Review- ‘Upgrade’ (2018)

Review- ‘Upgrade’ (2018)

Following a mugging in which his wife was killed and he was made a quadriplegic, Grey Trace has an AI chip installed into his neck that makes his seemingly super-human. He then goes after the bad guys who killed his wife and left him for dead.

I knew nothing about this movie but just knew that it was critically acclaimed (Thank you, Rotten Tomatoes) and so rocked up to the screening. I was amazed! This film is fantastic.

Yes, leading actor Logan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy’s twin. Yes, the film’s plot seems eerily close to the storyline of Hardy’s upcoming Venom. Upgrade is a great film and will quite possibly be in my list of the year’s best films.

wicked-cool-new-overkill-red-band-trailer-for-the-sci-fi-action-film-upgrade-social

The action sequences are terrific and theres more of a passing nod to a comic book type vision for the film’s look and feel. Check out the bar that Grey goes to to try to find his wife’s killers.

But there’s also emotional depth here. This is especially seen in the scenes where Grey tries to adopt to life in a wheelchair with his mother taking over the small tasks of everyday life that he could do before the mugging. The scene in which he bursts into tears at his own newly discovered inability is unexpected but very welcome in a futuristic action movie like this. It provides extra layers to a movie that in lesser hands would be more generic fare. He is later seen trying to take an overdose.

mn-reviews-upgrade-film-review
Tom Hardy Logan Marshall-Green

Whilst there is gritty action and heartbreaking emotional depth to the film there is also laugh out loud humour also. Check out the scene where Grey fights an adversary with STEM in control for the first time. Marshall-Green’s comic timing is impeccable.

Some of the action sequences end gorily- in fact, very gorily. There was more than one occasion during the screening in which audience members where audibly grossed out at special effects that seem to be straight out of a video nasty. And if you’re a gorehound like me thats a great thing.

upgrade-movie-sequel

In fact, one gore scene reminded me of the left sequence from Drive. There are faint echoes of many other films within Upgrade (including The Matrix, 2001, Scanners, Blade Runner and it’s sequel, Westworld… Hell, it even reminded me of Knight Rider. Yes, it’s that good!) but you never get the feeling that Upgrade if ripping off these ideas and blending them together, hoping the audiences and critics won’t notice. Upgrade feels fresh, original and innovative- because it is.

An amazing film- don’t miss it.

4/5 out of 5.

Advertisements

Review- ‘Searching’ (2018)

Review- ‘Searching’ (2018)

A girl goes missing. Or has she been abducted? Her father digs deeper to try and find his daughter.

A film that takes place either through words, pictures and footage on instant messenger, FaceTime or social media. The telling of the story through these mediums feels innovative to begin with but grates by the end of the movie.

search_cropped.0

Great performances all round, an ending that feels a bit forced and rushed though.

But I’m not going to criticise a horror movie that strives for innovation and originality. Even though this movie doesn’t hit all of it’s targets it deserves applause.

2/5 out of 5

Review- ‘The Meg’ (2018)

Review- ‘The Meg’ (2018)

Theres ‘good bad’ and theres ‘bad bad’. This is definitely ‘bad bad’.

The Megalodon was a huge shark thought to be extinct. A research expedition into deeper levels of the ocean finds that ol’ Meg is still alive. Megsy then decides to move away from these deeper ocean depths and invade the shallower depths of the sea which the expedition came from in search of human chow.

This film contains the worst CGI since Escape From LA which just reinforces to me that this was made to make money and for no other reason. John Carpenter’s film at least had the excuse of being made when CGI as we know it was in it’s infancy.

The CGI in The Meg was so bad that a scene that should have contained a huge jump scare looked so fake and artificial just before said scare that you just knew something was going to happen. And it did. And zero forks were given.

This film also contains some of the worst most stereotypical and generic characters that I’ve ever seen- the cutesy little girl (far too irritating for her own good and deserves to become shark fodder), the edgy female scientist (tattoos, Lara Croft hair, probably a lesbian) the comedic black character (he makes Jovial Jemima look restrained. Time to send back your NAACP membership card, Page Kennedy).

MV5BMjQ0NTY1NTQyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM5OTcwNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_
Edgy. And stereotypical.

Rainn Wilson has a face for radio, not for film. ”Why has he been cast in such a role?” I thought whilst watching this cinematic abortion. Then it hit me. His brash billionaire character who is in part responsible for bringing The Meg into our waters seems to be based on Elon Musk- someone else with a face for radio and a personality just as rancid.

Jason Statham is a great action hero. That is until he opens his mouth and undoes all of his good work. I have a theory- the more dialogue Statham has to deliver in a film, the worse the film is.

MV5BOTRkNmZhOGMtYTllNC00NThkLTk5MGEtYjQ5YzIxMTE1MWYwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ4ODE4MzQ@._V1_
Jason Statham with his mouth closed. Hooray!

We get the obligatory scene of Jason just out of the shower and only wearing a towel. So what. A Google search for such fare is cheaper and more painfree than watching this movie.

There are also some of the most awkward ‘comedy’ moments that I’ve ever seen. Lines that aren’t funny and have never been funny being delivered completely ineptly.

The film also changes gear and intent about two thirds of the way through. From being a suspense filled horror film (which it utterly fails at) the film then thinks it can master the ‘Sharknado’ sub-genre of ‘oh so camp, tongue in cheek’ horror movies (it can’t even master this- some feat).

MV5BMTYxNjA3NTQwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTMzMzQwNjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_
A Jaws reference. And another reminder that you could be watching Spielberg’s masterpiece instead of ‘The Meg’.

The Meg feels like a really anaemic, formulaic and boring straight to video movie from the early 90’s that has had millions thrown at it and given a theatrical release. It’s out of time and out of place. A bit like the megalodon really.

1 out of 5

The Halloween 2 Riddle Solved?

The Halloween 2 Riddle Solved?

I’ve just reviewed Snapshot that was cheekily renamed ‘The Day After Halloween’ to capitalise on the success of John Carpenter’s masterpiece.

I remember the first time I saw this was on a copy of the soundtrack that I saw whilst browsing for soundtracks in the mid 90’s when I had moved to London to study film. ‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ I thought as I saw the title of the film and the same font used as for the original film. I was also amazed to see Sigrid Thornton on the album’s sleeve art. I had known and admired Ms Thornton’s work in the TV series Prisoner Cell Block H.

Now rewind a few years. It’s the late 80’s. I’m in Leeds after taking the bus from York to visit a brilliant film memorabilia shop called Movie Boulevard.

o 2

It’s here that I buy a quad poster for the film Halloween 2. I wondered why it said ‘All New’ on it.

IMG_0725 2
The UK quad poster for Halloween 2

When I posted my review of Snapshot in the Meathook Cinema Facebook group yesterday one of my regular contributors Phillip Lopez Jimenez said

”I remember when that came out, the ads eventually had a banner that said Not a Sequel to Halloween but it wasn’t in theaters for very long…”

So is this why the posters for Halloween 2 had the words ‘All New’ written on them? Had this small (but perfectly formed) film from Australia which had tried to market itself as a sequel to Halloween perplexed the makers of the real sequel to the film to such an extent that they had to tell audiences that this was the real deal, the real sequel? It would appear so.

This ‘All New’ addendum was added to both the American and British posters for the film (the British poster is earlier in this article)-

halloween_ii_xlg
The original US poster

This also extended to the British and American/Canadian newspaper ads for the film-

ad newspaper Halloween II 1981 UK
Original London newspaper ad
ad newspaper Halloween II 1981 Canada
Canadian newspaper ad. What a great double-bill!

A mystery solved. Take a bow, Phillip.

Review- Snapshot (1979)

Review- Snapshot (1979)

I first learnt of this film as it was called The Day After Halloween and marketed as a sequel to John Carpenter’s classic. It isn’t. But it’s still a really interesting movie.

s-l1600-2 2
I came across this soundtrack whilst browsing for vinyl in the mid 90’s in London. I didn’t know of a film that had cheekily billed itself as an unofficial sequel to Halloween.

Angela (played by Prisoner Cell Block H’s brilliant Sigrid Thornton) is persuaded to ditch her low paid hairdressing job and enter the world of modelling. Nude modelling.

This could have been a generic ‘nice girl gets led astray’ film but it isn’t. Theres too many genuinely unexpected twists and turns for it to be predictable. An example- Angela is stalked throughout the film by her creepy ex-boyfriend- who just so happens to drive a pink ice-cream van!

Snapshot-02

There’s an air of unease and menace that runs through the whole film that gives it a truly unsettling feel.

Watch out for the ending- it’s very unsettling indeed.

4 out of 5

Review- Not Quite Hollywood (2008)

Review- Not Quite Hollywood (2008)

This is such a great documentary about Ozploitation films (exploitation films made in Australia).

All the great films and sub-genres are here- the bawdy Ocker comedies, the slasher movies, the films for petrolheads.

The main players are all interviewed and show that making these insane films was just as insane in real life.

NotQuiteHollywood_onesheet_Australia-14

 

I’m so glad that so much attention was devoted to Brian Trenchard-Smith. I think Turkey Shoot is the greatest Aussie film ever (take that Picnic at Hanging Rock).

But it’s not just Aussies who are interviewed. Jamie Lee Curtis and others are interviewed as they starred in prominent Ozploitation movies. Quentin Tarantino features as he’s a massive fan of the genre.

This doc is great for beginners and the already initiated alike. Theres so many films named that I hadn’t heard of that I’ll now be hunting down. Job done.

4.5 out of 5

Review- Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Review- Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

I loved Greek mythology as a kid and this film blew me away when I first saw it.

It still more than holds up when I watch it today. This really is a brilliant adventure that the audience is taken on as Jason sails in search of the Golden Fleece.

81EDkxuqsBL._SL1200_

This is the crowning glory of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion action sequences. The skeleton fight scene is one of the most brilliant pieces of film I’ve ever seen but the Harpies and Talos are just as impressive. Betsy Palmer’s movements at the end of Friday the 13th reminds me of one of the skeletons from this sequence. I wonder if this was conscious on the part of Sean S Cunningham.

The scale of the film is suitably epic. It must have been mind-blowing to watch this film on the big screen back in the day. This film doesn’t feel dated in anyway through the brilliant crafting of the film. This must have been a labour of love for the filmmakers and cast alike.

talos-in-jason-and-the-argonauts

With any film in which theres scantily clad men within an all male cast theres also a sense of homoeroticism that underlies the whole film especially regarding the character of Hercules. If his toga had been any shorter this film would have earned an X certificate.

The Bernard Herrmann music score is similarly epic. In fact there are parts of this soundtrack that reminded me of his later score for Taxi Driver.

9424966488_a72c1a2831_b

This was actually an Anglo-American production and so we get the great contributions of Honor Blackman and Patrick Troughton in the cast which is always a great thing.

This film really does capture in abundance a childlike sense of adventure and awe that leaps from the screen. Brilliant.

4.5 out of 5