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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Review: Thor

When I heard about Marvel’s plans for a Thor film I was not very confident about what the result would be since the character can seem very cheesy when badly handled. When I heard Kenneth Branagh was on board as director and they had Anthony Hopkins signed up to play Odin I thought the film might have good chance after all

The film opens on Earth with physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) looking at strange weather systems with assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and another scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). She thinks they are connected to phenomenon called an Einstein-Rosen bridge, commonly called a wormhole. They get close to a tall tight narrow whirlwind in the middle of the New Mexico desert and take readings and photographs to gather evidence for Jane’s research. They get far too close to column of debris and dust and suddenly they find they’ve hit someone.

There is complete change of scene to realm of Asgard, an elegant science fiction paradise inspired by Jack Kirby‘s original artwork. It is inhabited an advanced benevolent race whose science is so beyond our comprehension as to seem as if they were gods to our ancestors who knew of them. We hear the voice of Odin recounting the history of Asgard and Jotunheim, land of the Frost Giants. Odin fought against the Frost Giants in their home and defeated their king then took a casket containing the source of their power preventing them from attacking Asgard again. He is telling this story to two young boys, his sons Loki and Thor, inspiring a lust for violence in young Thor. He makes a point of telling the two boys that only one of the can succeed him to throne of Asgard

Years later there is a ceremony being held for Thor, that thing where the heir to throne gets officially recognised as such. We get to see adult Thor in all his big blonde Chris Hemsworth beauty and in a costume that looks a lot like those in the comics. The Asgard sets are really spectacular and have an immense sense of scale yet the characters in full costume really manage to occupy that space. Just before Thor is named as Odin’s heir Odin detects that Frost Giants have got into the palace to try to retrieve the power source casket. They don’t last long against a giant robot Destroyer guarding the casket that blasts them into dust.

Odin is concerned with finding out how the Giants got into Asgard but Thor is raging and wants Odin to take a more aggressive action against the Frost Giants. Odin rejects that idea completely causing a bit of a hissy fit from Thor. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) manipulates Thor into disobeying their father. Thor ropes in his companions the Warriors Three and Lady Sif into accompanying him to Jotumheim. Unfortunately for Loki he has to join them too.

They set off for the Rainbow Bridge Bifrost, guarded and operated by Heimdall (Idris Elba). It’s not an actual rainbow like in the comics but a bridge of quartz pulsing with energy from Asgard leading to a wormhole-creating thing that needs Heimdall’s sword to operate it and can open a wormhole to any of the other eight realms, including Earth or Midgard and of course Jotunheim. Heimdall agrees to let them go to Jotunheim but warns that he may not let them back if doing so would endanger Asgard.

The six figures enter a broken and decaying Jotunheim and confront the king Laufey (Colm Feore) who warns them to just go. He suggests that the source of their the security breach may lie closer to home, a remark that Thor takes great offence to despite it being totally true (here’s a hint, Loki is the god of being a total dick, especially in the Marvel Universe).  He starts the fight and soon everyone else is roped into helping him smash Frost Giants. Unfortunately no-one else can actually keep going against countless numbers of Frost Giants and Fandrall gets injured. Thor wants to just keep fighting but they manage to return to the crossing point of the Bifrost as hordes of Frost Giants bear down on them

Bifrost appears but with very angry Odin incandescent with power and rage. He faces down Laufey and takes the Asgardians back to Asgard. Still in Bifrost Odin really lets rip on Thor calling him vain greedy and cruel. Thor is unrepentant and tries to hit back with petulant insults back at Odin. Realising Thor is too immature to wield the power he does, Odin strips him of his power and his magic hammer Mjolnir and banishes him to Earth. Just as he arrives he is hit by the car driven by Jane Foster.

The film changes gears here to give a bit of a ‘fish out of water’ comedy. On Asgard you can accept the wierd archaic language as part of the strange character of the place, but Thor-speak on contemporary Earth really marks him out as a bit of an oddball. They don’t take his claims to have come through the wormhole from Asgard seriously until Jane sees strange alien constellations and a pattern of a figure in the photographs they took of the wormhole.

Thor’s hammer Mjolnir has landed in the desert nearby and has attracted a lot of local interest as word gets out about how immovable it is. A large crowd of people are taking turns trying to move the thing, including Stan Lee. Coulson, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent appears on the scene and radios in that it has arrived, hinting at a certain level of foreknowledge of Thor’s arrival that is never really explained in this film but then this story is only part of the build-up to the 2012 release of The Avengers film.

This film is very entertaining and certainly does a great job of introducing us to most of the major characters in Thor’s world. The scenes in the fantasy realms of Asgard and Jotunheim are great, especially when Thor is fighting. The scenes on Earth are okay but to be honest we don’t get to see much of Thor the hero on Earth and we get more of Thor the loud pompous doofus. Film adaptations of comic book characters often find themselves forced to compress a character’s story arc into a single film and for better for worse that certainly happens here. That compression will not make fans of Thor comics happy, but I’m sure they will get as much pleasure from finding fault with the film as others will get from just watching it.  At least Thor got a film which is more of an introduction than poor Hawkeye gets with his little cameo here. When Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2 she saw a bit of action. Clint Barton doesn’t even get that.

The cast in this film did great job but Anthony Hopkins really stands out, giving just as much to his portrayal of Odin as he gives any other character. Chis Hemsworth is big and pretty enough to play Thor. Natalie Portman was okay but there wasn’t a lot for her to do. The Warriors Three were a bit..  well Fandrall was okay as was Hogun was but what’s with the puny Volstagg? Ray Stevenson was okay but just needed to be bigger.

Rating 7/10

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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Priest

There are creatures called vampires and they have been at war with humans for centuries. Humans have withdrawn inside huge walled cities. The tide of the war is turned in humanity’s favour by the creation of a class of warrior priests with the strength and power to defeat the vampires. The vampires are forced into guarded reservations and the Church declares the war over and disbands the priests. This prologue is told in stills of drawings  like it’s comic book. And indeed this is based on a South Korean comic book series. I have no experience of the source material to judge how close this film is to its source material, so I won’ t be able develop that special hatred that its devoted fans may have for this film.

We get to see a squad of priests inside a vampire hive (not a nest). These vampires are like termites with a queen who produces the eyeless bloodsucking nocturnal predators. The squad includes our hero Priest (Paul Bettany), Priestess (Maggie Q) and a few others including Karl Urban. As they move through the hive the ground gives way beneath them and Karl Urban disappears down a huge hole. Vampires attack them from all sides and some of them make it out alive including Priest and Priestess. Next we go to farm house in the middle of the desert where Owen Pace (Stephen Moyer or Vampire Bill from True Blood) lives with his wife Shannon and his daughter Lucy farming dirt I guess.. They are sitting down to their dinner. Owen says grace and then just as he finishes the house starts shaking. Owen rushes Lucy down into the cellar and tells her to stay there no matter what she hears. Lucy sits in silence as the sounds of a violent struggle upstairs builds then dies way again. She hears footsteps and the door to the cellar is opened by an unseen figure.

Next we see Priest inside a walled city called Cathedral City. The place is a bit like the city in Blade Runner but it’s lot like the one in 1984There are giant video screens with the head of Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) all over the place reminding people of the importance of obedience to the Church. Priest walks through the city with his hood up but there’s no hiding the cross tattooed on his face. People are afraid of him when they see it. A little boy asks his father who hushes him instead of telling his son that Priest is a super cool vampire killer who saved them from the vampires.

Priest goes to an automated confessional where grainy low quality videos of Orelas are played in response to his confession. It has a very lo-tech/hi-tech steam punk look about it. He meets a young wasteland sheriff called Hicks (Cam Gigandet) who tells him that Priest’s family have been attacked by vampires. His sister-in-law is dead, his brother is critically injured and his niece Lucy has been captured. Hicks loves Lucy and wants Priest’s help to get her back.

The film continues with Priest and Hicks and eventually joined by Priestess to rescue Lucy and battle against a vampire army gathering to attack the walled cities under the command of a mysterious man in a black cowboy hat. They are up against the vampires, their infected human familiars and a group of priests that the church has sent out to stop them. What we get is a reasonably exciting fantasy action adventure film. There is nothing special about it but I did enjoy it while watching it.

It does take a little bit of getting used to unfamiliar use of familiar words such as church, priest and vampire. It might be an effect similar to those electronics instruction manuals that have been twice through very poor translations into another language. Paul Bettany seems to be channelling the same character he used to play Michael in Legion, a film made by the same director Scott Charles Stewart. (Edit: I have since found that the similarity of characters was even stronger since in the source material Priest fights rogue angels and this was changed to vampires at the directors insistence to avoid people claiming he was just making Legion all over again). I liked the decayed cyberpunk slums in the walled cities I would have liked to have seen more of the action take place there.

Rating 6/10

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Demons

This is a tricky film to review because there is very little chance making any sort of case for this being a good film and better one for it being so spectacularly bad that it is surely deliberate. Despite that I think it’s a lot fun and I want to convince people to watch it. It’s directed by Lamberto Bava, Dario Argento wrote and produced it and Michele Soavi.another Italian director plays the man in the metal mask in the film. this very full review is longer than I expected and may contain spoilers

Cheryl (Natasha Hovey) is going to meet her friend Kathy(Paola Cozzo) travelling on the Berlin underground. When she is walking through the station she sees a strange silent man with part of his face covered in a metal mask following her. She hurries away from him but he catches her anyway only to hand her a free promotional ticket for an unnamed film at an old cinema called the Metropol. She is relieved and asks the man for second ticket for Kathy.

Quite a crowd have shown up for a free film that they don’t know anything about. In the foyer is a big display with a dummy on a motorbike with the metal demon mask in its left hand and a sword in its right hand. Cheryl and Kathy meet very handsome George (Urbano Barberini) and his pal Ken (Karl Zinny) and they sit next to each other in the cinema. Others include Tommy (Guido Baldi) and his girlfriend Hannah (Fiore Argento Dario’s daughter). There is a blind man Werner who has come with his young wife Liz to this film, for some unexplained reason Werner seems have some sense about the mask because he warns Liz away from touching it. Then there’s Tony the Pimp (Bobby Rhodes) who has decided to treat a couple of his whores Rosemary (Geretta Geretta) and Carmen (Fabiola Toledo) to a free night out. Rosemary mucks about with the mask, putting it over her face. Tony tells her to stop it and she takes the mask off. There is a cut on her cheek from the mask.

They all settle down and the film starts and it is a cheesy horror film with four young people going to a cemetery to look for the grave of Nostradamus for no good reason at all. They find his tomb and they open it and inside they find an old book and a metal demon mask just like the one on the display in the Metropol. One of the men Jerry (Michele Soavi) puts the mask on a mucks around with it, just like Rosemary did. When he takes the mask off he has a cut just like Rosemary does. In the film Jerry in transforms into a demon and attacks the others.

Rosemary goes to toilet to check on her cut which has started to throb and pulse.When she looks in the mirror it swells into a huge boil which bursts and sprays pus everywhere. Rosemary goes through a painful and slimy transformation into an evil demon with shark teeth and claws on her hands. Tony and Carmen wonder why she’s been gone so long so Carmen goes to check on her.  Rosemary an evil demon ugly face now splitting green goo and everything. She rips Carmen’s throat open with her claws and Carmen runs off screaming but no-one can hear her because the characters in the film are screaming at the same time.

Carmen gets on to the stage behind the screen and Rosemary is still coming after her. She screams and tears at the screen. On the other side in the audience Kathy is sure that she can hear Carmen’s screams but no-one believes her until Carmen manages to tear a hole in the screen and falls down in front of it. Right before everyone she transforms into an ugly demon face. Cue panic and screams and a mad rush out of the place

Werner and Liz had been up in the balcony alone. Originally Liz was a giving Werner an audio description of the film but stopped when her creepy boyfriend showed up. They snuck out leaving poor Werner alone when all the crap started to happen. Rosemary catches them snogging and tears at both of them. Liz is left lying dead and the creep is thrown over the edge of the balcony with a rope around his neck. Werner finds Liz’s body but  Rosemary catches him and shoves her claws into his eyes.

Everybody gets to the exits and they are all bricked up – there is no way out and everyone starts to panic Tony takes charge and they look for another way out. After Rosemary scalps one woman they manage to trap her in a office and block the door with a vending machine. They reckon that the film is causing it and so they head up to the projection booth. It is a fully automated system so Tony tells them to smash everything. They stop the film but nothing has changed, they are still trapped in the cinema with a growing army of demons.

All the survivors go up the balcony and clear it of bodies then they rip up the seats to block all the exits. Werner is there and he tells them that it is not the film that trapped them but the building. Once more Werner seems to have some unexplained knowledge about the place and yet he still came. He may seem mysterious to some but he is also suicidally stupid.

Things are going fairly well at this point for horror B-movie so clearly it’s time to ramp up the levels of stupid all the way to eleven by cutting to four bell-ends in a stolen car driving about outside, listening to Billy Idol and Go West. The driver is leader of the gang and he has this brilliant joke where he has this can of Coke only it’s not Coca Cola but cocaine and he’s snorting it through a drinking straw.

In the balcony Tony gets attacked and scratched by a demon woman and as he goes over the side the hung guy grabs him. The all start pounding on the walls of the cinema hoping someone outside will hear them. Luckily the punks have stopped outside to argue about some spilt coke and they hear the pounding. Cops appear and the punks run away from them down the alley next to the Metropol. A side door opens for them and after they are in it slams shut behind them. Demon Werner has managed to get out another door and he attacks the cops outside in the alley.

The gang all wander around underneath the cinema not able to find anyone. Everyone else has discovered part of the wall is false and they uncover a passage down to a basement but there is nothing there, certainly not a way out. They all return to the balcony when they hear gunshots from below but their hopes of rescue are dashed when it turns out just be the useless bell-ends firing as the demons attack and overpower them.

The demons then start jumping right through the balcony floor and everyone is running and screaming again. In the chaos George, Cheryl, Ken and Kathy get out but Kathy has been injured she goes all ugly demon face on them and they kill her with sword from the display but a real full-fledged demon rips out of the hole in her back. George manages to kill it too. So the display had the mask that causes the demon plague in the left hand and a sword to kill demons in the right, symbolism eh?

Ken has been scratched and he begs George to kill him before he changes but George waits until he’s gone all ugly demon-face before cutting him down. This seems throw on the bad-ass switch in George because he then gets on the motorbike with Cheryl on the back and starts charging through the cinema slicing down demons with the sword. Suddenly a helicopter crashes through the roof of the cinema and lands in the auditorium. George rigs up the helicopter winch and uses it winch them onto the roof. The man in the metal mask is there and he tries to force them back into the cinema but they kill him by impaling him on an iron rod right through the eye.

The city outside is in chaos and demons are running around attacking people. They are chased by mob of demons but are saved by a well-armed family in a jeep. As they drive away Cheryl turns demon and a little boy shoots her dead and they keep on driving

This is a mad crazy movie that seems to have been made as a bet or an attempt cash-in on the zombie film craze. I really enjoy because it is so crazy

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review : The Fog (1980)

Mr Machen (John Houseman),  an old fisherman, sits on a beach next to a camp-fire with group of children telling them spooky stories to take them up to midnight. He tells the story of a tragic shipwreck that was involved in the founding of their town of Antonio Bay exactly 100 years before A clipper ship, the Elizabeth Dane, was offshore in thick fog and they saw a light on the shore and headed for it, thinking it was a safe dock, but instead it was camp fire light on the beach and the ship was wrecked on the rocks out by Spivey Point. At midnight on the anniversary of the wreck the fog returns and so does the dead crew , looking for who lit the fire on the beach, the fire just like theirs, wooo!  It’s a nice scene and apart from a couple of important details it summarises the film

At midnight the old church bell tolls out the time.  In the church John Carpenter is moonlighting as a workman and he finishes up then he tells the priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) that he’ll be back the following day. It took years for me to notice that little cameo part but I wasn’t very familiar with what Carpenter looked like when I first saw it on VHS. Next time I’m going to see if I can spot Debra Hill, his co-writer and producer without their commentary. .

Midnight is the signal for things around town to just go crazy. Lights and TV and radios come on by themselves, objects vibrate petrol pumps start pumping by themselves, car alarms go off and dogs bark wildly at nothing. In the Church it some masonry fell loose revealing a cavity in which Malone finds a journal written by his ancestor, one of the town’s founders

Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) owns and operates the town’s only radio station on her own from a lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the whole Antonio Bay area. She gets a call from the local weatherman, Dan O’Bannon (Charles Cyphers) who asks her to alert a fishing trawler called the Sea Grass about a fog bank heading their way.

Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) is driving down the road in his truck when he sees a woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) hitch-hiking and he picks her up. As they drive along the midnight craziness hits his truck which stops and all the windows break.

Out at sea on the Sea Grass the three fishermen are getting drunk when they hear Stevie’s warning on the radio and decide it’s about time they went ashore anyway. At first they don’t see any fog then it comes at them fast. Two of the men go up on deck and they see a huge three-masted sailing ship right to them mostly obscured by the thick glowing fog. A group of figures appear on the deck of the Sea Grass mostly in shadow but backlit from below by the glowing fog but their boat hooks and swords are easy to see.They slaughter the two fisherman and then another spectral figure kills the third man Dick Baxter in the control room.

Nick and his hitch-hiker are in Nick’s bed, recovering from the broken windows. The hitch-hiker introduces herself as Elizabeth Solley, a rich girl who has decided to slut across America. There’s violent knocking on the door and Nick goes to answer it. We can see the glowing fog out of the windows and it really creepy and it is probably a ghost with a hook at the door but then the clock strikes one o’clock and the ghost and fog disappear just as Nick opens the door.

Next day Stevie’s young son Andy is out on the rocks by the sea with his fishing rod. He sees a large gold coin in the water just where the tide breaks and bends to pick it up but its is gone and in its place is a lump of driftwood. He picks up and sees carved into it the letters DANE, obviously a piece of the Elizabeth Dane that Mr Machen told them about the night before. He takes it back home and shows it to his mother. Andy wants to go back to beach to see if he if he can find the coin, but Stevie has to leave for work and Mrs Kobritz is coming to take care of Andy.

Mrs Williams (Janet Leigh) is chair of the organising committee for the town’s centenary celebrations with her snarky assistant Sandy (Nancy Kyes). She is also the wife of the fishermen on the Sea Grass and she’s worried that he isn’t back. Nick is also worried about not hearing from the Sea Grass, He would have been with them on the ship if he didn’t have something else to do. He goes down to the dock with Elizabeth. From this point just assume that if Nick goes anywhere Elizabeth will be with him.

At the dock Nick finds out harbour patrol have spotted the Sea Grass adrift and they are going out to check on what happened. Nick (and Elizabeth) go with them. The find the ship is a mess. It is dry on deck but the engine is flooded and the ship looks like it has been underwater. They also find Dick Baxter’s corpse

Mrs Williams and Sandy go to the church to check if Father Malone will giving a benediction at the centenary celebrations. Malone has been up all night reading the journal and drinking. He tells the women what has found out. The six men who founded Antonio Bay conspired to wreck the Elizabeth Dane, killing everyone on board and stealing their gold. He says that they are cursed and they are celebrating murderers. Mrs Williams is unmoved and merely satisfied to cross Malone off her list of things to organise for the centenary night.

Stevie gets up to the lighthouse and the scenery is spectacular and I am jealous of anyone who lives and works in that amazing place. She has that bit of driftwood that Andy found and sets it down next to a tape recorder playing station idents. She turns away for second and water starts leaking out of the wood into the tape recorder which goes crazy and then spooky voice can be heard “Something that one lives with like an albatross round the neck. No, more like a millstone. A plumbing stone, by God! Damn them all!”

As night returns so does the fog. It is surprising how much atmosphere can be created with bit of mist and couple of lamps. I really liked the part where Stevie uses the radio to beg for someone to save Andy from the fog and uses her viewpoint to let people about the best routes for avoiding it.

At the time this came out it seemed tame and a bit old-fashioned. Many scenes were added under pressure from the studio to try to appeal to the then current taste for gore but Carpenter himself was unhappy with the first cut and he too added in several scenes. I do really enjoy this film and the climax has good deal of angst and tension

Rating  8/10

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Dark House

Three young girls are riding their bikes through their neighbourhood and they stop at the gate of house of Janet Garrode (Diane Salinger). Two of the girls think it is creepy, but the third girl knows it is just a foster home. To prove there’s nothing to fear she goes right up to door and goes in. The children are all dead, lying in pools of blood everywhere.She hears a sound from the kitchen and goes through to see Garrode standing at the sink with her hands down the waste disposal unit with blades grinding her hands away until she dies from blood loss. The girl hears a noise from the pantry and looks through the key hole and sees an eye looking back at her, she screams and turns to run but slips in puddle of blood and knocks herself out as she falls.

We flash forward 14 years to the present. Acting student Claire (Meghan Ory) wakes from a nightmare. She discusses her nightmares with her psychiatrist who raises the subject of her traumatic childhood experiences in the Garrode house. He asks if she has visited the house, but Claire says she too afraid. The psychiatrist just  leaves it at that, no suggestion that he visit the house with her.

At her acting class they are all doing an acting excercise when they are interrupted by Wilston Rey (Jeffrey Combs), a horror house creator who makes a big entrance and offers them jobs at his latest horror attraction acting as performers. They all act a bit snooty at this offer but then he mentions that it is at the Garrode house. He needs actors in a hurry because he is giving a special preview of the house to two journalists. Claire right away sees her chance to visit the Garrode house in the company of her friends and talks her classmates into taking the jobs.

Her classmates are the standard pack of shallow stereotypes of horror film victims: Ariel (Bevin Prince) is blonde, attractive and a bitch, who’s jealous of Claire; Rudy (Matt Cohen) is hunky but bit of a dick, and he fancies Claire; Eldon (Danso Gordon) is the black guy and is also cultured and nerdy and may as well have a bullseye on his forehead; Lily (Shelly Cole) is the goth girl who mopes about whining; Bruce (Ryan Melander) is the immature joker.

At the Garrode house Rey introduces the actors to head usher Moreton (Scott Whyte) and Samantha (Meghan Maureen McDonough) the designer and takes them around the house and introduces them to the magical holograms that seem to have been created by technology stolen by Weyoun from Starfleet and brought back in time through some sort of temporal anomaly*. They are suitably impressed by the technology that is being run by Harris the whingeing nerd that Rey keeps locked in the basement. While they are being shown the computer centre Claire sees the ghostly image of the dead foster children gathered around the furnace in the corner of the basement.

After the tour they are sent to get ready for the journalists’ preview. In her room Claire has a vision in the dressing table mirror of Garrode brutally punishing a little boy and is shocked out of her vision when Garrode turns to look directly at her and shouts “What are you looking at?”

Once they are ready Rey gives them a flowery, well-rehearsed pep talk on the philosophy and art of scaring people. Meanwhile Garrode’s spirit somehow invades the computer system with a lot of cheesy graphics and a lot wild-haired manic laughter from Garrode. This scene is just rubbish and it is not creepy or horrific at all. Harris is killed when a monitor blows up in his face.

Claire is in charge of taking the journalists around the house with Moreton accompanying them.  Moreton leads them to the Corridor of Blood and a holographic wraith with long fingernails lurches toward and him stabs him in the chest. To his shock he realises he really has been stabbed and he dies. Claire almost believes it was real but when she looks back and his body is gone she is convinced it was all an act and she continues the tour

The film continues with Garrode using the holograms to kill everyone of one at time. This would have been quite good but it all happens in a rush and there is really more of a mad dash that a build-up of tension.

I like Jeffrey Combs and I did his like his performance as Walston Rey which calls for really over the top hammy showman. Diane Sallinger is really scary as the psycho religious nut with her shock of unkempt red hair. The rest of the cast are passable. What I wasn’t too keen on was the script itself . Most of the characters are barely written at all. Why did Samantha have to be a predatory lesbian? It didn’t really make difference to the story except to irritate so I am curious. There is a twist of sorts at the end but it is so meaningless and inconsequential I wonder why they bothered. The effects were okay if a bit obviously CGI but that dumb cheap-looking computer possession scene was poor. It’s all right but not really scary apart from couple of jump scares

*These are references to the Star Trek Deep Space Nine where Jeffrey Combs played an alien called Weyoun.

Rating 6/10

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Hanna

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives alone with her father Erik Heller ( Eric Bana) in an isolated cabin in Finland. He has trained her to hunt and to defend herself and raised her to be the perfect assassin, always prepared for danger. He gives her a full book-based education and teaches her to speak many languages. Although he tells her about things like music and fairy tales he does not let her hear any. He also makes her rehearse a fake biography as a cover story.

He has prepared her all her life for a mission, to kill CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) and as soon as she thinks she is ready he gives her a transmitter that will alert the CIA of their location. Hanna activates the transmitter and prepares for the CIA’s arrival. Heller arranges to rendezvous with Hanna in Berlin and leaves.

Armed agents surround the cabin and after a small token amount of lethal resistance Hanna is captured and taken to a base to be interrogated. Wiegler watches the interview remotely as they tell Hanna they want to know where Heller is. The agency is particularly worried that he has a lot of secrets that they don’t want divulged. Hanna won’t talk except to repeat her cover story and demand that Marissa Wiegler comes to talk to her in person.

Wiegler is shocked to hear Hanna use her name but she knows something is wrong and sends a decoy agent wearing a red-haired wig to match Wiegler’s physical description and coaches her remotely through an earpiece. It seems to be going smoothly with Hanna showing signs of grief and hugging the decoy for comfort. Wiegler orders the agent to break contact and abort but it’s too late as Hanna snaps the decoy’s neck then uses her body as a bullet shield to escape the interview room. Hanna evades her pursuers and escapes the base, only then finds out it is underground in the middle of the Moroccan desert.

Hanna walks through the desert until she meets a young English girl Sophie and her younger brother Miles who are travelling with their parents. Sophie talks a lot but listens very little. Their parents are middle-class hippy types Rachel (Olivia Williams) and Sebastian (Jason Flemyng) who patronisingly approve of her father’s confidence in allowing Hanna to travel alone. She reveals that her mother is dead and Rachel asks how she died. “Three bullets,” Hanna blankly replies.

Hanna is may be well educated in the facts about the world but she has no experience of how the things she heard about work or look or sound and as her shockingly plain talk a dinner revealed she has no experience of dealing with people. When she is shown her room at first she is fascinated by all the electrical appliances but it soon leads to a sensory overload and she suffers a panic attack.

Wiegler has ordered her agents concentrate on catching Heller. To go after Hanna she hires Isaacs (Tom Hollander), owner of the Safari transgender nightclub. We get the impression that Isaacs likes little girls in all the wrong ways. He is soon on the trail of Hanna with two skinhead henchman

This film is a really good spy thriller but it’s more than that. Hanna seems drawn to the English family perhaps because she had none of that life herself. Heller’s mission to kill Wiegler is all she has been prepared for and she has no idea who she is other than that. Young Saoirse Ronan is really great in the role of Hanna and I never knew Tom Hollander had that evil sleaziness in him to play the part of Isaacs. There is a fair bit of on-screen killing but not too much . But it is the implied killings that happen off-screen that are somewhat more disturbing.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Thing (1982)

Film poster for The Thing - Copyright 1982

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I haven’t got any John Carpenter films reviewed here so time to correct omission that with his adaptation of The Thing. This is based  on the novel Who Goes there? By John W. Campbell and the book was also used as the basis for the 1951 film The Thing From Another World

A helicopter is racing across the Antarctic snow chasing after a dog. A sniper leans out of side and tries to shoot the dog. They approach an US Antarctic station who all come out to see what is going on. The helicopter lands and he pilot tries to throw a thermite grenade at the dog but he drops it and blows up himself and the helicopter. The passenger runs toward the Americans shouting at them in Norwegian as the dog jumps up at the men and affectionately licks at one man’s face. The Norwegian starts shooting at the dog, accidentally grazing the leg of Bennings (Peter Maloney). He runs after the dog trying to shoot it but he gets shot dead from inside the base by the group’s leader Garry (Donald Moffat).

They try to figure what was going on, speculating about why the Norwegians had gone mad, never even considering possibility that they hadn’t. Meanwhile the dog they were desperately tying to kill is allowed to wander round the camp freely (not even their own dogs get to wander around like that). Dr Copper (Richard Dysart) wants to go to the Norwegian base to see what happened. The base’s helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) flies him out there but the obligatory approaching storm introduces a time limit. The base is completely burnt-out and the personnel are dead. Copper finds the records of the Norwegian team. Then Mac finds a block of ice with the middle melted out. Outside they find a revolting twisted mass of flesh and body parts all fused together and burnt. They take it all back to the US base before the storm arrives.

The base scientist Dr Blair (Wilford Brimley) does an autopsy on the dead Norwegian and the thing that Mac and Dr Copper brought back. He finds normal organs but the thing is all slimy limbs, some human, others more spidery and something that looks like a face that has been stretched and twisted. It is really unpleasant and a warning of what is to come.

Everyone is relaxing, Palmer is smoking dope with Nauls everyone else is in the rec. room, playing pool, playing cards. Benning notices the dog is still running around so Clark the dog-handler (Richard Masur) puts it in with the other dogs in their cage. As soon as he leaves the dog changes, long pink tendrils shoot out from its body and seizes some of the other dogs, its face opens up like fleshy flower, spider legs come out of the body. The other dogs are freaking out, barking and whining in terror. Clark runs back to see what’s happening and sees this mass of half dogs writhing around in the middle of the cage. Mac hears the racket and pulls the alarm. He gets Childs (Keith David) to bring a flame-thrower and everyone heads for the dog cage. The mass of metamorphosing flesh screams at them as Mac opens the cage and the surviving dogs escape. One part of the mass escapes through the roof and Mac orders Childs to burn all the rest.

Blair examines the thing from the dog cage and reaches some conclusions. There is some sort of alien organism that absorbs other lifeforms and then imitates them. They interrupted the process with dogs. He points out that the dog was free to wander around camp all day and he thinks it can imitate people too and realises the implication right away.

They watch a film the Norwegians made showing them finding something massive in the ice and digging it up. Norris (Charles Hallahan)and Mac fly out to the location of the dig and find a massive saucer shaped spaceship. Norris estimates from the depth of the ice it must have been buried for hundreds of thousands of years.

At the base everyone is talking about extraterrestrials and flying saucers. Blair is in his lab with his computer running a very slow simulation of red blobs absorbing blue blobs and making them into more red blobs. This is definitely authentic computer graphics from 1982. The ability to answer complex questions in English is bit less believable but it’s film land. The computer tells him that if the creature gets away from Antarctica it could destroy all life on Earth This means the team must stop the creatures at all cost, even their own lives and they have no idea who they can trust.

This films really has some really overwhelming specials effects from Rob Bottin and Stan Winston and the highlight of that is the scene in the surgery where Dr Copper is trying to revive Norris from a heart attack which just blasts the audience with the stuff of nightmares. This does contribute to growing sense of fear and paranoia in the film. Character development is a bit shallow and we don’t really get a sense that guys exist outside of the Antarctic base but when the trouble starts Kurt Russel steps up and transforms Mac into the bad-ass alpha-male Snake Plisskin and takes charge of things and everyone, even the base leader Garry, just meekly goes along with it. Really not to everyone’s taste, I think this a great film because I just love those old style squishy special effects

Rating 8/10

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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