Friday, 29 March 2013

Police Story 3: Supercop

Title: Police Story 3: Supercop
Director: Stanley Tong
Released: 1992
Starring: Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Yuen Wah, Kenneth Tsang, Bill Tung, Lo Lieh, Josephine Koo, Kelvin Wong, Phillip Chan

Plot: Insp. Chan (Chan) is sent undercover in mainland China, to break up a drug smuggling ring being run by drug lord Chailbat (Tsang) and his henchman Panther (Wah) who Chan is forced to break out of prision in order to infiltrate the ring, while reciving support from Interpol agent Jessica Yang (Yeoh)

Review: While intended as a continuation of Chan’s legendry “Police Story” series, this film instead is more of a showcase for Michelle Yeoh, who made her return to acting with this film, after taking a traditional leave of retirement after she married the head of the Hong Kong film production company “The D&B Group” Dickson Poon. Luckily for her fans the marriage didn’t last and upon her divorce from Poon in 1992 she made her return to acting, starting with this film which it’s safe to say made for a memorable return.

Still if anyone was to provide a female counterpart to Chan it would for my money have to be Yeoh, who throughout her career established herself as one of the key female action stars in Hong Kong cinema alongside the likes of Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung, who would all appear together in Yeoh’s next film “The Heroic Trio” while Cheung also appears here for the final time in the series as Chan’s long suffering girlfriend May. Here Yeoh handles the majority of the martial arts scenes, as film is more of a heroic gunplay role for Chan, outside of a showcase fight scene at the start of the film and during the climatic showdown on top of a moving train in what is possibly one of the most action packed finales ever!

While the idea of Chan in a heroic gunplay role might seem like a strange one especially after his horrible attempt at portraying a tough guy in the “The Protector” whose commercial and critical failure did at least provided the catalyst for the original “Police Story”, a film which many including myself regard as Chan’s best film. Atleast here he keeps a fun edge to proceedings with his usual slapstick antics, which is always a surreal thing to see in the midst of a heated gunfight, yet Chan’s charm as always makes it work, while Yeoh seems equally happy to join in as the two make for such a fun double act it only makes it more of a shame that they haven’t made more films together.

Equally still present is Chan’s legendry stunt work, as he continues here to find new ways to almost kill himself, with the highlight being the scenes were he hangs from a rope ladder underneath Chailbat’s helicopter during the climax. The climax to this film alone is worth checking out the film for, as it is shot by Tong with such flawless flow it is literally jaw dropping to see how he continually adds to it starting with Chan trying to push a runaway van up a hill, before breaking into a car chase and finally a fight on top of speeding train while containing not a hint of CGI which peppers current action films, as only further highlighted by the traditional credits outtake roll, which this time also gets the added bonus of being sound tracked to Tom Jones singing “Kung Fu Fighting” and Devo’s “Supercop”. This time though Chan is not alone when it comes to pulling off thrilling stunts, as Yeoh proves than willing to do her own stunt work which includes jumping a motorcycle onto a moving train, which only adds to what is already one hell of a comeback movie for her.

Stepping away from the director’s chair after directing the first two films, Chan here hands the reigns over to Tong, for surprisingly only his second feature film after his self-funded debut “Stone Age Warriors” yet despite this he proves himself to have the same eye for action as Chan, with this film marking the start of a productive relationship between them, with Tong being responsible for several of Chan’s best films including his breakthrough Hollywood movie “Rumble In The Bronx”. This change in director doesn’t greatly alter the Police story format, though Tong does have more of an interest in scenes of epic destruction as highlighted by destruction of a fortified drug production lab, which is blown to splinters thanks to a handful of well-aimed missiles and over the top explosions. Equally what Tong brings to the film is a slightly darker direction than seen in the first two films, mainly through drug lord Chailbat and his henchman Panther who are not opposed to random acts of violence and actually provide Chan with a viable threat throughout, even if Chailbat becomes slightly OTT by the finale when he kidnaps May while constantly sneering at Chan from his helicopter. Sadly when the Chan and Yang have their cover blown it less of a dramatic event as you would expect, especially when Tong builds up the suspense so well over the course of the film, it end up feeling slightly anti-climatic.

While Chan these days might be less willing to put his body on the line, which is equally not too surprising seeing how he is as of the time of writing this now almost 60 and those bones don’t heal as quick as they used to, something seen with the noticeable toning down of his stunt work as he concentrates more on making films in the Hollywood system, making it perhaps more fun to revisit these earlier films, especially when this another strong entry in the “Police Story” franchise even though thanks to its UK title of just “Supercop” a lot of people still think that the series ended at part 2, not realising that film along with “First Strike” are part of the same series. Still despite not featuring much in the way of martial arts from Chan, it is still a fun outing and one which only helped to further Yeoh’s profile as she set out on the path to becoming very much a star in her own right.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Losers

Title: The Losers
Director: Sylvain White
Released: 2010
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, Holt McCallany

Plot: Presumed to be dead after being double crossed by the mysterious Max (Patric), Clay (Morgan) and his special forces team nicknamed "The Losers" are given a chance for revenge when they are tracked down by the mysterious Aisha (Saldana), a beautiful operative with her own agenda.


Review: With the key comic properties like Spiderman and Superman now essentially being tied up either by the major studios or Marvel themselves thanks to the success of their own Marvel studios a gamble which it is safe to say has more than paid off with their Phase one series of films. So with the public demand in the last few years for comic book movies and the studios as always looking for any way to milk a trend, it is hardly surprising that more indie comics have started seeing big screen adaptations, a trend which it’s safe to say that this film belongs in.

Based on the comic book series of the same name, released by DC Comic’s as part of their Vertigo imprint, which also serves as a home to fellow indie favourites Sandman, 100 bullets and Fables, while also providing movie fodder on more than one occasion with Hellblazer (which became “Constantine”), A History of Violence and V for Vendetta all being released via Vertigo. Still the series is hardly known outside of comic book fans, making it an usual choice for a film adaptation and meaning that upon its original release, most movie goers didn’t even realise it was a comic book movie.

Like the A-team on crack, this group of ex-special forces operatives, each bring their own special set of skills, while working under Clay’s leadership, a man guided by his own moral compass and one which soon leads to their attempted murder by Max. Making up his team of self-titled losers are
  • Jensen (Evans) – Intelligence specialist and computer hacker, aswell as the groups oddball and comic relief.
  • Pooch (Short) – transport specialist, so if it rolls or flies he is all over it, aswell as the owner of a dog bobblehead, whch somehow makes it into every vehicle he gets behind the controls of.
  • Cougar (Jaenada) – The almost permanently mute sharpshooter with an affection for his cowboy hat.
  • Roque (Elba) – Demolitions

While the group make up might hardly be anything new, the way in which they choose to operate, acting like a group of superheroes who don’t actually have any superpowers, while using largely guerrilla tactics with a heavy dose of humour to get the job done, with this intoxicating blend really helping them to stand out from the groups which came before them. Aisha meanwhile plays the wild card of the group with her dubious sense of alliance to the group, while marking the start of Saldana establishing herself as an action heroine, something she would continue with “Colombiana” a character none to dissimilar to the character of Aisha, especially seeing how both are more than capable of looking after themselves, let alone packing their own impressive armoury of weapons as especially seen here, as she proves herself more than capable of holding her own with the boys on more than one occasion, as highlighted by a couple of room trashing fistfights with Clay while reaching a pinnacle of badassery when she appears suddenly welding a rocket launcher under one arm at the finale.

Meanwhile the losers themselves are capable of unleashing their own brand of hell, even if they are generally more low key about it, with any outlandish action heroics kept to mainly to the opening and finale which also include this shining moment of badassery from Cougar, which makes me wonder why more people haven’t pick up on this film.

The rest of the time, they tend to stick to more low key infiltration and engaging in the occasional round of military grade grand theft auto, while director White continually gives the impression that he is atleast trying to do something which hasn’t been seen 100 times before. Still it is an infectious mix of comedy and action which White brings to the table, most of it via Jensen a character which Evans is clearly having a ball playing, as he always has a wise crack no matter how dire his situation gets, while more randomly even managing to convince a group of security guards that he has the power of mind Bullets!

The casting here is great while especially spot on with Morgan, making a great lead for the group with his gruff charm and gravelly voice and after seeing him previously as The Comedian in “Watchmen” it is nice to see him playing a more lighter character, that you don’t feel so guilty for liking, which was always the problem with the Comedian. What fails though with his casting in this role is the unlikely romance his character has with Aisha, which while important to the storyline still comes off as clumsily handled. Elsewhere Patric is suitably villainous as Max, always sharply dressed while carrying a dark sense of humour as he argues with his henchmen over mistakenly interpreted nods, after said henchman throws one of his scientists off a roof, while equally prone to random acts of violence as he shoots a girl carrying his umbrella for allowing the sun to momentarily shine on him.

For one reason or another this film never got its due upon its release and like the equally overlooked “Shoot Em Up” has been left for the action fans to rediscover, now it has been largely forgotten by most, which only makes it more of a shame when this film is so much fun from start to finish, while giving us a group whom I would have loved to have seen further adventures with, something I seriously doubt we will be seeing anytime soon, so for now we might aswell just enjoy it for what it is. A one shot curiosity and a snapshot of what could have been, but one worth giving a look none the less.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Prophecy

Title: The Prophecy
Director: Gregory Widen
Released: 1995
Starring: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Moriah “Shining Dove” Snyder, Adam Goldberg

Plot: The angel Gabriel has come to Earth to collect a soul, which could end the stalemated war in Heaven. In a bid to stop him, another angel Simon (Stoltz) has hidden the soul in a little girl called Mary (Snyder), while ex-priest turned cop Thomas (Koteas) is now tasked with protecting her.

Review: Perhaps not one of the better known franchises, yet this hasn’t stopped “The Prophecy” from spawning four sequels, though for one reason or another it has taken me until now to watch any of them something which only surprises me further when I consider the fact that it features Christopher Walken in full blown villain mode. Alas it would seem that perhaps I shouldn’t have been so excited to see this one, especially when it is possibly one of the most irritating films as of late that I have had the misfortune of viewing.

Now I should start by highlighting that I’m no theology scholar as will no doubt only be highlighted further throughout this review, with the closest knowledge I have on the subject being derived from those two sessions of Sunday school I attended and general religious pop facts, which could be another reason for my dislike of this film, seeing how most of the people who seem to like this film on IMDB all seem to know a lot more about religion than me, which lets face it isn't hard. Then again it could equally be because I like things like logical plotting and likable characters, both of which are seemingly not present here, as most of the time I could not make head or tail of what the hell was supposed to be happening in this film.  

Starting off positively enough with the prospect of trench coat clad angels on earth and even more so when we see Simon kicking Gabriel’s right hand Angel out of a window, which is badass enough until it is then topped by the same angel Uzziel getting hit by a seemingly runaway car and pinned against a wall! Sadly this is essentially the high point of the film, meaning that the remaining 90 mins really feels a whole lot longer than it should.

Needless to say I don’t think that I would have made it through this one had it not been for Walken who here is on great form even the material stinks and perhaps because of this he seems to be trying to make the most of his role, as every scene he has in this film either has him chewing the scenery or making even the smallest lines of dialogue as darkly funny as possible. This of course while rocking one of his more iconic looks with his pancake makeup and slicked back jet black hair, which only adds to his villainy which seems to literaly ooze from him. Still with everything that is wrong with the film, it easy to see what attracted Walken to playing the character of Gabriel, a role it would seem he enjoyed so much that he reprised it for the next two sequels, but it is the sheer drive of this character which makes him so intresting, as not once does he ever seem to be deterred from claiming the soul, which has been stored in Mary’s body as no matter how much he is shot, beaten up or even blown up in exploding trailers, he continually refuses to give up. This however is not to say that he doesn’t get distracted along the way, as we get random scenes of his hanging out with a group of kids at Mary’s school while he randomly makes them take turns blowing a trumpet for no real reason. Equally baffling is his constant need to have a sidekick, first of all with Jerry (Goldberg) his kind of helper zombie, thanks to Gabriel keeping him in a state of limbo since they met at an earlier point when Jerry had tried to kill himself, forcing to walk the earth in a state of semi rot. However when Jerry bites the dust, Gabriel is almost immediately on the lookout for a replacement sidekick, yet this constant need for support is never explained, especially when he is so seemingly capable of handling things on his own.

Still such illogical plotting is one of the main issues of this film, especially when it the film turns into a boring road trip movie for if there is one guaranteed way to loose my intrest, it is to fill you film with shots of people driving in the desert for no purpose, which is what we get with Thomas trying to get Mary to a Native American reservation so that they can free the soul trapped in Mary’s body, which I thought was kind of strange, seeing how they make such a big deal about Thomas suffering visions of angels at war while being ordained as a priest, aswell as suffering other similar visions and shown frequently quoting scripture in his droning voice over. So with such an emphasis on Catholicism why go to an Indian reservation and not a church? Does the Catholic Church only handle exorcisms and not your run of the mill rouge soul extraction? Equally comical is the soul that is trapped in Mary’s body, which it would seem director Widen was not content with just noting as belonging to a bad man, but instead goes the whole hog by making it the soul of a Colonel responsible for numerous war crimes including most bizarrely cannibalism, while attempting to back up the supposed evil of this character with grainy footage of the Colonel standing next to a number of impaled victims with a sheepish expression on his face.

My other main gripe here is the sheer amount of unlikable characters, which really says a lot when the villain is the only real likable one here, which is more down to the awesomeness of Walken than anything to do with the writing, while outside of Eric Stoltz’s Simon the only other memorable character is the almost cameo appearance of Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer, who is almost unrecognisable here as it is a role completely unlike anything else I have seen him play, as his sneering appearance fuelled with such manic energy that his brief 15 minutes in the film, lasts with you even when the film has ended while being one of the more fondly remembered moments of the film, which lets face it there are not many of here.

It is strange to think that Widen, earlier in his career would also be responsible for writing two of my favourite films with both “Backdraft” and “Highlander”, especially when the writing and general plotting so sloppy here, so much that an epic idea of the battle between Heaven and Hell ends up coming off looking like a minor squabble especially when his angel characters, supposedly capable of raining down fire and brimstone, frequently seem impotent with their powers, which when used seem more like base level telepathy than the low levels of any kind of great power. Sadly this is a film which promises many things, but fails to deliver on anything more than a low level theology musings, yet at the same time I’m left wondering how much worse the sequels could be, as after seeing this one it is hard to see how much worse they can get.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013



Title: Django
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Released: 1966
Staring: Franco Nero, Eduardo Fajardo, José Bódalo, Loredana Nusciak, Ángel Álvarez, Rafael Albaicín, Jimmy Douglas, Simón Arriaga

Plot: Dragging a coffin behind him, the drifter and gunslinger Django (Nero) makes his way into a desert town, only to soon finds himself caught in the middle of a war between two rival fractions as a group of Yankees lead by the sadistic Major Jackson (Farjardo) face off against a group of Mexican bandits lead by General Hugo Rodriguez (Bódalo).

Review: With the release of “Django Unchained”, Quentin Tarantino’s loving homage to spaghetti westerns and the work of this films’ director Corbucci it is unsurprising that it has received a new burst of interest as of late. Still even without the Tarantino effect the film more than stands on its own merits, especially when its popularity spawned over thirty unofficial sequels which have been confirmed of the rumoured one hundred, while finally getting an official sequel in 1987 with “Django Strikes Again”.

Opening with Django dragging his trademark coffin , as he walks though the desert, as the now iconic Django theme tune plays, it is possibly one of my favourite film openings as with this simple setup we are given essentially everything we need to know about this character, especially when Nero holds himself so well as a brooding badass and this is even before he has even done anything, while Corbucci ensures the tone of the film is essentially set with his opening, as he follows the iconic wandering Django sequence with the flogging of local prostitute Maria (Nusciak) by a group of Mexican bandits, whose assumed rescue by a group of Yankees is cut short by their sudden desire to burn her on the cross, tieing in nicely with their crimson klu klux klan hoods, the similarities of which are never acknowledged despite their general attitude to the local population is scarily similar. At the same time these hoods could also be attiributed to the popular belief that the extras playing these masked Yankee’s Corbucci had deemed to ugly to be shown on film, while at the same time being unable to find any other extras, due to a surprising shortage at the time of filming.

Needless to say when the film was released it soon gained a reputation as being one of the most violent movies ever made, ensuring that it was refused a certificate in the UK until 1993 were it finally gained an 18 certificate, which was later reduced to a 15, elsewhere the ear cutting sequence, reportedly forgotten to be cut by Corbucci, has ensured that the film remains banned in Sweden. While this violent reputation might seem tame in comparison to some films now released, this is still a bloody western, as Corbucci ensures that the film features a suitably high body count, with most shootouts, usually ending with bodies lining the streets, even more when Django revels the Gatling gun which he is hiding in the coffin, whose true significance outside of hiding this weapon and being a handy place to store stolen gold is never really revealed and left me wondering if there was some subtle symbolism I was missing.

For a modern audience the violence might not seem overly shocking as Corbuci films his shootouts much like “The Wild Bunch”......gratuitously bloody, while the only noticeable moments of gore being an ear sliced off and feed to its previous owner (a possible influence on “Reservoir Dogs” perhaps?) and Django having his hands crushed via a combination of a rifle butt aswell as being trampled under the hooves of the Mexican steeds, after a double cross doesn’t play out in his favour. Still despite this, it never feels like violence for the sake of it and only adds to the tone of the film, much like the permantly muddy surroundings the characters find themselves in, in a welcome break from the more traditionally desert  associated with the genre and one used to its full potential by Corbucci.

Meanwhile Corbucci’s world view for this is very much black and white, with the villians being suitably odious, as is especially the case with Major Jackson and his men, who think nothing of using their Mexican captives in their human shooting range, while generally only caring about their own goals and none to fondly about anyone who is not a fellow Yankee. What is frustrating here though is that Corbucci introduces Major Jackson which would appear to be a fantastic entourage of henchmen, only to then kill them off with their first encounter with Django, rather than taking the more traditional route of eking their inevitable demise out over the course of the film. Still what remains true is that the path of revenge is never straight path and that could not be truer here, especially when Django finds himself teaming up with the bandits to lead a raid on the Yankee’s base, while also taking possibly the most roundabout routes to taking his revenge on Major Jackson who we find out is also responsible for killing Django’s wife.

The casting throughout is incredibly spot on, with Nero in particular embodying the role, even if he originally wasn’t Corbucci’s first choice having originally wanted to cast Mark Damon in the role, he more than owns role so that even though there would be other Django’s in the years which followed its release both in a homage and unofficial sequel form Nero is definitive article as this film proves. Elsewhere Farjardo makes for a great villain, with his leading man looks proving the perfect disguise for his true sadistic nature, while Bódalo makes for an interesting and certainly more frenzied counter, yet none the less dangerous General Rodriguez.

Even though Tarantino might have crafted his own original vision for Django, the original still remains a film worth hunting down, even if you’re like myself and not typically a fan of the Spaghetti Western genre, as the quick pacing, bloody action scenes and colorful characters make it an enjoyable watch and left me keen to check out the other additions to the series aswell as the other films with Corbucci directed, as Django is one character far too colourful and memorable to be contained to one film, as undoubtedly the legacy has shown.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Six Movies You Really Have To Show The Kids

Being a father I constantly find myself dismayed by what is currently being churned out for kids today, compared to what I remember watching when I was growing up. True I might be viewing most of these films I hold so dear through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, but at least none, feature anything resembling the Disney school of overacting which currently dominates most live action kids shows / movies, with the worst I remember it being was just a lot of moral messages clumsily tacked onto shows including memorably the “I’m so excited” moment on “Saved By The Bell, which is apparently what happens in their world when you choose to use drugs.
So to counter these saturnine sweet, day glow coloured monstrosities, here is my list of films which I enjoyed as a kid and fully intend on corrupting my own kids with in an attempt to maintain some sense of taste for the next generation.


Lighter in tone than its companion piece “The Dark Crystal” while also having the added bonus of staring David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth. This tale of Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a teenage girl who stuck with babysitting her half-brother Toby wishes that the goblins would take him away. Needless to say it is a wish that she soon regrets and leading her to making a deal with Jareth to return him if she can complete his Labyrinth within thirteen hours.
Written by Monty Python member Terry Jones who drew inspiration from Brian Froud’s sketches “The Goblins of the Labyrinth” this twisted fantasy tale, manages to blend the humour of the Muppets with a dash of the darkness from “The Dark Crystal” to craft a surprisingly grown up fairy tale, a point no more clearly highlighted by Sarah’s first meeting with her dwarf companion Hoggle, who is seen not only taking a long piss into a pond, but also happily spraying fairies who in this world are less angelic than any of their other incarnations and no doubt the inspiration for the squashed fairies contained within the pages of Froud’s “Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book”. Still such things seemingly weren’t picked up by own parents, much like Firey sequence which see’s them randomly removing limbs (and even eyeballs at one point) on a whim when they let me watch this as a child, no doubt thinking that the Jim Henderson label meant that it would be just like the Muppets, which essentially on the surface it would seem like the more fantastical version of, with the real dark side unlike “The Dark Crystal” only being more apparent on close inspection.

Still packed with colourful characters and a great sense of fun, it’s a fun journey with some great songs on the soundtrack provided by Bowie, while the film itself blends elements of horror, fantasy and even manages a couple of musical numbers (well no point in having Bowie and not making full use of his talents). Made pre-CGI Henderson’s use of pratical effects is nothing short of mind-blowing in places especially with his M.C Escher inspired finale.

Sadly a box office failure meaning that it never received a follow up and marking one of the darker periods of Henderson’s career while also meaning that it would be the last feature film he would make. Despite not having an official sequel we were given one with Tokyopop’s manga “Return to Labyrinth” set thirteen years after this film and following Toby as a teenager being lured back to the Labyrinth by Jareth. Elsewhere last year a prequel graphic novel charting Jareth’s rise to power as the Goblin king ensuring the legacy continues to live on even if it’s not quite in the form the fans would have preferred.

The Flight of Dragons

One of my earliest film watching memories alongside “Gremlins” aswell as my fondest, this tale of Peter (John Ritter), a fantasy game designer who is pulled into a time of magic and dragons, while soon finding his mind trapped in the body of the dragon Gorbash, while tasked with joining the quest to stop the evil wizard Ommadon (James Earl Jones).

Being a big fan of fantasy movies (something that will no doubt become only clearer with this list) this film really appealed to me as a kid, especially as it was one of the few to actually feature dragons, something usually missing from my other favourite fantasy movies and seeing how the rotoscope look of Ralph Bakshi’s “Lord of the Rings” freaked me out, this film was in many ways the replacement for that Tolken void it left me with, even more so considering how both feature an epic quest and an assortment of fantastical creatures. Even more interesting when looking at the film as an adult is the ideas about the war between magic and science which is currently waging in this world, with magic starting to fail due to humanity putting their belief into science.

Sadly this film is yet to receive any kind of re-release treatment, meaning that to get hold of a copy you will have to either stump and pay someone’s inflated prices for a VHS copy or alternatively find a bootleg or steaming copy, which occasionally show up in predictably variable quality.


While on the surface it might seem like yet another fantasy movie, this one also has quite a few elements of sci-fi thrown into the mix, much like “Yor: Hunter of the Future” with the film being set on the planet Krull, which is invaded by the entity known solely as “The Beast” who travels the galaxy in his mountain-like spaceship called the Black Fortress, with his laser staff welding henchmen “The Slayers”. Having kidnapped Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) on her wedding day, her would be husband Colwyn (Ken Marshall) armed with the mystical weapon “the Glaive” he sets out to rescue her with a mis-matched band of heroes which include a clumsy magician Ergo (David Battley), Cyclops Rell (Bernard Bresslaw), Ynyr the Old One (Freddie Jones), aswell as a band of fugitives (whose number include a young Liam Neeson).

For some reason this film always makes me think of “The Princess Bride” which honestly despite its cult following never rung with me the same way that this film does, while it also manages some surprisingly scary moments such as the pursuit by giant crystal spider, while director Peter Yates has zero quarms about killing off many of your favourite characters, many in truly heartbreaking ways as is especially the case with Rell. All in all a surprising movie from the same man who also gave us the Cliff Richard Cheesefest “Summer Holiday”.


Ebirah, Horror of the Deep / Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster

True I could have gone with one of several Godzilla movies for this spot, especially considering how big a part of my childhood film watching (not to mention my adult film watching) I had to resist the urge just to fill all six spots with Godzilla movies. So why this one and not say the ultimate monster smackdown of “Destroy All Monsters” or even the flying Godzilla antics of “Godzilla vs. Hedorah”?

No instead I have decided to opt for the film which started a lifelong obsession, which see’s four friends ship wrecked on a mysterious island by the giant shrimp Ebirah, were they soon find a organisation called “The Red Bamboo” has enslaved the local natives who worship another Toho classic Mothra, with the Red Bamboo using the natives to help them make heavy water for their own purposes, aswell as a chemical which prevent Ebirah from attacking their ships. Luckily for the friends they find Godzilla who with the help of a lightning rod is soon awoken and soon sets about dealing with both the Red Bamboo and Ebirah in a number of memorable battles.

The first of five Godzilla movie to be directed by Jun Fukuda, who would later direct another of my favourites “Godzilla vs. Gigan” Frequently over looked by some fans a reason which has never been clear to me, especially when it plays out even on its most basic level like a fun adventure movie and serves as a perfect introduction to Godzilla. Ironic then that this film was originally written as a King Kong movie, with the wonderful title “Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs. Ebirah”, only for Toho to switch Kong with Godzilla, yet leave most of the script the same, meaning that Godzilla shows some truly random behaviour including the use of boulders to destroy the Red Bamboo Base and drawing strength from electricity. It still remains though one of the more fun Godzilla adventures and the perfect starting point for kick starting your kids own Godzilla obsession.


While like most kid I was obsessed with “Star Wars” growing up, it would be George Lucas’s other world, which honestly I held more dearly and that was the one I was shown here in which the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) ruthlessly hunts for the prophesied baby Elora who will bring about her downfall and whose makeshift raft washes up on the shore near the Nelwyn village were farmer and aspiring conjurer Willow (Warwick Davis) lives. Realising the danger the child brings with it, the village soon nominate Willow to return the child to the world of Daikini (humans), only to soon discover that he has been tasked with being her guardian and tracking down sorceress Fin Raziel to bring down Queen Baymorda, while gaining help from the boastful master swordsman Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and a pair of bickering brownies Rool and Franjean (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton).

Owing more than a slight debt to “The Hobbit” seeing how both Wilow and Bilbo are everymen who have no intention of going of on an adventure only to find one thrust upon them, while at the same time equally sharing a number of similarities to Lucas’s own “Star Wars” ensemble, something which I should really explore further at some point. Still the film has the same fun sense of adventure that “Star Wars” does only transferring it to a medieval setting, while Davis proves himself more than capable of playing the leading man in a rare starring role which doesn’t require him to be under heavy prosthetics, with his grumpy antics and constant rants about responsible parenting, which include him criticising Madmartigan for daring to engage in a high speed carriage chase surprisingly never growing old thanks to the madcap heroics of Kilmer’s Madmartigan balancing things out. Equally of note is the fact that the film features one of my all-time favourite villains, the skull mask wearing General Kael (Pat Roach), who is badass until the end, while I can’t help but feel also helped influence the design of the Lord of Bones in “Game of Thrones” who interestingly also wears a similar skull mask.

I would include “Legend” on this list, but so many of the reasons I love that movie are generally covered by this film and “Krull”, but still why not show your kids all three and blow their little minds, while no doubt making them much more rounded people or just setting them on the path of being fantasy fans which is equally no bad thing.

The Goonies

Honestly I don’t know one child of the 80’s who did not want to be one of “The Goonies”. Hell even now I still want to be part of this group of misfits, who set off in search of the treasure of the pirate One-Eyed Willie, while trying to elude the criminal family the Fratellis, led by the grotesque and dominating Ma Fratelli (Anne Ramsey). These characters weren’t just characters in a film to me, but thanks to the way the film is shot, it felt that I was part of this group of possibly the coolest kids ever as they went off on this crazy treasure hunt.

Still there is something about this adventure which I still get a kick out of all these later and perhaps it is down to how these aren’t just another group of smart mouthed kids getting one over on a bunch of slow witted adults or bumbling crooks (although the Fratellis are hardly criminal masterminds), but instead they are essentially a realistic bunch of kids with their own quirks, who do the same things that I did when I was their age, such as picking on their chubby friend Chunk (Jeff Cohen) by forcing him to do things such as the truffle shuffle. Equally it could be down to the fact that director Richard Donner is never afraid of putting them frequently in real danger, be it facing one of the many booby traps which line the way to the treasure of One-Eyed Willie, but also at the hands of the Fratellis who not only kidnap Chunk but we also have scenes of Ma even threatening them with a gun, something which was a lot more common in the 80’s as also seen in “ET” though thankfully these scenes haven’t been erased with the remastered versions, like the FBI agents suddenly carrying walkie talkies in ET.

There is however for all the hijinks and questionable family entertainment (the running joke of Chunk and the dead guy comes to mind) the film does contain a lot of heart, such the bond that Chunk forms with the deformed Fratelli brother Sloth (John Matuszak) or Andy (Kerri Green) making out with the wrong brother, all making for magical childhood moments, as the more madcap ones such as Data’s gadgets or the group shaking the pipes under the city, leading to exploding toilets and randomly disappearing shower taps, which even now continue to amuse me as much as they did the first time, proving that some adventures are just timeless.

Yellow Submarine

It’s kind of ironic that the best Beatles movie is one which only features them in a contractually required cameo at the end. Still set in a psychedelic wonderland known simply as Pepperland, were the music hating blue meanies have taken over forcing the FAB four to come to the rescue in the titular yellow submarine.

 True this might sound like one big acid trip, which is no doubt one of the main influences for those involved in the making of the sole animated Beatles feature, especially so when judging by its psychedelic styling and Terry Gilliam esq cut and paste animation style. Still for Beatles fans they can rejoice at sheer amount of Beatles tracks on offer, as the film makes regular stop offs at the various sea’s (Sea of Time, Sea of Science etc) on the way to Pepperland, with each one essentially an excuse to showcase tracks in what could almost be described as music videos, much like Michael Jackson would attempt with the bonkers ego-fest which was “Moonwalker”, yet here they genuinely feel like part of the story, if you can get past random moments such as the Beatles suddenly aging before bursting into “When I’m Sixty-Four”.

Packed with random Beatles references such as Pepperland being protected by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the use of giant green apples as weapons by the meanies (a reference to the “Apple Records” music label), aswell as utilising a great selection of Beatles songs it is a fun trip for even the most casual Beatles fans, aswell as being a key film on the path to animation being recognised as a serious art form, while working on such a level that it appeals to both adults and kids alike, while generally being a handy piece of Beatles propaganda to get the kids interested in their music, which considering that all my favourite Beatles songs are from around this era of their career, makes it hard to deny that it doesn’t work.

So there have my six films I would recommend you show your kids if you havn’t already, but even now I can still think of more films which could have made the list, so don’t be surprised if this is followed by another list at some point. Still what movies are you ensuring are passed on to the kids?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

Title: Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
Director: Eli Craig
Released: 2012
Staring: Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Chelan Simmons, Jesse Moss

Plot: Best friends Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) head up to Tuckers rundown holiday shack with plans of fishing, drinking beer and generally doing the place up, unaware that a group of college kids are also camping nearby. After rescuing one of their group Allison (Bowden), after a skinny dipping mishap, the boys soon find themselves on the wrong end of a series of misunderstandings which sees them being mistaken for the same crazed rednecks responsible for a series of murders in the area, as the college kids attempt to rescue Allison.

Review: Ever since Herschell Gordon Lewis unwittingly launched the “Hicksploitation” genre with “Two Thousand Maniacs”(1964) with it confederate flag waving loony’s showing a group of unwittingly tourists a whole new kind of southern hospitality , the redneck community have seemingly been demonised eternally with the likes of “I Spit On Your Grave” and “Southern Comfort" hardly helping while the words “Squeal Piggy” are still able to send a chill down the spine thanks to the mountain men of “Deliverance”, while Hollywood has continued to see them as the last easy target when in need of a bad guy fodder, especially with every other social group now deemed untouchable from movie xenophobia, while the hillbilly is frequently used as a representation of the more primitive side that as members of civilised society we have since long left behind. Still the red neck community should fear no longer as Director Eli Craig has set out to not only readdress the balance, but with “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” to also spin on the genre on it’s head as the roles are reversed. two hillbillies and

Despite being essentially a one joke film Director Craig has somehow managed to turn this film into so much more and what could be one of the funniest films of the year, as he shows us the flipside of the familiar horror scenarios and managing to really blow a simple to misunderstanding to the extreme, especially as the bodies start to pile up in a series of increasingly exaggerated deaths as wood chippers, hatchets and even the woods themselves prove to be surprisingly deadly to the unwitting college kids, with the majority of deaths in the film being accidents which only further paint Tucker and Dale as the psycho hillbillies they really aren’t.

The key reason for the success of the film lyes in the fact that Tucker and Dale are such a fun creations that they make the already brief run time fly past even quicker, as it’s a blast to be in the company of these two, as they play off each other with perfect comedy timing like the wilderness version of Laurel and Hardy, with Tudyk taking a break from playing oddballs and generally creepy killers which seem to be the majority of his recent roles since being thrown into the acting wildness, since the premature end of “Firefly” were he memorably played Walsh and here he’s crafts another fun creation as the frequently bewildered Tucker trying to figure out exactly were all these college kids are coming from, let alone why they seem to so intent on killing both him and Dale. Labine is also on great form as Dale, the slow witted best friend of Tucker who is just a big softy as well as painfully, despite his size frequently giving the opposite impression. Meanwhile the naivety of this duo also provides fertile ground to further play off familiar horror clichés, as they seem completely oblivious to the animal bones hanging from the walls of the shack, let alone the collection of newspaper cuttings about the college kids massacred by a killer hillbilly, instead focusing on the coupon for free hotdogs.

The college kids on the other hand are usual stereotypical group of slasher fodder with some of the group such as dumb blonde Chloe (Simmons) especially being played for laughs as she runs around the woods in her heels, meanwhile thanks to a fantasy campsite massacre any archetypes missing from the group, such as the geeky guy are covered for, while not only adding to the surprisingly high body count, but also adding gas to the groups misunderstanding as they soon start drawing comparisons between those rednecks and their current counterparts.

Gore wise things are played strictly for laughs, as the gore and violence is kept comical throughout with geyser of blood being the order of the day, with Craig thankfully never feeling the need to take the film into any kind of darker place, even when the kids are goaded into a misguided torture attempt by the real crazy of the film Chad (Moss) who not only doesn’t taken rejection well, with his darker side first making an appearance after being Allison, but somehow manages to get the group to frequently follow his misguided attempts to rescue her. Still each of these failed attempts only seem to make him more deranged, especially as his social circle slowly begins to dwindle, so that by the films sawmill climax he is a full blown chainsaw welding crazy.

Despite having the plot essentially being one joke, it never seems to be stretched thin even with seemingly filler scenes such as when Allison attempts to conduct a misguided therapy session to try and clear up the misunderstandings between the two groups while each refuse to put down their individual weapons. Meanwhile a blossoming romance between Allison and Dale is introduced with Dale slowly winning her over with his clumsy and goofy affections, yet this never feels in any way forced or unnatural even if it is the most unlikely of parings. Still were the film truly succeeds is in its accessibility, for you can watch this film with only the barest of ideas about the films it is paying homage to and still have a blast while smart dialogue and writing saves it from being reference heavy as the painfully tedious (Insert Movie genre here) Movies have become, having long since drifted away from their “Scary Movie” roots to the point were even the genre they are spoofing seems like an afterthought, unlike here were focus is never traded for a quick laugh, with the humour being largely organic with none of the deaths including the standout wood chipper death seemingly like anything other than an unfortunate accident, rather than a telegraphed sequence, with this style of humour continuing even as Tucker and Dale’s situation become all the more farcical as noted by Tucker when questioned by the local sheriff

“Oh hidy ho officer, we’ve had a doozy of a day. There we were minding our own business, just doing chores around the house, when kids started killing themselves all over my property.”

While this film seems set to be a film which will find its audience on DVD like so many cult comedies, it is still worth hunting down for the whole new take on Hillbilly horror which makes you wonder why no one has thought of doing this before. Still with Tucker and Dale we have a duo who I’d love to see further adventures from, perhaps seeing them unwittingly battling more traditional bogeymen, rather than being left as one hit characters as they currently seem judging by no immediate plans to follow this film up with a sequel, but for now here’s hoping this isn’t the last we have seen of Tucker and Dale.
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