Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Review:

There are just some things you just can't beat and Disney's version of Snow White still can hold its own to many other animated fairy tale films that are being put out today. In this animated feature film, there is absolutely nothing that any viewer can't adore. The main premise of Snow White is still the same; the queen wants her dead and she wishes to be the fairest of them all. But in Disney's first ever to be released film, there are a few other added ideas to the story that make it a true Disney treasure.

Snow White....such a beautiful princess
Let's begin with the characters first. Adriana Caselotti plays the voice of Snow White. Caselotti's voice, when it is either singing or just talking, is wholesomely beautiful, sweet and cute and matches the way her character is drawn quite nicely. It is by far, one of the most amiable voices a viewer could hear. As for the Queen/Witch who tries to have Snow White killed, is voiced by Lucille La Verne. She too makes her character very memorable. Her cackle as the witch sent chills up my spine.

As Snow White flees from the Queen she also befriends a large amount of the forest animals; which all have the ability to some how understand her. But I really don't care because it is just as amazing to watch this movie now as it was for the viewers of 1937. But the supporting characters that everyone loves and remembers the most are the seven dwarfs voiced by multiple radio sensations of the time. And the great thing is, every fan has seven dwarfs to pick from to be the one they cherish the most. My favorite is bashful, just for being...well bashful. Tying his beard into knots and such. What a goofball hahahaha.

Grumpy, of the seven dwarfs
The other two great elements in this picture are the musical numbers and the animation. Whatever made the animation the way it was for its time, is truly something. I can't put my finger on it, but the animation is made in a way that not many other films were made in this category. This is probably due to the technology of the time. But none the less, this creates a nostalgic feel to the film. The same goes for the background music composed by Paul L. Smith.

Finally, along with Smith's score, are the musical numbers the characters perform. If it's the "Whistle While You Work", "Heigh-Ho", "I'm wishing" or any other song I can think of, all have really fun tunes and leave a lasting impression. Plus, they are fun to join in and sing along with as well. A very interactive film for its time and did wonders for Walt Disney's business. You just can't beat a classic like this one.

The Disney version of the Grimm brothers' fairy tale is colorful in animation, as are its musical numbers and lively characters. A true sense in the word classic.

Points Earned --> 10:10

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hellraiser (1987) Review:

Horror novelist Clive Barker is known for making some outrageously gross stories. And after two unsuccessful short films, Barker decided to direct his first theatrical film. Little did he know that it would not only be his most memorable film to date, but it would also become very popular. However, what amazes me is just how effective each component of the whole movie is. It is truly one of the great masterpieces in the horror genre of its time.

Hellraiser (1987) is a film adaptation of Clive Barker's self-written novel, The Hellbound Heart. The story is about a remarried man, Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) being caught in a web of terror. Larry's new woman, Julia (Clare Higgins), happens to be a secret lover of her husband's brother, Frank (Sean Chapman). Frank is a sexually deprived man who bought a mystical puzzle box called the "Lament Configuration". When this puzzle is solved, it opens a dimensional portal to hell, where a group of terrifying individuals called the Cenobites, literally tear Frank's soul apart, limb from limb, layer by layer.

The beautiful Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
To start off, all the actors do a great job portraying their characters. Robinson makes himself seem like the most humble farther a child could ask for. Higgins and Chapman show good chemistry on screen as well. Slowly over the running time, viewers will see the transition that takes over Higgins' character, as she goes from lonely, to shocked, to lustful. On the other hand, Sean Chapman as Frank gives a very good performance as the battered soul that he is. He too carries great lust for Julia and shows how desperate he is to have her again. It is amazing that Julia would even want to join him again!

By far though, the character with the most guts in this whole film is Kirsty Cotton played by Ashley Laurence. For all the horror films that have been released, it is rare that audiences come across a strong female protagonist. For Laurence's first starring role, there's a lot of credit to be given to her for conveying her character so well. Not to mention the fact that Laurence is very attractive in this picture. And she's not a "scream queen" all the time either. Her brazenness by far surpasses many other female characters in other horror franchises. I did find her boyfriend to be rather unnecessary though. He didn't do anything the whole time during the film. He was always a step behind everyone else, so why bother even have him in the movie?

What was definitely effective here were the atmosphere; credited to the music and the special effects used throughout the film which created hair-raising, skin crawling imagery. The musical score provided by composer Christopher Young did an outstanding job. Not only was his score creepy and engrossing but it also created a sense of tragedy. The tragedy was cued by the constant waltz time each tune had. Adding to that is Young's constant theme that the audience is reminded of when the camera is focused on the Frank and Julia. A memorable tune indeed.

If your ok seeing the lead Cenobite (above), should
be ok watching the rest of the film
Lastly, the special effects is one the components prominently noted in Clive Barker's Hellraiser franchise. There is some stop motion animation but the real movie magic lies in the make-up department headed by Geoffrey Portass. Everything from the gore, to the Frank's resurrection, to the Cenobite make-up themselves is executed terrifically. The Lead Cenobite played by Doug Bradley is done so well, many people would say he was born for that role, which I agree. I also liked the look of the other cenobites; The Female, The Chatterer and Butterball. I would've preferred though if The Lead Cenobite introduced them in the film. Some newcomers may be confused to what their names are.

Along with these characters are some of the most disturbing imagery used throughout any film. Some of it really is just bloodcurdling. Tearing skin off a human body may not be some people’s cup of tea. There was also another scene that I found quite eerie but it was never explained to what it meant. This scene involves Kirsty with a background noise of a baby crying. It definitely made me feel uncomfortable, which was good, but I wanted to understand the significance of it and it never was explained. Along with that flaw was Kirsty's useless boyfriend which leaves me liking the rest of this movie a lot.

Clive Barker's first film is a classic that should not be passed up. The actors, special effects and music work together to create a tragic cohesive story that is a fresh look at the horror genre.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Punisher: War Zone (2008) Review:

There is something about the production company of Marvel Knights that I'm starting to see a trend in. Look at this movie and its cousin, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012); both are darker in atmosphere, have a smaller production budget and running time, and produce better quality entertainment than their predecessors. And these are just the traits those two films have in common. There's plenty more to go through in this movie alone.

Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle
This loose sequel, reboot or remake, whatever viewers like to call it or want to believe continues the story of the Marvel anti-hero, Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. And this time, Castle is up against Jigsaw, formerly known as Billy "The Beaut" Russo. A tough crime lord who's always concerned with his looks. That is until Castle catches him and throws him into a glass crusher. Ouch. But then he's "patched" up by a surgeon, which the operation is done really poorly so from then on Russo called himself Jigsaw. In my eyes, he looks more like a grown up Chucky from Child's Play.

Starring as the new Punisher is Ray Stevenson. And although he didn't talk much at first, Stevenson is able to give a convincing performance as the mentally disturbed vigilante. Steveson's voice is not only deep and heavy but his constant frown makes his character that much more believable. I also like how he was a walking arsenal cabinet. He had every gun at his disposal on the gear that he wears. None of this staying secluded in a dingy apartment stuff from Thomas Jane's version.

Playing Jigsaw is Dominic West and he also acts well for his role. Note that West may overdo it on the New York accent, as well as several other of his henchmen. Sometimes the words seem a little over pronounced. Russo also has a brother named Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison) who I have to say did a great job at making me hate his character. Loony Bin Jim has soulless looking eyes and a really strong appetite for human flesh. But the way he pronounces his words are just plain annoying. He annunciates everything. Ugh.

Accompanying Frank Castle is Microchip (Wayne Knight), a character who was originally omitted from the 2004 version because its director, Jonathan Hensleigh hated the character. Quite frankly (no pun intended), I found the role of Microchip equivalent to the supporting characters of Joan, Spacker and Bumpo combined. I only wish that Wayne Knight was given more screen time; he’s a very likeable character. Also another ally Castle has is Martin Soap played by Dash Mihok. Mihok also gives his character some charm since he knows what Castle does and how he works.

This brings me to the next topic; characters. Even though Thomas Jane's Punisher version is preferred more by many fans, I can infer that for the ones who are not pleased with it, is because of this reason. The three writers and director, Lexi Alexander show that they want to be as faithful to the comic as possible. Howard Saint, played by John Travolta in 2004 wasn't a real comic book character. It was a fictional character. The only characters from the comic in that version were the supporting characters and "The Russian".

Dominic West as the older looking Chucky
Another good element is the violence in this picture. As I stated from the first paragraph, the movie is much more black (in tone) and the violence within the picture is more frequent. Especially for the character of Frank Castle; having brutal violence is must and it's shown quite well here. It is also a good transition from the first film to this one. The first movie dealt with Castle's emotions. Here, it's Castle's anger that gets the better of him and boy does it get ugly. Perhaps the "Marvel Knights" company should take over and redo some other characters' movies if it makes it that more realistic.

I also found a lot the settings in neon lighting a little too often. There weren't enough scenes where characters were in a room with a regular light bulb. There were also a few characters that I thought would have lived through the whole running time but I was proved wrong. It also disappointed me on some accounts. Finally, for the most part, I did enjoy Michael Wandmacher's musical score. It expressed The Punisher's anger very well and also was effective on the few sentimental scenes. Occasionally there would be hard rock music playing which wasn't bad, but it did feel out of context.

Director Lexi Alexander and her writers did a great job making sure the movie was more comic book oriented. The violence is more frequent and Ray Stevenson also makes a good Punisher. Some other minor elements may seem a little off though.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tron (1982) Review:

If anyone knew that this science fiction adventure was on its way, my bet would be on the viewers who saw Disney's The Black Hole (1979) three years before. It started out with an electronic grid that digitally introduced the opening credits and it resembles what director Steven Lisberger's most famous film uses in CGI. My question is, why didn't Lisberger go any further than the 80s? Sure he was a producer for long awaited sequel, Tron Legacy (2010), but he hasn't done much else since. Did he lose the Hollywood bug? He made a decent film here.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), far right with
some other programs
The plot is about a computer whiz named Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who created an entertaining gaming software for a company called Encom. That is until a corrupt co-worker named Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole his ideas and became the head of the department. Along with Dillinger, is an electronic associate named the MCP (Master Control Program) that is self aware of its ability to collect data. One day Flynn decides to go back to the building he was fired from and regain the files that were stolen from him. But as he tries to hack into the system, he is zapped into cyberspace from the MCP. There, he must find a way to get back home with the files he needs to reclaim what’s rightfully his.

What's neat is how Lisberger visualized the world of the computer. It is stylistically creative. Each character or "program" in this electronic universe wears a suit that is either colored blue or red. Red means they belong to the MCP. And amazingly, this is not done by a physically lit suit. It was all CGI. That's pretty impressive for 1982. But as everyone knows, the most famous thing Tron (1982) is noted for, is its lightcycle races. Tiny motorcycles that can only make 90 degree turns. It's unusual but its cool anyways.

A screenshot from the lightcycle scene
As Flynn navigates himself through this new world, he also makes new friends. Tron, a program created by a real friend of Flynn named Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Ram played by Dan Shor. My favorite character was the "bit" who only knows how to say yes and no, very humorous. What was also clever about these characters is that they are all played by their creator. Boxleitner plays Tron and Bradley, Bridges plays Clu (a program he created) and Flynn and so on. I do have to call love interests into question though. There were a few times where it looked like there would be a love interest but it was never addressed. Did Lisberger forget to write an ending for it? I don't get it.

I liked the special effects a lot. For their time, it was quite an inventive feat to pull off such cinema magic. The action that takes place using these effects were well performed as well. Each sequence looked authentic, like they were really apart of that world. I also enjoyed the music that Wendy Carlos' scored for the film. It did have a reoccurring theme although I don't think it was prevalent enough. But it did go together well with each scene. Since the movie took place inside a computer, it is understandable to why Carlos had synthesizers in her soundtrack. Fairly entertaining.

Tron is the first movie to literally dive into the mainframe of a computer and its visuals are one of a kind. The characters’ relationship to each other can be confusing and Wendy Carlos’ score isn’t John Williams scope, but it works.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Truman Show (1998) Review:

As many fans know, Jim Carrey is the man when it comes to slapstick comedy. His comical physicality is outrageous and his ability to emulate anything from cartoons to other actors is top notch. But anytime before 1998 I think I can safely say that not many people saw Carrey try and jump out of his shell and try a role that wasn't truly in the comedy genre. I definitely didn't see it coming. And to be honest, I wasn't sure if I would really enjoy it. But in the end, I did, not only because of how well Carrey portrayed his character but with an excellent story to back if up.

Jim Carrey as the oblivious Truman Burbank
The plot is about Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) who is viewed live 24 hours a day, uncensored, as a soap opera to the real world through public broadcasting. The thing is, Truman Burbank is the only one who doesn't know this. Everything else around is all a set-up. And when I mean everything, a set-up. Even the sun is fake! Nothing is real. All the people Burbank knows are all actors. People who go through the same routine every day.

And that's partially what makes this film so great. Every piece of the "set" that Truman Burbank lives in is so believable. Along with this is Christof, acted by Ed Harris. Christof is the creator of Truman's world and he essentially plays God. Everything that Truman Burbank is as a person, was created under the supervision of Christof. The whole story itself, written by Andrew Niccol, brings up the controversial issue of nature vs nurture. Who should have control over whose life. Well I think that answer is obvious.

Ed Harris as the controlling Christof
Jim Carrey himself actually does have some comedic moments but it's not because he wants the movie to be a comedy. Carrey does what he does because it is the connection to how a human would react to such a situation that makes it funny. And along with those funny moments comes a real emotional performance. Sure Carrey can deliver laughs but also proves that he can portray human drama. That's a question a lot of people wanted to see if Carrey could pull off and he did it well.

Adding to the emotion is composer Philip Glass' score. Yes, it did evoke the right emotions and I don't think it needed a theme either for this particular story. Usually I do, but it didn't seem necessary here. Unfortunately for me, I prefer to see Jim Carrey in his comedic skin. I didn't mind the different role that he took on here but it didn't feel like I was watching the movie I wanted to see. And I'll admit, I put too much thought into believing Jim Carrey would've made the film more comedy than drama, so basically I disappointed myself. So on that note, it could be disappointing to fans of Carrey for his comedic films as well.

As the first drama film that comic gut buster Jim Carrey stars in, it is not that bad as some would expect it to be. Carrey can deliver a performance like real human but for the hardcore fans, it may upset.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Guyver: Dark Hero (1994) Review:

After first Guyver film came out in 1991, it was hard to say whether a sequel would follow it. Its proposition to audiences and fans alike was not too impressive. The acting wasn't terrible and the story wasn't written poorly either. But the characters seemed weak in depth and the special effects looked cheap. But low and behold, a sequel did arise from all these things that people and critics found they were able to pick at. And for the people who did get to see this sequel, they were in for a surprise.

Kathy Christopherson as Barker's new love interest
The Guyver: Dark Hero, partially continues what was finished in the first movie. Sean Barker starts become haunted by the "guyver" armor as he also starts to lose the ability to control it. Pushing himself away from family and friends, he leaves his home to find answers to his problems. Screenplay writer, Nathan Long, left out the last two characters left on screen at the end of the first movie and for good reason too. They didn't help excel the first one anyway. Long also remembered to include Barker's girlfriend, Mizky, for a little while too. And although the casting is different for all the characters, there is still a lot of appeal to them.

Casting was headed by Lisa Hannen, and her judgement looks like she knew what she was looking for. Instead of having Jack Armstrong reprise his role as Sean Barker, David Hayter was. Hayter would soon become the future screenwriter of the successful X-Men (2000), X2 (2003) and Watchmen (2009), which is amazing to see him making this film better just by acting. So initially, because he could not control the "guyver" he was forced to break up with Mizky. I'm glad screenwriter Long included this scene because it shows he hasn't forgotten the events from the first installment. But I still wish they were together. They looked good together.

As Barker goes on his way, he runs into another girl, Cori, played by lesser-known actress, Kathy Christopherson. Christopherson also gives her role a fair amount of attractiveness. Of course, that's after you get past the nerdy prescription glasses she wears at first. And soon the bond Cori makes with Barker ends up being a healthy relationship. Of course, anyone would know this subplot would not be missed. As for many hero films go, unless it is an antihero, there's always a love interest. So it is of no doubt that Cori and Sean will look great together.

I think this Zoanoid is better than the Lisker Zoanoid from 1991
One thing that amazed me, as it did probably to every other viewer was the MPAA rating. The rating went from PG-13 (the first movie) to rated R. That's actually a rare and unusual step that not many franchises take; but it worked. I don't know if it's because Steve Wang decided to direct on his own this time and "Screaming Mad" George was holding him back, but changing the rating made it a very enjoyable sequel. There's more carnage, which made the story seem more realistic than just people in rubber suits.

The action was also much more fierce. Hayter was even faster moving and more agile than Armstrong as the Guyver. It was done really well as were the hand-to-hand combat sequences. The special effects seemed to have improved as well. Still the creatures look like they were just people in costumes but they didn't look as rubbery coated. The dubbing was also done better for when the Zoanoids spoke in their monster form. Even one time composer, Les Claypool III, did a decent job on the unreleased music score. It wasn't complex but it did have a tune that got the blood pumping while watching the movie; which I enjoyed.

The only things I didn't find that were any better than the first movie was the dialog and background subplot. For me, the dialog still sounded like it wasn't written for a movie. Some of the lines just seemed unnecessary or out of place. As for the background subplot, Barker is able to figure out what the "guyver" unit was made for but the viewer must wait until the very end to understand what Barker learned. Why couldn't it just be explained when it was being explained to Barker? It just adds to the confusion. But weighing this against all the good things in this sequel, I can overlook it.

Director Steve Wang's second take on the "guyver" unit is all around a better film. Its improvement lies in the special effects, action sequences and a better cast of actors.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Creature (1985) Review:

I don't call poorly made films awful unless I don't agree with the tone that the story displays to me on screen. Besides the fact that, every film deserves credit for at least being given a theatrical release for the work that was done to create the production. However, that doesn't mean the production was executed nicely or was entertaining. And based off the hour and thirty minutes that I sat through, I was really bored with it. This is an Alien (1979) knock-off that doesn't deserve to be called a good knock-off.

The character of Bryce...whom we never really get to know
The title of the movie is as bland as the plot itself. And before anything even started, everything but one credit ran onto the page and that was whose film it was. It was never stated who starred in this film and what actors I would see. What kind of introduction is that? Doesn't director William Malone want his audiences to know who will be acting in his then being released movie? Jeez, what a glory hound.

The story is about a space crew that answers a distress call from one of Jupiter's moons named Titan. There, they discover an alien that was thought to be long gone, but was only hibernating in which it then begins to  kill off each member one by one. Quite honestly, it wasn't even the cliche plot that bored me. It was the poorly written character roles. Director Malone and his one time writing partner Alan Reed really did a less than professional job at creating characters with any depth.

There were so many areas that could have been touched upon and none of them were even looked at. There were two couples in the crew. How'd they meet? How long have they been together? There was a character named Bryce. She didn't even talk until about 30 minutes into the film. Why? Is there something about her we don't know? And possibly the weirdest individual of all is Hofner (Klaus Kinski) which many viewers seem to like for some reason. He too was never given a background. He's also an old pervert, but that's it.

There are also blatantly clear things that every character should have common sense for. If you know, that you cannot live in space without a helmet, why go following someone who doesn't have one on? Wouldn't that seem odd or unusual? I mean really. And if there is no possibility of surviving out in space without a spacesuit, how is it that one member of the crew able to survive after being left out in a vacuum for several minutes?

Spacesuitsm,,,,one of the few things I found interesting
The only credit I'm giving is for at least having decent looking effects when it came to the spaceships, moon terrain and spacesuits. Yes there was blood, but the alien barely even showed its face in the whole running time. And then, once it was fully on screen, it looked like a teenage mutant ninja sloth. Also it was clunky as hell. It wasn't smooth moving at all. It looked choppier than King Kong (1933). And as for Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker's music, I don't know what to say about it. It's just music. It doesn't sound terrible or obnoxious but it wasn't engaging either. I probably enjoyed their music more from Dexter's Laboratory (1996) than in here.

The characters are one-dimensional and they aren't intelligent either. There is no tension anywhere and the special effects are derivative. Watch only if you want to waste time.

Points Earned --> 1:10

Balto (1995) Review:

It's rare that one finds an animated movie that has so much heart that isn't connected to Disney. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any others that stand out than this movie. Balto (1995), was loosely based off the real life events of an actual husky dog of the same name. The only difference is that the story was changed slightly to give the character of Balto a little more background. That is why it's loosely based off the actual events. Kudos to the four writers because it made this movie very enjoyable.

Balto & Jenna
Here, Balto lives on the edge of a town because he's not a husky. Yet somehow, everyone in the town, including the humans know his name? How is this possible (this is really the only thing I didn't understand)? His ancestry comes from dog/wolf, which leaves him in a bad spot because no one wants to trust him and the snooty pure bread husky dogs don't want a mutt joining their dog team. What Balto dreams most of, is running with the husky dogs and pulling the sleds they pull. And little does he know, but his chance will come sooner than he thinks, when a virus breakout comes on the town and he decides to fetch the medicine for the sick.

The cast in this film is horrendously good too. Kevin Bacon voices our hero, Balto. Bacon is able to make his role really sound courageous and emotional when it needs to be and that's good. Voicing his love interest is Bridget Fonda as a little girl's husky named Jenna. Even if this is Fonda's first time doing voice acting, she did a great job. She knows how to give Jenna the right tone of voice and emotion at the same time. And I got to admit, Jenna and Balto make an adorable dog couple. Thank you animation department! Let's also not forget our antagonist named Steele voiced by famous voice actor, Jim Cummings. Cummings, who can do this work in his sleep, also gives a convincing performance as the thickheaded, husky with way too much hubris.

The prideful Steele (left)
And along with Steele are always the knuckle head followers of the antagonist. All of which have their own quirkiness about them, which make them funny. But that's not all. Accompanying Balto on his travels are three other friends. Two are a duo of polar bears named Muk and Luk, which are both voiced by musician Phil Collins. Surprisingly, even Collins gives a memorable performance. But the character I found the most entertaining when it came to comic relief was Boris the goose (the other friend) played by Bob Hoskins. Boris is such a great character because of how well he knows Balto and the problems that he faces. It is because of that, that he does his best to make sure his closest friend is in good hands. If you don't fall for Boris, I don't know what will.

The art department did a nice job at keeping the view big and broad. Since the setting was in Alaska, it is only respective that the picture be epic looking. Mainly because, Alaska is epic period. Also I like the sounds a lot. Cracking ice to crunching snow. The one sound that I got chills from was hearing the wolves howl. I couldn't stop from getting goosebumps. I have no clue why but it gave me the shivers and that made me like it more. Adding to that was the soundtrack provided by composer James Horner and boy did it work. Excluding a few previous works that Horner has made that were mishaps, Horner really knows how to evoke the right emotions at the right time. It made watching Balto fun and invigorating.

The characters alone is what makes the cake in this movie. The icing to the cake is James Horner's music, the grand backgrounds and involving sound effects.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Virus (1999) Review:

Although many agree that films that use or recycle elements from successful previous franchises, end up not being entertaining or appealing, there are always a few that go against the grain. An example of those kinds of movies is like Leviathan (1989) and Screamers (1995). Well, Virus (1999) is not much different from those.

The movie is based off of a series Dark Horse comics written by Chuck Pfarrer in the early 90s. The story is about how the crew of a tugboat stumble upon an abandoned ship. Inside, they discover that an electrical alien lifeform has taken control of the ship and has been using parts of the ship and its crewmembers to create robotic creatures to do its dirty work. Now its up to the crew to figure out how to rid the ship of this "virus" before it docks on dry land and takes control of other computers. So it's like Alien (1979) mixed with The Terminator (1984), ok so? It is not like Universal Studios was trying to out match these films, each film must be treated for what its worth and not as who's better than the original.

The crew.....look at those reaction faces...XD
William Baldwin, horror heroine Jaime Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland and Joanna Pacula are just of the few actors that star in this film. I'd say that not many of these characters were memorable, but they do share good sarcastic lines, quirky reaction faces and fierce retaliations. I did laugh a lot at the character of Capt. Robert Everton played by Sutherland. Even though it probably wasn't intended to be funny, Sutherland is able to make his character come out with deadpan lines and  a sadistic sense of humor.

My question is, how did any of these characters come together as one group in the script? Screenwriter Pfarrer wrote the dialog like they hated each other from the start. What kind of crew is that? I'm surprised anything was accomplished with how much bickering took place. However, this didn't happen all to often because soon they had to work together. Surprisingly, this is one of the things I didn't realize. It took about until half way before the pace started to increase and that may make viewers restless.

One of the robots they run into.....creepy no?
The gunfire and blood is there. The actual gore may be a bit low for gorehounds but it is still enjoyable. Not to mention there are also some "boo" moments too and that may catch audiences off guard even if most people won't find it frightening. Adding to the creepiness of the setting's atmosphere is composer Joel McNeely's orchestral score. It may not be extraordinarily inventive, but simplistically, it gets its point across in making the scenes work with the music to enhance the viewing experience.

Finally, I have to give the most credit to director John Bruno. To say the film didn't work because a visual effects supervisor was given a chance to direct doesn't mean squat. Bruno is a talented man and his ability to make Chuck Pfarrer's vision come to fruition was done professionally. One of the scenes I found the most astounding was the sweatshop room where two of the crew members run into an area where numerous amounts of robots are being made by robotic arms. It was done surprisingly well, almost too well because of how realistic it was. Bruno should be given more credit for this reason alone.

Like many other movies, Chuck Pfarrer's Dark Horse comic adaptation reuses elements from other movies. And although its story is not creative, it is still fun, especially for its special effects, cast members and musical score.

Points Earned --> 8:10

The Guyver (1991) Review:

When it comes to cartoon movie adaptations, it has yet to be seen where one comes out playing well. Speed Racer (2008) is a perfect example of this. Live-action tends to suck the life out of cartoons. So after watching the Japanese cartoon of The Guyver, I wasn't quite sure how this movie adaptation would play out. But surprisingly, to me, I was somewhat entertained by the creature effects and actors that appeared in the film. However, this still does not make it a great movie.

The film starts off with a scrolling of lines that explain that there is a group of people who can transform into creatures called Zoanoids. The Zoalord, the strongest Zoanoid who looks to control the world, leads these Zoanoids. But the only way he can do this is by obtaining the "guyver", a bio-armor that should make him invincible. That is, if not for an unwilling individual who runs into the bio-armor first, giving him power beyond his original abilities.

Mark Hamill as agent Reed
The unwilling individual is named Sean Barker played by the forgotten actor, Jack Armstrong. Armstrong gives a convincing performance as his character, even if the majority of his lines are "Are you ok? or Let her go!". Baker also has a girlfriend, Mizky Segawa (Vivian Wu), who gets caught by the Zoalord and is the damsel in distress. However, her character does show some courage, a trait that does not come up often, usually most damsels scream constantly. Tagging along with them is CIA agent, Max Reed, played by the famous Mark Hamill. Hamill gives Reed some good lines, this made me chuckle here and there.

Even more surprising is to find four other iconic actors in this film as well. Michael Berryman from Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) has a significant role as the Zoalord's henchman. Even more intriguing is that Jeffrey Combs and David Gale from Re-Animator (1985) both have roles in here too. Gale plays the Zoalord himself and Combs plays a lab rat named Dr. East. Jeez, how funny is that. Herbert WEST from Re-Animator (1985) is now Dr. EAST in The Guyver (1991), and, now Combs is working for Gale instead of fighting him, like in Re-Animator (1985). Also Willard E. Pugh, Mayor Kuzak from RoboCop 2 (1990), plays one of Reed's coworkers. Which also coincidental because when the "guyver" armor is first activated by Baker, someone says, "Alright you RoboCop thing!". Hahaha wow. Too many coincidences.

The Guyver is in the middle,....the other two...not so cool
Now for the bad things. First, I enjoy martial arts fight sequences but for a lot of the time, I felt like they dragged on forever. This is mostly because the fight scenes contained the same techniques. Also, I understand that it is 1991 but it seemed like many of the creature costumes ran from either clunky to unrealistically goofy. One monster had googly eyes. Really? How does that look terrifying? I'd laugh. Actually, a lot of the costumes looked like they were ideas to be used for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993) TV show. But I do give credit to Linda L. Meltzer, head of costume design for making the "guyver" armor looking so awesome. The special effects with the bio-armor were cool but it also made me wonder why the same couldn't be done for when the villains transformed.

Also, for the first half of the film, the transitioning between scenes was very obnoxious. But credit should be given to screenwriter Jon Purdy for at least making the story more creative. The story isn't the usual cliche hero movie. There are parts of the film where it'll have the audience guessing and I'll admit there were segments where I thought certain things wouldn't happen but they did. It keeps you on your toes so that's good. The musical score by Matthew Morse wasn't impressive though. I had a slight resemblance to the anime shows but it wasn't very prevalent in the film. Also the ending seemed quick which made me feel like it was done last minute just as a throw in. This movie had a lot of ups and downs but I support it because it did almost go somewhere.

For the most part, the actors and the "guyver" armor itself is the thing to see in this film. The action is good for a while but gets tiresome overtime as well as the creature costumes.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Damnation Alley (1977) Review:

Throughout the beginning of the last half of the 20th century, multiple films have been made that were based off of novels that took place in dystopic wastelands after nuclear fallout. This was all due to the U.S. and Russia being two of the biggest super powers at the time and were currently having a cold war over it. Well this science fiction genre film is no different in that aspect. But everything else about it isn't entertaining at all.

Damnation Alley (1977) is a film adaptation of novelist Roger Zelazny's short story of the same name. And honestly, I think Zelazny's work was more enjoyable than this. This whole movie is just one giant traveling expedition. There is no plot. Did the writers bother to even jot down the plot or did they just create dialog for the characters? I mean Lukas Heller, the screenwriter from The Dirty Dozen (1967) was on the crew list! Did he become lazy and decide to let Alan Sharp do all the work? And that's just the plot, let's dive into the characters.

The landmaster & its main crew
The storyline follows Major Eugene Denton played by George Peppard and a small band of misfit characters. That's right, John Hannibal Smith from the original A-Team (1983) stars in this film. Unfortunately, he did not make a wise choice to join this slog of a mess. Along with Peppard is a young Jan-Michael Vincent, who earlier starred in the classic The Mechanic (1972), Paul Winfield who later would play a role in Schwarzenegger's The Terminator (1984) and even Jackie Earle Haley has a part as a homeless kid. Yes! Even the actor who plays Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake and Rorschach from Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009) plays in this movie.

Oh and I have no idea how this girl named Janice (Dominique Sanda) even held her own at Las Vegas inside a gambling building with a bunch of sand. Not to mention but she's just there to be an annoying damsel in distress. Not needed. But enough about her. Here there's barely anything for these characters to expand on. What's made up for lost time, is filler with either traveling through wasteland or trying to survive radioactive storms. Isn't it amazing how well the cast was put together even before half these actors were famous and still this movie couldn't get much of anything right? Truly sad.

The writers are really to blame for this film. Every ten minutes it would be a reoccurring plot point. Travel a little, stop a little, and every time they stopped, they'd either run into someone or something. Sometimes it's human, other times they're oversized killer animals. It's just lame. Oh and let's not forget that every time they stop, Jan-Michael Vincent has to pull out his trusty motorcycle to solve all his problems. He uses it for everything!

This sky is main focus in this picture. That's partially what I liked
Not even composer Jerry Goldsmith could save this movie. Never have I heard a score so weird that it I couldn't tell what it was trying to represent. The music sounds like a cross between a video game and real orchestra music. Also it didn't help that for majority of the time, the music was absent. The score is so minimal it is barely even used in any of the important scenes. Even the introduction had me sitting awkward. Nuclear warheads are blowing up the country and there's no music going on at all?! I mean, that's what it would be like in real life but this is a movie! It's supposed to enhance that experience.

The only points I do give it, is for having the really cool looking landmaster vehicle and a couple good special effects. The effects were standard but SOME of the way the sky's were constructed. They were rather neat. I was more interested in that than the story or characters. The landmaster was also cool. Twelve wheels, rockets, could even be used in the ocean and an extended cabin? What a fortress. That is definitely a vehicle that could withstand nuclear fallout. Besides this, the film is a wreck unfortunately.

This science fiction film adaptation is a boring trek about a story that's not even being told. The whole film is just random events put together.

Points Earned --> 2:10

Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) Review:

Thomas the Tank Engine is a precious memory that many young adults and older parents hold dear to their youthful days. Either if it was narrated by Beatles' drummer, Ringo Starr in the U.K. version, or by comedian, George Carlin in the American version, the show was, and still continues to be a wide success among aging toddlers. So it is of no surprise that at the beginning of the 21rst century that the cheeky steam engine was given a theatrically released film. Sadly, Not many people have found it appealing; however, I am one of those few people who actually did.

Shocking to me, I don't understand why so many people hate this movie. Yes there are a couple of areas that were not perfect before the filming began, but don't all great projects have their setbacks. And really, there are only a couple issues. But I'm going to forgive it because this film should not be trashed for such small errors. The movie is also partially narrated Mr. Conductor, Alec Baldwin, the third most recognized conductor to tell of Thomas' adventures from the TV show.

Peter Fonda as the lonely Burnett Stone
The problem is that Mr. Conductor starts losing the magic in his gold dust and he must find it quickly. The gold dust is what keeps him from traveling between his world and the Island of Sodor (Thomas' world). And the only people who can help him uncover this secret is a girl and her grandfather. The little girl, Lily is played by the no more in showbizz actress Mara Wilson. Her grandfather, Burnett is played by veteran actor Peter Fonda. And let's not forget that Mr. Conductor has a relative, Jr. (Michael E. Rogers), who joins the crew as well. Even Didi Conn from the original Shining Time Station (1989) TV show, which aired the Thomas and Friends adventures, reprised her role for this movie.

There are other actors like Russell Means who doesn't have a big role but do add to the nostalgia of the film. What ticks people off about this film is the acting and characterization. And that's just the human part of the film. I didn't find it out of place at all. Baldwin is considered to be at his worst but I found him fairly entertaining. Fonda is bashed for being to down in the dumps, but I found his performance quite emotional because some people become depressed when losing a family member; it happens. I sympathized with him.

Lily and Jr. were thought to be of no importance to the story at hand either. But to me, I found Lily a character that children could connect to. And Jr. may not have been the most convincing character but he did have a number of funny moments. The other thing viewers and professional critics alike did not enjoy were the trains themselves. Apparently audience wanted to see moving mouths. But why do that? The TV show wasn't like that. Why would you want to change something that's classic to bad? Ever hear of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it"? It’s good that they kept it that way, otherwise it probably would have done worse. Of course, NOW the new series of Thomas and Friends have moving mouths so I hope all of you mopes are happy.

Diesel 10 & Thomas
The reason why the mouths did not move was that Britt Allcroft, who also happened to be the director of the popular TV show, also directed this movie. I mean, what more could a fan ask for? I give credit to Allcroft, I believe she put in the most effort into making this film as good as it was. She even provided a voice to one of the trains. Speaking of which, this is the last thing people were not happy with; one of the Thomas' friends does not show in this film because his physical train model was not available and the trains all have different voices instead being narrated by Mr. Conductor. Guess what? Not everything's perfect.

Actually, the voice actors do a swell job being the trains. Edward Glen as Thomas was a good match. His voice didn't sound too old or too young. Neil Crone as Diesel 10 was a good match too. In fact, Crone's voice made Diesel a very comical villain. Kudos to them! And the film score by composer Hummie Mann was done brilliantly. Mann is able to combine all the right tones with each scene and it even includes The Shining Time theme song in his tracks as a reoccurring theme. It helps the movie a lot.

As the only theatrically released film of Thomas the Tank Engine, it should be respected for its good performances and storyline. The characters a very likable and the music excels it to the max.

Points Earned --> 10:10