2015 / Director. Christopher McQuarrie.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Okay. So yeah... they can go ahead and make more of these movies. The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series has come a long way since Brian DePalma rebooted the franchise back in the mid nineties and the last few entries have proven to be bloody belters. ROGUE NATION is one hell of an action flick and my fingers hurt from the constant chewing of nails.
The film reassembles the IMF team from the previous two films and pits them against a top secret organisation known as The Syndicate, which has been dismissed as a myth by most government departments and the CIA. Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt as he falls off the grid to expose the Syndicate while the IMF is dismantled by the senate and a ruthless CIA director (Alec Baldwin). What follows is a complex action caper full of espionage, misplaced loyalties and double crossings. It is the precise type of movie that reaffirms why we go to the cinema... ie pure escapism.
Director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have a solid working relationship, having previously worked together on JACK REACHER, EDGE OF TOMORROW and VALKYRIE. They clearly have a strong rapport and have delivered the most concise, controlled and elaborate instalment in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series yet. At the sprite age of 53 Cruise has never looked fitter, nor stronger. He commands the screen and (for me) watching him is an absolute pleasure. Ethan Hunt is a role that he now owns and he is obviously more comfortable in those shoes than ever before. He understands the nuances and the limitations of the character and he knows what works and what doesn't. The comedy is perfectly placed and never distracting and the action is paced more strategically then the previous films. While I didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed GHOST PROTOCOL, I can definitely recognise that it is the better of the two.
The support cast are all good with Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin each bringing the level of solidity that we have come to expect from them. The real revelation here, however, is Simon Pegg. This is his third appearance in the series and it is his most dexterous performance yet. He is given a whole lot of range to work with and he brings the dramatics as competently as he brings the comedy. He is really something else here and his own on-screen rapport with Cruise is also evident. They click and it's a wonderful thing to see.
With five MISSION IMPOSSIBLE adventures clocked up and a sixth one on the way, this is a franchise that is giving 007 a run for its money. ROGUE NATION looks more like a James Bond movie then any of the other chapters and the marker is set for a strong, ongoing franchise that will enjoy longevity so long as they maintain the right direction, as demonstrated here. With great performances, a smart script and well handled action sequences it is a movie-property that is finally comfortable within itself. That's quite an evolution from the convoluted and miscalculated original movie almost twenty years ago.
2015 / Director. Jaume Collet-Serra.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
Since TAKEN Liam Neeson has become a brand unto himself. When you say 'Liam Neeson film' it prints a specific plot in your brain-parts, for better or worse. Here, in RUN ALL NIGHT, he teams up with director Juame Collet-Serra for the third time, proving 'third time's the charm'. Their previous two outings, UNKOWN and NON-STOP, have been lacklustre and dull (we'll leave it to you to work out which is which) but this New York City outing finally shows the promise they obviously see in each other, even though it's been largely missing on screen until now.
Here the Irish rogue plays the worn-out mobster Jimmy Conlon, a washed up gunman coasting through life thanks to his life-long kinship with neighbourhood big-boss Shawn MacGuire (Ed Harris). When Jimmy's son, Mike, gets into the shit with Shawn's boy Danny, Jimmy steps in and kills his best pals kid. Now they have to make it through the night and leave the city with every crooked cop, hired killer and legit cop on their trail.
It's nice to see Neeson finally playing his age. His Jimmy isn't another wolf-puncher. He's washed up, broken and existing in a world that's moved on without him. It's nothing new but it's no TAKEN, so at least there's that. The rebuilding of his estranged relationship with Mike tugs at the heart-strings occasionally as does his dissolving relationship with his best pal.
Ed Harris growls his way through his scenes once again making this acting malarkey look easy and Vincent D'Onofrio pops in for an extended cameo (DAREDEVIL must have just finished being filmed up the road) but he's severely under-used. He can be electric when given the right material, elevating the simplest of characters to steal the show, but for Serra & Co. he's just another New York cop. Shame.
It's not until hired hitman Common shows up that things slightly derail. An exceptionally proficient killer in a film that's about down-and-dirty working-class hoods is about as welcome as a hole in the neck. The Pogues 'Fairytale of New York' playing over the final gunplay is heavy-handed on the irrelevant Irish-American theme but you can forgive it since a some of the dialogue is so sharp you could cut your tongue on it.
There's perhaps more heart and intelligence in this offering than you might expect which, following NON-STOP and UNKNOWN, can only be a good thing.
2015 / Director. Tarsem Singh.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Tarsem Singh is a visionary filmmaker whose body of work includes THE CELL, THE FALL, IMMORTALS and MIRROR MIRROR. He works within a dreamlike fantasy realm where nothing is what it seems and the visceral experience is often stronger than the narrative itself. I am naturally drawn to his style and I anticipate his films more than I probably should. His latest offering is SELF/LESS.
We are introduced to a billionaire real estate mogul played by Ben Kingsley who is gravely ill with only months to live. With certain loose ends and unfinished business in his life he turns to a radical and experimental medical program called “Shedding” and has his consciousness transported into a new and younger body. He wakes up looking like Ryan Reynolds and soon discovers the sinister secrets to the process and uncovers truths about the company in charge.
This is not a signature Tarsem Singh movie. It bares little of his style and is a completely lacklustre affair in comparison. The premise itself is derivative of Philip K Dick’s work and, in fact, plays out like a cross between TOTAL RECALL and PAYCHECK. Ryan Reynolds has been delivering a stack of exceptional (and weighty) performances lately, but this is one that he phoned in. He looks bored and you get the sense that he wasn't ‘feeling’ it. Ben Kingsley is quite good, although his appearance is reduced to an extended cameo.
In terms of the narrative, it is entirely unconvincing. The crux of the film is dependant on the believability of one character embodying another. Take a film like FACE/OFF for example. That film works solely due to the fact that John Travolta and Nicholas Cage channel each other’s persona. In SELF/LESS Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds and there is absolutely no trace of Kingsley’s personality to be found. To expect the audience to buy the concept that Reynolds is Kingsley is a huge ask and the movie comes undone because of it.
The production design is uninspiring and the action sequences are lethargic. There is a thriller component to the film that does work at times, but is paced sporadically and offers too many moments for the viewer to disengage. Tarsem Singh is clearly the wrong director for this brand of bubblegum and I can only assume that he took on the project to challenge himself outside of the fantasy world that he knows best.
SELF/LESS is a run of the mill thriller exploiting a sci-fi sub-genre that’s already been flogged to death. It lacks substance, style and an overall focus. Very disappointing.
2015 / Director. Jake Schreier.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
PAPER TOWNS must have been torn out of a 1980's 'how to make teen dramas' guide. There is a timeless sense of romanticism to this story of a boy chasing a girl and finding himself along the way. It's the type of film that John Hughes might have made, or perhaps a young Cameron Crowe.
Quentin (Q) and Margo (M) were best friends as kids and they were inseparable right up until the point of a significant incident setting them on different paths. Eleven years later Q wakes up one night to find M climbing through his bedroom window. They sneak out and embark on a night of revenge as she acts out against her cheating boyfriend and the friends who protected him. The next morning she vanishes without a trace. Days pass and Q discovers cryptic clues left behind and with the company of his best friends he takes off on a road trip to find her. All of these details were revealed in the film's promotional trailer and are, by no means, spoilers.
PAPER TOWNS is an unexpected coming of age story that brilliantly juggles drama, comedy and romance without lapsing into an overtly cliched formula. I am thankful that I have never read the novel from which it's adapted because I was treated to a an unpredictable mystery and whisked me away from my own reality for one hundred minutes.. In fact there was never a point at which I knew exactly where the story would end up and putting my trust in director Jack Schreier was oddly comforting. He has delivered an excellent film that plays its cards carefully.
The key to the film's success is, without question, its casting. Every single character has a purpose and all of the players understand the story's sensibilities. The dynamics between the three guys is wonderful and their tight bond is completely believable. Austin Abrams is particularly excellent as the carefree friend who just wants to have fun. He delivers the bulk of the movie's comedy and he owns every moment. The dialogue is smart, the cinematography is gorgeous and the soundtrack is perfect.
If I were to nit-pick I would say that there are various details that are all too convenient. For example, some of the problem solving within the mystery is rather ambiguous and the characters make some fairly bold assumptions. Having said that, I also have to consider the melodramatic aspect of the film and I am happy to disregard such things. They're all part of a much greater story holding on to the romanticism is important.
PAPER TOWNS is a teenage movie that crosses the generational divide. There are no typical teenage cliches, nor are there modern references to tech junk like social media or Snapchat.
2015 / Director. Jeffrey Hornaday.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The first TEEN BEACH movie caught me off guard and I absolutely loved it. Made as a Disney Channel Original it harked back to the classic beach party films of the 1960s and introduced that fun, free and innocent brand of entertainment to a whole new generation of kids. The premise was simple but the execution was wonderful. Two regular teenage kids were magically zapped in to a classic beach movie where everyone sings & dances and all worries are trivial.
TEEN BEACH 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first movie with our two teenage protagonists back home and about to start their final year of high school. With the weight of the real world bearing down on them, they find themselves dealing with real-life problems such as university decisions and uncertainty about the future. Where the previous instalment had the two of them venture into movie-land, this follow up has the two fictional movie characters stepping out into the real world. Of course the consequence is a fish-out-of-water story where modern life and a wholesome 60s lifestyle meet and clash.
I was surprised to have really enjoyed the first movie and I was as equally surprised by how much I enjoyed this sequel. The original cast returns and a whole new string of songs have been written. The performances are very solid with Garret Clatyon stealing the show AGAIN and offering a truly excellent spin on the dim-witted heartthrob type. Barry Bostwick is missing from the frivolity but the average teen viewers wouldn’t even notice.
The film also offers a less then subtle social commentary, which was absent from the original. With the 1960’s characters exposed to the modern world they observe how disconnected and depressing our lives have become. Kids watching this film might begin to comprehend that being consumed by electronics is cumbersome and anti-social. Of course a silly little movie is never going to influence change in behaviours but if TEEN BEACH 2 has teenagers reflecting on their own habits, then that’s not a bad thing at all.
TEEN BEACH 2 is a strong sequel to the unsuspecting original hit. Children, parents and grandparents alike can take something from it. It is fun, very silly and completely harmless. Disney has cottoned on to a wonderful concept and it would be nice to see it enjoy a smidgen of the success that the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL series received.
2015 / Director. Leigh Whannell.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
To make a direct sequel to INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 would have been akin to flogging a dead horse. That storyline went about as far as it could and, although they may return to it in further instalments, it was a smart and calculated decision to go backwards.
Director James Wan has stepped aside and handed the reigns to his long-time collaborator LEIGH WHANNELL, who wrote and starred in the previous two chapters. This is his first directorial job and he has carried the torch effectively and with ease.
CHAPTER 3 is a prequel story. It could have easily told the insidious origins as referenced in CHAPTERS 1 and 2, but wisely opts for a new stand alone story. Taking place only a few years prior to the events of the first film, we follow a teenage girl with a malevolent spirit attempting to drag her into the darkness. Lin Shaye's Elise character agrees to help her overthrow the entity, while fending off her own demons.
When James Wan was directing these films he presented an atmospheric world that relied heavily on texture and a sense of dread. He told his story with vivid imagination and an unsettling production design that took the viewer into another realm and refused to loosen its grip. His films also presented an alternative type of haunting, that provided a fresh alternative to a weary formula. With Whannell's direction CHAPTER 3 falls back upon cheap scare tactics and an old school fright-flick mentality. Technically it occupies the same world as its predecessors, but it lis much more minimalist and lacks the originality. And yet it works... bare with me here.
The first two acts are comprised with a relentless succession of jump scares. Not a minute goes by without the score dropping out, followed by a few moments of silence, leading to the obvious FRIGHT! It's a tactic usually reserved for lesser entries within the genre, however, Whannell executes them brilliantly. I jumped out of my seat several times and were it any other film I would have found it tiresome. There is strange rhythm to the way each of these cheeky teases are spread. With the serious lack of musical arrangements, the scares themselves take upon an orchestral nature of their own. The fright-flow becomes hypnotic and comforting.
For the final act Whannell delivers the goods, in spades. He and Angus Sampson return to the screen in younger versions of the characters they played previously, and their place in this story is more hilarious than before. Dermot Malroney is a welcome addition to the franchise and delivers a strong performance, with his character resisting the formulaic convention of disbelief.
Best of all is that INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 is a tailor made vehicle for Lin Shaye to kick ass. She steps up to the forefront and carries the entire movie almost single-handedly. Her role is both physically and emotionally demanding and she embraces the opportunity with great gusto. If it weren't for her dynamic presence and sincere performance this would have been another run of the mill movie. Fans of the series can rest assured that this instalment offers a new story with different conventions and enough frights to boost the Nappy San stocks for weeks to come.
The years Whannell has spent observing the filmmaking process from his writer's chair has paid off. He has made his debut within a franchise, which has provided him a safety net. Had the film failed it could have been put down to the fact that it was a third entry. With his teeth now cut, here's hoping that he gives it another stab.
2015 / Director. Sergei Bodrov.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
SEVENTH SON is the kind of fantasy yarn that spends its time talking about prophecies, witches, amulets and blood moons. That should give you an idea of the kind of territory we're in. It's another Jeff Bridges vehicle to add to his ever-increasing list of mega-budget disappointments that didn't set the box-office on fire, and while it isn't as bad as a kick to the teeth it by no means lives up to the promise of the credentials on show.
The story, such as it is, tells the tale of a farm boy, the seventh son of a seventh son, Tom Ward, who is taken from his home by John Gregory (Jeff Bridges) a grisly old Spook, a hunter of all kinds of nasty goblins and trolls and witches and then from farm-boy taught the secret ways of the dying breed while mega-evil bitch-witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) prepares her hordes for the blood moon when her powers come to fruition and she can rule all the lands.
It's far from a perfect film but the problems don't come from the spectacularly realised ghouls and dragons; the SFX are top notch. Nor do they come from the majestic rolling highland greenery or Jeff Bridges questionable facial hair.Russian director Sergey Bodrov (MONGOL) knows his way around an epic. He ticks all the boxes; a rousing score (here by Marco Beltrami), strange foreign lands, a doomed love interest, it even has a pitch-forks-in-the-air good ol' fashioned lynch mob scene.
The biggest problem is much more fundamental - the script.
We've been here before, a classic heroes journey template with new names slotted into the blank spaces. Bridges does his best getting his laughing gear around some of the script's clunkers and Moore, all gothic and black eye-lined, sleepwalks through the soulless Malkin bits.
If there's any good to be had it's that Kit Harrington shows up for a bit and thankfully doesn't stick around too long and the picture is quite handsomely lensed by Thomas Newton Sigel. But by the time the finale comes around you'll have forgotten what happened at the start - there's almost nothing to hang on to. Competent but it severely lacks any kind of heart or shred of originality.
2015 / Directed. Peyton Reed.
Review by Glenn Cochrane
ANT-MAN is my type of comic book movie. It's that quirky blend of action and comedy that bucks the trend and provides much needed alleviation from the saturation of blockbuster pummel flicks. I had low expectations going into it but had positive suspicions all the same based on the promotional art. There is no doubt about it, I had a blast with this one. Yes, I even rubbed my hands with glee at times.
With the same glossy sheen of the other AVENGER-connected Marvel films, ANT-MAN occupies the same world and shares the same threats. Away from Stark Enterprises and the SHEILD corporation lies another tech-industry, founded by a former SHEILD scientiest, Dr Pym (Michael Douglas). For decades he has been developing a suit that shrinks subjects to insect size and doubles their strength at the same time. Aware of the disastrous implications he has kept the discovery secret. Forced out of the company he loses control of the technology's specs and his former protege has diabolical plans to recreate and execute the research. Needing a new man to don the suit he grooms a former cat burglar (Paul Rudd) and trains him to become Ant-Man.
The movie works because of its unconventional nature. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man is an unlikely actor playing an unlikely hero. The very concept of ANT-MAN is ludicrous and director Peyton Reed knows it. With Edgar Wright (THE CORNETTO TRILOGY) on board as one of the lead writers the script has been injected with a crucial dose of self referential humour. The gags hit their marks and every player delivers each punch line with precision. But they've also taken the subject matter seriously where its needed. The conflicts are important and, as with all good super hero movies, the weight of the predicament is heavy. We're also treated to a character with a strong emotional anchor and this is wonderfully explored with some lovely father/daughter moments. The young girl playing Scott Lang's daughter is adorable and sincere. Michael Douglas also brings added clout with one of the best character performances in years. He is a welcome addition to the ever growing list of notable names in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What appealed to me most of all about ANT-MAN was its overall atmosphere. There is something inherently classic about it with world it depicts and the adventures it presents. It plays out like clever jumble of THE ROCKETEER and SMALL SOLDIERS, as well as all of the AVENGER-connected films, most notably IRONMAN. To put it simply, ANT-MAN is fun (a lot of fun) and I rate it above all of the other Marvel films, second only to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Great stuff.
2015 / Director. The Wachowskis.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
While not as catastrophic as some would have you believe, it's not great. The Wachowski's latest is a stock-standard heroes journey, so much so that it's a shade away from being a remake of THE WIZARD OF OZ - with anti-gravity roller skates. Seriously.
It certainly doesn't lack ambition. The film is an amalgam of a half-dozen (better) sci-fi influences. There's more than a hint of DUNE, at times Terry Gilliam's BRASIL gets a look in and there's a pinch Russell Mulchahy's HIGHLANDER too. It wouldn't surprise if Scottish sci-fi scribe Iain M Banks' Culture novels got a thank you note. It's a shame they all side uneasily beside each other rather than being greater than the sum of its parts.
For all of its spectacle (and there's plenty) the picture lacks heart, connection and, at times, logic. Mila Kunis spends the first half of the film being spectacularly useless (and her lazy left eye progressively gets worse too) and Channing Tatum, inexplicably, spends a lot of his time going into battle sans shirt? These small fumbles aside we have to remember this is a sci-fi adventure and since THE MATRIX redefined the action film, how do the siblings hold up in this? Theyre lively, even if they feel like they have been designed by an epileptic kid on speed.
In the end JUPITER ASCENDING feels like a big-budget episode of BABYLON 5 meets FLASH GORDON. Daft fun but completely soulless.
2015 / Director. Philip Martin.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
John Travolta hasn’t been a good actor for a very long time and the fact that his wig upstages him in almost every film speaks volumes. Having had his career resurrected by Quentin Tarantino in the mid 90s, followed by a decade-long high at the top of Hollywood, he has once again found himself in that familiar position of irrelevance. Nothing he makes seems to matter any more and whatever wig of choice adorns his head makes him look like he just stepped off the stage of a London pantomime.
Naturally I take any new Travolta film with a grain of salt and my expectation levels are kept very low. THE FORGER flew under my radar and eluded me right up until the point of picking up the blu-ray with my own hands. The cover art was basic and gave the impression of being a thriller. The synopsis on the reverse side promised a taut and slick heist thriller. The fact that all of this was completely misleading actually worked in its favour. It is not taut and it is not slick… in fact it’s not really a thriller at all.
Travolta plays a criminal art forger who strikes a deal with a local crime boss to get an early release from prison. The condition is that he must recreate one of Monet’s most intricate works of art and switch it with the real piece within three days. And so upon release he gets to work while reconnecting with his teenage son and elderly father. There are circumstances at play that are best left unsaid but suffice to say that THE FORGER plays out as an emotional drama-piece, rather than a crime caper.
John Travolta is good and were it not for the constant distraction of his stupid fucking hairpiece, it would have been a completely convincing performance. He digs deep and the role feels personal. With overarching themes that mirror his own life, it proves to be quite an earnest and courageous performance. He given strong support by Christopher Plummer who plays the aged and bad-ass father/grandfather and Tye Sheridan as the estranged son. I am convinced that Sheridan is one of the greatest young actors going around at the moment and with previous turns in MUD and JOE he is establishing himself as a brilliant young performer who can hold his own against some of Hollywood’s most elite.
THE FORGER is far from being a perfect film and with more attention it could have been great. It’s a little uneven when balancing the two genres and with a stronger focus on the drama (and removal of wig) it could have been an absolute belter. But having said that, I took a lot from it and was pleasantly surprised. It certainly isn't worthy of the criticisms it’s been receiving and is ultimately an unsuspecting dramatic piece with little to no fanfare. Definitely worth the time.
1974 / Director. John Payser.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
John Payser’s THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS announces itself as an exploitation film within seconds. A naked woman graces the screen with her throat slit and her nipples erect. The title cards adorn a grainy backdrop and the camera makes sure to catch every inch of nudity. And so the scene is set for a gratuitous and unapologetic grind house film that holds up as a trashy cult classic with more substance than it ought to have.
An uptight, moralistic religious crusader is working his way through pornographic catalogues and killing the women within it. Ignoring that the ladies live decent and respectable lives in reality, the killer taunts them with preachy, tormenting phone calls before stalking and ultimately slitting their throats with a razor.
THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS is a film that I always knew of but never saw. Watching it for the first time, some thirty plus years since its release, I was genuinely surprised at how well it plays. Being an exploitation film, of course, most of the women appear topless for many of their scenes. I suspect that director John Payser knew that there was some real substance to this story and so he wisely gave the women actual reasons for being nude. Most of the female characters are introduced in environments that would require the removal of clothes. Be it in the wardrobe, bedroom or bathroom. We are given an eyeful of beautiful boobs before their clothes are put back on and the plotline continues.
If you were to remove the peep-show aspects of the film and focus on the story itself, it plays out as a stylish psycho thriller that’s not too far removed from the likes of DIRTY HARRY or any number of gritty hardcore thrillers of the 1970s. There are echoes of Brian De Palma and Alan J Pakula throughout the film with subtle winks at Hitchcock and Argento. The kills are brutal and beautifully conceived. We are introduced to victims well ahead of their final moments and we get a look into their lives, as though they were central characters. I found myself so wrapped up in their own individual stories that I forgot that they were secondary characters with a violent fate looming over them. When the killer strikes his lethal blow, the bloodletting is graceful and creative and far too glorious for an exploitation film.
There’s no shortage of films of this type and the 1970s were riddled with them. These titles were made quickly and cheaply with mass consumption in mind. Drive-in theatres snapped them up and moviegoers flocked to them. THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS struck to the brief and delivered nudity and gore, while also offering unsuspecting viewers a taut and merciless thriller with a vibrant production design and a creepy as fuck psycho killer. This is the good stuff.
A small Australian distribution company called Glass Doll Films have put their money into this film and have produced an amazing blu-ray edition, complete with an in depth booklet and a fantastic audio commentary from two American podcasters. This isn’t the sort of detail I would ordinarily put into a review, however, the attention to detail they have given THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, as well as the amount of restoration put into this release deserves acknowledgement. If you decide to watch this film then this is the release to look for.
2015 / Director. Tom Green.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
Gareth Edwards original 2011 film was a deft, ultra low-budget sleight-of-hand that wasn't actually about the titular monsters. Instead it followed a blossoming, albeit difficult, romance between a journalist and a tourist as they navigate a world that now just happens to have monsters in it.
Tom Green's (no, not that Tom Green) feature-debut follow up, set 10yrs after the first film, tries to pull the same rabbit from the same hat but never quite gets its emotional tentacles in the same way. The monsters are now global-roaming and America's troubled involvement in the Middle East (yes, they're still there 10 years from now) has become compounded by their presence. With a rise of insurgency in the area, the military send in green draftees to help police the region, but after the team is decimated during an attack the survivors must hoof it through hostile, monster-infested territory to safety.
Unlike Edward's $500k MONSTERS there really is nothing new here. Sure there's a budget this time around but the first half is just a collection of any new-to-war-grunt cliches you can think of; they party the night before deployment, there's plenty of hoo-rahs and chest-bumping before the realities of war set in and so-on-and-so-forth. Oddly, it's not until the second act that things get a little livelier, at least on the character front. Beliefs are tested and psyches strained.
The trouble is, we've seen this half before too, in Edward's superior take on the world. If all this wasn't bad enough the film overstays its welcome by at least 20 minutes. Excessive bullet exchanges become a bore as does the countless shots of soldiers wandering through the desert. Needless to say, Green's film could have really used a heavier hand in the edit.
If there is a plus side it's that the CGI convinces (albeit, they seem less impressive given Gareth Edwards designed and rendered the first film's nasties himself in his own bedroom on his own laptop). Clearly, a lot of work has gone into the ETs, lending them a realistic cadence and weight that seems to be missing so often in other CGI monster-mashes. Couple this with Green's impressive eye for composition (who knew two soldiers waiting out a dust-storm next to a motorbike could look so good?) and there's (barely) enough momentum to help you limp through the overwrought two hour run time.
Not catastrophic but that's hardly a recommendation either.
2013 / Director. Roger Christian.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Due to no fault of their own some films just get lost in the fold. Whether it’s a lack of star power or complications with distribution (and various other factors) sometimes perfectly good movies just miss the mark and fall into obscurity. PRISINORS OF THE SUN is one example.
To the average moviegoer this film has the appearance of typical low-rent DTV title with the deceptive key-art of a MUMMY knock-off; however, to a genre geek it has a higher pedigree than meets the eye. It was written by Peter Atkins (Hellraiser 2-4, Wishmaster) and Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Hellraiser 3, Warlock: Armageddon) and was directed by Roger Christian (Battlefield Earth, Masterminds, Nostradamus). And the fact that Uwe Boll produced it probably doesn't bode well in its favour either.
Set in Egypt, the story takes place at an archaeological dig where a multinational expedition is underway to unearth a mythological lost city beneath the sand. The legends tell of an alien race having resided over Egypt 5000 years ago and their attempts to overthrow the planet were thwarted by a powerful and aggressive Egyptian army. Locked within the depths of a pyramid temple the aliens lay hidden from the world until the moment when their planet aligns with Earth once more, upon which they will ascend. We follow the carefully selected team as they race against time to find the hidden pyramid and keep the alien foes at bay. Of course not all is as it seems and personal agendas are exposed.
PRISONERS OF THE SUN is a surprisingly polished film with wonderful set designs, fantastic digital FX and a taut script that avoids loads of obvious clichés. It plays out like an INDIANA JONES story with a strong science fiction crux and a moderate amount of horror. The violence is modest but, at times, confronting and elevates the movie from a family-friendly affair to an adult-oriented treasure hunt adventure.
The film was made in 2007 but never received a release of any kind until 2013 when it earned a very limited theatrical run before a discreet nudge into the home entertainment market. With a generous budget floating around $20,000,000 and an under whelming lead cast it’s fair to assume that most of that money went into the SFX. John Rhys Davis and Joss Ackland are hardly draw-card names and had the film boasted a stronger talent, it may have performed very well.
2013 / Director. Griff Furst.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Griff Furst cut his directorial teen with The Asylum on titles such as UNIVERSAL SOLDIERS and I AM OMEGA before going on to direct similarly schlocky movies like LAKE PLACID 3, SWAMP SHARK and ARACHNOQUAKE. He has become a go-to guy for low-rent, schlock-laden B-fare and he's notching up an impressive resume of some of the tackiest films in recent memory. It's important to note that he's also a notable actor who's appeared in films like FOCUS, THE LOFT, and TERMINATOR GENISYS amongst others.
One his recent stinkers is RAGIN CAJUN REDNECK GATORS and I mean “stinker” in an endearing way. Set in the bayous of Louisiana we follow a community of rednecks as they find themselves fending off a congregation of mutant alligators. And we're not just talking the typical run-of-the-mill creature feature mutant gators... we're talkin' about hybrids. They've mutated from a bad batch of local moonshine that's been dumped into the swamps and anyone who's bitten ends up mutating into one. Yep, humanoid gators!!
The absurdity levels shoot through the roof with this hysterically bad creature feature that boasts some of the worst digital FX to grace the screen since THE LAWNMOWER MAN 2. The gators are poorly realised computer composites and the blood flows so digitally that the zoom button is bound to reveal big chunky pixels. On the flips side whenever characters actually intereact physically with the creatures they are up against some of the flimsiest styrofoam and latex since BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND.
The strength of RAGIN CAJUN REDNECK GATORS is in its self-awareness. Nothing is played for legit and everyone involved knows exactly what type of movie they're making. From the hilarious script to the hysterical caricatures of redneck simpletons. Crazy eyes, bucked teeth and twang-accents light up the screen while conversations about moonshine and gumbo take precedence over all other pressing matters.
Griff Furst has made many bad movies on purpose. He understands the niche audience that devour this brand of tripe and he proudly considers himself one of them. There is little room for criticism when it comes to this stuff because anyone can shoot fish in a barrel. If the title RAGIN CAJUN REDNECK GATORS wasn't a neon flashing warning sign for you, then suffer in your jocks for being so fucking stupid.
2015 / Director. Henry Dobson.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
They all do it eventually. Jumping off buildings and shooting people in the face gets old, the body can't keep up and like an elite sportsman moving into commentary so too do the action stars of the 80s move into serious drama.
So, then, the question on everyone's lips is, how does Schwarzenegger fare? Does he have the chops?
In MAGGIE he plays Wade Vogel, devoted family man and father to runaway teen, Maggie (Abigail Breslin). Trouble is, America has been decimated by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns those infected into cannibalistic, brain-chomping zombies. After a two week search Maggie turns up in a hospital, infected with the virus and Wade brings her home to stay by he side as she slowly slips away.
Much like Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, MAGGIE takes a huge subject (the end of civilisation, forchristsake) and personalises it by boiling it down to one family's struggle. The Vogels live a life of almost complete isolation and while they share the problems of the world, their problems are their burden to bare.
First time feature director Henry Hobson has crafted a dense, tabacco-stained and textured world, one on the edge of destruction that's barely clinging on to the humanity it has left - much like the Vogels. It's a stark film that starts with a sombre tone and only gets darker. Even the moments of levity, when they do come, are undermined by an overwhelming sense of impending doom and the increasingly macabre behavior of Maggie. Hobson, with his limited budget, has cleverly managed to conjour a world on the brink with the occasion shot of burning, arid farmlands and perpetually stormy, grey skies.
So, to answer the burning question, 'how does Arnie do'? The answer is 'surprisingly well'. His portrayal of Wade is one of genuine love and adoration for his daughter and of complete vulnerability. He's not perfect, however. Once or twice the material means he over-stretches his talents but it's good to see him succeed more than he fails. Hobson, wisely, never harks back to his action-star repertoire even when Arnold is brandishing a shotgun for self-defence. Wade is not a hero, he's scared and he's lost and Schwarzenegger has his mallet-sized hands all over it. There's no cheeky winks to the viewer, no quips. He has a genuine connection with the audience, and that is more that can be said for a lot of his contemporaries.
Breslin and Joely Richardson round out the supporting cast. Breslin turns on the charm for the infected Maggie, easily flitting between regular girl to terrified teenager knocking on the door of a horrendous death. Richardson has less room to move as the terrified step-mother doing what she can for Maggie through a constant fear and wariness of the condition - the Yin to Wade's fiercely protective Yang.
Maggie will get viewers in purely on curiosity factor alone but arguably its bulky leading man is more successful in drama than he was in comedy. The film's not perfect and you'll be left feeling robbed of a decent ending, which is a shame given the groundwork that came before it, but it's perhaps still worth a butchers to satisfy that inquisitive part of your noodle.
We'll have to wait and see what Arnie's next step will be but if Maggie is an indicator of potential then bring it on.