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Killing Zoe (1993)
Intriguing and engulfing - not for everyone of course
Not so much a review as an opinion (of sorts) so I shall attempt at keeping things brief but apologies if I get into the windbag territory...
Possibly fresh off his role in "Pulp Fiction", Eric Stoltz travels to France to meet up with a childhood buddy (Jean-Hugues Anglade) for an apparently foolproof bank heist. Obviously many situational happenstances and unforeseen complications come into play to flesh out this rather medium paced french film...
Make no mistake, the film may have been shot principally in English (with subtitles whenever the french speak amongst themselves) but it remains undeniably a french film, from it's rather open and frank drug use (which there is plenty) and light but justified nudity. The violence also is un-american; instead of glamorizing and stylizing the violent acts and death scènes, they are presented in raw, matter-of-fact bloody affairs.
Due to the film's rather simple and basic story/premise, we are treated to a slight character study (of sorts) and stylistic exercise in cinematography and pacing. For example, it takes a while before we are allowed to know why Zed (Stoltz) speaks no french but just got off a plane in Paris, before he meets up with "lady of the night" (escort) Zoe (Julie Delpy). It is only after childhood friend Eric (Anglade) arrives and treats Zoe like a 2-pence prostitute (throwing her out of the hotel room without her clothes and such) that the plot begins to unfold, and it is only after some drug use, alcohol intake, and the exposition/explanation of the plan (robbing a bank on the Bastille Holiday) that we are treated to more drug abuse, frolicking around town driving until the influence, and finally an undergroud pub/club scene which only serves to cement just how depraved the main bank robbers are, intoxicating Zed with different types of drugs of unknown origin.
It is in this bar/club scene that we get bits of surrealistic film-making, filtering imagery effects, and just how it is important to understand french in french films, for the subtitles do offer a decent job at conveying the general ideas (most of the time), but the flavour and subtlelties of the language is indeed lost in translation.
After that whole first act which lasts a good third of the movie, we get to the bank job proper but not before a hungover breakfast. As soon as our masked band of thieves arrive at the bank, Ron Jeremy in a cameo as the bank's concierge get shot in the gut, and crowd control is attempted before Zed is sent to the basement to work on the vault(s), not noticing that Zoe happens to be an employee at this bank. What a small world indeed.
Things rapidly get out of hand, more murder ensues, people's true motives and loyalties are exposed until of course a bloody finale which doesn't spell out the future outcome of our surviving protaginists, presented in a way which can be either lost by those who haven't paid attention to some of the smaller détails throughout the film.
"Killing Zoe" may not be a masterpiece of french cinema but it is a rather honest and capable stand-alone tale. In a (then - in the time it was made and released) world still trying to do the "Pulp Fiction" type of movies, "Killing Zoe" is a good attempt at blending both some american sensibilities with the euro-flair of french film-making. The acting is very competent as no one seems miscast or out of place, and even when things start to seemingly veer towards the over-the-top, characters are never really hammed or ramped up beyond the believable. The soundtrack score is also noteworthy (although will seem to be a staple of the era of it's release) as is the production design, and the aforementioned cinematography and lighting. If anything, one could be left to imagine that maybe director Roger Avary was trying to do a european "Pulp Fiction" with some american material to break out internationally. In any case, it is an enjoyable film, but far for anyone as it does have strong moments and elements which may not be suitable for everyone.
I had originally rented it back when it came out on VHS (yes, VHS!) and later bought it on DVD and watched once in the early Y2K. It took me about 15 years to come back to it a third time in order to decide if it should remain in my DVD collection.
Fun and quite smart for 80s sci-fi-cop thriller
I will admit I have always had a little "something" for the Michael Crichton written and directed 10984 film "Runaway". I will try to keep it brief, but apologies in advance if I go into windbag territory.
I recall seeing TV spots (i.e. trailers) back in the 80s for this film but can not recall ever seeing it actually playing in the theaters upon release. However, the film was released for local rental (VHS, video shops) as well as "pay per view" TV after it's supposed original 1984 theatrical run, and that's how I came to see the film for the first time: recorded on a VHS tape off of a then movie-channel playing flicks usually uncut (or at the very least, in their local theatrical versions) but chopped off in pan & scan 4x3 format. I also think that the first few minutes of the film were missing from my VHS tape, probably recorded on the fly when the film was starting, because *** SPOILERS ! ! ! **** when I re-watched it on DVD (in full 2:35 aspect ratio!) I did not recall the first "cornfield" scene at all... But then again it has been about 30 years (if not more) since I last saw this film!
Yes, the film is quite dated: everything from the police uniforms to the hairstyles to the makeup screams horrible eighties, but maybe that's what the film was supposed to be: an alternate version of the reality of 1984. Still, if you grew up in the 70s and 80s, then you can allow such fashion crimes a hall pass since they were the real thing and not the post Y2K 80s glamorification of today...
Anyway, the film is supprisingly well structured as there is not dull moment or useless scènes which either don't help the story to go forward at a reasonable pace, or offer up a wee bit of characterization and empathy between the characters, except of course for the *** SPOILER ! ! ! *** overly played-out final kiss which finishes the film and has the end crédits start as the two leads keep rubbing lips for a few minutes. But again, this happens at the end of the film, so it doesn't really hinder the story.
Although quite simple and straightforward, the film is remarkably smart. People seem to talk, act, react quite naturally, again considering this was 1984 and "equality between the sexes" wasn't yet part of the daily decorum (ahem!) - meaning of course that one can not shake off the feeling that there is a bit of what was considered "normal" at the time condecendance towards women. It isn't as bad as previous décades, but still...
Anyway, everyone does a great job, from the lead actors (including also some of the bit players) to the special effects (although, again, dated by today's standards but very effective for the time), to the cinematography (the rear-projection isn't as horrible as other films of the time), to the production design, and even the ADR looping is quite noteworthy. Perhaps the weakest point is the rather "standard" 80s synthesizer score which doesn't seem to fully mesh with the rest of the production, although it does manage to be serviceable for what it is supposed to do. Again remember that this is just my personnal tastes talking here...
Anyway, it's not a masterpiece and shouldn't be considered as such, but it is a very fun little romp, well paced and well executed on (most) all fronts and should be enjoyed without being taken too seriously. Like many films, it has it's fair share of flaws, but it is a very nice little film.
Nuit blanche (2011)
Obviously better than the USA remake!
I will try to keep this so-called "review" as brief as possible, as it is more of an expression of an opinion more than anything else.
After my wife and I had watched the USA remake with Jamie Fox, a film I reviewed not long ago and which essentially fell flat due to it's very generic and formulaic production (maybe due to studio/Producer interférences, who knows), we decided to hunt down the french original as we were curious to witness the original which unfortunately spawned such a forgettable american remake.
"Night Blanche" doesn't break new grounds in either storytelling, editing, pacing, cinematography or such, but it does offer up that euro feel which no american/north american production can duplicate. By standing on it's own and quickly presenting characters who are set-up and defined quite rapidly, the story can then advance at a good pace and the tension / suspence can develop without much hesitation. SPOILER HERE: contrary to the US "Sleepless" remake, the baddies are all very well established quite early on, and we don't go through characterization hoops just to keep the audience guessing for sheer guessing's sake.
Although there is no frenetic suspence which get unbearable, the fact remains that bad goes to worse and then some, the so-called "good" guys forced to do less-than-nice actions, and the lines between good and bad are blurred, although the good and evil still remains quite established.
Characters may be under-developped but they are explored enough to get the story going, and no one really feels as though they've been pushed onto the screen for eye candy or a generic plot-servicing device. It is also interesting that some characters take quite a long time to be brought center stage or even utter a single word, as the visual narrative seems to take care of of the how and where things happen in the sequence they do.
All in all this is far from an american guns blazing production but has it's fair share of guns and violence, which rivals any US product without the over-use of CGI or car chases, although folks not used to the french / euro cinema may find the rhythm of the movie, as well as how characters are developped, a bit unsatisfactory, even if this remains a very solid action thriller in the purest sense.
I would recommend it any day over the US remake for sure - it's worth it!
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Nothing can be said that hasn't already been said...
As the title of this "review" (more of a comment, really) suggests, there isn't much more anyone can say now (in 2019) about this true classic of the horror genre, which hasn't been already more properly discussed.
I thing that there are many reasons why this film is reguarded by some as "the" quintessential zombie/living dead movie, and why it also seems to be a question of "hype" to those who grew up in the post-Y2K age of zombie revival.
Granted, the movie has aged, and some of the makeup and effects did not photograph well on film. Yes, in some instances, I can actually understand why younger viewers who grew up with the "Resident Evil" video games and the 2004 remake of "Dawn Of The Dead" would view this as a low-budget cheap/fake boring action-less "talkie", instead of the zombie "classic" it has come to be viewed by some. Yes, the zombies can be unconvincing, and yes, the blood may look way too fake, but that's the way the cookie crumbles at times, especially when ressources and budgetary limitation play a large part of how a film's overall "tonal look", especially concerning special effects (pre-CGI of course).
I am also quite sure that today's younger audience may also view the commentary / satire about consumerism to be either heavy-handed, or just not that much of a big deal. After all, compared to how media and over commercialism was "present" in our daily lives versus how it is today, it's no Wonder that the "satire" may proove inneficient to some, who have gotten used to being over-exposed by LED-lit animated billboards at every step, ads on every webpage, and algorythm autobots automatically re-sorting their F4cebo0k feeds and custom-selected advertisements. Compared to how we are quite literally drowned in ads in today's world, the late 70s must have seemed like a "dead zone", and thus could make it seem as though the social commentary in "Dawn" isn't justified.
However, much like I read somewhere that "(Orwell)'s 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual", Romero's "Dawn" also served not so much as a warning but a "current" viewpoint at where our north american society(ies) were heading towards. By the time "Dawn" hit the theaters, shopping malls weren't uncommon anymore and therefore the film also served as a sort of real-life/real-time almost mirror image of what the pre-80s consumerism was beginning to be. Interestingly enough, I first saw the poster for "Dawn" at a shopping mall's cinema, in the days long before the mega super multiplexes, and having a theater with two screens was quite a feat!
Anyway as I said, there really is Nothing new I could add on the subject, save for my own opinion that I may do believe that "Dawn" is my favorite of all the "Living Dead" films, because of numerous reasons, such as, but not limited to, the very believable acting and dialogue, the humour which breaks the bleak and serious tone of such an apocalypse, the Goblin soundtrack which adds an air of strange, uncomfortable surrealism, and of course the evolution / arcs of the characters, how they deal with these circumstances.
I remember seeing a TV advert for the film way back in the late 70s (so I was just Under the age of 8 or 9 or so) which literally traumatized me, but my conscious mind had repressed where these images came from, so it wasn't until I was slightly older and rented a VHS copy of the film for home viewing (back then, a rating of 18+ meant no one under 18 would be admitted reguardless) that I realized these images which had plagued me were from "Dawn Of The Dead", and to this day, some of these still haunt me.
To trully appreciate this film I would recommend you hunt down the 4-DVD box set which features various cuts of the film as well as a wealth of bonus and behind the scènes features, and then immerse yourself in the world that Romero created, like a snapshot of the late 70s coming to close, envisioning what our future was possibly hinting at, at the time.
... Then after that, if you hunger for more, be sure to Watch the 1985 follow-up, "Day Of The Dead", a film equally strong although with darker themes and maybe with less "in your face" social commentary and humor...
Day of the Dead (1985)
Not so much a review as an afterthought...
"Day Of The Dead" performed poorly at the box office during it's initial run back in the mid-80s, due to many elements, be it poor marketing, high expectations from both critics and Romero fans, and let us not forget the growing trend of mixing humour (and subsequently cheezy one-liners) into horror, something that the Dan O'Bannon's previously released "Return Of The Living Dead" seemed to have mixed remarkably well (intentionally or not).
"Day Of The Dead" always was a more serious-toned film, both gritty, claustrophic, pre-nihilistic post-apocalyptic as well as viceral and depression-fueled anger. While it certainly managed to express it's own frustrations on-screen, it may also have been one of the final horror films of the 80s not attempting to be either teen-friendly nor have humour put in strictly for it's own sake. Like all of Romero's "Dead" films, "Day" is also rich in parallels to some of our real world's "values" and "fears" at the time.
Speaking of such, this may also have been another reason why it underperformed initially - while the previous instalment "Dawn Of The Dead" had it's main themes quite unsubtely represented on-screen, something which was essentially more quickly and easily caught by the major audience, "Day" 's more subtle (of sorts) and not so clear-cut depths may have been lost to the audience at the time, maybe even over-shadowed by other aspects within the film itself, such as (but not limited to) the almost charicatural portrayal of archétypes (when approached strictly on a first level), and the brilliant special effects.
No, I am not saying the acting is sub-par: quite the contrary. Every lead performer in this ensemble cast not only gives it their best, but manages to quickly establish each of their own personalities and values quite quickly, leaving very little in terms of under-development of characterization. Lori Cardille's performance manages to grab the viewer, never obscuring anyone else's part, and in fact is the audience's perspective of this world.Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy bring a somewhat light-hearted but deeply subversive existential approach to the otherwise nightmarish scenario, providing both a breath of fresh air as well as a much-needed less tense atmosphere. Anthony Dileo Jr's own performance is also incredibly noteworthy, as he perhaps represents the most fragile but realistic human approach to the situation, providing an inspired and brilliant on-screen presence.
Of course, one could not praise the casting without mentioning the absolutely incredible performances by Richard Liberty (as Dr Logan "Frankenstein") and Sherman Howard (as Bub). The synergy between the two performers works incredibly well, as both seem at polar opposites of the acting spectrum, but never bumping into each other. Liberty's absolutely, almost frenetic turn as a "mad scientist" is actually one of inspiration, as his performance manages to elevate such a role into that of a relatable, albeit slightly off centered over-optimistic dreamer. On the other hand, Howard's performance as the slow-moving Bub is filled and rich in texture, subtelty, and curiosity. Like most of the other characters in the film, at first we the viewer are perhaps put "off" by a "learning" living dead, but Howard manages to both grab our attentions and make us sympathize with the character, almost humanizing the flesh eater.
And of course, who could not be mesmerized by the absolutely incredible and unforgetable performance from the late but greatJoseph Pilato as Rhodes. While most will obviously point out to his "over-acting" in the role, he still manages to make it seem completely realistic in the circumstances of the film's world. Granted, his "first officers" (Gary Howard Klar as Steel and Ralph Marrero as Rickles) are also of note, bringing both a levity with their own brand of military swagger as well as a sense of impending doom like both a pack of wasps always ready to sting, or that of a pendulum luring over everyone's heads. These guys also seem to flesh out their characters quite well up until the very end. But Pilato's performance is that of both genius and inspired insanity, one worthy of being re-examined under different sets of light with every viewing, keeping in mind the whole scenario of the situation everyone is in.
Of course, all the mechanical and makeup special effects are absolutely astounding, to say the least. The sheer amount of inventfulness (originality) and flawlessly executed perfection seemed to have never been matched since, as Tom Savini and crew pulled off an incredible amount of unforgetable moments, each singular one absolutely stunning and shocking in it's own right. If it isn't a decapitated half-head still capable of semi-mobility, then it's the painful amputation of limbs to avoid infection, up until the all-out grand finales of the "real" bad guys getting their upcomance. These effects not only stood the test of time but are still, in my own personal opinion (as is this whole "review" for that matter), unbeaten in terms of realism and sheer shock effect. If the work of Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston) in Carpenter's "THE THING" are "the" example of the pinultimate in terms of practical effects, then Savini's "Day Of The Dead" surely must be close second.
The film is rife with détails about the (then) current political and social climates of our north american society(ies) as well as what was mostly unspoken (the under current if you will, unless I am not using the proper terms, which is highly likely!). Obviously the first uninterupted viewing of "Day Of The Dead" may have the initial effects of seeing it strictly as a horror splatter gore fest, with too much dialogue /interactions between barely 2-dimentional characters, and of course the comparisson to "Dawn Of The Dead", but upon multiple viewing, if you can stomach (pun intended) the rather gruesome gore, more depth can be perceived, elevating the film beyond that of what it was originally perceived as.
I would rate it between a 7 and a 7.5 our of 10, but seeing it with a closer inspection of what is "between the lines" as well as the brilliant peformances by all, given what they worked with, I have elevated my rating to an 8.
Decent but generic ("user friendly")
I guess from the title of my (ahem) "review", there is little left to be said about this film, a remake of the french original "Nuit Blanche".
On a technical standpoint, the film is pretty much flawless. Well positioned camera angles, great lighting, shots in focus, etc... The story flows seemingless effortlessly as though this was an entirely realistic "denouement" of events. At times some of dialogue feels garbbled, thanks to some mumbling and fast-paced talking during moments when détails are being explained (perhaps not entirely necessary to the general story, but it would have been fun have been able to have heard some of the détails discussed).
Acting wise, everyone is quite "equal". Jamie Foxx is of course Jamie Foxx which means he delivers a very convincing role. Michelle Monaghan plays her part with a sense of urgency and "obsessiveness" which makes us believe she could be on the verge of crossing the lines. Gabrielle Union is always a delight to watch even if she wasn't given much to work with in this role. Dermot Mulroney looks as though he was supposed to be in the "Ocean's 12-13-14" series, and the consumate true Professional he is, continues to make the craft look easy and effortless. Scoot McNairy stands out as he truly gives off a menacing and creepy vibe, aided by henchmen including Sala Baker who deserves a speaking role. *** SPOILERS! *** David Harbour plays his role extremely well as he keeps the true motives of his character well under wraps until almost the last moment when he has no choice but to reveal, to us the audience, his true alligeance. Tip "T.I." Harris is also noteworthy due to another realistic portrayal.
Action wise the film delivers, starting things off with a bang before quick character introductions and basic plot lines are revealed, and some of the fight sequences are very impressive without falling too much into that post-Matrix "everyone knows kung-fu" stereotype.
Even though the film is technically flawless (except for a couple of CGI shots, but that's modern film-making, folks!), the result feels very generic and the film unfortunately doesn't elevate itself beyond that. It is very entertaining for the "brainless" (i.e. no need to invest too much of your interpretational skills here, just your narrative one) type of action thriller, but it just doesn't offer up anything unique to the fold.
One good thing about this is that it made me want to seek out the original version.
From excellent to avoid at all costs: a matter of perspective
*** THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Joe D'amato's forray into X-rated features during the 90s is well know to adult film fans as well as those who recall the film-maker's numerous ventures into various different motion picture territories. To the fans of the horror and exploitation genre, D'amato's XXX selection may seem more like a side track, or a distraction/diversion more than the continued exploration of... ahem... well, who knows why for certain, but for those who were introduced to D'amato's "art" via his more hardcore explicit filmography, "Tarzan", or "Jungle Heat" as it was called upon it's original release in Canada on VHS, is also a very divisive work, as is most of his repertoire.
For some, his style of mixing medium shots and slow motion, fading into different positions without showcasing the actual change, and the rather very formulaic format of his scènes (you can almost time your watch to them) is a definite "turn off". His style, if you will, seems more akin to the "couples-friendly" demographic rather than the strictly "raincoater" crowd, although some of the action depicted in his explicit scènes may proove to be too "typical p0rn" rather than being accessible to those who are simply curious.
"Jungle Heat" was edited into different versions for distribution to different markets. The Canadian CHS version, now long discontinued as well as the DVD re-release, does come off as the standard fare of D'amato's shot-on-film smut (which offered quite a diversion to the now post-gonzo introduction shot on video only P.O.V. styles which were starting to flood the american market), which features an attention to detail such as location, costumes, lighting, and an abundance of sex scènes.
Where "Jungle Heat" succeeds is probably also where it failes, depending on who you ask. Fans of later-day Rocco material (i.e. when he started producing and directing his own lines for distribution via Evil Angel in the american continent) found his earlier (sic) D'amato collaborations to being too "soft" and rather contrived. I do recall one guy in particular who claimed this was one of the worst sex flicks he had ever seen, whereas myself found it to be extremelly effective - as I mentioned, the careful eye and attention to detail coupled with the shot-on-film quality and the attractive cast are a definite change of pace to what most US-based productions were doing at the time,
Ah yes, the cast... Many discovered Rocco's real life wife Rosa Caracciolo (who worked exclusively with her hubby during her all-too-short stint in smut) in this film, and yes she is "all that": gorgeous simply doesn't cut it, and her ease and ability to take on Rocco's brute force should be commended. Together they share no less than 3, of not 4 scènes in this film, and Rocco easily provides 2 or 3 additional scènes with other performers. In fact, Rocco appears in ALL the scènes in this movie save for the very first one, which features a yet-not-seen-in-the-USA Nikita Gross in one of her first on-screen appearances.
All in all, like my review of the D'Amato "Marquis De Sade", this is not a film for everyone and may quite possibly be disapointing to some, especially considering all the "hype" it has received. But if you are a fan of Rosa, you owe it to yourself to see this film... if you can find ot of course!
The Mist (2007)
Easily one of the best King adaptations
I am certain the numerous reviews on this site have all explored and expanded on the various elements of this film, both narratively and thematically, and so I will not waste anyone's time re-hashing words of praise or views of criticisms.
Darabont's third forray into adapting a King story (in this case, a novella) also seems to hit a home run. With his own screenwriting adaptation of the source material as well as the abilityu to have kept the original ending he wanted without succumbing to production and studio pressures to make it more "Hollywoodesque" and thus appeal to a larger demographic of common moviegoers, Darabont has indeed created a tale which I myself can only describe as true horror.
Yes, horror has all too many faces, from constantly re-booting teen slashers to marathon speed running zombies, all the way to the mutant killer fish shark dinosaur hybrids and everything under the sun (and the moon!), horror has been established as a garanteed cash-in for producers, quick to send into production the next carbon-copy of a remake of a plageirzsed idea in order to get a quick profit during slow blockbuster weekend gross profits.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD - READ ONWARDS AT YOUR OWN, well, spoilers!
While the majority of the film obviously plays in the horror vein of "killer monsters" lurking outside in the mist, it also explores another thematic often favored in horror, and that is the concept of isolationism. Humans trapped in a confined area are bound to turn on one another, as as one character ever says in the film itself "put more than 2 people in a room and sides are being taken". This added threat is also an added layer of terror as now the protagonists are struggling for survival not only from the external menace, but the one created within their own confinment.
However the true horror is revealed during the final moments of the film, the final moments of the last act, and the infamous ending no one wanted to be filmed, but which is perhaps both the only real solution in a scenario which has played out the way it did during the course of the film, and one which truly changes this film from a very, very good horror film into a "real" horror film. I will admit I both weeped and clapped while sitting in the comfort of our living room.
END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS------------------you are sfae now!
My rating is literally between an 8 and a 9 out of 10. Since there can only ever really be one true "10" out of "10" (i.e. a total masterpiece), and this film has very little noticeable flawsit really cranks up there amongst the best of the best for sheer audacity.
I do advise that this film is not for everyone. I am almost willing to claim that this film will alienate someone, somewhere, as numerous questions about self survival, sacrifice, and self preservation from a variety of perspectives will not be pleasing for every/any one to watch.
Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)
Great ideas - only suffers from budgetary constraints
I must proclaim first that I am by no means a "real" HELLRAISER franchise fan. Although I find the source material and the general (at least in earlier instalments) themes behind the stories highly interesting and intriguing, at least some of the movies made under the HELLRAISER banner are unfortunately mostly somewhat costly messes. We won't even start the mentionning of recycling other film scripts into "Hellraisers" by inserting Lament Confirgurations and Cenobitical elements.
"Hellraiser: Judgment" is, at least on the negative side of things, a film that "could have been". Lacking a decent production budget and severe time constraints, the luxuries most viewers take for granted when watching the big Hollywood blockbusters, the film does come off slightly as almost a "fan"-based, "kickstarter" project. However, once one gets past the unfortunate shortcomings of low-budget film-making, there is a lot to sink your teeth into this film.
I found this a wonderful take on the mythos surrounding the basic elements of the franchise, as well as having a very interesting set of ideas which add to the richness of the lore, which in turn opens up a lot of possibilities from this point forth, should the franchise decide to continue further instead of opting for the obvious and predictable "re-make" route all too many films have "suffered" over the past few décades.
Yes, I do realize some die-core fans will be boycotting this entry for yet again not featuring Doug Bradley in the titular role of Lead "Pinhead" Cenobite, but Paul T. Taylor's actor shouldn't automatically be categorized/shunned/"judged" (pun intentional) as he turns a mighty fine performance. If you are to boycott the "Hellraiser" franchises strictly because of Mr Bradley,s non-involvement, then perhaps I should remind folks that (prior to the 1997 re-duxed versions) it wasn't the same actor who played Emperor Palpatine in Return Of The Jedi than in Empire Strikes back. But this is irrelevant in this case here, so let's just move on.
"Hellraiser: Judgment" is far from the so-called "crap-fest" some folks have been making it out to be. Yes, there are issues in the film (as in every film ever made for that matter, and it's all very subjective anyway), but myself having been involved in zero-to-micro budget DIY independant films has given me the opportunity to see films as what they "could" have been if they would have had the budget and ressources (and time!) to be fleshed out properly. I think director Gary Tunnicliffe has managed to craft a tale which should be a good starting point for further explorations in the HELLRAISER universe.
Try to watch with an open mind.
Doom Patrol: Therapy Patrol (2019)
Season one - to add character depth (part 1)
As I said numerous times in the past, any show's first season is bound to have mixed reactions, as it is necessary to jump through hoops and follow procedural formulaes when attempting to flesh out the characters in the "first season".
This episode was slower-paced than the usual we've come to expect so far, but with an entire episode dedicated to flashbacks, self-exploration, and as the title suggests, "therapy", one surely must go in not expecting big explosions with fire rising up in the sky at every other turn.
One of the slightly regular but not often explored (if you can catch what I am trying to say as the exact words/expression escapes me at the moment) thematic in the Grant Morrison run of the comic book was Cliff Steele's "questionable" grasp on reality, seeing as how his link(s) to the tangeable reality as we have come to believe it is through our limited senses, something poor Cliff has to learn he no longer has due to essentially being an organic "computer" encased in a crude metal container.
The comics would sometimes remind us that what Cliff sees and hears may be either faulty memories and hallicinations, as the tehnology (remember: this was the mid-end 80s!) was limited in terms of allowing his brain/mind to be able to fully "absorb" what his outer metal shell allowed in, in terms of outside stimuli.
In essence, I was quite intrigued by this episode's ever-increasing manic behaviour of Cliff, as it seemed quite in tune with the aforementionned themes conveyed in the Morrison comics. Alas, the episode's let down was the reveal of this being caused by an external act of sabotage - although said act in itself was quite absurd and derailed off the usually beaten paths, fitting therefore perfectly with the overall weirdness of the Doom Patrol.
Doom Patrol: Paw Patrol (2019)
Great and quirky episode!
I was a fan of the "original" Grant Morrison run of the comics just before DC started their "Vertigo" sub-line, and I have already made an extensive review of the show in general, strictly based on the pilot episode, before I knew one could write reviews of individual épisodes.
Unless you are not already versed in either the comic book version or the preview épisodes of the TV re-creation, watching this episode out of the blue may seem confusing (to say the least) and may offer more questions than answers, so I strongly sugest you go through the previous épisodes before getting to this one. It is not one which should be considered a "good starting point" to join in on the series.
What does make this episode both as enjoyable as those which came before it as well as in it's own right is that they are allowing the character of Kay ("Crazy Jane") a little more room to evolve past her previously quite stereotypically developped personnaes. Using her, or at least one of her multiple personalities as ***** SPOILER ALERT ***** a "weapon" (of sorts) against the de-Creator allows the actress to sink her teeth a little bit more into one side of said character.
Also of note is more of the quirkiness and, as I myself loved the comics and love how they kept part of that in the TV series, truly absurd moments of just pure "abstract"-like humor. **** SPOILER ALERT **** The whole idea of dancing during this brand of the apocalypse because you are being watched, couple with the choice of song, feels like madness allowed by the studios who opted to "go with it" instead of asking the writer(s) and story consultants to "make something less goofy for a broader audience".
All in all, this show is not displeasing at all so far, and does offer a little bit for (most) everyone, including us fans of the Morrison/Case era of the comics.
Piranha 3D (2010)
Not for everyone (target audience is obvious)
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Although I could go into much detail about how this film works on some levels but fails at others, perhaps it is best to simply boil it down to the "Piranha 3D" remake as film not for everyone, and it's target audience is quite obvious from within the first few minutes (post-first scene of course).
I will say that I did not like this film much since I have already seen more than my fair share (and against my own volition) of horror-esque films featuring post-teens on spring-break with lots of co-eds in bikinis and slow-motion bouncing ta-tas. In my opinion, enough is enough, and at this point such cash-grabbing gimicks seem out-dated and un-needed, save of course for the aforementionned target audience.
The sheer shame of this is that maybe there was a decently good film somewhere in there, at some point (maybe the Weinsteins edited this film in this shape and form in their secret editing room, somewhere) . Actors and actresses such as Dinah Meyer for example, are indeed criminally underused and seem to have been cast strictly to have "name" actors attached to the film. Elisabeth Shue, being quite a talented actress (and looking incredibly beautiful in this film) surely is capable of better productions than this, and I do hope she was well compensated for her time on this production.
Normally I try not to bother reviewing "bad" films which have very little redeaming value but in this case, there was both potential and some moments/elements which were appreciated, but in the end the film does come off as just another generic teens in peril during Spring Break horror schlock-fest.
Note-worthy are some of the gore effects which, aside from quite a number of obvious CGI effects and enhancements, do offer quite shocking moments which probably could only have come from the imagination of director Alexandre Aja.
In any case, if you don't mind a ton of bare-breasted and bikini-clad co-eds prancing around and drinking booze/snorting coke, all shown for nothing else but gratuity, alongside stereotypical characters and some gore, you may find yourself enjoying this remake.
Special props go out to hiring Gianna Michaels for a small cameo, of course!
Great debut for Dante - very entertainning!
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Joe Dante has been a very consistent director over the years, save maybe for one or two bumps in the road (most probably due to studio and Producer interférences), and his unique style of mixing humor with action and horror goes all the way back to his first official feature-length debut.
"Piranha" is one of those post-"JAWS" films done to cash in on the success of an underwater threat in the form of a fish. Much like the aforementionned Speilberg masterpiece, Dante's offering put the little toothy critters on everyone's everyday radar, and have since become part of popular culture as a fish to keep an eye out for.
Yes, the film is low-budget, and that means that some of the practical effects may seem a bit cheap and cheezy at times, but Dante and his crew have managed to craft a very respectable film which oddly enough features almost no slow moments except when the scene(s) demands it.
Acting-wise, pretty much everyone is decent to highly competent, save for a couple of moments where maybe additional takes should have been shot, but that's low-budget film-making for you.
All-in-all this is a very enjoyable film, if you put yourself in the right frame of mind and realize that this is a late 70s production, and films of the era had a certain "flavor" and "style" which people are early as the mid-80s found rather boring and "dépassé". But for what it's worth, "Piranha" does have it's charm and it's own fair share of moments, and good characterizations by the actors who, for the most part, look like they are having a lot of fun with the material they are being given. Don't expect a lot of drama, as the overall mood remains for the most part "fun" and "light-hearted", and very Dante-esque (if you are familiar with his unique style). Special props of course to Dick Miller having a larger-than-usual role in this one (he is usually cast as a once-scene-only character in most flicks).
Note: I was dupped and unfortunately bought a full frame (4x3) version of the DVD, Something which is incomprehensible when showcasing it as a "collector's edition" from the post-Y2K era, but the film is good enough for me to hunt down a widecreeen copy of it.
Oh and can someone explain what were those stop-motion creatures in those blink-and-you-miss moments during our protagonists' investigation of the secret experiement lab? It seemed like a set-up for Something to happen at a later moment in the film, but these were never references to by anyone...?
Wonderful "thriller" that keeps you guessing
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
By this time everything that could have been said about this movie already has so I won't waste anyone's time repeating information or opinions which have already been written about this wonderful little film.
It's indeed a good thriller which is quite intriguing to watch in terms of visuals (it seems to be dank, dark, and raining pretty much all of the time which makes the visual aspect different than most films, and surely must have been a pain for the cast and crew during shooting!), and also craftly edited to create the sense of both "deja vu" as well as being exposed to détails we may not have paid attention to in previous versions of the recall of events.
... because essentially, this whole movie is an investigation/interogation featuring numerous different re-tellings of specific events, and only skilled film-makers and editors can adequately pull off the vision pacing required to keep the film's overall rhtyhm, when most of the time the film is a "talkie".
Performance-wise, everyone pulls their own weight, and there aren't all that many cringe-worthy moments to pull the viewer out of the suspension of disbelief.
As a thriller, "Basic", is a well-written piece which, unless you have been paying close attention since frame 1 and aren't distracted whatsoever, will keep you guessing until the last part of the final reel, and even then not all questions are answered, and some explanations remain somewhat muddled... But then again, a good film doesn't need to spoon feed the viewer with overtly un-subtle explanations.
It's relatively short running time also plays in its favor as the film never seems to drag at all, and keeps the viewer glued to the screen. I would have enjoyed the option of a longer cut for home viewing (i.e. a "director's cut" on DVD/Bluray) simply because I feel that some characterizations could have been expanded upon, just for the sake of allowing the actors more room to breathe.
All in all, it's a good movie, and is recommended.
OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus (2009)
Completely "off", unique, but rewatcheable?
I had absolutely no expectations going into this movie, not even aware that it was a sequel in itself. The film came to our attention being distributed by a Quebecois company.
This french film can be described as a "spoof"-like semi-absurd comedy on the good old Sean Connery era of James Bond spy/action films in the mid-late 60s.
The film in itself is very well shot: the use of mosaic-like multi-images throughout never seems tedious nor gratuitous (save maybe for the introductory scene playing as the crédits roll) although after a while may proove to be epileptic-inducing. The photography is brilliant and deserves a mention.
The production design, and especially the recreation of the mid-late 60s is also of note, being quite spectacular in being very true to what we may remember from films of that era, save perhaps for a few wardrobe choices for some of the smaller roles. Still, the fact that pristine and working vintage cars appear throughout this film is an accomplishement in itself!
However the film is quite "off" - the humor never gets too "slapstick" although it borderlines so, never gets too "juvenile", although it does surf the fine line on more than one occasion. The humor is quite unique in this film, being both very "french" while also being unlike the commonalities we seem to have gotten used to in modern spoof-humor. Sometimes gags are over-played but stop just before the tipping point, and other times some bits seem placed just because the opportunity presented itself.
In the end I could not say I did not enjoy seeing this film, but I admit I can not see any re-watcheability factor to it. Granted, it is indeed unique and Nothing I have seen is any "weird" the way this movie is, but for my money, I think that once was enough, which accounts for my ranting of course.
The Recall (2017)
If you don't have anything nice to say...
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Although I am one not to review rather horrible and inept attempts at movies, coupled with the ages-old expression of "if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything", I felt I owed the internet a word of advice and warning concerning film attempts such as this one.
I rarely not finish what I set out to do, especially when it comes to music and movies. I try to listen to an artist's complete album without skipping at least once or twice before giving my personnal verdict, and in terms of films and TV shows, I try to give it a good once-through before voicing an opinion.
In the case of The Recall, I am quite sorry to say that I was never able to finish it. Much in the same vein as the TV show "Killer Class" or "Assassin Class" or whatever (I forgot what it was called!), this film just doesn't have what it takes to keep the viewer interested in how the story develops, nor does it make much attempt at coming up with compelling characters.
It's a sad state of affairs when a film starts off and within a mere minute or so, you know how the next 10-15 minutes will unfold. With a highly unoriginal and all-too-often seen introduction to our teenage characters, we are exposed to cliches and standardisims (can I say that?) which seem to be a doctored script requirement for flicks where teens pack up in a van and go on an outing.
Of course you get your standard teen character models here: the self-assured macho "alpha" wannabe, his "cheerleader/model/princess" girlfriend, the "I'm a loner with a tortured soul" friend of the wanna-be alpha, the "sensitive-humane-not-as-vapid-as-the-cheerleader" female bestie of the other one, and the "nerd-geek-loser-stoner-fifth Wheel" other guy, because that's what seems to be the standard 5-pack in these teen-fest movies... Or some form or variant of the package, but never straying too far from the well-established formulae.
By this time my wife and I started betting on which stereotypical characterization Wesley Snipes would be playing... Oh, poor Mr Snipes indeed: I do hope he was compensated generously for appearing in this film. To think that Mr Snipes was once a well-respected A-lister, and a rather competant actor (at the very least) able to hold his own and deliver what is expected of him. I was saddened to say that even his presence amongst this train-wreck in the making was not enough to save the film from being stopped about a third way in.
But not everything is horrible in this movie: the CGI (obviously) effects worked well enough (at least up until the approx. time of 25 minutes in), the locations were very nice, and the production design in both the luxurious "cabin" house the teens shack up in, as well as Snipe's "hunter's barn" had some very nice touches. Even the CGI floating "cyber-drone-brains" with their "tentacles" were decently designed considering the nature of this movie.
However the rather generic and uncompelling teen characters as well as seemingly clunky shifts in both characterizations and reactions to situations made the film unbearable to watch. When my wife pressed paused and we saw we still had an hour to sit through this, we both voted unanimouosly to stop this film dead in its tracks.
Again, I mean no disrespect for the film makers and production designers of this film, but it was, alas, one too many of these generic teens-in-peril with a sci-fi twist genres, seriously lacking any originality nor gripping effectiveness.
Unique-a variety of tones in a superb setting
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
Here is a true little gem of a film, which seems to be pretty much flawless from start to finish, and should be enjoyable for people wishing a different type of "revenge" story formulae than what has plagued Hollywood (and the subsequent script doctoring) for the past few years.
Set in what can only be described as a breathtaking real snow-covered Norwegian landscape, between rural areas, slight suburban-like areas, and more cosmopolitan one, the film features amazing cinematography which utilizes the most out of real snow (no CGI for the most part) and the unpredictable visual "ballet" that snow removal and snow plowing can provide. The photography alone and in itself should be commended.
Casting is simply brilliant, from our main characters to our second-and-third characters. Granted there isn't much room for deep emotional or character development in stories such as this one, but there was obvious care in choosing who to portray which role, and each actor makes their performance memorable, from the most subdued and toned-down subtlety to the almost over-the-top over-acting. Stellan Skarsgård is obviously perfect (as he always is) and delivers a performance worthy of being enjoyed, especially in the very subtle nuances some of the scènes showcase. Special mention to Hildegunn Riise who turns out a haunting performance as Nils Dickman's wife, another example of subdued acting speaking volumes.
There is no denying the overt humorous tones of the film, or rather the deadpan dark/black humour the film delivers, be it in slight situational moments, character quirks and personalities, or in the cinematic language itself. While there are no americanized one-liners or billboard-sized refernces to modern western tropes, there is some humour to be found within the horror which happens to most of these characters in this moderately desolate landscape.
Speaking of a non-americanized film, one must go into this picture knowing full well this is a different kind of movie, one where the pace isn't with the all-too-overused hollywoodesque beats. While never fully throttled action-paced (save perhaps for the final showdown), it never drags on, and the editing alongside the score chosen for the film play to the rhythm and advancement of the story. In essence, it may feel "slow" for some audiences, but it is still more gripping than most blockbusters.
This is a highly engaging film, one which showcases the film-makers' love of the craft and the attention they brought to every frame of the film. It may not be in everyone's "watch list" but should be viewed nonetheless, at the very least as a refreshing "foreign" film, one which deserves much praise.
SPOILER: in revenge films, there will be murder scènes, and this one delivers a couple of rather uncomfortable ones indeed; not in the over-the-top excess we have come to getbored with in western civilizations, but more realistic and grueling ones requiring effort. If such scènes are disturbing for you, then maybe think twice before watching this film. While nothing "too" graphic nor gore considering the wave of ultra-violence in american films, the sheer brutality of human versus human as depicted in this film is rather impressive and memorable.
Doom Patrol (2019)
So far so good (from a die-core fan)
Doom Patrol (TV series) - Pilot Episode
Needless to say I have been a die-core fan of the Doom Patrol ever since the late 80s Grant Morrison "revival", so much so I even continued after his run when Rachel Pollack tried to follow through, before the series ended in the 90s. I even tried the next "reboot" of the comics but alas, the weirdness and absurd were gone, the DP now having re-become a standard DC superhero team. When the Marvel cinematic universe was beginning, and DC also jumped on the bandwagon, I kept saying to my surroundings that they should do a Doom Patrol film, although it surely would be watered down and "normalized" for a general audience... and people just said to me that no one cared about the Doom Patrol anyway.
Fast forward just a couple of years and behold, a Doom Patrol TV series! As of this "review", only the pilot episode was watched, and so one can not judge a series by it's pilot (nor by it's "approx." half first season episodes for that matter). I can however say that so far so good as the show's creators seem to have paid some attention to detail, especially for us die-core maniacs who lived and breathed by the Morrison run of the comics. Yes, one has come to grips with a few discrepancies such as Rita Farr (April Bowlby) and Kay "Crazy Jane" Challis (Diane Guerrero) being in the team at the same time and some details about a few of our "heroes"'s origins (but more on that later, so SPOILERS AHEAD!)
Casting-wise, it is a pretty good choice. Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele, the hot-head egotistical race car driver does a rather good job at playing the seemingly 2-dimentional character (so far), and props to the production team for keeping his vocabulary intact (I was fearing that a TV series would change Cliff's colorful language into something more politically acceptable in today's asepticized world). Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor was also a good choice since the character always was a "pretty boy" pilot, and it's quite interesting that they chose such a "pleasing to the eye" actor to be completely covered up in bandages, something my wife thought was very interesting. April Bowlby looks and plays Rita Farr very well (so far so good!), as I was unsure she would capture that 50s era "moving pictures" starlet.
Oh and Timothy Dalton as Niles "The Chief" Caulder, well I do not want to spoil anything if the writers decided to keep the character in tune with what Grant Morrison did with him in the comics, but if they do, well Mr Dalton is perfectly cast... and I do mean he is excellent, but one can never go wrong with such a professional thespian.
I do have trouble with Diane Guerrero being cast as "Crazy Jane". First of all, she looks like she is 16 years old - perhaps her character on the TV is an origin story in itself, which would be at odds with her character (invented by Grant Morrison in his run of the comics) since Kay Challis started having "super powers" with split personalities when she was a youth child. Also, "Crazy Jane" should have played by someone more in the physical frame of Amanda Plummer; sort-of frail-looking but surprisingly dangerous. Guerrero looks like a sass-talking teenager in a "Scary Movie" or "White Chicks" sort of film.
Alan Tudyk plays Eric Morden / Mr Nobody, another Morrison creation in the comics who ends up being quite a fascinating one. I was quite pleased to know he was cast as the soon-to-be leader of the "Brotherhood of Dada" (or "The Brotherhood of Nada" for today's nihilistic sensibilities), and more so when they kept part of his origin story somewhat intact/similar to that in the comic books. Let's hope he's as much fun on screen as he was in the comics!
In terms of origin stories, they have been quite "fideles" to the origins of the comic book characters. Cliff's "accident" was indeed that, however in this pilot episode they seem to imply he did not die on the racetrack but afterwards when attempting to rebuild his family. However this could be one of Cliff's numerous memory failings (also hinted at in the pilot episode), as I do hope it is, for if his "real" accident was with his family (which to be honest I do not think he had in the comic books), then that does sort of change his character somewhat (perhaps written so as to be less of a "a__hole" for the audience).
Larry's "accident" seems very close to the comics' origins, save of course for the extra-marital affair(s) he is shown as having. Again, perhaps the writers have modified the character slightly in order to introduce him as "Rebis", another Morrison creation, a rather complex character in itself, which would prove quite interesting if the show does go towards that direction.
Rita's origin story is very similar to the comics, except it happened away from the on-location film set instead of "right there" as it is shown in the pilot episode. This is however just a very small detail and is more nit-picking than anything else.
I will not pretend that I did not thoroughly enjoyed myself with this pilot episode. It was quite pleasing to finally see my favorite superhero team being fleshed out, with strong ties to the Grant Morrison era of the comic books, and more than a few nods to boot as well ("... crawls from the wreckage" references Morrison's first DP storyarc "Crawling From The Wreckage", and Cliff telling Kay Challis to "come in out of the rain" when her painting's being ruined also references the first issue of Morrison's run). I do have reservations especially since they will be introducing a character called "Cyborg" who, as far as I can tell, has nothing tod o and no ties whatsoever with the team (perhaps another "plug" for a young actor to appeal to the target demographic that the show seems to be aiming for), but as I stated earlier, so far so good! I do hope they continue in this vein and explore some of the really weird-absurd-off the beaten path concepts the DP was known for during the late 80s/early 90s comic books.
The Black Hole (1979)
Flawed but still enjoybale (for some)
First off, yes this movie was made to cash in on the Star Wars craze, and yes it doesn't quite live up to the standards like all too many other sci-fi attempts of the late 70s/early 80s. And yes (again), the merchandising could have been handled better, but this was Disney's attempt at making a science fiction film for the families (family-friendly, younger audience oriented), and they were indeed trying to cash in as much as they could in the wake of Star Wars.
"The Black Hole", while flawed on many points (especially the "science") does have a certain charm. At times it feels more like one of those 1950s space-oriented films, at others it is firmly planted in the 70s - the casting was surely done to attract the adults into the theaters (Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine and Maximilian Schell) as they weren't the fresh faces for the target audience (and obviously long before the Hollywood youth culture obsession set in).
In terms of failings, we might point out the wire work during the weightless scenes and hovering robots (my DVD copy shows quite a bit of those), the obvious mime work for the sentry robots, the all-too cerebral aspects of the themes explored (more on that at another date), the "hero"/"rescue" theme which not only drags on for too long in one scene, but actually repeats it's motifs to make sure it's being hammered away properly. Surely there are others but these are those that pop up to mind immediately.
However there are good points in this film. Uncredited Roddy McDowell voicing V.I.N.Cent was one of the main reasons I purchased this film on DVD, and the overall acting by everyone is at the very least decent, if not above average (granted, one needs to remember what the actors were left to work with). Ernest Borgnine is always a great character to watch at work even though I feel he did not have much to do here. Anthony Perkins is wonderful, turning up a very sober performance as an intrigued scientist, something to pull him out of the obvious typecasting he may have had to deal with around that era of his career. Robert Forster manages to pull of a convincing space ship captain, and Yvette Mimieux is interestingly more "multi" dimentional than most of her co-stars. Again, one must remember the script they had to work with.
However it is in Maximilian Schell's rather stunning performance as the "mad scientist" of the story who truly delivers a screen presence. He manages to evoke a sense of grandeur beyond his character, and is at times both oddly charming and restrained menacing. I did not realize it at the time but when I saw this film in the theaters back in 1979, he was my first exposure to a "demented" mad scientist in a film, something which I grew to enjoy in such films in terms of characters that actors seem to enjoy "chewing" through.
Another great aspect of the movie is it's highly evocative soundtrack by John Barry (except for the aforementioned "hero"/"rescue" theme which was obviously done to emulate Star Wars). From the opening sinister waltz main title theme to the ending "inferno" journey into the hole, Barry's soundtrack creates in itself a unique atmosphere which creates so much of the film's tone that one simply can not imagine the movie with another soundtrack. In itself, the score stands up quite well, and I would even venture to claiming that I find this may be Barry's best soundtrack work even put to use. While many will categorically label it as this or that, parodying it and mocking it for it's use of repeating themes and somewhat melancholic progression, I find it to being the most (and I am quoting the character of Dr Hans Reinhadt here) "romantic" of his scores.
In terms of special effects, we must situate ourselves that this was an era before CGI (this was about 3 years before the original Tron was out) and when models and matte paintings, superimposed images (blue/green screens et al) and such were the height of special effects technology. While some effects will seem dated, the fact that, for the most part, actors were placed on real sets with real props meant a more realistic interaction with their environments, which held solidify the film's somewhat "realism" in it's own created world. Both ships (the Palomino and the Cygnus) have a weight to them and appear well used, as opposed to many science fiction films presenting us with a much too clean technology. Buttons, levers, and other manual controls also add a weight to the overall production design which is quite impressive.
And of course, as some may have already mentioned it or seen it/heard it somewhere in this interweb online world, the best robot death scene ever - considering one is basically watching puppets voiced after the fact in ADR and with Barry's score added to thicken the sauce. I am sure many will laugh and cheapen the scene in question but if you happened to pay attention to the interaction and the discussions between said robots in the film up to that point, the scene is quite touching, actually tapping on the whole sentient / artificial consciousness theme.
In terms of the more "adult" themes of the film, we won't touch the completely "wrong" "science" aspect of the film's title "character": what we know of black holes today will make one cringe and wince at how they are explained and theorized in this movie. However the film does touch aspects of the continual search for knowledge (and that even beyond human comprehension/understanding), mortality, and how far we are willing to go to explore the depths of the unknown and our own inner selves. There's an obvious Frankenstein reference as well which seems all too flat-out exposed for today's audiences, but was all-too-subtle for my pre-internet 8 years old self back in 1979.
In closing, I will say the film is quite dated considering what is being churned out by CGI Hollywood since the Y2K, and with the average attention span of tablet/cell phone addicts. But "The Black Hole" doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is, which is post-Star Wars family-friendly sci-ci firmly planted in the 70s with a slight 50s flavor.
Could have been a masterpiece (depends on who you ask!)
I apologize if this review may contain spoilers.
"Sunshine",Danny Boyle's (so far) only forray into true science-fiction, remains a film with mixed reception by the audience. In the post Y2K world, it is more difficult than ever to try to market a sci-fi venture which is not centered around space race action, alien overlords, or mutative bio hazardous alien contamination - at least in terms of theatrical releases/office blockbusters.
Mr Boyle took a chance in crafting a tale with the pacing and rhythm more akin to Something like, say, "Solyaris", than the post "Star Wars" box office releases. If it pays off or not dépends principally on your own approach when entering this film. Mr Boyle's body of work seems to inspire expectations, but these can be all too easily shattered especially when approaching a film which is effectively "pure" science-fiction (as a now considered bonafide genre instead of the long stigma of being a sub-genre).
"Sunshine" needs to be viewed with the intention of giving your attention to the story and visuals being presented onscreen, and the willingness to be exposed to a rather "slow-paced" rhythm style. Don't go in expecting space battles or hand-to-hand combat against giant CGI monsters or you will be sorely disapointed. In fact you should go in "Sunshine" with the expectation of being "bored" for the better part of the film's length, unless of course if you enjoy your science-fiction to be slow-paced and a bit more "abstract" and "introspective" than the grandiose visual arrays we are all-too-often (over) exposed to.
Personnaly, I consider "Sunshine" to being a great science fiction film of modern times, on a commercial level of course. Not quite a masterpiece for the final moments with Pinbacker are not as easily discernable in terms of plot twists/developments/"big reveal", but this does not deter from the amazing ambiance and general "vibe" of the movie throughout. In fact, one should carefully consider the film's overall "tone" as much as it,s story when absorbing it, and it's themes and character developments/interactions, and actions.
I will say this: I do hypothesize that you may NOT enjoy this film if you are a Danny Boyle completist, although it does greatly add to his repertoire, and I do wish more films of this general "tone" would be made with great care to production values... yes, the production is quite impressive, and it also manages to, at times, being a bit more subtle than visceral.
Little note: the soundtrack is quite magnificient as well. Perhaps not so the end crédits Underworld piece (although it does bring one back into reality after the space trip!) nor the all-too-recognizeable "theme" heard ad nauseum thanks to the various trailers and previews, but a lot of the incidental score is very evocative and plays an integral part in the film's overall "flavour".
Babylon A.D. (2008)
Excellent "universe", too bad about studio interferences
This review may contain spoilers!
Although I was not versed in the original source material which has inspired this film, I was quite invested in it reguardless of it's shortcomings.
In fact, my high rating of this film is mostly based on the creation of the "world" or "universe" in which this films takes place: a trully dystopian society which seems to have been lifted directly from part of my own consciouness (and perhaps subconsciousness) as I had myself written a hefty "epic" tale(s) which would fit perfectly within the world this film portrays.
While there are numerous problems with the final version of this film (although I myself have only ever viewed the uncut version on DVD), one can still feel what this film could have been underneath the obvious studio meddlings and interférences throughout production.
Acting was quite believable considering where these characters come from and what world they live in, especially Michelle Yeoh who shines every single moment she is on screen, and makes her character feel incredibly believable.
Again, production values are quite impressive, especially in shots showcasing this "post-apocalyptic"-flavored world, and it is a shame this movie tanked the way it did, or that the source material and production design was not carried through to a TV series (or other form of serialized format).
Great short which grabs you quickly and doesn't let go
A short review with possible spoilers!
"Zygote" was recommended to me for being borth a science-fiction genre short as well as the design of the antagonistic creature, which like many since the John Carpenter 1982 classic, borrows quite heavily on "The Thing" 's polymorphic and usage of external DNA and biology to form itself.
I would have rated this short higher since, for all intents and purposes, appears almost flawless in it's production, from cinematography (pay attention to the lighting of various scènes), sound design, photography, effects and acting, but alas, and quite unfortunately, actor Jose Pablo Cantillo's mumbling wasn't corrected in post-production, making quite a bit of what he is saying rather unintelligeable.
But this is a highly enjoyable short on both horror and science-fiction genres, and Worth at least one viewing.
Deadly Class (2018)
Disapointing: Millenial product with nostalgia gimmick
Although I actually Started thinking about this review last night and it felt more coherent, most of my ideas were forgotten by the time I had to get to work.
The short and curlies: What the title says: this is a generic post Y2K millenial product which has a gimmick of appearing to take place in 1987.
The long winded: I apologize if I will offend anyone but I must get this off my chest. I haven't seen a TV show this bad since I can remember, and I did not have any expectations towards this one to begin with (i.e. I was not familiar with the source material, etc.), but I found myself increasingly disinterested and disconnected with each scene. By the end of the first episode, I found myself actually fast forwarding through entire scènes.
In 1987 I wrote my first official song and joined my first official band. I was at the tail-end (i.e. second half) of my high school, which was a public school ranked as a rather tough one. Not one of those legendary "ghetto" Dangerous high schools, but it wasn't all candy and dandelions. Essentially, I was there and conscious during 1987, and "Deadly Class" is not the 1987 I remember, at least not in this north american reality.
First of all, the main protagonists in "Deadly Class" play it like it's a millenial show. No one acted or spoke like that in 1987, so the suspention of disbelief was thrown out the window within the first few scènes of the opening pilot episode.
Secondly, that guy with the green mowhawk is not a "hardcore" (back in 1987 high school, punks weren't punks ("Punk is dead, man!") they were "Hardcores"). In fact, the way he acts and dresses himself up, he would have been beaten to a bloody pulp after class hours by the real hardcores for being such a poser after the first or second of class.
Thirdly, those latino gangbangers with the shaved heads would have suffered a similar fate by the skinheads of 1987 (and I don't care what color of laces the skins would wear, be it white, red, blue, or whatever: skinheads in 1987 would have lynched those gangbangers just for shaving their heads in such a way). Heck, in 1987 no one shaved their heads unless they were affiliated with a skinhead clan.
Fourthly, no one dressed like that in 1987 unless you came from a wealthy family and went to a private school. Leather jackets? We could count on one hand how many people either owned or burrowed from a sibling the people who had acces to leather jackets in my old high school. The fashion represented in "Deadly Class" is, much like the proposed 1987 time line, a romanticized view of what people who weren't there for real imagine what the cool kids were wearing...
Granted I will admit I was suckered into watching this show by the supporting cast (the adults), as well as some choice of music of the era ("Faith"-era Cure, and Killing Joke are always an easy point to grab my attention), but the fact that this show was not really framed in the 1987 reality timeline, coupled with the fact that the main cast acted out of sync with the proposed time frame, made me realize that this is a show geared towards a specific audience, which I suspect would be milennials thinking this is what the 80s were like. For a more representative look at that decade, check out the Club Tecnoir sequence in James Cameron's 1984 "Terminator" film.
In essence, I would rate this show higher for it's production values, but the sheer disinterest brought by the general acting, the lack of a realistic portrayal of a 1987 time frame has made this a show which I attempted to Watch, but would fast foward with an increase intensity as each show progressed, Something I have never done prior to "Deadly Class".
Again, this isn't what 1987 was like!
The Big Snit (1985)
Absurd humor with deeper themes
I remember once seeing only a small fragment of « The Big Snit » on then pay-TV cable and then scrambling to find a VHS tape in order to record it next time I would re-play. I managed to record this little gem not too long afterwards and then I would plague everyone in my household (and subsequently friends and visitors) with all-too-many re-viewings.
Although "The Big Snit" came into my life at a relatively impressionable age, I never did quite catch the subtle and deeper existential themes explored herein, instead being completely enthralled in the rather absurd and somewhat light-heated "demented" humor throughout.
For years, "The Big Snit" was a source of quoting, even if there isn't much dialogue in this amazing short film, considering it's run time of just under 10 minutes, and yet ever single nuanced vocal tone is permanently etched in my consciousness. Now with over 30 years of history behind us, "The Big Snit" continues to make me smile and capture my attention, rewarded and enhanced by an appreciation of seeing the much deeper themes buried not too deeply within this little masterpiece. In fact when I re-watched in in January 2019, it actually brought a tear to my eye as I seemed to be able to appreciate the actual "realism" of the couple's relationship with each other.
I would be quite selfish in saying this film should be a required viewing for anyone, as a staple of mid-80s Canadian short films, as well as an introduction to absurdist humor to anyone not yet versed in the artform.
Almost Human (2013)
Incredibly good, and so it was cancelled!
Either it was because of it's science-fiction setting, or maybe it was it's lack of pseudo-grandiose drama, the almost perfect TV show "Almost Human" almost was... Alas, it was cancelled.
My wife and I met Karl Urban in Ottawa just as season one had finished airing when he informed us the show was cancelled when we mentionned how much we loved it. Needless to say we were quite bummed out, as she was a fan of Urban and sci-fi, and this show, with it's aforementionned lack of human drama which seems to plague almost every sci-fi series who thinks it needs such to keep the audience interested, was pretty close to being almost perfect. I am talking about the level of quality (both in writing, acting, personification, world/universe creation, and production design) of other great sci-fi shows like "Firefly", "Warehouse 13", and "Doctor Who" pre-Matt Smith of course.
Season One of "Almost Human" should not have been it's demise as it had already well-planted the seeds of on-going storylines which could have been explored and expanded into at the very least a second season, if not an on-going theme throughout the "almost" series. Granted like most shows, the first few épisodes set the tone and introduce the characters and their initial interactions and personality quirks, and as most shows it follows, at least for a short while, the "adventure of the week" formulae, before it can start going into deeper, more expansive multiple episodic storylines.
The premise is simple enough and maybe somewhat "re-hashed" for sci-fi buffs well versed in such classics as the Isaac Asimov "Caves Of Steel" series. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) returns to work after a sabatical with a prosthetic leg, untrusting of the police department's rule of all cops being accompanied by a synthetic android. After "accidentally" losing his synthetic, he is paired up with one of the de-comissioned "DRN" series, who were protoypes with a program called "synthetic soul". Dorian (Michael Ealy who is equally brilliant as the "un" human) follows Kennex in his various investigations, providing some cracking-Wise worthy of any human being. With this "buddy cop" formulae in place, we get to have fun as both human and android cops banter at each other, in their own distinct ways.
Maybe it's just me, but the way Dorian (Ealy) says "..., man" on a few occasions during the pilot episode seems to be quite funny, considering how everyone around him keeps reminding him he isn't a real man, ... man!
Lili Taylor as the captain is quite a natural, as she seems very in tune and definately not out of place amongst this futuristic police setting. Both commanding, respectful, and still with a sense of approachability, she conveys the image of the real boss/leader we wish we had in real life.
The young Minka Kelly holds her own as well in a department full of men, and Michael Irby is also quite fun to watch chew whatever he is being given to work with, at times almost falling in the charicatural stereotype, but always seems to keep it straight.
A special note is to Mackenzie Crook who play the "tech engineer" Rudy, who also could fall in a very stereotypical 2-dimentional casting, but he elevates the role to a different level, especially when he needs to interact with, essentially, props and mechanical effects, or when he forgets he is in the company of humans (or other forms of conscious beings).
SPOILERS: keep an eye out with a special appearance by Gina Carano who makes an unforgettable appearance in one episode, as well as the always exquisite John Larroquette who would have become a repeated character, should the show have endured.
A special note to The Crystal Method who scored the show: I am far from a fan of the musical project but the music provided for the soundtrack to "Almost Human" works quite amazingly, and should have been released as such.
To recapitulate: if you like your sci-fi with a hint of reality (i.e. this is still in a sense a cop show), but without all that character drama too many shows seem heck-bent on producing, then "Almost Human" is a good and entertaining alternative. Rather off-beat and quirky humor, with well-established characters, and good production design (considering the limitations of the format), combined with good acting (Urban is a natural, and Ealy is constantly impressive in his subtlety) make "Almost Human" the show that almost way. Highly recommended, and do try to hunt it down for yourself!