About Me

My photo
United Kingdom
Mike Wilder brings you movie reviews. Each week a Selection of reviews for new releases and older films plus movie comparisons.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Review of Vanilla Sky (2001) by Mike

Title: Vanilla Sky (2001)

Original UK Release Date: 25th January 2002

Original US Release Date: 14th January 2001

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: R

Director: Cameron Crowe

Genre: Mystery/Romance

Plot: A Publisher’s life is in turmoil after a life changing and disfiguring car accident.

Mike's Review
This was a review at the request of my 200th twitter follower @AngelBrooke1. I had never seen this prior to viewing for the review and didn’t really know what to expect although I had heard it was a strange film.
The film is about David Aames (Tom Cruise) who is the head of a successful publishing company handed down to him by his father. David is involved in a terrible car accident and is horribly disfigured. He is seeing a shrink and suffering from hallucinations and realistic dreams and becomes unable to tell reality from fantasy.
As with many Tom Cruise films he takes centre stage and the film revolves around his character. For most of the film he is horribly disfigured and often wears a mask.
Fortunately he is one of the few actors that can pull this off, even when you can’t see his face due to the mask he still manages to portray pain and emotion. The rest of the cast including Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Timothy Spall, Michael Shannon & Tilda Swinton, are great. Cruise shines above all the other cast, but they all put in standout performances. It’s the strength of the actors that makes this film work, as when you get to the last quarter of the film you are as confused as David! If it wasn’t for the performances of the cast the confusion would be too much and would make the film fail. You realise that what you thought you were seeing and understanding isn’t there anymore. You have no idea what is real, what is staged and what is all part of David’s delusions.
The film loses you like no other. Just when you think you have it all figured out it all changes again and become lost all over again. But this is the mastery of the film. The performances keep you entertained, and the story keeps you guessing. The explanations are dangled in front of you but are left just out of reach. You begin to question the parts you believed were reality, were they real? A dream? Or a clever trick?
This is a masterpiece of film making from the direction, clever script and filming locations. The opening scene of Cruise running through time square complete devoid of other life is chilling.
This is a good film, compelling and moving. This is a Tom Cruise film unlike any other. Very little action and filled with pure emotion. Also for the fans a couple of scenes with him running and what Tom Cruise movie wouldn’t have a running scene! Tom Cruise is a great actor, one of the all-time greatest and in this he proves why he is one of the most highly regarded of his time. You probably won't like this if you’re not a fan of his, but if you are you are in for a treat.

9 out of 10

Additional Information


Review of Blade (1998) by Mike

Title: Blade (1998)

Original UK Release Date: 13th November 1998

Original US Release Date: 21st August 1998

UK Rating: 18

US Rating: R

Director: Stephen Norrington

Genre: Action/Horror

Plot: Half man half vampire Blade (Wesley Snipes) hunts down and kills vampires aided by Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and his array of weapons.

Mike's Review
With the trend of comic book characters turned into movies, I thought it would be fitting to go back to one of the best adaptions.
This is the story of Blade (Wesley Snipes) half man half Vampire. He has all the Vampires powers but none of their weaknesses. He battles on the side of humanity against the Vampires in a never ending battle. In this film he goes up against Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who is trying to take over the leadership of the Vampires.
There have been many comic book adaptions over the years. This is the movie version of one of the lesser known characters. Prior to watching this I knew nothing about the character. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Traci Lords & Eric Edwards. Snipes is perfectly cast as the lead character. He gets to use all his martial arts skills and he excels at looking mean and scary. He gets over the constant turmoil he is in being half Vampire and still having the taste for human blood but does everything he can to avoid it. It is Stephen Dorff who stands out as the evil ruthless nemesis to Blade. His over the top performance is perfect as an opponent to Blade and the two play off each other well.
Fortunately the film doesn’t try and tone the violence down in any way. These are pure traditional Vampires. They are mean and evil (and none of them sparkle!) until Blade kills them and they turn into fiery ash!
Stephen Norrington’ direction in this is great and the film uses more blood than any film before. He really doesn’t hold back and its fun and shocks from the very start. The action is amazing, from the martial arts fights to the sword play at the climax. Blood and death continue from the start to the finish of this movie, action horror at its very best.
Comic book movie adaptions have come a long way over the years and so have vampire stories, but if you want to see real vampires and over the top comic characters on the big screen, you really can’t go wrong with Blade.

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Review of Convoy (1978) by Mike

Title: Convoy (1978)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: 28th June 1978 (Limited Felease)

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: PG

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Genre: Action/Comedy

Plot: After a run in with an abusive sheriff, a group of truckers make a run for it, soon they are joined by other trucks in support of them, but can they get away?

Mike's Review
How good can a film be when it is based on a country song by C.W. McCall?
A trio of truck drivers get stopped by unscrupulous Sheriff Lyle Wallace (Ernest Borgnine). After they stop for food the Sherriff turns up and a fight ensues, the truckers make a run for it and head for Mexico persued by the police and with more and more truckers joining them along the way, the convoy attracts national attention.
The film stars Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young, Madge Sinclair, Franklyn Ajaye, Brian Davies, Seymour Cassel & Bill Coontz. But Ernest Borgnine truly steals the film in every scene he is in. playing a sheriff in a similar way that Jackie Gleason stole the show in the Smokey and the Bandit films as Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Two classic law enforcement officers who take their jobs a little too far.
The film was based on the lyrics to Convoy by C.W. McCall, however after the film was made he changed some of the lyrics to directly reference the film. Fortunately the song is catchy as it plays over most of the film.
Surprisingly, the film is very good. Especially when you consider that the plot is just a lot of trucks driving along a road! There is great action, great one liners and one of the best bar fights to hit the screen. It does turn in to a bit of a propaganda film with the truckers using the convoy to vent their frustrations about their working conditions, but over all this it a solid and entertaining film. It does look a little dated now, but this doesn’t detract from the entertainment value.
This is a fun film and definitely worth your time to watch it.
8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Ernest Borgnine as Sheriff Lyle Wallace

Review of The Descent (2005) by Mike

Title: The Descent (2005)

Original UK Release Date: 8th July 2005

Original US Release Date: 4th August 2006

UK Rating: 18

US Rating: R

Director: Neil Marshall

Genre: Horror

Plot: A group of friends exploring a remote cave system encounter mysterious and deadly creatures underground.

Mike's Review
I watched this with my girlfriend Kelly not knowing what to expect. We knew it was a horror, but it was also a British film. There are some great British films but would this be one of them?
The film is about a group of women who get together to explore a set of remote caves. During the expedition they encounter strange creatures and end up having to fight for their lives.
Staring Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring & Nora-Jane Noone. All the actresses are great in the roles of the six friends, however Natalie Mendoza stands out for me as Juno. There are undertones of something more with her character and her performance is eerie and mysterious.
This film is one of the best modern horror films I have seen. While many modern horror films fall under the category of torture porn like Saw and Hostile, this film doesn’t rely on gore and gross out moments to shock you. It manages it in traditional ways using subtle camera effects, building tension and good acting. The director is a genius in his ability to scare you. He builds the tension to a point where you feel you will burst. There are no cheesy moments just good old fashioned scares. And what scares they are. There are moments that truly scare and surprise you. This is one of the best horror movies and a very well made film. The intro is just long enough to give you a good background to the friends and then all hell breaks loose!
If you like classic horror movies check this one out. Keep the lights on and if you are watching with your girlfriend, watch out for your hands. Kelly was so scared I thought she would break mine when she squeezed it really hard when she jumped!

9 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Natalie Mendoza as Juno


Review of Road House (1989) by Mike

Title: Road House (1989)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: 19th May 1989

UK Rating: 18

US Rating: R

Director: Rowdy Herrington

Genre: Action

Plot: A bouncer is hired to help remove the bad element in a bar so the owner can refurbish and bring in a better clientele.

Mike's Review
It is time to go back and review some older movies as I have focused on recent releases lately.
So what kind of film do you get when you have great one liners, bar fights, guns, knives, egos, strippers, blues music, a polar bear and a monster truck? You get one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films of the late 80’s, Road House.
The film follows James Dalton (Patrick Swayze) a cooler (bouncer) and the best in the business, as he takes employment with Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) the owner of the Double Deuce in Jasper, Missouri. The bar is the roughest in town and he needs Dalton to clean it up. However corrupt business man and crime boss Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) stands in his way.
After the classic “chick flick” Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze was Hollywood gold. Women loved him and men wanted to be him. The film was full of romance. Then along came Road House, a complete opposite to Dirty Dancing, a little romance and loads of action.
The film has a great cast including Patrick Swayze, Kevin Tighe, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Marshall R. Teague, Red West, Kathleen Wilhoite, John William Young, John Doe, Kurt James Stefka, Keith David & Terry Funk. The cast works well together and it is full of great performances. Naturally Patrick Swayze at the height of his career stands miles apart from the rest of the cast as Dalton. A character that can hurt you with his words just as much as his fists. Tragically, 20 years later Swayze had his life cut short by cancer. His death is still a major loss to the entertainment industry, but his legacy will live on in the great performances and memorable characters he played. The film also a features a great performance by the late great blues guitarist Jeff Healey as Cody. It’s the music in the film that goes a long way to achieving the right feel for the film.
Everything works well from the characters, the music to the setting. Set in a rural area the scenery is breath-taking and it is used to great effect. But it’s the fight choreography that stands out from many other films. Great bar fights are pretty much a thing of the past, but here they are full of action and humour just like the classic westerns. The one on one fights are brutal, mainly for the realism they portray. The script is awesome and full of classic lines mainly from Dalton and although many are cheesy, when he says it, it feels right. The director surprisingly hasn’t made many films but the ones I have seen of his I really like and I know I am in the minority. See my review of Gladiator (1992) for more by this director.
This is truly a great film, although very underrated. It is also one of my personal all-time favourites. There are a couple of versions of this so ensure that you see the USA or UK version released after 2002 as these are the uncut editions. So grab a few beers and a few friends, but this on a big screen and turn the sound way up for a really great movie experience.

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Patrick Swayze as James Dalton


Thursday, 10 May 2012

A tale of two films and one plot Part 2: Terror in deep water

A tale of two three films and one plot 

Over the years film studios have produced some amazing and original films. Occasionally however studios produce similar films at the same time, it doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes films with almost identical plots are made and released very close together. In these circumstances is it worth seeing both films? Is the “big budget” film always the best? And do the stars of the film make a difference? I decided to go back and watch some examples of these back to back. Starting with whichever film was released earlier and comparing my viewing experience. These comparisons will have spoilers but shouldn’t impact on any viewing pleasure as I will try to keep the spoilers similar to what you would find out in a trailer.

Part 2: Terror in deep water

DeepStar Six
The Abyss
Date of US release
UK/US Rating
Working deep underwater, people encounter strange life forms. Then follows a struggle for survival.
Budget (Estimated)
Lifetime gross
Chart position of the year
Academy award nominations
Academy award wins
1 for Visual Effects
IMDb rating

The second of my comparisons is the only triple feature in the list. This time we have three deep sea movies featuring mysterious lifeforms.
The Abyss has been re-released as a special edition with an additional 28 minutes added to the film. For this comparison I used the original cinema release.
So which is better? The stats clearly show that The Abyss is the clear winner in every category even though it was released after the other two films. But for a viewing experience is it really better?
Surprisingly, all three of these movies are very good. They each have some form of deep sea structure and the inhabitants encounter very different but very dangerous life forms. DeepStar Six has mysterious creatures, Leviathan has genetic mutations and The Abyss features alien life forms. All the films have the inhabitants of the underwater structures facing certain death from the damage the facility sustains during the film.
The Abyss is a great film, (made better by the extended version), the effects are ground breaking. It was a tester for the director James Cameron for the effects that would then give us the liquid metal Terminator in Terminator 2. It clearly is miles ahead of the competition with regard to the visuals. This is shown as The Abyss won the Academy Award for best Visual Effects. The effects in the other two films are good but not great. However for lower budget films made in the 80’s they are more than adequate. Once again the cast is excellent in The Abyss Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Todd Graff, J.C. Quinn, Adam Nelson & Kimberly Scott. All fairly successful stars but DeepStar Six and Leviathan’s cast are also made up of fairly big stars of the time. DeepStar Six stars Matt McCoy, Taurean Blacque, Nancy Everhard, Greg Evigan, Miguel Ferrer, Nia Peeples & Cindy Pickett. Leviathan’s cast has more recognizable stars including Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster, Amanda Pays & Michael Carmine, who sadly died just after the film’s release. It is the cast members who enhance the films tremendously, many of them were at the height of their fame. But the cast of Leviathan stands out for me but only just when compared to The Abyss. They have to convey terror and panic more so than the other films and they rise to the challenge well.
Plot wise, while the themes are very similar, the main plots differ in regards to the danger faced. In The Abyss, they face an alien race living beneath the sea and watching humanity undetected. DeepStar Six has a mysterious and as yet undiscovered sea creature unwittingly released from a sealed cave. Leviathan has the most diverse creature, taken almost directly from John Carpenters The Thing (1982). A mysterious shipwreck is discovered and a virus contaminates the personnel in the film. The virus takes over their body and they are transformed into an alien-like life form. The film could have been a sequel to The Thing. Story wise Leviathan and DeepStar Six lose out to The Abyss. The characters have more depth and the film as a whole sucks you into the story and keeps you riveted. With the other films, the stories are good but not as engrossing. It is something we have seen before many times.
So the winner?
The Abyss. But considering it was made on a huge budget and was written and directed by James Cameron the other two really didn’t stand a chance but put up a pretty good fight! Cameron’s previous film was Aliens and he followed The Abyss with Terminator 2: Judgment Day already establishing himself as a major heavyweight in the film industry.

Coming Next Month

Part 3: Volcanos