Archive for the 'fiction' Category

14
Mar
10

Kick-Ass!!!!

Got to see this superb movie about two weeks back, and at last I can tell people about it.
My review on Den of Geek is here.

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10
Apr
08

Buzzzzzzz….Blu-ray review of The Fly

Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid…it’s my review of the Blu-ray release of The Fly….here

15
Sep
07

My Top 10 totally wasted film franchises

Counting down from the top, here are my 10 most disappointing attempts to convert some prior source material into new film franchise.

10. Catwomen (2004)

I’d read a few negative comments about this production before I saw it, but little prepared me for how utterly dreadful it is. What confused me entirely was that the title suggests a connection to the Bob Kane character, but what’s presented in it has as much to do with him as the carton series ‘Top Cat’. And, any delusions that winning an Oscar gives you some protection when you make a turkey soon evaporated for Halle Berry when this opened.

9. Van Helsing (2004)

This one is a bit weird, because it draws on the work of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly and others, but curiously the Van Helsing in this movie isn’t the one that’s detailed in the Dracula book. The true source material is the 1930s Universal Studio monster movies, but whatever the origins it stunk. Much of the movie is entirely unwatchable as there is very little logic or connection between progressive scenes. Had Stephen Sommers given it the light and deft touch he’d used on the first Mummy movie it could have easily been a whole new outlet for High Jackman, but instead he used his mallet of sloppy film making to entirely trash it.

8. The Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

With Barry Levinson directing, assisted by Frank Marshal, Steven Speilberg, and Henry Winkler producing, and the entire wealth of Conan Doyle’s archetypal detective Holmes, how could it go wrong? Big time, I’d suggest. I can’t really blame the cast, most of whom seemed well suited to their character rolls, with Nicholas Rowe being very good as the young Holmes. But parts of this production play like a weird Victorian version of the Goonies. It was an interesting premise, actually contradicted by Doyle’s own work, but ultimately an attempt to start a franchise that failed miserably.

7. The Saint (1997)

There are parts of this movie I enjoy, but what’s it got to do with the Leslie Charteris character? Not much from what I can recall of the novels, 1940’s George Sanders movies and his later TV incarnations with Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy. The entire premise that the Saint was once a man who lived on the wrong side of the law, but is has chosen to fight crime seems entirely lost in this movie with Val Kilmer making the Roger Moore eyebrow acting seem positively expressive. The limp performance of this Saint at the global box-office means this franchise will need at least three miracles to be resurrected.

6. Lost in Space (1998)

It looked like converting this icon of 1960s TV for the big screen would be a challenge, but it turned out to be more of one than those assembled to make it could handle. Personally I love some of the design work in this production, but the performances of the actors and the script are not remotely up to the job. This was Matt LeBlanc’s only real stab at movie stardom, and it fell entirely flat, much like his career. Danger Will Robinson, this franchise is lost!

5. The Avengers (1998)

With what looked like interesting casting, and some amazing source material this could have been fantastic. But instead it was an utter fiasco, the likes of which I’m still coming to terms with. Sir Sean Connery should have kept the teddy bear outfit on for the whole dreadful proceedings and claimed he was never in it.

4. Æon Flux (2005)
If you’ve never seen the original animated version of this created by Korean American animator Peter Chung then you missed plenty, as it’s a curious blending of the stylised science fiction popularised by ‘Heavy Metal’ and hardcore animé. But the film version carries virtually none of these qualities with any success, and is a wholly abysmal celluloid experience despite having the stunning Charlize Theron in the lead roll. In most episodes Æon dies at the end, but this franchise was the fatality here.

3. Planet of the Apes (2001)

This is an almost unique scenario where an amazing film spawns a franchise that then is run into the ground. Then years later it’s relaunched and crashes a the first hurdle. Given the advances in effects since the 1968 original this could have been something special, but they appear to have started this movie without a script, and it ended before they’d rectified that. What didn’t help was people asking director Tim Burton what it was actually about and him replying ‘What do you think it’s about?’, while being interviewed to promote this drivel. Amazing potential, flushed down the toilet of film franchise.

2. Judge Dredd (1995)
While Arnhuld was the obvious choice for Dredd not too many people winced when they heard it had gone to Stallone, but they positively recoiled when they saw what had become of this British comic classic. In a film that swayed wildly between comic camp and a cop buddy actioner it managed to avoid hitting any of the potential target audience that enjoyed the comic, or science fiction for that matter. A mess of a movie where the events make little sense, and the characters would appreciate being one dimensional. I’d love to blame Rob Schneider, but he’s just gristle in the meat grinder that is Judge Dredd.

1. Thunderbirds (2004)
Given the richness of the source material this was a diabolical trashing of a franchise almost without precedent. Despite the potential to tap into an adult audience, like Transformers, Jonathon Frakes focused instead on the child friendly aspects, making the kids the leads. Too many kids, too many characters, not enough Thunderbirds action and Ben Kingsley playing Widow Twankie. The end result; a complete turkey. You might have directed the best Trek movie of recent times, but Please Mr Frakes, stay away from any other of my childhood memories.

17
Aug
07

The Bourne Ultimatum Reviewed

Bourne UltimatumGosh, I’m still in a little shock. This summer’s blockbusters, or the ones I’ve seen, have all very much followed a pattern, of being mildly entertaining while not actually delivering on their promise. It’s not like that’s amazing, but the contrast is dramatically enhanced when one comes along that does, and do so in such an in-your-face way. The Bourne Ultimatum delivers on some many levels that it shouldn’t be compared with the Hollywood vehicles it’s competing or even the films that preceded it.
Interestingly, Paul Greengrass directed Bourne Supremac, which I enjoyed but isn’t remotely like this one. Yes it has many of the same characters, but Greengrass has unleashed some sort of directing demon with himself here. For starters he’s had the audacity to make the entire film, for it’s 111minute running time, a chase. Like Jason Bourne, the chase is unforgiving, unrelenting and utterly gripping. From the previous outings we’ve had hints at know how good Bourne is, but in this one we get to see him at his most clinical, tactical and incisive. In many ways it was entirely reminiscent of Ian Flemming’s conceptual James Bond; a person at the peak of mental and physical fitness, able to use the clarity of thought and purpose to achieve almost super-human tasks. Where the Bond franchise left this aspect begin, in Bourne it’s what grounds the movies in a type of hyper-reality where any person is just a split second away from death or serious injury in his presence.
Bourne’s quest, to discover his real identity, is ironically progressed by the same forces that so wish to keep this secret. The more they try to take him down, and the people around him, the more they propel him onwards. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you, and where it ultimately takes us, and him. But the end of a film completes a perfect circle that started with Jason Bourne falling shot from Wombosi’s boat at the start of Bourne Identity.
But along the way we’re blessed with some set sequences of breaktaking action, tension and drama. The reality as presented of a fluid battlefield of intelligence may be nothing like the real thing, but it seems frighteningly real. ‘Assets’ are called into use, positioned chess like, and then ‘activated’. We get to see through Bourne’s eyes the threats around us, and how best to deal with them. Each door or window is a possible escape route, object a projectile, vehicle a means of pursuit or lethal weapon. The movie takes us inside the Jason Bourne mindset and manacle’s us their for the entire running time.
And, in the end I was left desperately wanting more, which is exactly the way it should be. After this episode I can see the studio’s not wanting to let this franchise die, but they’ve now used up the Ludlum source material and entire motivation for Bourne to go on. Their are two other Bourne books by another writer, but the danger is that they’ll carry on until they mess it up. I’d rather they stopped now, while they’re significantly ahead, than produce another inferior chapter.
If you only get to see one movie this year, make it The Bourne Ultimatum.

08
Aug
07

Jack Bauer rings PC technical support…

The Following takes place between 9:18am and 9:21am

Jack: My name is Jack Bauer; I work as an Agent with the Counter-Terrorism Unit. I’m having difficulty with this laptop you sold me, and it’s imperative that it works. It’s a matter of national security!
Support: What seems to be the problem?
Jack: The machine won’t boot, it contains information that might stop a terrorist incident, the chemical formula of a cure for cancer and people’s lives depend on me.
Support: Was the machine dropped or has it got wet?
Jack: I believe it was struck by .762 calibre copper jacketed round at a range of approximately 426 yards by a Lithuanian hit man, named Viktoras Skarbalius. And the bullet is lodged between the F2 and F3 keys. It is also slightly damp, as I left in it an airline locker with the severed head of Columbian drug dealer overnight. Please hurry, lives are at risk!
Support: Do you have your warranty information handy?
Jack: Er…no…is that important?
Support: I’m sorry we need to confirm that the computer in question was under warranty and the software on it was fully licensed.
Jack: Damn it!!!!I haven’t got time for this!!! People will die if you don’t help me – NOW!
Support: We’ve found some copies of the documents, but I’m afraid you’re not covered for attempted assassination or the bleeding of a 3rd party. We can arrange for the computer to be collected and repaired if you can give me your credit card details.
Jack: (silence)
Support: Sir, are you still there?
Jack: (silence)
Support: Hello?
Jack: I’ve traced your location using a re-tasked military satellite. I’ve got your exact position within 20 feet. If you don’t tell me how to get this computer working in the next 30 seconds I’m going to ring the President and get him to order a tactical nuclear strike on your location. Do…you…under…stand?
Support: Must I remind you that our phone calls are recorded for training purposes.
Jack: I don’t care. We have a national security crisis, fix my laptop NOW or DIE!
Support: Ok, but I want immunity from prosecution, signed by the Sectary of State, $10m in untraceable barrow bonds, and a real girlfriend.
Jack: Grrr….DAMN IT!
Support: That’s the deal, take it or leave it!
Jack: Ok, ok…how fast can you get to me? That information is vital in the fight against America’s enemies!
Support: How does 24 hours sound?
Jack: (the unmistakable sound of a semi-automatic pistol being cocked)
05
Aug
07

Empathy – BBC Drama

Stephen MoyerComing hot on the heals of Jekyll, the BBC has now released Empathy, which they describe as a ‘Supernatural Thriller’. I watched the first episode last night, and it wasn’t bad. It features the excellent, if a little typecast, Stephen Moyer as ex-convict, but actually-a-nice-person Jimmy Collins. Who at the start of this story is released from prison to an uncertain future. What he didn’t expect was to start experiencing visions when he touches people, or objects, which he does from the moment he walks out the gate.
This leads him to become a suspect in a murder investigation, when his brushes past a person connected indirectly to the death of a young women. Assuming his knowledge of the crime is first hand, the Police lock him up again, before a second murder proves he’s not responsible. Best acting performances go to Mr Moyer and the excellent Amber Beattie as his estranged daughter Amy. My only concern is that so far this appears to be a complete conceptual lift of the classic Stephen King novel, movie and TV show ‘The Dead Zone’.
This looks very like a pitch for an entire series, but I see only one 90 minute production so far. Perhaps if it comes back we’ll get him shaking the hand of Gordon Brown yet.
Overall, entertaining enough if not massively original so far.

29
Jul
07

Jekyll Episode 6 – revelations

JekyllGosh, what a twisted mind Steven Moffat has! And, I say that in the nicest possible way. The ultimate episode of Jekyll aired just 11 hours ago, and I’m still trying to digest everything he managed to pack into an explosive 60 minutes.

So many unexpected outcomes, developments and plot pirouettes, where to begin? First I’d like to say that despite my misgivings about Episode 4, overall this was a taught exercise that griped the viewer with it’s clever conundrums and sleek performances. Top of the acting accolades must go to James Nesbitt, who moves transformation unhindered between Dr. Jackman and Mr. Hyde with consummate ease. On a least a half dozen occasions, he had a least one leg in ‘Jekyll the Panto’, but managed to stop himself sliding into utterly wild farce. I can’t wait for any Hyde out-takes, I bet they’re hilarious. The other solid performance came from Gina Belman, who’s character obviously revelled in the idea of no-consequence adultery as a side order to the mayhem. Denis Lawson did a sterling job as the duplicitous Syme’s, especially where prior to his demise he tried to justify his actions to Jackman/Hyde.

So back to Episode 6, was it the finale we’d wanted? To a degree yes, but it slightly took it’s foot off the accelerator in the final stretch. The opening was a masterpiece of genre manipulation, where we go back a year in time and see the organisation that pursued Jekyll finding the toughest mercenary they can find, and installing him and his highly tuned troops in their top secret location. He’s built up as a complete psychopath, killing his own men in training. We then flip forward to the main time line to see Hyde dispatch him like he’s nothing, 4 minute intro – 2 second death. At this point I was already chuckling, Hyde like, at what other film conventions Moffat potentially might mutilate.
It wasn’t a long wait. I don’t think Moffat likes child actors, perhaps he finds creating their dialogue tiresome, or something. Cue two matching miniature metal caskets, like the one they placed Jackman in, and that’s them and their sticky fingers sorted for the majority of the proceedings. Mrs Jackman wasn’t too happy about this, as you might imagine, and reminded anyone who’d listed then her husband was coming, and he wouldn’t be happy either. No shit, Mrs Jackman!
Normally in these dramas unless it serves the plot the revelations are held for the penultimate, or final scenes, but their where so many in this piece they soon came thick and fast. The nice grey haired old lady re-appeared and helped Mrs Jackman escape, guiding her to the secret 7th basement floor, where bad things have been happening. Here she see the failed genetic attempts to make Hyde, using DNA they’ll collected years before. So was Jackman another successful clone? Err…amazingly no. He was an throwback, a direct descendent of Jekyll, from a line fathered by Hyde. But, and this was really the unexpected bit, they’d realised early on that the Hyde effect was something of a binary weapon. It required Jekyll’s DNA, and Mrs Jackman’s presence to work. So realising they had a ‘Jekyll’ they got hold of poor housemaid Alice’s DNA, and made themselves a clone catalyst – Mrs Jackman.
That tied up so many loose ends in one fell swoop, and less than 30 minutes in, it then let you wondering what Mr Moffat was holding back, and it was a doozie.
But by now I was missing Hyde, and his return wasn’t far away. His first manifestation is to invade the minds of everyone in the building, sending them an unusually polite message inviting them to run away, or die. Unsurprisingly really, some did run.
Syme’s is the first to die, and in a somewhat fitting manner, leaving only the horrible American women, the cancer riddled head of security and a handful of mercenaries to dispatch. They all meet on the 7th floor for a final confrontation. Before this we’ve given one crucial piece of the puzzle about Hyde and Jackman, where it’s explained that it’s possible for one of them to be injured, which the other doesn’t experience, conveniently. I’d of been more comfortable with this information had it been revealed earlier in the series, rather than jack-in-the-box’d on us now.
Unexpectedly only one other then person dies, and it’s Hyde perforated with machine gun bullets, everyone else lives, including Jackman bizarrely!
Again expectations where built up, paraded, and then slaughtered in entirely unexpected ways. This tangent had me more than slightly suspicious, that Moffat’s original intention was to have a much darker and disturbing ending. But that senior BBC production, having seen the completed episodes held out the carrot of a second series, if he could keep Jackman alive. This may, or may not be the case, but enough hints where packed into the last ten minutes to suggest it’s at least a possibility, if not an absolute certainty.
Anyway, Moffat has one last flourish in his magic hat to pull out, which involves the old lady and the American women, which I won’t spoil. But it ends the series on more of a cliffhanger than a resolution, encouraging me further to think Jekyll 2 is on the cards.
Overall, not as weird and twisted as Episode 5, but jolly entertaining all the same. Somehow I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Jackman, Hyde or Nesbitt. But I must stop writing now, their seems to be something wrong with the electrics today, the lights just flickered…




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