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Rating History

The Giant Claw
1 day ago via Flixster

Well 1950's cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc...In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc...So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there's a chance there's a 50's movie about it.

In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren't military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.

Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo...how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it...ah who cares, don't question it.

So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn't stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are...umm...beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn't too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc...all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.

Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn't afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc...Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.

The weird thing is at times the effects aren't too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there's all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.

Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn't think so, aren't these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these f*ckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.

Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn't anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can't give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50's monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
2 days ago via Flixster

K so this movie is of course yet another adaptation of a young adult/teen book that I've never heard of. I guess there's no reason why I should have heard of it though seeing as I am neither a young adult or teen, I digress. The title of the movie (and book) is admittedly pretty cool, indeed the whole vibe I got from this movie did kinda remind me of the 2004 movie 'Lemony Snicket's A Serious of Unfortunate Events'. At the same time it also got me thinking along the lines of [i]The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories[/i]. Funnily enough a quirky little book about weird monstrous children by the one and only Tim Burton. So it was of no surprise to me at all that Tim Burton ended up directing this movie (which is almost a rip-off of his 'Oyster Boy' book in part).

So, very briefly, the film is set in Wales of all places and sees young boy Jake (Asa Butterfield) learning about the mysterious school for peculiar children from his grandfather. After his grandfather dies in a very disturbing way Jake travels to Wales to look for the school, following instructions from his grandfather. Jake discovers that the old school was destroyed during WWII, but through a set of mysterious (this word will pop up a lot) circumstances which include a time portal, Jake goes back to 1943. A time when the school was in its prime. Turns out the school and its students all live within an infinite time loop (the same day in 1943), created by Miss Peregrine, where they never age, solely to avoid persecution from the outside world. Jake also learns of monsters called Hollowgasts (disfigured peculiars) led by the evil shapeshifter Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). These monsters led by Barron hunt down 'peculiars' (or 'Ymbrynes') for their eyes. They consume the eyes which enable them to retain their powers and human form (which apparently makes them 'Wights'). Did you get all that??

So lets take a quick look at the peculiar children (children with paranormal abilities). Now even though society has discriminated against these kids, rejected them out of fear, their powers are clearly of benefit to them. Its the classic narrative, the kids have special powers which are seen as negative in the film, but to you the viewer they come across as actually being really cool. Wouldn't we all like a special power. And if any of this sounds familiar...yes it is indeed exactly the same notion as Marvels X-Men.

So anyway who's who. Notably there are characters that clearly play an important role in the movie with their powers, and others that do not. Emma Bloom is aerokinetic, meaning she can manipulate air, breathe under water and she floats because she's lighter than air oddly. These powers seem pretty useful. Enoch O'Connor can resurrect the dead and make inanimate objects come to life, very useful. Olive Abroholos Elephanta (say what?) is pyrokinetic meaning she's basically Pyro from the X-Men. Very useful power. Millard Nullings is the invisible boy, say no more, highly useful power. Bronwyn Bruntley is a little girl with superhuman strength, highly useful power. Fiona Frauenfeld can control plant life, so she's basically Poison Ivy. Reasonably useful power.

The you have Hugh Apiston is a little boy with...umm...bees in his stomach...what now? Pretty bizarre and useless power here methinks. Claire Densmore has a mouth full of razor sharp teeth...on the back of her head. K...errr, whatever. And finally the two very young twins (no names apparently) who are both in fact gorgons. You know, a creature that can turn living things into stone, Medusa. Yeah well these two little terrors can do just that and have to wear masks all the time. Chilling power right there folks.

So whilst most of this X-Kids team have some pretty sweet special powers that would obviously come in handy in times of peril. Four of them seem utterly useless to me frankly, in fact I wouldn't even call them paranormal powers but more circus freaks. I get that's all part of the story but it just comes across as odd that the author would give half the kids solid powers and the other half useless powers, so useless to the point that those characters needn't even be in the book. Why would shooting bees out of your mouth be of any use unless you lived in a Nintendo platform game.

As for the bad guys, they were all peculiars originally I think (including Mr. Barron who's power is shapeshifting), but the failed experiment disfigured them. Now they hunt down peculiars for their eyes (yes eyes) because some how that enables them to retain human form. I'm not sure why they are called Hollowgasts though, considering they are merely disfigured peculiars. Not sure why they all look the same or why they look like large demonic Jack Skellington's? Probably because Tim Burton directed the movie (or maybe they look like that in the book). I'm also not sure why they are referred to as Wights when in human form when again, essentially...they are still peculiars. I dunno, I'm probably getting it wrong. Lets not forget that peculiars are actually called Ymbrynes just to make things even more confusing.

So aside from the myriad of characters and funny names what is the movie actually like? Well quite frankly its your typical Harry Potter-esque adventure really. I really do hate referring back to Harry Potter but unfortunately that franchise pretty much set the ball rolling for children/young teen book adaptations so its hard not to. But yes in general the fantasy element of the movie along with the children does all seem very familiar these days. Don't get me wrong its not the exact same kind of fantasy with unicorns and goblins or whatever (in this one movie anyway, unsure about the book), but there are many similar elements involving magic, sorcery, shapeshifting, monsters etc...

Clearly Burton revels in the kids with quirky paranormal powers and of course the visuals. As you would expect the whole movie has that dark twisted fairytale vibe about it, helped by the WWII setting of course. Some of the kids are gaunt looking, slender, dare I say a bit goth with period attire in typical Burton colours. Its not blatant Burton but you can still detect it. The baddies look more Burton-esque as they are generally dressed in black and look more like vampires. Overall not a lot actually happens in the movie action wise, there are obviously some action sequences but nothing much of note. Obligatory sequences where the Hollowgasts attack the kids whilst they try to escape, the predictable showdown at the finale where Barron and co are defeated.

The whole sequence where they discover a huge sunken ship (ocean liner) and then proceed to raise it seemed a bit ludicrous even for this universe. Sure these kids have weird powers and I mock by mentioning the X-Men but at this point the movie does actually go full X-Men. Then in the finale there is a long battle against some animated skeletons which all seem rather stupid really. How strong were these skeletons geez! There is of course lots of time jumping between 1943 and the present, the setting being the UK does actually give the whole movie a cheaper look which I'm sure wasn't the idea. Indeed the whole idea that these kids and Miss Peregrine have to live in an infinite time loop just to avoid the general public's negative opinion of them seemed a bit daft to me. I mean surely you could just live somewhere secluded? Also this specific point in time is just before the school gets destroyed by German planes (WWII remember), so everyday they have to prevent this by winding back time. I mean, couldn't you just chooses a earlier point in time?

The problem here is I haven't read the book and like many of these fantasy books there is probably a lot more to it, more books and things that have been cut out. These types of movies always seem to raise so many questions also, questions and confusion. Like, when the Wights have successfully killed all the peculiars and run out of eyes, then what? I mean...I dunno, its not a bad movie, its perfectly entertaining to a degree, but everything is so by the numbers, so mediocre. The visuals are nice but predictable, the acting is fine, the effects are pretty bog standard CGI stuff apart from a nice small sequence of stop motion. The bad guys are spooky looking and generically bad, the Hollowgast monsters are unoriginal looking, a mix of Jack Skellington and [i]Resident Evil[/i] creatures, oh and Tim Burton makes a cameo.

There was a time when a Tim Burton movie meant something, it was almost like an event. Nowadays its more like yet another corny gothic escapade drenched in gaudy CGI. Admittedly this movie isn't quite as bad as that, its definitely more grounded looking. But with a plot that becomes more convoluted as it goes (all these stupid names), weak humour and very generic villains, its just not really good enough to stand out within a packed genre. Its also clearly unsure in which direction it wants to go, dark fantasy or light-hearted fantasy. I dunno, I still can't escape my feeling that Burton only made this movie because he liked just one aspect of it, the kids with peculiar powers. That aspect comes across nicely here, I wanted more of that, the rest of it not so much.

Hey Arnold! The Movie
8 days ago via Flixster
½

Just like the similar animated movie of the cartoon series Doug, this is purely for fans of the original cartoon series. I can't really see any kids (or adults) getting along with this unless they know the original series and have followed it (the various backstories). Yet despite that Hey Arnold! (like other 90's Nick toons) is very open to all ages because its content is relatable and surprisingly clever at times.

This was probably my fave Nick toon even beating Rugrats, why? Well because (as said) you could relate to it quite well. Many of the stories tend to revolve around real situations that kids deal with in their daily lives. Situations many of us will have gone through at some stage in various ways. The usual stuff like bullies, school, school projects, parents, families, snow days, playing outside with your friends, adventures using your imagination etc...

Along with that is the great array of loud quirky characters which fill this world (Dan Castellaneta voicing grandpa Phil being one of the best). The odd designs for the characters is the main series trait which is admittedly bizarre to look at. I'm guessing they are probably caricatures based on creator Craig Bartlett's real old school friends and adults he knew growing up. Of course the colourful hand drawn style of the cartoon is one of the lures for me. Really rich, vivid, bold environments that look glorious. Each cartoon has their own unique individual artistic style, but Hey Arnold! is really one of my favourites. Its so pleasing to the eye, makes me wanna live in there (the fictional city of Hillwood).

As for this movie, its obviously an extended version of the regular cartoon; but alas as usual it can't quite live up to the original shorter material. The plot is quite a heavy one involving Arnold and Gerald trying to save their neighbourhood from being destroyed by some rich tycoon. This doesn't really work too well in my opinion as it just seems too much of a stretch for the characters to achieve. At the same time some of the subplots by other characters to stop all this from happening also come across as a bit too daft (yeah I know its a cartoon but still). Blowing a hole in their own street with tonnes of dynamite? The whole tired spy parody angle complete with James Bond-esque characters and gadgets...ugh! How many times must we see that??

The main sore point here is, in the original cartoon Arnold and co often deal with simple kids issues, as I already pointed out. The cartoon worked so well because even though the episodes usually dealt with childish things, they were completely relatable (as already pointed out) and kinda cute. So when you then give these characters tasks to perform that are way out of their depths, tasks that would usually involve adults, it loses that cuteness and relatability. Because no one can really relate to single-handedly taking down huge corporations and being ninja spies.

All in all it does feel like the writers have had problems trying to think of cute filler to pad out the run time. Even for a kids film its dreadfully average and predictable. I realise its a difficult problem to juggle, trying to remain faithful to the original show but making it bigger for the silver screen. But then what does that tell you? Maybe don't make a movie out of said material because its not meant for the big screen perhaps?

The new characters are also kinda bland and uninteresting unfortunately. They are voiced well by a stellar cast but they just seem uninspired. All except for the Coroner voiced by Christopher Lloyd, he was quite cool. All the other regular characters are present and correct voiced by the regular cast so continuity is good. Obviously the movie only focuses on a few so many are pushed into the background. Visually and audibly the cartoons style is the same accept for the odd spot of CGI which just about blends in OK.

For the fans to look at this film is to love it. Its as you would expect but so much crisper and more delightful, but that's about it really. The plot is lame, it feels terribly stretched, they try to cram all the characters into the background, and the little amusing touches have disappeared. All they needed to do was stick to a more kid friendly plot if you ask me, or a continuation from the final series perhaps. Something we (the fans) can all relate to, exactly why the series was so successful in the first place.

K-9
K-9 (1989)
10 days ago via Flixster
½

Back in the day, this was probably the first time in my life that I discovered Hollywood made identical movies. Maybe it was something I had missed previously or just never thought about, or maybe it was a simple case of this being way too obvious to miss. Of course the other movie I refer to is the Tom Hanks vehicle 'Turner and Hooch'. It wasn't really until the mid to late 90's that I started to notice this identikit film making occurring again.

The plot couldn't be simpler, its essentially a spin on the old trusted buddy cop movie. Just remove one of the human elements and replace with a dog and watch the hilarity ensue. And that's the plot in a nutshell. Loose cannon and smartass Chicago detective Dooley (James Belushi) needs a partner, but he's none to happy about getting one. His by the books chief basically tells him you're getting a partner, like it or lump it. So in order to kinda avoid getting a partner Dooley opts for a police dog, easy right? Well guess what?? Yeah its not easy, in fact the dog turns out to be an intelligent nightmare that doesn't like orders (did ya see that coming?). So this oddball duo of unruly K-9 and wise cracking cop must work together to take down some stereotypical 80's drug kingpin type.

Now essentially you have to remember that back in the day when this movie came out, buddy cop flicks were all the rage. These fast paced, profanity ridden, violent cops vs criminals flicks were the equivalent of superhero flicks right now, they were literally ten a penny. Naturally most flicks went through the obvious ideas of different racial double teams, age differences, sensible and crazy, by the books and not so etc...So at the end of the day this movie actually had an original concept, well one, everything else was your standard fair.

Its been a long long time since I saw this movie and its really quite scary how dated it is (and how old I've gotten). One of the first scenes sees Dooley sitting in his car playing on a Nintendo [i]Game & Watch[/i], back when those little gems were considered mobile gaming. It was so odd to watch this scene because I fully remember thinking back in the day how cool those Nintendo handhelds were and how much I really wanted one. Its also cute to notice that all the sound effects you supposedly hear from said game, clearly do not, those games didn't make sound that advanced.

There is actually a lot of dubbing going on in this movie. Obviously the dog can't talk so in order to add extra emotional impact to scenes throughout the movie they stuck in lots of growling and whining type dog noises. Again its funny now because when I was a kid I thought the dog was actually making those noises. Indeed I can't deny that this idea does work on a number of occasions, nothing hilarious of course but its amusing. In fact the chemistry between Belushi and the dog is one of the high points of the film (well it would have to be really wouldn't it). Belushi is clearly having a blast over acting and showing off, but this isn't annoying surprisingly. He genuinely comes across as a cool bloke, someone you'd be happy to have a beer with. His character is very likeable and down to earth, whilst his interactions with the dog are also very likeable and fun. Sure its all very predictable these days, you know exactly the kind of stuff that your gonna see here (doggy poop, loud barking, breaking stuff, chewing stuff, eating stuff, looking cute etc...), but its enjoyable.

On the flip side of being cute the dog also turns out to be a badass when it comes to taking down criminals. Again this is not something that is much of a surprise, of course the dog will be cute and cool at the same time. Of course the dog will be unruly and rebellious, and of course the dog will also save Dooley's ass and basically reverse the roles. Yes that's right, Dooley for the most part is basically the doofus of the duo, where as the dog is the clever detective, cute huh.

Speaking of baddies, the main antagonist in this movie (played by the wonderfully evil looking Kevin Tighe) is the absolute epitome of 80's action movie villains. He's a middle aged executive looking boss (a slick suit) who's clearly loaded and clearly pretty old and in need of henchmen to carry out his dirty work. In fact, like many action movie villains, he's clearly so loaded you do kinda wonder why he's doing what he's doing. Just looking around at this guys property, cars and general lifestyle, he seems to be doing pretty well for himself, so why risk it all? Naturally all his henchmen are slick suits, you know the type, they just stand around looking smart and obey every order. I always wonder if these guys actually have any sort of personal home life, or if they're maybe gay with their boss...because they mindlessly obey and never leave his side.

This is one of those movies that was pretty cool back in the day because that's all you knew, but nowadays its generic as fuck. For the most part its mainly all about the comic interactions between Belushi and the dog (of which there were many used). Most of the actions sequences are pretty standard fair except for the ones which involve the dog attacking (obviously heavily padded) people and biting their crotch. Its all directed well and looks good truth be told but that can't hide obvious stunt doubles, bad dubbing and a very lightweight plot. Oh and the blatantly obvious emotional hook where the dog gets shot is (or was) obvious and highly predictable. As was the sequence where you think the dogs dead but low and behold he's not! As if the movie would [b]ever[/b] end with the flippin' dog being shot to death, come on people.

In short, Belushi is a hoot I can't deny; this was back in his heydays when he was actually a biggish draw. How funny is it to watch Belushi clutching the dogs leash whilst he's being helplessly dragged across the background of a shot? Pretty funny actually. The movie is definitely fun and (I think) much better than the alternate Tom Hanks version. This feels more for adults where as the latter was more soppy. We could of done without the whole doggie sex thing with that ugly poodle though.

Excalibur
Excalibur (1981)
24 days ago via Flixster
½

Set in the wilds of Ireland and with a pretty full cast of Irish actors, which set in motion the careers of both Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, whilst also utilising some classic/cult British names for spice.

Like Robin Hood there are many stories of the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the round table but this film is probably the most accurate in terms of an adaptation from original period text. This film is based around the tales from [i]Le Morte d'Arthur[/i] and seems to follow each 'segment' quite closely (haven't read it so I'm not sure).

The overall essence of this film is like a fairytale of sorts, a kind of slightly cheesy shiny armoured fantasy with glittery sets, soft colours, strong religious/iconic imagery and a [i]Clannad[/i] vibe running through it. The film reminded me of the classic British TV series 'Robin of Sherwood' (which also starred the dastardly Robert Addie) and the classic British fantasy film 'Krull'. I think the latter took inspiration from the visual aspect of 'Excalibur', possibly.

The design and look of this film is really very good, its clearly rather dated but it still has a high polish to it and looks quite epic. The locations really give an authentic feel, an solid impression of old medieval England complete with excellent costumes. Of course this being the 80's the armour does look a bit fake, a bit plastic, flimsy and too shiny in places. There is also a kind of music video feel to the proceedings in places. Some sets look a bit too sparkly, some characters have some dubious haircuts and to be utterly honest the acting and dialog is pretty hilarious in places, but you can't deny the effort and scope of this historical fantasy.

This being in the days before CGI when historical epics were all the rage, the battle sequences are small with some blood and minimal gore. You can easily tell they didn't have a big crew to make such grand battles so clever editing is used with lots of darkness and fog. Luckily old England was a foggy place...or so I've been led to believe. The other slightly amusing thing was the soundtrack, there is original work here but the use of classical pieces slapped on top of key sequences didn't really work (for me at least). The combination of certain scenes and certain pieces of music felt very rickety and really did seem crowbarred in badly. You can see what the director was going for but it comes off more like a parody of sorts, something not too dissimilar from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.

The plot is straight forward and it doesn't become dull despite the heavy romance involved. The film is layered and rich, vivid imagery and beautiful design giving the whole production much flare and class. It all works pretty flawlessly because you know these were the days when everything was hand crafted.

The film is a cult classic with a bitchin' powerful poster that demands your attention (it draws you in). On a final note, the acting in general may be acceptable but Nicol Williamson's Merlin is also another good reason to see this film. A truly unique quirky take on the character spouting some glorious lines, 'oh that's grand'.