John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: I’m not sure when it was that Keanu Reeves became some kind of Hollywood darling, but I do know that there is very few of his films that I haven’t enjoyed.

John Wick blasted out of nowhere in 2014 and even though it took me maybe a year to see it, I really enjoyed it from that first watch. This film really lies in my wheelhouse of the main character being an almost superhuman machine, a love which started with James Bond films, and trickled through many other films starring similar characters like Jack Reacher, Alex Cross, Jack Ryan, Lisbeth Salander, Lorraine Broughton and their ilk. I think the reason I like Call of Duty and the Tom Clancy video games is because it’s a chance to play as one of these types of heroes, with cutting edge gadgets and weapons, and violent adventure.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick

One of the things that makes this film such an interesting watch is the absolute amazing stunts, which is to be expected when one considers the director is Chad Stahelski, a former stunt co-ordinator on action films like The Hunger Games, The Wolverine and Deadpool 2. Apparently he directed this film with David Leitch who has a similar pedigree but was uncredited. It was written by Derek Kolstad, who wrote the other two Wick films, the Bob Odenkirk vehicle Nobody and a few episodes of a marvel’s entry into the espionage world, The Falcon and Winter Soldier.

The film tells of John Wick (Keanu Reeves), an ex-assassin and ‘problem solver’ for the Russian mafia who has retired his guns, and enjoy a quiet, married life. This life is destroyed when his wife tragically passes away, but as a last gift, he receives a puppy from her because he needs someone to soften him.

Unfortunately, by chance on the day of his wife’s funeral, Wick meets up with Iosef (Alfie Allen), the son of Wick’s ex-employer, Russian mafia boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), and he and his crew after spotting Wicks lovely ‘69 Mustang, decide to steal it. They break into his home, assault him, kill the puppy and steal his car.

Michael Nyqvist as Viggo

This opens a can of worms that cannot be unopened. Viggo is so afraid of Wick he puts a two million dollar contract out on him, a contract picked up by Marcus (Willem DaFoe) and Miss Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), but as we, the viewers, start to explore the underground world of assassin’s, we discover that not everything is as it seems…

Being directed by a stunt expert means that the highlights of this film are certainly the gunplay, the fighting and the car stunts. For want of a better term, the fight/ gunfight scenes are almost sophisticated and beautifully ballet-like in its execution, if you’ll excuse the pun. This doesn’t stop with the human contact stuff either, every car scene is like some kind of death-dealing gymkhana that is stunning to watch.

The actors that turn up are an interesting mix too. In addition to those mentioned previously, Ian McShane, Dean Winters, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, David Patrick Kelly and Kevin Nash turn up. Every time a face I knew turned up, especially Kelly, I was pretty pumped.

If I am to criticise this movie for anything, it is that it’s story is a generic revenge tale. The choreography is really spectacular, but when you sit down and think about the story, there’s really nothing to it. The world that has been created is quite fascinating, but the main characters motivations are action film generic-ishness of the highest order.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Good People and A Most Violent Year before we get to the main menu screen.

There are several extras, most of them under ten minutes, but there is a feature length audio commentary with directors Leitch and Stahelski which is actually quite a thorough look into the making of the film.

Don’t F*ck with John Wick looks at all the driving, shooting and fighting training Keanu Reeves went through to perform the role of John Wick. Honestly I went into a massive deep dive with Reeves’ training and found a bunch of stuff on YouTube about it all.

Calling in the Cavalry talks about the creation of the script and the characters.

Destiny of a Collective looks at Stahelski and Leitch’s history in stunts and stunt performance.

The Assassin’s Code takes us into the world of the assassins in the film. It shows how their world looks completely different to our ‘normal’ world.

The Red Circle discusses the design of the club and the characters that hang out there.

N.Y.C. Noir looks at the design and look of the New York in the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: This DOES get regular watches. It may be generic revenge, but it’s GOOD generic revenge.

Wick’s man cave is probably a little different to yours or mine!

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: In this humble reviewer’s opinion, the best horror movies are the one where people like you and me are put into extraordinary situations. Night of the Living Dead stands out as an example of this; a group of faceless no-ones, drawn together to fight a common evil. Luckily for those folks they had the convenience of finding a domicile that had a firearm in it, but look around your own house, what do you have to fight back the hordes of the undead…a tennis racket? A cricket bat? A baseball bat? I imagine that the amount of houses that have NO guns would outweigh those that do, so to react against this sort of thing we would use whatever is handy…this is the world of Shaun of the Dead.

Simon Pegg as Shaun and Nick Frost as Ed

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is just like you or I, with all the same problems. His job sucks, his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) has left him due to his flagrant disregard for their relationship, and his obsession with the local pub ‘The Winchester’, and he forgets to call his Mum (Penelope Wilton) regularly, which bring about much agro from his step-father (Bill Nighy) …general details of life that can lead a man to drink until he cannot feel his legs anymore, but Shaun’s problems are getting worse. The dead are rising, with a ravenous lust for human flesh. Shaun has to make a plan so that he can keep himself and his loved ones safe. Along with his best pal, Ed (Nick Frost), he comes up with a plan that will keep Liz, her disapproving flat mates Dianne (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran), and his mother and step father safe and well until the whole problem blows over…that is, as long as nothing untoward happens…

The walk to the pub is more difficult than normal.

Shaun of the Dead runs the gamut of gruesome gore and clever comedy…so much so you may find your head spinning. There are so many references to other zombie films that you probably won’t pick up on all of them the first time you watch it, like the Italian restaurant named Fulci’s, the electronics store called Foree’s, and the assistant manager named Ash. Seeing as how the creators and many of the other cast are from the Pegg/ Wright creation, Spaced, there are many subtle tips of the hat to that show as well, not to mention a selection of English comedy and music favourites (look out for Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman, League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith and Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland to name a few). As for the zombies themselves, well, there are some really freakish ideas, like a wheelchair bound zombie…and I shall never look at twins the same way again. Also interesting is the way that Pegg and Wright have compared our mortal existences to those of the hordes of zombies. Are we really any different?

Score: *****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: The commentary is by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Half trivia track, half informative and half stand up comedy (hang on, is that 3 halves? Oh well) this track is really one of the best commentaries I have ever heard. It is fun and entertaining, and a great way to get help to spot all the ‘horror asides’.

The special features are divided into a few sections:

Missing Bits contains:

Extended Bits is a selection of scenes from the movie that were trimmed for various reasons. This extra can be played with or without the commentary by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

Outtakes, surprisingly, are a selection of amusing outtakes. One warning though, within these outtakes contain the worst Beatles impressions you will ever hear.

The Man Who Would Be Shaun shows Nick Frost and Simon Pegg fooling around with different accents in a particular scene.

Funky Pete which shows the ‘clean’ version of a scene for the airplane version where all the ‘F’ words are changed to the word ‘funk’…do you funking well understand what I funking well mean…you mother funker?

Plot Holes contains 3 sections: What happened to Shaun when he ran off, What happened to Dianne When She Left the Winchester and How Did Ed get from the Cellar to the Shed. These sections are done as comic strips, with the tale told by the respective characters, and fill in the plot holes quite suitably and amusingly.

Raw Meat contains:

Peg’s, Davis’ and Cornish’s Video Diaries is a selection of cute behind the scenes stuff done by, well, the people whose names each short is named after. It seems to be more of a look at how mundane filmmaking is. Cornish’s harrowing trip to his day as a zombie extra is both funny and frustration.

Casting Tapes is some footage of the casting process.

Edgar and Simon’s Flip Chart which is a run through of the film by the writer done in September 2001 using a flip book (often used by teachers or in business meetings), and is a quite amusing run through of the movie, before it was even filmed.

SFX Comparison is just that. A few scenes from the movie with the special effects removed, so you can see what had to be done to get some of the effects.

Make Up Tests shows close up views of some of the zombies from the movie, with and without the ‘eye’ effects put in, and a few ‘zombie walk’ tests.

EPK Featurette discusses the origins of the movie and what the lead actors and the director thought about their roles within the movie, and also whether they are making a horror, or a comedy, or something new altogether. It is a bit of a fluff piece, but kept interesting by the personalities of the cast and crew.

TV bits contains:

Is a bunch of ‘in the world of Shaun of the Dead’ TV spots, featuring an interview with Chris Martin from Coldplay about their charity ‘Zombaid’, a game show for zombies (featuring the ‘Gonk’ piece of music from Dawn of the Dead), some bits with Tv\V presenter Trisha and a News reader recalling ‘Z Day’; the day the dead came back alive.

Zombie Gallery contains:

Photo Gallery is a series of behind the scenes photos taken of the cast and crew at rehearsals.

2000AD Strip a comic stripped based on part of the film, taken from the English sci fi comic 2000AD.

Poster Designs, which is a series of poster ideas for the film.

Trails of the Dead contains various trailers for Shaun of the Dead, including the teaser trailer from Fright Fest 2003.

Finally, in this exhaustive and thorough pile of extras, is a storyboard feature that allows you to, during the film, hit enter on your remote whenever a pair of zombie eyes pop up, to see the storyboard for that section.

Score: *****

WISIA: Yes. It’s easily the best part of the Cornetto Trilogy and is just so much fun.

It’s a zombie movie: not everyone survives!

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

The cover to the Australian 4K steelbook release.

Film: Movie trends come and go.

Fifty years ago, every second film was a western, and apart from an occasional uprising, it’s essentially a dead genre. In the late 1990s/ early 2000s, remakes of j-horror were all the rage. At the moment, it seems that ‘forgetting’ is the new genre.

This review is being written in 2022, and for the past few years, the dumping of the stories from either sequels or ‘expanded universe’ have been flushed down the toilet to create NEW histories of characters. Disney basically dumped all the Star Wars expanded universe stuff to replace it with their own (occasionally awful) new tales, the Halloween series had dumped the entire story from Halloween II on (thereby Michael and Laurie are no longer related) and here with the Terminator series, all the disappointing and convoluted sequels after T2 has been thrown away.

On first hearing this, I didn’t think it was such a bad idea as long as some new, high sci-fi concepts were brought to the table, and it wasn’t, like in Disney’s Star Wars case, an excuse to sell more toys.

Now I actually expected this to have some decent pedigree. I had read that David S. Goyer was writing, and I was quite thrilled by that. Obviously he’s know for his work on Chris Nolan’s Batman films, as well as the Blade films and even a couple of Call of Duty video games, which I’m particularly fond of. This excitement was tempered slightly by the SIX other writers who worked on the film! Too many cooks, and all that.

The film is director by animator Tim Miller, who directed the first Deadpool film, and a couple of episodes of the magnificent Love, Death + Robots, so at the very least you know the effects might make up for any shortcomings on the script written by multiple writers!

Grace (Mackenzie Davis) lines up the Terminator for a spearing

So, forget every film of the Terminator, and the TV series, and the comics because we are in the fast train to reboot city!

Terminator Dark Fate starts, quite simply, several years ago with the Terminators finishing their mission from Terminator 2, and shooting the Hell out of a CGI version of John Conner (a CGI version of Edward Furlong) in front of his mother, Sarah (a CGI version of Linda Hamilton).

Flash forward to now, and two visitors from the future have returned with a new mission. One, a new and different Terminator unit called the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) here to kill Dani (Natalia Reyes), a future leader of the human resistance, and the other is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented super soldier sent back to protect her.

Grace has her work cut out for her because the new terminator is two terminators in one, and they will definitely need help for her survival. That help comes in the form of a much older Sarah Conner, who has been receiving mysterious messages, telling her when other Terminators will be dropping through time. These messages eventually lead our ragtag team back to a surviving T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who also agrees to help then…

The Rev-9 in all its glory!

… and then it’s on like Donkey Kong!

Certainly this film does that ‘thing’ that sequels need to do: get the one up from the episode before. In this we don’t have a terminator helping the good guys, we have a character in Grace who is both human, and yet half-a-terminator. In a world where our heroes that appeal to the general audience have super powers, this is both fashionably on point and ridiculous. Why ridiculous? Well, the bad guy has to be an amped up threat as well, and in this case we have a combination of almost all the terminators, but added together, and they can separate into both a T-800 and a T-1000.

It’s got a couple of problems though. It feels like Star Wars The Force Awakens insomuch as it’s a remake that expands a story. The entire film hits all the same beats as T2 and each act rings of familiarity, just like TFA did, or like the ‘remake’/ ‘prequel’ of John Carpenter’s The Thing that came out in 2011. The story itself is also a little daft: Skynet was still destroyed and didn’t become sentient, but mankind during a world war created an AI that ended up doing the same thing: it’s just really ham fisted and awkward.

There’s some dumb stuff too: for example, the new Terminator can tap into into any camera in the world… seemingly even those not on a computer or attached to a network? That some dumb video game crap. The convenience of how Sarah Conner knew where terminators were dropping through time was an example of rotten time-loopers too.

I will say, at least it’s not a multiverse.

I will say there is a couple of moments of comedy that the cast nailed.

Mostly, the CGI and special effects, as well as the fight choreography, are amazing, with some fight scenes that are just spectacular. However there are a couple of scenes that just don’t quite look too solid, and it’s due to the physics of movement: if you watch the film you’ll know them when you see them, and they are mainly around the Rev-9.

There are some positive: the cast are pretty great. Luna is an absolute freak as far as his speed and performance is concerned, and Davis is an emotionally delicate butt-kicker who I’d like to see as a new female action hero. Reyes’ growth throughout the film is believable, though her performance as the current day, wide-eyed victim doesn’t ring so true when she’s supposed to be the butt-kicking leader from the future. Hamilton and Schwarzenegger and the comfortable shoes that put the whole thing together and give it a nostalgia kick so you’ll be prepared to give it a chance.

Mainly my problem is why does it exist? What’s the point? The story offers NOTHING new, and I’d like to say is basically worthless, but there are some elements that are pretty good, but they are to do with performance, effects and direction, rather than story.

Disappointing.

Score: **

The menu screen

Extras: As it’s a 4K edition, it comes with both a 4K disc and a second bluay as well. The second disc is where the extras are hidden:

There are 6 deleted and extended scenes and typically, whilst some are cool, they are basically unnecessary.

A Legend Reforged looks at the rebooting of the story, and how James Cameron managed to get the original stars back, and combine them with the people who will advance the series. It’s fairly interesting but the fact that ALL the cast and crew consistently use the term ‘franchise’ made me think that perhaps they were coached into getting the viewers to accept there will be more.

World builders is a behind the scenes look at the effects and the locations.

Dam Busters: The Final Showdown discusses the third act of the film, and it’s dam location.

VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly breaks down all the elements of a CGI- heavy scene from the film.

Honestly I don’t know why all the extras weren’t just edited together into a feature-length behind the scenes! Still, they were a pretty good watch.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: No.

Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) offers advice to Grace

This film was reviewed using the Australian 4K HD

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

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.

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.

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Last Night in Soho (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: Sometimes I just want to watch a film, you know?

Every time we turn around, we hear the words ‘franchise’ or ‘three film deal’ when it comes to cinema. Sometimes… actually most times, I just want to sit down and watch A film. Not something that requires prior knowledge, a rewatch of six films or a YouTube explanation as to what has come before: occasionally… actually, mostly, I just want to watch a film.

Many months ago I saw the trailer for a film called Last Night in Soho, and I was pretty darn excited. First, written (along with Krystal Wilson-Cairns) and directed by Edgar Wright, whose Cornetto Trilogy rates pretty high in my favourite films (I know what I said about franchises but these are three separate films that have an ice cream as a common thread), and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, which is easily one of my favourite comic adaptations. That’s not to go without talking about his doco about the pop band The Sparks, which is a fascinating watch, especially for music lovers. Also, one of the stars of the film is my lockdown crush, Anya Taylor-Joy, who easily gave the most accurate portrayal of a Marvel character playing Magik, in The X-men spin-off The New Mutants, played Beth Harmon in the amazing The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix (I love both Walter Tevis’ writing and am an avid chess player, even though I suck at it) and was in the beautiful The VVitch: A New-England Folktale, as Thomasin.

Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie

Last Night in Soho tells of Eloise ‘Ellie’ Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), a young, aspiring fashion designer from country Cornwall who is accepted to go to a big fashion school in London. After a disastrous first night in the college’s dormitories with her room-mate, the unpleasant Jocasta (Synnøve Karlson), Ellie decides to rent an off-campus bedsit from Mrs Collins (Diana Rigg).

There’s something a little ‘special’ about Ellie though; she’s a touch ‘sensitive’… in the psychic way, like her mother was before she committed suicide… and every night when she goes to bed, she has time travelling flights-of-fancy where she finds herself transported into the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring actress who engages her career with the seemingly nice and suave Jack (Matt Smith), but Jack may be a lot less than what he seems, and Ellie starts to both ‘become’ Sandie, but also in intrigued by what happened to her, which surely must have been murder considering the sad path she was going down…

Ellie’s vision start intruding into her real life until she can barely tell them apart, but who can she turn to as her life rapidly seems to be crumbling, who is the strange older man (Terrance Stamp) that seems to be following her and how can her fashion education, and fledgling romance with John (Michael Ajao) …

Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie

I have to say I am totally in love with this film. It’s very much a giallo but told through modern eyes and technology, the cinematography and acting really are outstanding, the special effects are wonderful and all the tricks, both in and out of camera, will really make you wonder how it was done, and the soundtrack speaks to me like very few have before.

I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough. It appeals to my love of giallo, it’s visuals appeal to my love of 60s cinema, it’s an Edgar Wright film and it stars a whole bunch of actors that I really like, and a current crush.

Score: *****

The menu screen for the Australian Bluray release

Extras: A decent bunch of extras about the film that I actually think could have been edited together into a wonderful

Meet Eloise looks at the character and casting of the character of Eloise in the film. Wright, Wilson-Cairns, McKenzie, Taylor-Joy and other members of the cast and crew all discuss the creation of the character.

Dreaming of Sandie explores the creation of Sandie’s character, from Wright’s and Wilson-Cairn’s original idea down to the execution by Taylor-Joy.

Smoke and Mirrors takes us into the shifting between the 60s and now and how effects were used to execute the look of both eras and their intrusion into each other’s worlds.

On The Streets of Soho sees the actual Soho in London become a character in the film, and how the writing and direction did that.

Time Travelling enters the sixties via fashion and music which really makes the time travelling sequences quite exciting.

There are 6 Deleted Scenes, which I don’t miss in the film at all. There is one sad bit of romance that I believe the movie missed out not having in it.

Animatics show animated storyboards of four sequences.

Extras shows some pretty cool behind the scenes stuff, like hair and make-up tests and some trial camera shots. Interesting for those with a fascination for filmmaking.

‘Downtown’ Music Video sees Taylor-Joy perform a cover of the classic song originally performed by Petula Clark.

Trailers has a domestic and an international trailer for the film, both which are quite different.

There is also a commentary with Wright, editor Paul Machliss and composer Steve Price which is animated and fascinating and completely worth while listening to even if you aren’t a commentary listener.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh yes, this will be watched again. Regularly.

Matt Smith as Jack