movies

The Hidden (1987) Movie Review

 
The hidden poster.jpg
 
Law abiding people suddenly become violent criminals. A cop and an FBI agent race for answers in this sci-fi thriller.
— Imdb
 

Produced by New Line cinema who delivered classic movies like A nightmare on elm street and The lord of the rings trilogy, The Hidden is a mish-mash of different genres echoing films like Invasion of the body snatchers, Star Man and The Terminator.

We open in California where a stranger walks into a bank and coolly opens fire on security guards transporting money. Shown in blurry CCTV camera footage, the figure turns to camera after he has slain his victims peering at us the viewer, an insidious smile grows across his face before he turns the weapon on the CCTV camera obliterating it.

It’s a compelling opening. Turns out the figures name is Jack De fries (Chris Mulkey) and he is being pursued by police for a number of robberies. From here the movie launches into a car chase across town where Jack Defries is pursued by the police. Causing destruction along route, even shamelessly knocking over a wheel chair bound pedestrian all to the tune of 80s rock music. It’s fast paced with a slight tongue in cheek, nihilistic persona. Defries pictured as a cold faced killer, eagerly causing mayhem and destruction.

The chase ends with Defries being cornered by police. They open fire decimating Defries vehicle, sending him skyward in flames. Hideously burned he is transported to hospital.

Enter FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher played by Kyle MacLachlan who is teamed up with the straight-nosed no nonsense cop called Tom Beck played by Michael Nouri, who was supposedly set to play the character of Martin Riggs in Lethal weapon but chose to do this movie instead.

Together they visit the hospital to find that their victim has died. If you haven’t seen the movie before and don’t want to know any spoilers then stop reading now. But its fair to say that its pretty obvious from the get go where the movie goes.

Echoing invasion of the body snatchers the movie turns to SCI-FI/Horror mode as ‘The hidden’ inside Defries body transports itself to another host in the bed across from him. It’s a nicely grotesque sequence as this slug-like parasite enters his next victim through his mouth. Shot in stop animation, this sequence is a practical FX treat. Still highly effective and nicely handled.

With a new body to play with ‘The hidden’ goes on a spree gleefully killing if he needs to taking whatever it fancies from a Ferrari to a ghetto blaster, shamelessly ignorant to niceties of earth. We get the distinct feeling that this creature enters bodies to drain them of whatever life force is left, having to regularly change hosts when the current one becomes redundant.

The movie is very funny at times. There is a recurring Joke involving Gallagher and Alka seltzer that made me chuckle. At times its pitch black and others tongue in cheek. ‘The hidden’ changing into a stripper body gleefully shagging a john to death to take his car. It is rumored that the producers didn’t quite like Claudia Christian’s (who played Brenda the stripper) breast shape choosing to emphasize her ass in the clothing choices for the character. At one point her character wears a very revealing dress designed to show her derrière.

Switching tone easily, it never really becomes boring. Putting aside the fact that it was shot in the 80s which has some of that eras shooting style it still looks quite good. The action is constant more or less from the get go where countless die from bullet wounds. In a riff on the terminator, a lengthy action scene taking place in a police station where ‘the hidden’ riddled with bullets still keeps on going. Also In the musical score, with its pulsing electronic base trying to emulate Brad Fiedel’s iconic Terminator score.

The movie isn’t perfect but it is still worth a watch, even though many movies have been made now which use a similar approach. The police investigation scenes somewhat redundant as well as the occasional shoot out.

The practical effects are nicely handled, the slug-like creature a particular highlight. Not everything fx wise is perfect however, the exception the somewhat dodgy animated laser beam near the end of the movie.

Overall worth checking out. Enjoy!

 

We need to talk about Kevin movie review

 
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Kevin’s mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly dangerous things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
— Imdb

We need to talk about Kevin is a strange movie. At times engaging, effective and dramatic and others drifting aimlessly almost dream-like in structure. How far you are willing to suspend your disbelief will ultimately determine what you get out of the movie. There was a poignant, moving story to be told which is only partially delivered.

Directed by Lynne Ramsey (you were never really here) in a split time narrative, choosing to dole out what in real terms is a very straight forward simplistic plot line in bite sized chunks spanning 18 years. This fractured timeline hops into random slots of time deliberately trying to add weight to the story. This approach doesn't always work, favouring lingering looks into the drawn face of Eva (Tilda Swinton), a (apparently) famous travel writer and stressed mother of Kevin who really didn't want him in the first place. His presence a burden to her life, she tries desperately to cling to the past refusing to properly engage with her infant. Brilliantly illustrated by the scene where Eva walks to a construction site to try to mask her son's incessant crying with Jack hammers and drilling.

She senses, as does the audience, that there is something very wrong with Kevin. Only when he gets older do we realise by how much. It’s obvious that Kevin is intelligent, manipulative even. A willful little child who deliberately refuses potty training insisting on nappies until he is nearly six or seven (It is never expressly said in the movie). Understandably this would ware on any parent. Eva cracks and throws her child against a wall, breaking his arm. At this point you could easily start to disbelieve that any parent would allow a child to manipulate them in this way without seeking help from professional services.

There is a sense sometimes of the movie being more style over substance. The deliberate use of red and yellow. There is barely a scene in the movie that doesn’t feature either colour prominently or as a feature within the frame. Some instances are very in your face. when Eva - in the present time before the incident - is shopping and she sees a parent that she doesn’t want to see her she scurries around an aisle standing fearful in front of endless rows of red labelled Campbell soup. It is a mechanism to suggest death and foreboding of things to come. Indeed the opening sequence features Eva surrounded by a sea of red, writhing bodies while on one of her ‘adventures’.

It is a little bit of subterfuge as there is scant meat on the bones, only scratching at the surface implying lots but saying very little. There was plenty of opportunities to delve into the mindset of Eva or Kevin but we only get surface details. Indeed it is perhaps missing a scene that the title suggests ‘we need to talk about Kevin’ which never happens not even between Eva and her feckless Husband Franklin (John C Reilly). The surrounding characters are there just to fill a scene or react to Eva’s machinations about Kevin.

In this regard the reactions of both parents are reckless and misjudged. No more fitting than when Kevin buys twenty bike locks ‘online’. Not once did they question it. Not even the cynical Eva. Which plays absurdly unrealistic given what had occurred previously - her second child losses an eye and the hamster squeezed into a trash compacter at the hands of Kevin. As played in the movie, Eva is a very hard character to be sympathetic to even though she is a tragic character; the steely androgenic gaze off putting and stern. Her actions personifying that not all people should be parents.

When the final tragic incident occurs it is shown off-screen - indeed the director has opted to not show any violence onscreen - I would argue that the scene would have been more powerful had we witnessed this in greater detail as it stands it is shown in muted flashback as Kevin draws his arrows to fire.

While an interesting subject matter, ultimately the movie is more concerned in delivering pretentious notions than hard hitting drama. It could have been a sucker punch to the gut. In the end it only slightly delivers on that score.

*** out of *****

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Hustlers movie review

 
hustlers poster.jpg
 
Inspired by the viral New York Magazine article, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.
— imdb

Inspired by real life events of a group of strippers who during the crash embark on a spree of mass drugging and larceny of their male clients. Constance Wu plays ‘Destiny’ a down on her luck girl who must work endlessly to pay her bills and look after her grandmother. When Ramona played by Jennifer Lopez takes her under her wing they concoct a scheme to rob sleazy bankers of money. In a nut shell that’s the entire movie. It is primarily set in the sordid confines of a strip club called ‘Moves’ where every male character, bar one perhaps (maybe, at a stretch), are depicted as degenerate scumbags ripe for manipulation by these female ‘hustlers’ who despite working hard are treated abysmally by the system. But that doesn’t entirely ring true.

Framed as a type of female ‘Robin hood’ stealing from the rich, ‘Hustlers’ is an odd choice for critics to tout as empowering to women. With Robin hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor you at least got the sense that his actions where for the benefit of all which showed a moral compass of sorts. In this the ladies are hardly morally right desperately playing out one con after the next to feed a need for material wealth.

The movie has a very rinse and repeat formula. Once you’ve seen one ‘hustle’ you’ve seen them all. Despite some nice photography there is a sense of over glamorising something that isn’t all that glamorous. It’s gritty and dirty, a chance to be a voyeur in the detritus. Adding a touch of ‘Goodfellas’ copying to the mix that feels a slight reach too far.

Constance Wu’s acting was a little weak especially the start of the movie. She just didn’t seem comfortable in the role as stripper. The fast cut editing and sloppy dialogue did her no favours either.

In the simplest terms It’s a female friendship movie that we have seen countless times before wrapped loosely in a heist aesthetic. To say its complex isn’t accurate, I would say the characters are very one dimensional. We never really get to know Ramona. Destiny played by Wu fairs a little better but it’s still all surface. We have a climax that feels somewhat anticlimactic. It was missing that bite that it very much needed. An ending that warranted the the two hour run time. But we don’t get that, the movie drips to a lazy conclusion. In the end I was confused about what movie critics actually watched. It seems like they we’re more interested in progressing some political agenda than actually critiquing the movie. The same could be said about the filmmakers themselves. Which is a shame as story and character should be king.

The hustlers are depicted as glamorous almost enticing, something you should aspire to and never really treated in a negative light. There are shades of grey but these are mostly discarded in favour of a view of positivity and supposed female power. At the end of the day they we’re con artists and thieves definitely no better than the bankers they stole from yet the filmmakers want you to love them - their actions were abhorrent; perhaps even willing to kill for one more chance to make it rain under the guise of feminism and revenge. This revelation is treated so lightly for fear you may actually start to hate these women. It would have been far braver of the filmmakers to cast them in a negative light then you would have had balance. As it stands there is no balance, instead they are shown positively. Two wrongs apparently make a right in this skewed version of the world. ‘Man hating’ in vogue now as the new form of feminism.

In the end there was no tension each ‘con’ the same as the last - treated lightly in montage for fear the audience may ask moralistic questions of the protagonists. They did a bad deed, were caught: the end. What could have been tension driven ended flat and disjointed.

When all is said and done ‘Hustlers’ isn’t a good movie.

** out of *****

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William Goldman interview

 

An interesting old interview with William Goldman the screenwriter of ‘Misery, butch Casidy and the sundance kid etc etc about the state of Hollywood movies in the 90s. Worth a look.

Incidentaly his book that he wrote many years ago is also worth a read called ‘The adventures in screenwriting’. Quite funny and an interest dissertation on the hollywood machine from a screenwriters perspective.

Do you think Hollywood has gotten worse or better since then?

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Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Review

 
BvS logo

BvS logo

 

'Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.'

 
Synopsis: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) taken from Imdb.
— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2975590/
 

A direct sequel of sorts to 'Man of steel', Zack Snyder is once again in the directors chair of this dark sober tale of fear, demi gods and angst.

In the current run of high profile comic book movies this venture from DC studios and Zack Snyder is a curious mix, often muddled, with both good and bad points.

It is a sober, dark and brooding affair where we once again witness the murder of Batman's Parents in a stylish opening introduction to his character. The titular role of Batman is given to Ben Affleck who plays the role in a very understated fashion. Hard boiled, brooding and angst ridden. One of the more interesting aspects of this incarnation of the character is the fact that he brands the perpetrators he brings to justice. It's strangely dark and nice touch but it is only very briefly touched on in the movie and never really spoken about. It had more potential to add layers to his character.

 
 

you can quite evidently see Christopher Nolans influence on the film. Some of the editing choices are clearly from the Nolan playbook. The skips in narration, slightly off kilter, abrupt style in the action sequences are undoubtedly Nolanesque. Its just a question wheter this hinders or helps the storyline.

I felt at times, it made the narrative a bit muddled, trying to add depth to the story that wasn't really there to begin with. If the story beats are broken down you can see the plot is really rather simple. Admittedly, I can see why you would want the epic approach given that its a tent pole summer blockbuster but at the same time I do wish that there was more substance. We never really crawl under the surface. So it feels very scant while attempting depth.

I liked Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, given the limited material he had to play with he gave the tortured soul of Batman life for the most part. However, I wasn't a fan of the batman voice which to me came across a little silly and unconvincing. Henry Cavill is once again short changed as Superman, left looking stern with no sense of humanity, humility or humour, the type of stoic hallmarks of superman in the original Richard Donner movies and it was sorely lacking. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthar which was wholly misjudged seemingly acting in an entirely different movie to everyone else. At times his acting style was cringe worthy eliciting a snigger rather than intrigue or interest.

But was the movie any good? That's a good question. To be honest I'm torn. I have to admit that usually I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's approach to super hero movies generally. They tend to be too over the top for me. Taking 'Man of steel' as a point of reference, I felt the ending was just forty minutes of buildings getting blown apart and needless destruction. It felt more like a video game than a movie. This approach very quickly became boring and I began looking at the clock to see how much time was left to run - something I never do during a movie. Sometimes less is more.

With BVS the premise seemed very silly because ultimately where could you go? An indestructible Alien facing a human with a bat suit fetish seemed like a non-starter for interest. At times it does feel exactly like that. There is quite a lot of build up for a showdown that lasts for maybe five minutes of screen time. And how it concludes is rather abrupt and unintentionally silly. Its the kind of moment where you do a double take.

its not all bad though as the movie had some potential which was squandered under the weight of trying 'to fit it all in' including the obligatory intro to the upcoming Justice league movie. As a result the movie just feels too focused on plot and not on Character. Which is, admittedly, a dichotomy as the plot itself is simplistic. It is filled to the brim with subplots and bit players that don't really add much to the movie. Visually it is quite nicely shot in a hazy sepia tone colour palette and the effects are colourful and overblown, as you'd expect from a Superhero movie. The action for the most part is well done especially involving Batman and hand to hand combat.

 

 
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Ultimately though the movie felt muddled plotwise and I found it hard to keep my attention for the entirety of its running time. 

** out of 5

 

 

Fractional goes live on Amazon.co.uk!

Now available to rent of buy on Amazon.co.uk or free to watch with a Prime account! Click the link below to be taken directly to Amazon.co.uk

 

Death wish 3 review

 

For the last little while I've been taking a trip back down 80s nostalgia filmwise watching a few classics and not so classics and ones that are so bad they're almost entertaining. Almost. I think death wish 3 falls into this category.

As with the other death wish movies Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey architect cum vigilante who says very little and let's his gun do the talking for him.

 
Death wish 3 poster

Death wish 3 poster

 

As with with the other death wish movies the setup is similar. Kersey comes to town to visit an old buddy but low and behold there is a gang who controls the streets and promptly does away with kersey's buddy just before he arrives. Less than two seconds later (literally) he is arrested by a detective 'dude' ( we never get to know his name as far as I remember ) and despatched to jail for his friends murder. Huh? With that type of service the cops would have the streets cleaned up in no time. But I digress. After being jailed and having an impromptu fight with a gang member in the jail cell where he pushes his head through the jail cell bars, he is set loose by detective 'dude' to do his vigilante thing.

Cue kersey's revenge Replete with bazookas through the mail and a Hand cannon dirty Harry would be proud of. In fact they make a joke about that one. The film is a funny mix of dark material and tongue in cheek action. Bronson was reportedly not impressed with the movie at the time and vowed never to work with the director again.

But the question remains is this movie any good? Even as I type this I can't quite decide whether it's nostalgia or plain lunacy but in a twisted way the movie is strangely entertaining. Now I'm not saying its good, it's not its really bad, but it's entertaining as in entertaining to see how badly constructed it is and how much the film maker doesn't seem to care. They seemingly make no effort to mask it. It's like saying 'in for a penny in for a pound'. 

 
Right on!

Right on!

 

The film is funny in a not intentional way. The scenes are played completely serious and earnest which makes it that much more fun. The acting is really bad at times but it moves quickly, shifting from one stilted 'acting' scene to the next eager to get to the action which is the real heart of the movie anyway. These small filler scenes seem to be there just to fill a cinematic convention that there must be a 'story' to break the action. I may be wrong but I think this is the least amount of dialogue that Charles Bronson speaks in any movie. It's somehow awkward when he does, however, so maybe that was a wise choice.

There are lots of moments of nihilistic action. It's completely over the top. The traps that kersey uses to lure the gang members out so that he can gun them down mercilessly are unintentionally hilarious. He buys a new car (wtf?), gang member tries to rob it, one badly scripted and stilted dialogue exchange and the gang members are blown away. Kersey goes back to his dinner. Kersey goes to buy ice cream with a brand new camera only to be robbed by 'the Giggler' (seriously!) a gang member with a permanent laughing disorder. Mr giggles eats pavement with a big hole in his chest. The whole neighbourhood celebrates. The gang members stew crying awkward crocodile tears 'they killed the Giggler!'.

 
The Giggler in action

The Giggler in action

 

A women we have only briefly met for one or two short scenes is brutally attacked by some gang members and ends up in hospital. The ending to this is a phone call to say that this unfortunate women has suffered a broken arm and will be fine. Cut to: visiting her in the hospital and kersey is informed by the medical team that she has 'expired'. Huh? A moment ago she had a broken arm? Yes, but apparently there was a complication with trying to fix her arm and she died. Don't cut your finger in this town you might just keel over and die from 'complications'. It's a device if one was needed for full on revenge and carnage on the streets.

 
Gatling gun carnage

Gatling gun carnage

 

The final twenty minutes or so is summed up simply by stating that kersey becomes a one man army, taking on an endless supply of gang members who die theatrical deaths at the business end of a gatling gun. The perpetrators die doing somersaults through the air that Spider-Man would be proud of. No one just simply dies. Its even more comic book than the avengers. Add to the fact that 'the neighbourhood people' join in on the killing spree randomly gunning down anyone they see, gleefully celebrating like they'd won the euro millions and you have the nihilistic, generally funny picture. You can't take this movie seriously. At all. Ever. 

 
No weapon props left? No problem! A plunger will do!

No weapon props left? No problem! A plunger will do!

 

Without doubt it is in the category of 'so bad its almost entertaining' with the emphasis heavily on 'Bad'. Enjoy!