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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tarzan: Wages of Sin (2003) – Review

In the previous episode Detective Jane Porter’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) insanely jealous boyfriend, Detective Michael Foster (Johnny Messner), tried to kill Tarzan (Travis Fimmel), but instead he ended up taking a high dive off a ten store building. Jane took Tarzan to his Aunt Kathleen (Lucy Lawless) to keep him safe from his Uncle Richard (Mitch Pileggi) who wants Tarzan for his controlling shares of Greystoke Industries.


Episode 3 “Wages of Sin”

This episode opens with Tarzan trashing his room at his aunt’s place, eventually breaking a window and escaping out into the night. Why is acting like a complete ass to a person who is only trying to help him you ask? Well maybe living in the jungle has given him claustrophobia, but as Katherine mentions later, “Do me a favor, if you do want to leave just…um…open the window.” So we have Tarzan acting like a petulant child who doesn’t seem to like the world he is now trapped in. Not very heroic but could be interesting. This is not the adult Tarzan as written by Burroughs, but more of a realistic take on a person with stunted maturity caused from living alone for most of his life. The one problem with this is that it makes it incredibly hard for us to understand Jane’s infatuation with Tarzan. Sure he is a hunky guy with great abs, but is that enough to win over a modern woman?


“I wonder if Tarzan would like to join my book club.”

Tarzan stalks Jane to the funeral of Detective Foster, where he beats up a bunch of Richard’s goons, and then he pops buy Jane’s apartment where he finds her is less than thrilled to see him as she blames Tarzan for her fiancé’s death, and she tells the jungle boy to beat it. Later at work Jane and her partner, Detective Sam Sullivan (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.), are given the job of assisting the FBI in a kidnapping case concerning the snatching of a small boy, but when the ransom drop goes south Jane turns to Tarzan for help. Now how can Jane locate a wild man in New York City, one who she had just told to get lost? Well she simply wanders down the first alley she finds and calls his name. This works because he is still bloody stalking her. I’m sorry this is not romantic, and Tarzan’s attitude throughout this episode is borderline sociopathic.


“I need you to track a kidnapped little boy, and also STOP STALKING ME!”

When Tarzan tracks the boy's scent all the across the city to where the boy was held they only find the kid’s dead dad. As it turns out the father was in on it, he had some major gambling debts, and all the family money belongs to the wife. The police procedural element of this episode is thin and generic, been used at least a half a dozen times on Law & Order, but the Tarzan tracking stuff is beyond stupid. That he could track Jane across Manhattan I chocked up to them having some kind of psychic bond, but now we see him sniff the child’s teddy bear and somehow be able to track the scent through a concrete jungle. Now the Tarzan in the book was an excellent tracker, but the idea of him being able to follow a scent through New York City is ridiculous. Even if the smog and millions of other wonderful smells of the city didn’t drown out this one particular scent it would still rely on the kidnappers dragging the child from abduction scene to their hideout by foot. Or is Tarzan also capable of tracking a panel van through the city?


At most this would lead him to the nearest Toys R Us.

When Jane’s partner asks how she was able to find this location she responds with, “I followed some leads” which doesn’t really fly, mainly because she has no “leads” to back up such a stupid statement, and also Sullivan isn’t an idiot. The only person who could possibly have tracked that kid down would be Tarzan, and when he interviewed the prep school thrill junkies from the last episode they described being beaten up by a guy with long hair and bare feet. So Sullivan knows that Tarzan is alive and that Jane has been lying to him, and also this Tarzan bloke is somehow responsible for Foster’s death. She asks Sullivan to trust her but he tells her, “I will not lie for you.


“I won’t lie for you, but also won’t immediately take this to the Captain.”

Jane does eventually use actual investigative skills to track down where the father’s partner has the kid, a junkyard owned by the mother’s family, but it’s up to Tarzan to sniff out which abandon car the kid is stuck in. This is apparently enough to seal Sullivan’s lips and he joins the Tarzan cover-up conspiracy, because that’s how police officers think. You help solve a crime it absolves you of one of your own. Makes perfect sense to me. Tarzan eventually returns to his aunt’s place and while wandering around the roof he discovers a skylight that leads to the room he had as a child. Apparently this is the wing of the house that Katherine closed off when her brother and his family went missing, and she has touched nothing of it since. This is also supposed to explain an overgrown greenhouse he finds, but I’m betting an uncared for penthouse conservatory would just be full of dead plants after twenty years.


“Can I turn this place into my Tarzan Secret Lair?”

Only three episodes in and the wheels of this show are seriously wobbling. Jane is a wishy washy woman he doesn’t know what to do about these feelings she has for this strange jungle man, while Tarzan himself is an immature stalker who seems to have just fixated on the first woman he ever saw. When Jane first encountered Tarzan in the original books by Edgar Rice Burroughs she was a 19th Century woman from the upper crust of society, so when she got all hung up on a “Forest God” with the body of a Michelangelo sculpture and the strength to defeat wild beasts with his bare hands, you can understand her attraction. Yet this modern retelling gives us a Jane who supposed to be a streetwise cop of the 20th Century, a person who would probably give this Tarzan about as much attention as she would a Chippendale Dancer.


Winner of this years Most Unlikely Couple Award is…Tarzan and Jane!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lucifer: Pilot (2016) – Review

Having your main character of your show be the personification of evil is certainly an interesting choice for Network television, but of course the Lucifer we get here isn’t quite the one from the Bible stories but is based on the version created by Neil Gaiman for his Sandman graphic novel series. He maybe “The Fallen One” but that doesn’t mean he is all bad…or does it?


“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

This isn’t the first DC character from their Vertigo line to make it to television, NBC attempted to make Constantine into a television series after failing to get a movie franchise out of the character, but it failed miserably due to the watering down of what is intrinsically a very dark character. Now Fox is giving it a go with Lucifer, and just going by the pilot I think they may heading down that same unfortunate road Constantine took.


 The pilot opens with title card telling us that, “In the beginning the angel Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and condemned to rule Hell for all eternity. Until he decided to take vacation.” This is certainly an interesting idea and whether this show will explore just how he pulled this off remains to be seen (or if it will be cancelled before we find out), but Lucifer walking the streets of Los Angeles could lead to some real fun television.


The show gets points for not using "Sympathy for the Devil" here.

We first meet Lucifer (Tom Ellis) being pulled over by a cop for a traffic violation, he is able to use his “dark powers” to get at the sinful side of the police officer which allows him to successfully bribe him. This is a playful Lucifer, more in keeping with the trickster type of god along the lines of Loki; he seems to be up here for a good time. What is equally interesting is that he is not wandering the Earth in disguise but will introduce himself to one and all as Lucifer Morningstar.  Nobody of course believes him.

Theology Note: The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate word meaning "the morning star" so basically he's going around calling himself Lucifer Lucifer.

He runs a bar called Lux and is doing his best to forget he ever ruled Hell. His best friend Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt) is a demon who does double duty as bartender and confidante. She seems unclear as to what her boss is doing here slumming with the mortals. We shortly meet Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) a dark-winged angel of the Holy Host who really despises Lucifer and orders him to get back to work running Hell. Seems Heaven is concerned with what all those demons and tortured souls may be doing without Lucifer overseeing things.


“Dad says, go to your room.”

This begs the question, “If Lucifer can just abdicate his job as ruler of Hell why did he wait so long to do so?” He was cast down there as punishment for rebelling against God, so I'm not quite sure how you can quit that gig. Which brings us to one of the major problems I see coming with this show, the dancing around of the theology of this particular version of God and Lucifer. Is this show’s God the absentee landlord we got in WBs Supernatural? Or are we going to find out that God isn’t allowed to directly influence things on Earth, which I’ve always found to be a big cop out. He can send an angel to order Lucifer back to work but he can’t force the issue himself?


“If he wants me, he knows where to find mind.”

But this show isn’t just about The Fallen One and his family issues it’s also a police procedural, and that’s where it really falters. The “Case of the Week” we get for the pilot is the murder of pop star Delilah (AnnaLynne McCord) who Lucifer at some point in time helped her with her career. She drops by Lux to ask Lucifer if she had “Sold her soul” to become famous. How she wouldn’t know this is beyond me. Did she think she signed away her soul while in a drunken stupor? Regardless while walking out of the club with Lucifer she is gunned down by a drive by. Lucifer is determined to find out the one responsible and see that they are punished.  This is of course showing us a softer side of the Devil than we are use to seeing.


I wonder if I called Dad he’d tell me who did it.

Now we meet the show’s second lead in the form of Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) who is assigned the Delilah murder case. Her ex-husband Dan (Nicolas Gonzalez) is also a homicide detective and he urges her to make this a simple open and shut case (why is never made clear other than to show he is a douchebag), but Chloe wants to do a thorough job which somehow entails teaming up with Lucifer Morningstar. And here is where the premise of the show gets really wobbly. If we let slide that a L.A. homicide detective would cruise around town with club owner, one who claims to be the actual immortal Lucifer, on a case that tangentially involves him is one thing (and that is a pretty big slide we are allowing here), but we are now expected to see her teaming up week in and week out with him on more cases. This makes even less sense than Detective Jane Porter teaming up with a jungle man to fight crime in the 2003 Tarzan series.


She even allows people to assume she is his partner.

I may not be an expert on the criminal code but even I know that impersonating an officer of the law is a big no-no, and I’m assuming at some point her fellow officers are going to ask who the hell that guy is that is helping her out on all these cases. We learn that due to a past event concerning a police shooting she is now ostracized by her fellow officers, and thus no one will be her partner, but I’m sorry a cop cannot have a civilian for a partner. Even in the zaniest buddy cop movie both people involved were actually cops. Even Hooch in Turner and Hooch was a police dog.


This is no 48 Hours.

At one point during their investigation they go to talk to Delilah’s psychiatrist (Rachael Harris) to find out who she was having an affair with, and Lucifer uses his super sexual powers of attraction to get the name from her and clinches the deal with an offer of powerfully sinful sex, yet at the end of the episode he returns to her for not just the promised sex but for her professional help as well. Clearly the writers were fans of The Sopranos.


I wonder, does the Devil have a good HMO?

Now for what works. Tom Ellis seems to be having a lot of fun playing Lucifer, and his chemistry with Lauren German is quite good. How the show develops this relationship will be one of the more crucial things that will decide if the show lasts or is cancelled. At the end of the episode she is not sure how he survived being shot at because she still doesn’t quite believe he is the Lucifer Morningstar, and this kind of thing can get old real fast.  I hope by the second episode she comes to grips with who she is actually working with.


“We can’t tell my mother, she is very Catholic and wouldn’t understand.”

Of course once she finally believes he is who he says he is the next problem will be in giving us a plausible reason for why she doesn’t grab her cute daughter (Scarlett Estevez) and run for the hills.  I’m also not completely sold on them being able to make a solid action drama when one of the main characters cannot be harmed by anything less than an act of God. Kind of takes the tension out of gun play and car chases. So yeah, I’m not quite sure this premise will work over the long haul, as likable as the lead characters are the very premise is just too shaky to function as such. I could be wrong, and really I hope I am, but if this makes it to season two I will be quite surprised.


Unless Lucifer whammies the ratings.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Roar (1981) – Review

Do you know what you get when you stick a family in a bungalow full of hundreds of big cats? Answer: You get a bloody big cat-astrophe.  Director/producer/writer/star Noel Marshall, along with real life family, decided to spend eleven years making a film about a man living in Africa with a huge amount of big cats. How did it go you ask? Well the tagline for the film was, "No animals were harmed in the making of this film. 70 cast and crew members were." So yeah, it didn’t go all that well…at least not for the humans. Strangely enough this makes it a compelling, if not overly cinematic, film and worth checking out.  If just for the "What the fuck?" factor.


Roar is not really a “Man vs Nature” story so much as it a “Moron vs Nature” for this movie is about an idiot who thinks that living with 9,000 pounds of killing fury is some kind of noble experiment. We are introduced to Hank (Noel Marshall) as he doctors some local natives, but helping humans isn’t Hank’s real deal, no he has a mini-preserve where he watches over a small army of big cats. To say Hank is eccentric would be the world’s biggest understatement. Think crazy cat lady only instead of a bunch of tabbies he has cats that can crush your skull like an eggshell.


I hope he didn’t forget the Kibble.

When a committee shows up to see if they are going to continue to fund Hank’s research (What his research is about is never made clear, something about lions and tigers living in harmony I think), and some of the committee are all for shutting down this crazy experiment. Now in most movies these would be the bureaucratic assholes that don’t understand the great work the hero is doing, but in this case they are completely in the right. This guy is fucking out of his mind. While talking to a member of the committee, a particular mean bastard who wants to shoot all of the cats, Hank spots some of the male lions fighting, and he runs over to break it up.


What kind of a psycho charges into a fight between lions?

The meeting comes to an abrupt conclusion when a couple of tigers climb into the boats the committee arrived in, and then proceed to maul them as they try and swim for their lives. It’s at this point Hank shouldn’t be endanger of losing his funding but should be more worried about going to jail. Maybe they don’t have reckless endangerment laws in Africa. But what the committee will or will not do about the lions and tigers is not the thrust of this movie as most the film’s running time has to do Hank’s family arriving from the States. Turns out Hank had recently separated from his wife Madelaine (Tippi Hedren) and this is some kind of reconciliation vacation, but when he fails to meet them when their plane arrives (His boat is sunk by tigers. Is that a thing tigers are known for doing?) they catch a bus to his place.


"I think dad bought the place from the Swiss Family Robinsons."

Along with Madelaine is her daughter Melanie (Melanie Griffith), and her sons John (John Marshal) and Jerry (Jerry Marshall).  The use of Noel and Tippi’s children’s real names is just odd, kind of makes this thing seem like the most fucked up family movie ever. For some unknown reason the cats, which practically filled every inch of this house and surrounding areas in earlier shots, have all decided to hide for some reason.   Maybe to surprise these new meals, I mean visitors.


“Shush guys, this is going to be great.”

When mom and the kids eventually meet the residents what follows is about fifty minutes of the family being terrorized by the big cats. The run from room to room, hide in lockers, water barrels, and even one idiot hides inside a fridge. They even try to escape by boat but apparently the elephants are in league with the cats and it trashes their ride.


Tarzan wouldn't have put up with this shit.

Much of these scenes are horrifying to watch as it clear that no one is really acting here, these people are really in danger. (Note: No one shows much acting chops during this film’s entire running time, but the lack of real script could be the culprit there) When you see a lion pulling on Melanie Griffith’s hair, and hear her screaming, “No!” It’s all rather unsettling.


As is seeing Tippi Hedren futilely trying to pull the cat off her daughter.

This whole section of the movie would have worked better if it had been sped up and overlaid with Benny Hill’s yackety sax music. As it stands the disturbing scenes of this poor family being terrorized is horrifying, and even more so by the strangely intercut comic scenes of Hank and his friend Mativo (Kyalo Mativo) trying to get back before everyone is turned into lion chow. This is clear case of a film being tonally deaf. Obviously Noel and Tippi care deeply for the plight of these endangered cats, and to be fair at no point do they vilify the cats that are attempting to maul these poor people, but the end result is a complete mess. There is a tacked on happy ending where Madeline and her kids realize that the cats were just fucking around as cats do, and we are then subjected to a horrible song overlaying the images of everyone getting along with the lions.


“Sorry Hank, we were just havin a bit of a laugh.”

Noel and Tippi produced this film at a cost of 17 million dollars, but the movie bombed disastrously taking in a meager 2 million dollars worldwide. That Noel and Tippi divorced one year later surprised no one. Eleven years of blood sweat and tears on failed project would be a strain on any relationship, but the facts surrounding the making of Roar have me wondering how she lasted that long. Here are a list of some of the injuries sustained by the cast and crew

• Melanie Griffith was mauled by a lion and required plastic surgery, requiring fifty stitches to her face.
• Cinematographer Jan de Bont was mauled and scalped by a lion on the set. He required over one hundred and twenty stitches to sew his scalp back from where a lion had bitten his head.
• Noel Marshall was attacked and severely injured by one of the lions in the film. He was hospitalized and it took him several years to completely recover from his injuries.
• Noel was attacked so many times that he eventually was diagnosed with gangrene.
• Tippi Hedren fractured a leg during production when an elephant bucked her off its back when she was riding on top.
• Hedren also received thirty-eight stitches when a lioness bit the back of her head.
• Assistant Director Doron Kauper was attacked and mauled by a lion; his throat was bitten open from whereupon the lion proceeded to bite his jaw and attempted to rip an ear off.
• John Marshall was bitten by one of the lions and required fifty-six stitches.
• Jerry Marshall only took a bite through a tennis show. What a pussy.

How could stuff like that happen? Well it starts when you are unable to hire professional animal trainers because they all turn you down due to the insanity of your idea. So Noel and company just spent eleven years filming untrained animals in the hopes something good could be cobbled together from the mess. Their failure almost a forgone conclusion. On the plus side Roar has now achieved cult status, and Tippi Hedren herself still manages a wildlife preserve. So out of all that pain and suffering, some of it from the audience themselves, the film can now be looked back as the bizarre and insane project it was.


A noble if also incredibly dumb project.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tarzan: Secrets and Lies (2003) – Review

In the pilot episode we saw Detective Jane Porter (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Tarzan (Travis Fimmel) teaming up to fight the Inferno Killer, in the ensuing fight and explosion the serial killer blew up and Tarzan was assumed dead as well. Jane’s boyfriend, Detective Michael Foster (Johnny Messner), decided this was the perfect opportunity to propose marriage to Jane. A shell-shocked Jane asks for some time to think, but that very night things get even more complicated when a very much alive Tarzan shows up at her window.


Episode Two: “Secrets and Lies

A love triangle in this type of show is certainly nothing new, and even Tarzan from the books had to deal with rival suitors, but in the case of Detective Foster we are mostly confused as to why Jane was dating this douchebag in the first place. After her traumatic night fighting of flame throwing serial killers Jane has to put up with Foster showing up at her apartment to tell her that he won’t “pressure” her about his proposal, but the minute he suspects Tarzan is alive practically demands she say yes. When she won’t he rescinds the proposal and then runs off to Greystoke CEO Richard Clayton (Mitch Pileggi) to work on a plan to capture Tarzan.


"I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten."

Just why does the billionaire head of Greystoke Industries want John Clayton/Tarzan so badly? Turns out the three Greystoke siblings; Tarzan’s father John Senior, Richard and their younger sister Kathleen (Lucy Lawless) each held a third controlling interest of Greystoke Industries, but with John Senior dead Richard and Kathleen have been fighting for the outstanding third for years. This Trust is worth just under six billion dollars and Richard thinks that if he can control his brothers “mentally challenged” heir he will win the battle for the Trust. Thinking the enemy of my enemy is my friend Jane approaches Kathleen informing her of John Juniors alive status and asks for help, but Kathleen believes Jane is either working for Richard or just another dupe, and kicks her out.


Kathleen Clayton, billionaire publisher and warrior princess.

As this show is also a police procedural we have to have a case for Jane and Tarzan to solve, and tonight’s villains are a bunch of thrill seeking prep school asshats that run around Central Park in ski masks to hunt young women. Tarzan arrives just as these bozos are going to start cutting up their victim, and he easily tosses them around, but when Tarzan turns to help the poor girl up she cries out, “Don’t hurt me.” This stuns Tarzan as he doesn’t realize his wild animalistic fighting style is kind of frightening, but before he can explain that he has no intentions of hurting her, the police show up and he must flee.


Women, go figure.

To prove Detective Foster is even a bigger dick he tries to railroad a young black man ,who was in the park at the time committing a misdemeanor, for the assault. Through Tarzan Jane knows that all the assailants were white and so she ends up meeting Tarzan in the park to track down the real attackers.

Note: She gives Tarzan shit for saving the girl because it risks exposing to the world that he is still alive, and that is a strange reaction for a cop.  I guess having a hunky jungleman as boy toy is worth the lives of a few New Yorkers.

Unfortunately Detective Douchebag followed her and brought along Richard Clayton’s security team. They Taser Tarzan and load him into the back of an SUV, but Jane handcuffs Foster to his car and rescues Tarzan.


“Don’t you dare stand between me and those dreamy abs.”

This is when the episodes kind of goes off the rails. Tarzan hears another cry for help from deep in the park and he and Jane race to see what is up. They discover an injured woman, bleeding from multiple cuts, and she tells them which way her assailants went.

Note: So these teen thrill junkies just chase after and cut up women, but no rape or murder? Clearly these are early PG villains for the WB.

Tarzan catches up to them in a parking garage and beats the crap out of them, but Foster overheard Jane’s call for back-up on the radio and arrives in time to catch Tarzan, and by catch I mean repeatedly shoot at him while he tries to get away. I know this guy is jealous of whatever feelings Jane has for this jungle hottie but trying to kill the dude seems a bit too far to me, especially if you are a cop. I bet his deal with Richard Clayton wasn’t to deliver a corpse, so if he had succeeded he’d not only have a pissed off Jane on his hands but also a pissed of billionaire with powerful connections.


“He was unarmed and barefoot, I had to shoot him.”

Jane catches up with the two testosterone filled men on the roof of the parking garage, she does seem a bit miffed at Foster for shooting Tarzan, but she goes into this stupid, “Blame me, not him” schtick instead of reading Foster the riot act. This guy has been nothing but a completely creep, betraying you and this guy you were trying to help, and you still profess to have feelings for this jerk? Two episodes in and Jane is really not coming off as a very strong character. On the plus side when Tarzan goes to kiss Jane an enraged Foster tackles the Ape Man, and the two men go off the edge of the roof. Tarzan manages to grab the edge, and with the other hand hold onto Foster, but that arm is the bloody injured arm and he is unable to keep hold. Foster then falls to his death.


Not a moment too soon if you ask me.

Jane then gives Tarzan shit, “What were you doing up here? Why did you have to fight him?” Um, he was running for his life while your asshole boyfriend tried to ventilate him, that’s why. Jane is doing her best here to make me hate her.  To make matters worse a shadowy figure in a distant window witnessed the whole thing. So now we have the cops, led by Janes partner Detective Sam Sullivan (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.), hunting for this cop killer and whoever this mysterious voyeur is.


I hope this turns out to be The Cigarette Smoking Man.

Jane takes Tarzan to his aunt Kathleen, who with one look she realizes that Tarzan is her long lost nephew John, and a distraught Jane takes off to deal with the fallout of her dead fiancé. Jane is very distraught throughout this entire episode, and that is not a good thing. A Tarzan show should be fun, and a Tarzan show where Jane is a cop should be totally badass, but that is not the case here. This Jane is a weepy girl who can’t decide which man she likes; the guy who doesn’t wear shoes and follows her around like a Cocker Spaniel, or the cop who doesn’t trust her, betrays her, and tries to murder his rival.


Detective Jerkwad being dead it should make her decision a little easier.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kill List (2011) – Review

Two hitmen walk into a church. Now that could be the set up to a terrible joke, or just a typical action scene from one of Hollywood’s many action movies, but when the priest in this film says, “Thank you” to the killer just before he takes a bullet to the brain, well that kind of clues one in to the fact that things may just be a tad more complicated than one had first supposed.


 Kill List defines the term “Slow Burn” as we are first introduced to Jay (Neil Maskell) and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring), a suburban couple arguing over money and Jay’s ongoing state of unemployment. Things get even a bit more uncomfortable when Gal (Michael Smiley), an old military buddy of Jay’s, and Gal’s new girlfriend Fiona (Emma Fryer) come over for a dinner party to add fuel to the fire, and as wine is consumed by the bottle the atmosphere gets a bit ugly, in a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf kind of way. Plates of food are thrown and the two friends end up wrestling on the front lawn, the whole dinner party basically going to shit, but just as you were thinking you may have popped in a Neil LaBute DVD into the player by mistake we find Jay and Gal hiding out in the garage talking about taking a job that involves killing three people. What is great here is that neither of these guys fit the Hollywood mold of movie hitmen.


More like an accountant and an owner of a seedy bar.

I admit to knowing nothing about the “Murder For Hire” business but I’m betting professional killers look more like these two rather than the Jason Statham or Tom Cruise type we see in countless action films. You’d believe these two could walk in and out of a place after killing someone and nobody would notice them. And it’s at this point that I’m settling in to watch what could be an interesting and realistic take on how soldiers returning from war find their only means of income is still in the killing business, but then we get that scene where their first victim smiles and thanks Jay for killing him.


Is this a man who has made peace with himself or is something weirder going on here?

And did I mention that their employer sliced open Jay’s hand so that they could sign the contract in blood? Yeah, if that isn’t a tip-off that you should maybe re-think your job prospects, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately aside from Jay and Shel’s little boy there isn’t a morally sound person in this film. Even Shel, the pretty young wife and doting mother, knows exactly what her husband is really up to, and is completely complicit in the decision on his killing three people for money. When Jay and Gal find out their first target is a priest they wonder if maybe he’s a pedophile, but whether he is or not they still plan on killing him. A job is a job. It’s also a job that gets more brutal and disturbing to the point that Gal, after seeing Jay beat to death their second target with a hammer, wants to just take the money they have and call it a day.


This movie is not for the squeamish.

I don’t want to get to much further into spoiler territory, but needless to say their shadowy employers are not too keen on the job being left unfinished, stating that if they do not complete the "kill list" they themselves will be killed along with their entire families. Which to be fair is something you’d expect from people who use blood to seal a deal. It’s when they go after the third target that shit really gets real, and has me offering a tip to any potential killers for hire out there, if you are staking out a target and you see this


…run the fuck the other way, and never look back.

Ben Wheatley’s 2011 horror/thriller deals in the theme “Money is the route of all evil” in about the most inexplicable way imaginable as it takes the viewer on a dark and disturbing journey that dares you to keep watching, and does no hand holding when it comes to answering the questions that the bizarreness almost demands. This is not a nicely wrapped up mystery thriller, it is a horror film with a capital H.


 What makes this film work is how the well the leads play their parts, so down to earth and believable, that when the movie starts to shift tone you are completely caught off guard, and Wheatley seems to be having fun pulling the bloody rug out from under us. Think of it as kind of, "What if Stanley Kubrick directed The Wicker Man movie?" So when you sit down to watch Kill List be patient, the horror is waiting just around the corner.
one had first supposed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Absolutely Anything (2015) – Review

What would you do if you could do absolutely anything? This is the question writer/director and Monty Python alum Terry Jones posits in his movie Absolutely Anything, but what he really should have asked is, “Do I have anything funny or even remotely interesting to add to this age old premise?"


 And by age old premise I do mean age old, this movie is loosely based on an 1898 short story by H.G. Wells called The Man Who Could Work Miracles, which was later made in to a movie of the same name back in 1936, and has to do with an average Joe being given unlimited powers by a group of supreme beings. The wishes don’t go quite as our hero expects and merry hijinks ensue. Those of you who haven’t read the short story, or seen the original movie, will probably have at least heard of Jim Carrey`s Bruce Almighty which is basically the same idea though it replaced supreme beings with Morgan Freeman. For his entry Terry Jones goes with Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings instead of God or Angels.


He should have gone with Morgan Freeman.

The movie introduces us to disillusioned schoolteacher Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg), who dreams of becoming a famous author, but has not been able to finish even the one book he is working on. He is in love with his downstairs neighbour Catherine (Kate Beckinsale) who works of a cable network show about books.  She is also disillusioned by the cynical nature of her job, her boss Fenella (Joanna Lumley) has authors on her chat show only to make fun of them, and to make matters worse Catherine has to contend with a stalker ex-boyfriend (Rob Riggle) who insist they are destined to be together. Over lunch Neil and best friend Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar) discuss what they would do if they could do “Absolutely Anything” (you could start a drinking game with the amount of times someone says the title of this movie), but do to the machinations of the aforementioned Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings, (voiced by John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones) Neil suddenly has the ability to do absolutely anything. Turns out these Superior Beings, upon the discovery of our Voyager probe, decided to test whether Earth should be destroyed by giving one random Earthling absolute power.


Simon Pegg, our everyman.

Neil has ten days to show that Earthlings can use absolute power for good rather than evil. Before realizing he has any kind of power Neil accidentally blows up his classroom of unruly children, but once he understands what is going on he wishes for all those dead to now be alive. This of course results in every person who has ever died to start crawling out of their graves. And that is the major thrust of the movie as Neil has basically got the infinite Monkey’s Paw. Anything he wishes for will be taken literally and go horribly wrong…or at least not quite the way he intended. When he asks for a larger penis he gets one so big he collapses under its wait, he then asks for a great body and he finds himself with the figure of a female supermodel.  He then tries to correct that by asking for the body of a “Great Man.”


Get it? He wasn’t specific about a “Great Man” so he turned into Albert Einstein.

That’s comedy folks. Eventually he gets the buff bod with six pack abs he wanted, but then we never see him with that body again. Did he decide being physically fit was too much work? Or was he worried his sudden fitness would freak out his friends? These and many more issues like that this script brings up but then never address.  And this is one of the films crucial missteps, almost all the thing he wishes for are just for that “in the moment” site gag and not for advancing character or plot. We quickly learn that his abilities include being alter people mentally; he turns gruff headmaster (Eddie Izzard) into a Neil Superfan, and makes one of his fellow female teachers worship his friend Ray. But in a plot convenient moment the device the aliens use to grant power breaks so that when Neil wishes for Catherine to love him he is unaware that she is actually sleeping with him of her own volition.


Yeah, I don’t buy that either.

You see a drunken Catherine was urged by her friend to just run upstairs and jump Neil in a scene that is less believable than any letter from Penthouse forum. Now when Catherine learns that Neil has the ability to manipulate people she is horrified and flees because there is no way you can be in a relationship with a person who can turn you into anything they want. That scene being the only truly honest moment in the movie.  I won’t get further into spoilers, not that anything could spoil this unfunny mess, but just so you know eventually Neil will learn the true meaning of Christmas…or something like that.  To be honest I may have nodded off towards the end.


Photo here of how Terry Jones got Simon Pegg to sign up for this crap.

This is the first film Terry Jones has directed in almost twenty years, and it shows, the plot is almost non-existent as its just there to string a bunch of CGI gags together, and there is a almost complete lack of humor, which considering the cast is of this movie is the real crime here. This is not something you expect from a film by one of the original Monty Pythoners, one that not only stars the brilliantly funny Simon Pegg but it has the last performance of the late great Robin Williams (he voices Neil’s dog Dennis), and includes the entire Python gang for probably their last time together on film. That makes this movie not only a crime against cinema put possibly against humanity itself.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tarzan: The Pilot (2003) - Review

In the past one hundred years there have been many versions of Tarzan, from the big screen to the small one, but in 2003 the WB Network decided to update the Tarzan story to a modern setting with a whole new origin story, and with the added twist of making it part police proceduralThat is certainly an interesting idea, as is casting an Australian ex-Calvin Klein model in the title role, but the show only lasted eight episodes before being cancelled which begs the question, “Just how bad was it?” The show’s creator Eric Kripke, who would later go onto to create the long running show Supernatural, has made his feelings clear calling it, “A piece of crap.” But is it really that bad?

WB Tarzan

 The pilot begins with a very good cold open. Somewhere in New York City a half-naked man is tied to a table in some kind of lab, and he is surrounded by nervous men with guns. A man in a lab coat enters the room to “borrow” some blood from the bound man, but apparently the captive does not take it too well.


I’m betting his HMO will not cover this.

The man is of course Tarzan (Travis Fimmel), and he explodes out of the operating room in a bid to escape this high rise prison. I’ll certainly give the producers credit at least one thing, and that is for providing fight choreography that is bloody brilliant.  Travis Fimmel and the stunt team do fantastic work and of things wrong with this show the action scenes are not one of them. Tarzan flees to roof of this building, where he must take out even more security forces, before finally escaping. The last shot of the cold open is a stunning reveal that really hooks fans of Tarzan in.


The show’s chief villain is Greystoke, Tarzan’s family.

We are then introduced to Detective Jane Porter (Sarah Wayne Callies) who lives in a nice Manhattan apartment with her younger sister Nicki (Leighton Meester). Jane’s introduction gives me my first signs of foreboding; we first see her working out so that we can believe she could be a credible badass if needed, but then in the very next moment she’s showing her sister a news article about her boyfriend Detective Michael Foster (Johnny Messner) and dreaming about being as good as him. Feminism on television still needed a little work.


“Hey sis, isn’t my hunky boyfriend just the best?”

Said boyfriend is trying to catch this crazy arsonist known as The Inferno Killer (Kevin Durand), and even Jane’s partner, Detective Sam Sullivan (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.), is jealous of such a high profile case. Sam also thinks that this case, and an old case of his, could be connected. Their Captain (Gary Chalk) doesn’t have time for such silly speculations and assigns them to more suitable cases, like tracking down a pack of dogs that are terrorizing a neighbourhood. It’s while investigating this case of canine malfeasance that Jane first encounters Tarzan. They discover this half naked guy in an alley eating stolen food with a bunch of dogs, and Jane’s immediate reaction is to chase after and attempt to arrest this dude. (The NYPD are apparently harsh on the homeless problem as that’s what Tarzan looked like at a glance) When he escapes up the side of a building with the agility of a monkey she realizes this is no ordinary hobo.


He’s an incredibly dreamy looking hobo.

Jane strains to run him down but when she tries to attempt a jump between buildings to follow him she doesn’t quite make it, and Tarzan has to come back to rescue her, pulling her up with just one hand. Instead of a thank you Jane pulls out her gun and tells him, “You are under arrest.” Then she faints. *sigh* Just ten minutes in and Jane is certainly not showing us that she is any kind of supercop. Would any cop show out there, with a male in this role, have had him faint like this? Unless it was for some comic relief moment the answer is definitely no. In the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films Jane was most definitely from the damsel in distress school of femininity, but why would a show that is updating the story, and making Jane a police detective, go in that direction? In the Tarzan books by Burroughs Jane eventually became a badass in her own right, so why do so many adaptations fail to make her a strong independent character. And what does this show’s Tarzan do when faced with an unconscious and attractive woman?


He gropes her.

What in the bloody hell? This does not make me sympathetic to whatever plight is facing this Tarzan.  Feeling up an unconscious woman is not cool in anyone’s book. It is not helped by the fact that throughout this episode he is constantly petting or smelling her hair as if personal space isn’t something he is familiar with. And sure you are all saying, “But Mike, he was raised in the jungle and knows no better!” And you’d be right, but my problem is not with Tarzan’s action but with Jane’s. She just gets a dreamy faraway look in her eyes instead of slapping the creep like any self-respecting person would do.


Your actions normally would result in a knee to the groin, but you’re just too damn hunky.”

Before Jane can embarrass herself further a black helicopter arrives, a group of Greystoke security goons rappel down, Tarzan is shot with a tranq, and then taken away. A dropped locket, containing a picture of John Clayton, his wife and little boy leads her to Greystoke Industries and its powerful CEO Richard Clayton (Mitch Pileggi). Jane learns from Richard that years ago his brother, and head of Greystoke Industries, disappeared while on a photo safari with his family while they were flying across the Congo. Years later Richard and his people discovered the crashed plane, but also nearby was their surprisingly not dead son John, now all grown up, mentally unstable and mute. Richard takes Jane to see John/Tarzan but he is a bit shocked when the supposedly mute man leaps up and says, “Hello.”


"Well, Jane have the lambs stopped screaming?"

Later Tarzan once again escapes his uncle’s penthouse mansion (he should really look into better security), and then he crashes a romantic dinner date between Jane and her detective boyfriend. Now how did he find her in amongst all the buildings in New York City you may ask, well as much as I can tell he has some kind of “Spider-Sense” or I guess "Jane-Sense" would be more accurate.


Everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Ape-Man.

Jane and Tarzan take a walk through Central Park and when she asks how Tarzan found her his response is, “I hunt. I hunted for you.” And for some reason that is considered romantic and not incredibly creepy. This is my biggest problem with this pilot; they rush the romance element way to fast. Travis Fimmel and Sarah Wayne Callies (who we now know as Lori from The Walking Dead) do have excellent chemistry together, but their love story is treated almost like a psychic bond, and for me that makes it infinitely less interesting. Though to be fair their psychic bond is the only real way to explain how when Jane cries out in terror Tarzan can hear from inside a jail cell across town. As mentioned the action sequences are excellent, and when Tarzan must take on the Inferno Killer it’s a real showstopper, but Jane herself just gets knocked down and pinned beneath a shelving unit.


What are the chances of an elephant stampede rescue?

As pilots go it’s got a lot going for it. Great action, a mystery to solve, and a new mythology to the Tarzan story, all the trimmings for good television, and it does open up several interesting questions. What nefarious reasons does Richard Clayton have for hunting down his nephew and keeping him locked away? Will Jane dump her fiancée for this jungle dreamboat? Can Tarzan make a home for himself in the concrete jungle? So join me over the next eight weeks as I take a look at these eight episodes of a series forgotten by most, or at least Eric Kripke wishes were forgotten by most.


Tarzan and Jane together again for the first time.