Review- Wonder Woman 1984

Review- Wonder Woman 1984

The sequel to Wonder Woman was rescheduled time and time again because of the emergence of COVID-19 and cinemas being off limits. It’s finally been released however but can also be streamed on HBO Max which has made some to say that cinemas may be a thing of the past.

So is this sequel as good as it’s amazing first film?

The film opens with Diana reminiscing to when she was a child and taking part in an Olympics style event in which she excels until she is felled by a tree branch which makes her fall from the horse that carries her but then decides to cheat to try and take the lead. She is found out to have cheated however and whilst she is heartbroken at not having won she is told that her time will come. This opening is in keeping with the first film and is fantastic.

But as the film then flashes forward into 1984 it starts to come seriously unstuck. It’s easy for films to fall into a kind of exaggerated, unrealistic and truly irritating parody of a decade especially one that is larger than life like the 1980’s. The film falls headlong into this trap and so the 80’s we see is wall to wall bad fashions, people eating fatty foods in abundance and littering. It feels fake and manufactured. If there was a hashtag that could be used here for the Twitterati it would be #notmy80s. ‘Ah but this is the vision of the 80’s that is individual to this film and Patty Jenkins’ I hear the comic fanboys screaming. Then in that case it just plain sucks.

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There then comes an action sequence in a shopping mall in which WW foils a robbery. It’s so pointless and pathetic that I actually shouted out in the cinema ‘This is awful!’ I even for a nanosecond thought of walking out. This would have set a new record for the fastest time I’ve walked out of a film, having lasted only ten minutes watching Freddy Vs Jason.

Fortunately the film calms down on the over the top 80’s schtick as we see the main narrative for the film- an artefact known as the dreamstone which can fulfil the wish of those who touch it but with a catch. For every wish, the person loses something else dear to them. When I heard of this premise for the film it seemed fine. But as is stated by characters within the film, this is actually based on the urban legend of the ‘Monkey’s Paw’. When I found this out (and by characters in the actual film!) the premise disintegrated right before my eyes. I felt robbed and the whole premise for the film felt lazy. In fact, very quickly in the film I found myself thinking ‘I really don’t care what happens to ANY character in this film’. Nothing in the film’s runtime swayed me from this.

Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to come back and hence this is how we get Chris Pine back in the sequel. However, with this wish coming true we see WW start to lose her powers. The scene where we see him reappear should have had a massive emotional pull for the audience. There was nothing. This film is just like it’s depiction of the decade it takes place in- all surface, no depth.

We are introduced to the socially awkward Barbara Minerva who wishes to be just like Diana. She gains her wish. She later wishes to be an ‘apex predator’. Again, she gets her wish and transforms into supervillianess Cheetah. The first glimpse of Cheetah was so naff I actually burst out laughing.

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We also get another baddie in the form of ‘orange man bad’ Max Lord who is based on Donald Trump. Theres even a border wall in the film. Hmmm. The President of the United States in the film is obviously based on Ronald Reagan. There are even allusions to his Alzheimers with him saying that felt completely disorientated and ‘somewhere else’ during one scene. Or maybe with such as admission he’s based on Joe Biden instead.

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A Trump pastiche. Edgy and original.

The real problem for me throughout the film are the scenes that involve Wonder Woman which is massively problematic based around her character. The action scenes contain the worst examples of CGI I’ve seen in a long long time. There are times when Wonder Woman feels more like an action figure in a really badly conceived computer game from the early 00’s.

There is also a scene in which we are introduced to a new power that Diana unveils. She can turn objects invisible by simply touching them. This made me roll my eyes when I had already rolled them far too many times already. ‘Maybe she can also make this film half it’s running time’ I found myself thinking.

Another scene that had me rolling my eyes was when Barbara decides to go to the gym when she discovers she has superstrength and decides to lift weights. There is also another cringy scene when she bumps into the creepy guy who harassed her earlier in the film.

But there are scenes that work. When Diana finds out she can fly it’s through a statement Steve has made earlier in the film about his love of flying. These scenes are beautiful to behold and don’t involve dodgy CGI. This scene works amazingly well. If only the care and attention that had gone into this scene could have been applied to the rest of the film the whole movie would be more of a rewarding experience.

I enjoyed the scenes of Max’s health getting worse with every wish he bestows. This could have been exploited more with him disintegrating more radically throughout the film a la the undead character in An American Werewolf In London. But I appreciate that that might not have been appropriate in a film aimed primarily at children.

When Diana has to say goodbye to Steve so that she can get her powers back, again, there should have been more emotional resonance for the audience. Again, there wasn’t any.

In fact when I heard that Diana was to lose her powers to get Steve back I instantly thought of Superman 2 with Superman willingly renouncing his superpowers so he can enter a relationship with Lois. But whilst I was hoping for a sequel as good as Superman 2 for Wonder Woman instead we got Superman 4: The Quest For Peace resplendent with a naff call for world peace in a nuclear free world.

After the first film I would have wished for a sequel. After seeing Wonder Woman 84, I renounce my wish.

* and a half out of *****

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 23- Halloween 4- The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 23- Halloween 4- The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

I remember when this was released on home video in 1988. I couldn’t wait to watch it as the poster alone harked back to the original film, it’s mythology and the very Panaglide soaked vision that helped make it such a masterpiece. I was hoping for the film to be just as impressive. If they could have a decent stab (pun not intended) at reproducing the feel of the first film with it’s excellent first sequel taking place in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital then they could do it with this new film. 

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Notice the imaginery on the poster- Michael’s mask and the view of the house over the road as Tommy Wallace would have seen it in the original film. The illustrations are great too.

However, the film was closer to the tacky UK poster made for the film. I saw H4 on home video and HATED it! Would I feel the same when I embarked on watching it recently as I did in 1989?

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The tacky poster for the UK release of H4. Take the great illustrations made for the original, add horrible fonts and an inappropriate and clumsy pic of Myers from the film.

The answer is ‘Yes’ I still hated it but with many more years of film criticism under my belt I was better equipped to articulate why I despise it so much.

So what is Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers? It’s part teen drama, part TV Movie of the Week, part very violent episode of Goosebumps and last but certainly not least, it’s a cynical horror franchise sequel for idiots who wouldn’t know a decent horror film if they tripped over it.

The plot of the film goes like this- both Dr Loomis and Myers sustained horrific injuries after the literally explosive ending of Halloween 2 but both survived (of course). Mikey Boy has been in a coma for the ten years following this (the action takes place here during Halloween 1988) and is just about to be (stop if you think you’ve heard this one before…) transferred between hospitals. In the ambulance during this journey he hears that he has in fact got a niece and as she’s unlucky enough to be within the female line of the Myers family tree he kills his escorts and escapes to try to get to his niece to finish her off.

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This is all so reminiscent of the first film that already the film shows that it’s been made to give the fans exactly what they want but whilst not adding anything new when it comes to the plot. It also very quickly establishes that everything that made the first film a masterpiece doesn’t get a look in.

Halloween 4 really is just a man in a Michael Myers mask (and a crap one at that) stalking and killing people. No art, all base level vacuous nonsense. Not that a horror film has to be ‘art’ but a sense of tension, imagination and innovation are always welcome within a horror film project. Even making a blatant cash cow of a film project can still have all of these qualities whilst still giving the fans what they want and making a decent film at the same time.

And what’s worse, Michael’s niece, Jamie is so unlikeable that you’re just praying for Uncle Mikey to accomplish the job very quickly indeed.

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Annoying niece

Not even the odd mildly entertaining moment such as the lynch mob killing the wrong guy instead of Michael can save this stodgy mess. The ending is so bad it’s laughable. In fact, for a terrible moment the filmmakers even suggest with such an ending that a whole slew of movies which would feature Jamie as the killer. Now that would be REAL horror. 

You know you know nothing about horror or filmmaking in general if you walked out at the end of Halloween 3 and your first response was ‘Where’s Michael?!’ instead of marvelling at it’s brilliant cinematography, direction, soundtrack let alone being blessed enough to have spent an hour and a half in the company of Tom ‘The Man’ Atkins.

Halloween 4 is the film made for people who just watch horror films because people are killed in them, without knowing anything about what makes a great horror movie. Halloween 4 is the anti-Halloween 3. And that’s one of many reasons why I hate it so much.

*out of *****

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 6- The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984)

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 6- The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984)

I remember seeing this on video shortly after it was released way back when. The original Hills Have Eyes wasn’t on video at that time and so seeing this was the next best thing especially in hindsight as there are LOADS of flashbacks to the first film. Yes, even a dog from the first movie who reappears in the sequel (‘the best character in the sequel’ someone wrote on YouTube!) has a flashback!

In fact this is the greatest thing about The Hills Have Eyes Part 2- it makes you want to watch the first (and far superior) film. It does this really early on and so I doubt many people have watched more than half an hour of the sequel. I watched it all the way through for this review. Do I deserve a medal for this as it sooo bad? Not really. Don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t good. But it’s passable. If you flicked onto it whilst bored, it would pass the time for you.

But as a sequel to a (in my opinion) masterpiece and the film that in my opinion is Wes Craven’s best, this could have been a lot better. Craven said he only made this for the money. That’s not really good enough. There was loads that could have been explored within this film but wasn’t.

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An ad for HHE2 from 1984

It’s great to see the characters of Bobby, Ruby (now renamed Rachel), Pluto and Beast. But the rest of the cast are largely wacky (i.e. irritating) teens and deserve to be dispatched much quicker in the movie. The motorbike plot device holds no interest to me whatsoever.

Even Harry Manfredini’s soundtrack is sub-par sounding like trimmings from his far better music scores he’s composed for other movies especially the Friday the 13th films.

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A trade magazine ad for The Hills Have Part 2

New mutant cannibal family member The Reaper is pretty good. He features prominently on the film’s artwork. In fact I’m guessing it’s this artwork which persuaded viewers to rent the video. Never judge a video by it’s cover. 

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Some films that I watched on VHS as a kid in the 80’s have stood the test of time really well and become some of my favourite films (take a bow Halloween 3). But then others may have been passable or even enjoyable when watched through a child’s (i.e. not yet jaded) eyes but The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 isn’t one of them. Strangely I feel kind of reassured that such a clunker of a movie still got a deluxe release from Arrow Video. Even rotten films are loved by somebody and deserve the best treatment possible. 

*and a half out of *****

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

It’s extremely brave to decide to make a sequel to a beloved horror classic. It can almost feel like some kind of suicide mission as critics and the general public alike will trot out the hackneyed old cliche of ‘It’s not as good as the first film!’ as if this is an extremely original and perceptive line of criticism to extol.

If you do decide to make said sequel there are several routes you can take when doing this. You can either try to recreate the tone and feel of the original (Halloween 2 is an example of this and a very good sequel). You can try to make a film that has a tone and atmosphere all of it’s own whilst setting the action years ahead of the events of the original film (for example, Psycho 2 is an excellent film). Then you can make a film that is completely out there and batshit crazy. The ‘made for TV sequel’ to Rosemary’s Baby, the masterpiece made by Roman Polanski in 1968, goes down this route. It’s not often that whilst I watch a film I have a smile permanently etched onto my face at the sheer insanity I’m watching on the screen and that after the film has ended I have to take a few moments to reacclimatise myself to everyday life again whilst thinking ‘What the fuck was that?!’ And I mean that in the best possible sense.

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I will try to summarise the madness contained within this gem’s plot. I don’t normally like to give detailed and ‘scene by scene’ plot outlines in my reviews but what you will read speaks for itself and sells the film perfectly.

The film starts with a voice-over précis of the final events of the original but with the voices of the new actors in this production (only one actor returns from the original film and thankfully it’s Ruth Gordon who is as brilliant in this movie). In this scene Rosemary (now played by Patty Duke) discovers  the baby she has given birth to but has been swiftly taken away from her. Rosemary looks at him and expresses horror at his eyes. Obviously, the dialogue here is different and not as impactful as the original.

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The first part of the film is called The Book of Rosemary and concerns her taking her son (called Adrian by the Satanic coven we know and love from the original but called Andrew by her to try and distance him from the role the coven think he’s destined to live) away from the clutches of the coven and running away. She seeks refuge in a synagogue knowing that if she is in a house of God then the coven can’t harm her in any way. It’s here that we see her press a crucifix on a chain into her son’s chest only for her to later see with horror that it has seared an imprint into his skin. We then see Rosemary the next day at a bus stop making a call to her famous actor ex-husband Guy (now played by George Maharis). As she speaks to him a group of children start to taunt Adrian/Andrew and take his toy car from him. In return he turns all full-on Satan on them and they fall to the ground unconscious. A random stranger Marjean has seen the whole incident and hides Rosemary and her son in her trailer. Marjean then offers to help Rosemary and her son to get onto a bus to escape. But whilst Rosemary boards the bus, the bus doors close and it rides off with her trapped on it whilst Marjean is at the roadside with Adrian/Andrew in her arms. It becomes apparent that Marjean is in fact a follower of the coven and this was planned all along. Rosemary goes to speak to the driver of the bus but it’s then revealed that there is no driver on the bus. And this is the first act of the film! Crazy doesn’t describe it!

The second part of the film is called The Book of Adrian. It’s more than 20 years later. We see Andrew/Adrian get pulled over for speeding. He later goes to a casino/nightclub that Marjean runs (described by him as his Aunt) who is alarmed by his apparently wild behaviour. She then refers to his parents as being killed in a car crash. We then see Adrian/Andrew’s demonic side come to the fore as he tries to run over a biker gang. Minnie and Roman (the wonderful Gordon and Ray Millard) turn up to the casino to see Andrew/Adrian and ask him to drink one of Minnie’s concoctions (echoes here of the chocolate mousse and ‘health drink’ from the original film) and when he falls unconscious they paint him in demonic warpaint.

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The warpaint scene. Once seen, never unseen

It’s here that I will leave the plot synopsis alone as to reveal anymore would impact on the viewers experience on watching this TV movie for the first time (just to add that there is a third act to the film called The Book of Andrew). Theres a musical interlude within this second segment where we see a far-out rock band at the casino get stage invaded by Andrew/Adrian. It’s one of the freakiest scenes of the whole movie and thats really saying something!

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Lets here it for the band

There are never any troughs in this movie. It starts at weirdness level 11 and continues at that level until the climax.

I’m so glad that this sequel was made in the hedonistic, narcotically charged 70’s as the full unbridled eccentricity of the movie could be shot with no holds barred by filmmakers who were clearly heavily medicated. Add to the mental shenanigans a brilliant darkly psychedelic soundtrack by the ever great Charles Bernstein and you have a rollicking great time. There is also some impressive cinematography that is some of the best I’ve seen in a TV movie. In fact, I love the idea of some Average Joe at home in his 70’s American home watching this be accident. I actually think it enriched and expanded minds.

I’m so glad that this movie was made and that comes from a massive fan of the original film. If you love mental cinema, watch this. In fact, watch this back to back with the Exorcist 2: The Heretic.

I saw this on YouTube in a transfer from a very poor VHS tape. With Scream Factory releasing horror TV movies on Blu ray nowadays I hope to God (pun not intended) that they unleash this. A great transfer using a pristine print would be something to behold. This film deserves it.

4/5 out of 5 stars

 

Jason X – Day 30 – 31 Days of Halloween

Jason X – Day 30 – 31 Days of Halloween

Jason in Space. 

And it works beautifully. Tongue firmly in cheeck but with awesome kills (check out the liquid nitrogen death). Theres also the small bugs that help things to heal super quick, Uber Jason, the female android, the cameo by David Cronenberg… Lots to like.


Friday fans seem to hate this film. They’re the same as the Halloween fans who hate Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Idiots basically. I’m so glad I’m right about such things 🙂

4 out of 5

Evil Dead 2 – Day 29 – 31 Days of Halloween

Evil Dead 2 – Day 29 – 31 Days of Halloween

A bigger budget, a remake of sorts, this film was released when the video nasties furore was petering out. People were starting to see that horror movies wouldn’t turn the working class oinks into bloodthirsty serial killers or even adversely affect their dogs (as Graham Bright so hilariously claimed) but could be considered as art and great entertainment to boot.


This film was held up quite rightly as one such film. Raimi’s imagination goes into overdrive with this entry as we have Ash battling his own hand, chopping it off and replacing it with a chainsaw. Groovy. My favourite character has to be the mounted moose head that suddenly comes back to life.

This really is one of the most franetic, kinetic pieces of film I’ve ever seen. We also get to see Ash as a Kandarian demon. Brilliant. And the premise for the next film in the series is established at the end. And theres no CGI. Hooray. There is so many great scenes in this film that its impossible to cover even a tiny amount of the insanity. Watch this film and fasten your seatbelts.

Highly recommended. 4 out of 5

Final Processing-Why Everyone Should Love Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

Final Processing-Why Everyone Should Love Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

It surprised me to learn that fans of the Halloween series of films harshly judge Halloween 3: Season of the Witch as the runt of the litter. Yes, the film isn’t centred around Michael Myers but is it really worthy of the scorn poured on it by fans of the rest of the franchise?

I first saw it on video in 1984 when I was the tender age of 9. It was released in the midst of the whole Video Nasties furore and so was cautiously trimmed of any ‘excessive’ gore by Thorn EMI. The same company had garnered plenty of negative criticism as they had distributed the film The Burning on video. I saw this censored version of H3 but had no idea it was cut. The film was then shown on BBC1 who accidentally showed the full version. The full version blew my mind. I was so glad that I recorded the film on VHS on this occasion as the film was subsequently shown in its censored state after this.

There are many reasons to take this film to your bosom and love it unconditionally.

Firstly, the cinematography is by Dead Cundey who amongst other things also shot the original Halloween. His camerawork in this film ranks as some of his best. Panoramic landscapes, the eeriness of small town America and an incredibly brutal scene in a forensic laboratory that could have been from Halloween 2 are all shot beautifully.

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The film’s soundtrack is by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth- if this is not enough to excite the most ardent horror fan then I don’t know what is. This soundtrack is one of the greatest film scores written by them and is in my humble opinion one of the greatest film soundtracks of all time. Synthesizers are used to chilling effect to convey a sense of constant doom that permeates the film and proceedings depicted therein. This score is essential. A few years ago it was released expanded and remastered- this is the definitive version. The jingle for the commercial used in the film will burrow its way into your brain and never leave.

The films cast are impressive also. The film’s villain is played by none other than Dan O’Herlihy a well respected award winning actor who had been nominated for an Academy Award years before. He was also in cult favourite Robocop.

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The film’s leading man is Tom Atkins aka ‘The Man’. He is perfect for the role of the alcoholic tomcat Dr Dan Challis. He will be known to all fans of Carpenter’s work as he was in The Fog and Escape From New York. He makes for a flawed but likeable and convincing leading man.

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The screenplay for the film is a thing of bizarre beauty- an evil Irish toymaker wishes to kill every child in America by using microchips containing particles of one of the stones from Stonehenge attached to each Halloween mask his factory makes. A special commercial shown on Halloween night will activate the deadly microchip on each mask and melt the wearer’s brains into a mass of spiders, snakes and creepy crawlies. OK, so this is also very far fetched but you just have to suspend disbelief and enjoy the film. I’m so glad I first saw the film when I was 9 rather than seeing it when I was a more cynical older age. Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame helped write the first draft of the script but then asked for his name to be taken off it after the filmmakers decided to develop the film in ways he didn’t approve of. Apparently the final draft of the script is still mostly Kneale’s handiwork.

The film takes place in the fictional small town of Santa Mira. This is a reference to the movie Invasion of the Bodysnatchers which takes place in a small town with the same name.

Tommy Lee Wallace directs with the ease of an experienced filmmaker. Instead of making just another horror film to compete with the other horror movies being released that year he delivers a film that is gorgeous to look at whilst being atmospheric and best of all, scary as hell.

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The film also makes some brilliant observations about consumerism (When Challis presents his kids with cheap Halloween masks hes bought they look disappointed and explain that their mother has bought them the more expensive Silver Shamrock versions) and the insularity and creepiness of small town America (check out the scene in which Challis and Ellie drive into Santa Mira for the first time).

All of these ingredients helped Halloween 3 to be more than another formulaic horror sequel. Something was created that was innovative, unique and scary as hell. Halloween fans hated the film as Michael Myers wasn’t in the film (even though he was briefly ho ho ho) and dismissed the film before it had even been released. I bet a lot of the most vocal detractors of the film haven’t even seen it. If the film had just been released under the name of Season of the Witch it would have fared better with horror fans- but ironically may have fared much worse at the box office as it didn’t have the Halloween moniker. A Catch 22 situation.

Whilst the film has its detractors its also has its fans. They seem to love the film even more because of its reputation and because its far from being the cinematic trainwreck that some people will have you believe.

I agree with these fans and am smug in the knowledge that we know that Halloween 3 is great. In fact I think its ones of the best horror films of the 80s. The franchise fans who detest H3 are the ones who like the sequels that featured Michael after this- even the one that stars Busta Rhymes. If this isn’t the biggest backhanded compliment for H3 fans then I don’t know what is.

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