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

Paganini Horror (1989)

Paganini Horror (1989)

The cover of the 88 Films release on Bluray of Paganini Horror

Film: It’s funny how no matter how well versed you think you are in a genre, sometimes a film may just slip through your fingers.

Honestly, before the release of this soundtrack on vinyl I had never heard of this film, and I like to think of myself as a fan of writer/ director Luigi Cozzi as well, consider my affection for Contamination, The Black Cat, Starcrash and the documentary Dario Argento: Master of Horror.

(On a side note: it is a mission of mine to one day visit his horror store in Rome, Profundo Rosso)

Kate (Jasmine Maimone) sings an awful rip of of a Bon Jovi song

Kate (Jasmine Maimone) is used to writer hit songs, but has hit a dry spell that she can’t seem to come out of, and it’s suggested to her that perhaps she find someone to write her a new hit song.

Her drummer, Daniel (Pascal Persiano) makes a deal with a Mr. Pickett (Donald Pleasance, but dubbed by someone else which makes for a decidedly unsettling performance) to get a piece of unpublished music by Nicolo Paganini, the 19th century violinist who was said to have made a deal with the devil!

They decide to make an elaborate music clip in an old house owned by Sylvia Hackett (Daria Niccolodi), directed by a horror movie director, Mark Singer (Pietro Genuardi). The band are excited by the prospect of doing a Michael Jackson/ Thriller-styled clip, but very quickly things go awry.

Maimone, Niccolodi and Pleasance – triple threat

Daniel and Rita (Luanda Ravegnini) go missing and bizarre supernatural things start happening, but is it some kind of curse from the Paganini music, or is the old house somehow involved, and what does this all have to do with the murder that is committed by a young girl upon her mother that we witnessed in the prologue?

This whole thing looks like a weird, 90 minute film clip for a song like Guns ‘n’ Roses November Rain, and being totally honest, it’s so boring it took me several goes to get through it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew Pleasance and Niccolodi appeared again towards the end, I probably would not have finished it at all, and this review wouldn’t exist.

I do normally like Cozzi’s film no matter how low the budget is, but this is just awful. The only reason to own this disc is for the excellent commentary by Troy Howarth.

Avoid.

Score: *

Paganini Horror’s Bluray menu screen

Extras: There’s some very interesting extras on this disc:

Commentary by Troy Hogarth, the writer of three volumes of So Deadly, So Perverse, a book series about the history of giallo films, so it makes him the perfect person to do a commentary about this film, and it’s a stunningly informative piece.

Bloody Violin: Luigi Cozzi on Paganini Horror sees the writer/ director reminisce about the origins of the film, and the journey to completing the production. He also discusses where his film sits in the history of gialli and Italian cinema.

Interview with Pietro Genuardi is a look back with the actor, over his career and his performance as Mark Singer in this film. Some interesting anecdotes about making films in the late 80s in Italy.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nope. I regret watching it once.

The spirit of Paganini himself haunts the grounds

This movie was reviewed using the 88 Films Bluray release.

Batman (1989)

Batman (1989)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release.

Film: If you have been enjoying all those Marvel movies, and other movies based on comic properties you basically have this film to thank.

Tim Burton’s Batman film, released in 1989, wasn’t just a film, it was a phenomenon. Today, the idea of making a super-hero film is an easy one, especially if you have the initials ‘DC’ or the world ‘Marvel’ attached to it. Even non-superhero comic based franchises have successfully launched with things like Riverdale (loosely based on Archie comics), The Walking Dead (based on the Image comics) and the Edgar Wright helmed Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s comic) all finding various degrees of success. Back then, comics were ‘still for kids’ and the idea of making a film that would be successful, based on a comic, wasn’t something taken too seriously. The first two Superman films had set a standard, that like this series of films, the final two didn’t stand up to, and Batman was also a hard character to make a serious film of because most people remembered him as the character from the campy TV series of the 60s.

When the producers had decided to make a film more like the comics rather than the TV show, that was dark, and really tapped into the ideas of justice and fear, and they accidentally found that people who had grown up with both the comics and action films of the 80s were prepared to take it seriously, even though they had director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton, both who gave us the comedy Beetlejuice. The announcement of character actor Jack Nicolson performing the role of the villain The Joker, a perennial favourite from the comics, made ‘proper’ film fans sit up and really take notice, as did the inclusion of other actors like Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough and Pat Hingle.

(NB: I remember being horrified by the casting of Keaton in the title role, and not until I saw him on the cover of an issue of American science fiction film magazine Starlog did I actually see that Warner Bros were taking this film seriously.)

Vicki Vale and Batman

I was already a comic fan when this came out, having been a fan since the early 1970s, and I saw it in a dingy little cinema in a small country called Orange in country New South Wales, and went in a skeptic, but emerged, reborn, as a lover, and I wasn’t alone, as Batmania hit and there possible wasn’t a man or woman on the planet who didn’t have at least one little tiny piece of Batman-based paraphernalia in their cupboards.

The film struck all the right chords at the right time, like Beatlemania before it, and Spicemania soon after… comic nerds weren’t the outcasts anymore, they became historians, and even the comic industry had a temporary boom, with new store and titles popping up all over the place.

…but what is this film about?

Well, (and I’m sure I don’t really have to tell you) this film tells of the Batman (Michael Keaton), a creature of the night who I stills fear into the heart of the crooks of Gotham City with a campaign of fear.

What no-one knows about the Batman is, is that he is actually millionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne, who has started this campaign of justice as he has suffered severe mental trauma as a child when he watched his parents, Thomas and Martha, brutally murdered in front of him.

There’s other shenanigans happening in Gotham city though, as crimelord Grissom (Jack Palance) has decided to have his second-in-charge, the extraordinarily vain Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) taken down by the police for bedding his girlfriend, Alicia (Jerry Hall).

The Joker in his finery

The tip-off goes awry, and instead of being killed by corrupt cop Lieutenant Elkhart (William Hootkins), Napier falls into a vat of chemicals which damages his face so bad that it drives him mad, and he become a self described homicidal artist, The Joker, with an intention, and the means, of killing the citizens of Gotham City.

Batman has to stop his terrible plans, but the Joker isn’t his only problem, as investigative journalists Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photographer Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) are hot on the tale of revealing his secret identity…

It’s a classic Batman tale, with the Joker having a nefarious scheme and the Batman requiring some detective work to figure out his game, something some more modern Bat-films have been lacking as he appears to be more a thug who beats up the mentally challenged before locking them up in an asylum where security is obviously lacklustre. It’s a shame these films don’t lean more into the Detective side, when you consider he is ‘the Dark Knight Detective’…

The cast is an interesting mix and are great together, Robert Wuhl providing some surpassingly non-annoying comedy relief, which is occasionally foiled brilliantly by Michael Keaton’s surprising straight man in Bruce Wayne: the ‘give Knox a grant’ line is a set-up that you don’t even know exists until the payoff. Great work from writer Sam Hamm.

Burton’s direction and style drips through the entire proceedings like molasses, sweet and dark, and in combination with Anton Furst’s spectacular design and Danny Elfman’s dark score, it’s like being front row and the sole occupant of a Cure concert. The juxtaposition of Prince’s songs throughout the film make for interesting pops of audible colour that suit the bright appearances of the Joker perfectly, which are both visually and rally appealing and a strange evil light in all the darkness of the good guys and the city in which they live.

One can’t comment on colour within this film without mentioning not just Basinger’s portrayal of Vicki Vale, which is not just another ‘straight man’ role for Wuhl, but also represents us in i converting Bruce Wayne’s tragic backstory. Her appearance in predominantly bright tones and white make her an Angel of salvation not just for the troubled Bruce, but a piece of forbidden fruit for the Joker also.

I could rave about this film forever. I simply love it, and it also reminds me of a time when even though a movie was based on a serialised comic book, which are essentially soap-operas, movies are more story driven and not everything needs to be squeezed into one two hour flick. Nor does it require a cavalcade of other heroes from within the comics to support the main character because they aren’t interesting enough, and most importantly, to watch one film, you don’t need to have seen 30 others and have 2 streaming subscription services to know what’s going on with superfluous characters… it’s doesn’t need to pander to the meme/ Instagram crowd for ‘lols’.

Score: *****

The menu screen for the disc

Extras: There really is an amazing bunch of extras on this Bluray disc:

Commentary by Tim Burton, which really looks at his creative process behind the film and a few little bits and pieces you may have missed upon your initial viewings. It’s an interesting look at his creative process.

On the Set with Bob Kane sees Batman creator Bob Kane on set of the Batman film, talking about his (and Bill Fingers) creations.

Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman sees interviews with comic book writers and artists, like Bob Kane, Stan Lee, Mike Mignola and Harlan Ellison, and comic book historians and filmmakers, including the driving force behind this film, Michael E. Uslan, who wrote The Boy Who Loved Batman.

Shadows of the Bat:The Cinematic Saga

Part 1: The Road to Gotham City looks at the genesis of this Batman film which dated all the way back to when the first Superman film came out in the late 70s.

Part 2: The Gathering Storm looks at the difficult decisions that needed to be made as far as the script and casting is concerned, and how they managed to fulfill them.

Part 3: The Legend Reborn has Tim Burton discuss how he created a legacy for Batman, and maybe even extended the life of the characters popularity.

Beyond Batman is the section all about the making of this particular film, divided into these mini-documentaries: Visualising Gotham: The Production Design of Batman, Building the Batmobile, Those Wonderful Toys: The Props and a gadgets of Batman, Designing the Batsuit, From Jack to the Joker and Nocturnal Overture: The Music of Batman. Individually, these make for fascinating featurettes but altogether they explore everything that makes the gothic design of this film so striking and memorable.

Batman: The Heroes and The Villains looks at all the characters individually, with analyses by actors, writers and fans.

Batman The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence is a look at the obviously removed addition of Robin to the script, that was ultimately scrapped.

In addition, there is also the Trailer and music videos for Batdance, Partyman and Scandalous by Prince

Score: *****

WISIA: Its the ultimate comic book film that didn’t just spawn one comic book movie trend, but two. The film and the extras on this discs should be watched regularly by any movie or comic fan.

The Batplane ready for action

Christine (1983)

Christine (1983)

The Australian Bluray release

Film: I’m sure in and about this website I have expressed my ‘Stephen King thing’: I love his stories but don’t enjoy his writing. This means two things, of course: first, I’m some kind of literary heathan of whom shall forever be looked down upon by the book-loving majority, and two, I can watch any film based on a King novel without getting all ‘the book was better’ about it.

This film is an exception to any horror snobbery that may exist though as this film has pedigree in the form of a man known an John Carpenter, who both directed this film and composed the score (along with Alan Howarth, who has a decent horror pedigree himself). Not sure who John Caroenter is? Well, I suggest you sit yourself down and watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness, The Fog and Halloween.

Arnie and Dennis check out Christine

Christine tells of Arnie (Keith Gordon), a nerd who is regularly beaten up and picked on by… well, by absolutely everyone except for his mate, Dennis (John Stockwell), who buys a beautiful 5os classic car who has the name ‘Christine’ from an old weirdo named LeBay (Roberts Blossom).

Roberts Blossom sells Arnie a haunted car

Unfortunately for Arnie, Christine has a secret. Slowly but surely, Arnie changes… he becomes cool and aloof, and those who have ever ill-treated him start either disappearing and/or winding up dead.

Dennis does some research about the car and discovers that LeBay’s brother and his family all died as a result of the actions of the car, and along with Annie’s on again/ off again girlfriend, Leigh (Alexandra Paul) try to find out what effect the car has over Arnie…

Christine is certainly a film of its time. The whole ‘nerd gets picked on but gets revenge due to supernatural means’ was done to death and we’ve moved on from it, and also we tend not to get men who are clearly in thirties to play teenagers any more. The thing is thoigh, I still don’t mind seeing that nerd get the hot girl and get his revenge on the jerks.

The film is entertaining throughout and some of the effects of the car self-repairing are surprisingly good considering their age.

Score: **1/2

The Australian Bluray menu

Extras:

There’s a commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon where they talk about their careers and the time on the set of the film.

There’s about 20-odd Deleted Scenes on this disc, some of which I, for the first time ever, do wish we’re in the film. The Bullies Trashing Christine is a particular fun one, imagine Greased Lightening from Grease, but in reverse.

The featurettes Christine: Fast and Furious, Finish Line and Ignition all look at the making of the film, from the deal made with King and how this is essentially a monster movie. They are each about ten minute and honestly I don’t know why they didn’t just make a 30 minute doco about the film. Seems like they went to the ‘quantity’ column of extras to add value to the disc.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: John Carpenter films are always worth multi-views so I’ve of course watched this several times.

The freshly self-restored Christine

Death Proof (2007)

Death Proof (2007)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of Death Proof

Film: The idea of Grindhouse, the double feature cinema experience conceived by Robert Rodriguez and supported by Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright was an excellent one. Make two movies in a mock double feature, with trailers for either never or yet to be made films in between, with devalued image and sound so that people today could feel like it felt back in the day of the 42nd St Grind house cinemas. Those cinemas named so because they showed badly re-cut horror, sci fi, exploitation and blaxploitation flicks one after another in a constant grind.

What a shame no-one else thought so…

It would seem the general public didn’t have the idea promoted to them well enough, or the promoters just didn’t get it. After the opening weekend of Grindhouse, which was a poor one, the distributors, the Weinstein Brothers, decided to pull the film so they could re-think the promotional release. Now, there are dvd and Bluray releases that come as ‘Uncut and Extended’ editions of Rodriguez’s zombie blood fest PlanetTerror, and this one, Quentin Tarantino’s 70s styled car chase extravaganza Death Proof.

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) observes his prey

Death Proof starts in Texas with three friends Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd) having a few drinks and enjoying each others company when they meet a stalker, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). Stuntman Mike is a man stuck in the past dwelling on his past conquests in Hollywood, and can be as charming as a snake. He worms his way into their good graces and offers a member of their extended group Pam (Rose McGowan), a lift home in his car which he claims to be ‘death proof’. Soon after, a dreadful automobile accident happens and only Stuntman Mike survives. The police suspect foul play, but Stuntman Mike is a teetotaler, whilst the others were all drunk or stoned. Flash forward 14 months later and a new set of girls are being stalked. Actress Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) make up artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) and stuntwomen Kim (Tracie Thoms doing her very BEST Pam Grier impression) and Zoë (played by Zoë Bell, New Zealand stuntwoman), but what Stuntman Mike doesn’t realise is….these girls fight back!!!

This film is made perfectly for Quentin Tarantino fans. The cool music, hip characters, smartarse dialogue and the references to other Tarantino films (and this film is loaded with them!!!). Funnily enough, Tarantino used to riff on other great films, but now he also does it to his own, which at times felt a little masturbatory.

I saw this cut of this film before the version as a part of the Grindhouse experience, which was about 45 minutes shorter, and I must say I am glad, as I don’t think I would have liked to have missed out on any small part of this film. The action scenes are few and far between, but you are lulled into such a false sense of security with the ‘talky’ bits that when they do hit…. you stand up and shout ‘HOLY SHIT!!!!’ Tarantino has been criticised for this film being far too talky, but for me it works really well and I enjoyed watching the performances of the female cast members all spouting Tarantino-isms.

The female characters and the actresses that play them are great, and I couldn’t decide which one of them I liked the most…. Although I suspect Tarantino liked Zoe Bell the best, but with a special mention to the feet of Dawson and Poitier, which get some pretty full screen exposure!!

Tell me you’re watching a Tarantino film without telling me you’re watching a Tarantino film…

Car lovers will dig this flick as well. Stuntman Mike’s 1970 Chevy Nova is truly a site to behold, not to mention his 1970 Charger, Kim’s 1972 Ford Mustang nicknamed L’il Pussy Wagon aka ‘Brand X’ and the white 1970 Dodge Challenger that Zoe Bell spends a lot of the film on top of are nothing short of pure sex. The engines on these suckers make having surround sound a worthwhile investment.

This is certainly not Tarantino’s best film, but it clearly looks through the crowd for the fattest ass – and kicks it! While this film is a definite essential pick up for any Tarantino fan and certainly a must have for lovers of the unsuccessful Grindhouse experiment, it probably doesn’t need to sit in everybody’s DVD collection. Although if you like the 60s misspent youth and the 70s carsploitation flicks, you will probably dig it.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian edition of Death Proof

Extras: Disc 1 has an international poster gallery, mainly featuring the ‘lobby cards’, and with a few ‘international’ posters, and trailers for Death Proof, Planet Terror, 1408, Black Sheep and Feast… no sign of the ‘fake’ trailers from the original Grindhouse film unfortunately!

Disc 2 has some really awesome extras.

Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof is a documentary focusing on the film, but with much love and respect given to some of the great stunt drivers, both old and new. Featured here are stunt co-coordinator for Death Proof Jeff Dashnaw, and his team Buddy Joe Hooker, Steve Davidson, Tracy Dashnaw, Chrissy Weathersby and Terry Leonard. Much love of their abilities is provided by Tarantino, Russell and Tracie Thoms.

Introducing Zoe Bell is a short piece about stuntwoman, and in this film, actress, Zoe Bell, who was Tarantino’s stunt woman on Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, and how she ended up being a major character in Death Proof.

Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike is a small piece about how COOL everybody thinks Kurt Russell is!

Finding Quentin’s Gals has Tarantino discussing his female casting choices, and has additional comments from Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Bell, with Russell providing some additional input.

The Uncut Version of ‘Baby It’s you’ Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a short piece showing Winstead uncut performance of Burt Bacharach’s song for Smith.

The Guys of Death Proof has Tarantino again discussing his casting choices, this time with comments from the guys: Eli Roth, Omar Doom, Michael and James Parks, Michael Bacall and himself, this time with comments from Jordan Ladd and Sydney Tamiia Poitier.

Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke is an interesting look at the unsung heroes of filmmaking: the editors, and in this case, Tarantino’s editor since Reservoir Dogs, Sally Menke. This is a nice tribute to Menke, and ends with some great ‘Hi Sally’ messages/outtakes from the cast.

There is also the trailer for the documentary Double Dare, which is about female stuntwomen, but specifically about stunt legend Jeannie Epper and young stuntwoman/future legendary stuntwoman Zoe Bell.

Score: ****

WISIA: Death Proof is such an unusual thing that it deserves to be watched a couple of times, I reckon.

Zöe Bell’s in BIG trouble

Special thanks to Simon from Explosive Action for the help with this review!

Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

The cover to the Australian 3D Bluray steelbook of Mad Max Fury Road

Film: Not every character can just have a new person put into the suit and just take over the role. Sure, Batman and Spiderman and James Bond and Superman have had many bodies in their respective suits, but there are some characters that are almost defined by the person who portrays them.

Jackie Earl Haley had immense boots to fill when he took on the role of Freddy Krueger in 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and even though he is an accomplished actor, having him take a role that is defined by Robert England’s performance was probably unfair, and doomed. I remember clearly hearing about Tom Hardy taking over the role of Mad Max’s Max Rockatansky from Mel Gibson and wondered if he had enjoyed his acting career to date, because the fans of the Three Mad Max films are… well, rabid.

… but something weird happened, and at the risk of burying the lead, this new Mad Max film, Mad Max Fury Road, was an amazing thing.

Written and directed by George Miller (written with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris), Miller came up with the concept of only using illustrations to write the script, which is very much a ‘Marvel method’ thing to do. The Marvel method was the writer would come up with a plot, give it to an artist to draw the comics, and then the script was filled in later. This made the production of the early days of Marvel quite quick so they could publish more titles. Miller did a similar thing with having the storyboards drawn first, and the dialogue, of which there is very little, was done later.

Max (Tom Hardy) is displeased with his role as ‘hood ornament’

Mad Max Fury Road is a continuation of the saga of the Road Warrior himself, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who has found himself captured, and used as a blood transfusion device by the horrifying War Boys, the followers of the war boss, a god-like leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

Meanwhile, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is on he way to other communities to trade for ammunition and fuel, but what Immortan Joe doesn’t realise is that she has kidnapped his five perfect wives (Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abby Lee, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Courtney Eaton) to save them from being farms on his quest for a perfect son.

As one would expect, a despot never likes his stuff taken from him, so a massive motorised war band is formed, full of mutated and drugged up War Boys, and even more mutated automobiles, including the injured Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who is the recipient of Max’s blood.

Eventually, through more action that most movies have in total, Max ends up free from his bondage and becomes Furiosa’s ally, but in a post apocalyptic wasteland, where does one go?

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

Truly, this film is nothing short of magnificent. Miller is on top of his game with what is basically a 2 hour violent action sequence with a story cleverly weaved in between the scenes of utter carnage. Occasionally these sorts of films, the story gets lost, but in this the whole time you are thrilled by everything.

There isn’t a moment of breathing space.

Miller has also created this series of landscapes that are an absolute feast for the eye. Considering mostly in ‘wasteland’ films, the brown dusty desert is the general visual tone, but here the wasteland changes as the journey is taken, and the images of fire and explosions are so bright that they are almost cartoonish.

The cast is one of the most surprising things about this film. To have Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are an amazing coup for such a film, especially when they are juxtaposed with Australian talent like Hugh Keays-Byrne, John Howard (The Club), Josh Helman (Jack Reacher), Richard Carter (Two Hands), Angus Sampson (Insidious), Megan Gale (Stealth), Melissa Jaffer (Brides of Christ)… even wrestler Nathan Jones, and A Current Affair darling Quentin Kenihan show up!!!

It would be remiss of me to not mention how amazing the soundtrack is as well! I am a soundtrack collector and Junkie XL features quite heavily amongst it, with his contributions to Deadpool, Batman VS Superman, Alita, Zach Snyder’s Justice League and Army of the Dead. I always find his scores to really add to the action and this is definitely no exception!

This film is just amazing. I rally can’t talk it up enough! I love every minute of it! The only thing wrong with this film is it didn’t spawn 100 Italian knock offs… 2099: The Bronx Warriors anyone?

Score: *****

The menu screen

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for San Andreas, Entourage and Tracers, before we get to the menu. I should point out that with this steelbook edition, it comes with a 3D version, but I don’t waste my time with watching movies in 3D. The extras are all on the 2D disc.

Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road looks at the making of the film, from storyboards, to the car stunts and on to the actual on set filming.

Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels shows off the absolutely ridiculous and over the top designs of the vehicles in the film. (NB: ‘ridiculous’ and ‘over the top’ clearly equals ‘freaking awesome’) The best part is learning that the cars all had names like Cranky Frank, Elvis, Doof Wagon and Buzzard… that’s not true, the best part is EVERYTHING about these damned cars. There’s a few nice tributes to the VW from The Cars that Ate Paris in here too.

The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa had Thomas Hardy and Charlize Theron talk about the unique way that the story was designed, and the lack of actual words to say.

The Tools of the Wasteland looks at the entire design of the world, which looks like a mix of so many things (I got a huge Gorkamorka/ Necromunda vibe from it all… though the influences are probably the other way around, with the games being influenced by the older Mad Max films)

The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome interviews the actors who play the Fives Wives, and their costume design and history.

Fury Road: Crash and Smash is about 4 minutes of raw footage, stunt tests and exploding cars. What a rush!

There’s three Deleted Scenes that for one of the first times ever, I wish had stayed in. Two of them really look at the apocalypse society and the love for Immortan Joe.

Score: *****

WISIA: I forgot how much I loved this film. And now it’s rocketed back up to the top of my regular rewatch list!

A quiet moment, but it doesn’t last long