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Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Review - Damnation Alley (1977)

There’s one thing that I’m learning this month which that is how human kind seems to find the will to survive after some catastrophic event. Even the darkest of moment’s survivors can find the motivation, hope and solace to live on. I’ve just finished watching “Damnation Alley” (1977) and this movie is just that.

The opening sequence of the movie shows two air force personnel coming in for a shift; Lt. Tanner and Major Denton. They are in charge of missile deployment. During their shift there was a nuclear launch of attack from Russia. The military responded by launching a counter attack with rockets but they only took out 40% of the incoming horde. As a result, the nuclear bombs detonate in major cities scattered thought the US.

About 2 years later, set in a desert like backdrop somewhere in California are the remnants of a military compound headed by a recent turned insane General. Sadly, there was an explosion in the building and the last of the crew died in the fire. This left Lt. Tanner, Lt. Perry and Airman Keegan with Major Denton being the lead. There had been multiple broadcasts announcing a safe zone located in Albany, NY. Together they set out paired in a couple bus like all terrain armoured vehicles bound for that location. Problems occur when a wind storm overturns one of the vehicles causing Perry to be the first casualty. A wounded Keegan now joins the other vehicle and off they go. The first stop ends up being in Las Vegas. The group spends some time in a run down sand filled casino called Circus Circus playing the slot machines. While they are there, survivor Janice who used to be lounge act joins the group. Another stop is made to look for fuel but ends with fatal consequences when aggressive killer cockroaches swarm. This led to the death of Keegan who was eaten alive while taking refuge in a parked vehicle. The remaining group barely makes it out alive. While driving, a boy named Billy is spotted and after some coaxing he joins the group. Still looking for fuel, they stop at a presumed deserted restaurant and gas bar. Four outlandish survivors quickly surround and subdue the team with guns but some quick thinking allows them to escape. Later, the all terrain vehicle needed some repairs and a stop at a salvage yard allowing for the parts to be taken but a wind water storm sweeps them away. Now drying out, the vehicle drives onto land and rest is well needed. In still listening to the radio, they hear a live broadcast and are allowed time to respond via CB. They soon realize that they are within just a few miles of their destination. With haste, Tanner and the boy take off on the motorcycle driving into town to be greeted by many other survivors.

The story was acceptable. I think they could have done a lot more with it but for what it was it played out okay. The movie had some pretty good special effects; giant scorpions, swarming cockroaches and of course the sky with it’s ever changing glowing swirling backdrop. Even the all terrain vehicle was pretty neat. The acting was alright, nothing fantastic to speak up. The main character Denton was played by George Peppard who played ‘Hannibal’ in “The A Team”. Another surprise was Billy -the kid, a 16 year old Jackie Earle Haley, he is the one who headed up the lead in the reboot of “Nightmare on Elm Street” as ‘Freddy Kruger’. Paul Winfield who played Private Keegan is no stranger to acting and had been in countless other movies and shows.

All in all, the movie wasn’t terribly bad, I did enjoy watching it. I would recommend viewing it but only because it has cult status otherwise shelf it. The movie was based upon a book by Roger Zelazny from 1969 so I’m intrigued to read it to see how different it was. In any case I rate this movie 6/10.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Movie Review - Cherry 2000 (1987)

Sometimes when you watch a movie, you can clearly see the influences of the era in which is was made in. What I’m referring to is the movie “Cherry 2000” (1987) and it’s very clear it is the 80’s. Now technically this movie is not the usual post apocalyptic feel but contains certain cues which make it so.

The story follows Sam Treadwell, a successful businessman in Anaheim and with a loving wife named Cherry. Cherry is perfect and attends to his every need. The two have a moment in the kitchen and start making out while the dishes are being done. Things get awry when the water pours onto the floor short circuiting Cherry. You see, Cherry is a model 2000 android. Sam is now lost without her and seeks the assistance of a repair guy who cannot repair her circuits –a total meltdown. He tried to sell him another type but the Cherry 2000 model was a limited edition and is the best. Treadwell saves the memory disc in hopes of having a replacement. The repair guy suggests that there are some models still out there but in zone 7 -a restricted area. It was suggested that a tracker would be needed and so off he goes. He was given the name originally of 6 fingered Jake from the repair guy but finds out he is dead. He later meets with E. Johnson, a wild misfit tough girl who is a tracker and at first decides not to enlist her help but comes back after an altercation in the bar. So, the two depart that evening driving a supped up Ford Mustang with oversize tires and body armour. Together they navigate the dangerous desert wasteland avoiding certain obstacles including tyrant Lester and his cronies.

Sam and Johnson become close and you can see that they have feelings for each other but Sam is temporarily blinded by his goal. Just when he starts to second guess going further, Johnson wants to finish the mission and two arrive in Las Vegas where the junked androids are located. Sam picks out the Cherry 2000 from a few choices, loads the memory up and she comes alive. The three attempt to escape when Lester and friends bungle things up. The plane they tried to take off was too heavy and Johnson jumps out. After circulating the area Sam has a change of heart and lands back leaving Cherry behind and grabbing Johnson. Together they take off and kiss. End roll credits.

The story wasn’t too too bad. There were some things I liked and some I didn’t. It was decently put together but just had a bit to cheese. I had to find another reason to like the movie and I must say that on a psychological level I did. Yes, it was a love story but it took place in what seemed to be post apocalyptic time period. There was no discussion on the events but that you could tell. Funny how the era was so obviously 80’s; complete with neon fashion ware. The acting was decent enough. The movie featured a few unknowns and others who are more known today but not huge stars. The star player though is Melanie Griffith as E. Johnson. She was fantastic and looked cute in the role.

I thought that the movie had a message too; sometimes the girl of your dreams isn’t necessarily the picture perfect cliché but rather the adventurous complimentary opposite. Relationships are complicated yes, but one thing for sure is that one-sided relationships lack the challenge that is subconsciously sought after. I would invite you to follow the self discovery journey that Sam Treadwell takes. I rate this movie 6/10.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie Review - 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)

I really like post apocalyptic movies as they show us our broken world over run with anarchy…but only if the movie is done right. I just finished watching “2019: After the Fall of New York” (1983). I had such high hopes for this movie but it failed to satisfy.

The story opens with mercenary extraordinaire Parsifal. He roams the wasteland just trying to stay alive but seems that he is always looking for a fight or a race. He later is captured by the Pan American Federation of the west and forced into to completing a mission for them. His prize is a spot on the space shuttle to the new world. He has to infiltrate New York to find the only woman who is capable of producing babies. Having this woman’s eggs will ensure the human race will survive. Parsifal won’t be doing it alone; the Federation has sent two men with him to assist. New York is currently run by the Euraks –an evil empire. There are also other smaller groups of humanoids which have been mutated by the radiation and they are hostile. All of which will make it difficult for Parsifal and associates to search, retrieve and get out alive. The group also meets up with a midget and an ape man who assist. Parsifal rescues a blond beauty on the way and she also helps the cause. The mysterious fertile woman is found in a cave sleeping in a stasis container. She is the daughter of a scientist who recently passed. He had put her to sleep in hopes of trying to repopulate but had some problems trying to find fertile males. The climax ends with a last ditch effort to leave with her sleeping pod in a station wagon fixed with iron plating and chains. Parsifal was able to escape by helicopter. The movie ends with her waking up on a space ship headed for a new world with Parsifal.

The story was okay, it does have some merit. When the movie actually played out it in a jumbled mess, it was soon detracted and ended up making it uninteresting. Some acting was alright while others not so good. The camera work was okay but I think the edit cuts were too abrupt. The overall effects were reasonable for a 1983 production. With laser gun sounds and cheap visuals. You could clearly tell it was a scale model set of New York but realistic looking enough than a model train layout. I do think some scenes were filmed on a set stage but it is what it is. When you watch an older film you have to keep in mind about what they had to work with.

I wouldn’t recommend watching this one at all. It’s a little on the silly side to be taken serious but if you like post apocalyptic films then I would say go ahead. It’s like a rip off of ‘Mad Max’ with ‘Escape from New York’ with the cheesiness of ‘The Love Boat’. I rate it 5/10 but note that it could have been put together better than it was.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Movie Review - The Book of Eli (2010)

Alright, I got a good one for you. I just finished watching “The Book of Eli” (2010). It is of course a post apocalyptic film. I wasn’t really sure what to expect on this one, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The story takes place about 30 years or so after what is presumed to be a nuclear war (flash). Meet nomadic drifter Eli. Eli travels alone and has well developed skills in surviving. He meets up with biker thugs and is able to quickly subdue them without breaking a sweat. Things get interesting for him when he stops in at a small village ruled by a shady character named Carnegie. Eli is involved in a bar fight while defending himself and is observed by Carnegie who finds his fighting impressive. Carnegie attempts to offer him a job but Eli is not interested but is locked up anyway for the night. Eli later meets Solara who had been sent into change his made. Solara and Eli become friendly and she spots that he is reading a mysterious book which he won’t tell her about. The news gets back to Carnegie about their evening that Eli is a reading / praying man and suspects he has the book which he had been searching for. The mysterious book in question is the bible, a book which apparently can help save human kind. It is explained that Eli will be taking the book west and leave it where he deems is worthy and this village is not it. Eli and Solara are tracked down by Carnegie and the climax ends in a standoff gunfight at an old farmhouse. Eli is shot in the stomach, the book and Solara are then taken. Solara escapes and drives back only to find him hobbling down the road. Together they make their journey westward and stop in San Francisco. There they make their way by boat to Alcatraz which has now turned into a small town. He advises that he has a King James Version of the bible. They are invited to meet Lombardi who is a curator of a literature museum and printing press. It is there that you learn that Eli is actually blind but was able to dictate the bible books. The scene then switches to Carnegie. The locked bible is finally being opened to display blank pages which have been punched in brail. The movie ends with Eli dying after the bible was re written and Carnegie slowly going into shock from his festering wound as he overlooks the chaos of the townspeople.

Okay, I probably shouldn’t have given that much on the story but I was just was excited about it. I think this movie can be best described as Daredevil meets Mad Max but only better. Sure maybe at times the fight scenes were a little unbelievable; Eli as a wasteland superhero but if you look passed that you will find it is much more. This film has so many different layers to it and could be viewed a few different ways. There is definitely a religious theme running within and contains metaphors for the journey that Eli is on and also what the book really means. The storyline was good, well thought and paced accordingly.

The movie was shot dark. Good camera work. Good intense look of the film with the right location; sandy dunes and dead vegetation. I knew at first glance it was a post apocalyptic back drop -no question. Even some of the props were believable including the vehicles. The acting overall was decent; with stars like Denzel Washington as ‘Eli’,Gary Oldman as ‘Carnegie’ and Mila Kunis as ‘Solara’ you can’t go wrong.

I really liked this movie. It is an all around decent film and would recommend viewing it. I rate it 8/10. Anyone seen this?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Movie Review - Babylon A.D (2008)

I’m thinking for fun, maybe I should be do a ‘post apocalyptic’ themed month. Sounds good? Alright, here is the first movie; “Babylon A.D” (2008). It’s classified as a sci-fi action. Now just based on the title one can guess it has a bit of religious meaning. Let’s take a closer look.

The storyline follows a mercenary named Toorop who agrees to a decent paying job from a greasy Russian mobster guy named Gorsky. The movie is definitely set in the future but not too far from present day. Toorop’s mission is to bring a young girl named Aurora to New York City. The task will not be easy, the world is pretty much overrun by anarchy and getting to New York without proper ID will also be a problem. So, the adventure begins with Toorop swinging by some sort of temple commune, outside waiting is Sister Rebeka and Aurora. Sister Rebeka is along for the ride to make sure Aurora is safe and gets delivered to her destination which she makes clear. Toorop soon realizes that Aurora is more special than she appears to be. Sister Rebeka explains that she can speak many languages and seems to know things that she has never learned. The climax reaches while in Harlem. Some bombings occur and a news report confirms that there is a lot more going on here than they know both know. Groups called the Noelites have become a cult religion which many are flocking too. It is then revealed that the virgin Aurora is pregnant and will birth twins that are genetically modified for the cult. While held up in the hotel room Toorup sees both groups; Noelites and Gorski's men waiting. A fight breaks out; Toorup tries to take hold of the situation but fails. Sister Rebeka is shot dead and a missile is fired. Aurora tells him to go home just before the missile blows up and Toorop is hit badly with shrapnel. Hours later, Toorop wakes up and is in the care of Dr. Darquandier who explains he was brought back to life and his leg and arm replaced with cybernetics. The doctor also explains that he is Aurora’s father gives him the story that when Aurora was a fetus he enhanced her using a supercomputer but that the Russian mobster Gorski had run interference and stole her away. He then helps him remember the last events leading up to ‘blacking out’. Toorop goes back to where his home is and is surprised to see Aurora there. He then takes her to the hospital where she has the babies but soon after dies. Toorop is then left to take care of the newborns.

The movie stars Vin Diesel as Toorop. Not a big fan of his stuff, some of his movies are good but he plays the same tough guy role with no variance. Gorski was played by Gerard Depardieu which I though was a surprising role for him. Well done. Overall acting was acceptable, a few unknowns to me. The storyline was good, it needed some more back stories and explanations though. The pace seemed too quick for what was trying to be achieved. As for effects, nothing really stood out. You could tell it was the future but nothing with WOW factor.

So while this movie was able to satisfy my appetite, it failed to fill me up. I’m on the fence on this one. I’m intrigued by the premise of the story, just wished it was told better. I understand that there is a book to this and so now I’m thinking of reading it. I’ll keep you posted. I wanted so much more for this movie but sadly it let me down, I rate it 5.5/10 but note it was a good effort.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Movie Review - The Deadly Mantis (1957)

It’s the end of the month now… and you know what that means. So, I present my last and final bug inspired movie; “The Deadly Mantis” (1957). It sure is a special one, ha. I won't lie, I did have a little trouble sitting through this one.

The movie opens with scenes of a map for North America, and then shows you the Artic followed by scenes of snow, ice bergs and volcanic action. The credits and title roll to show a large shadowy figure trapped in the ice as it melts. What a beginning.

Loss of contact from a radar tracking station has been lost. Col. Parkman is sent to investigate the site and disappearance of the servicemen. Strange tracks are found in the snow and a mysterious object is found. The object is 5 feet in length shaped like a thorn. Dr. Ned Jackson has been asked to research it. The object is tested and hunches seem to be that of an insect. As it turns out they deduce that it is the spur from a praying mantis. Dr. Jackson works with the military to track the over-sized insect. The military makes a few attempts to stop the mantis with aircraft support but it is too deadly to be stopped. The mantis soon makes its way south creating havoc along the way. The standoff ends with a final fight in New York.

This movie was shot in black and white. I will say, it certainly has a different feel than if it were colour. The special effects of the over-sized mantis were pretty decent but when they showed it flying across the sky it lost all creditability. The acting was alright nothing fantastic. The story was okay, could use help. A little slow and too much emphasis put on the military action. Usually movies like this from the 50’s are laughable. There was also a love interest romantic side story developing between the doctor and a reporter. This simply created slightly more cheese than what was already present; a move that should appeal to anyone in the 50’s. The sound track has that robust symphony sound and fit the mood. The narration is such that it sounds like a science program and one so obvious from the 50’s.

All in all, this movie was pretty terrible. The only thing I thought was neat was the up-close shots of the mantis. I am quite sure that for 1957 it must have fared well at the theatre but quite different than today’s standards. I do think there is merit here and could have been a lot better than it was. I rate this film 4.5/10 and I wouldn’t recommend watching it unless you wanted to see a dated movie.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Movie Review - The Swarm (1978)

There is something to be said about the hypnotic noise of buzzing that bees do when going from flower to flower. It’s relaxing to listen to when chillin’ in the park or your backyard but what about a few million of them? You be the judge when you watch the movie “The Swarm” (1978). Bees are my favourite insect and therefore took a real interest in this film.

The movie opens right into some action; men in hazmat suits running around what seems to be a military base. They are being extra careful in entering the facility. The group encounters a control room with officers collapsed at their desks. Just then they give the all clear but are confused over what has occurred. Dr. Brad Crane (Caine) had mysteriously shown up on site and being questioned as a civilian. Dr. Crane explains that he has been following a group of bees which had come from the south; specifically the African honeybee. The bees had come in and stung everyone. General Slater gives him a hard time at first until he talks with General Thomson who is in Washington. As it turns out the good doctor happens to be the advisor to a minister that works with the President. All control has been given to Dr. Crane to get the bees under control. Dr. Crane’s first order is to have a few colleagues flown in who have expertise in this field. A vaccine was also trying to be made as the sting is very potent. It would only take 3-4 stings to kill a person. In a series of tests, investigations and efforts to control the bees, they migrate to a small town and wreak havoc on the residents. They sting and swarm their way to Houston, Texas where the final fight occurs. Control of operations had been given back to the military but in the end the doctor works out one last plan to eradicate them. I really want to remain a little vague on this one as to not ruin the complete story.

I really liked the effects on this one. The bees are real. They attach themselves to people and objects resulting in some good death scenes too. There were a couple scenes though where the victims were hallucinating of a giant bee –that looked fake. Overall good fright created. The problem with this movie was the storyline dragged; it built a good beginning but was slow to come around to produce the final product. Too many ‘filler’ scenes broke the flow and prevented the story from being held together. The acting was decent, a star studded line up; Sir Michael Caine, Henry Fonda and few other veterans. Everyone played decently enough. The sound affects were pretty good, nothing like a million angry bees buzzing. Oh wait, I heard that back in the summer with the world cup soccer.

I did like this movie aside from the storyline flaw. I will have to admit I’m swayed because the film involves bees but in any case there isn’t too many bee inspired movies out there. I would recommend watching this and rate it 6.5/10 but note it had potential to be better. If anything you have to see the bees!