Saturday, August 25, 2012

TWO SETS OF CARTOON CHARACTERS
A new Pixar film is usually an event that's worth waiting for, although last year's Cars 2 was a fairly weak affair. Brave, Pixar's latest effort, has had a slightly chequered history, as it lost its original director Brenda Chapman. Despite this, the film, which deals with Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her attempt to live her own life despite the demands of her parents Fergus and Elinor (voiced respectively by Billy Connelly and Emma Thompson), is very enjoyable. Although it's not up there with the best of Pixar, Brave has heart and visual flair with some talented voices creating the characters and the 3D recreation of Scotland looks incredible. Merida is a decent female protagonist and Macdonald shows that she is well suited to animation. Connelly, Thompson, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd make for a decent supporting vocal cast. It's not a classic but it is a very likeable film and one that sits well with the Pixar canon. Brave is worth seeing…
Expendables 2 is the follow-up to 2010's film which brought together a group of past-it eighties action screen figures under Sylvester Stallone's wing. Despite the fact that it wasn't actually very good, it made enough money to justify another one. Jason Statham, as the young(ish) turk is back as is Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Bruce Wilis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have bigger parts in this second film. This time around, we also have Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris join the cast. Directed by Englishman Simon West (Con Air, The General's Daughter), Expendables 2 is one of those films which is pretty critic-proof. It has a fairly stupid script, Stallone looks even weirder than he did last time, there are a few nice comic lines that show that the makers are aware that most of the cast are well past their sell-by date but they don't really care and it has some well-directed action sequences. If you enjoyed the first one and miss the regular big screen exploits of Van Damme, Stallone, Norris et al, then you'll lap it up…


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Monday, August 20, 2012

LIFE IN MARS?
With the release of remake starring Colin Farrell out this month, StudioCanal has put out 1990's Total Recall onto Blu-ray. Paul Verhoeven took Philip K.Dick's short story We Can Remember it for You Wholesale and fleshed it out for a big screen. When it hit the cinema twenty-two years ago, it made a very big impact as Arnie was a huge star and Verhoeven was a director with a big public profile thanks to Robocop although this was before Basic Instinct. Some of Total Recall has aged pretty well while other aspects look a little bit dated now. Schwarzenegger was never a particularly convincing actor but you do mostly empathise with protagonist Douglas Quaid here and Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside, who both worked with the director on Robocop, are good value on screen. Sharon Stone as Quaid's 'wife' Lori shows why she really isn't much of an actress. Total Recall was never as subtle a film as Robocop but there are still some nice touches. Mars looks like a giant, degraded shopping mall here but then so does Earth so it would make sense that the humans would try to replicate their life on Earth on the red planet. And Verhoeven tackles the whole 'is it real or is it just a dream?' question well. But it suffers from overly protracted fight scenes, something which was very in vogue in the Eighties. There's no denying its importance in modern mainstream cinema and it is only correct that it has been issued on Bluray and the transfer does sharpen the visual impact of this film which arguably cemented Schwarzenegger's place as a screen icon for the Nineties…

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

BACK IN TIME
Doug McClure was a regular fixture of monster movies in the Seventies and some of his films haven't aged well. I've got two of his films that have just been released on DVD by StudioCanal. One is still a bit of a kitsch classic whereas the other is a bit of a stinker. The first Doug McClure here is The Land That Time Forgot (1975), based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of the same name. McClure plays American Bowen Tyler, who finds himself in the secret land of Caprona, accompanied by a motley band of British civilians and German navy personnel. They have to put aside their differences to survive the harsh terrain of Caprona, a place chock full of deadly dinosaurs and dangerous prehistoric men. Adapted by Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn, despite the rubbery pyterodactyls and artificial looking triceratops, The Land That Time Forgot is still a fun, entertaining yarn with John McEnery as German u-boat captain Von Schoenvorts and McClure stand outs here although much of the supporting cast is solid too. It's about time, pardon the pun, to see this film on DVD…
The second film is Warlords of Atlantis, also with McClure. It's amazing what a difference three years makes. Set during the Victorian period, McClure plays adventurer Greg Collinson, who accompanies Professor Aitken (Donald Bisset) and his son Charles (Peter Gilmore) on a sea voyage to find the lost city of Atlantis. Unfortunately things don't go according to plan and they find themselves trapped in Atlantis as prisoners of the rulers, who are intent on enslaving the surface dwellers through their mental powers. Unfortunately, Warlords of Atlantis suffers from a poor script, dodgy special effects and scenes that wouldn't look out of place in an episode of late seventies Doctor Who. McClure tries to do the best he can with an atrocious script but it isn't enough. The presence of Daniel Massey and John Ratzenberger in the cast can't rescue it either. This film is for Doug McClure completists only as it has aged very, very badly indeed. Ironically both are directed by Kevin O'Connor…


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