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.
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.
Synopsis: In London, a military plane crashes leaving its highly classified contents strewn across the city. Completely unaware that the city is in lockdown, a group of people become trapped inside a storage facility with a highly unwelcome guest.
One of the primary reasons that I enjoy exploring the direct to video realm is that feeling of unpredictably. Independent film makers are not afraid to march to the beat of their own drum and will go for a lot of outside the box ideas that usually don’t fly too well in Hollywood. An idea in its simplest form can take audiences into unknown areas yet it usually depends on how well executed said idea can be once it becomes a reality. Today we’re going to be looking at an ambitious horror/sci-fi crossbreed that borrows from a wide assortment of inspirations including the reality television show Storage Wars, movies the likes of Alien, Super 8, Cloverfield, and various slasher elements which were taken from Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Whenever a director can build a tension filled thriller using an unknown evil and having a group of people trapped in an enclosed space its pretty much a given that you’re going to get something that will keep your heart beating a mile a minute. No one ever wants to be put into a situation where they have their back against the wall (both literally and figuratively) especially when intense situations can bring out a wide array of stressful emotions including anger, fear, denial, and paranoia yet its how we’re able to compose ourselves in those instances that will either help us escape harm or will lead to our eventual downfall.
This is undoubtedly a blood soaked gooey slime riddled alien infestation that die hard b-movie fans will have no problems warming up to. The first half hour is definitely the weakest part of the film with the build up to the alien reveal was rather excruciating but once that precise moment comes its wonderfully executed. Granted the scene plays out exactly like the reveal of the Xenomorph and there will be some that say it’s too much of a ripoff nevertheless when you notice the amount of detail that went into the overall design of this creature you’ll appreciate the old school tip of the hat to that genuine style of movie magic from two to three decades ago. If anything the alien in Storage 24 is what makes the movie a must watch. I loved the personality this thing had as it’s definitely not a distant cousin of E.T., he’s not here to make friends or phone home. When he comes into contact with humans he’s curious as to what makes us tick to the point where he ends up pulling the heart out of a victim as well as a couple other parts of the circulatory system. The main look is somewhat reminiscent of the Predator with the alien’s mouth being covered in mandibles and yet unlike the Predator he actually has a use for them by getting up close and very personal with any poor soul who tries to take this menace on in a fight. Overall Storage 24 fits into what I’d call the severely flawed masterpiece category as the negatives tend to focus on trying too hard to make viewers care for the main cast or having the ending itself rely on a Twilight Zone or Men In Black shock/twist that ultimately just felt pretty emotionless like it was tacked on for the sake of being nothing more than Close Encounters of the Cliched Kind.
Synopsis: The aftermath of the Oxygen Destroyer brings forth Destoroyah, a beast intent on killing Godzilla, who is on the verge of a nuclear meltdown.
Starting today and running for the next week in a limited North American theatrical engagement is the 29th Godzilla film in the long standing franchise (not including the two Hollywood versions) and the first Japanese Godzilla in 12 years. It’s with Shin Godzilla (which loosely translates as True Godzillla or God Godzilla and was at one point going to be released in the rest of the world as Godzilla Resurgence) where Toho has done something with a major property that very few movie studios could even dream of by licensing Godzilla’s likeness out to Hollywood to help build a multi-million dollar blockbuster franchise all the while having the creative freedom to continue forward with their own Godzilla productions that happen in completely independent universes. The beauty of having six decades worth of Godzilla is we’ve reached a point where if a person isn’t happy with how one incarnation of the King of the Monsters was handled they can move both backwards and forwards exploring how creature designs and the overall tones shifted with the ever changing times. I can’t think of any better time to be a Godzilla fan and with the constantly evolving manner that Toho is taking to keep their property as culturally relevant as when he first set foot out of Tokyo bay.
At first glance the designs of Shin Godzilla and Godzilla ’95 don’t share a lot of similarities in common that is unless you count how both are radical departures from what kaiju fans define as the quintessential Godzilla look. When Godzilla 95 first stomps into frame he’s a lot more bulkier and covered in glowing sores. The previews for Shin Godzilla have shown footage of the King glowing in an eerily similar fashion and considering I haven’t had the opportunity to see the finished product yet I can only assume that his glowing is a side effect of how he absorbs radiation. Focusing on Godzilla vs. Destoroyah it had always been the so called black sheep of the series where I didn’t want to view it in its entirety until it got a proper Blu-Ray transfer with the Japanese language track. Oddly enough the first time I watched it was last Halloween and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Released during the coveted Heisei era Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was the first Godzilla film to incorporate the bleaker messages and imagery of the 1954 original since The Return of Godzilla a full decade prior. References to the Oxygen Destroyer and having a plot point where there is a scientist following a similar path as Dr. Serizawa is where Godzilla vs. Destoroyah takes the series’ mythology into some bold new areas. Toho was also at their creative peak with their special effects work going beyond standardize miniatures and men in rubber suits. In my opinion this is where Suitmation crossed over from being an art form and reached a pinnacle of storytelling in the kaiju genre that since then hasn’t been reached. This is one of those rare accomplishments where in the year since my initial viewing I can sit here with goosebumps as I write this trying to imagine how in the hell the special effects crew were able to film this masterpiece without being driven to insanity. It’s one of those phenomenons that was designed to close out the Japanese film series for a while by passing the baton off to Hollywood. Unfortunately we all know how the first attempt at an American Godzilla went and it would take 16 years to course correct that mistake. I do find it somewhat ironic that back when Godzilla In Name Only was released in 1998 Toho was forced to end their sabbatical less then a year after Hollywood got the entire concept wrong. Now here we sit a couple years after Godzilla roared back on to the silver screen and Toho once again decided to end their sabbatical, not because of any negative feedback no instead this was to reaffirm that the king of the monsters could return in multiple forms bigger, badder, and more bad ass than ever. Once more – Welcome back king! Please stay around for as long as you see fit.
Final Grade: A+
*** Before closing out this year’s Godzilla entry I wanted to share an article that SciFiJapan did last year about the American Godzilla that unfortunately wasn’t. Some of you might be familiar with a few images of a Godzilla design the late great Stan Winston worked on. This was for that American Godzilla which would have been directed by Jan De Bont (Speed and Twister) and initially had Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt attatched to be in the lead roles. Check out the detailed article here — Godzilla Unmade: The Story of Jan De Bont’s Unproduced Tri-Star Film
Synopsis: Two brothers discover that the residents of a small Southern town are being infected by a form of toxic waste, turning them into blood-ravenous zombies.
Have you ever gone on vacation and no matter where you went whenever you came into contact with someone they ended up being real defensive against you even if you were just passing through. Sometimes it can be body language or being able to read individual personalities within minutes of coming in contact with another human that can rub others the wrong way. You might think you’re not doing anything wrong and even if you’re not staying long the slightest misstep could make the situation beyond uncomfortable. We’ve all experienced it at one point or the other whether we were the tourist whose destination is where ever the road leads or the person who has lived in a relatively small town for a majority of their life and doesn’t like it when complete strangers show up and disrupt the peace and solace of their tightly knit community. This is where my mind was at 30 minutes into Mutant (released theatrically as Night Shadows). Two brothers from the big city are traveling down south to get away from the turmoil of life in the suburbs when they end up driving recklessly and getting under the skin of some locals who decide to teach them a lesson by smashing their pickup truck into the brother’s convertible and ultimately forcing them off the road. The lesson here being if you act like stuck up a-holes the people you come in contact are not afraid to be even larger a-holes.
Mutant is undoubtedly a byproduct of the early 1980s trying to pass itself off as a zombie movie without actually referencing the Z-word. I say that because the undead in this don’t crave human flesh but human blood instead so technically wouldn’t that make them an alternate breed of vampire? There’s even a point where it is directly stated that these creatures have a weakness towards daylight (or any source of light in general) so screw horror movie logic – they’re vampires. Like thin plots that move at breakneck speed? Check out Mutant. Like getting your fill of confederate flags and Castrol GTX signs? Check out Mutant. Like laughably bad choreographed bar fights and seeing the local sheriff with a checkered past turning to a bottle of Wild Turkey? Ah yeah Mutant has you covered there as well. Wait, wait here’s the last one (I promise) do you enjoy hearing a somewhat creepy soundtrack drowning out the dialogue in parts of the film rendering pretty much every scare ineffective? Why are you still reading this? CHECK OUT MUTANT RIGHT F’N NOW! If you are not part of any of those demographics and are still wondering if Mutant is going to appeal to you no one has to worry their little heads about missing out on a cinematic milestone here. Apart from a practical effect or two the only other thing that made my eyes widen were seeing a couple stunt actors engulfed in flames from head to toe. Too bad the rest of the production couldn’t capitalize by giving audiences something radically different from Night of The Living (Toxic Vampire) Dead. Lastly I’d like to send my personal apologies to Wings Hauser’s perm Mutant should be avoided like a vat of industrial waste.
Throughout his illustrious career John Carpenter has been known the world over as The Master of Horror. The very mention of his name brings up memories of a director who could make the most out of a minuscule budget by crafting worlds with incredible depth thanks in part to using the best of drama, fear, paranoia, and claustrophobia to really get under an audience’s skin. Carpenter’s working relationship with Hollywood the last 15 years has been minimal at best. He ended up making a return to the director’s chair for 2010’s The Ward starring Amber Heard and just this past May made news by signing on to be an executive producer for the next film in the longstanding Halloween franchise.
In terms of how the man is keeping busy nowadays Carpenter has returned to his roots in another way by writing producing and recording brand new music along side his son Cody. Over the course of the last two years John has put out two albums of material called Lost Themes I & II and for anyone who grew up with a passion for synthesizers these albums feel like receiving a correspondence from an old friend that you haven’t heard from since the early 1980s.
Life has been keeping busy over the course of the last 12 hours so rather than try and put what little energy I have left into watching/reviewing a horror movie I decided that this was the more logical route to go. The music video for John Carpenter’s Utopian Facade premiered on Youtube at the end of last month and since then I’ve watched it countless times. The atmosphere is right out of the era where John was delivering some of his greatest masterpieces and yet it also feels like a disturbing take on the Tron universe. I have nothing left to say other than you can thank me later for the nightmare fuel…
Synopsis: A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
There was a point in time where I generally detested found footage movies even if the premise was something naturally appealing to me the moment I found out it was taking the found footage approach I’d work myself up into an inconsolable rage. My general frame of thinking would always be why would I waste my time trying to enjoy one of these when all I want to do is walk up to the person working the camera and tell them to take a few deep breaths, calm your nerves and just hold the damn thing steady. It is sort of difficult to find any entertainment value when you walk into a movie theater the lights go dim and then all of a sudden the camera starts shaking wildly and you have to run to the nearest bathroom because motion sickness gets the better of you. I mean doesn’t that sound like an absolute wonderful night out at the movies? You come home and your friends/family/loved ones ask how the film was and you’re like oh it was pretty entertaining up until the point where I almost redecorated the floor of the cinema with the lunch I had this afternoon. Over time my feelings have began to simmer as I found the best way to view the found footage genre is through the comfort of your own living room television set (quite the revolutionary concept, isnt it?). No matter the consensus the shaky cam technique has left its mark transitioning into action films like the Jason Bourne series and will most likely continue to be a thorn in the side of those who wish film makers would lock the camera down in one stationary position until the final credits roll.
Its no secret that I live and breath Kaiju (giant monster) movies so long as there is a giant creature rising out of the earth finding its way towards civilization and toppling over humongous skyscrapers reigning down chaos and destruction I’m front and center. Cloverfield remained out of my collection until I came across it in the value DVD bin and thought to myself you’re too good of a deal to pass up but I’ll never find any tolerable way to get any sort of fulfillment out of you. Then a strange thing happened one night out of the blue (to quote Doc Brown) I figured what the hell popped the disc in the Blu-ray player and hit play. I managed to make it through the movie and to my complete and utter surprise I said to myself you know what this really isn’t half bad. Yes the shaky cam can be a bit irritating however keeping the point of view solely from the perspective of a group of people witnessing a monster attack at the very moment it happens is something that up until 2008 had never been done before. I really didn’t care for having a bland love story as the jumping off point but where the saving grace takes form is with the comedic relief in a great character actor by the name of T.J. Miller. The footage is shot from his point of view and he’s always keeping the mood light through his witty banter. There’s a point where his group of friends are walking in a subway tunnel and he brings up an incident that happened years prior to the monster attack where a maniac was lighting hobos on fire in the very same area. It’s probably the most sporadic line of dialogue in the entire film and part of me wonders if Miller ended up throwing that line out there in a random take to see how the rest of the cast and crew would react. Regardless I have a newfound respect for Cloverfield that I didn’t when it initially hit. It takes some splintered elements from Godzilla and Gamera and presents them for the modern generation who are constantly documenting things on the fly then minutes later upload the footage for the entire world to see warts and all.
Final Grade: B
Hell is when the VCR starts eating your VHS collection & spitting the remains back out at you…