Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Ving Rhames, Nick Cannon, Mena Suvari's Massive Forehead.
Steve Miner

I'd like it down on record that I was tricked into watching this. The TV guide said it was the 1985 original, and even the voiceover chap on the telly said it was the George A Romero one. Naughty ITV4.
So where to start?

Despite starring Ving Rhames, this isn't a sequel to the Dawn of The Dead remake. Ving plays Rhodes, who fans of the original will fondly remember for being a complete prick who got torn to ribbons by zombies whilst screaming the immortal words "CHOKE ON 'EM!". That doesn't happen to Ving, but I think it's probably down to the filmmakers forgetting to add that bit rather than anything else.

Rhodes is an army general, I think. Who might be in charge of the army that's currently quarantining off a small Colorado town. To be honest, the first 5 - 10 minutes could easily get chopped and prove no detriment to the film. Also, Ving isn't in the film for long, although he does come back as a legless zombie who eats his own eyeball. And I mean legless as in no lower limbs, not drunk. That would have been pretty good if they did that.

So, Ving's elongated cameo as a useless character aside, that leaves Mena Suvari's Massive Forehead to lead the action. Her face is an army, um, sergeant? I don't know, actually; they never say. She's not a grunt, anyway. Mena's face ends up accompanied by a "what you sayin' bout my niggers?" black private, a sweetnatured communications officer, a smarmy doctor and Mena's face's own little brother and his girlfriend, as they try to avoid the zombies and figure out an escape plan.

To be fair, the acting's largely solid, as is the direction. I even ended up liking Nick Cannon as the "I so black, don't mess wid this brutha" character. Miss Suvari might have slipped into Direct-To-DVD purgatory since her American Pie days but she does alright here, although her freakishly wide eyes and low-set face make her almost as unnerving to watch as the zombies themselves.

Ah yes, the zombies. The make-up fx are top notch, and when a practical effect is used it also looks really ace. Unfortunately, there's far too much CGI blood, and the zombies themselves are laughably mixed-up. One moment they're lurching around like super-charged epileptics, the next they're doing a Spider-Man and sticking to the roof/wall. Hmmm. And, the point is made that they retain some knowledge from before they changed, which is fair enough, but is completely spoiled as a plot device once you see zombies using mops to bang on a roof in an attempt to shake the heroes out of the air vents. Quiet up there, ya damn punk kids!

Also, when someone changes, they either freeze for a few moments as their skin rots...or they don't, and change pretty quickly without a pause. The whole film is unfortunate in this respect, in that it keeps throwing up interesting ideas, and then pisses all over them in complete disregard for the rules that've just been set up. Bad form, Steve Miner!

An example: in the original film, there's a zombie called Bub. Bub is being trained/kept as he shows the most advanced signs of retaining some humanity, and ends up shooting a gun. In this version, there's Bud. Bud is sweet on Mena's face, and when he turns he takes on the role of 'Bub', retaining more humanity than the other monsters. Eventually, he tries to fight other zombies to save Mena's face, and fires a gun at other zombies. This scene would have had a lot more weight if we hadn't already seen a swarm of spastic army zombies spasming along whilst wildly firing rifles into the air. See? Laughable.

Taurus Entertainment is the company behind the film. To give you an idea of what sort of company they are, here's a link to the films they've been behind.

I have to admit I did enjoy this film, even though it's set during the night. Ha ha. The worse thing, though, is that it almost succeeds in being actually worthwhile, which is far worse than just being shit. Ultimately, shoddy ideas and zombies that act like feral retards sink this ship.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen (voice), Hugo Weaving (voice).

Michael "It's Not Loud Enough" Bay


When news of the first Transformers film came out, the idea of Michael “I’ll blow anything up” Bay helming a big screen adaptation of the 80’s toy/cartoon/comic characters was enough to make plenty of fans start shitting bricks. Understandable, if you’re around 30 years of age and actually grew up with Transformers as a treasured part of your childhood; puzzling if you got into Transformers afterwards, as you’d have all the new versions to water things down, plus have no nostalgia to ruin.

Therefore, the script writers pulled a bit of a sneaky trick and made something that could cater to brand new and more recent fans, as well as the original ones (or ‘Generation 1’ haw haw). We got Optimus Prime voiced by the original actor, Megatron and Starscream, plus a smattering of other old-school characters. Most of them were then given brand new looks, and slightly-different personalities. And it worked, more or less.

Unfortunately, REVENGE OF THE FALLEN doesn’t just copy/continue the things that worked in the first film – it also repeats the really, really naff stuff, but under the misguided impression that those things worked better and so included more of it.

Case in point: innumerable mini-Decepticons that chatter in excited pseudo-swearing or ridiculous accents. Did we really need a Germanic doctor robot with comedy specs? Really? And don’t even get me started on the jive-talking Autobot twins (I’m not makng this shit up, but somebody sure as hell did).

The insistence on having alien robots spouting Earth slang is also an annoyance – although it stands to reason that they would pick some of our language up after being on this planet for a while. But when an ancient robot is awakened later in the film and then starts talking in a gravelly (and strangely familiar) British accent, bumps his head and says “Bollocks”, it stinks a bit too much of a cheap joke.

The good stuff, thankfully, just about outweighs the misjudged. Soundwave makes a very welcome appearance (in a clever reworking of his original function), and is voiced by his original voice actor: Frank Welker. Starscream has a much bigger part, too, and the relationship between him and Megatron is spot on. And you still get plenty of scenes with giant robots beating the shit out of each other. And that’s all we really want isn’t it?

It’d have to be, since the story is paper-thin:

Since the events in the first film, the Autobots have been working with the military to track down and destroy any Decepticons left on Earth. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (played by 23-in-real-life-but-looking-more-like-30-years-old Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college. But it’s okay, because a lot of the other students look too old to be there too. At some point, Sam finds he still has a piece of the All-Spark, and gets Cybertronian info dumped in his brain. The Decepticons plan to resurrect Megatron using a different piece of the All-Spark (quite why it’s taken 2 years to locate it is unclear) and also bring back their real leader, The Fallen (voiced by Candyman himself, Tony Todd). The Decepticons find out Sam has this new info in his head, and try to get him. Autobots and Decepticons fight. The End. It’s impossible to give spoilers away for a film like this as everything is so painfully telegraphed you could see it coming with your eyes closed.

There are a couple of pointless/ridiculous characters – several robots could have easily been cut from the film and it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference since they serve absolutely no purpose (the only female Autobot, Arcee, being a prime example). And when an organic (well, sort-of) Transformer is introduced, it just takes the piss and doesn’t make any sense; it feels like a character/idea from a different film *cough* Terminator *cough*

Despite the aforementioned problems, they can be accepted or overlooked due to the overall tone of the film: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN is a loud, slightly goofy movie designed to sell toys. To criticise it too much is kind of redundant. The effects are top-notch, the explosions are plentiful (although there are relatively long gaps between the action, so maybe Mr Bay is mellowing out slightly) and Megan Fox gets her own awful soft-rock piano-ballad theme tune throughout the first half of the film.

And you still get to hear the cool *transforming* noise, which is completely impossible to write down as an actual word.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Hugh Jackman, Leiv Schrieber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins and Will.i.Am from the Black-Eyed Peas (!)

Gavin Hood


I feel sorry for Hugh Jackman. He’s been getting a lot of negative reviews for this film. Even so, I’ve never seen him do an interview or appear on telly in a grumpy mood; he is, by all accounts, the nicest man in Hollywood. He also clearly feels invested in the character of Wolverine, as he’s a producer on the film. So why, then, doesn’t X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE live up to the hype and expectation?

The story's pretty straight-forward: Logan/Wolverine joins the super-secret Team X. He leaves Team X. His brother kills his missus, sending Logan back into the arms of his former boss, Stryker, who grafts the indestructible metal Adamantium onto Logan's bones. Logan sets out for revenge. Then things go pear-shaped. And for his first blockbuster, director Hood handles this all with style and flair.

Plus, Jackman was quite clearly born to play Wolverine, so there’s nothing wrong there. Only, this Wolverine isn’t quite as tough as the one we’ve seen in the previous X-MEN films. The reason why is pretty obvious: that Wolverine was still recovering from the memory loss he suffers in this origin film. Ergo, a different character in the same skin.

Also, you can’t make a ‘true’ Wolverine film without plenty of violence. He is, as he often says, “the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice”. ORIGINS has violence in it, but it’s largely bloodless. This is fine, because otherwise it’d have to be an 18-rated movie, and that would never happen because it'd immediately alienate half the target audience.

Although having said that, the recent HULK VS WOLVERINE has a lot more blood in it, and that’s a 12-rated cartoon. So maybe it could have been done…

Anyway, as with that (much shorter) film, ORIGINS features a large supporting cast of other mutants, including Wade Wilson/Deadpool (played with a sardonic cool by Ryan Reynolds). However, unlike HULK VS, in which Deadpool is clearly the best thing in it, he isn’t the highlight of ORIGINS. Partly this has to do with his limited screen time, and partly because there are too many other super-powered freaks jostling for attention.

Everyone gets a fair share of the spotlight. Some, like Deadpool and Agent Zero, are more effective than others. Fan-favourite Gambit makes an appearance, and his powers are suitably impressive; it’s just a shame that the actor playing him (Taylor Kitsch) has both a name that sounds like a female lounge act, and the worst Cajun accent I’ve ever heard. Or never heard, since he seems to keep forgetting to use one.

Perhaps the biggest gripe with the film, though, has got to be the completely wonky timeframe. Things start off well, in 1854, and then rapidly progress through a number of wars, as Logan fights alongside his more feral brother (or half-brother? I’m not entirely sure) Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth, but not in this film).

Things get a little muddled after this, as the brothers appear to be fighting in the Vietnam war, and then events move on six years later, which puts the film somewhere in either the late 70’s or early 80’s. The late 70’s makes sense, as the film’s climax cleverly references the accident at Three Mile Island, and that happened in 1979. However, in the first X-MEN film, Prof. X says Wolverine’s been wandering around without a memory for 15 years…which means the end of ORIGINS should take place in 1985. Hmmm.

The apparently-not-violent-enough Logan, the uncertain-timeframe-and-fashions-that-look-recent-anyway stylings, the too-many-mutants-spoil-the-broth-and-overegg-the-pudding criticisms are all minor quibbles, I think. In that, they can easily be forgiven/ignored.

WOLVERINE is a really enjoyable film. It has one moment that genuinely shocked (as in surprised) me, plenty of cool mutants blasting the shit out of each other and their surroundings (the film even made me want to see a Cyclops Origin film, for crying out loud, and he’s more boring than toothpaste) and last but not least, Hugh Jackman on fine form.

Certain broadsheets got it fantastically wrong by claiming only the hardcore fans would truly enjoy X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, when it’s actually the hardcore fans who are the ones kicking up the biggest stink about the film. After all, comic book “geeks” are notoriously protective of their favourite characters, and hate it when origin stories are not Exactly. Like. The. Comic.

But seriously, it’s a popular comic book character who’s been turned into a Big Budget Hollywood Summer Blockbuster™. What do you expect? If the fans are that bothered about watching a film that’s exactly like the origin story, they can always get a Handicam, and point it at the comic whilst they turn the pages.