The link below takes you to my review of Laid To Rest, a nasty little horror movie that I heaped praise upon. And now, Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2... I stand by my original declaration that this is one hell of an exciting and welcome movie-monster. He makes Jason Vorhees seem like Bear Grylls. The first movie was surprisingly brutal and grotesque and the ante is upped ten fold in this gruesome and depraved sequel. The movie opens up at the precise frame which the first one ended on. Its an exact continuation, however the sub-genre has shifted. The first movie was a slasher flick whereas this falls into that whole torture porn thing... think Hostel meets Saw. It didn't resonate with me as much and the story becomes convoluted with a secret organisation type of subplot. Now there's some kind of purpose behind Chromskull which involves a network of players. This element lost me and there's a lot of unanswered questions which will no doubt be covered with the next instalment. I much preferred this dude when he was on a simple killing spree. Nevertheless I give it credit for not rehashing the same formula. The gore is insane and the kills are creative and the movie looks good. All of the actors also do their bit to carry this above the average mediocre genre film... 90's heartthrob Brian Austin Green actually gives a solid maniacal performance as one of the organisations members. If you're a horror fan then the Chromeskull movies are WELL worth having in your collection. Part 2 doesn't hit every note but it still delivers the goods. I ♥ this guy!
In 1993 twelve year old Kyle finds his grandfathers footlocker hidden in the barn. Full of old WWII souvenirs his grandfather reluctantly agrees to tell the story behind any 3 items Kyle chooses from the box. And so his stories are told. 12 years later Kyle lies wounded in a military hospital in Iraq. He tells the story of the footlocker to his residing nurse. Kyle's own war story is also told as the film pin-balls between the 3 time frames. Memorial Day is an effective and understated war film. Sometimes when opposing generations are featured in these types of stories they can fall victim to over sentimentality. I think this one is handled really well. James Cromwell is wonderful as the old man burdened with a memory of war and I was blown away at how incredibly well the younger version of his character was played. Not only did the actor look exactly like James Cromwell but he sounded just like him too... having looked at the poster I wasn't surprised to discover that it was his own son, John Cromwell. A stroke of genius really because it made his story so much more powerful and refined. The Iraq portion of the film was shot deceptively. It is mostly framed tightly which I imagine is because of budgetary restraints but I assume that most viewers won't notice. I went into the film not expecting much and came away from it nourished. It ends on a moving note as a final salute to those who have fallen in war. Nicely done.
Ways To Live Forever has left me dumbfounded. I haven't really seen anything quite like it before. Beautiful, confronting, heartbreaking and uplifting are all words I could use to describe it. It's a story about a boy suffering from Leukaemia and his efforts to understand death. He asks the questions that adults ignore. Why do children die? Does it hurt to die? What happens when I die? ... etc. This is death as seen from 12 year old eyes and it's so touching. The movie is full of excellent performances, most notably from it's lead (Robbey kay). He is brilliant. Also giving power to this film is Alex Etel who was fantastic in Danny Boyle's Millions... and Ben Chaplin is outstanding as a father unable to find a suitable coping mechanism while his son fights for his life. It sounds like a grim and dreary experience but its to the contrary. I struggle to find comparison but movies like Wide Awake and Matching Jack both come to mind... innocence and wonder line four tall walls of fear in this beautiful drama that's suitable for all ages.
Apollo 18 presents itself as lost footage (yep, another one of those movies) of a mission to the moon which never returned. The premise is that after the cancellation of the Apollo program, the Department of Defence send a secret mission to the moon under the guise of a satellite launch. Apparently 30 years later 40+ hours of footage was uploaded to a website and this film is an edited presentation of that. These "lost footage" movies really grade on me. Their very nature lessens their effect because the viewer is well aware that they're watching something fake, so why bother passing it off as real? Apollo 18 has its effective moments. Most of it is cliched but a few startling moments and disturbing images give it an intensity that is welcome. **spoiler alert** Unfortunately its concept of a parasitical alien organism is straight out of Ridley Scott's Alien, thus rendering the movie devoid of all originality. Much of the footage from inside the luna module also looks dodgy, like two actors sitting in a poorly envisioned recreation. Most disappointing of all is the amount of filmmaking talent behind the movie... Timur Nuruakhitovich (Night Watch, Day Watch, Wanted) ... Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine, Drive Angry) ... and Ron Schmidt (Black Snake Moan, The Seeker)... they all have creative input and could have influenced a much better movie. If it were a proper film narrative (not lost footage) then I would have bought into it. It could have been genuinely scary.
The first movie, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, was a miserable excuse for a movie and so I am trying to figure out what compelled me to watch this sequel, Journey 2 Mysterious Island. Perhaps it was my love of adventure or maybe my fascination with Jules Verne. Josh Hutcherson (Sean) returns as the young adventurer who's family's lineage has been dedicated to deciphering the work of Jules Verne. They call themselves "Vernians" and believe that he wrote about actual places. Following the first movie, we now find ourselves searching for a great Mysterious Island and of course we find it. Inhabited by giant creatures and exotic wildlife, Sean is stranded on the island with his step-father their two tour guides. Thankfully this movie is a huge improvement on the first one which is almost certainly because Brendan Fraser didn't return. Obviously this movie is simple fodder. It's a family adventure with ludicrous scenarios and cartooned CGI fx... but it works. The spirit of Jules Verne is more prevalent this time and the overall energy of the movie is exciting. Johnson and Hutcherson are easy to watch and Luis Guzman offers a welcome comical character to pad the space between action sequences. Michael Caine also stars as Sean's 'Vernian' grandfather who had been lost on the island for years. Caine has never been more irritating and his performance aggravated me so much. Why an actor of his calibre would sign on for a movie like this is beyond me, but someone like Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland or Malcolm McDowell would have been a lot better. I don't really understand why these wonderful Jules Verne stories have been adapted this way, rather than being faithful to his original stories, but at least these movies acknowledge Verne and his significance to literature. Kids come away from these movies knowing who he was and what he wrote and I cannot fault them for that. The movie concludes with the beginning of the next adventure and the 3rd film is already in production. From The Earth to the Moon!!
Man On A Ledge is a real popcorn-flick. It's ludicrous but thrilling. Like the great thrillers of old it has one intention, to entertain! Sam Worthington stars as an escaped prison inmate who checks into a hotel under a false name and climbs out onto the ledge of his 21st floor suite. With the threat of suicide he requests a specific negotiator and from this point the movie twists and turns its way thru set ups and scenarios that, while far fetched, are exciting and well paced. To say more is to spoil the fun. The critics mostly savaged the movie but perhaps they took it too seriously. It sort of reminded me of Phone Booth and even The Fugitive to some stretch... some predictability is easily overlooked in favour of a good time.
I am pretty sure that the first horror novel I ever read was Bram Stoker's Lair Of The White Worm (borrowed from school library, never returned). It was a moody tale steeped in Irish lore and mythology. Ken Russell's 1987 adaptation bares very little resemblance to that fantastic book and is presented as an often stylistic yet hokey horror movie. Amanada Donohue and Hugh Grant star in this story of a mysterious serpent skull being unearthed in rural England. A local woman (Donohue) steals the skull and uses it to lure unsuspecting virgins into her icky lair where she morphs into a vampire-like snake-woman and devours them. As with most Ken Russell films it is full of strange and surreal images. Short flashes of sexual fetish are scattered throughout the movie and they're actually my favourite element. Of course they don't really make sense, nor does the movie, but I do enjoy it on a purely aesthetic level. It's a shame that Stoker's original work is lost though and I would love to see a faithful adaptation made some time as a period piece.
I remember sneaking into a Paramatta cinema in Sydney to see Natural Born Killers when I was 15 years old. The film's impact on me was undeniable... Oliver Stone's film is his masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. It's a wonderland of components... its experimental, it's topical, it's satirical, it's confronting! The story of Mickey & Mallory Knox's murder spree across America serves as a base for a larger commentary on the state of American culture. Looking back on the film from 2012 its just as relevant, if not more. We (I exclude myself from this generalisation) settle for mediocrity as success. The film was originally written by Quentin Tarantino who penned a more traditional blockbuster action film. By the time it arrived on the screen it had become an Oliver Stone picture... Tarantino's script was a great foundation but it lacked substance. I own a copy and it's nothing special. But Stone recognised an opportunity to do something daring and he created a film that essentially attacks the viewer. He used a variety of mediums to convey the story and along with a brilliant soundtrack it does what few other films can... that is to challenge, confuse and shake an audience. You can't simply watch Natural Born Killers once and have your mind made up about it. It demands repeat viewings. If I were to award star ratings to films, I would give NBK 5 out of 5. It's perfect.
My review of Faust comes with a lot of bias. Despite a whole lot of shit to his name, I am a big fan of Brian Yuzna. He's given us films like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Society and even Honey I Shrunk The Kids. In 2001 he relocated to Spain and established a company called Fantastic Factory, a production house to produce low budget horror films for international distribution. They made 9 films in total including Dagon (awesome), Romsanta (awesome), Beneath Still Waters and The Nun. Their first film was Faust: Love Of The Damned. I really dig this movie. It's argued amongst comic book nerds that Todd MacFarlane's Spawn was headily influenced by Faust. It's a macabre story of a man who sells his soul to a mysterious Mr M in exchange for vengeance against the murder of his girlfriend. He transforms into a grotesque demon who becomes impaired by a insatiable bloodlust and is soon pursued by a creature when the gates of Hell are opened. Yuzna (imo) has put together a great little film with a real menace about it. Andrew Divoff does his usual bad-guy thing effectively and Jeffrey Combs is great as the homicide detective following the blood trail. Its ultra (deliciously) violent and soaked with gore, making for a welcome hard-core comic book adaptation which offers Hollywood an invitation to carry it forward... sadly I can't see that happening. Faust is a fantastic comic book character who deserves to be represented on film... kudos to Yuzna for scoring first dibbs!
Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom packs a wallop. This true story of two men during South Africa's Apartheid is based on two memoir books by newspaper editor/journalist Donald Woods. He is played by Kevin Klein who stars alongside Denzel Washington as Steve Biko, a banned anti-apartheid activist. The film is bold and revelational in telling it's important story at a time when apartheid was still in full enforcement. When he begins showing support for Biko and his activism on the front page of his newspaper, Woods finds himself also a banned citizen. With increasing threats mounting, including violence against his family, Woods devises an elaborate plan to evade his house arrest and escape the country. The film is effectively divided into two portions. The first half is a heartbreaking account of oppression inflicted on the black population. Full of symbolism and realistic emotion, it evokes shame... shame for what humans are capable of. The second half of the film follows Wood's escape to Lesotho. Talk about tension... the movie packs such a punch and takes its time to tell it's story. Attenborough treats the subject with the upmost respect, much like he did with Ghandi. Apartheid is a history taught less and less as the years go by and in many ways that is progress... however films like this should be revisited as a reminder. The ghosts of the past still speak to the world.... it's a shame we don't listen.
I have just watched this wonderful little film and I have now added The Theatre Bizarre as one of the best anthology horror movies I have ever seen. There is certainly a strong shock value to this film with some absolutely repulsive imagery that puts knots in your stomach... but keeping it all grounded is a strong thematic anchor within each chapter. Love & heartache dominate each of the 6 stories with a couple actually being quite poignant. The film begins in a run-down and decrepit Grand Guignol theatre where a creepy marionette storyteller (Udo Kier) entertains a woman sitting alone in the stalls. The 6 stories he presents are all aesthetically different ranging from a twisted tale of a man who is haunted by recurring nightmares of castration to a woman who extracts fluid from people's eyeballs and then injects it into her own for the ultimate high of inheriting their past visions. The standout story for me was actually the least gruesome of them all. It's an elegant story about death as seen through the eyes of a 7 year old girl as her mother comforts her. Its a very touching piece of film that adds a sincerity to this delicious endeavour. As a film buff this was also a welcome return for 3 of the directors; Richard Stanley, Buddy Giovinazzo & Tom Savini. The Theatre Bizarre is a horror movie with depth. I can't ever see it being released in Australia but it's well worth importing as an addition to your genre collection.
We've got kids and the history they learn in school is forever shifting and so we are starting to include a lot more educational and historical content in our family movie nights. If they can come away from certain films with a better understanding of events then it's a small victory. We watched Apollo 13 tonight. Ron Howard's film is fantastic. Factually accurate for the most part it avoids an overload of sentimentality and focuses on the crisis at hand... Three astronauts stranded in space with barely any hope of getting home. This story is told really well with 3 views of the unfolding incident, they being the astronauts point of view, mission control and their families'. There isn't really any stand-out performances here but rather a single solid collaboration of actors. Watching Apollo 13 also lead to other questions about life in the 60s and 70s such as fashion, technology and rampant smoking habits (lol). I didn't realise it was a gate-way film... LOL. I love this movie and we might even keep up the interest with the consequent HBO series From Earth To The Moon (produced by Howard & Hanks). Good stuff.
Clint Eastwood's senior years as a filmmaker have been amazing. Once a director of comedy and sub-par dramas (Unforgiven excluded), he then made Mystic River and it's been absolute quality since. He seems to go from strength to strength and has successfully juggled subjects. His most recent, J Edgar, is a good looking film and Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a really strong performance... unfortunately I really didn't enjoy the film. It follows the career of J Edgar Hoover, founder of the FBI. His significance in American history is irrefutable and there's a solid film to be made of it.. but I found Eastwood's J Edgar to be disjointed. Similarly to the recent, The Iron Lady, the film is divided between the later years and flashbacks of the early years. I hate this method of storytelling. It makes me feel isolated and disconnected from the story. I would have much preferred a straight A-Z recount of a life and career. This is so unfortunate because there are so many great things about the film.
The title "From Paris With Love" is a reference to James Bond and a big fat wink to the audience that this movie is not to be taken seriously. John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Myers play two CIA operatives who run amok in Paris. Myers is the low-level agent with moral and decorum while Travolta is a wreckless, violent and bad-ass agent who do whatever it takes to get a result. It's a really fast paced thrill ride that never lets up. Leave all rationale at the door and just strap in. Who cares about plot or story when its simply fun to watch? Travolta is awesome and I'd say it's perhaps his best performance. French director Luc Besson writes & produces so many underrated action/thriller movies (Taken, Transporter, Unleashed etc) and his style is unistakable. Story is rarely as important as the style. From Paris With Love is a well made, taught and exciting action thriller. I loved it!
1996 / Director. Chuck Parello.
John McNaughton's HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is one of the most influential and chilling serial killer movies of all time. Critically acclaimed it became an instant cult classic. And so to make a sequel independently from the original with a new actor is a crazy notion. Director Chuck Parello is just that. He has taken the Henry character and continued his exploits. It's not surprising that HENRY 2 is a pale comparison, however, it's also surprising how well this stands on its own. It was a stroke of genius that Parello brought back the composer of the original score (Robert McNaughton) to create an all new, yet reminiscent, body of music. It adds an aura of credibility to what could be perceived as a shameless cash-in flick. The next thing they got right was the casting of Neil Giuntoli as Henry. He looks a lot like Michael Rooker and delivers a creepy and chilling performance. The violence is graphic and while the story is probably too similar to the first film, it still manages to hold your attention... well it did for me anyway. McNaughton's original is classic and seminal and so it deserves to be treated as such... my recommendation is to separate this one and judge it on it's own merits.