Category Archives: Action

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2016)

Michael Giacchino - Rogue One

For nearly four decades now the music that John Williams has created for Star Wars has become as instantly recognizable as  Darth Vader’s breathing or the heart stopping light saber duels between Jedi Knight and Sith Lord. These scores serve as  the heartbeat to the films and go beyond setting the mood whenever a firefight breaks out on the streets of Mos Eisley or in the skies above the icy war torn battlefields of Hoth. With Disney now owning Lucasfilm the long term strategy plan being put into motion is to release both saga and anthology/stand alone films from here until eternity. With John now in his mid-80s his focus will remain on the new saga trilogy that began with The Force Awakens last December. As for the anthology films that have just now begun rushing down through the flood gates the young film makers and composers who helm these projects will have the daunting task of creating something that can go off and explore the vast reaches of that galaxy far, far away all the while retaining  that emotional depth viewers felt when Luke Skywalker stood and looked out upon the twin suns of Tatooine as they sank down beyond the horizon.

Michael Giacchino is certainly no stranger when it comes trying to emulate John Williams. His first major scoring session was composing original music for the Playstation and Sega Saturn video game adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.  As fate would have it Giacchino found himself transitioning into the long dormant film franchise with Jurassic World (which would go on to become the second highest grossing film of 2015 right behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, no less).  Originally Giacchino wasn’t the first choice to be the composer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Alexandre Desplat (who collaborated with director Gareth Edwards on Godzilla) had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. Michael entered the fold with only four and a half weeks to write and record a full score. Under any circumstances even the most seasoned composer would crack under such extreme pressure however Giacchino melds a majority of Williams’ classic Star Wars motifs with material that fits into Edwards’ vision of an anthology film that brings a gritty realism to the wars fought between the empire and the rebellion. I’ve read feedback where many feel that this soundtrack would be more in line with any other science fiction film currently on the market and upon giving it my first listen I didn’t quite like what I was hearing as one track in particular, The Imperial Suite, teeters on being generic and leaves a lot to be desired considering John’s Imperial March is widely considered one of the most popular musical themes of the latter 20th century. Regardless of being under the gun (or more fittingly the blaster rifle) Michael Giacchino was able to come into his own during the final half of the score with five of the last six tracks where I’d recommend everyone put their focus if you’re willing to hit repeat and allow something that’s a little left of center to truly take form. Personally I think it blends rather well with the classic themes we all know and love and if you’re wishing that there were more of those cues featured in Rogue One all the previous soundtracks are still readily available in various formats so you can mix seminal with contemporary and still win out.

Final Grade: B+

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks to be the prequel fans deserve

rogueone_onesheet

When George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney back in 2012 many breathed a sigh of relief.  Even though Lucas was the creator of the immensely popular space opera the reaction his prequel trilogy received was mixed to say the least. A majority of criticism stemmed from the over reliance on green screen and digital effects rather focusing on the grand story telling aspect that made the original films a beloved sci-fi series. Plus the wooden acting and clunky dialogue certainly didn’t help either.

George ultimately decided to give Star Wars back to the fans and let the next generation of young film makers reignite that spark of excitement in all of us who enjoy time and time again traveling to that galaxy far, far away. While Episode VII: The Force Awakens went back to many of the techniques the classic trilogy employed I felt like it stepped into the same foot prints of A New Hope without taking the risk of deviating from a set path and didn’t challenge itself to be different. The other reason I didn’t get behind The Force Awakens as others is we’ve had six movies devoted to the Skywalker lineage the time is right to go explore other avenues of the force.

What gets me excited now that Disney owns the property is the decision that in between the main saga films fans are going to get spin offs that will focus on side characters or various other elements in a limitless universe. The first stand alone, Rogue One, is set to be released in theaters in less then a month and will tell the story of how the rebels were able to get their hands on the Death Star plans. My initial thoughts were for the most part skeptical towards the idea until it was announced that Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) had signed on to direct. While a select few were lukewarm to Edwards’ interpretation of the king of the monsters there is no denying that the man has a keen eye for delivering breathtaking visuals as well as a grand sense of scale.  You couldn’t ask for a better choice to direct a stand alone film as every trailer for Rogue One captures the style of the original trilogy in stunning perfection. Having that sheer scope mixed with classic Stormtroopers is enough for me to buy a ticket opening night but if there was any other reason to get on board its the big screen return of the iconic Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader.

Nowadays one can’t simply be a Star Wars fan without checking out the official tie-in novel. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel serves as a prequel to the prequel (if that makes any sense) and from the 14 chapters I’ve made my way through thus far its a fascinating/involving read well worth looking into before heading out to the theater on December 16th. I might delve into the novel a bit more on here once I’ve finished it and we’ve all had time to dissect Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the new year approaches. You can pick up your copy of Catalyst by clicking on the book artwork below.

catalyst_a_rogue_one_novel

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 30: The Final Girls (2015)

The 1980s called and they don't want want their poster back. In fact they're very jealous. This goes above and beyond incredible artwork.
The 1980s called and they don’t want want their poster back. In fact they’re very jealous. This goes above and beyond incredible artwork.

Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

A couple days ago in the opening paragraph of my review on 2012’s Girls Gone Dead I asked if horror movie cliches had become cliches in themselves. The standard cut and paste job is why the genre fizzled out in the mid to late ’90s and the only time when the iron was put back into the fire was when film makers took a step back and looked at the most popular concepts from a completely different angle. One of the highlights of Schlocktoberfest 2014 was Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon which focused a majority of that film solely from the perspective of the slasher villain himself. A year later featured Tucker and Dale vs. Evil where a game of role reversal was played with a pair of Hillbillies being the normal ones and a group of college kids were the homicidal maniacs.  Looking to top both of those The Final Girls throws a group of movie goers into a ’80s themed summer camp slasher flick that is a loving tribute (right down to the Harry Manfredini-esque theme song) to Friday the 13th. Ever since Scream established the rules one has to follow in order to survive who wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to jump into their favorite horror movie  and see if you could out smart the machete wielding hock mask wearing killer when all of the main cast were done in by the over three decades worth of cliches that we spotted coming from a mile away.  One of the movie goers even uses this knowledge to try and guide the rest through without any harm but the movie itself isn’t having any of that and uproots all those normal horror tropes to the point where there isn’t a playing field to try and get a level advantage from.

Whenever the buzz for certain projects hit the internet I always remain the reserved skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of the positive word of mouth I’ve always kept my guard up until I’m about halfway through the feature. The Final Girls attention to detail is my favorite quality about it where the normal world is very crisp and sharp much like any high definition camera one would pick up at Best Buy. Once everyone is thrown into the 1980s though the look changes drastically to be more in tune with that of VHS tape where the contrast dial is turned all the way up and every now and then you could almost sense that there’s a speck of dirt that appears on the film grain. From top to bottom the casting is near perfect with Malin Akerman Alia Shawkat and Alexander Ludwig being instantly recognized by my subconscious. It took about a half hour to realize that Thomas Middleditch is also featured but quite honestly the only thing I know him from is a Conan ‘O Brien sketch. Where Final Girls stumbles a couple steps is an observation that many  have brought up pertaining to red corn syrup or lack thereof. I don’t quite get that decision as Middleditch’s slasher horror aficionado even ponders if the movie’s characters blood is made up entirely of red corn syrup. I mean come on in my 35 years of life I’ve never heard of a thing as a PG-13 slasher film. The writers and directors can drop a couple F-bombs and various sex and drug references yet they’re too afraid to throw vats of fake blood on everyone? Makes me wonder if The Final Girls had an initial R rating and the studio up and stepped in to try and reach a wider demographic. Other than that if one wants to create an obscure horror trilogy of unrelated modern classics Behind The Mask, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Final Girls is an imposing trifecta of hilarious terror that everyone shouldn’t be afraid  to tackle between now and October 31st. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of time… Right? Right!!!…

Final Grade: A-

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 27: Deep Rising (1998)

It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The '90s was a decade full of bad promotional artwork.
It was a choice between the Deep Rising DVD artwork or the theatrical poster. The ’90s was the absolute worst decade for promotional artwork

Synopsis: A group of heavily armed hijackers board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who have taken over the ship first.

What defines a seminal creature feature? Two of the biggest qualities that will stand out for a lot of people are overall impact and longevity.  Each and everyone of us remember the days of sitting on the couch at our grandparents’ house drawn to the television screen to the point where if something freakishly weird happened such as the sky opening up and it raining down 100  dollar bills even that wouldn’t be enough to draw us away.  Part of the longevity factor is how well the special effects hold up over time from the impressionable moments of youthful innocence up till full fledged adulthood where we can sit and look back at childhood nostalgia and go was this something that was released at a point in time where certain fads and phenomenons were impacting pop culture to a point where they couldn’t be ignored.  Or was it simply high quality  film making at its very finest, nothing less and nothing more? Go ahead and pull up Jaws or Jurassic Park or Tremors even then go back further and explore the original King Kong or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or Japan’s response to both those classics in 1954 with Gojira. All the effects work in every one of those films that I just mentioned are what critics and average movie goers alike refer to as setting the standard.  Of the six listed only one took the mold and shattered the industry standard beyond repair where Hollywood began their journey into the unknown thanks to the advent of digital effects. Jurassic Park made us stare up at the silver screen in awe and wonder however once the mid-90s hit every major film studio was cashing in on the easier way to produce eye catching visuals to the point where what once was considered a special attraction in 1993 was relegated to the freak show a mere five years later.

In what will be the final creature feature to be included as part of Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Deep Rising hasn’t aged like a fine wine to be frank most wouldn’t compare it to bottle of Mumms. And let me set the record straight this is solely from a digital effects perspective as there are still a wide range of elements that drove the production above and beyond what any other science fiction/horror/action/comedy film of that era did. Take a competent director the likes of Stephen Sommers (before cinematic suicide attempts the likes of Van Helsing and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra) and let him loose with a fun script, genuine chuckle inducing one liners and some underrated casting the likes of the always bad ass Treat Williams, the stunningly gorgeous Famke Jannsen, the ever reliable and deeply missed Trevor Goddard and you get something that in many regards shouldn’t work. As the film continues to push forward at break neck speed one can’t help but get wrapped up in the fun popcorn flick style that Deep Rising has its tentacles tightly wrapped around. One thing I can’t figure out is how Sommers was able to write and direct this film and then immediately switching gears to work on The Mummy which was filmed and released almost a full year later. In many regards Deep Rising and The Mummy share the same DNA despite taking place in completely two different time periods and using the polar opposites in terms of movie monsters. Treat Williams’ Finnegan could be the distant relative of Brendan Frasier’s O’Connell as both have an affinity for firearms and equally explosive one liners. Frequent Sommers collaborator Kevin J. O’Connor slips into the role of a sniveling side kick although he’s not as weaselly as Beni was in The Mummy. Alright I sort of got off course somewhat so let’s wrap this up Deep Rising goes beyond a guilty pleasure or cult classic it was released during the beginning of 1998 which was a horrible decision because even to this very day this has summer blockbuster written all over it. Stephen Sommers reached his zenith in the span of two years and in the blink of an eye hasn’t been able to  get back on that same level of creativity again. I know you’re still out there Stephen. Want some friendly advice? Reinvent yourself, strip away the corporate side of the industry and get back to basics. A Deep Rising sequel most likely isn’t in the cards but a similar idea can go a long ways.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 26: 2 Headed Shark Attack (2012)

It's not an extreme sport unless you're surfing 2 headed shark induced waves.
It’s not an extreme sport unless you’re surfing a 2 headed shark induced wave.

Synopsis: Survivors escape to a deserted atoll after a Semester at Sea ship is sunk by a mutated two-headed shark. But when the atoll starts flooding, no one is safe from the double jaws of the monster as it eats fresh delicious women and men.

Every so often the appetizer that is served before a main course isn’t very appealing and in the case of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus while it helped The Asylum break out into a larger spectrum the film was marred with excessive pacing issues and a plot that withered and died not even a quarter of the way through. Despite these gaping flaws MSvGO is proud to walk that line between insanity and sheer genius fifty times over and in the years following its conception it has found a loyal following from creature feature fanatics. Now if you weren’t satisfied with little to no blood or gore or even less of Megashark and Giant Octopus laying the smackdown on one another today we’re focusing on a much more savage predator born into this world with two heads attached to the same body and according to the DVD/Blu-ray tagline it has 6,000 teeth between the both of them. It couldn’t be a true shark movie without a bevy of bikini clad women and several dumb jocks and thankfully 2 Headed Shark Attack takes these two stereotypes and meshes them together better than peanut butter and jelly. The only thing worth questioning about the plot here is how Calvin Klein catalog models were able to get passing grades in their college courses in order to qualify for a semester at sea aboard a scientific research vessel but than again maybe its best to throw all logic off the port bow considering if you try and devote more than 5 minutes to dismantling an Asylum production you deserve to get ripped to shreds by a 2 headed terror.

One has to wonder what the person who coined the phrase two heads are better than one would think of a schlocky horror flick the likes of 2 Headed Shark Attack? Would they sit and watch in awe as this awesome creation goes through hordes of college students faster than Leatherface and Michael Meyers could do in a weekend fueled by binge drinking,  ruthless chainsaw swinging, and competition kitchen knife throwing. While Megashark vs. Giant Octopus takes multiple viewings to live up to its namesake 2 Headed Shark Attack is near flawless in its overall execution wasting no time by killing a group of wake boarders within the first two minutes of the film. Why go for dull plot exposition? Bring on the shark ravaging goodness and that’s exactly what The Asylum promises and delivers upon in spades. If you’re a bad movie aficionado, like me, then you’ve probably built up sort of a immunity to watching trash cinema and in doing so you now actually encourage the film to kill off all the irritating characters with stone cold precision. 2 Headed Shark Attack wipes the floor with 99.999% of the cast and it does it so quickly that you’ll get an adrenaline high that lasts until the next victim bites the big one. The funny thing is that this never becomes overly cliched either you get someone dropping a horribly quipped one liner one moment and then quicker than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious they’re in the belly of the beast trying to read Louisiana license plates realizing that they forgot to pack a flashlight. This is another Asylum feature where there are some spectacular locations to take in plus I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneity that the filmmakers took here where they didn’t keep everyone fighting for survival on just a broken down boat. Moving the action to an atoll made for a great change of pace because it gives the group what they think is a safe haven but when sudden earthquakes begin to rip everything apart all the survivors know that they are now royally screwed. Looking at the acting both Brooke Hogan and Carmen Electra were able to hit their marks respectively more so than any of the other actors featured but in many regards there isn’t anything that they add to the movie as a whole. Electra is well past her prime looking like she had to trim down quite a bit to fit into a swim suit and even when viewers get a scene of her tanning its nothing like almost two decades earlier when posters of her were selling like hotcakes. Brooke Hogan, on the other hand, is a Jill of all trades including a pop singer, a model, has followed in her father’s footsteps by being a professional wrestling personality of sorts, and now with her trying to become a respectable actress the only thing she does in 2 Headed Shark Attack (way too much I might add) is flaunt herself in a bikini top. Charlie O’Connell proves that he can handle any part that his brother would most likely pass on without a second thought. It was such a blast watching this guy all the while thinking to myself ‘Hmmm, I wonder how Jerry would deliver that line???’ Witnessing a 2 headed shark devour everything in its sight is the main reason to drop rental money down on this and in doing so I have to ask – is it weird that I secretly obsess over wanting to see a major network pick up a sitcom with both the 2 headed shark and Charlie O’Connell working together to solve bizarre crimes on the high seas? Personally I think that has the words smash hit written all over it.

Final Grade: C+

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 22: Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012)

The Great Emancipator, The Great American Ass Kicker!
The Great Emancipator, The Great American Ass Kicker!

Synopsis: While the Civil War rages on, President Abraham Lincoln must undertake an even more daunting task – destroying the Confederate Undead.

Over the course of the history of the film industry there have been many portrayals of Honest Abe whether its Frank McGlynn, Sr or Robert V. Barron to more recent interpretations from Benjamin Walker and Daniel Day Lewis.  2010 would see Lincoln’s popularity soar to new heights in the most unusual way when author Seth Grahame-Smith gave the world an interesting horror/alternate history mash up cleverly titled Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter about how the future 16th president led a secret life hunting down and killing unholy bloodsuckers. The book became an instant hit and a couple years later would spawn a feature film adaptation in which the aforementioned Benjamin Walker starred in the title role. Before the movie had a chance to hit theaters the masters of mockbusters over at The Asylum struck with their own alternate version of history as President Lincoln had an even bigger threat to conquer besides slavery – a zombie outbreak. Like any Asylum production the normal rules of right and wrong don’t apply and absurdity ultimately wins the day. Someone must have dropped acid before they cracked open a U.S. history book and took almost every major historical icon from the era and intertwined them into the story. Besides Lincoln himself the cast of characters are rounded out by a young Teddy Roosevelt, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, future Wild West lawman Pat Garrett, and the infamous John Wilkes Booth who is working as a double agent planted inside Lincoln’s secret service. Everything is set into motion with Abe in the middle of writing The Gettysburg Address but then he is quickly interrupted and informed of a mysterious outbreak that has hit in a southern fort where people who have succumbed to the disease reanimate as the mindless walking dead and have an intense craving for living flesh. Reminded of an earlier incident that took place during his youth in which he lost both of his parents Honest Abe immediately jumps into action by personally leading a group of men on a daring mission to stop this infestation from spreading throughout America. Okay on second thought whoever came up with this is an absolute genius because for as absurd as it sounds you have to witness the beautiful carnage that is unleashed in this mockbuster masterpiece for yourself, its simply a sight to be seen. Where else are you going to get the opportunity to watch a legendary U.S. president running around lopping zombie’s heads off with a retractable scythe? Good luck trying to find anything the likes of that on the History Channel and if you’re expecting Spielberg’s overly dramatic Lincoln to be a man of (kicka$$) action I hate to break it to you but you’re going to be severely disappointed.

When I first watched Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies during the summer of 2012 I couldn’t believe how thoroughly enjoyable the finished results were. This ranks in as the absolute best Asylum film and I have no problems putting the Direct 2 Video Dungeon seal of approval on this bad boy. If you love getting friends together for a bad movie night Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies goes right to the very top of the list of recommendations. As someone who saw Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter in 3D I’ll admit that I had a lot of fun with both the blockbuster and the mockbuster yet it’s watching Abe wield a scythe like a madman that ends up getting higher replay value in this household. Anyone who goes into Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies with a serious attitude needs to get off their high horse and leave your brain with one of the undead. If there was any one complaint its that a lot of the actors used fake beards which is a tad unfortunate as if there had been a six month prep period there might have been several actors who would’ve given Kurt Russell and the rest of the cast of John Carpenter’s The Thing a run for their money in the most manly facial hair department. Apart from that ALvZ is a fun filled horror mash up chalked full of blood, brains, and gore so what are you waiting for? Nothing helps celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday better than watching the 16th president open up a can and dispense it in grand low budget fashion.

Final Grade: A

Schlocktoberfest 2K16 Day 20: Megashark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)

My advice to Mega Shark and Giant Octopus is go listen to War's Why Can't We Be Friends and resolve their differences.
My advice to Mega Shark and Giant Octopus is go listen to War’s Why Can’t We Be Friends and resolve their differences.

Synopsis: The California coast is terrorized by two enormous prehistoric sea creatures as they battle each other for supremacy of the sea.

Ever since Stephen Spielberg’s rise to fame through the little tale of a killer great white shark going by the name of Jaws filmgoers have had a bloodthirsty obsession with the ocean’s greatest predators. In the near four decades since a wide array of copycats have tried unsuccessfully to seize the same sense of unknown terror that looms off shore. In the case of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus it’s a standard monster flick set up with a pair of scientists (one of them being Debbie Gibson) stealing a submarine and studying the migration patterns of whales while at the same time a military helicopter drops some experimental sonar transmitters in the same area disrupting the whales to the point where they crash into a nearby glacier freeing a hibernating Megalodon and a ginormous octopus. With chompers and eight arms unleashed on the modern world they quickly choose to take several millions years of pent up aggression out on a dumbstruck society. As time begins to run out and few options remain Gibson takes charge leading a ragtag bunch of scientists and a pony tailed Lorenzo Lamas into battle desperately searching for a way to deal with this terrifying double dose of teeth and tentacles. Realizing that contemporary artillery is having little to no effect on either beast and inspired by the legendary boxing match Thrilla In Manilla between Muhammad Ali and Smokin’ Joe Fraizer humanity’s last hope is getting these two monsters to battle one another in a fight to extinction.

Throughout the history of mankind there have been some truly dastardly pair ups – Frankenstein vs. The Wolfman, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, Joe vs. The Volcano, Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, and who could forget a rivalry intense as Vanilla Ice vs. Justin Bieber however all those pale in comparison to the monumental showdown between the notorious Megashark and Giant Octopus. I mean go ahead and try to get an appointment with wildlife expert Jack Hanna or wait until next August and tune into Shark Week on Discovery Channel chances are they won’t even acknowledge the age old question – Why do sharks and octopuses have such an undying hatred for one another? It remains one of those mysteries the likes of how far is up? Or why is the sky blue? Sure you could look long and hard and incorporate all sorts of scientific theory but as one day comes to a close and another begins it is easier to go with simple logic that both animals just can’t stand to be in the general vicinity of one another. In fact once the opening title logo pops up on the screen and these two prehistoric enemies are unthawed that’s exactly what they do, they head off on separate paths. I really can’t blame them for doing so as imagine getting into an intense argument with your roommate over who ate the last bag of Oreos when all of a sudden a freak ice age ends up cryogenically freezing you for 25 million years and then a weird accident ends up waking you up. Would you continue belittling one another immediately afterwards or would you suddenly realize that the world has drastically changed so nothing else really matters except exploring this new unknown. The Asylum has set up a film in which works well on one side of the coin whenever the Megashark pops up out of nowhere and causes a lot of collateral damage yet whenever Giant Octopus tries a relatively similar approach it becomes painfully repetitive. No matter how many times you see an octopus there’s nothing to get excited about it always has the same eight apendages so watching a tentacle fly out of the ocean and take down a navy aircraft or destroy an oil rig is about as exhilarating as working on your taxes or catching a marathon of The Boring World of Niels Bohr. Megashark vs. Giant Octopus teaches viewers valuable life lessons the likes of ‘Don’t love the ocean too much, it doesn’t love you back!’ or if you’re traveling on a jumbo commercial airliner and some turbulence begins to rock the plane whatever you do don’t tell the stewardess that you’re getting married in two days. Such a proclamation will only bring about the harbinger of death as well as an entirely new meaning to the idiom – Jumping the Shark. If you’re up to tackling this beast head on it’s going to take a pretty strong will and a high tolerance of bad acting from pretty much everyone who appears in front of the camera. As for the epic final confrontation between monstrosities there isn’t really much to write home about other than realizing you could probably be inspired to design a better ending with a keg of Old Milwaukee and a 10 year old copy of Adobe’s After Effects.

Final Grade: D+