Valentine: The Dark Avenger (2017)

Valentine: The Dark Avenger (2017)

The cover to Umbrella’s release of Valentine: the Dark Avenger

Film: Look out Marvel and DC, a new challenger approaches!

Valentine: the Dark Avenger is a creation from Skylar Comics, an Indonesian film company who in addition to Valentine, also produce comics called Volt (who looks like an electricity based hero) and Jawara, which means Champion, and looks to be an Avengers-styled conglomeration of heroes!

It would appear this Indonesian company has taken a page out of Disney’s handbook and have Skylar Pictures as a division of their company ready to develop their own characters into films. In this case, they have taken Valentine, their female Batgirl-type who fights with handcuffs like they are brass knuckles, and can catch criminals by throwing them like a bolo, and given her the live action treatment.

Wawan and Bono

Valentine: The Dark Avenger is directed by Agus Hermansyah Mawardy, based on a script by Beby Hasibuan, based on the character and stories created by Aswin Siregar and Sarjono Sutrisno for the comics.

Bono (Matthew Settle) is a movie maker who is trying to get his idea for a new female superhero movie off the ground, but he and his hair and fashion specialist partner, Wawan (Arnie Dagienkz), are having trouble finding the right girl… that is, of course, until they see waitress, and aspiring actress, Srimaya (Estelle Linden) fight off an attack in the restaurant she works at, using her skill in savate.

Estelle Linden before the transformation into a superhero

For training for the future movie, Wawan starts filming Srimaya, now known as the superhero ‘Valentine’, stopping various small crimes in the city.

As time goes on they improve her costume, fighting skills and she even learns how to use handcuffs as a thrown weapon for taking down running crooks, and her videos on (definitely not) YouTube go viral as she inspires a nation with her heroics.

The big problem for Valentine is there is a shadow moving across her town in the form of the villain known as… well, Shadow, who is performing terrorist acts, but why, and what is the secret behind his motivation?

This movie reminded me very much of the live-action versions of Cutey Honey and Hentai Kamen, but with aspirations of being something more like Prachya Pinkaew’s Chocolate or Rashane Limtrakul’s Rising Phoenix, both which starred JeeJa Yanin, but I’m afraid that Linden just isn’t quite as charismatic, nor does she have the physicality.

I do think, however, the intention of having an inspirational female superhero is a great one, and one the big companies need to work on. Hopefully we shall see more of this sort of thing incoming (and we are, with Disney+’s Ms. Marvel series which airs in 2022). Tragically it just doesn’t work here, as the script is a mix-up of conspiracy and standard comic-bookish tropes with some substandard special effects and pedestrian fight choreography, which ultimately is the film’s undoing.

One other thing is the actual superhero and villain costumes. cosplay has come so far that one should expect a better look for a movie with superheroes in it, but these unfortunately look like they were bashed together in someone’s garage.

I have to say it’s awesome to see a small Indonesian company with the courage to take on the superhero genre, when you consider the forces of Disney and Warner Bros are the ones behind those, but their product has become such a juggernaut, it’s nigh impossible. Smaller comic ideas based on non-superhero stuff, like Zwigoff’s Ghost World or Dominic Sena’s Whiteout are probably a better idea at this point because those blockbusters aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. If you do choose to watch this, stick around for the end credits as there is a preview of another superhero from this universe.

The film does wear its influences on its sleeve too, as there is a whole ‘no capes’ sequences clearly inspired by Pixar’s The Incredibles, and one of the villains must be a pop culture nut as she wears outfits inspired by Batman and the Minions from Despicable Me!

I think if this film was released pre-Marvel blockbuster events it would have been a cult film that was in some peoples hearts, but those big blockbusters are not necessarily what cult fans want to see in their collections. Also, there are high-bars set in superhero films for the mainstream crowd, and it just doesn’t leap them in a single bound.

The Shadow!

Score: *

Extras: Blimey, there’s not even a menu screen!

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

The Shadow’s minions… one dressed as a minion!

This DVD was provided for review by Umbrella Entertainment

JAWS: The Game

JAWS: The Game

Ravensburger’s Jaws board game

Horror movies are a great source of inspiration for games. The bigger the horror movie, the more potential for success the game has, and when you take something like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and make it into a game, provided it’s a fun game, you can pretty much well guarantee you are onto a winner.

Jaws is the blockbuster film from the 70s, based on a book by Peter Benchley, that launched Spielberg’s career and has had several video games based upon it, such as Jaws Unleashed on the Playstation 2 and PC and Jaws: Ultimate Predator on the Nintendo 3DS, not to mention a Super Nintendo game called simply Jaws, that came out in 1987, but more recently several board game companies have swam up to the licence and eaten it with much ferocity. We have had the inevitable Jaws Monopoly, the Funkoverse Strategy Game: Jaws (which comes with two smaller sized Funko Pops to appease the worldwide cult of Pop fans), and this game, from Ravensburger, titled simply Jaws.

Ravensburger make some amazingly thematic board game (if you haven’t tried Villainous, give it a go. It is Disney themed but lots of fun), and Jaws is one of those games that follows the basic plot of the film. This game is a three versus one game, with three players playing Quint, Brody and Hooper as they attempt to destroy the fourth player, who plays the big shark. This game is right in fashion of the current video game trend of have one vs many games like Dead by Daylight (also coming soon as a board game) and Evil Dead the Game.

This gameplay is divided into two halves. This first half of the game, on one side of the board, has a map of Amity Island and sees the human players attempting to stop Jaws from eating swimmers and at the same time attempt to locate the shark with location barrels. Each player has a series of things they can do in their turn which is thematic to the character, as is their extra special abilities, like Hooper’s fish finder for example.

Act 1 – from the shark players POV

Quint and Hooper spend their time searching for the shark by placing location barrels in the water, which the shark attempts to avoid, whilst Brody shuts beaches and delivers more barrels to the docks for them to use… Brody’s piece doesn’t go in the water because you know, Brody doesn’t like the water.

You might be asking yourself,’ but how does the shark avoid being located? Doesn’t the player have a piece on the boards?’ The answer to that is no, the shark player uses a separate notebook to record where on the map, signified by map locations, and doesn’t place their piece on the board until they have been spotted. They move around eating swimmers secretly, only revealing where they are if they go through a space with a barrel, or if they are spotted from the beach by Brody, or when they chow down on a beach goer.

Each turn, an Amity Event phase card is revealed which shows a special ability one of the players may have in that turn, but also deposits more swimmers in the water!

This first part of the game is finished when one of two things happen: either the shark ends up with two barrels attached and their position fully revealed, or they eat nine swimmers. How the Act Two of the game plays out is decided by how successful either team have been. If the shark eats more swimmers, it gets a higher amount of special ability cards in the second act, but if the humans stop them early enough, they get extra gear to stop the shark.

For the second act sees the board turn over to reveal a sunken version of the shop The Orca, where undamaged images of the ship overlays are placed on top. Cards are issues to either team regarding their success in the previous act. For example, if the shark ate five swimmers before having two barrels attached, they would receive six shark ability cards, and the crew would get seven pieces of crew gear.

Act 2 – from the shark players POV

Each turn the shark attacks the boat and the crew prepare themselves for the attack. The shark player reveals each turn where they MIGHT attack, giving the crew an opportunity to be ready to defend, and play continues as the shark either slowly sinks the boat, attacking the crew and having them lose their life points, or the crew are able to kill the shark with lucky dice rolls in combination with their gear.

Obviously there is a lot more to this than my summary here, and I suggest you take a look at Becca Scott’s How to play Jaws YouTube Video ( How to Play Jaws – YouTube ) before purchase if you want a better idea of how to play.

The Jaws board game instruction manual

Thematically, this game is amazing. The pieces all represent their characters well, and the dividing of the two acts is a clever way to play the game. The instructions are clear and concise and well-illustrated, with some great examples of play.

The player cards from Jaws

The game is lots of fun and that to be expected from designers Prospero Hall, who gave us the previously mentioned Villainous, as well as other thematically on-point games like Horrified, Fast and Furious: Highway Heist and Godzilla: Tokyo Clash.

 I do have to say I have one problem with it and that is the player count. This is a three vs one game, and whilst I appreciated that the instructions say that it can be played with one player playing all the crew, or two players sharing one crew member, but it is much less fun. When three players are the crew there is a lot of discussion as to what to do next, where with one player, they sit studiously in silence for several minutes while they decide what each crew member will do. As the shark player, knowing where you are in act one and watching as three people talk about how they are NO WHERE near you is a great deal of joy, and that’s what games are all about, right? Fun and interaction!

Score: ***1/2

Night of the Demon (1957)

The cover to the Australia Cinema Cult release of Night of the Demon

Film: To say that the ghost stories of Montague R. James are well respected is possibly an understatement. The very fact that a type of horror story is referred to as Jamesian should underline that fact. The Jamesian story type is a path well trod not just by writers, but by filmmakers as well. The Jamesian method has three main features: the story takes place in a small, generally English, community or perhaps a University or other place of learning, it has a sceptical scholar as it’s protagonist and some sort of cursed tome that effects either ghosts of demons.

It’s appropriate for a film to use the Jamesian method too. To have a protagonist in the film who has to have a lot of the environments or traditions of a location or society explained to them makes for an easy way for the viewer to comprehend as well, and it also works for the big reveal if the society has a hidden secret. This method also works well in science fiction to explain more high concept stuff, like in The Last Starfighter or even Star Wars, as Luke need the ways of the grater world explained to him.

This movie, Night of the Demon, is based on one of James’ works, ‘Casting the Runes’, and was adored by Charles Bennett, who also wrote The Lost World and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who directed The Comedy of Errors and I Walked With a Zombie. It had a difficult release as the producer Hal E. Chester wanted a visual representation of the demon onscreen, where as Tourneur and Bennett wanted to avoid that. The film had two releases, one which was cut by a full 10 minutes and titles “Curse of the Demon’, but here was have the full, 95 minute version on Bluray from Cinema Cult.

Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) and Holden (Dana Andrews) regard each other

After Professor Henry Harrington (Maurice Denham) died mysteriously during investigating the occult doings of a certain Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrew’s) travels to England to continue the investigation.

Karswell obviously objects to Holden’s interference, and slips a curse onto his person, one which will cause him to be visited by a demon and murdered at a particular time and date.

Of course, Holden thinks this is a pile of hoo-ha, and even at the insistence of Harrjngton’s niece, Joanna (Peggy Cummins) who is investigating her uncles death, he still remains an unbeliever… even as the evidence for the curse gets more and more apparent! Will he survive the curse? Does it even exist?

The curse!!

Obviously a film of this generation has several elements that a modern film fan may not like. The acting is very ‘on stage’ and ‘performancey’ (you know what I mean, it’s very vaudevillian), the effects are very low-key, but for their time they look fantastic, well, until you get to the silly looking demon, but the silliness of his look adds to the charm of the whole thing.

The story, with its aforementioned ‘Jamesian’ influences, is great. The slow reveals are paced so well, and every introduction of a new character adds to the fun. Even better, the bad guy is announced from the very start so there is no deception, and his intentions are always clear, but how will he get away with his shenanigans, and how far he’ll go are where the expanding story sits.

Trigger warning: there is an Indian character who may not sit well with some as the part is played by Caucasian actor, Peter Elliot. It’s not a dealbreaker, but some may find it offensive.

This is a great film, and a worthy addition to any horror fans collection. Best thing about this edition is that the Cinema Cult edition cover has ‘85 minutes runtime’ on it, meaning it’s the cut ‘Curse of the Demon’ version, but it actually is the uncut ‘Night…’ version.

Score: ****

The menu screen from the Night of the Demon Bluray

Extras: Not a sausage.

Score: 0

WISIA: It a great film, so definitely.

Joanna (Peggy Cummins) looks concerned, and fair enough.

This review was done with the Australian Cinema Cult Bluray release of the film

Unspeakable Words

Unspeakable Words

The box art for Unspeakable Words

A horror literature fan who might not be aware of the love of horror in the board game community might casually ask,” Are there any games that feature the works of H. P. Lovecraft?”

Most board game fans would answer,” Shut up, sit down and buckle up because oh boy, are there board games based on the worlds of Mr. Lovecraft!!”

Games based on the works of Lovecraft are so common that I’d almost be inclined to say he’s more appreciated by board game fans than almost any other. I have a modest collection of board games (about 500) and I believe that in that pile of boxes, littered throughout my house, a good 50 of them are based, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously on the works of Lovecraft!

These games range from Dungeons and Dragons styled Role Playing Games like Call of Cthulhu, to miniature storytelling games like Mansions of Madness or Cthulhu: Death May Die, to adaptations of other games like the Love Letter variant, Lovecraft Letter and small, quick to play card games, like this one, Unspeakable Worlds.

Unspeakable Words has a great objective, and I’ll quote the instruction manual,” Be the first to reach at least 100 points without going insane.”

How could one NOT want to play that?!?

Cthulhu tokens

At the start of the game, each player is given 5 Cthulhu tokens, which represents their mental state, i.e.: full sanity, and 7 letter cards, with the remainder of the cards forming a draw pile in the centre of the table.

The game is then quite simple: form a word from the cards in your hand, and then try to roll, on a 20-sided die, equal to or over the score that the cards add up to, which is known as a ‘sanity check’. The way the cards have their score made is by how many angles the letter has, for example, ‘O’ has no angles, so it’s 0 points, but a ‘Y’ has three angles, so its point score is 3.

Card art

Every time you make a word, that word can never be repeated in this game, and if, when you roll the D20, you roll under the score, you lose one sanity point… the little Cthulhu tokens I referred to earlier.

The player will score whether they lose a sanity token or not and will continue to do so until they run out of tokens. Here’s where the fun comes in though: a player who has lost all bar one of their tokens can make up words, because the almost insane might believe ANYTHING is a word and will score for whatever ever gibberish they create if they can roll over the score.

The person who wins the game is either the last one with a token left, or whomever makes a successful sanity check after breachi8ng the 100-point mark.

This game is a lot of fun for people who love word games, and luckily, me and my family do! If you DON’T like word games, this probably isn’t for you no matter how much of a Lovecraft fan you are, this is especially true as the theme is quite thinly laid over the game.

If you do love word games, then you will probably love this game as it is a lot of fun.

The Cthulhu pieces are very thematic, and the cards all refer to various creatures and characters from Lovecraft’s mythos (D is for Deep One, for example), and I should also mention there are several wild cards that make the game occasionally quite spicy! If I am to criticise this game on one thing it IS the art on the cards, which are not to my taste at all.

Once again, if you aren’t a word game type, then this probably will be frustrating and awful, but lovers of such fun will quite like it. Recommended.

Score: ***1/2

Uh-oh!

Scream (2022)

Scream (2022)

The cover to the Australian 4K release.

Film: The older I get… and let me tell you, I’m getting older REAL fast… the more and more sick I am of the word ‘franchise’. When I was younger, it referred to a McDonalds, or a KFC, now it appears that no filmmaker or writer wants to make a movie, they want to make a franchise.

You know, I get it. To create something that has some kind of cool legacy would be amazing. To know that something you created has a future because it has a love that is generationally significant.

In past times you could do it with just a single film, which might indicate the quality of these franchises over single films of the past. Personally I blame my beloved 80s movies, and the post-2000 need for nostalgia driven product over new stuff. I guess I’m part of the problem when you consider that this very website older movies more often than newer ones.

Scream (2020) starts with the assault of Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in her house by the returning Woodsboro murder icon Ghostface, which causes he estranged sister Samantha (Melissa Barrera) to return home as their mother is missing with one of her many boyfriends.

Samantha has a terrible secret!

What we quickly learn is that Sam is the illegitimate daughter of the original Woodsboro murderer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), and is in therapy as the idea of her father being a serial killer has caused a few mental issues.

Of course, the killer is back, but this time is killing the children and/ or family members of the original victims/ killers, and one by one, people are being murdered who somehow relate back to the original murders

This alerts Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to the situation, and make there way back to the town to help in whatever way they can, but could it have been that the villain(s) of the piece wanted exactly that?

Sydney and Gale don’t have ANY secrets!

Like other Scream movies, the story is pretty silly and far fetched, and relies characters to behave in a way that real people don’t. That’s just movies I guess. One thing is, though, is the need justify its existence via a dialogue-based meta-explanation that talks about the state of franchised cinema, and also references itself in a matter more mastubatory that wanking to a home video of yourself wanking. Even down to mentioning how stupid and frustrating new horror films naming themselves like they are the original is unfunny and doesn’t shows a sense of irony: it shows the writers off knowing what they are doing, why they are doing it and are still big enough jerks to make us spend the rest of our lives saying ‘no not that one, the original one’.

As usual with the Scream films, after the first one that is, the motivation for the murder(s) is somewhat lacking, and if not for the quality of acting and violence, would have been flat and uninteresting.

I do have to say I liked the cast, no matter how unliveable the character was. The acting is on point and the cast are certainly a lot more convincing that previous entries. Some of the throwbacks to previous episodes, like Randy’s sister played by Heather Matarazzo from Scream 3, Marley Shelton from Scream 5, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette from the entire series are an obvious addition. By the way, Arquette has turned into a super-cool ex-cop action hero type, and I want to see him in something like the Bob Odenkirk movie Nobody.

I did find one thing deliciously wonderful about it: considering it’s pedigree of PG-rated, more teen friendly violence, this has some moments of brutality that are stunningly surprising. Some slow, penetrating stab shots that take no prisoners and a leg/ ankle snap that made some parts of me shrink so much I’m gonna need a hot bath to set them free from cowering in my lower abdomen.

Are we gonna see another one? It feels like it, for sure. Do we need another one, no: not even slightly.

Score: ***

The menu from the 4K release

Extras: The extras on this disc are quite interesting, and really do pay tribute to Craven’s creation (even one of the characters names is Wes).

There is a Commentary by writers James Vanderbilt and Gus Busick, directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and executive producer Chad Villella which is great, as it really covers a lot of aspects of the film, though their assumption of an asthma inhaler in the first scene was ‘very very subtle’ makes me wonder if they have ever seen a movie before. Come on guys, if someone is asthmatic or diabetic it DEFINITELY a plot point later in the film.

The Deleted Scenes are worthless and the film is better off without them.

New Blood compares the original film with the new film, and they talk about how important the film is in film history. Let’s face it, the original film probably did save the dire place mainstream horror was in at the time.

Bloodlines is the same as above but with the cast.

In The Shadow of the Master looks at Craven’s history and influence on the horror genre.

Scream 1996 (see, what did I tell you) trailer.

Score: ***

WISIA: If I was to watch an entire franchise again, I probably would, but I wouldn’t watch it as a single one-off film again.

Wes cops it.

Trivial Pursuit: Horror Ultimate Edition

Trivial Pursuit: Horror Ultimate Edition

The cover to Trivial Pursuit Horror Ultimate Edition

Like Monopoly or Cluedo (Clue, to my American friends), Trivial Pursuit is a well-worn classic in the history of board games, one that surely every fan of games must own, either the classic one with just the regular mix of trivia questions, or one of the ‘flavoured’ ones, like the Star Wars or Harry Potter ones.

For years, horror fans have been left out in the cold… or in a basement… or in the woods, or wherever the heck it is that horror fans would not like to be abandoned… with only those mainstream movie related ones available to us, or in one of those wedge-shaped mini ‘bite-sized’ editions, of which there is a horror one, but now we have a spectacular, big-boxed and proper edition with this Trivial Pursuit Horror Ultimate Edition!

As usual the winner is the first person to collect the six different wedges by answering trivia questions correctly, but you knew that, right?

The whole thing, laid out and ready to play!

The rules of this game are the same as most other Trivial Pursuit games: each player roles a die and moves that many spaces to your (final) destination. Once there, the player to your left asks you a question based on the colour you have arrived on.

In this game:

Green – Paranormal

Pink – Psychological

Yellow – Monster

Blue – Comedy

Orange – Gore/ Disturbing

Purple – Slasher

If you get the question right, you get another turn. If it is a junction space, you collect that colour wedge, unless you already have it, in which case you get another turn. If you get the answer incorrectly, the turn passes to the next player. This repeats until one player has all six colour wedges, and their objective is to get to the middle square where the other players get to pick the final question category. If they get that right, they win!

The problem with a lot of these flavoured Trivial Pursuits is if you don’t know the subject, you won’t stand a chance at a win. For example, I would never even entertain the idea of playing either the Friends or the Dragonball Bite-sized edition. This, however, does go easy on the casual, or lighter horror fan, as there are questions not just based on some obscure 70s slash-fest, there are also questions on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight. For example, the first card I’ve just pulled out of the box has questions about Session 9, 30 Days of Night, The Loved Ones and the second card I’ve pulled out asks about Dexter, What We Do In The Shadows and Black Mirror.

An example of one of the questions on the cards.

If I’m completely honest, my first game of this against my daughter, who is a horror fan but not to the extent that I am, was far too close for my liking.

The style of the game and the box artwork are great and very thematic without referring to any particular film. The exterior art has a dirty wooden box look with a bloody handprint on it, what more could you ask for, and the board looks like a dirty wooden floor, with the actual game made to look like its part of some kind of dark ritual, with paintings of mysterious runes and bones and feathers added as addition decoration.

There are 1800 questions on the cards, and if you have the bit-sized horror one you can add that as well! The quality of the cards is pretty good too.

The pieces are where the game really shine though. They have the traditional Trivial Pursuit wedge-collecting base, but weird, non-specific character pieces on the top. Mostly with these types of games, like the Warner Bros. or Star Wars ones for example, the pieces with reflect characters from the franchises, but as this is non-specific, they have used their creativity and come up with some disturbing models!

Creepy, non-franchise specific player’s pieces

This game says the amount of players is ‘2+’ on the box, but it works best at 4, I think, but that’s my opinion of all Trivial Pursuits.

In essence, this game is just a Trivial Pursuit, so if you like that game, you will probably like this, but its genre specificity makes it really for fans of horror. If you are having a board game night and someone loudly proclaims “Oh, I don’t like horror films’ then put this back on the shelf as it will be of no use to you, or, and this is the better answer, send them home: why do you have a non-horror fan in your house anyways?

It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but its nice to show off what obscure horror facts you know to your horror loving mates. If I’m to really label a specific problem with this game, it is a little pricey from some retailers. When I got mine several months ago, it took me a while to find it for less than $100 (I paid $80 Australian). It may have come down since, but with everything going on in the world in 2022 and the past two years, I can’t imagine a price reduction being on the cards.

Score: ***1/2

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)

The cover to the Australian 4K UltraHD

Film: I honestly can’t describe to you how important Star Wars is to my life. That’s not to say I’m a super obsessive nut job fan who can’t function without starting every sentence with a Star Wars fact (ok, maybe once but not anymore), but I am still pretty passionate about it… gatekeepery?

Maybe a little!

After Return of the Jedi came out in 1983 I CRAVED more content, and read heaps of the Marvel comics, and later the Dark Horse ones too. I also read the books and consumed other media like video games and toys. This of course meant that I was pretty damned excited when the announcement for a new trilogy of films was coming, and I rocked up there very early to see the new flick.

McGregor and Neeson as Kenobi and Qui-gon Jinn

The planet Naboo is going to be invaded! So the Senate sends members of the order of the Jedi, Qui-gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to engage in negotiations, which unfortunately result in the Jedi needing to make a quick escape, and rescue the Queen of Naboo, Armidale (Natalie Portman), getting her into a ship and off-planet asap.

In their escape they pick up the decidedly odd, and fan-hated Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and find themselves with a damaged ship on the planet of Tattooine, where they stumble upon the extraordinarily talented boy-mechanic/ pilot Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who convinces the refugees that he can win a ‘podrace’ (basically prams attached to jet engines) to get them enough money to buy what they need.

The kid obviously wins in an event that’s fun, but takes far too (D2) long to get through so they can get away from the planet, taking the kid with them, because he has a covid-styled thing in his bloodstream called ‘midichlorians’, and is perfect Jedi material, but very quickly they discover they are being pursued by a Sith Lord named Darth Maul (Ray Park), who is working for the one-pulling-the-strings-of-the-whole-shenanigans Darth Sidious (Ian McDiamid)… will Naboo fall? Has it already? Will Jake Lloyd ever work again?

Natalie Portman as Queen Armidala

The main problem with this film is really the same problem that ALL the prequels had: the pacing. Too much time is spent showing things that are irrelevant, or at the very least could be shown in a far more speedier fashion. The cynic in me would suggest that perhaps Lucas was already well and truly thinking of his licensing opportunities with this and video games when you consider the amount of time spent on the pod racer scene which in now way really moves the story forward at all.

The minor problems are few but still interfere with my ability to completely enjoy this film. A lot of screen time is given to the young actor Jake Lloyd, and unfortunately he’s just not very good. Sure he displays all the exuberance of youth, and Lucas intention of having a child character to pull the kids into the film… and franchise doesn’t survive if it doesn’t propagate new fans… had solid reasoning. I think perhaps a first shot at the big time that’s filled with green screen, actors in half costumes and environments that don’t exist at all may have been hard on the youngling.

It’s not all bad though: the rest of the cast are fantastic. Neeson, McGregor, Portman all, play their parts and really lay some epic foundations of not what’s to come in the films, but also in the associated animations like Clone Wars and Rebels. The effects are also fantastic, with all the aliens and vehicles really existing honestly in their environments.

I honestly believe that if this was the film that started the legacy of Star Wars, it would have spluttered to a half almost immediately. It was only providence and the promise of two more episodes that allowed Lucas to continue with this tomfoolery. Luckily for him the opening sequence of the next film was absolute gold!

Score: *1/2

The menu screen for the Australian 4K UltraHD

Extras: Extras? Meesa LOVE extras!

Ahem, what I meant to say is that there is a whole Blu-ray Disc FULL of extras in this 4K Ultra HD release!

Conversations: Doug Chiang Looks Back sees… guess who… Doug Chiang reminisce on working on the prequel trilogy, and how it developed his 5 points of design. It’s interesting that something that would seem to be so important wouldn’t get much more than a 5 minute feature.

Discoveries from Inside: Models & Miniatures is another sub-5 minute featurette looking at the miniatures used in the films.

George Lucas on the Digital Revolution has Lucas himself discuss the change from analog filmmaking to digital.

Legacy Content, which includes a feature length documentary called ‘The Beginning’, The Podrace: Theatrical Edit, Archive Fly-through, Interviews, Deleted/ Extended Scenes and The Collection. This legacy content has been seen on previous releases of the film on other formats.

Score: ****

WISIA: Not one of my favourite Star Wars films by a long shot, but you have to watch it if your having a Star Wars festival, right?

The Jedi Council

This review was done after watching the Australian 4K Ultra HD.

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic 4 (2015)

Film: Those Marvel films that are around now, they are bloody fantastic, aren’t they… well, except for Thor Ragnarok which is a lowest common denominator, slapstick comedy piece of populist cinema made for people who don’t respect comic books as an art form and think it’s ok to throw a much loved character through a comedy filter for lowbrow ‘laffs’.

Ahem, excuse me.

Well due to a bunch of contractual stuff, there were (before the Disney juggernaut purchased everything on the planet except for DC, Star Trek and Firefly) a bunch of Marvel properties that were still owned by other companies. Sony had (and still has) Spiderman and his amazing friends and enemies, and Fox were the proud owners of the X-men and this part of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four, once the proud owners of the tagline ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’.

This was the fourth attempt at a Fantastic Four film. The first was the doomed and not-officially released Roger Corman junk pile that ruined careers, then we had the successful, but more PG-friendly than the modern Marvel films, 2005 film and its sequel, which weren’t too bad and certainly truer to the comics than this catastrophic film that holds up neither as a comic-based film or even as a good movie at all!

You probably know the story, but this has some unnecessary tweaks.

Childhood friends Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) are invited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to help with an experiment in pan-dimensional travel he is performing with his scientist daughter Sue (Kate Mara), engineer/ mechanic son Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and experiment detractor Victor Von Doom (Tony Kibbell).

Unfortunately, an accident happens during the experiment and they are exposed to a radiation that gives them powers beyond human imaging… well, unless your name is Jack Kirby or Stan Lee… Richards escapes the facility that’s experimenting on them but the others start being forced to work for a government agency, until they realise there is a bigger threat coming, and they need to all be involved…

This film tries to cram into its terrible script an anti-corporation activist message, Fast and the Furious styled car culture, teenage geniuses and some fairly high-concept sci-fi… it seemingly seemed to be an attempt to be a non-version of a Marvel film and wanted to sit amongst other sci-fi films of the time like Lucy, The Martian and Transcendence. Whilst the FF comics did sit amongst some of those themes, it never felt so ham-fisted as in this film.

I do have to say that having pan-dimensional travel, something we know nothing about as it really only exists in theory, being the reason for the 4 to get their powers was a clever idea. Considering the comics were created before we went to space properly, we did not know that ‘cosmic rays’ existed and that they won’t give us powers. Another issue was using Doom as the bad guy again when clearly the concept of pan-dimensionality, a concept referred to as ‘The Negative Zone in the comics, would have leant itself to a better idea of something following the 4 back to our dimension, like the characters of Blastaar, or even better, the metal clad insect-thing Annihilus.

The aesthetic of this film is pretty amazing. The technology all looks legitimate, and the cast do the best they can with a script that doesn’t reek of the same legitness. I have to admit to liking the idea of some of the members requiring ‘containment suits’ instead of usual superhero costumes, and there’s a nice little tip-of-the-hat to the ‘4’ symbol from the comics hidden here and there too.

The soundtrack by Marco Beltrami and Phillip Glass is wonderful at setting the mood throughout the film.

It’s a case of too little too late though. There were legends of Trank being erratic on set, which are unfounded and rumours of studio interference that was untenable, but usually brought on by a studio being unhappy with his work, so I guess it was to be expected that this would be a die-cast turd.

If you haven’t seen this, don’t bother watching it unless you want to see just how bad a comic-based film can be. If you are a film student, watch it so you can understand how to screw up the final act of a film and avoid it happening to your projects. I honestly don’t understand why a simple superhero film about ‘family’ is so hard. If you want to watch a good Fantastic Four film, watch The Incredibles which steals….ahem, ‘borrows’ liberally from the ideals of Kirby and Lee’s original creation.

The only reason this film gets a single ‘*’ is because of my affection for Kate Mara.

Score: *

Extras: The disc opens with a preview for Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, before hitting the menu.

Powering Up: The Superpowers of the Fantastic Four looks at the FF and Doom’s powers and how they were realised for this film. This film is pretty effects heavy and their powers are so different it does make for an interesting cgi featurette.

The Quantum Gates explores the Quantum Gates, the invention that takes the scientists to another dimension.

Planet Zero investigates the design of Planet Zero, the other-dinemsional planet.

The Score obviously looks at Betrami and Glass’s magnificent score.

Concept Art just looks at some still images of the art for the Gates and the planet.

The tragedy of watching these extras is all the creators involved were really invested in the film. I feel sorry for them

Score: ****

WISIA: No… oh, unless I needed a Kate Mara fix, but I’d probably watch Transcendence instead.

Jakob’s Wife (2021)

The Australian release of Jakob’s Wife on Bluray

Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Film: To say I have a crush on Barbara Crampton is a bit of an understatement. This is going to sound extraordinarily bizarre, but before I saw her in Reanimator in 1986 or 1987, I was a brunette person, but Crampton completely turned me around. I’ve been an avid follower of her career (except the soap opera days) and as far as I am concerned, if she’s in a film, it’s a sign of quality.

Over the past couple of years Crampton has appeared in a few horror films that really stood out for me: Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, Ted Geoghan’s We Are Still Here and Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates were all films I really liked and possibly wouldn’t have watched if not for her presence. Hell, I even played Back 4 Blood because she played a voice in it.

Anne (Barbara Crampton) ‘enjoying’ a sermon by her husband.

Anyways, enough about what a weirdo I am, Jakob’s Wife stars Crampton, along with he co-star from We Are Still Here, Larry Fessenden, and Bonnie Aarons, from The Nun, I Know Who Killed Me and Mulholland Drive. The film was directed by Travis Stevens, who gave us the C. M. Punk-starring Girl on the Third Floor, who shares the writing duties with The Special’s Mark Steensland and the writer of the Castle Freak remake, Kathy Charles.

Jakob’s Wife tells of Anne Fedder (Crampton), the frustrated, mousey and resentful wife of town minister, Jakob Fedder (Fessenden) who when a teenager had dreams of travel and an exotic life that tragically went unfulfilled.

As a high-profile member of the town, she is assisting in the revamping of an old mills into a new shopping precinct, with the help of her teenage boyfriend Tom Low (Robert Rusler) who we find out is back for her and not for the mill, but whilst checking out the site, they run into a small problem. Tom is attacked and seemingly killed by rats, and someone, or someTHING attacks Anne.

Jakob (Larry Fessenden) and Anne look for food…

Suddenly, Jakob notices changes in Anne, she’s more confident, and has a list for blood, but what is a good, wholesome, God-fearing family to do when one of the members might be a vampire?

Jakob’s Wife is a strange film. Is it a black comedy? I think so, but a great deal of it is played straight, and there is certainly some themes related to marital frustrations, and people trying to maintain their faith when there doesn’t seem room for any. It also leans into some physical comedy too, but that might just be because Fessenden is such a loveable goofball. He’s just the Total Dad of B grade horror.

The gore and effects are heaps of fun. The main vampire ‘The Master’ has a great Nosferatu/ Salem’s Lot look about it, and the blood-letting effects are straight out of any Hong Kong/ Sushi Typhoon movie, that is, like a damned fire hose!

At the end of the day, weirdly enough, it’s a story about marriage, and how sometimes some people get lost behind another, but with a shed-load of blood attached. At its best the film is ok, but I think it struggles at times to decide what it’s trying to be. It’s not enough black comedy, the gore is a little too silly to be horrible, and occasionally the actings is a bit too slapstick. I think I WANT to like it more than what I actually do.

One thing though, my crush on Barbara is well and truly intact.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen for the film

Extras: The disc starts with reviews for Son, Psycho Goreman and The Dark and The Wicked before hitting the menu screen.

The Making of Jakob’s Wife only goes for 5 odd minutes and doesn’t really dive deep into the actual ‘making of’, it really just a few sound bytes from the cast about the film.

There’s about 13 minutes of deleted scenes which as usual, make little difference to the story.

Score: **

WISIA: It’s not great, but with Barbara in it, I’ll be back.

Anne likes some well hung meat.