Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Murphy's Law (1986)

*Unfortunately this review will be image-less, due to my DVD not playing the movie on my computer.

Jack Murphy is a cop feeling burnt out after a messy divorce. He's drinking a bit too much, and is none too happy with his ex-wife's new vocation as a stripper. Meanwhile, the mysterious Joan Freeman is gunning for Murphy. She murders his ex-wife and her new spouse, and frames the killing on Murphy, who's immediately arrested, with all evidence seemingly pointing to him as the culprit. He's soon able to escape the police, but he has the extreme displeasure of being handcuffed to Arabella McGee, a foulmouthed carjacker and thief who hates Murphy's guts, just like everyone else. Together, the two have to clear Murphy's name before either the police, the vengeful mafia, or the evil Freeman herself catch up with them...

If you're watching a Charles Bronson movie, especially one from the 80's, you can pretty confidently assume that it's gonna be an action-packed bloodbath, and Murphy's Law, despite not being the darkest of films, is the same, although not to the level of stuff like 10 to Midnight or The Evil That Men Do. It's a serious and very violent movie, but it has humour, and it's more of a buddy chase flick than grim police movie. There's not a whole lot of action, given this is more of a chase movie. but what there is is good, and spread evenly across the film. As for the buddy aspect, it's done well! Neither of the lead characters are cardboard buddy cop cutouts, like the tired and cliched old/young, serious/goofy, or by-the-book/maverick pairs, and their relationship is well written, with the two leads sharing decent chemistry, despite being such wildly different characters. They're also not at each-other's throats for the whole movie, which is doubly appreciated. It also helps the movie be less cliched that they're not paired romantically, aside from a bit of flirting later on (and implication at the end).

Murphy's Law has a sense of humour to it that many other Bronson films don't have, and it serves the movie well. It's not hilarious, but the comedy, mainly courtesy of Kathlee Wilhoite's character, is definitely worth a laugh, with a whole barrage of ridiculous insults! Are they good ones? Hell no, but phrases like "snot licking donkey fart", "jizm breath", "scrotum cheeks", "bug sucking booger", "Kiss my pantyhose, spermbank", "Why don't you watch your asshole, asshole!" and "dinosaur dork" are certainly entertaining, especially that last one! The funniest part of the movie is the oddly amusing scene of Bronson proclaiming his dislike for mayonnaise! I don't know what it is about that scene that's so amusing, as it's not anything mindblowing. I guess it's just chuckleworthy hearing Chuck Bronson saying something so mundane with as much passion.

The acting in Murphy's Law is all good. Charles Bronson is obviously in top form here with a fine performance, and delivers Bronson Justice to those who have it coming! You don't fuck with Jack Murphy!

Your mileage may very on whether you find her dialogue funny or irritating, but regardless, Kathleen Wilhoite is a likeable sidekick. Then there's Carrie Snodgress as the villain. She does a great job playing the psycho antagonist! However, while we do get scenes with her sprinkled throughout the movie, they're few and far between, and only one helps flesh her out. Also, when her character's backstory is revealed, it's a little underwhelming. All she did was snap and murder her boyfriend. That's it. That's not exactly the stuff of villainous legend. It's also a bit irksome that Bronson only encounters her at the climax, but thankfully mob boss Vincenzo acts as an extra baddie for Bronson to be at odds with for the majority of the movie's running time. Another annoying aspect is that Freeman is dispatched way too quickly by Bronson at the end when they finally move from the tense cat-and-mouse section of the scene to the actual fight. He just kicks her in the face and she dies almost instantly!

One last thing, I find it amusing that despite having regular sessions with a psychiatric parole officer presumably keeping tabs on her, Freeman is still able to plan her complicated plan for revenge, as well as go on a cross country murder rampage!

Another problem with Murphy's Law is the ending, which is pretty abrupt-There's no real denouement. Attached to this is the fact that the movie ends before we see the main duo being exonerated, and when you think about it, almost everyone who knows of their innocence, be they good or evil, are dead! These two are going to jail!...I kid. I'm sure things turned out fine offscreen, but it is a bit annoying that that aspect is never given proper resolution.

Finally, the score to this movie is very good! It's a fine 80's soundtrack that carries the film well through moments both tense, and low-key. The song that plays over the ending credits is ok, but not all that great though.

Murphy's Law is a typical Charles Bronson vehicle, which is to say it's a damn good movie! I recommend it if you're an action fan!...

The Guardian (1990)

Phil and Kate are a married couple with a newborn son. To cope with their jobs, they hire a nanny to take care of their baby, and at first, things seem to be going well, as the nanny Camilla seems to be a nice and caring woman. Her sinister motivations soon come to light, however, and Phil and Kate will have to fight to keep their baby alive from this supernatural menace...

William Friedkin's The Guardian is a pretty good horror film, but not without many flaws. The movie keeps a good tone, and for a movie that's about a killer tree, it's rarely unintentionally hilarious,  despite amusing things like middle-aged punks who try to rape women in public when in broad daylight, some over-the-top gore scenes, and a character who displays confusion when trying to describe a British accent-"She has an accent, I think. European...British, maybe". Because Dutch or Greek is apparently totally indistinguishable from one of the two most recognizable accents on Earth!

Unfortunately, the movie's leads do barely anything for the first hour! The husband just has a few wet nightmares, and the wife barely does much of anything. The only character in the first two thirds to really be proactive is their architect friend Ned, but unfortunately he's killed off. It's a shame, too, as he goes through so much, yet still dies. Nuts to the others, I want this guy to be the lead! It really is a shame that the movie doesn't focus more on the couple, as a parents' connection to their baby, and the horror of something trying to kill it is a powerful theme to utilize when done correctly. Thankfully when the movie goes in that direction come the last 30 minutes, it's handled pretty well, although having two climaxes was a bit unnecessary.

The Guardian's plot is very lacking, and that's its biggest fault. Who the hell is Camilla?! What is she? What are her plans? Why does she sacrifice babies? What's her connection to the mysterious evil tree? Does she like pina coladas, and all that jazz! With as many rewrites as this film went through, it's extremely annoying that the villain was never given any character! Outside of that, the script is also full of characters we really know nothing about, and there are some elements that are almost brought up, then dropped. The film also has trouble meshing at points, presumably due to the script rewrites making it feel like two separate movies sometimes.

Finally, the title card at the start of the film isn't really appreciated, as the film could have worked better had we not know exactly what's behind the villain's intentions. We know right out of the gate that she's apparently some druid or dryad who sacrifices babies to an evil tree, which is a shame, as that could've been kept a mystery at first, to lend the film some mystique, and make Camilla a more compelling character, with the audience learning her malevolent intentions as the movie goes on, along with the protagonists.

The acting in The Guardian is mostly fine, although the punks are pretty over-the-top. Dwier Brown, Cary Lowell, and Brad Hall are serviceable protagonists, while Jenny Seagrove is the movie's star! She's a great villain, even if the writing doesn't help her along. Seagrove plays the role of the mysterious, deadly, and alluring Camilla well!

William Friedkin's direction here is quite good, with some definitely tense moments! The score also complements the movie well for the most part, lending some eerie moments, while the woodsy/fantasy-ish main theme is decent, and thankfully falls just this short from sounding ill-fitting.

There aren't that many death scenes in The Guardian, but the gore is certainly good! We get plenty of the red stuff with people getting crushed and eaten by trees, or devoured by coyotes. And then there's the gloriously over the top finale, which feels like something right out of an Evil Dead movie, what with the chainsaws, trees, and extremely copious bloodflow!

I'm not sure if I recommend The Guardian. It's certainly watchable, although it doesn't leave much of an impression come the end. You should probably just watch The Hand That Rocks the Cradle instead...

Friday, June 12, 2015

R.I.P. Christopher Lee

We've lost the last of the great horror icons. Christopher Lee was one of the greatest actors to have ever lived, and not only was he a titan in horror (particularly Dracula to a repeated extent, much to his displeasure), but he was also phenomenal in movies of all other genres. Known for his imposing height and strong voice, Lee appeared in films such as the horror classics Dracula, and The Wicker Man, to James Bond entry The Man with the Golden Gun, the Fu Manchu series (he was the best actor to play the character since Karloff), oddball musicals, multiple performances in various different movies as both Sherlock Holmes, and Watson, amusingly bad fare that will go unnamed here, and modern films such as Lord of the Rings. That's only the tip of the iceberg to the hundreds of movies Lee starred or appeared in. The man was not only an incredibly versatile actor, but a fascinating person, with a rich life! Even in his 80's and 90's, he was using his iconic booming voice for heavy metal albums! Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself that there needs to be a heavy metal rendition of My Way or occult versions of Christmas carols sung by Christopher Lee? Well wonder no longer, because Lee, descendant of the great Charlemagne himself, was up for the idea! The world has lost one of its greats, but at least Christopher Lee lived a full and storied life to a ripe old age. I'm sure that right now, he's up in some afterlife having drinks with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, and most importantly, Peter Cushing...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm off on Vacation!

Jesus Christ, did that TV ad seriously just say Xanadu is an all-time classic?! Look, I may not think it's one of the worst films ever made, but I don't think it's that good, and I frankly don't want to be in a country with a channel that thinks so, so effective immediately, I'm going to Europe!...

I'm just kidding. Well, about my reasons for going, anyway. Everything else is true (an all time classic, seriously?!). I am going on a two-month vacation to Europe! I'm leaving tonight, and you may not hear from me until the 1st of June. If I'm able to, I'll get reviews posted, but they'll be imageless until I get back. Until then, I hope to have a great time! See you all later!...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rex: The Early Years (1997)

Can you believe that in four years of blogging, I've never once talked about Inspector Rex? I know right! What the hell is wrong with me?! Actually I have a genuine reason for not having done so in the past, and it's because DVD's from the SBS shop are darn expensive! How expensive, you ask? Well, Stockinger, the Inspector Rex spinoff, costs $80 dollars ($40 per volume, at the least), even though it's only fourteen episodes long!

Ok, I'd better start explaining what exactly I'm talking about. Kommissar Rex is an Austrian TV show that ran from 1994 to 2004, and is a cultural staple in Australia.  And thankfully, Australians aren't racist when it comes to subtitles, so we've always enjoyed the show in its original language rather than go "TWAIN'T NO WANT TA NO READ-READ! SUBTITLES IS FOR BOOKS!" and demand dubbing. We're cool that way. Overall, the show is so popular here that it could be moreso than in its home country!

The show is about Rex, a German Shepard police dog, who's always solving cases with his incredibly intelligence, as well as foiling the love lives of his owners. Rex is an adorable character, and provides a lot of humour and cute antics to the series...A series that's a dark cop show! I'm serious, episodes of Kommissar Rex can get downright morbid, and these are mixed in with nice Rex scenes! Thankfully this never causes a problem, and the series is never tonally awkward. It's too well-written for that.

Rex: The Early Years, or Baby Rex: The Little Inspector, is a made-for-TV origin story for the character. It follows Benny Nachmann, a young kid who adopts Rex after the pup is stolen from his breeder owners by a criminal working for a ruthless businessman named Kainz. Six months later, Benny and Rex go out hiking to investigate a water reservoir, where he realizes that illegal siphoning is occurring...

This is a very entertaining little movie! It tells a well-written story, with plenty of turns, and developments. It never feels like an unnecessary prequel, and it remains true to the spirit of the show. The tone of Rex: The Early Years is more kid-friendly than the TV series, as there's no brutal murders, frequent nudity, or copious bloodshed. Granted, the plot is still adult, as are the majority of characters. In fact, the plot is more adult than most English kids movies, that's for sure! What happens in an American kids movie when the villain is chasing the scamp of a lead? He'll try and tie him up, or lock him in a room. What does the villain in Rex: The Early Years do? He tries to gun the child down, and then he sticks him in a refrigerator to suffocate!

What I find really amusing is that this movie is rated G, so if it's on TV, parents will be sure to see it on in the TV guide and deem it a good family-friendly movie to pawn their kid onto for 90 minutes. Then, soon after, that kid sees that the Inspector Rex show is on in the guide, and asks if he can watch it. The oblivious parents say yes, and the kid is promptly traumatized by what he sees. He might as well be watching If the Dead Could Speak!

Rex is an iconic character, and seeing how he got his start is a nice treat! He's a superintelligent canine with a knack for detection, a tragic history, and an insatiable appetite for ham rolls. Naturally it doesn't take long before Rex starts asserting his trademark dominance over Benny. Did you throw him a ball? It's his ball now! Do you want to watch TV? Too bad, he wants to play. Do you want to get it on with a lady friend? Sorry, but Rex doesn't approve of such free will.

Bennie is a likeable lead, and he's intelligent and resourceful too, though he loses brownie points for his decision to go hiking on his own in an area prone to landslides that he was expressively forbidden to go. He's just lucky that he uncovered nefarious misdeeds. Overall, he's a smart lead, and he even has a mouth on him! That's Germany and Austria for you-You can say 'Shit' in a G rated movie!

Kainz is a very good villain, getting evil moments, as well as plenty of scenes throughout the movie to flesh out his character. The rest of the cast get plenty of screentime, particularly Benny's mother, who gets a subplot of her own.

The acting in Rex: The Early Years is good all round. I think the delivery of the actor playing Benny might be a bit phonetically pronounced sometimes, but I can't tell for sure, given the language barrier. Nothing major though.

Have you ever seen the grim Argentinean crime show Epitafios? Imagine that mixed in with the happy adventures of Rin Tin Tin and you've got yourself an episode of Inspector Rex! If that appeals to you, and if you can find the DVD's at a reasonable price (try online shopping rather than department stores or SBS shops), then I of course highly recommend Inspector Rex, as well as Stockinger, and Rex: The Early Years!...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The City of Lost Children (1995)

From the makers of Amelie comes...a movie that isn't Alien Resurrection! Thank God! Everyone can have their down moments, that's for sure!...

In an odd harbour city, a simpleminded strongman named One is looking for his kidnapped brother Grub. He soon comes across the old in-all-but-age little girl Crumb, a thief who takes pity on One and decides to aid him in his quest. They come across a whole host of weird people, from Crumb's vengeful conjoined bosses, a deranged cult of technologically enhanced whackjobs, and a near-invalid circus manager who wields mind control fleas. Meanwhile, a demented scientist named Kranck is living on a rig in the sea with four clones, a midget wife, and a talking brain in a water bowl. It's here where he conducts dual experiments on both himself and children, as he tries to steal their dreams and make himself young again...

City of Lost Children is a mixed movie. It's got some positive qualities, but overall, it's not great. Taking place in a surreal world, the film has a dreamlike tone that just barely saves the movie, by acting as an excuse for its myriad flaws such as the overabundance on dumb coincidences to further the plot, or important elements being introduced, then never seen again. One could argue that this is because such things happen in dreams, and the film is just being clever and stylish. However, just because dreams are like that, doesn't mean I like my bloody movies to be too! I actually want to see a film with a plot that isn't badly contrived!

The plot to the movie is weak in so many ways. First there are the above mentioned reasons, and then there's the Octopus thief gang storyline. They really didn't need to be in the movie, and their presence only distracts from the story the majority of film should be following, but otherwise isn't.

Speaking of that part of the film, there's one big plot hole. Why doesn't Kranck just hire a family for his experiment? It seems perfectly safe, and by hiring their services, he 1, wouldn't scare the children, so he could nail the experiment in one go, and 2, won't get in trouble with the law by kidnapping dozens of children, bringing massive unwanted attention his way. What's also infuriating is the the film isn't very clear on the fact that Kranck is rapidly aging because of his genetically-screwed condition, mainly due to the lack of aging effects on Daniel Emilfork's face. Because of this, we don't really understand much about the motivations of the film's antagonist!

Ok, onto the positives with the story now. While the start is a bit confusing, the world to City of Lost Children is established very well, the character motivations are clearly defined, for the most part, and the surreal atmosphere is quite successful, and never too in-your-face. There are also some really good scenes, such as the climactic dream. The direction in this movie is great, as you can imagine from a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film.

The characters in City of Lost Children are another weak link. The leads are proactive, but rarely successful. They're constantly needing to be rescued by others, never escape danged through their own actions, and One doesn't even contribute much in the climax! He harmlessly tosses a couple of the clones down a chute, then falls down a trapdoor, staying conked out on some railing for almost the remainder of the movie.

Irvin, the talking brain in a green fishbowl, is interesting, but his motivations are annoyingly unexplored. The original clone is a pretty decent character, but I don't like what happens with his character at the very end.

The biggest character issue with this film is that we barely see One's brother, so their relationship isn't fleshed out at all. Also, this kid's actions at numerous moments will leave you annoyed that you'll want the little brat dead! I mean, come on, you stupid kid, this base is about to EXPLODE in an orgy of fire! Can you forget about your stomach for one fucking second?! Goddamn children! Especially annoying is that this glutton is what closes out the film! Say, did you want the last frame of the movie be of a grubby kid burping in your face? No? Well too bad.

The acting is one of the good points about this movie. Some performances are more over-the-top, with mixed results, but overall, the acting is fine. Ron Perlman is good as the simpleminded One, while Judith Vittet is great as Crumb! Dominique Pinon is almost a bit annoying as the clones, but he does well, especially considering the amount of roles he has in the film! Daniel Emilfork looks as weird as he acts here, but he delivers a very good performance, even if he does overact with his face a lot. The actresses playing the Octopus twins are ok, while the remaining cast is decent.

The effects here are fantastic! The set design for this world is marvelous, and it looks wholly convincing! The aesthetic is also a sight to behold too, and it's a shame that it's not suppoerted all that well by the script. Unfortunately, the grand explosion at the end is mildly unconvincing CGI. The mind control fleas are damn good computer effects though, assuming that's what they are.

I'm not sure if I recommend The City of Lost Children. It has just as many bad qualities as it does positive. If it sounds at all interesting to you, then yeah, give it a watch. It'll at least pass the time well...

Body Melt (1994)

As an Australian, I love me some Aussie horror. While I absolutely despise my home country (because I like burning to death and/or losing all my worldly possessions as much as I like venomous snakes), it always fills me with pride seeing homegrown Aussie movies, especially of the horror variety! Unfortunately, the movie I'm talking about tonight, Body Melt, is not good, and it doesn't fill me with any positive feeling at all!...

An evil pharmaceutical company has picked out a street to send out some free samples to, which, unbeknownst to the denizens of Pebbles Court, are of a body altering drug that, due to a missing ingredient, slowly degrades the human body, causing horrific hallucinations, nightmarish contusions, and eventual gory death. It doesn't take long for the street to become a macabre testing ground as people die left right and centre, from killer placentas, mucus concussions, and ribcage explosions...

Body Melt is a dreadful piece of crap! It's a really annoying movie on multiple grounds. It has no substantial plot, and is more of a sequence of somewhat gory events. There's no cure for the drug, so everyone in Pebbles Court is already DOA, stripping the movie of any tension. We already know what's gonna happen, and it's boring watching a film with no surprises. If only the deaths had been the side-story, with a main plot following the police, then it might've had a chance of working.

The movie starts off seemingly as a surreal corporate espionage tale, but after the fifteen minute mark, it's suddenly mixed in with an out-of-nowhere plot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, only stupider! Even I can't believe I just said that! These parts of the movie are intolerable! They're incredibly annoying, ugly, and completely distract from the film we were up until now watching! These parts add up to nearly half an hour of an 80 minute film, and have nothing to do with the rest of the movie! They're only connected by the tiniest of threads, and even that's negligible! What's even worse is that these scenes lead to nothing! After a certain point, the hick family just drop out of the movie for no reason, never to be seen again.

The whole movie is one big plot hole. Why is this pharmaceutical company making killer drugs which not only blow up random people, but also themselves? Why are they using a street as a testing ground instead of kidnapping people off the street and sticking them in a cell? It's no more illegal than what they're already doing. Why aren't they doing safer trials instead of all these illegal and idiotic plans?! Worst of all is the nonsensical 'shock' ending!

Body Melt is frequently touted as a satire, but I didn't catch any. It seems like this film's only message is "Man, the pharmaceutical industry, am I right?!" without bothering to actually make an effort to satirize much of anything. Just showing death scenes thanks to a dangerous drug isn't some masterclass satire, but it rather just empty, dull, and boring!

Despite having no plot to speak of, Body Melt doesn't do its characters any justice. There's a cast of well over a dozen, and they're all wasted to an insane degree! They're either killed off quickly, underused, really annoying and overused, or just plain unexplored.

The effects in this movie are decent. The inbred hick family are unappealing, with so-so make-up, while the gore is pretty decent, albeit dumb, for the most part, and fake in others. But you know what's a 'bit' of a downfall? NO-ONE MELTS IN THIS MOVIE!

The techno score in Body Melt starts off pretty neat and quirky, even resembling the Blake Stone games, but after a while, it starts getting either dull and unremarkable, or mildly annoying.

The acting in this film is also unremarkable. It's ok, but there's nothing special, and the actors playing the hick family are really bad.

Body Melt's high spot is definitely that it includes Harold from Neighbours!...NO I DON"T WATCH NEIGHBOURS! To clarify, Ian Smith is pretty much the only likeable presence in the miserable-as-per-usual Aussie soap opera Neighbours. If you've never heard of it, well it's like Home and Away, but shitter. Seeing a likeable soap opera regular who you've seen on TV for decades playing a diabolical and deranged mad scientist is super neat! Unfortunately he's really wasted, and he's giving his all for a shitty movie, but he still turns in a very good performance. If only he did in a much better horror-comedy.

One last thing to note, just so my Aussie readers will know, Body Melt has quite the cast, with people like Andrew Daddo, Lisa McCune, Gerard Kennedy, one unmentionable (a total dick) and a few other Neighbours actors, apparently. They could actually be the ones I already mentioned for all I know, but I really don't care about Neighbours any more than I have to.

Body Melt is a bad movie! It's short, but not sweet, and I recommend you steer clear from it unless you want to be pissed of something fierce! This movie annoys me so much, and if I NEVER see it again, that will be entirely too soon!...