10 Cloverfield Lane


Viewed – 16 August 2016  Online rental

I really liked Cloverfield, one of those hand-held shaky cam movies that are like marmite to some people … it was a tense, thrilling take on ye-old alien invasion plot and the prospect of a sequel although not something I expected, certainly appealed.  Then I was to learn that this movie bares very little resemblance or connection to that movie other than the word Cloverfield. So I suppose I went into this not really knowing what to expect.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) plays a woman seemingly running out on her boyfriend, but on route to wherever, is involved in a car crash – and soon wakes up in an underground bunker under the watchful eye of John Goodman’s ‘Howard’.  Howard’s a bit creepy though and fears she’s been kidnapped come immediately to mind until he starts saying the world has become contaminated and some sort of incident has occurred on the surface.

I liked this set up.  Claustrophobic, with just these characters for company.  Helped then that we get some strong performances, especially Goodman who drifts unnervingly between creepy, likeable and psychotic, leaving this viewer constantly trying to figure out his agenda.  Winstead is also very good and rather resourceful as a woman who clearly knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  However the movie stumbles a little in it’s characterisation … it deliberately vague about who these characters are which proves frustrating, especially as with Goodman you never know what to believe.  Also where the movie ends up going is particularly predictable even if the final scene proves quite thrilling.

Overall I had a good time with this.  It threw in some surprises (especially a bit involving a barrel), I enjoyed watching things play out and the tension was pretty thick at times.  I still have no clue what’s the significance of the word Cloverfield is though.

Verdict:  3 /5

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Good Movie Remakes


Generally movie remakes have a bad name despite Hollywood’s insistence on making them.  However in my experience there are a few that while not always improving on the original, at least do a good enough job to be worth seeing, without insulting the memory of a classic.  Find below a few I personally have enjoyed.

Little Shop Of Horrors

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Although not familiar with the Roger Corman original, this Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, John Candy starring musical is a riot … very memorable tunes and great practical effects.  I really need to watch this again… soon!

Evil Dead

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Was really expecting this to just not get what made the original so good – but it ramped up the gore and violence to epic proportions, had a great cast and was scary … maybe not as tongue-in-cheek as the series is famous for, but still felt like an Evil Dead movie.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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Am I alone in thinking this version rocks?  Tons of gore (which the original lacked, even though I know that wasn’t the entire point) a perfectly mad performance by R. Lee Ermey and a twenty something bunch of ‘victims’ you don’t immediately hate.

Miracle On 34th Street

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Charming with a great performance by Richard Attenborough.  A star making turn by the where is she now Mara Wilson (see also Mathilda).  Haven’t seen original but this was a perfect Christmas treat.

Heat

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Am I cheating by including this?  A deserved genre classic with a (possible) career best from both Pacino and DeNiro, and yes it’s a remake of TV movie L.A. Takedown.

The Assassin (aka Point of No Return)

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Perhaps sacrilege to remake Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, and another I think I’m alone in loving.  I had a major crush on Bridget Fonda in this… but its a competent thriller with several decent performances, including a cameo by Harvey Keitel that’s worth seeing!

Piranha 3D

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Breasts and naked skinny-dipping porn stars aside, this has gore by the bucket and a fast energetic pace that makes for one of the most fun horror movies in a long while.  Director Alexandre Aja cements his reputation as the go to guy for horror remakes!  (see also: The Hills Have Eyes).

Scarface

Scarface

Easy one this.  Not seen the original but with a powerhouse performance by Al Pacino and that line ‘say hello to my little fiend’ this took a basic blue print and seriously went to town with it!

The Thing

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This shouldn’t have worked, but with a strong lead by the mouth-watering Mary Elizabeth Winstead  and half decent and freaky CGI, as well as all the atmosphere the original had (ok this is technically a prequel…but it still counts…I think), this really surprised me.

I am starting to think that although they get the worst press, horror remakes have got it right a fair few times going by the list above.  That’s just my opinion though and you may differ.  So what would your choices be?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


Viewed – 19 January 2013 Blu-ray

OK, this is immediately a bizarre concept, but stick with me.  A young Abraham Lincoln witnesses his mother get killed by a local businessman who turns out to be a vampire.  Abe vows revenge and as he grows into an adult, befriends a vampire hunter whilst at the same time building his reputation as a politician – which I’m sure you’ll have grasped, leads him to The White House.

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Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) this is a very stylish and highly entertaining vampire action-horror. As should be expected by a movie from the Russian visionary, the action is incredibly imaginative, adrenaline fuelled and at times utterly bonkers – but realism isn’t the point here, and despite clever implementation of historical events such as the battle of Gettysburg, this remained pure escapist cinema of the highest order.  Title star Benjamin Walker handles the material well despite lacking much charisma or screen presence beyond the Lincoln attire, and the gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead is as likable as always even when in aged make-up. Rufus Sewell also makes for a credible, creepy villain.

Yes it gets a bit mad at times, with Bekmambetov’s ideas threatening to overwhelm (a horse stampede parkour sequence??), and its an idea that really shouldn’t work. Yet if you cast your rational thinking and knowledge of American history aside – it just does … and then some. A firm recommendation.

Verdict: 4 /5

The Thing


Viewed – 14 December 2011  Cinema

When I first heard about this, I as many I presume, was up in arms.  John Carpenter’s 1982 classic was one of the defining horror movies of the 80s and along with assured acting chops from Kurt Russell and brilliantly freaky make-up effects from Rob Bottin, surely revisiting such a movie should be considered unthinkable?  Well in the current vogue of remaking everything (big breath … Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, Prom Night) it is clear to me Hollywood is feeling  a little dry on the new ideas-front.  Yet wait!  This one isn’t a remake … it’s a prequel.  So erm, that’s alright then, yeah?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, yes that foxy chick from Scott Pilgrim Vs The World plays a Paleontologist recruited by a Russian research team following the discovery of an alien space craft buried under the Antarctic Ice.  Yet no sooner do they dig up a large creature buried near by, all hell breaks loose.  Yet this creature is no brainless, salivating monster, but is able to take on the appearance of anyone it kills – leading to the terrified crew looking at each other to figure out who just might be ‘the thing’.  This is very competently acted and atmospheric stuff, with a solid turn from Winstead as well as her older co-stars.  Comparing it to Carpenter’s movie, which is inevitable as setting, mood and much of the action is deja-vu similar, this has some great moments, mostly down to some gooey and bonkers effects work (mostly CGI sadly) which are done well, if somewhat lacking in the blood & guts department.   Also the gradual build up of tension as the finger is pointed in a number of directions, is handled admirably.

In the movie’s attempts to try something new and not just be a shot-for-shot remake, it lets itself down a touch by not being quite as clever as before (dental fillings??  Really?) and the ending gets a tad confusing, mostly down to the chaos of proceedings and the fact many of the supporting cast look a bit too similar to one another (hairy men alert!).  Yet this ties itself in nicely with the first movie to make an enticing double-bill prospect, and as a remake / prequel the movie honors what has gone before, whilst delivering enough thrills and freakiness to make for a worthy tribute.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Scott Pilgrim vs The World


Viewed – 15 January 2011  Blu-ray

Movies about dating, famously known as rom-coms are a dime a dozen and to be honest, do little to grab my attention.  Now movies about dating with a plethora of video game references and over-the-top surreal special effects, kung fu and sword fights – that’s a different matter entirely! 

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