D: David Cronenberg
New World Pictures/Cinepix (John Dunning)
Canada 1976 (released 1977)
W: David Cronenberg
DP: Rene Verzier
Ed: Jean LaFleur
Marilyn Chambers (Rose), Frank Moore (Hart Read), Joe Silver (Murray Cypher), Howard Ryshpan (Dr. Dan Kyloid), Patricia Gage (Dr. Roxanne Kyloid)
This Canadian horror film launched the career of David Cronenberg, whose later films also had similar themes and visual style.
Following a motorcycle accident and subsequent life-saving surgery, a woman develops a bloodlust which infects the people of Montreal and surrounding areas.
With a pornographic film star in the lead role, Rabid doubles up as a metaphor for promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases as well as an alternative zombie flick.
It has amassed a respectable cult following since its original release and though it had obvious budgetary restraints, David Cronenberg did a great job in the director's chair. A remake is in consideration, but I personally hope it doesn't materialise.
RAMBO III (18)
D: Peter MacDonald
Tristar/Carolco (Buzz Feitshans)
W: Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich
DP: John Stanier
Ed: James Symons, Andrew London, O. Nicholas Brown & Edward Warschilka
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Richard Crenna (Col. Sam Trautman), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Griggs), Marc de Jonge (Col. Alexei Zaysen)
At the time of its completion, Rambo III was the most expensive film production of all time. It's just a shame that throwing money at a problem doesn't make the screenplay or acting any better.
Following the stencil of the second film rather than the first, this is more rock-em-sock-em action gibberish, throwing Stallone's titular character into conflict in Afghanistan, where he has to rescue a friend from Soviet bad guys by means of violence.
Explosions galore is on the bill of fare here, that's all there is to see.
The biggest regret with the Rambo sequels is that the first movie was actually good. This is just mindless nonsense and all that the money paid for was a terrible movie.
RAMBO (aka RAMBO IV; JOHN RAMBO) (18)
D: Sylvester Stallone
Lionsgate/TWC/Millennium/Nu Image (Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton & John Thompson)
W: Sylvester Stallone & Art Monterastelli
DP: Glen MacPherson
Ed: Sean Albertson
Mus: Brian Tyler
Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Julie Benz (Sarah Miller), Paul Schulze (Michael Burnett), Matthew Marsden (School Boy), Graham McTavish (Lewis), Reynaldo Gallegos (Diaz), Tim Kang (En-Joo)
Better than the other sequels, but still not a shade on the original movie (First Blood), John Rambo is back... 20 years after his last big screen outing. The rights to the character had been bouncing about Hollywood for a while, and it wasn't until the success of 2006's Rocky Balboa (qv) that The Weinstein Company decided to revive the films with Stallone once again back in the title role.
The plot isn't too dissimilar to the other sequels, although set in Myanmar where Rambo ferries a group of humanitarians up a hostile river to they can get medicine to needy, but when they are kidnapped by a terrorist regime, Rambo joins a group of soldiers on a mission to save them. In fairness, there was no reason to attach this to the other Rambo films. It feels as though it was written as a standalone film but producers had little faith in the project and tagged it onto the franchise, tailoring it as needs must.
Gung Ho Action it still is, but it's not as brainless as the other sequels. Stallone is definitely getting too old for this shit though.
D: Brad Peyton
Warner Bros/New Line/Seven Bucks (Brad Peyton, Beau Flynn, John Rickard & Hiram Garcia)
W: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal & Adam Sztykiel [based on the video game by Midway Games]
DP: Jaron Presant
Ed: Jim May & Bob Ducsay
Mus: Andrew Lockington
Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr. Kate Caldwell), Malin Åkerman (Claire Wyden), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Harvey Russell), Joe Manganiello (Burke)
Man vs giant animals were a big Hollywood trend of the 1970's, with films like Night Of The Lepus, Food Of The Gods and the '76 King Kong remake all released during the decade, films which featured quite ridiculous concepts and rather shoddy effects.
Rampage takes its plot from a video game, and though there is an improvement on visual effects, the story is still as ludicrous as the films of the '70's.
When a genetic experiment on an orbiting space station goes wrong, debris rains down across America and affects a trio of animals, one of which is a albino gorilla under the care of San Diego primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson).
The company behind the genetic experiment have their own nefarious purposes, and summon the three animals (the others being a huge flying wolf and a giant crocodile) to Chicago, where they unleash carnage.
It's another brainless action vehicle which Dwayne Johnson has built his entire film career on, and, despite the ridiculousness of the plot, is reasonably entertaining for the duration. The script is cheesy, the performances unconvincing and even Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up, playing the exact same character he does in TV's The Walking Dead.
The giant ape effects are quite spectacular, but the other two animals are quite poorly rendered. It's obvious where the budget went.
Rango seemed to be more appreciated by the critics than it was cinema audiences which is a pity, since it's very enjoyable, the CGI animation is excellent and the story gives a unique twist on the western genre. Its only shortfall, is that it's an animated film which doesn't target children as its principal audience.
Johnny Depp voices the character of Rango, a pet chameleon who winds up in a small desert town called Dirt, where he finds himself becoming sheriff.
Clearly a homage to Western films of the 1950's and 1960's with a nod to a few classic film noirs.
Though it might not be aimed at kids, this is one for the big kid in all of us.
READY PLAYER ONE (12)
D: Steven Spielberg
Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Amblin (Steven Spielberg, Donald De Line, Dan Farah & Kristie Macosko Krieger)
W: Zak Penn & Ernest Cline [based on the novel by Ernest Cline]
DP: Janusz Kaminsky
Ed: Michael Kahn & Sarah Broshar
Mus: Alan Silvestri
PD: Adam Stockhausen
Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts / Parzival), Olivia Cooke (Samantha Cook / Art3mis), Ben Mendelsohn (Nolan Sorrento), Lena Waithe (Helen / Aech), T.J. Miller (I-R0k), Simon Pegg (Ogden Murrow), Mark Rylance (James Halliday)
Ready Player One is a cornucopia of pop culture, brimful with references to movies of the 1980's, science fiction films and classic video games.
Set in 2045, where the city of Columbus, Ohio has become overpopulated, people escape from the mundanity of life in The Oasis, a virtual reality environment in which they can be anyone and do anything, bound only by how many credits they can accumulate, often playing riskier games at the risk of 'zeroing out' and starting over.
On the Oasis creator's death, a treasure hunt is announced which gives the victor who finds the Easter Egg hidden within full creative control of the virtual reality world, sparking a contest between Gunters (Egg Hunters) and members of IOI, a corporate conglomerate who plan to use the Oasis as an advertising platform and to keep its users in never-ending debt.
The film is chockablock with references, both visual and narratively (the concept itself is a modern spin on Charlie & The Chocolate Factory), but it's mostly aesthetically where most people will get memories of the movies they watched during their childhood.
Some fans of the book have been disappointed with the adaptation, stating that it doesn't adhere to the source material as faithfully as they would like, but I don't think that's a problem. Film and books are two completely different mediums and it should never be a prerequisite to read the book before watching a movie. The differences are there so both can be enjoyed separately.
There are a few plot holes which may bother you if you let them (it's never explained why people are so obsessed with movies and characters from films which would be over 60 years old at the time of the film's setting), the main villain is written a little too one-dimensionally and Tye Sheridan's performance as Wade Watts (not Partizan, his online avatar) is a little wooden, but these are only small blights on an otherwise fantastic cinema experience.
Finally, it has to be mentioned that this film is best appreciated in 3D, especially in IMAX format where all the iconic images pour out of the screen. A must watch for anyone who grew up during the 1980's, or are a massive fan of films from that period.
RED SPARROW (15)
D: Francis Lawrence
20th Century Fox/TSG (Peter Chernin, Steven Zaillian, Jenno Topping & David Ready)
W: Justin Haythe [based on the novel by Jason Matthews]
DP: Jo Willems
Ed: Alan Edward Bell
Mus: James Newton Howard
Jennifer Lawrence (Dominika Egorova), Joel Edgerton (Nate Nash), Matthias Schoenaerts (Ivan Egorov), Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher), Charlotte Rampling (Matron), Jeremy Irons (Gen. Vladimir Korchnoi)
A rather grim movie to watch, which could almost be considered a female twist on 1985's White Nights (qv), or an update on Sexpionage, a TV-movie starring Linda Hamilton which was set at the height of the Cold War. However, the space of this movie is from a novel by Jason Matthews, who was a former CIA agent, though the plot of this film does seem a little fanciful...
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballet dancer who suffers an injury that cuts her career short and is subsequently blackmailed into becoming a Sparrow, a spy who uses their sexual allure to entrap targets or uncover various secrets.
Her mission becomes getting close to Nate Nash, an American CIA agent and upon their introduction the plot unfolds...
Although Jennifer Lawrence can be admired for her bold choices of roles, her performance in this isn't particularly convincing, mostly because her attempt at the Russian accent misses the mark and the whole film seems to have been sold on the scenes where she shows a little bit more skin than you'd usually see in her movies.
The film does feel as though it came out about 30 years too late, but the biggest surprise is probably how it escaped an 18 rating due to its violent and sexual content, although you couldn't class the latter as titilating in any way.
THE RED TURTLE (LA TORTUE ROUGE; TATURO: ARU SHIMA NO MONOGATARI) (PG)
D: Michael Dudok de Wit
Studio Ghibli/Wild Bunch/Why Not (Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, Vincent Maraval, Pascal Caucheteux, Grégoire Sorlat & Léon Perahia)
W: Michael Dudok de Wit & Pascale Ferran
Mus: Laurent Perez Del Mar
voices of: Emmanuel Garijo (The Father), Tom Hudson (The
Michael Dudok de Wit won an Oscar for his 2000 animated short "Father & Daughter", and when Studio Ghibli asked for the distribution rights for that film, they asked the animator if he would like to collaborate on a feature with them, and so The Red Turtle was born.
Using a minimalistic approach with no dialogue, allowing pictures to tell the story and colours to set the mood, The Red Turtle is about a man shipwrecked on a desert island, where his attempts to escape are constantly thwarted by a giant red turtle, and his life is forever changed when he discovers the animal.
The artful style of the film is in line with Studio Ghibli's back catalogue to make for a mature, heartfelt animated movie for older audiences, but it's unlikely to appeal to fans of Disney. Nevertheless, it's a moving experience.
REIGN OF FIRE (15)
D: Rob Bowman
Touchstone/Spyglass (Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck, Gary Barber & Roger Birnbaum)
W: Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka & Matt Greenberg
DP: Adrian Biddle
Ed: Thom Noble
Mus: Edward Shearmur
Christian Bale (Quinn), Matthew McConaughey (Denton Van Zan), Isabella Scorupco (Alex), Gerard Butler (Creedy)
Set in the post-apocalyptic remains of London following the awakening of dormant dragons living beneath the surface, a group of American soldiers initiate a power-play with the British survivors.
This brainless modern B-movie is entertaining and engaging enough, despite the acting which sum up to little more than pay check performances. The visual effects are fairly impressive, but the film itself is fairly unremarkable.
REPO MAN (15)
D: Alex Cox
Universal/Edge City (Peter McCarthy, Michael Nesmith, Gerald T. Olson & Jonathan Wacks)
W: Alex Cox
DP: Robby Müller
Ed: Dennis Dolan
Mus: Tito Larriva & Steven Hufsteter
Emilio Estevez (Otto Maddox), Harry Dean Stanton (Bud), Tracey Walter (Miller), Olivia Barash (Leila), Sy Richardson (Lite)
Emilio Estevez stars in this cult classic as a street punk who reluctantly takes a job as a repo man and becomes involved in a government conspiracy involving UFO's and a mysterious 1960's Chevy Malibu containing a dangerous cargo.
Though the film has amassed a huge cult following since its 1984 release, the plot and premise are things which you would only find in a 1980's movie and certain elements have dated quite badly.
Enjoyable enough as a one-off watch, but it really hasn't stood the test of time.