Saturday, 22 September 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Review

An eccentric uncle reveals himself to be a warlock and with the witch next door, Florence Zimmerman and Lewis must find the clock in the walls of their mysterious old house before its ominous countdown ends.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly supernatural adventure based on the 1979 children's book of the same name written by John Bellairs. From horror realistic gore master Eli Roth, the director moves away from his usual adult fare for a impressive 1955 period set piece and well created magical adventure based mostly in Jonathan Barnavelts' large house that formally belonged to Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLahlan).

Jack Black sporting a Orson Welles-look is his usual likeable kooky type role self as Barnavelt, young Lewis played by Owen Vaccaro is impressive. Cate Blanchett's fleeting Florence Zimmerman is good fun along with killer pumpkins, a room full of spooky clockwork dolls, a dog-like chair and lion hedge to name a few. MacLahlan's troubled war vet Izard is fanstatic even if sorely underused. The his eerie makeup gives chills. Knock Knock's Lorenza Izzo (Roth's real life wife) is underliningly menacing as the Mother. It's thematically heavy, with death, loss and youth fitting in at its core, it's not a simple cash-in. The sets an special effects are well executed with an enjoyable score to match.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls echoes C. S. Lewis Narnia, with a Goosebumps feel and a Disney Haunted Mansion vibe. Creepy at times with impressive sets, its one of the most enjoyable well made family films in a longtime.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Predator (2018) Review

Contains Spoilers!

A bus filled with colourful mentally stressed military try to stop an intergalactic hunter to save McKenna's son who is in possession of alien tech that his dad unintentionally sent him.

Following the events of Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990) notably including Peter Keyes' son (and set presumably after 2010's Predators, although not directly referenced), director Shane Black along with co-writer Fred Dekker echo the modest fun of past Predator movies. They offer a mix of gore and humour, while adding new elements and leave narrative breadcrumbs setting up future sequels.

Alan Silvestri's Predator theme music is expertly reworked but is arguably heavily used by Henry Jackman. The on location night-time shoot adds atmosphere along with the dawn ship crashing last act. The weaponry that the predator wields is as fanboy neat as the original character design and effects on display. Even if the new Predator dogs are not a menacing as in Predators (2010).

Plot wise the writers give the classic Predator, more agility, personality, and motivation for helping the humans (as he is part human) without spelling it out in your face. They subtly explain why the "Tracker" Predator can see in POV without his mask due to his inbuilt biotech/biometric enhancements.

Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) is on usual form and is excellent as army sniper Quinn McKenna who encounters the Predator during a mission in Mexico. Know-how, gun-toting biologist Olivia Munn is impressive alongside the soldiers including actors Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane and Alfie Allen. Also in the castings favour is child actor Jacob Tremblay who doesn't come across as annoying as Rory, Quinn's autistic son. At times you care about the characters and morn when they meet their demise, Rhodes' Williams in particular. Actor Sterling K. Brown is notable as the unscrupulous Govenment Agent.

The Predator is non-stop entertainment, mixing expected lowbrow dialogue and macho talk with no holds barred action sequences and special effects. Yes it's exciting but the action does grow more outlandish in closing with human Predator weaponisation.

This entry ups the ante, with larger action sequences, bigger thrills and more humour but doesn't reinvent or progress franchise as much as touted, but for Predator fans this may good thing.

Iron Warrior (1987) Review

Ator must battle with Phaedra, an evil sorceress and her unstoppable warrior, who has a secret connection to our heroes past.

Director Alfonso Brescia ambitious Iron Warrior is a low budget mix of Excalibur, Clash of the Titans, with a touch of Alejandro Jodorowsky wackiness and Duran Duran music video prowess to name a few. Opening with Carlo Maria Cordio's endless credit title music (oddly reminiscent of Star Trek The Next Generation), we're then sold the aesthetically pleasing locations of the Mediterranean's Malta and Gozo. However, the sunny visuals take away from Iron Warrior some much needed atmosphere. Nevertheless, Brescia's Italian production doesn't shy away from brief nudity, some Lucio Fulci inspired make up and shock moments.

Brescia at best offers stylised 80's bold geometric shape makeup, and fan blown hair with vibrant costumes, reds, greens and flowing material passing the camera. There's a handful of beautiful women thrown including Iris Peynado, notable is the stunning Princess Jana, actress Sabina Gersak. Offering a poor mans Conan swordplay, projection There's Superman (1978) Krypton-like prison rings trapping a witch, with Ator played by Miles O'Keeffe, a chiseled lean He-Man, along with nemesis Trogar (Franco Daddi) a Skeletor meets with Action Force's Destro type sword wielding nemesis. . He employs slow-motion, sped up film, wide shots and old Bewitched/Randall and Hopkirk vanishing editing tricks. The avant-garde mix of student-like experimental film elements is endless.

If theatrical, over the top, choppy Italian sorcery fantasy salami is your thing, Iron Warrior is a must see.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) Review

Mission spoilers ahead...

Ethan Hunt and the IMF team join forces with CIA assassin August Walker to prevent a disaster of epic proportions as group of terrorists known as the Apostles plan to use three plutonium cores for nuclear attacks.

The excellently staged, outlandish, sweaty palm stunts feel even more real in this instalment as the IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time to stop two nuclear bombs being triggered. While far removed from the original '60 TV series, the film offerings go from strength to strength and Fallout doesn't merely rehash Rogue Nation's approach.

Writer, director Christopher McQuarrie offers more high-octane action in this sixth instalment, the narrative is more complex, the stakes are high, the emotion well placed. McQuarrie goes out of his way to explain why Hunt's marriage to Michelle Monaghan's Julia Meade character from the third movie couldn't last.

Here the cast are on top form Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill's Agent Walker bounce perfectly off each other as they attempt to corner a despicable arms dealer named John Lark. Both Hunt's IMF boss played excellent by Alec Baldwin and Simon Pegg get physical and Ving Rhames add some unexpectedly emotion clout. Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane who is as intense and nonchalant as ever. Vanessa Kirby leaves an impression, possibly for a comeback in a sequel, Milla Jovovich-ish Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is impressive especially during the action sequences. Notably Wes Bentley an actor who fell off the radar is given second life, briefly appearing as Patrick, Julia's second husband.

The big action set ups in Paris and London are memorable, injected with exciting score by Lorne Balfe. Unexpectedly Fall Out feels fresh and moves the series forward. Even though you can see some story twists coming a mile off there are genuine surprise moments along with proper thematic substance in amongst the white-knuckle action.

Undeniably the best entry in the franchise, re-establishing Cruise’s status as an action superstar. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Dead Pulse (2010) only 99p! Zombie Horror

Dead Pulse is now only 99p Worldwide (local currency) and also free on Kindle Unlimited.

This is top ranking re-imagining of the walking dead in a George A. Romero and Lucio Fulci inspired zombie horror adventure. Get yourself a bargain here.

The dead have returned to life...

The world's focus is on the city of Ravenswood and the once idyllic town of Farmore as platoons and scattered survivors fight the hordes of the dead, unbeknownst one of them holds the key to end the undead's reign of mayhem.

Across the city at a body disposal plant a small group take shifts on the 'death watch'. Their hopes hinge on the soldiers of Farmore to rescue them. But with no contact for months, no food and surrounded by the dead, have they got what it takes to survive?

With death at their door, only time can tell...

Monday, 3 September 2018

Summer of 84 (2018) Review

Spoilers ahead

Davey Armstrong suspects his local police officer is a serial killer, along with a group of his friends they spend their summer gathering evidence but with dangerous consequences.

With the popularity of the 1980's at an all-time high, TV series Stranger Things, the IT film remake to name a few, imagine if the Goonies and Stand by Me teens went on the hunt for a serial killer instead of looking for a dead body or treasure! Directors Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell's Summer of 84 offers a modest dark adventure which delivers just that. 

The cast are impressive, the teens have family struggles which ring true. Lead Graham Verchere is impressive as conspiracy fan Davey Armstrong. Judah Lewis, reminiscent of a young Rob Lowe and Michael J. Fox is notable along with likable Tiera Skovbye as Nikki Kaszuba providing the typical yet timeless (before Xbox ans PS4) crush interest. 

There's a great score with John Carpenter vibes, contrary to what the critics say there isn't an over reliance on nostalgia of the titular decade, the soundtrack is 1980s minimal, the pop culture dialogue references are only littered throughout, with the E.T, Poltergeist-like neighborhood location sprinkled with just enough 80s for you to buy the period setting as they spy on their neighbor Rear View Window and Burbs style. It not just in your face nostalgia but also has that teenage discovery, angst and your first love element which crosses generations. 

Technically the pacing of the three directors falters in the dark themed closing as the last act, jarringly it goes off the predicable beaten track, but thankfully everything isn't wrapped up satisfying like an episode of Scooby Doo, hats off to the writers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith avoiding a paint by numbers ending we all wanted. 

With a surprise death, this offering goes out of its way to avoid expectations. This goes both for and against Summer of 84. But there again as the story tells, life isn't always roses and doesn't go the way you'd expect.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Megalodon (2018 TV Movie) Review

Image result for megalodon 2018*Madsen Spoilers ahead*

A USA military vessel find survivors on a Russian submersible and finds themselves face to face with a giant shark.

In true tradition where the poster is better than the film, Megalodon is another low budget made for TV affair following in the fin tails of Shark Attack 3 and Megalodon (2002). When a giant shark is released after some illegal drilling most of the run time is spent with characters talking trivial lines, broken up by brief appearances of Michael Madsen chewing up sea air as Admiral King on an impressive the real Naval ship location.

Director James Thomas offers clips of a computer generated Meg shark swimming (recycled throughout) which occasionally bashes into the vessel. The effects are not much better than that of the superior Megalodon film Shark Hunter (2001).

That said, with zero budget Thomas offers a few Michael Bay-like sweeping camera shots. There's a handful of good performance and impressive Russian dialogue from the actors. Notably is Caroline Harris as Lynch, even if she is hankered by Thunder Levin's paper thin story and Koichi Petetsky's limited script.

With a surprisingly good score produced by three composers to compliment the shark eating a boat in one, Russians haphazardly trying to escape the US navel ship, complete with CGI gun flash and people falling about like on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise as the shark terrorise the crew.

A patriotic speech finishes the third act off, and we are also treated to two fights. One involving Lynch, with Cold War tension not seen since Rocky IV. And later Madsen's King heroically shows up one last time to help his seaman buddy Captain Streeper (Dominic Pace) in Die Hard/Under Siege style and literally face off with the shark.

Overall, it's not The Meg but it's all you'd expect from an Asylum production on the SYFY channel.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

House (1985) Revisited Review

A troubled Vietnam veteran turned writer moves into a haunted house after inheriting it from his kooky aunt.

Director Steve Miner (Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Friday the 13th Part 2) House oozes all the wacky horror comedy staples of the 80s. In the hey days of optical effects and practical make-up House is just as fun (but not as creepy) as on its initial release. At times echoing The Evil Dead (1981), in the vein of Fright Night (1985) and clearly infulcing The Burbs (1989) in terms of suspicion and locations, it deserves a tab in horror history.

Dispite some pacing issues Miner offers suspense at times with a few jump scares and eerie dream sequences. There's severed hands and heads, an obese witch, the impressive zombified corpse of Big Ben, three demonic kids and a stop motion flying skull-face, there's plenty of creepy visuals on display.

William Katt's Roger Cobb balances the special effects with paranoia, obsession with his missing son and PTSD, there's a lot going it what could have been a simple two dimensional character. Notable for horror aficionados Kane Hodder (of Jason, Friday the 13th fame) serves as stunt coordinator.

While the effects may not been as hidden by VHS grain and TV AV connectors on the Bluray format Miner’s House still has plenty of tongue-in-cheek horror fun.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018) Review

Puppet spoilers ahead.

At a small-town convention a man looks to sells his brother's puppet linked a murder 30 years earlier but all hell breaks loose when an ancient evil animates the other puppets and sends them on a bloody killing spree.

Directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund's offering, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is head and shoulders above many of the original sequels. Even if from the producers of The Meg and Bone Tomahawk, based on Charles Band's beloved cult horror The Puppets Master (which sadly when straight to video in 1989), this reboot sadly lacks that cinematic production values or execution the long term remake/reboot/reimagining hardcore Puppet Master fans had hoped for. It sounded like a VHS horror fanatics dream, and it almost is, redeemed by some well executed and eerie puppet effects and a strong bloody latter half.

Even though lacking finesse there's plenty of enjoyable blood, make-up effects, puppet designs and nods to the series to at least perk an interest, even if some of the addition puppet characters are as forgettable and hooky as the 1980-like T and A on display courteous of Jenny Pellicer and Kennedy Summers to name just a few. That said, the redesigned classic puppets (although not all present) are greatly welcomed. Most of the beloved puppets appear, Blade, Torch, Tunneller and Pinhead respectively. Also no one can fault the Richard Band's excellent theme and horror legend Fabio Frizzi's (Zombi, The Beyond) new score.

Usually a bit part actor Thomas Lennon is on fine form here as lead comic store owner and artist Edgar. The cast are solid enough. Notable are Michael Paré, an unrecognisable Udo Kier as Toulon and Barbra Crampton in a perfect role as a cop' turned tour guide. Memorable is actor Skeet Jenkins (Cuddly Bear) who sets up a brief humorous post credit's scene.

S. Craig Zahler's delivers an enjoyable screenplay which works best when being played on the nose with surprise deaths. Story wise it's a rework of Charles Band's original, reminiscent of the evil Toulon shindigs of part two, echoing an Assault on Precinct 13 vibe in the more impressive final act where Laguna and Wiklund shine. Credit to Zahler the narrative, opening in 1989 then moving to present day, which thread hark backs to World War II (of the 3rd installment) throughout gives it some freshness, weight and mystery, the idea of multiple puppets also works in its favour.

While not the sharp big budget production fans had hoped for, it's a horror gore step in the right direction. Hopefully with zombie Toulon walking into the moonlight in the closing will give the series a resurgence.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Meg (2018) Review

Image result for the meg Shark Spoiler Alert. 

An unimaginable threat, a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon is set free from the depth of the ocean and only a rescue diver Jonas Taylor can stop it.

The MEG is what Jurassic Park was to the late Crichton's novel. And that's not a bad thing for Steve Altens' novel MEG Terror of the Deep. It works commercially, and it looks great, director Jon Turteltaub gives it that cinematic feel that comes with a great effects and 150 million USD production values. 

This adaption is entertaining mostly due to Jason Statham's nonchalant likeable performance as Taylor who must must save the crew and the ocean itself from the giant shark. It's more action orientated than thriller with hit and miss humour littered throughout. Rebecca Romijn-alike Jessica McNamee is memorable but her screen time is limited. Notable are Cliff Curtis and Rainn Wilson. The whole cast give solid enough performances including Winston Chao, Li Bingbing and striking Ruby Rose.

Most likely due to Jurassic World's Mosasaurus the MEG novel prehistoric opening has been dropped and overall the bare bones of the novel remain, but not much more. One particular tweak from the book worked, with the later reveal that there's more than one Megalodon. Oddly Shark Hunter (2001) and Megalodon (2002) feel closer to the novel than this. That said, these low budget serious toned ripoff attempts lack the execution of Turteltaub's offering. Don't expect the book and it won't disappoint in terms of no brainers like Armageddon, Independence Day and Transformers to name a few blockbusters.

Although it cheekily borrows elements from Jaws (1975) and Jaws 3D (1983), this adaptation gives Meg legs for future film outings as there are plenty more Alten novels to adapt and die hard fans will always have the source material too.  When is the film ever as good as the book,  Turteltaub's outing is no The Shinning exception, but is goes out of its way to be fun, even if only touching on depth.  

Overall, it won't blow novel fans away nor has it the gravitas of Jaws but for the casual viewer it's a recommended piece of summer shark entertainment.