The Blob


Viewed – 06 February 2018  Blu-ray

You have to love the 80s.  It was a golden era for horror, and a time when horror could be fun as well as horrifying. Today a lot of horror movies go straight for the jugular and can be way too nasty   They’re almost a test of endurance.  That can’t be said for this rather under-appreciated 1988 remake of a 50’s b-movie of the same name.

the_blob

When a meteor crashes near a small town, biker rebel Kevin Dillon (The Rescue) finds himself thrown into a battle for survival alongside high school cheerleader Shawnee Smith (Saw).  Even as authority figures and adults dismiss the disappearances along with sightings of a weird goo … of course it’s up to the kids to find a way to stop what’s happening.  Yeah, there’s nothing all that clever here, but it retains that b-movie tongue-in-cheek tone that perfectly suits such a silly concept, with cast all doing a great job of going along for the ride.  Director Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) piles on some effective gore with still great practical effects and a couple of genuine shocks (the kid in the sewer).  Also I’d forgotten how likable Shawnee Smith is, and well Kevin Dillon’s always been a great bad-boy (where’s he gone?).

It reminded me at times of John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing remake but fares poorly in comparison due to clichéd characters and only passable acting, and that silly tone stops it from being scary even for a second.  Yet as it stands this is still a great deal of fun and is certainly worth your time.

The Blu-ray is rather a pleasant surprise … image quality may seem a bit soft but colours are vibrant and overall the picture is clean, and free of any print damage.  The sound gets the lossless 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio treatment, but seems to lack a bit of ‘punch’ overall.  Extras feature a trailer and a director interview, but that’s it.  Considering the movie at time of writing still lacks a UK Blu-ray release this Region B Australian release is a godsend.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

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Lost In Translation


Viewed – 03 February 2018  Blu-ray

I’d hazard a guess that Scarlett Johansson transformed from acclaimed actress into genuine Hollywood star in this much loved 2003 comedy-drama.  She continues to be one of my go-to actresses, but I always look back on this with fondness and well, I’m not sure if she’s ever been as good since … at least not in what I’ve watched.

Lost In Translation

She plays Charlotte, a woman visiting Japan with her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) who more often than not finds herself abandoned in the hotel where she’s staying, frequenting the bar and occasionally meeting up with friends … but ultimately ‘alone’.  At the same time, a former Hollywood actor now doing whisky commercials, Bob (Bill Murray) finds himself similarly lonely in a foreign country, feeling out of place amongst the locales whilst trying to figure out his place in life.  So the two catch each other’s eyes and gradually form a friendship, that gently turns into a strong bond.

I really like this movie.  It treats it’s characters intelligently, doesn’t ‘go there’ but you kind of end up thinking (wishing?) it would, and every step of the way director Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides) makes you really believe in the friendship whilst also making the backdrop of Japan a character in it’s own right.  It’s funny in a gentle, heart-warming way, Murray is fantastically under-stated, and Johansson is just simply gorgeous.  The movie develops what should be a forbidden love story but still makes you fall in love with it (at least it did me).  I especially liked how freeing their friendship became, trapped and unhappy when apart, free-spirited when together … and it’s infectious.  At times the sheer wackiness of Japan is a tad clichéd and well, I’m not entirely sure why Scarlett is shown walking around in her underwear so much (even if I’m not complaining), and for such an otherwise easy going general-viewing movie, that bit in the strip club is just out of place.   Nit-picks because along with very genuine performances and such a charming, whimsical ‘vibe’ topped off with that heart-breaking yet strangely feel-good ending … this remains in a class of it’s own.

The limited edition steelbook I picked up has the movie in decent shape.  It’s not the most eye-popping of visual presentations due to it’s very natural photography … yet Coppola’s classy direction still made this viewer feel ‘there’ and I very much enjoyed being in the company of two of my favourite actors.  Sound, presented in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio whilst gentle, with carefully chosen, mood-enhancing music cues (and a great Karaoke scene) has clear dialogue and overall suits the relaxed feel of this movie.  Extras consist of deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, an interview with Murray and Sofia Coppola and a music video.  The lack of a commentary is disappointing but otherwise this isn’t too shabby.

Verdict:

(the movie) 5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


Viewed – 13 January 2018  Blu-ray

I’ve always been a casual fan of director Tobe Hooper’s notorious 1974 vision of terror… it’s a very raw and unrelenting experience that certainly leaves a mark.  This 1986 follow up, further more unavailable for years in the UK reunites us with the cannibalistic Sawyer family as a Texas Marshall (Dennis Hopper) tries to track them down, thirsty it seems for revenge.  Meanwhile a plucky radio DJ becomes embroiled in the hunt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

There’s certainly a more tongue-in-cheek tone to this and it only marginally works.  It gives an already crazy concept an even nuttier vibe which came off for me more annoying than scary or disturbing.  The Sawyer family this time around are given a little more character, thanks mostly to Bill Moseley’s deranged ‘chop-top’ and we also see a side to Leatherface I wasn’t expecting.  Add to this a volatile, unhinged turn from Hopper who’s character is rather cartoonish but still entertaining.  The big let down acting wise is Caroline Williams as radio DJ ‘Stretch’ Initially she seems interesting, spunky and a good heroine … but then becomes scream-queen and oh boy, was she annoying!  I’ve watched my fair share of scream queens and this one, was so over the top I was quickly hoping the Sawyer family would just end her. 

Gore hounds are only slightly catered for, despite the presence of effects artist Tom Savini… so we get a skinned face and some chainsaw meets guts stuff, but not much else.  Overall the movie isn’t as visceral or effectively disturbing as either the original or the remake … but as a frantic, crazy ride this still entertained.  Considering this sequel’s reputation though, I was expecting … more.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video boasts a detailed, clean and vibrant picture and even though the soundtrack is only the original 2.0 stereo it’s sharp and very effective.  The disk itself is packed with extras, with ‘It Runs At Night’ a six part documentary, and we also get several interviews with cast, crew and horror critics.  Add to this two commentaries (one with director Tobe Hooper and another with Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini) making this deluxe treatment for what is otherwise a fun if forgettable entry in the franchise.

Verdict: 

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Carrie


Viewed – 09 January 2017  Blu-ray

I have memories of this 1976 horror classic as being really unsettling and disturbing, and recall catching it on TV a long time ago, back when I was first discovering horror.  Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, incidentally the famed author’s debut – this tells the simple story of an outcast school girl, bullied by other students and living in the shadow of a controlling, deeply religious mother.  However Carrie hides a secret, the fact she can movie objects with her mind, and sometimes experiences such power manifesting when she’s at her most troubled.

CarrieBrian DePalma’s movie is mostly a teen drama; an exploration of youth and peer pressure from woman’s perspective.  To this extent it’s a very feminist movie with strong themes of puberty, menstruation and womanhood.  It’s also of that glut of religion themed horrors that over-flowed from the 70s, like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby even if it’s never quite as gritty or unsettling as those two.  Add in elements of exploitation movies and schlocky-horror of the time and quite a cocktail we have.  Sissy Spacek as the title character is mesmerizing and iconic, but then again so is Piper Laurie as her nutty mother who gets all the best lines and is probably the real creep factor of the show.  Add to this decent runs from Amy Irving, a bitchy Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill, RoboCop) and a memorable John Travolta and this ticks all the boxes.

Piper LaurieI didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as I remembered, and it’s occasional light, almost comedic moments sit uneasy with the horror.  This is however a movie where DePalma shows his true colours, with a mostly haunting, dream-like atmosphere throughout, leading to a stunning, still show-stopping finally that sent equal amounts of shivers and relish through me as Carrie takes her vengeance.  For me it remains one of the most heart-stopping moments in cinema history.  With this movie DePalma brings together all the techniques he’d honed in the earlier years.  It’s as showy and eye-catching as you may expect from the director but also surprisingly touching and sweet, which you may not expect considering the movie’s legacy.  It’s also a lot better than any carbon copy remake.

Arrow Video Limited EditionI managed to pick up the limited edition version of the Arrow Video blu-ray and well, what can I say?  The packaging firstly is stellar, housed in a nice slip case that has a 40 page booklet, art cards and a poster.  Also, the movie is in great shape.  The 4K restored image is vibrant and detailed despite an intentionally soft-focus look, and sound is also excellent with clear dialogue and an especially thumping soundtrack when the prom (from hell) occurs.  We get soundtracks in both the original 2.0 stereo as well as very good 5.1 DTS Master Audio.  Add to this the disk itself being filled with extras, with a brand new audio commentary from two film critics that is both funny and fascinating, and a wealth of features comprising of interviews, behind the scenes footage, location footage and explorations of all the various version of Carrie that have been made, from remakes to a musical(?).  The absence of both King or to a lesser extent Travolta is disappointing, however this is a small niggle for what is mostly an exhaustive and epic release.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

2017 disappointments


A lot of movies come with a degree of anticipation.  Some get hyped beyond all proportion.  Some are adorned with awards and positive buzz.

Below are 10 movies that whilst not inherently bad, I felt either didn’t live up to anticipation or the attention they had received, or I had personally been excited for them but ended up disappointed. 

10.

Alien Covenant

Alien Covenant

9.

Split

Split

8.

The Wailing

The Wailing

7.

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell

6.

Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider Man Homecoming

5.

Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049

4.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver

3.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk poster

2.

La La Land

La La Land

1.

Trainspotting 2

Trainspotting 2