Friday, 28 October 2011

No Expense Spared

Along with the Star Wars saga, the Jurassic Park trilogy has been at the summit of my hi-def wishlist since (before) the format was invented. That wish became reality this Monday with the release of the “Ultimate Trilogy” Blu-ray boxset. I’m still making my way through the dense special features, but couldn’t resist a quick whizz-through review of the films I will adore forever.

PG – 129mins – 1993

Audience’s first visit to the world’s most perilous amusement park is one of *the* shaping moments of my childhood. I can, even now, remember leaving the cinema waaaaay back in 1993 (I was 9 years old) with a new obsession – and I still rank the film as one of my favourites of all time today, some 18 years later.

Toby the Unfriendly Ghost

15 – 84mins – 2011
Written by: Christopher B. Landon
Based on characters created by: Oren Peli
Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
Starring: Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Csengery, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Dustin Ingram, Katie Featherstone, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland


[SPOILERS] Ghost? Demon? Poltergeist? Invisible Friend? Fraud? Despite spooling back to the much referenced troubled childhoods of Paranormal Activity sisters Katie (Featherstone) and Kristi (Grayden), this third entry in the supernatural entity series still fails to comprehensively explain what the hell is haunting, taunting and hurting them. Well they have to leave something to play with in the almost guaranteed fourth instalment…

In PA3 we get a peek at the VHS home movies which disappeared from Kristi and husband Dan’s (Boland) basement in the “burglary” at the start of PA2 (reviewed HERE). Rewinding to the September of 1988, we see young Kristi (Tyler Brown) develop a disturbing camaraderie with her “invisible friend” Toby. The little girl starts talking to thin air, waking in the middle of the night and roaming the house to stare for hours at her sleeping mother (Bittner) and stepfather (Nicholas Smith).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

18 – 84mins – 2009
Written by: Sean Byrne
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Richard Wilson, Jessica McNamee, Suzi Dougherty, Victoria Egger, Anne Scott-Pendlebury


Short film-maker Sean Byrne graduates to feature length productions with this disturbing Aussie torture flick which was marketed off the back of leading man Xavier Samuel's turn as victim-turned-vamp Riley in last year's phenomenally popular Twilight Saga: Eclipse (reviewed HERE).

Samuel plays emotionally addled high-schooler Brent, who hides the guilt and pain of killing his father in a car accident six months previous by burying himself in heavy metal and marijuana binges. When he snubs introverted wallflower Lola's (McLeacy) offer of a date to the prom, Brent is completely unaware of the danger that lays ahead. Knocked unconscious and kidnapped by Lola's deranged daddy (Brumpton), Brent wakes up to a very different dance – one where you most definitely don't want to be crowned prom king.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hell's Playground

18 – 92mins – 2010
Screenplay by: Jane Anderson and Adam Gierasch
Based on the 1988 film written by: Joe Augustyn
Directed by: Adam Gierasch
Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, John F. Beach, Michael Copon, Diora Baird, Bobbi Sue Luther, Irina Beskaravaynaya, Jamie Harris


It wasn't until looking up the cast and crew info on IMDb that I realised that this all-guts-no-glory splatter flick is actually a remake of a late eighties frightener of the same name. I'd never heard of it (or its two low-end follow-ups), but it was obviously memorable enough for someone to want to film it anew. Clearly this recent rock n' roll reimagining didn't have quite the same impact, as despite a tentative theatrical run in the third quarter of 2009, it was shelved for a year and released straight to DVD in time for the following Halloween.

It's an obvious time to market any horror flick, but Night of the Demons does at least actually take place on All Hallows Eve. After a stylised sepia-toned silent movie-riffing prologue set on October 31st 1925 sees a party piece séance bring forth a horde of possessive satanic nasties, the film fast forwards to the same house in the present day; abandoned since the supernatural tragedy, until feisty Angela (American Pie's Elizabeth) rents out the sinister property to host a rawkin' Halloween party for all the fittest girls and hunkiest boys on the block.

Monday, 24 October 2011

In Space No One Can Hear You Howl

Written by: Pierre Boulle
Translated from the French by: Xan Fielding
Originally published in: 1963
Vintage Classics Edition published in: 2011


The problem with going back to the slightly obscure source material after watching the well known film it inspired is you will always draw comparisons; it's inevitable. It only becomes something of an issue, however, when the film is a highly-regarded cult classic which kick-started a considerable decades-spanning box office, television and print franchise which you've recently feasted upon in excess to great delight: disappointment ensues because what you're reading is not what you've come to know and love.

While Pierre Boulle's allegorical Planet of the Apes (or Monkey Planet, as the French title was initially translated as) does undeniably lay the skeletal groundwork for the 1968 Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi (which I reviewed HERE) – humans travel through space and land on a world where man is a primitive and enslaved species at the mercy of their anthropomorphised primate masters – there are many differences which jar when you've come to accept the films as canon.

Roaring back to the Big Screen

Cine Review: THE LION KING 3D
U – 87mins – 1994/2011
Written by: Irene Mecchi, Jonathon Roberts and Linda Woolverton
Directed by: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Starring the voice talents of: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Jonathon Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cunnings


[SPOILERS] I was planning to use the above title for a review of the recent big screen homecoming of everyone's favourite dino stomper Jurassic Park. Alas, a combination of factors (busy schedule, lack of screenings at prime times, huuuuuge second week drop off) meant that I’ll now have to wait for the Blu-ray boxset (released today, peeps - I've just picked up my copy!) to see one of my favourite films of all time remastered and in HD.

As luck would have it, another hugely popular – albeit wholly diverse – creature feature from the 90s also received a theatrical re-release this past month; replete with a retrofitted third dimension. Whether a traditional hand-drawn animated feature was well suited to a 3D conversion was arguable, but in my opinion The Lion King employed the technology more successfully than some recent live action fare (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Clash of the Titans), with the renovation most perceptible when dust, ash or fire swirled before your eyes or a bird swooped high above the African plains.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Rooming with the Enemy

15 – 91mins – 2011
Written by: Sonny Mallhi
Directed by: Christian E. Christiansen
Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka, Danneel Ackles, Katerina Graham, Matt Lanter, Frances Fisher, Billy Zane


Quite possibly the most devastating "advertisement" for sufferers of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder ever, this teen-flavoured psychological drama plays out like an unofficial remake of Single White Female – and about a gazillion other similarly themed obsession-turns-sinister thrillers from the last two decades.

Moving away from home for the first time and starting a new independent life at University is a daunting enough time as it is – but in some dormitories you have to room share, which means living within the same four walls as a complete stranger. That option would always receive a resounding “hellz no!” from me, but The Roommate explores the potential danger that if you did find yourself cozying up with a fellow student, you *could* be living with a unhinged psychopath.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Not of this Earth

War-mongering aliens, armour-plated hunters and mythological bridge-dwelling giants - the out-of-this-world concepts filmmakers think up (and I actively watch) these days...

12 – 116mins – 2011

Undetected by NASA satellites until they have already entered our atmosphere, a series of meteors are plummeting to Earth just off the coast of major cities and bringing with them more than just steaming boulders of white-hot rock... All too quickly, the world is at war with an extraterrestrial enemy who destroy everything and everyone in their path.

In the eponymous US community, the marines are assigned to stem the destruction and fight back against the attackers from outer space. Despite standing down following a tragic mistake on the battlefield, grizzled Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhert) is drawn back into the action and deployed alongside a new platoon to rescue a group of civilians stranded in a Santa Monica police station. The team have just three hours to complete their mission before a bomb is dropped to flatten the entire zone, whether they're clear or not.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Gangsta CR@B

Who? Snoop Dogg
What? The Doggumentary European Tour
When? 7th October 2011
Where? The o2, London
Why? In support of his 11th studio album

While I'm far from a hardcore hip hop enthusiast and I'm sure that to people who know me personally, the fact that I even considered going to a Snoop Dogg concert – much less attended – has left them in a bewildered stupor; but he is undoubtedly a legend in his genre and an outlandish on-stage personality with a vast catalogue of instantly recognisable – if foul-mouthed – tracks to his stage name. The entertainment factor was guaranteed and as a fan of live music I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity. Na, na, na, na, na...

Upon entering the capital's top live venue, the diversity of the audience immediately blew me away: families brought young children whose ears you would have considered too delicate for such lyrical obscenities, while at the other end of the spectrum, middle aged men were just as excited about seeing the Big Boss Dogg as the throngs of youngsters who packed out the arena. It just goes to show that music really is a universal instrument and any apprehension that lil' ole me may have felt out of place instantly dissolved.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Woof Justice

Book Review: THE SEARCH
Written by: Nora Roberts
Published by: Piatkus, 2010

[SPOILERS] I envy Nora Roberts. That may seem like a peculiar claim – she's over twice my age, of the opposite sex (obviously) and lives half the world away – but let me explain: Whilst some of us creative writers hope and dream that one day we will be able to call ourselves published authors, this prolific American romance/thriller novelist has just chalked up success story #209 (yes, that’s two hundred and nine published novels to date!!) – and she only started writing because she was bored and housebound with her two children in a blizzard! Where does the unstoppable 61 year old keep finding the inspiration?!

Published in hardback last summer and now seeing a UK paperback release, The Search is a chunky 500+ page read. The effusive and intricate knowledge of dog training and Search and Rescue units which weigh down this story of murder, survival, sex and romance give the impression that it’s a heavily researched work which demanded the author’s complete attention for a considerable period of time. While undoubtedly it did, at least for a spell, it’s astonishing to learn that it was one of five novels Roberts published in 2010 alone.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Blu Review: TRON
PG – 95mins – 1982
Written by: Steven Lisburger
Directed by: Steven Lisburger
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, Peter Jurasik

When you consider, as the filmmakers point out on one of this newly-restored Special Edition Blu-ray disc's special features, that the Average Joe in 2011 has a more powerful computer in their mobile phone than the entire crew had to work with in bringing this revolutionary digital landscape to life back in 1982, it really makes you marvel at the craft, dedication and imagination that went into conceptualising the iconic geometric cyberspace of Disney's TRON.

Sure, some of the angular effects work looks dated now (particularly the “giant head” of the Master Control Program, or MCP), and it can't visually hold a candle to last year's disappointing-but-dazzling TRON: Legacy (reviewed HERE), but at its cold mechanical heart this was an audacious cautionary parable of man's over-reliance on technology miraculously prophesied in a pre-internet generation when everybody wasn't glued to the web 24/7, poking and tweeting like there's no tomorrow. TRON's premise is so inferential it's scary!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Unnatural Selection

12 – 92mins – 1996
Screenplay by: Ron Hutchinson and Walon Green
Based on the novel by: H. G. Wells
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Daniel Rigney, Temuera Morrison, Ron Perlman, Nelson de la Rosa

[SPOILERS] In my July review of the 1977 Don Taylor directed adap of H. G. Wells’ philosophically-driven sci-fi horror story (which you can read HERE) I confessed to having a far fonder remembrance of this highly criticized ‘90s realisation than the less-than-stellar general consensus. For the record, having now re-watched the film on DVD, I would like to unequivocally retract my statement, for The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) is utter horseshit.

Frankly, it’s a miracle the film ever got completed: The original director was fired, an egotistical Val Kilmer curiously requested to have his role cut in half (and thus was given a different character to portray), replacement director John Frankenheimer brought in new screenwriters to drastically alter the direction of the film midway through production, he clashed with the difficult cast who lost all motivation to learn their lines and David Thewlis (hired late in the day as the second replacement for the role vacated by Kilmer) ended up rewriting his character's lines himself!