Monthly Archives: April 2014

Machete Kills

DVD Shelf

machete_kills_ver10Machete was an over the top Mexplotation film by Robert Rodriguez that spun off the fake trailers on Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double bill. It was gleefully violent and lots of fun as well boasting an incredible cast. This sequel ramps up the fun of the first with a generous helping of an over-the-top villainous plot. It also has number of big name stars who all seem to really enjoy themselves, not least Mel Gibson as a baddie. This feels like the product of a crazy brain storming session involving drugs, man-children and a YouTube comments section and is like the bastard offspring of the James Bond film Moonraker and the first Machete film. This film is a mashup of cool with crazy and just plain stupid. Before the film proper starts we get a trailer for a sequel with Machete in space called Machete Kills Again.

In this film Machete is called by the President of the USA (introducing Carlos Estevez as the president who looks a whole lot like Charlie Sheen) with a mission for him. This interrupts the attempt by Arizona sheriff Doakes (William Sadler) to execute Machete by hanging. There is a madman in Mexico called Carlos Mendes (Demian Bichir), part of a drugs cartel who has a missile pointed at Washington. Machete’s mission is simple, go to Mexico and kill Carlos. His secret agent contact in Texas next the Mexican border is beauty queen Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) who tell him to contact a prostitute in Mexico who is Carlos’ favourite girl and who works in whorehouse run by Madame Desdemona (Sofía Vergara) who really doesn’t like people taking things from her without paying.

Carlos turns out to have his heart wired to the launch mechanism of the missile. So now Machete has to keep his heart beating and get Carlos to the US to get the detonator deactivated. To make things much worse Carlos has issued a reward for his own death so now they have every criminal and hitman in Mexico after them. This includes The Chameleon (Walton GogginsCuba Gooding Jr.Lady GagaAntonio Banderas), a hitman who literally changes his/her face after every job to ensure no-one knows what he/she looks like. They are also being hunted by a brothel full of killer whores and a madame with machine gun tits and a shotgun cock. Did I mention that this film is stupid? When Machete gets Carlos back into the USA he comes up against the real villain Voz (Mel Gibson) and his despicable plans for the world. Mschete enlists the help of Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) and her revolutionaries to take down Voz.

This film is definitely not for everyone and if you are looking for a serious action film look elsewhere. The violence is cartoonish and many scenes are just so ridiculous I was regularly laughing out loud at things like the main henchman who is brutally butchered by Machete several times and the over-the-top violence meted out by Voz’s experimental ray gun weapon. The cast seem to really get into excessive mood of the story and Gibson seems to be having great time as the bad guy. Despite his age Danny Trejo is convincing as the butt-kicking action hero. It has an 18 certificate which means that the teenage boys that would get most enjoyment out of it can’t see it but I’m sure it won’t stop them. The joke is wearing a starting wear bit thin but I still enjoyed it

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Outpost III: Rise of the Spetsnaz

DVD Pile

outpost 3 dvd 001I can’t claim to a big fan of the Outpost films. I barely remember what happened in the first film and can’t make sense of the second film. This third film is actually set during the Second World War so this is a prequel to others which were set during the present day. This has all the same elements of mad Nazi science that featured in the other two including creation of creatures that cannot be killed.

A special squad of Russian soldiers, the Spetsnaz, come across vehicles from a secret base near the Eastern Front.  They take out the Germans but find themselves facing overwhelming numbers of troops including patrol with a German officer with a zombie like a dog on a chain. The Russians are killed or captured and the prisoners are taken to a secret research lab underground where we can see many mad monsters screaming behind glass windows like some sort of freakshow display.

Three survivors held in a cell are Dolokhov (Bryan Larkin) the leader of the Russian squad, Arkadi (Velibor Topic) and Fyodor (Iván Kamarás) who has been shot.  There’s another prisoner in the cell, an American spy called Captain Rogers (Ben Lambert) who isn’t very useful in fact he’s a bit of a prick. They are being watched by Strasser (Michael McKell), the German officer in charge of the facility who is your typical evil sociopathic Nazi bastard. He wants to use them to test his experimental subjects and we got some impressive fight scenes. Strasser seems pleasantly surprised to see the Dolokhov is more than a match for even the strongest of them, a huge beast they have nicknamed the Childkiller (James Thompson).

Strasser takes Dolokhov and Fyodor deeper into the facility and tells them all about their research in classic villain style while waximg philosophically about the futility of war. In fact he just won’t shut up about their plans to create an army of indestructible super soldiers. The process has still got a lot of problems and we see a headsplodey example of it going wrong with some poor German soldier. Strasser then puts Fyodor through the process which is not really the smartest idea since this time it seems to go right but this just means they have succeeded in creating a super soldier who wants to kill them all.

The film tends to get a bit repetitive with the Russians taking on limitless Germans in narrow corridors but the film did at least seem more coherent than that second film. It has a low budget and this does show in some aspects like the very limited zombie patrol which could have been bigger and used a bit more. The fight scenes are pretty good and I like the physical effects.  The film uses a muted colour palette with a look of mostly grayish green which does give it a dated feel. Overall is it has some decent moments but is a bit draggy.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero

The DVD Shelf

Cabin Fever 3 Patient Zero DVD 001Disease and flesh-eating parasites are genuinely terrifyingy things which is what this film preys on. Body horror operates at the visceral level taking advantage of our ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of the characters by giving us an echo of the pain in our own bodies. Zombie films seem to fill much of the horror genre’s discussion of these topics while the more serious films tend to be more action thrillers. Eli Roth changed that in the first film by blending the contagion storyline with a slasher movie set-up of a gang of annoying college students in the woods for a party. Then the sequel took it back to high school but was not as successful.

Patient Zero is the name used by epidemiologists for the first person in a population infected with a pathogen or so the movies have told us. Patient Zero for this flesh eating disease is Porter (Sean Astin) and he’s held captive in a “secure” medical facility on a remote island.  He is not a heap of diseased flesh begging to die which means he is immune and potentially can help researchers find a cure. The facility is being run by Dr Edwards (Currie Graham) with a fairly large staff and two assistants Bridgette (Lydia Hearst) and Camila (Solly Duran). Porter is sick of being abused and still traumatised by what he has been through and it is clear Edwards is never going to let him go.

There is a second plot that involves a small stag party taking a boat to remote island for dope, booze and stargazing or whatever. Only in horror films do characters go away from civilization for a stag party. Let’s get the soap opera details of this plot out of the way. Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is getting married to Katia (Claudette Lali), a wealthy young woman. His best friend and business partner Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) is there, as is his embarrassing younger brother Josh (Brando Eaton) who has brought his girlfriend Penny(). Marcus had short passionate relationship with Penny before she was with Josh and of course this is going to come up later.

The film cuts between the two plots before revealing how they are connected. The plot of the stag party follows the plot of the first film with one of the friends getting infected and slowly getting sicker. This is where the film does a good job of doing gross-out body horror with impressive make-up and special effects but the soapy drama around it seems just too trivial. The mad science plot seemed more promising until Edwards goes full Dr Mengele crazy. I had no idea that the fourth Cabin Fever film is due to be released later this year and I wonder how much this film is just setting up that film.

Patient Zero has some powerful scenes but a weak storyline with a bit too much wandering through dark tunnels. I only recently found it was a prequel but there is nothing that necessarily suggests this in the film. Sean Astin really does a good job playing Porter but he’s really on his own in a story that doesn’t give us anything new. It is an improvement on the other sequel but doesn’t really match the original film and It takes a bit longer for the flesh to really start falling off on this one. It does have some interesting twists and some really outrageous scenes so may of interest to fans of the first film.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Hatchet III

The DVD Shelf

hatchet 3 dvd 001I really enjoy horror films made by those who are fans of the genre so make the type of horror films that they enjoy. This is the third of director/writer Adam Green’s Hatchet series which his tribute to slasher horrors of the 80s such the Friday 13th series. These films don’t have symbolism or character: they just have victims and an excuse to get them into the kill box and I have great time watching and seeing all the new ways the special effects guys can kill them off.

Danielle Harris is back as Marybeth a young woman who was looking for her father and brother in the first film and looking vengeance for their deaths in the second film.  This one starts with her killing the deformed undead maniac Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) even though he was already dead she actually kills him twice in very gory manners and thinks she’s finished him for good but that is unlikely since this the start of the film and this film is not told in flashback.

Marybeth drags herself to police station where the gore plastered all over her and the shotgun causes a full-scale panic. Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) wants to know what happened and sends a patrol car to check it out while he interviews Marybeth who basically summarizes the events of the first two films. I like a film that can laugh at itself and when Fowler describes her story as ridiculous and contrived he’s talking about those films. Of course he doesn’t believe her story and locks her in cell.

Fowler gets a call from the deputy on the scene and is told about the grotesque collections of body parts everywhere. Fowler tells the deputy to call in cops, paramedics and fire crew to assist finding all the bits and it isn’t difficult to figure how that is going to turn out.  The emergency crews start appearing and one is a paramedics called Andrew (Parry Shen) who is played by the same actor that played two brothers that died in the earlier films. When someone comments on a body looking like him he remarks on the casual racism but it’s actually a reference to the brothers.

Back the station Fowler leaves Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) in charge as he heads out to the scene narrowly avoiding having to deal with his ex-wife Amanda (Caroline Williams) who has heard all about the murders over police radio frequency and has connected them to Victor Crowley. She is a reporter whose obsession with the Crowley legend has made her a laughing-stock. Now Amanda has a chance prove she is right. Winslow is soon bullied into letting Amanda talk to Marybeth and telling her that she knows how to kill Crowley permanently.

At the swamp they have Crowley’s body ready for examination by a paramedic in an ambulance boat and the scene is reminiscent of so many slasher films where they have a killer’s body about to undergo an autopsy but he comes back to life. The film doesn’t bother giving us much detail of the symphony of blood and pain Crowley plays with these background characters but we get the picture. Fortunately the deputy gets a call in to alert Fowler and Winslow before he gets cut off.

The report from the swamp convinces Marybeth that Crowley is still active but doesn’t persuade her to go back even if Amanda insists that she’s essential. Winslow just cuffs her and puts her in back of his patrol car. Amanda needs to make a stop at the house of Abbot McMullen (Sid Haig) a crazy old racist who keeps insulting Winslow. It is an amusing scene but I just wanted to get back to action in the swamp which is fortunately where Amada and Winslow are going with Marybeth as their prisoner.

Sheriff Fowler gets to the swamp with his deputies and the place is covered in fresh remains of the first team. A SWAT team has also arrived led by Tyler Hawes  (Derek Mearswho is a patronising arrogant tool and he puts himself in charge. Among the deputies is Schneiderman (Cody Blue Snider) a young deputy who is crapping himself because he totally believes in Victor Crowley and he’s brought a bag full of big guns. He is freaking out at the slaughter around him but the sight of testicles hanging from a tree puts him over the edge and he wants to walk off the job even when total prick Hawes has him against a tree. They get distracted by discovering Andrew who seems to be the only survivor and like Scheiderman he is appalled by the suicidal recklessness of Hawes. Now all the significant characters are in the swamp the films goes the same way as the others with all living flesh just meat for the grinder as Crowley chops, tears and rips his way through the cast until the he is ended for this film by the plot device.

I really enjoyed this film just as did the others. They are self-consciously contrived and ridiculous just like the Sherriff said with an incredible body count brought about by killer and a variety of weapons. The make-up and special effects used are the old style physical effects so the blood looks real and injuries look painful but the whole thing is pushed to cartoonish extremes reminiscent of Evil Dead or Brain Dead.  Though the cast play it straight there is a strong streak of dark humour through film. This film is strongly recommended to those who enjoy old-school slasher films and strong keep away for anyone who likes more grounded cerebral horror.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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The Quiet Ones

At The Movies

the quiet onesThis is from the legendary Hammer studio and it is a quiet low key film that takes it time establishing its creepy mood. This is just a soft way of saying that this film dragged quite a bit especially in the middle. The story is not very original or interesting but the cast do it fairly well and there are some scares leading up to the fairly so-so ending. Apparently based on true events like that matters but  may  be the justification for the slow pace.

Cambridge University Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is working on his theory that supernatural phenomena are produced by some sort of energy from the human mind and to test his theory he is going to try to cure Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a young woman so haunted by poltergeist activity that she seriously contemplates suicide. All of her life she has been passed from one foster home to next when each family become aware of the strange supernatural forces that follow her.

Coupland has two very loyal students assisting him Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who are cultishly devoted to him. Coupland has also hired Brian McNiel (Sam Claflin) a young cameraman to document The Experiment.  Brian is an outsider so is the natural sympathetic protagonist for the audience while is everyone else is so confident the Professor’s bizarre theories.

When the noise of the loud rock music (Slade – Cum on Feel The Noize and is about the only significant detail that nails the period to the 70s) used to stop Jane from sleeping disturbs the neighbours Coupland finds himself hauled before the University authorities and deprived of funds or premises. Coupland moves The Experiment to a large remote house in the country to keep going without interference. Of course Harry and Kristina agree to keep going but Brian agrees to carry on at this stage out of curiosity and his feelings for Jane.  It seems unlikely that if this was official sanctioned research it would be getting held in town with neighbours that could be disturbed even in the 70s

There is a slow escalation of strange events involving the well-used horror technique of long quiet moments followed by jump scares and Brian manages to catch some of it on film. Brian gets increasingly concerned for Jane’s safety when he sees the lengths to which Coupland will go to force a psychic response from Jane. The techniques they are using amount to torture and the only thing stopping Brian going to the authorities is Jane’s willing participation because she is desperate for a cure.

The last part of the film is where conflicts heighten as secrets get revealed and the supernatural freakery gets to dangerous levels. It wasn’t as predictable as thought it was going to be but the ending scene itself was right out of the box of dusty old horror clichés. Coupland portrays himself as a heroic sceptic taking on the supernatural by trying to explain it away with scientific sounding jargon and lots of apparatus but there were lots of clues that his outlook is like a dogmatic religious position especially the scene at the start with the rejection of the non-believer who has moral objections to The Experiment. Brian is the real sceptic in the film investigating the Professor’s history and making it clear that the evidence he has filmed is not really evidence as even he suspects fakery.

This film was just not very notable. It did hold my attention while watching but apart from the jumps it didn’t really do very much to disturb or unsettle me and my attention did wander in the middle and I noticed the three wee bastards two rows in front mucking about on their smartphones. There was a 70s setting that was barely used apart from costumes, music and a lack of modern technology. Jared Harris is good as usual in the mad scientist role giving the character a vulnerability and humanity. Olivia Cooke is also good in the part of Jane Harper. This is a film that is okay to pass the time if it happens to be on TV or streaming on the internet but it’s just nothing special.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

At The Movies

Captain America WSI love what Marvel are doing with their films and even though I never got into Cap in the comics I always liked the character when he appeared in crossovers. Captain America always seemed a more political character than the others which means his adventures perfectly transfer into the political thriller genre with espionage which is just what Marvel chose to do here

The film opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America, leading a squad of SHIELD agents on a mission to rescue a bunch of SHIELD techs from a SHIELD facility in the Indian Ocean that has been hijacked by pirates.  Fellow Avenger Black Widow, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is also along on the mission but she has her own orders that Steve knows nothing about and he’s not very happy about getting kept in the dark, especially as it endangers his own rescue mission. Seeing Cap in action in these scenes with his shield is just thrilling and the action is really well choreographed.

Back at the SHIELD Triskelion headquarters Steve wants a serious word with SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about what is going on. Fury takes Steve down to the basement to show him what they have been working on: three new helicarriers bristling with weapons due to be permanently stationed in the skies linked to spy satellites and able to attack anyone on Earth deemed a threat, called Project Insight. Steve is not happy about any of it and especially Fury’s feeble excuse that they have to take world as it is not as the want it to be. It is the all too familiar conflict between freedom and security and as the name suggests SHIELD is all about security and Cap’s not sure he wants anything to do with it.

There a nice scene where Steve goes to a museum a sees an exhibition all about him and there is hint that the second half of the first film had a lengthy period of time compressed in those scenes since it mentions his adventures with the Howling Commandos and his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) which we only got in a montage in that film.  I hope we get to see some of that history in more detail in a future film or TV series. Cap also visits the very old Peggy Carter for a bit of closure

There are a couple of new characters his film needs to introduce and the first is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) Chairman of the World Security Council, who are those shadowy outlines we saw giving Fury orders in The Avengers. Pierce is an old friend of Fury’s and he actually persuaded Pierce to take the job. Fury wants them to halt the launch of Project Insight while he investigates the data Black Widow retrieved and Pierce agrees.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) gets introduced when he befriends Steve when they are out jogging and Steve laps Sam several times with the words “on the left” .  Sam is an Afghan War vet who now runs a support group for vets to help them cope with the psychological stresses of joining the real world again. It is no secret that he is also the superhero called Falcon who fights bad guys using a pair of mechanical wings and jets that seem to use repulsor technology like Tony Stark’s.

Nick Fury comes under attack by a very well organised group led by a mysterious assassin called The Winter Soldier and it is clear that not everyone in SHIELD can be trusted so it is up to Steve and Natasha to find out who is behind it. SHIELD has many enemies and it seems when they cut off one two more grow its place. Winter Soldier is someone Natasha has come across before and she knows he is deadly, skilled and relentless.

This film has a plot with many twists and turns and secrets getting uncovered so it really would be risking spoilers to talk much more about the plot but this film really has a lot of call-outs that will please fans of the comic books. It is also a story that whose events are going to have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the film is mainly about Captain America it was nice to see a lot more attention paid to the SHIELD organisation with real questions being asked about what its role is and what is was intended to be. We see Nick Fury getting involved in the action and we get to see a lot more from Natasha Romanov and even Maria Hill gets a bit more to do

This film is just what I wanted to see with a great story that works as an entertaining political thriller while still having all the action elements expected from a comic book story. This film is really plugged into the Marvel Universe much more than the other solo films and ties the present into past with revelations that have ramifications not just for the future but the past too. I know some people are wondering about where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were but I never got he impression that they were needed or even in the loop enough to be called in by SHIELD to sort out its internal problem.s Any fans of the Marvel film will probably love this but I’m sure it will appeal to anyone who likes action thrillers too.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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