to as "The Father" by the mutants, Marlon Brando gives an outlandish performance as the mad scientist. Val Kilmer, particularly makes the most of it as Montgomery - at one point mimicking Brando's Dr. Moreau with his best impression.

Thewlis looks confused throughout, either due to the production or because of the character, either way his performance is fitting as perplexed Douglas, a U.N. agent who is in the middle of the warring mutant animals who are being controlled through fear using implants to exert pain. There's some entertaining moments between Brando and the world's smallest man, Nelson de la Rosa. Rosa's silent role as Majai, a miniature version of Moreau would inspire Austin Powers' Mini-me.

Notable is Fairuza Balk as Aissa, Douglas' love interest. Sadly, Ron Perlman's extended cameo of sorts is wasted as the Sayer of the Law, a blind goat-like hybrid. The makeup and costumes are very good, but the CGI elements are '96 primitive and unnecessary as the cat-like creatures unconvincingly bound about. The action scenes, quieter tension filled moments are well executed and are at times menacing. The island's buildings, lush greens and sea blues of the on location shoot coupled with Gary Chang's music creates plenty of atmosphere, especially during the night-time scenes where the hybrid faction revolt, rampaging through the compounds huts shooting guns and blowing things up.

Even though Richard Stanley never got to realise his darker version his DNA (no pun intended) is all over this. And while this film may have been made for the masses and less art house the late Frankenheimer's 1996 offering is arguably the most entertaining version of Wells' classic to date.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau Movie PosterDirector David Gregory has a long history of behind-the-scenes documentary shorts, Lost Soul is more than just a making-of doc that would accompany The Island Of Dr. Moreau disc. Fans of cult director/writer Richard Stanley get a good insight into what makes this fascinating film maker tick.

For followers of the novel and film itself Lost Souls also covers the earlier film attempts of H. G. Wells and looks at the books core themes and origin. Gregory offers a captivating documentary with its mix of archival materials and surviving-collaborator testimonies. It wonderfully chronicles how a conflict of vision, creative decisions, lack of interest and awful weather plagued the disastrous production and destroyed friendships with entertaining stories of behind-the- scenes drama including drugs, alcohol and egos. Sadly David Thewlis or Ron Perlman do not participate and it would have been interesting to hear their views.

If you enjoyed Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) Lost In La Mancha (2002) basically other "failed film" documentaries - this is a must see.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Beyond (1981) Lucio Fulci Revisited

*** This review may contain splatter spoilers ***

A woman inherits a hotel where one of the seven gates of hell has been opened, she must discover its secret before the world ends.

Director Lucio Fulci presents a Louisiana opening set in 1927 in sepia tone, as a lynch mob descend on a hotel. An artist Schweick is busily painting a vast apocalyptic painting in room 36. Thought to be a warlock the artist pleading only he can save them as the hotel is built over the seven doors of hell, is taken to the basement and gruesomely murdered. As a woman reads a prophecy from the book Eibon which sets alight leaving her fate, for the moment unknown, prompting titles over Living Let Die, Terminator 2, burning flames. Incidentally, I also viewed an erroneous bluray version (which the distributor have kindly since sent a corrected copy) where the opening was miss-coloured in a Night of the Living Dead, Universal classic black and white. Regardless of which version the wince enduring killing opens one of the Seven Doors of Death.

1981 present day workers go about fixing up the hotel for Liza Merril played by Fulci's City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery actress Catriona MacColl. Its not long before the trades men have a series of accidents and Liza is introduced to David Warbeck's Dr. John McCabe. Fulci pulls no punches, but pulls focus on the camera with close ups of nails blurring our main characters and Sergio Leone-like eye close ups. When plumber Joe arrives at the hotel to stop a flood creepy Martha advises him where to go and it's not long before he uncovers Schweick's reanimated body who pops poor Joe's eyes out.

In contrast to Zombie Flesheaters (1979) straight forward story, here writers Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo and Fulci explorer a metaphysical concept in which the realms of both the living and the dead bleed together. It spent some time on the UK video nasty list before being removed without prosecution. Though it was released in Europe in 1981, The Beyond did not see a U.S. release until 1983 under the alternate title "Seven Doors of Death." The Beyond is debatably Fulci's finest film, The City of the Dead appears to have been a practice run. The Beyond has a surreal edge, with a milky eyed blind woman (a look that American Horror Story Coven borrowed), a spectre appearing in a road, the woman who assists Liza is none other than the Eibon reading lady from 1927.

Cadavers, autopsies, bodies coming back to life, it's all odd creepy stuff. Fulci can be heavy handed at times, notorious jarring cuts, dubbed dialogue nuances synonymous with his work, but The Beyond is finely shot, with top notch composition. It's appears Fulci is paying homage to his idol, the French playwright Antonin Artaud with The Beyond being less about linear plot and more about imagery and symbolism with its exploding windows glassing a man's face, corpse writhing in body bags, creaking gurneys, acid attacks and melting faces oozing blood, it's gruesome practical effects by Giannetto De Rossi retain a timeless horror charm. Cinematography from Sergio Salvati on the backdrop of New Orleans gives it a distinct feel, with jazz playing in the background. The icing on the cake is Fabio Frizzi's piano lead orchestral and vocal chants score which is outstandingly powerful during the eerie scenes and death setups.

Liza walks around the oil lamp lit house encounters the blind woman Emily and entities. Of course New Yorker Liza ignores Emily's warnings and won't leave the hotel she's inherited. Shafts of light, dusty rooms, shadows, pianos playing by themselves, creeks may not amount to much, but Fulci build up tensions and jump scares with inexplicable lightening and crusty bony bodies on occasion nailed to the wall. Later while Liza tries to find out more about her hotel and missing book her friend Martin visits the public library to find the hotel's blueprints only to be attacked by a horde of hungry tarantula's who bite at his eyes and face - its gruesome stuff, with icky sound effects. Yes, there's lapses in logic, but it adds to the off beat creeps and sadistic torture and gore it delivers.

David Warbeck is great as John (and equals Carlo De Mejo's lead Gerry in City of the Living Dead). John breaks into Emily's house, which appears to have been abandoned for years to find the book Eibon there and you realise, if you already didn't know that Emily is a ghost of sorts. Back at the hotel Martha is killed by zombie Joe (probably still annoyed at Martha inadvertently sending him to his death) and we're headlong into the final act with more dread-filled surrealism. Emily doesn't want to go back to hells gate with Schweick and sets her guide dog onto him and the zombie victims who inexplicably appear and disappear before her own dog turns on her, ripping her throat out in a graphic blood filled scene.

To the writers credit the ending to this nightmarish extreme Italian horror is an unconventional brave one as Liza an John flee a hospital overrun by reanimated cadavers. Holding the hyper real effects and scripts shortfalls together are Warbeck's and MacColl's grounded performances. John goes all Dirty Harry shooting at the undead and Schweick's crusty corpse. Rushing down a set of stairs the couple find themselves back in the basement of the hotel and stumble through a labyrinth into a supernatural wasteland of dust and corpses mirroring Schweick's painting. Nihilist endings don't come much better than this - and Fulci simply out does himself. No matter which direction they travel, they find themselves back at their starting point and are ultimately blinded just like Emily stuck in hell - as they dissolve, cue Fabio Frizzi's pounding dramatic score.

Excellent atmospheric horror, Fulci at his best.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Revisited 30 years later

An everyday truck driver Jack Burton gets caught up in a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown and must rescue his pal’s fiancée.

Made the same year as a flurry of fantasy adventure films, including the The Golden Child, Flight of the Navigator, Howard the Duck and Labyrinth to name a few, Gary Goldman’s & David Z. Weinstein’s Big Trouble in Little China screenplay is rich and director John Carpenter unknowingly creates a rounded personification of an 80’s adventure film.

The leads are perfectly cast, a young Kim Cattrall’s delivers a defining comedy performance and Kurt Russell is perfect as the All-American beer drinking reluctant hero. A make-up enhanced James Hong is outstanding as mystical evil Lo Pan, the rest of the supporting cast are an array of familiar faces.

Although the special effects are of their time, many of the makeup effects hold up well. Veteran cinematographer Dean Cundey’s shows all the gritty sweat of this pure piece of entertainment fun. There’s fantastically dressed sets, great costumes and neon lighting. Director Carpenter delivers outlandish set pieces, some great action scenes, magic and sword fights. It's full of comedy moments, one-liners and dark, creepy supernatural Chinese spirits as Jack goes about rescuing the girl(s).

Big Trouble in Little China packs a lot punch for a film that didn’t do big box office bucks but it certainly found an audience on VHS. It’s a top fantasy adventure that’s production values add to Big Trouble’s charm, Carpenter's quirky atmospheric touch ensured it could be revisited time and time again.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows Movie Poster***This review may contain jaw chomping spoilers ***

After the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams travels to a secluded beach. Hitting the waves Nancy finds herself being stalked by a great white shark.

With a broken surf board lying near by a young boy finds a Go-Pro helmet cam and we get to see a recording of how its owner met their demise. We're then introduced to Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) bouncing around in a vehicle in the middle of nowhere, with the feeling we're in a torture tourist film. However, thankfully this is a killer shark film. Interestingly, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) quirkily shows her social media texts and photos as a wipes on screen. Played by Óscar Jaenada , Carlos the broken English local (who does not kill Nancy) drops the surf board touting tourist off safely at the beach. The perfect body, on the perfect beach, with the most perfect waves and scenery sets up a false sense of security.

It's not long before Nancy encounters some surfers who warn her of a strong current and rocks. It not just abs, bikini and cleavage. Surfing film fans may find the first minutes particularly interesting, its wonderfully shot as they surf the waves off the beautiful beach. In addition Collet-Serra makes full use of the unorthodox novel way (breaking the third wall) of the videophone calls and watch face projection on screen. These shots set up the family dynamics, back-story and elapsing time to hold attention and keep momentum. The proceedings are enhanced by Marco Beltrami’s (World War Z, The Thing 2011) score. But this is all inconsequential as deep down you're waiting for the shark to strike.

After a dolphin appears to break things up with a jump scare, Collet-Serra is wise to get to the great white quite quickly with an excellent shot of the sharks silhouette through a huge wave hot on Nancy's heels like something from a Steve Alten novel. When the water turns red - the survival story beings. The Shallows doesn't present great shakes in term of story, it's a basic don't get eaten tale reminiscent of Open Water (2003) and The Reef (2010), person verse nature. The Shallows offers big budget set ups and thrills with a whale carcass and buoy being bashed by the great white, the effects, bruises and bite makeup are finely done, there's also plenty of blood, severed limbs and bites on display. There's a solid performance from Blake Lively who is focal throughout. But the star of the show is the shark, when it breaks the water it's exceptionally realised, it feels and looks for the most part scarily real. This is not a Syfy channel special effect, this great white is unnerving and frightening.

There are calm before the storm moments where Lively's Nancy befriends a seagull, tends to her wounds, talks to herself, the night time shots are particularly eerie as she silently stalked. Inevitably each chance of rescue is thwarted by the tenacious killer. With a handful of shark attacks littered throughout there’s enough moments to maintain interest. Dehydrated, no food and losing blood writer Anthony Jaswinski's offers part an endurance test story as well as a creature feature. As Nancy goes from salvation points, through the salt water, rock to rock, there's plenty of tension as she times her swims in an attempt to out manoeuvre the shark. The slick editing and Jaswinski's story brings the film full circle playing against expectations and with sleight of hand you're into the unknown, with Nancy's fate up for grabs in the closing act where she faces off with the extremely aggressive predator. With high-tides, jelly fish stings, storms closing in, flare guns, Collet-Serra keeps the thrills coming until the end.

Refreshingly it doesn't rehash Jaws. Shark fans will no doubt get an uneasy and unsettled kick out of some of the elaborate stunt setups. With its small cast, excellent lead, beautiful location cinematography, if you’re into stranded shark films you can't go wrong.

Overall, a fast paced, grounded shark attack film and a recommend bite of entertainment.
The Shallows Movie Poster