Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (2017)

As a massive fan of director Luc Besson's work, I was looking forward to his new science fiction epic, Valerian, with great anticipation.  I have followed his career through films like Angel-A, Leon and of course The Fifth Element, and adored films like the very French The Extraordinary Adventures of Louise Blanc-Sec and the thriller Lucy ... so a new science fiction from Besson was very much appreciated.

And I adored it.

It's rich and clever, painting a tapestry of alien contact through the years (and any film which starts with David Bowie and 'Space Oddity' has to be loved!) and establishing Alpha, a vast inter-special space station let loose from Earth's gravity and sent off into the void, before we head to the very alien world of Mül, whereon the vaguely humanoid inhabitants live an idyllic and peaceful existence before their world is bombarded with debris from a space battle above, and their princess killed.

As she dies, however, she releases a wave of energy which is picked up by Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) who, along with Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne), is working for the human government as special forces.

There follows a space-jumping adventure as Valerian and DeHaan are tasked to recover stolen goods -  a Mül Converter - from an awesomely conceived alien marketplace which takes place across two dimensions, and then to Alpha where there is a mysterious radiation-locked area in the centre which keeps expanding.

What this all has to do with the Converter which Valerian retrieved from the Market, and the people of Mül forms the core of the film, which is as bold, brash, funny, visually impressive and incredible as anyone might want their science fiction to be!

DeHaan and Delevingne play Valerian and Laureline well, with an on-off romance, and a nice line in wisecracks and humour. DeHaan is perhaps a little too one-note, but this doesn't seem to matter too much as the action keeps coming, and there are enough space battles, blaster fights and alien creations to keep Doctor Who in business for years.

One of the things I loved were the alien races. From the opening scenes of the Human Ambassadors greeting all manner of strange creatures, to those in the market place, vast underwater monsters, alien creatures 'fishing' using butterflies as bait, and of course the people of Mül, not to mention the Converter (which is a cute little creature itself), every element is thought through and works within the concepts of the film. And when we get to Rhianna playing a blue jellyfish-like creature which can mimic anyone or anything, well ...

I did try and see if I could spot any Mondoshawans or Mangalores (from The Fifth Element) lurking about but there didn't seem to be any ... a shame I thought, but then I suppose you can't have everything!

It's a long film, but you never feel that it overstays its welcome and I didn't look at my watch once. The bad guys are sufficiently bad, and there's always something to watch, admire, and smile about on screen.

Overall I adored it, and can't wait to watch it again as we are surely getting the Blu-Ray as and when it appears.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Final Recall (2017)

Final Recall (or just Recall in the USA) is a new film, and I managed to get to see a review screener of it ...  On the surface it looks like something that is exactly my cup of tea, blending horror with science fiction ...

The idea is that a bunch of alien spacecraft appear all over the world and start kidnapping people, for why we don't know ... And there's a bunch of teenagers, three guys (R J Mitte, Jedidiah Goodacre, Niko Pepaj) and two girls (Laura Bilgeri, Hannah Rose May), who are heading off for a weekend in a secluded cabin in the woods ... and at the gas station on the way. they meet a stranger (Wesley Snipes) who seems to have antipathy towards them.  So much, so Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (not to mention Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and every other film which has a bunch of kids visiting a cabin in the woods).

Things ramp up when the aliens arrive and send in jellyfish-like drones to scout the place out ... we're now in Independence Day or War of the Worlds territory. Snipes' hunter turns out to be someone that the aliens previously captured and who has been 'returned' with strange psychokinetic powers, and some alien decal-like tattoos.

So the kids end up being captured and taken on board the spacecraft, which has a very alien-esque decor, straight out of the Alien franchise, and after some wandering about, one of the kids finds his friends lounging in vats of goo which seem to be either dissolving their lower parts, or turning them into something else ...  This reminded me of elements of The Matrix films with the cybernetic attachments and goo (when Neo wakes in one of the battery-pods).

Then, everyone is returned to earth by the aliens and they head off, only to be stopped by the army and shot!  Except that two of them use their new superpowers to destroy the army, and to heal themselves as well - seems they are immortal!  As are many others who have now been returned to Earth ...

As a film, it's not at all bad. and despite all the derivative elements I mentioned above, is very watchable and exciting.  It's pretty obvious that Snipes would turn out to be a - sort of - good guy, and the kids are likable enough.

The effects are excellent, and you get a sense of the alienness of the creatures and whatever their plan is, specifically because it's not spelled out for you. At the end, you still have no idea why this has happened - it's all part of some alien masterplan in progress.

The aliens are nicely realised too - probably because you don't see much of them. It's a case of less is more!  Though what we do see reminded me strongly of the alien hunter in Without Warning way back in the 80s.

I don't know about 'Cabin Fever meets Skyline' though.  The former is about a virus infection which wipes out a group of kids in a cabin ... the only connection I can see here is that there is a cabin!  And Skyline was about alien abductions ... so I suppose there's a connection there.

If you're into this sort of film: mixing and matching things from all over the place to create an enjoyable alien/horror romp through the genres, then this might be right up your street!

Directed by Mauro Borrelli
Writing Credits: Reggie Keyohara III, Mauro Borrelli, Teddy Wynne, Sam Acton King

Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: The Slayer (1982)

Arrow have a knack for seeking out all the most obscure little films from the eighties which flourished in the horror boom at that time. The Slayer is one of them.

Unfortunately time has not been kind to the film, and it plays today as being somewhat forgettable. A slasher movie in which there doesn't seem to be a killer, which is full of bland characters, and which, when you reach the end, you realise was all a dream anyway. Probably the worst plot 'twist' you could give to a horror film.

The plot is simple: two couples visit an isolated island for a holiday, and get killed off by an unseen killer. The main protagonist is Kay (Sarah Kendall), who has been suffering bad dreams all her life. So she and her husband David (Alan McRae), Kay's brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook) head away for a break. There's also a pilot, Marsh (Michael Holmes), who tries to warn them not to stay as there's a hurricane approaching ... Kay finds a deserted theatre at one point, and the deaths are gruesome and redolent with eighties gore.

It's surprising, none the less, that the film was classified in the eighties as a 'Video Nasty' and banned! It all seems way too tame for that ... But this alone probably elevates the film to something of a curio, and so fans of slasher horror should find something to appreciate here. I was interested to see in the extras, the makers explaining how it was the first horror film that any of them had made ... and on that basis it's not bad at all.

The transfer is good, and it's a fairly enjoyable watch and addition to anyone's growing library of horrors.

•        Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative
•        High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
•        Original Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
•        Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•        Audio Commentary with writer/director J.S. Cardone, actress Carol Kottenbrook and executive in charge of production Eric Weston, moderated by Ewan Cant
•        Audio Commentary with 'The Hysteria Continues'
•        Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Robert Folk
•        'Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer' – documentary featuring interviews with J.S. Cardone, Carol Kottenbrook, Eric Weston, producer William Ewing, director of photography Karen Grossman, camera operator/2nd Unit DOP/still photographer Arledge Armenaki, special creature and make-up effects ceator Robert Short and 'Slayer' performer Carl Kraines
•        'Return to Tybee: The Locations of The Slayer' – featurette revisiting the shooting locations on Tybee Island, Georgia
•        'The Tybee Post Theater Experience' – join the audience of the Tybee Post Theater (one of the film’s key locations) for this very special home-town screening of The Slayer! Includes event introduction, feature-length audience reaction track and post screening Q&A with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant
•        Still Gallery
•        Original Theatrical Trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Lee Gambin