:: Rampage: Capital Punishment (2014)

Bill Williamson is back.  And he’s still pissed off.  Philosophical spree-killer Bill (Brendan Fletcher) has emerged from hiding after a couple of years in order to finally get his message across to the sleeping masses.  This time he has an equally meticulous plan, and the bullets to see it through.  Bill spends his morning sat in a camping chair, shooting a few random passers-by. He moves to a television studio and riddles most of the staff with bullets, taking a few hostage. His plan is to get his manifesto aired by anchorman Chip (Lochlyn Munro) to instigate a nation-wide uprising.  At least, that is what he says he is after…

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Loyal readers will know that I was pretty shocked at just how good the first Rampage film actually was, given the director.  Uwe Boll has a reputation for being one of the worst directors still being given money to make films.  He really is just terrible.  The Rampage movies seem to be an anomaly, the first one especially so.

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Here, the pace is more pedestrian, less action, less killing, less… everything.  Except talking.  There is a lot of talking.  Luckily, we have the incredible Brendan Fletcher delivering the lines, some of which he wrote, along with Boll.  The cold, yet manic, intensity is still there.  When you look in Fletcher’s eyes, you actually see Bill’s madness staring back.

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The performance here, as in the first film, cannot be faulted. It is knife-sharp, and slices through everything else on the screen.  Next to Fletcher, everyone is going to be a hack.  Except they aren’t.  Munro brings some humanity to Chip, and perennial second-tier banana Mike Dopud shines as the beleaguered SWAT team commander. 

:: American Mary (2012)

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Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a trainee surgeon, struggling with financial pressures and a unsympathetic lecturer, Dr Grant (David Lovgren).  Desperate for money, she answers an ad in the paper for an erotic massage job at a seedy club, but when her surgical skills are urgently needed, she finds a lucrative sideline.  She is sought out by clients wanting extreme body modification, first by Betty-Boop model Beatrice (Tristan Risk), then by living-plastic doll Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg) who wants Mary to remove her nipples and labia.  Mary’s ethics are forgotten with the mounting cash benefits.

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When Mary is invited to a soiree at the home of Dr Grant, she is drugged and raped.  In the aftermath, she goes to the club’s owner, Billy (Antonio Cupo) who habours a secret fixation with her, to have Grant delivered into her hands…

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American Mary is written and directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska, known as The Soska Sisters.  They also make an appearance as the Devil Twins, who act as sometime patrons for Mary’s clandestine surgical sideline.  Judging by the standards of their acting, they made the wise choice of remaining predominately behind the cameras, for that is where their real talents lie.  American Mary is good, if not action packed.  The story is a little contrived in places, but you can forgive a nip and tuck here and there for the quality is pretty throughout.  Katharine Isabelle is her normal incomparable self, bouncing from anguished and vulnerable to steel-eyed revenge with total believability.  Antonio Cupo is likewise excellent as the obsessed, yet intimidated, Billy.  The rest of the cast just don’t resonate with any sense of reality, being essentially cartoon characters or mere cyphers.

:: Sightseers (2012)

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Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram), a pair of 30 something Brummies freshly in a relationship, despite Tina’s passive-aggressive mother’s wishes, are about to embark on a tour of the north of England’s attractions, including the Pencil museum and Tram Museum, in Chris’ caravan.

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Tina is still being punished for the accidental knitting-related death of her mum’s dog Poppy, and feels the need to get away from it all.  Tina’s mum makes no bones about her dislike of Chris, despite his best efforts.  And so their holiday begins.   At the tram museum, however, Chris takes exception to a loutish litterbug, and “accidentally” runs him down with the caravan.  This death, while tragic, brings Chris and Tina together sexually, and it isn’t much longer before more blood is spilled…

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Sightseers is written by Lowe and Oram, with additional material by Amy Jump, based upon their similar experiences of tedious caravan holidays around the UK when they were children.  Directed by Ben Wheatley, of KillList (2011)and A Field In England (2013), fame [and just for Jess, he also directed the season opener for new Dr Who Peter Capaldi], there is a perfect mix of tedium and terror here.

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The mundane collides with madness in a way that Hollywood could never match.  The performances from Lowe and Oram are pitch perfect, in that these are a pair of dull, working class nobodies much like the rest of us, who happen to fall into becoming serial killers almost by accident.

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The first murder can almost be excused, and as an audience we side with Chris’ form of social justice.  As the story progresses, Chris and Tina’s relationship is a microcosm of a failed marriage, with the added thrill of semi-regular murders. 

:: Doctor Who: A Journey Through Genres Episode 1

Jessica Dwyer from Fangirl Magazine hosts a series of videos showcasing the genre crossover appeal of Doctor Who.
Episode 1: The Seeds of Doom talks about how this classic Tom Baker starring storyline predates John Carpenter’s The Thing and Creepshow with very similar themes.

:: The Possession of Michael King (2014)

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Michael King (Shane Johnson) is a grieving widower with a young daughter.  Determined to prove the non-existence of the supernatural following the death of his wife, he embarks on an investigation into the occult.  His first stop is his wife’s clairvoyant, Beverly (Dale Dickey) whom he holds responsible for peddling lies to his wife, thereby setting up a chain of events that would lead to her tragic death.

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After presenting her with the blame, he digs deeper, interviewing a cancer-riddled priest (Tobias Jelinek), a pair of sex & drug demonologists (Tomas Arana and Patricia Healy) who perform a LSD soaked satanic ritual with Michael designed to call forth a demon, and a necromancer/mortician (Cullen Douglas) who also performs a ritual to call up a recently deceased soul into Michael.  Following these events, Michael begins to hear strange noises in his head, and a murmuring voice.  These hallucinatory experiences begin to mirror in real-life, and Michael must confront his disbelief before he goes insane.  As his madness encroaches, he realises that demonic possession or insanity, the one most at risk is his young daughter, Ellie (Ella Anderson)….

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The Possession of Michael King is directed and written by David Jung, and follows most of the usual tired old possession cliches.  The subgenre has been so overdone in recent years that it is a wonder that people still bother to make them.  Couple that with a Found-Footage means of portrayal, and you’d think that you’d have a dull, seen-it-all-before dud on your hands.  Oddly, however, you don’t.  The sole reason for this is an amazing performance by Gary Cole sound-a-like Shane Johnson.  The entire movie hinges on his ability to put across the increasing torment of Michael King, and somehow he manages to keep attention and intensity focused on him throughout. 

:: Keanu Reeves is coming to TV and he’s an assassin.

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Keanu is going the anti-hero route again with a new series based off the Rain books by Barry Eisler with Reeves playing the lead.  It looks interesting and well… Keanu doesn’t age apparently so he’s got that going for him too.

KEANU REEVES TO STAR IN AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCE ‘RAIN’

TELEVISION SHOW TO BE DISTRIBUTED BY SLINGSHOT GLOBAL MEDIA

 LOS ANGELES, CA (August XX, 2014) – Slingshot Global Media announced today that Keanu Reeves is attached to executive produce and star in the television series, Rain, based on the New York Times best-selling book series written by Barry Eisler.  Chad Stahelski and David Leitch will produce alongside Eisler.  Slingshot Global Media will executive produce and distribute the show.

“We are extremely excited to be working on a beloved property with such a talented and hard-working actor as Keanu,” said Ellender.   “This series will be the launch pad for the company and highlight our talent-focused, quality-based approach within the ever-changing and expanding television space.”

The show fits well within the new company’s objective of working closely with talent to develop series and limited-run programming for both traditional broadcast and cable networks, in addition to on demand options and premium pay services.

The show will be a globe-trotting action drama featuring the lead character, “John Rain,” a half-Japanese, half-American contract assassin who specializes in taking out his targets by making it look like death by natural causes.  An outsider in whatever world he’s in, Rain ironically finds that the one identity he knows – that of being a hitman – is the very thing that prevents him from bringing others closer into his life.  The show’s source material will be based on Eisler’s series of novels featuring Rain, including A Clean Kill in Tokyo, A Lonely Resurrection, Winner Take All, Redemption Games, Extremis, The Killer Ascendant, The Detachment, and Graveyard of Memories.

:: Only Lovers Left Alive Video Review!

Jessica Dwyer of Fangirl Magazine reviews the soon to be released Blu Ray of Only Lovers Left Alive starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.  Get it on DVD and Blu Ray August 19th!

:: Dead Heat (1988)

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A spate of robberies have the LAPD baffled.  The main reason for the bafflement:  the robbers don’t die even after you pump fifty bullets into them.

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Enter maverick police pair Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscapo) to investigate.  Their patented brand of investigation involves gunplay, explosions and using vehicles as weapons, which obviously incurs the wrath of Obligatory Angry Black Captain Mayberry (Mel Stewart).

However, when Roger’s old flame and coroner Rebecca (Clare Kirkconnell) points out that the robbers on her mortuary slab have already been autopsied once, Mortis and Bigelow trace the bodies back to a chemical company and the sultry PR chief Randi James (Lindsay Frost).

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It is here that Roger meets his untimely demise in the line of duty.  However, Bigelow has found a machine that seems to be able to animate the dead.  Within a few moments, Roger Mortis is back on the case, and he’s only got a few hours to solve his own murder and break the conspiracy before he dissolves into a soup of body fluids…

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Dead Heat is one of those 80s movies that was fun nearly thirty years ago.  Unfortunately it hasn’t really stood the test of time, and much like the corpses in the movie, it has dissolved into cliche and stilted dialogue.  When I first saw this on VHS (or maybe even betamax, for we owned one), I remember loving it.  Really loving it. But it was the late 80s, and I didn’t know any better.  Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, as there is a lot to love in this film, but also a lot that is too creaky to enjoy now.  Written by Terry Black, and directed by Mark Goldblatt it is a true product of its time. 

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