Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Predestination (2015): Review

Predestination is a 2015 time travel movie. Directed by the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers) and starring Ethan Hawke (Sinister, The Purge), Sarah Snooke (Jessabelle) and Noah Taylor (Submarine). The film was originally completed in 2014 and has been distributed over the last few years.

The movie opens with a "temporal agent" (Hawke) trying to prevent an explosion planted by "the fizzle bomber", resulting in horrific facial burns. The agent then travels back to 1970s New York where he poses as a bartender in order to recruit John/Jane (Snooke). Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the elaborate life story of Jane and how her life was ruined by one particular man. The agent offers to take Jane back in order to kill the individual on the condition that she take over his position in the Temporal Agency. She agrees, and the agents continue to bounce back and forth in time in an effort to stop both the man who ruined Jane's life as well as the fizzle bomber so that the agent may retire to mid 70s New York and live happily ever after.

Predestination is a slick and clever little sci fi movie and draws influence from indie movies like primer (2004) whilst also aiming for big budget stock like Minority Report (2002). I liked that there was no preamble and it threw you right in at the deep end to begin, with the time being taken to explain key points further down the line. The story is your usual time travel fare with some neat twists and plenty of paradoxes and strands set out in order to keep you thinking long after the credits roll. Extra praise should also be given for getting so much out of so few characters.

In terms of pacing, there were some problems, particularly with the amount of time being devoted to the flashback sequences versus how much actual time travel action occurred. As a result, the 3rd act feels a little rushed and underdeveloped and, when the film ended, I didn't really feel that it had been resolved to it's full potential. For example, what do the spacecorp do and how does Mr Robertson (Taylor) factor in to the bigger picture? I was also able to see several of the plot twists coming but maybe I've seen too many time travel movies for my own good.

Fans of time travel and convoluted sci fi (what I call "pen and pad sci fi") will get a kick out of this and it is an effective blend of the genre with more noir sensibilities in the tradition of Phillip K Dick. By the same token, There's nothing massively new on offer here and some of the more potentially mind bending twists ended up feeling a little predictable (I had the same feelings on Synchronicity earlier in the year). It sticks in the mind for a few hours but nowhere near as long as a good time travel movie should.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the movie? Are you a time travel fan?

Monday, 27 June 2016

"Morgan" gets a 2nd trailer

Upcoming sci fi thriller Morgan has released a 2nd trailer this week. The directorial debut of Luke Scott (and being produced by his father Ridley), the film boasts an impressive cast in the form of Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Paul Giamatti (John Dies at the End). 

There seems to be a genetically engineered angle here and it reminds a little of Splice (2009) and Ex Machina (2015), let's just hope it doesn't end up like Lucy (2014). The movie drops in September, check it out...

What do you think of the trailer? How do you think Luke Scott will do?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Superior Remakes #5:The Thing (1982)

The Thing is a 1982 sci fi horror film. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, They Live) and starring Kurt Russell (Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China), Keith David (they Live) Wilford Brimley (Cocoon) and Thomas G Waites (The Warriors). The film is a remake of 1951's The Thing from another World as well as an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.

Set in an Antarctic research station, the film opens with a neighboring Norwegian helicopter chasing a husky into their camp in an attempt to kill it. Puzzled by this, MacReady (Russell) takes a few men to investigate the Norwegian camp only to find it abandoned apart from a bizarre twisted corpse. After realising that the Norwegians had uncovered an extraterrestrial being in the ice, the thing begins to work it's way through their ranks, imitating and assimilating. After uncovering the science behind the creature's behavior, Blair (Brimley) goes mad and it is down to the rest of the team to figure out which of them is human, and which of them is the thing.

Released to little fanfare in 1982, the studios blamed E.T and Blade Runner, The Thing has gone on to achieve cult status and quite rightly be hailed as a masterpiece. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with the work of John Carpenter, a man who produced several masterpieces at the peak of his powers, and also marks the high point of Carpenters numerous collaborations with Kurt Russell. The film has all the qualities you expect from a Carpenter film: crawling steadicam shots, creeping atmosphere and a tremendous score (This was actually credited to Ennio Morricone but has Carpenter's style all over it). The cast are also on top form and, although there may be a few characters too many, really capture the wild eyed suspicion that defined the novella.

Amidst the ground-breaking special effects work being done by Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) and Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) at the time, Rob Bottin is a name that seems to have been lost in the shuffle and that is a real crime. Only 23 years of age at the time, Bottin's special effects are mind boggling and helped to create many memorable visuals that have been burned onto people's retinas for decades. I'm still unable to figure out how many of the creature effects were achieved and this could not (and in the case of 2011's remake in disguise, would not) be done better with CGI.

As a remake, it is vastly superior over Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World, a film which unfortunately relied upon a walking vegetable as it's monster. As an adaptation, it takes all the interesting cold war paranoia found in Campbell's novella whilst cutting through the dry, and needlessly complicated, science of the alien. The Thing is a perfect horror film, a perfect science fiction film and proof that, in the hands of a master, remakes can be superior indeed.

***** 5 Stars

What do you think of The Thing? Have you seen the original?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

New Nic Cage Horror on the Way

The prolific, if wildly inconsistent, Nicolas Cage is turning his hand to horror once again under the direction of Brian Taylor (Crank, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Entitled "Mom & Dad", Cage plays the dad in a scenario where some unknown force causes the parents to turn on their own children.

Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions, Hellboy) will be completing the titular pair with shooting scheduled to start in the next month. Hopefully there won't be a repeat of the dismal Spirit of Vengeance and we'll get some vintage Cage lunacy more in keeping with the spirit of Crank.

What do you think of the project? Are you a Cage fan?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hardcore Henry (2016): Review

Hardcore Henry is a 2016 action film. Written and directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Sharlto Copley (District 9, Chappie), Haley Bennett (The Equalizer) and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs). The movie is filmed almost entirely in the first person perspective using GoPro cameras.

The film opens from the pov of the titular cyborg Henry as he's strapped down in a mysterious laboratory and being tended to by his wife Estelle (Bennett). Things quickly take a turn for the worse as the lab is stormed by evil telekinetic albino Akan, as he has come to take back his technology ie Henry. Following a spectacular plummet from the lab (that's right, we're on an aeroplane) Henry is forced to go on the run in Moscow as almost everybody tries to kill him. His only hope is the chameleon like Jimmy (Copley), who appears in a variety of guises in order to help Henry survive, kill the bad guy and get the girl.

Hardcore Henry feels like someone watched the pov sequences in Robocop(1987) and Terminator (1984) and thought, hang on...we can do more with this! And indeed that's what the opening scenes feel like with Henry being "rebuilt" before your very eyes. However, as soon as Henry drops out into the real world, the pace picks up in a very big and very modern way and we are plunged head first into a post The Raid (2011) world of action. In fact, I don't feel I can really get across just how frantic the pace is in this movie, it barely lets up for a single minute! You might think that would get old after a while but it really doesn't and the well crafted pace and momentum of the film is what keeps it fun and thoroughly entertaining throughout.

The only problem with having an unseen and unheard protagonist is that there is no character to relate to during all this mayhem, that's where Copley steps in! Adding another impressive performance to his collection, Copley plays a dozen different versions of the same character called Jimmy (for reasons which I won't reveal) ranging from an angry punk to a WW2 Tommy and is absolutely the glue that holds the movie together. Sure, the Akan character is a fun twist on the typical Russian supervillain but the various appearances of Jimmy help to keep the movie interesting where otherwise it might lapse into repetitive parkour and gunplay. A particular musical number towards the end of the film performed by half a dozen Jimmys is proof alone of the actors huge talents and should garner awards interest.

Almost a live action video game, that you can't play but very much feel a part of, Hardcore Henry is a groundbreaking genre piece that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in a modern day action movie as well as in filmmaking as a whole. I haven't had this kind of jaw dropping action experience since the masterpiece that is The Raid 2(2014), and even then, this offers a lot more in the way of levity and humour. The most fun you can have while pretending to be a cyborg super soldier!

***** 5 Stars

What did you think of the movie? Did you like the pov style?

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Alexandre Aja Returns to the Director's Chair

Acclaimed French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D) is making his return to screens this September with the upcoming "The 9th Life of Louis Drax". His first directorial effort since 2013's Horns, the film will star Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey) and is adapted from a best-selling novel by Liz Jenson.

The story will centre around a 9 year old boy, the titular Drax, who survives a brush with death which his Doctor (Dornan) becomes involved in and reveals there are larger forces at work.

What do you think of the upcoming movie? Are you a fan of Aja?

Friday, 17 June 2016

TMMDI mid-year Top Ten

 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year so far full of quality genre movies, adaptations and pseudo sequels in the form of my favourite film 10 Cloverfield Lane. 

It's also been a strong year in terms of original properties and tedious, cash in sequels have been kept to a minimum (depending on your perspective of Cloverfield Lane). Time will tell if these movies will make the cut by the end of the year...
1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

2. The Witch

3. High Rise

4. Nina Forever

5. The Ones Below

6. Midnight Special

7. The Other Side of the Door

8. Hush

9. Synchronicity

10. Cell

What's your favourite film of the year so far? What movies have I missed out on?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

New Alien: Covenant image

The steady stream of Alien: Covenant promotional images continues this week with a look at Scott and Fassbender in action, as well as a glimpse at some of the costume design. As you can see, the helmet is much more similar to the design in the original Alien movie, perhaps suggesting we have advanced much closer to those events in the time since Prometheus (2012)

Also noticeable, is David's (Fassbender) dark hair in contrast to the platinum blonde of Prometheus. This may relate to Sir Ridley confirming there will be 2 Davids in this movie. We'll find out more when the film is released next August.

What do you think of the helmet design? What role do you think the "2 Davids" will play?

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Cell (2016): Review

Cell is a 2016 infected horror movie. Directed by Tod Williams (Paranormal Activity 2) and starring John Cusack (Identity, 1408), Samuel L Jackson (Snakes on a Plane, 1408) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan). The film is an adaptation of the 2006 Stephen King novel of the same name.

The film centres around Clay Riddell (Cusack) an ageing graphic artist on his way back to see his son and estranged wife. He’s interrupted by a violent outbreak at the airport when mobile phone users are suddenly transformed into rabid zombies and start running amok in the city. Riddel manages to escape the airport with the help of train driver Tom (Jackson) and they return to Clay’s home where they also acquire the recently orphaned Alice (Fuhrman). Forced to keep moving, they regroup at a private boys school in the countryside where they learn more about the infected and their hive mind mentality, as well as the mysterious “raggedy man”. Clay is ultimately lured to Kashwak, an area of Maine with no phone signal, where he must try and rescue his son from the techno-zombie mob.

Cell has it’s ideas rooted in the Japanese techno-horror movies of the early 2000s (Pulse, One Missed Call) whilst having a distinct post The Walking Dead feel. The latter of these influences is the more effective as the wandering party dynamic really keeps the momentum moving and the setting fresh. However, some of the ideas relating to the zombies and the way they functioned came across a little more ambitious on the screen than they would on the page. For example, phrases like “phoners”, “rebooting” and “flock killers” make perfect sense within the world that King has created but sound pretty silly out loud.

The re pairing of Cusack and Jackson from the underrated 1408 (2007) is a natural fit and the young Fuhrman shows more potential after the excellent Orphan. Even a brief appearance from exploitation legend Stacy Keach doesn’t go amiss, despite being given some of the most ludicrous dialogue on offer. Sadly, the budget of King adaptations has shrunk somewhat in recent years and the special effects leave a lot to be desired but the sound design is a triumph and the phoners make some truly horrific and original noises. 

Even with the 10 year delay, Cell still feels like a pretty fresh satire of mobile device culture, which has only increased since the novel was written. The film has somewhat been beaten to the punch by the excellent The Signal (2007), but perhaps this was influenced by King’s work itself. A little on the cheesy side at times, this is still a solid zombie/infected movie with a King feel and strong central performances. They just don’t make Stephen King movies like they used to.

*** 3 Stars

What did you think of the movie? How does it rank amongst King adaptations?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Rob Zombie's 31 gets its first trailer

The first official trailer for Rob Zombie's upcoming "31" has been released. Starring Sherri Moon-Zombie, Malcolm McDowell and Jeff Daniel Phillips (the usual bunch) the film follows several carnival workers who are kidnapped and made to compete in a series of horrific challenges to fight for their life. 

Regular readers will know I'm no fan of Zombies work but, with the Halloween remakes behind him, I'm ready to give the polarising director another chance. The film will be released in October of this year.

What do you think of the trailer? Are you a Zombie fan?

Monday, 13 June 2016

John Boyega Joins Pacific Rim 2

The much delayed Pacific Rim Sequel has gained steam in the form of adding British actor John Boyega as the lead. The young actor best known for his turn as stormtrooper-gone-rogue Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and don't forget Attack the Block, will now try his hand at battling the next wave of Kaiju in Legendary's Jaeger vs Kaiju franchise.

Not much else is known, but Boyega will be portraying the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) from the first film with Elba unlikely to return. I wasn't overly enamored with The Force Awakens and can't say that Boyega was particularly memorable in it, however, the acting bar has been set pretty low by Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam so I won't cast aspersions just yet. The film is scheduled for a 2017 release.

What do you think of the casting? Are you a Boyega fan?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Ones Below (2016): Review

The Ones Below is a 2016 Psychological thriller. Directed by David Farr and starring Clemence Posey (In Bruges), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Laura Birn (A Walk among the Tombstones) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Stag). This is the directorial debut for Farr, who wrote Hanna and The Night Manager.

The film revolves around happy couple Kate (Posey) and Justin (Campbell Moore), who are expecting their first child. They are soon joined in their building by similarly pregnant couple Theresa (Birn) and Jon (Morrissey), who move into the flat below them. After a dinner party ends in tragedy, Theresa ends up losing her baby and blames Kate and Justin. They move away in order to grieve and let Kate have her baby without any awkwardness, but soon return to occupy the flat below with all seemingly being forgiven and forgotten. However, all is not as it seems and Kate starts to be driven mad by the surprisingly happy and supportive couple downstairs and it becomes clear that the house isn’t big enough for the both of them.
The Ones Below is a classically made psychological thriller and a throwback to the works of Hitchcock and Polanski. It is particularly reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) in its depiction of post-natal depression in combination with creepy neighbours. The tension is perfectly engineered throughout by way of the chilling, but minimalist, piano score and some truly awe inspiring cinematography. One of my favourite visual elements was the contrast between the grey, washed out couple upstairs and the sunny, pastel coloured couple downstairs (including Morrissey sporting some hideous jumpers).

Posey’s central performance is great and she beautifully conveys that fragile, post-natal state as well as the more unhinged, gaslighted character towards the end of the film. Morrissey plays the typical menacing role that you’d expect from his previous work and Birn is great at pitching her performance right in the middle of polite Scandinavian/psychotic babysnatcher. My only Qualms would be that the plot rattles along a little too quickly at times and it doesn’t always leave enough time for the characters to breathe, sometimes requiring Morrissey and Birn to go from 0 to berserk in 60 seconds.
 Not a massively new premise but a tightly acted, fantastically directed thriller that represents independent British cinema well. It’s easy to see where the film is going from the outset but the way Farr gets there may still surprise you. Satisfyingly bleak and honest in its portrayal of authentic characters dealing with real issues, The Ones Below is a gripping ride that spits in the face of Hollywood happy endings and leaves you with quite the gut punch.
**** 4 Stars
What did you think of the film? Was it too miserable?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Death House teaser trailer

The upcoming horror ensemble "Death House" has received it's very first teaser trailer. Pitched as "The Expendables of horror" the film stars horror legends Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Adrianne Barbou, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton, Felissa Rose, Bill Mosely and is even written by Leatherface himself Gunnar Hansen!

The trailer doesn't give too much away but certainly treats us to a variety of nightmarish images from the super prison designed to house the most evil prisoners of all time. The film is currently scheduled for an October release in the US. Check out the trailer...

What do you think of the trailer? Do you like the idea of so many cast members?

Friday, 3 June 2016

Introducing...Elias Voorhees?

Hot on the news that the upcoming Friday the 13th reboot will indeed be an origin story that reintroduces Pamela Voorhees, it now seems that Jason's long lost father, Elias Voorhees, will also feature. Writer Aaron Guzikowski (best known for 2013's Prisoners) is hard at work at the script and the film is scheduled for a 2017 release. 

As a character that has been conspicuous by his absence in the previous instalments, I think the wild card of Elias Voorhees is just the thing to reinvigorate the franchise and can't wait to see how he factors into the famously close relationship between Jason and his mother.

What do you think of the news? What else do you want to see in the reboot?

Thursday, 2 June 2016

From Hellflix They Came #1: Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet is a 1985 horror film. Directed by Dan Attias and starring Corey Haim (The Lost Boys), Gary Busey (Lethal Weapon), Everett McGill (The People Under the Stairs) and Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather, Lost). The film is Stephen King’s adaptation of his own novella “The Cycle of the Werewolf”.

The film is set in Tarker Mills, a sleepy new England town. Marty (Haim) is a 10 year old boy in a wheelchair with only his crazy Uncle Red (Busey) for amusement. Suddenly the town is gripped by a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by a suspected werewolf. When Sheriff Haller (O’Quinn) fails to uncover the true identity of the beast, and a group of vigilante locals also come up short, Marty and his sister Jane take it upon themselves to solve the mystery. Despite being happy to supply Marty with illegal fireworks and a high powered wheelchair-cum-motorbike (the titular Silver Bullet), uncle red is initially reluctant to believe the bizarre story and help the children. However, after being confronted with hard evidence that the beast walks among them, the three of them devise a plan to end the curse and save the town.

Silver Bullet isn’t one of the better King adaptations, which seems to be an ironic side effect when he adapts his own books, but by no means the worst either. It boasts a really strong cast that holds the film together, particularly the chemistry between Haim and Busey and the movie is a lot of fun, despite not featuring too much of the werewolf (perhaps for the best considering the special effects). There’s a lot of outrageous dialogue, mostly referring to “the cripple”, which hugely dates the film but the sight of Corey Haim (playing a disabled 10 year old) ripping up and down the country lanes on his motorbike is really something to behold.

It’s a shame most of the gore from the book doesn’t really make it into the film but I suppose they were aiming for somewhat of a family friendly horror film. All the subplots are set up well but they do seem to have trouble drawing them together, perhaps another symptom of the book being set over the course of a year. The only thing that really irritated me about the film was the inexplicable voice over by Marty’s sister. There’s no context for the movie being a flashback and the technique is used so infrequently that it makes no sense.

As a werewolf movie, Silver Bullet doesn’t really hit the mark. But as a Stephen King movie, it feels thoroughly authentic and is filled with so much 80s cheese and fantastic performances, you’ll probably forget it’s meant to be a werewolf film. If nothing else, fans of Gary Busey will leave satisfied.

*** 3 Stars

Have you seen Silver Bullet? How does it rank among King adaptations?