A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

The cover to the Australian BD release of the film.

Film: I am a reviewer who cannot criticise sequels too harshly as I was brought up on them, from the original Star Wars saga to the various Friday the 13ths and Nightmare on Elm Streets I have always liked seeing further adventures of my favourite characters… which probably comes from being a fan of comics as well.

Of course in any series of films, one stands out as being the sloppy stuff that a dog pushes from its back passage… ladies and gentlemen, I give you A Good Day To Die Hard or as I will forever refer to it as A Good Day to Suck Hard.

This film was written by Skip Woods (more on him and his miserable script later) and directed by John Moore, who definitely knows how to put together an action sequence but can’t seem to get good acting out of his actors. It should also be pointed out he was responsible for the dire Flight of the Phoenix and The Omen remakes so be warned!!

A Good Day to Die Hard starts like a Bond film, with mucho shenanigans in Russia involving a political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has hidden evidence against politician Chargarin (Sergey Kolesnikov), which culminates in an assassination performed in a nightclub by someone who we quickly find out is Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), son of John McClane (Bruce Willis), who is immediately apprehended. John McClane, back in NYC, hears of this and makes his way to Russia to support his son at a trial where he is to give evidence against Chagarin, claiming it was him who ordered the hit, which puts him in the courthouse with Komarov.

Three men, wondering why they agree to do this film.

What we don’t know though is that Jack is actually a CIA agent in the midst of a three year operation to get Komarov to an escape point so they can get him out of Russia and to use the hidden evidence to bring Chargarin to pay for crimes he committed in the past… as expected, John gets dragged into it and we are then subjected to double-crosses, gunfire, helicopter and car destruction porn (you’ll see the Mercedes Benz emblem more in the first 30 minutes than you have ever seen in your entire life) and a father and son relationship once strained, now repaired.

I’ll start with the only positive for this film: the action sequences. These were filmed with a Hell of a lot of skill and were as thrilling as all get out and on occasion have points of shocking sudden violence that come completely unexpected. There is nothing really original here though, and in actual fact the first car chase scene in Moscow felt like an 80s styled pop music megamix of the tank scene in Russia from Goldeneye and the car chases from Die Hards 3 and 4.

Moore also used the George Lucas school of filmmaking idea insomuch that every scene in a sequel should be like a scene from a previous film, whether that be for familiarity or a lack of ideas I am not so sure, but it annoys me to no end. This film had so many homages to other Die Hard films that I felt like it was a tribute band version of a Die Hard film: all the hits and none of the misses. It replicated the ‘falling’ scene (from the first one), big explosion scene (from the third one) and many others… honestly, they could have taken scenes from previous films and clipped them together and made this film as it really was just a bunch of big scenes linked together by a loose script that stole from both Die Hard With A Vengeance, XXX and several Bond films.

Gunship porn at its finest!

The script is where the film actually falls apart. Skip Woods, who for me was a winner with Hitman and Swordfish, but taught us what ‘SUCK’ looks like with X-Men Origins: Wolverine repeats his Wolverine experience with barely even one-dimensional characters, luke-warm stereotypes and plot twists that were so obvious that Bruce Willis may as well have been holding a sign that said ‘PLOT TWIST’. What also was a problem for me was that after all the double crossing and triple crossing, the motivation for the main bad guy seemed hugely watered down, and his entire plan relied on SO much convenience that he could have opened a 7/11 store.

The other real problem for me was the character of John McClane. Bruce Willis’s iconic character was SOOOOOOOO out of his depth in this spy film that at time he seemed like nothing more than an amusing sidekick to Jack McClane’s heroics. At times John would shine though with his NYC cop instincts, but ultimately, he was just there to fire guns and wisecrack

After such a good run, and as far as I am concerned, a great modern day reboot in Die Hard 4.0, this is a miserable waste of time that exists solely to hand over the reins to a new ‘John McClane’. Imagine the ‘handover’ scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull if it went for 98 minutes. Yeah: it’s THAT bad.

Score: *1/2

Easily the worst image of a menu screen I’ve ever taken!

Extras: As usual, a lot of this stuff could have been joined together to make one decent sized making of instead of a bunch of shorts.

Deleted Scenes as usual, glad to see the back of them because it would have made this film Die Longer.

Making It Hard to Die looks at the entire making of the film, from locations to venue the armoury the director wanted. Far too short as a making-of, but looks at a lot of stuff you wouldn’t think about in filmmaking.

Anatomy of a Car Chase directs the big car chase and looks at all the elements of it.

Two of a Kind investigates the similarities and the chemistry there had to be between Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney’s characters.

Back in Action looks at the character of John McClane.

The New Face of Evil takes a look at the baddies of the film.

Pre-vis shows the action sequences in their raw, early CGI form. They look like early Call I’d Duty or Battlefield cut scenes, but they do show how bog action sequences are blocked out and they they decide on the best shot.

VFX Sequences dies at all the visual effects plates used for various effects sequences.

Storyboards and Concept Art Gallery look at the pre-visualisation of the film.

There are two Theatrical Trailers and a commentary with Director John Moore and First Assistant Director Mark Cotone

Maximum McClane is a mega mix of McClane’s Die Hard experiences.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s easily the least of the DH films so no, I won’t be watching it again.

The bad guys arrive!

This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release

After.Life (2009)

After.Life (2009)

The cover to the Australian DVD release

Film: You just have to love it when a first time director knows how to use a hammer, and hits every nail right on its head, and here, with After.Life,  Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo does just that. The director is also the co-writer along with Paul Vosloo and Jakun Korolczuk and the three of them have crafted an amazing story with some spectacular set pieces and excellent performances from the cast: not bad for the first swing at the ball.

After.Life tells the tale of uptight school teacher Anne (Christina Ricci), who is in a relationship with lawyer Paul (Justin Long) that has its problems, that is, constant fighting, and in general she just seems completely disinterested. After an argument that starts as a misunderstanding, Anne jumps in her car and has a horrific car accident, where she is pronounced dead at the scene… until she wakes up on the slab at a mortuary.

Christina Ricci as Anne

Funeral Director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) is attending to her body and explains to her that he has the ability to talk to the dead, in which he feels he helps the souls of the deceased transition from their living state to one otherwise. He explains to Anne that not everyone has the same ease in their transition, and he feels that she might be one who finds it complicated.

Anne is not thoroughly convinced, and feels as though she is still alive so it takes all Deacon’s patience to help her, and being her burial is a few days later, he is under a time constraint but Anne’s concerns that she is not actually dead, and instead a prisoner keep resurfacing, and after a time, may be not so unfounded…

Liam Neeson as Deacon

Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s directorial skills lie in two main areas: cast performance and scene setting. Every scene was lit and set like a painting and put together with the kind of meticulousness that would make Dario Argento sweat, and the cast all really were able to show their stuff. Ricci’s character’s fractured personality mixed with confusion made her initially unlikable but eventually you felt badly for her plight… I should probably point out for the pervy Ricci fans that there is a little bit of nudity in this film of her as well!!! Liam Neeson played his role like a less vaudevillian Vincent Price, and Justin Long actually acted for the first time in his life, and didn’t just seem like the Mac/ PC guy.

All in all, After.Life is a delicate film with some great performances and drips with a creepiness that could only be compared to an old guy in a raincoat on a schoolbus. I didn’t know anything about this movie going into it the first time I watched it, had forgotten all about it and have to admit to being totally impressed by it. The performances of all in this film were superb and the film will keep you guessing right to the end.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian DVD

Extras: The disc opens with a few trailers for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Crazies (remake) and The Collector and the only other extra is a trailer for After.Life itself.

Score: *

WISIA: This is a forgotten film that I only just remembered even existing and now I think it will enter my regular rewatch rotation.

Ricci ponders the difference between life and death

Sexcula

Sexcula

Film: It’s a wonderful thing for film fans when a lost film is rediscovered, no matter how obscure. Sexcula is probably the only known attempt at Canadian porn in the 70s, and honestly, that’s for the best.

A young girl inherits her grandfather’s house after he dies, and so she and her beau travel to see the property. The house is a renovator’s nightmare, but she reveals to her partner that somewhere within the house is her grandfather’s diary, which tells of some fascinating events involving the lovely Dr Fallatingstein (Jamie Orlando), her creation Frank (John Alexander), her sidekick Orgie( Tim Lowery) and sex therapist Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins)…

…oh, and an oversexed gorilla (Bud Coal).

The story tells of how Fallatingstein’s creation, Frank, is fully operational, but for some reason cannot perform any sexual act as he is unable to get an erection… this is pre-Viagra… even using a resorting to using a sex robot that Orgie is constantly trying to have a go at. Fallatingstein contacts the one person that should solve Frank’s problem, the sexy Countess Sexcula.

Sexcula tries varies situations to arouse Frank, but he seems easily distracted or just not interested. Can Sexcula get Frank to… um… rise to the occasion? You’d better watch Sexcula and find out!!

So obviously, a lost legendary porno film is never going to live up to its hype, but that’s not to say that the usual trapping of 70s porn aren’t here: terrible acting, dreadful sets, horrendous acting and, well let’s just say, ordinary people rooting. Don’t expect the finely waxed landing strips of your partner either: the people in this film have more bush than a national park!

The acting is of a desperately low quality as well. I admit I am not expecting Oscar winning performance in a film like this, but an ability to deliver a line without sounding like you were reading the script off idiot cards might make the low and hairy/ scarey quality of the porn slightly more bearable.

Unfortunately, the acting and sex aren’t the only things problematic with this film. To be fair this is a ‘lost’ film, and one can’t always expect pristine hi-def quality from the providence that something like this comes from, and I don’t wish my criticism to sound like it is aimed at those who released this film. Clean up on a project such as this is definitely not going to be of a priority like, say, the James Bond collection.

There are two definite image problems here though, and they unquestionably stem from the direction. The camerawork was occasionally sloppier than the fellatio, and whilst I don’t expect the expertise of Dean Semler in a 1970s Canadian porno film, something that wasn’t occasionally like an even more amateur version of The Blair Witch Project would certainly have been appreciated. What is amazing though is that this camera issue isn’t always immediately apparent as the lighting of the sets are so murky (I imagine the idea was to make it look ‘spooky’) that you can’t quite be sure of everything the camera is doing: at one point I even though my TV had somehow turned itself off!!

Hilariously, occasionally olde school spotlights are used for dramatic effect, and fail tremendously.

It’s not all bad, though. The music soundtrack is a particular highlight, being a hilarious combination of Brady Bunch music, elevator muzak and Russ Meyer burlesque, and let me tell you, two of those don’t sit well with hardcore sex!!

Unsurprisingly, the image from this lost film is pretty poor, but that is not due to Impulse Pictures’ transfer. The film itself looks like it was mostly filmed in a basement with only Dolphin torches for illumination. The transfer is pretty good, with the film having only occasional artefact damage. The sound is presented in mono 2.0, and again, the original sound is the issue, not the transfer… it’s been a while since I heard the ‘clicketing’ of film running through a camera on a disc. Having said all that though, the presentation does add to that grindhouse feel that we all love so much.

Tragically, that is all I can say is good about the film. If it was supposed to be a tribute to Universal Horror, with its obvious winks to Dracula and Frankenstein, it failed miserably, and if the horror aspect was just supposed to be dressing for my arousal, well we had another fail. I’m a guy and I am supposed to be easily turned on, but unfortunately this received another ‘F’. Honestly, watching a documentary about a sewer treatment plant would spark movement in the underpant area quicker that this piece of tripe.

Bad acting, hairy arses, crappy wigs and substandard camerawork: yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 70s porn. The film itself is somewhat of a chore to get through, especially with the dialogue being so dire (but occasionally funny) and the sex not being very sexy, but for a collectors of porn/ sexploitation history; it’s probably a must have, but certainly a once only watch. The ending also, is something that has to be seen to be believed… but not in a good way!

Score: *1/2

Extras: As far as extras on the disc go, I am afraid there is only a trailer, but there is also an essay by ‘porn archaeologist’ Dimitrios Otis and comic by Rick Tremble giving some additional insights about the film.

Score: *

WISIA: Definitely not.

My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972)

My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972)

The cover to Shameless’ release of My Dear Killer

Film: This film opens with the greatest murder EVER put to celluloid. I kid you not: it has to be the MOST original murder weapon any killer has EVER used in a film, and I will have no argument.

The weapon of choice?

It takes a particular skill set to murder in this fashion

A bucket digger mounted on an earthmover (they call it a dredger in the film, but that is wrong) picks up a guy by his head and squeezes until it pops quicker than a zit in a teens bathroom. My reasoning for claiming its ‘best’ status is twofold: one, the inventiveness of the killer to think ‘Mmmm, opportunity is knocking, why not answer?’ when suddenly deciding to grab the victims head, and his/ her sheer chutzpah to actually use it… I mean, it is hardly stealth, kill-in-an-alley kind of a weapon!! Color me admirable!!

This film was directed by western/ Trinity Brothers director Tonino Valerii from a script by Roberto Leoni (Santa Sangre) and Franco Bucceri (Gli Esecutori), based on a story by them, along with Velerii himself and Django co-writer José Gutiérrez Maesso (which is nodded to in a scene where Django is played on a TV).

My Dear Killer tells of police investigator Luca Peretti (giallo regular George Hilton) who is assigned to a murder case when an insurance investigator has had his head removed in the aforementioned murder. As the layers of the murder unfold though, he finds himself caught up in an older investigation which involved the kidnap and death of a young girl. Of course as the investigation gets deeper, the bodies start piling up, but can Peretti figure out who the killer is with the unusual clues he has?

Giallo killers are always perverts too

As a fan of giallos I looked forward to seeing this, especially as its male lead was in other giallos such as The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All The Colors of the Dark, and was much more than pleasantly surprised. Even though the story is quite detailed, it never becomes a victim of its own cleverness, nor does it becomes convoluted as some giallos do. The investigation goes from a to b without any longshot hunches that these films can sometimes contain.

There is some well played violence in the film as well, though somewhat silly at times (the killer sits and chats with one victim before searching her house, whilst she quizzically watches, for something to kill her with, and finds a circular saw!! This guy is clearly a disorganised serial killer to not have a weapon handy) and being an Italian film of its era, some stunningly gorgeous cast members.

I should also point out that this Shameless release is the first time it has been released uncut, which should add to the joy to those who like the bloodier side of things.

I think this film is a great giallo, and it is truly a shame that Valerii never made another as its direction is really solid. Also, it being a part of the Shameless collection, number 11 in fact,  gives it some collector swagger as well, with the spine of the amray making up the word ‘Shameless’.

Score: ****

The DVD menu screen

Extras: Not the greatest ever extras from Shameless on this disc. We have the trailer for the film, and a bunch of trailers of other Shameless releases, including What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, Night Train Murders, Torso (Carnal Violence), Baba Yaga: The Devil Witch, Ratman and The Black Cat.

Score: **

WISIA: Yes.

Strangled by the prices at the post office. Nothing’s changed.

This film was reviewed with the UK Shameless Screen Entertainment DVD release

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: There is no doubt that Lisbeth Salander is a character who sits in my top 5 favourite female characters of all time (for transparencies sake, the others are Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video games, Iden Versio from the Star Wars based video game Battlefront 2, Black Canary from DC Comics and She-Hulk from Marvel comics… Jean Grey from the X-men and Power Girl from DC comics follow close behind), and I have thoroughly enjoyed her character in pretty much well every incarnation I have seen of her, from comics to film to TV… but even though I like this film, I’m not quite sure that Claire Foy, a wonderful actor, was perfect for this role.

After seeing Roony Mara and Naomi Rapace in this role, I found Foy, who is wonderful in The Crown TV series as Queen Elizabeth II, to not be a physical match for the other actors, and I found her to be slightly unbelievable in the role. Another case of this from a film a few years earlier was Terminator Genesys, where Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones was thrown in as the ‘new’ Sarah Conner, but again couldn’t match her physicality.

Before anyone calls me out of this as being sexist I would like to point out it has nothing to do with sex. Sometimes a role requires a particular physical attribute to perform a role. Even though I like Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher films, I am not quite sure that he accurately portrays the character as defined by the book. I also wouldn’t like to see characters like Conan or John Rambo played by Tom Hanks at any time in his career.

Sometimes a look defines a character, and film being a visual art form, that requires a degree of accurate portrayal. Foy’ s physicality is perfect in the Crown, but for the role of Lisbeth Salander, I’m not so sure. That’s not to say she didn’t play the part well because she did, but I had trouble visually believing her.

Anyway, this film, the second in the English versions of the Millennium tales, is based on the novel by David Lagercrantz, who wrote this book after the character’s creator, Stieg Larsson passed away, and the script is by Jay Basu, who also wrote the Monsters sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent. The film was directed by Fede Alvarez, who previously gave us the Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, two films for which I have a great respect.

Our story tells the continuing adventures of hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy), who this time has been employed by Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve a program he created called Firefall, which is able to activate the world’s nuclear weapons, believing is too dangerous to be ‘owned’ by the NSA.

Lisbeth (Clare Foy) in vengeance mode

Whilst making the attempt, Salander gets the attention of NSA agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stansfield), which become her first problem. Her next one is the mercy who try to get the program from her, which makes her miss her meeting with Balder, causing him to think she is keeping it for herself. He contacts Crane (Synnøve Macody Lund) who puts him and his son August (Christopher Convery).

Very quickly, in twist after twist, the programme is being transferred from one set of hands to another, Salander finds there is a mastermind pulling the strings, her very own sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), who has a very personal agenda against Salander.

For the most part I like this film. The story is engaging and it’s full of Bond-like action and twists and turns in the tale, but unfortunately, Foy, a wonderful actor, is disastrously miscast. Both Rooney Mara and Naomi Rapace looked like hardasses who had seen, and experienced, far more than their years would suggest, but Foy looks more like a cosplayer doing a cutesy version of the same character for Dragon Tattoo-con. It’s such a shame that the focus of the entire story, and this is more a story about Salander than about something she’s involved in as an interloper, has an actor who’s not quite right in the lead role.

Balder (Stephen Merchant) cops one in the eye

In Foy’s defence though, the choice of Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist is just as flaccid, so they make a great pair. I am comparing him to Daniel Craig’s performance in the American-made Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so maybe that’s not fair.

This even reflects in the design of the film. The characters all have some amazing outfits, especially the red suits that Hoeks gets to wear, but Foy’s outfits just look off the rack, instead of the almost gothic battle outfits the previous actors wore. The rest of the film design is wonderful as well. Alvarez has managed to make a film that’s so cold and wet looking you’ll need a blanket and a towel to watch it.

Speaking of Hoeks, her portray of Camilla Salander is as villainous as they come, and she feels more in control and a better all-round villain that every one of Daniel Craig’s Bind villains except for Mads Mikkelson’s La Chiffre. Whilst on cast, I was surprised to see Stephen Merchant in a serious role, something I’m not sure I’d seen him in before.

A few years ago, I was on a podcast where myself and the others there discussed our favourite characters of all time, be it comic, movie, book or whatever, and Lisbeth Salander was my number one as I have a real love of the character. This film is a good one, with one key piece of miscasting that causes it to fail somewhat.

A missed opportunity is the worst kind of fail.

Score: **1/2

Australian Bluray menu

Extras: Disc opens with trailers for Searching…, Venom and weirdly, the special features of the disc itself… ok, then…

Commentary with Director Fede Alvarez and Screenwriter Jay Basu which is a fascinating look at the story origins and what they took from David Lagercrantz’s novel.

Deleted Scenes, as I always say: the film was better off without them.

Claire Foy: Becoming Lisbeth is a discussion about Claire Foy’s portrayal of the character, and how it contrasts with her portrayal of the ‘other’ Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II in the TV series ‘The Crown’.

All About the Stunts talks about the stunts, focusing the the big car crash, the motorbike on the ice scene and a car chase. Each section seemed to focus more on the effects used so I’m not sure what this extra was about at all.

Creating the World: The Making-Of talks about how the decision to break out of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and into the new stories felt like a better idea than to remake the Swedish films that were already very popular.

Secrets of the Salander Sisters looks at the characters and portrayals of Lisbeth and Camilla and the difference between our antagonist and

Previews, which takes you back to the previews at the beginning of the disc.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I will because it is a part of the Lisbeth Salander stories, but under protest!

Salander escapes across a frozen lake on her motorcycle

This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release.

Zombie Fluxx

Zombie Fluxx

The wonderful cover to Zombie Fluxx

My wife is not really a game player, which is a bummer because I own over 500 games! She does have a few she enjoys, like Lords of Waterdeep (a Dungeons and Dragons worker placement board game) and Scopa (a traditional Italian card game), for example, but in general she’s difficulty to please with card games.

It’s especially frustrating when you set a big game up and by the end of turn one she might say,’ nope, I don’t like it.’

What is funny about playing with my wife is how she learns rules. Her only question is always, ‘how do I win’ and then she observes how the turns go and follows everyone else’s lead.

Introducing her to the card game Fluxx was hilarious, because at the beginning, you don’t know how to win.

Fluxx is one of those games that is a great game by itself, but has several ‘re-skinnings’ that incorporate various themes into its basic gameplay, which is that you start with three cards, you draw one card, and play one card… unless another card in play tells you to do something different.

In the game, you have various types of cards:

New Rules are cards that can change the basic rules of the game, like draw 4 (instead of draw 1), Hand Limit 2, which means if you have had to draw 4 cards, then played 1, you have to discard cards until you only have 2, or Double Agenda, which tells you that there are two goals to choose from… but what are the goals?

Goals are how the game ends. They will feature two keepers, like one called We’re All All Right, which makes the win conditions that you need two ‘friends’ as keepers. The goals can change during the game though, so play as many keepers as you can.

Keepers are cards that you keep in front of you which may lead you to a win condition, but some goals claim you must have no zombies as keepers, which is difficult… but zombies can be removed…

Creepers are keepers you play immediately with no exception. You can win with a zombie in front of you, so you need to be looking for weapons cards to get rid of them.

Actions are basically cards that you play, and do whatever they say, the results usually being to your advantage.

Play continues until one play is able to complete the goal a card is offering, and this can be done by have the appropriate keepers, or even playing a goal card that allows you to win.

The artwork on the cards is very much of the standard Fluxx type, but it is function and the zombies are appropriately zombie-ish. This game also has the option of removing the zombie related cards so it can be played as a regular game of Fluxx.

It’s a very simple game, and this one’s horror theme isn’t a game that drips the horror genre, but it’s fun enough, and easy to play and can be enjoyed even by non-gamers like my wife!

Score: ***

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

The Australian release on Bluray of Paranormal Activity

Film: Oh boy, do I hate found footage films.

To me, they are the reality TV of cinema. Lazy, cheap and boring filmmaking that require ridiculous reasons for there to either someone with a camera or a camera remotely set up; this became most evident as this particular series of films rolled on.

The Blair Witch Project is a fairly shoddily-made, uninteresting film that created a hubbub around its release by duping people into thinking it was real. In terms of it being a piece of marketing brilliance, I can’t deny that, but once the magician’s trick, ie that it wasn’t real, was revealed it immediately lost all of its power. I find it interesting that movies are allowed to get away with this so-called marketing. They basically told us it was a documentary and it wasn’t; usually if a company made false adverting claims like that it would be the end of their career.

Micah (Micah Stoat) got a new video camera

This film was written and directed by Oren Peli, who also directed 2015’s Area 15, and has acted as producer on all the Paranormal Activity sequels (of which there are several).

Paranormal Activity starts with a thank you to the families of the main characters Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Stoat) and the police department for supplying them with the video tapes of the mysterious case surrounding the events of the film.

The film starts with day trader Micah and his brand new video camera as he decides to fill his days with filming his and Katie’s lives together, but something as awry. As the filming continues, Katie and Micah discover through looking back over recordings made of themselves asleep, that there might be something in the house with them… something malevolent… something that doesn’t appreciate a psychic investigator, or Micah’s amateur attempts with a Ouija board.

Quickly things escalate and we discover that maybe whatever it is may have a secret locked in Katie’s past..

Katie (Katie Featherstone) is really impressed with Micah’s new camera

Ok, so I have displayed my opinion of these films in my introduction, but this film has a couple of things going for it. One is the cast. Katie and Micah make for a realistic couple which is what really sells the ‘found footage’ style of the film. The other is the way their characters are written, and the way their relationship starts to dissolve as the events of the haunting become more intense.

The problem I have with this film is that it is a party trick. The entire film has no soundtrack, unless you count the occasional guitar plucking that Micah does, but what it does do is plays a very low hum anytime something ‘scary’ is about to happen, and it’s very low, so you don’t just hear it, you kind of feel it too. Most films do something similar, but they also have a score as well. This has silence, and then the creeping ‘ommmmmmmmmmm’ whenever its going for scares.

Scorsese claimed that Marvel made theme park rides rather than ‘proper’ cinema, and if that’s true, ‘found footage’ films are bad VR experiences like the ones you would have played in a Shopping Centre at $10 for 5 minutes.

To its credit, this disc does have two versions of the film on it, the theatrical version and an ‘alternate’ version, which is the same film, but with the last minute being different… the problem being that different ending can also be seen in the extra titled ‘alternate ending’ so why have them both here. Weird choice.

You may ask why I own this disc then, if I hate it so much, but that’s has a very simple answer: my wife digs these films and she’s not a fan of horror, so if the opportunity comes to watch a horror film with her, I’ll take it, even if it’s one I don’t like.

Score: *1/2

The Australian menu screen

Extras: There’s only two extras on this disc. The disc also starts with a trailer for Nowhere Boy, before hitting the menu.

Alternate Ending is pretty dumb and I’m sure the filmmakers are glad they didn’t go with it, otherwise Katie wouldn’t have been able to show up in sequels.

Paranormal Activity fans is one of the dumbest extras I’ve ever seen. It’s one of my most hated things, a stills gallery, but of people who must have submitted photos of themselves to appear on the home release? I feel like I’m owed 6 minutes of time for wasting it watching crap like this for a review.

I would have given the extras at least one star for the alternate ending, but the ‘Fans’ extra is an absolute insult unless you are one of the ‘lucky’ people who are on it.

Score: 0

WISIA: Straight back to the bottom of the rewatch pile it goes, and stays.

The psychic

High Rise (2015)

High Rise (2015)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of High Rise

Film: I used to read a real lot, but just because time sometimes gets away from you, I don’t read anywhere near as much now. I used to read a big variety of stuff, from classics to modern horror, but somehow, the works of J. G. Ballard somehow missed my grasp.

After watching this film I have decided that that is something I need to rectify!

Ballard wrote challenging and disturbing work apparently, dealing with psychology, mankind’s relationship with technology, the media and sex… it’s always about sex! This film, High Rise, was based on his 1975 novel based of the same name.

Tom Hiddleston up to mischief in High Rise

This film was directed by A Field In England’s Ben Wheatley who just brings the most stunning eye to the story, making it a film that seems to be about the future, but setting it in what looks to be 1975, when you consider the fashion, the liberal smoking practices and the fact that SOS by Abba is referenced twice through the film. The adaption of the story was done by regular Wheatley collaborator Amy Jump, who also worked on A Field in England, and Kill List.

High Rise tells of Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a teacher of physiology who has moved into the 25th floor of a 40 story high rise after the death of his sister. He quickly befriends Charlotte (Sienna Miller) who lives on the floor above and Wilder (Luke Evans) who lives on one of the lower levels with his wife, Helen (Elizabeth Moss) and their children.

The building, situated on the outskirts of London, is one of five building which have a massive car park separating them. The architect of the project, Royal (Jeremy Irons) lives on the top floor of Laing’s building in a lavish apartment with an almost countryside-looking terrace, with his spoiled wife Ann (Keeley Hawes). Royal’s building has all the amenities a building would need to be self contained: a school, sports facilities, a shopping centre but with everything within reach, why would one after bother to leave?

Sienna Miller as Charlotte, who is NOT enjoying Wilder’s affections

After accidentally causing a tenant to commit suicide, by pretending a brain scan came back with cancer, Laing starts to believe that Royal has paid off the police so they won’t investigate goings on in the building, and as a cycle of power outages, garbage piling up and food becoming difficult to source, the people of the lower levels start rising up against those of the upper levels, and violence, rape, assault become the norm.

Very soon, a full scale class war begins, but who will survive…

I bought this film several years ago and it has sat unwatched in my, you guessed it, To Watch Pile and I’m sad I didn’t get to it sooner. Wheatley’s direction is dreamy and intense at the same time, Jump’s script is solid and profound and the performances are just fantastic. I would almost go so far as to say it’s one of the best cast films I’ve seen in a long time. If you like the ideas proposed in the movie/ TV series Snowpiercer, or even Doctor Who’s Paradise Gardens, you should enjoy this.

Super solid film that’s made me excited about watching it again, and even has opened me up to a new author to obsess over: what else would one want?

Score: ****1/2

The menu screen for the Bluray release of High Rise

Extras: There is only one extra but it is a fantastic little 15 minute look at the making of the film. It left me wanting much more.

Score: ***

WISIA: Oh yes, there will be more views!

Yikes! One can almost see Hiddle’s Diddle!

Selfish: Space Edition

Selfish: Space Edition

Selfish: Space Edition from Ridley’s Games

Winning.

It’s why we play games, right?

Who cares about sportsmanship and fair play when you’ve got blood on your claws and the taste of victory in your mouth!

I can honestly say that once of the best things that’s happened to me whilst playing a board game was after executing a particularly cut-throat move while playing Food Chain Magnate, which is an absolute BASTARD of a game, my daughter said to me, ‘ how could you do that? I’m your daughter?!?’

I told her that as her father, my job is to teach lessons, and this one was ‘trust no one’.

A game set up and ready to play

We are pretty competitive in my house with board games, to the point that when my wife sits down to play a game, she doesn’t ask ‘how do we play?’, her first question is ‘how do I win?’ (which made for a hilarious rant when we played Fluxx). That’s not to say we don’t have fun playing co-op stuff, but as long as my wife is leading the charge, all is good.

This game, Selfish: Space Edition (there’s also Zombie, Star Wars and Disney Villains editions), from Ridley’s Games is a perfect game for a family who enjoy being a little bit ruthlessness!

This card game has a concept that is quite simple: you are an astronaut trapped in the darkness of space, and you need to move the six spaces it takes to get back to your ship, which would be fine, but you only have six canisters of oxygen and it takes two to move, AND you have to finish on the ship with at least one canister left, and if my maths is correct, that means you are already in an oxygen deficit.

Have no fear though, dear space person, what you do have is a bunch of horrible things you can do to other players like siphon their oxygen, or shoot them with a laser to send them back a space!

The cards even have threats on the back!

Gameplay is really simple: on your turn you draw a card, then, if you wish/ can, play as many action cards as you wish, which will make your opponents lives miserable unless they can reply with a ‘shield’ card, and then you have to make the decision on whether you stay where you are, costing one oxygen, or travelling one space, costing two oxygen.

Moving faces it’s own challenges though, as space is a treacherous place, and every time you move onto a new space space, you may face things like Cosmic Radiation, which steals an oxygen from you, a Solar Flare, which stops you from doing any actions while it is immediately behind you. It’s not all bad though, Useful Junk let’s you draw an extra card, potentially getting more oxygen, or Wormhole allows you to swap places with another player, potentially getting forward a little bit.

The threatening space cards

Each game only lasts about 20 minutes, but it’s SO easy to set up and play, that it even has a minimum age of 7 as it’s suggested age range. The art is simple, but still engaging and the ‘dead astronaut’ cards are both funny and kind of sad.

We have a lot of fun with this game, and I possibly will buy some of the others as there are minor changes depending on which game, for example, in the zombie one, the dead players return as the undead! I have little knowledge of the others so I can’t comment on them, but I could always do with more games!

If you are having a games night, this is a great entree game or wind down game. Simple to learn, fun to play, but it doesn’t have a great deal of substance… still, seeing someone one space away from winning and running out of oxygen is a guilty pleasure, especially if you have a spouse as focussed on winning as mine is!

Score: ***1/2

A game in full play!

Undead (2003)

Undead (2003)

The cover to Umbrella’s Beyond Genres release of Undead

Film: As far as horror is concerned, the early 2000s can be defined in two sub-genres: j-horror and zombie movies.

It was truly like someone had turned on the tap for wet-looking Japanese ghosts, blue filters and the undead… or in this case Undead.

The Americans and the English were all over the zombie sub-genre, and we got lots of stuff like Zach Snyder’s remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s second, less-successful zombie trilogy of Land, Diary and Survival, Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie version of the video game Resident Evil (and it’s sequels), Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool. Zombies became so popular that they were everywhere and in everything!

Our heroine, René (Felicity Mason)

The Australian writer/ director team, The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael) came together to make a film based on their home movie trilogy Attack of the Undead, and what they gave us was quite revolutionary.

Undead tells the story of a small town in Australia that has meteors hit, and cause an outbreak of zombies in the town! A small group of people, including the local gun shop owner Marion (Mungo McKay), a former beauty queen, René (Felicity Mason), local cops Harrison (Dirk Hunter) and Molly (Emma Randall), current (and pregnant local beauty queen Sallyanne (Lisa Cunningham) and her boyfriend Wayne (Rob Jenkins), do their best to survive the night, but zombies don’t seem to be their only problem.

A giant steel wall has encased the town, rendering it inescapable, and a weird rain that causes them to smoke also starts descending… and what are those strange lights seemingly abducting people in the sky…

A little girl zombie well before The Walking Dead did it

Undead starts as a fairly familiar zombie story, but we are well and truly shown why the dead are returning to life. To top that off, is we are also presented with a solution that at first appears to not be that at all. It’s very clever and a nice complete story that doesn’t end with a continuing threat of an apocalyptic future, or the lead players all just getting killed by circumstances.

The story has a lot of fun and comedic elements and easily one of my favourite lines from a movie comes from this film, spoken by Dirk Hunter in a scene where the survivors are defending Marion’s house from the undead… you’ll know it when you hear it… and situationally, some of the comedy is pretty funny too.

This is a part of Umbrella Entertainment’s Beyond Genres collection and has another amazing cover by Australian artist Simon Sherry.

I loved this film when it first came out, but unfortunately, it just hasn’t held up. It’s very Australian so the power of cultural cringe is high, but that honestly is part of the comedy of it, so it’s not why my opinion has changed. I think it may be because when I saw this film I had aspirations of making movies myself, and I was more impressed with their tenacity to get this film made. Now that I don’t have those aspirations I’m not as interested. It’s still a tribute to the brothers’ inventiveness, but I’m more interested in the actual story than the story behind it.

I do admit the triple barrelled shotgun is still really cool.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Bluray release of Unded

Extras: A great collection of extras that were previously available on the DVD release of several years ago, which include:

Audio commentary by directors Peter and Michael Spierig with cinematographer Andy Strahorn and it’s a good commentary for young independent filmmakers to watch to get the idea of how hard making films can be. A very interesting commentary indeed!

On the Set of Undead is literally just that; some behind the scenes footage of how the film was made, with an occasional bit of introduction by some of the cast and crew.

Attack of the Undead – a Short Film is the first from there indie trilogy which includes Attack, Rampage and Massacre of the Undead. It’s silly and dumb and exactly what you’d expect from young filmmakers.

The Making of Undead looks at the making of the film and where the Spierig’s inspiration came from, which as you expect, was from $1 horror hires from the local video shop.

Home Made Dolly Video is what independent filmmaking is all about. Ingenuity and desperation and making the most of your skill set for the result you desire. They show the design and process of how they built a dolly crane, and in a way that can only be described as ‘dinky-di’, how they welding it with no shirts on. Tough buggers.

Undead Camera and Make Up Tests looks at how the zombie make up and how it would look under various light sources and types.

Stills Gallery is photos… like in a book. Go buy a book instead of wasting your time watching this. Slideshows are boring: didn’t your grandparents holidays teach you anything?

Theatrical Trailer is exactly what it says on the box.

The Umbrella Beyond Genres release also comes with a copy of the soundtrack on CD and I love me a soundtrack!

Score: ****

WISIA: When this first came out it was a definite rewatcher for me, but it’s hasn’t aged well, so not anymore. This will probably be my last watch.

More dead people

This movie was provided by Umbrella Entertainment for review