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.
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.
It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1986. It’s look and atmosphere still feel contemporary and semi-futuristic bar some 80s fashions and hair styles. This retelling / remake of the 1950’s b-movie has Jeff Goldblum on star-making form as eccentric scientist Seth Brundel, who after inviting a plucky reporter (Gina Davis) to his lab, reveals he has invented a teleportation device. However after the initial reveal, Brundel decides to teleport himself but makes the mistake of allowing a common house fly inside the pod, therefore setting into motion a grotesque and alarming physical transformation.
This is perfect material for director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) who has always had an interest in body-horror and transformation in his movies. However beyond the gory effects (that still impress and revolt) this is a tragic love story. Helped immeasurably by convincing chemistry from the leads (who were a real life couple at the time) and a strikingly complex turn from Goldblum … watching events play out is both emotionally draining and exciting. It’s a very unique kind of horror experience, with no actual evil enemy but more a horrible set of circumstances. In that respect it’s not unlike The Elephant Man. It may be at it’s core fairly simple and only really has three characters … but what Cronenberg achieves with such simple tools is a revelation and made this an instant classic.
The Blu-ray has a decent if slightly soft image but colours are strong and close-up detail is good. The soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also effective with atmospherics and Howard Shore’s obvious b-movie throwback score both doing their job. The only slight let down is somewhat mono sounding dialogue that whilst still clear could have done with sprucing up. Extras are plentiful though with an essential commentary from Cronenberg as well as some worthwhile deleted scenes, press kits, behind the scenes stuff and photo galleries. Overall a decent job for a genuine horror gem.
I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this. It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward. Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old. So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz). Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital. So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.
What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home. Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly. This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates. Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.
Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not. Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun. If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before. That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.
I must admit I was sceptical going into this. The much loved Disney classic from 1967 was prominently known for it’s sing-a-long musical numbers and largely animal cast of characters, with the only human being a child. In this day and age of state-of-the art CGI I wasn’t too worried about them pulling off convincing animal performances. Yet that child casting and subsequent acting had to be spot on. Luckily it is.
But I digress. This classic tale follows the story of young ‘man-cub’ Mowgli, a child abandoned as a baby and brought up by a pack of wolves, along with the watchful eye of a black panther by the name of Bagheera. Yet when bitter and ferocious tiger, Sheer-khan finds out about Mowgli, he vows to kill him as revenge for being burnt by ‘man’ some years previous. So Mowgli, in order to keep him safe is sent away to find the man-village and be with his own kind, if that is he can escape the clutches of Shere Khan first.
This is very well done. The child actor playing Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a revelation; just as likeable and fun as the original character, and aiding him on his journey is lovable Bear ‘Baloo’ perfectly voiced by Bill Murray. Voice-acting on a whole is very good throughout with only a couple of questionable choices. Scarlett Johansson as a manipulative snake seems out of place and Idris Elba’s Shere Khan whilst good, is way too familiar to me (I’ve just come away from a run of Luthor episodes after all). However Ben Kingsley as Bagheera is perfect, and I got a kick out of Christopher Walken’s mobster-like King Louie. Yet the somewhat awkward implementation of the most famous songs, like ‘bare necessities’ and ‘I want t be like you (ooh ooh)’ considering the different tone, felt like unnecessary nods to the past rather than adding anything to the experience.
But for a remake that really shouldn’t have worked, this delivers on (almost) all counts with several stand out sequences and plenty of heart. Well worth your time.
Remakes will always be a tough sell, and we’ve had to endure some shite in the past. I noticed that the critical reception for this latest effort has been rather mixed. I never saw the original movie and probably never ill. So I’m probably in the best position to take this one in with a fairly open mind. Denzel Washington is a bounty hunter / marshal who comes to the aid of a recently widowed woman who’s town has been taken over by a ruthless businessman out to plunder the mines for any gold he can find. Washington agrees to help the woman seek revenge but first must rally a group of cowboys and what not to his aid. Along for the ride is a card hustler (Chris Pratt), a sharp shooter (Ethan Hawk) and an assassin (Byung-hun Lee).
Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is immediately attractive and captures the setting and especially the feel of a western brilliantly. He has a keen eye for iconic shots and delivers in the action, where I’d go as far as to say this has some of the best action of the year for me, complete with excellently choreographed gunfights and traditional (not CGI) stunt work. The plot for what it is, is simple and only serves to bring together a likeable gang of gunslingers that I quickly grew to care about. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before but when it’s got stand-outs from Washington and Pratt as well and plenty of energy and a great score from James Horner – what’s there to grumble about?
If I was to nit-pick it would be to say the movie does revel in it’s clichés such as how it’s filmed, typical western movie imagery and well, several moments that occur are typical of the genre to the point of near-parody. Also characterisation, which with such an ensemble cast isn’t easy could have been a little better. I wanted more backstory to Denzel’s character which would have added weight to a later revelation, and well, we learn pretty much nothing about who Chris Pratt is other than handy with a gun and a deck of cards.
Yet this feels like a celebration not just of the movie it’s based on but westerns as a whole. So in that respect I can forgive it’s familiarity or lack of anything particularly new and just enjoy it for what it is – damn good entertainment.