Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Review

One from the re watch pile for Jack Kirby month…
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: Captain America has always been ‘my’ superhero. When I was a early teen, which is when I really started to collect comics properly (before that I just bought them at random, rather than collect a series consistently), and that first series that I couldn’t do without was Cap’s. I remember clearly that it was issue 262, drawn my Mike Zeck and it had Cap being held aloft by a giant version of himself known as ‘The Ameridroid’. I had a great friend in high school and the two of us were ‘the comic nerds’ though he was an Iron Man guy, whilst I was all about Cap.

He was my friend regardless of his bad taste in heroes.

My father one day took me to Comic Kingdom in Sydney, and bought for me a full second run of Jack Kirby’s Captain America from the 70s (and a full run of Jack Kirby’s The Demon from DC) and I was totally enamoured by how awesome Kirby’s art was and became a lifelong fan. I did have other Kirby comics in my collection, I quickly discovered, and they became the jewels in my comic crown.

So fast forward to about 30 years later, and I hear that a ‘proper’ Captain America film was being made that would be part of a greater collective of a Cinema version of the Marvel Universe, and am stoked that the guy who was cast as Johnny Storm in a substandard Fantastic Four movie previously.

More importantly, I heard it was going to be pretty true to the comic, and the lack of an Italian Red Skull made my heart flutter.

… and boy, was I not disappointed!

The Captain (Chris Evans) is somewhat disappointed in his way effort as an entertainer.


Captain America: The First Avenger tells of a young man Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) during the Second World War who, due to a lack of physical prowess, was rejected to join the army, though he is eventually accepted to join a test program to create the perfect ‘super soldier’. 

When he proves himself not in strength or skill, but in mind and heart, he is accepted into the experimental program, overseen by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). He finds that he is not the first to undergo such a procedure, and that a German soldie, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, who I still think would be an amazing Joker in a Batman film), went through an imperfect version of the process which caused him to become deformed with a red, skull-like visage.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erskine is killed by a German spy during the procedure and when Steve emerges as a muscular heroic figure and pursues him, he kills himself with a cyanide pill. With Erskine dead, Rogers is not used as a soldier, but instead a promoter of war bonds and a part of the war effort entertainment troupe, until he is caught up in a rescue mission which not only reunites him with his childhood friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) but puts him at odds with Schmidt, and his collaborator, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).

Will Captain America survive his first mission, or will he end up in a plane crash and be frozen for 50 years…?

Achtung, Baby! It’s the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).


They nailed the entire creation of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s character in this film. The beauty of do a film set in the past is you don’t have to ‘update’ it like they did with Iron Man, who got his chest injuries differently in the comics (well, basically the same, but in a different war) so there is no part really where the comic fan might get a cringe… like the Joker killing Batman’s parents in Tim Burton’s Batman…

Sigh.

They do modernise Bucky though, as the concept of a young boy being sent to war to fight alongside men would have child endangerment groups livid, and let’s face it, the kid sidekick is a terrible idea (sorry Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad, etc). Any ‘hero’ who puts kids in danger is no hero at all!

The amazing thing is that this film never really falls into the trappings of what could make it a bad movie. Captain America is seen as an icon of good, rather than a pro-America cheerleader, and that is something that could have very easily been mistakenly done. This is due to the excellent writing from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, which never talks down, nor does it feel comic-y: it’s a war movie with a superhero in it! The only time it goes into melodramatic areas is with the Red Skull, which it has to as he is an over-the-top supervillain!

The direction is really good too. Joe Johnson didn’t just set this film in the 40s, sometimes it even is filmed like a movie of that era, and I got bits and pieces of things like Raoul Walsh’s White Heat out of the occasional visual. He didn’t copy scenes, but there is an occasional stylistic emulation, which never becomes parody which is a nice touch.

Anyway, this is a great superhero movie and a pretty good war movie too, and throw in a brief cameo of Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman just to make the nerd in me jump up and take notice!

Score: ****

The Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This Australian bluray copy of the film runs for approximately 124 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.35: 1 image with an astonishing Dolby DTS-HD 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of cool extras on this disc!

Commentary by Director Joe Johnson, Director Of Photography Shelley Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford which is a good one, insomuch as it’s informative and conversational.

Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer is, upon reflection, a tool to prepare us for Coulson’s character becoming a bigger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s an entertaining short, in the vein of ‘bully gets his just deserts’ styled YouTube videos.

Next there is a bunch of really interesting featurettes:

Outfitting Cap looks at the entire design process and styling of Cap’s outfit and his shield.

Howling Commandos looks at the actors who played Cap’s platoon, the Howling Commandos, firmly placed in comic lore, though Nick Fury is absent (he was their sergeant in the comics).

Heightened Technology looks at the tech used in the film, which needed to look like ACTUAL WWII technology, but still have a scifi element to it.

The Transformation tells of the special effects needed to make ‘skinny Steve’, the pre-super soldiered Steve Rogers, on Chris Evans’ muscular body/

Behind the Skull explores the performance by Hugo Weaving and special effects of the Red Skull, Cap’s arch enemy.

Captain America’s Origin is a discussion with Captain America co-creator Joe Simon about his and Jack Kirby’s creation.

The Assembly Begins is, of course, a first look at what would become The Avengers.

Deleted Scenes has 4 deleted scenes which can be watched with a commentary by the previously mention members of the film commentary team (for some reason one doesn’t have the commentary, but you’ll have to deal with it).

There are four trailers: two for the film, one for the video game and one for the Avengers cartoon.

This version of the film also came with the film on DVD and a downloadable digital copy as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s Captain America; you bet I’ll watch it again… and again…. and again….

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes aim…

Life (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Life (2017)

Australian Bluray cover


Film: Have you ever seen a trailer for a film and had it cause a horrible disorder called UERS also known as Unstoppable Eye Roll Disorder? For me, when I first saw the trailer for Life I thought, ‘wow, they have remade but not name-checked Alien’, which seemed to me to be a pretty brave thing to do, after all, Alien is a scifi/ horror film that is still relevant, and still resonates almost 40 years later!

Upon watching the film, however, I realised that yes, it is similar to Alien in two ways: one, that it takes place in space, and two, that an alien life form is at fault, but essentially this is another version of the Agatha Christie/ Ten Little Indians film (with people being picked off one by one) that has been done hundreds of times in the horror genre, and you can namecheck many giallo and slashers that use them. 

The difference with this was that this film adds in the threat of being in space, such as the film Gravity did. Sure, Alien had that same threat, but rarely were you reminded that the whole thing took place in space. It was about the isolation but that isolation could have been anywhere, and until the end and Ripley gets to the escape pod, you aren’t really reminded regularly about this taking place in space. Life constantly reminds you of its external environment, with large windows showing the external views of the space station in which the film takes place, and that exterior is both a threat and a weapon.

Anyway, what is the film about?

Well, a very exciting experiment is coming to an end on the International Space Station (ISS): a probe that has visited Mars has returned with a sample from the surface, and that sample contains the first evidence ever of life from another planet. 

Ryan Reynolds loses this Deadpool.


This single cell organism, nicknamed ‘Calvin’, evolves and grows at a typically science fiction rate, and when it is probed by Derry (Ariyon Bakare) it freaks out and attacks him, and sure enough starts its way through the rest of the crew (played by Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya), Hiroyuki Sanada, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal).

It’s aggressiveness, both in evolution and attitude, would suggest that it should be kept of the earth, but how can the crew survive both the creature, and the oppressive nature of space…

The first thing I have to point out this film space-based environment is utterly convincing. This is not just due to the special effects and the practical effects, but also due to the cast’s performance. The constant motion they go through, even when ‘sitting’ together at a table is a clever acting mechanic to make sure we are aware that this all takes place on a space station. Honestly, it’s quite possibly the first film I’ve seen where no main character talks a single step, which makes for another great point insomuch as one of the characters is a paraplegic, but in space, it doesn’t matter as legs aren’t required to me mobile.

Jake Gyllenhaal abandoned is human suit for a space suit.


The tragedy of the film is Calvin isn’t realised as well. Sure it is difficult to do these kind of constantly evolving creature, but occasionally it looks flat: that doesn’t take you completely out of the film, and doesn’t effect the ultimately devastating ending, but my right eye would occasionally close in disappointment.

Another thing with Calvin is that he seems to work out things very quickly: whilst I appreciate the story needs to travel along at a clip, occasionally I did think that ‘instinct’ was replaced with ‘convenient, highly intelligent thought’ and this is my only real criticism of the film.

One thing I really did like though was a really spectacular directorial sleight-of-hand which did actually fool me, and generally I’m pretty savvy!

Life is a well executed film that echoes what has come before it without completely copying it, and has some great acting and cool effects.

Score: ***1/2

Life Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This review was performed on the multi-region Australian release bluray of the film. It runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 image with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A bunch of extras appear on this disc:

Deleted scenes sees 6 deleted scenes that really weren’t necessary to the flow of the film and aren’t missed, though the ‘Tang’ scene shows the crew’s disappointment as to not being able to go home after the discover of the lifeform could have still slipped in.

Life: In Zero G shows how the effect of the cast being in ‘zero gravity’ for the film and how the casts acting skills, the stunt team and special effects crew achieved it.

Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin looks at the research that had gone into creating Calvin as a scientifically convincing creature, and the special effects execution of that.

Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space looks at the director’s objective on making a science fiction film that feels like it could be real.

Astronaut Diaries is a series of interstitials of the cast in character talking directly to the camera.  

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a good movie with some great performances, but I can’t see myself revisiting it frequently, if at all.

Baby Calvin: he ain’t no Baby Groot!

Mindhunters (2004) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Mindhunters (2004)

Mindhunters DVD cover


Film: My favourite TV shows, post X-Files, have always been those ones that hunt serial killers and that sort of stuff. Sure, I can occasionally be found watching Rick and Morty or Pokèmon or Doctor Who, but those that I really get into are police procedural ones. I don’t know why, but I really enjoy them.

Criminal Minds is a particular favourite.

This trickles over to films as well, and I am guessing my love of gialli echoes that fandom as well. That whodunnit aspect of the film where you yourself get involved in the policework as you try to outsmart the detective by coming to your conclusion first.

Mindhunters is an interesting choice as it was an attempt by Renny Harlin to do a cinema version of those TV shows that were super popular at that time, but what he did was mix it up with a bunch of well known faces, like Val Kilmer, LL Cool J (who went on to NCIS Los Angeles) and Christian Slater along with several newer faces such as Kathryn Morris (who went into Cold Case), Patricia Velasquez and Clifton Collins Jr.

Val Kilmer eats cake: no one is surprised.


Mindhunters tells of a group of young FBI agents who are training to become profilers. Part of their training is to be taken to an island called Omega Island, by their trainer Jake Harris (Kilmer) to profile a fake serial killer who has committed a fake crime. Along for the ride is a cop (LL Cool J) who is observing Harris’ training methods.

Unfortunately for our crew, there is a real serial killer on the island, one who is slowly picking them off one by one, but has someone snuck on the island to perform these murders, or is Harris a nutbag killer himself, or is it one of the students with some kind of grudge?

Even though it doesn’t really read as a super film, and more a direct to DVD loser, I actually really dig this film, but as I stated earlier, that’s mainly due to my love of police procedural shows. It’s an eclectic cast who shouldn’t work together really, but that adds to the suspicion and mistrust.

Kilmer and Slater are really only here for the cache their names provide, and don’t appear for great periods of time.

L to R: Morris, Velasquez, Collins Jr, LL Cool J and Miller


Essentially this film is nothing more than an 80s slasher, with a group of people trapped in a remote location with a killer on the lose, but the Saw-like traps, and oddball characters make it a far more interesting watch.
Score: ****

Mindhunters DVD menu screen


Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 101 minutes and is presented in a pretty good 2.35:1 image with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: You would this a DTV film like this would not have many extras, but it does!

Director Renny Harlin gives us a pretty good commentary about the making of the film and various other aspects of this film, including actually FBI procedures. One thing I really like about this commentary is that the dialogue of the film is subtitled during the commentary so you can still follow the script whilst Harlin is making his musings.

Profiling Mindhunters is a collection of interviews with cast and crew about what it rook to create the film.

Stunt Sequence looks at the behind the scenes choreography of the stunts, focusing on one particular scene that had an extensive fight sequence.

A Director’s Walk Through Crimetown sees Harlin look at the mock up town used in the film as the training ground for the young FBI trainees. 

There are also trailers on this disc for The Longest Yard, Layer Came, The Marksman and xXx: The Next Level.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s not the greatest film but it’s compelling, and I give it a regular respin.

Slater’s performance? Smashing!

Italy Day Review: Cailtiki the Immortal Monster (1959)

One from the to watch pile…
Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959)


Film: I was involved in a conversation the other day on Facebook about Italian horror film directors, and basically the question was ‘other than Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Mario Bava, who is your favourite Italian horror film director?’

This proposes an interesting point: most of us who are Italian horror fans rely on those three directors as our go-to men for European horror, and why not? Argento chills us with his deft hand with giallo, Fulci thrills with his gory-laden zombie output, and Bava… well, Bava is Bava: a director whose eye for setting, and lighting a scene is unsurpassed, and who is European cinematic royalty… no, WORLDWIDE cinematic royalty!

This film, 1959’s Caltiki the Immortal Monster, aka Caltiki il Monstro Immortale, is Bava’s first directorial attempt, though he is uncredited. Credited director Riccardo Freda left the project halfway through, claiming he wished the producers, who had previously mistreated Bava, would recognise what a talent he actually is. Bava himself described this as his first film.

Caltiki the Immortal Monster tells of a group of archeologists who are set upon by an amorphous thing when investigating an ancient Mayan temple. One of the expedition is killed, and another injured by the creature, and the only way to help him is to cut off the piece of the creature that is attached to his arm.


We make it back to civilisation and discover not only had the victim of the attack gone slightly mad (actually, he was somewhat of a jerk in the first case, so one hardly notices) but the now-removed thing on his arm hasn’t only grown, it has also multiplied… can mankind survive this creature, or is it doomed to suffer the same fate as the Mayan’s did many years before..

This film is very much a product of what some countries were doing in this time. The success of the Universal horror and scifi films, and their competitors, had changed cinema somewhat and had created an industry were professors were heroes, me monsters, alien or terrestrial, are the enemy.

One of the real surprising things about this film is that even though it’s origins in the American black and white scifi and horror films, it has a lot of European sauce through it. There is a scene of a native dance that is surprising in its explicitness for its time. Now I don’t mean there is full frontal nudity, but the native girl gyrates in a manner quite over the top for the time it was filmed. For that matter, it’s surprisingly gruesome for the same time!

The effects showing the gore is pretty good too, and really only falls over with a miniature scene of two, and honestly can be forgiven when the time is to be taken into consideration. There’s one particular matte painting which fails too due to an actor’s shadow being cast over the image, which reveals it has no depth of field.

The story by Fillipo Sanjist is a quaint mix of American films of a similar period, with smart adventurous scientists, a monster and a threat from space filling its script. It does borrow heavily from The Blob (Caltiki is a Blob like creature and attached itself to a man’s arm) and has elements of Quatermass and Lovecraft within its universe.


What’s really weird for me was that I got a real Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom vibe off the whole affair, and was mentally comparing it to that!

The best thing about the film is how you can actually see Bava’s use of light to create depth. Something he does much better in color, but it is still extraordinarily impressive when doing it with black and white. You can really see the beginnings here of what will become an amazing career.

I really liked this film and am happy to include it both my Mario Bava and Arrow films collection.

Score: ****


Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the UK Arrow films region B Bluray (which also comes with a DVD copy) which runs for approximately 76 minutes and has a strikingly good 2K restored, 1.66:1 image with an efficient mono audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a real great bunch of extras on this disc. The first thing is two commentaries, one from horror historian and Bava buff Tim Lucas, which is a technically complete commentary with many insights into the making of the film and the other is from Italian horror movie expert Troy Howarth, writer of giallo bible So Deadly So Perverse, which covers a lot of the same ground as Lucas’, though Howarths is far more conversational and less formal.

From Quatermass to Caltiki sees writer Kim Newman talk about not just this film, but what influenced it and what it influenced.

There is a really cool full aperture version of the film which removes any in-camera matte work so the joy of Bava’s cinematography and effects work can be better appreciated.

Archival Features has some previously released extras of the film including a 20 minute discussion about Riccardo Freda, with film critic Stefano Della Casa. The Genesis of Caltiki which talks about the film with Luigi Cozzi. There is an Archival introduction to the film, again with Stefano Della Casa. There is also a US theatrical trailer and alternate US opening titles.

As with many of Arrow’s releases this comes with a reversible cover, and an illustrated booklet featuring essays by Kat Ellinger, Roberts Curti and Tim Lucas.

Score: *****

WISIA: This is exactly what WISIA is all about: I thoroughly enjoyed the film but can’t see myself visiting it again.

Under the Bed (2012) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Under the Bed (2012)


Film: Sometimes I’ll pick up a film because of the price, and in this case, I decided that $6.98 was a fair price for a horror movie that runs for 87 minutes… that’s barely 8 cents per minute of entertainment! That’s a damn great deal! Especially when you consider it’s directed by Steven C. Miller, who did the remake of Silent Night and written by Eric Stolze… no, not Eric Stoltz: this is a different guy. This guy wrote Late Phases, he didn’t star in Mask.

This movie is quite a simple one: after his mother died, Neal (Jonny Weston) was sent away to be home schooled by his aunt and go through some therapy. Our tale starts with his return to the old homestead when he is greeted by his dad, Terry (Peter Holden), his new step-mother Angela (Musetta Vander)and his younger brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith).


Things aren’t quite right at home though. The reason Neal was sent away was his mother died in a house fire because she believed his horrible secret: he’s being haunted by a creature that is living under his bed, and now the thing has found that Neal has a brother!

So now it’s two brothers against one thing, but can the two of them be victorious over the thing under the Bed?

The only problem I had with this film is the flat out reason that this film was like a remake of The Boogeyman with a few tweaks. From the ‘return of the prodigal son’ to the ‘thing that lives in the darkness’ and ‘the cure girl next door whose interested in the male lead’… you could possible make a bingo sheet from plot points of Boogeyman, and use it for this film. It also suffers from not wanting to give away too much, and ultimately just not telling a complete story.

Unfortunately in a thing which exists to convey story, that’s a pretty big problem. The shame of the situation is that the acting is pretty good, the direction is fine and unlike The Boogeyman, this has no problem spreading the blood and gore around… there is some real grisly deaths and a practical monster that may be a little generic, but you see just enough of it for it to work.


Also I have a new cinema crush in the form of Musetta Vander: she’s like a more busty, mumsy version of Jeri Ryan/ Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager.

Visually great but with real problems in the storyline department, this movie ultimately fails, and I possibly didn’t quite get my 8 cents per minutes worth.

Score: **


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region 4 DVD which the DVD cover claims runs for approximately 87 minutes. It doesn’t, it runs for about 83 minutes, and 3 minutes of that is just end credits. This film image is presented in 2.40:1 and is crisp, though it is quite a dark film, so I suggest you watch it in a completely darkened room, and the audio is an an equivalently good Dolby Digital 5.1.

Score: ****

Extras: You want extras? Well tough: there’s none, but what do ya want for under $7?

Score: 0

WISIA: In short, probably no.

The Darkness (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Darkness (2016)


Film: I like bacon on everything: burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, and even films. In general I can say I like films that have Kevin Bacon in them as he has quite a presence.

I’m not quite sure if he’s a fine actor, but sometimes he just nails parts that are handed to him, and I’ll site Flatliners, Cop Car and Death Sentence amongst those that really made me sit up and take notice… and I reckon I’ll include The Darkness in one where a fairly generic story is raised by Bacon’s performance, and for that matter so-stars Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz and Lucy Fry.

Lucy Fry is also known for her appearance in the TV series of Wolf Creek, which was created by Greg McClean, as is this film, which he directed and co-wrote with the writers of the fantastic Australian film Acolytes, Shayne Armstrong and Shane Krause.

The Taylor family, father Peter (Bacon), mother Bronny (Mitchell), and children Stephanie (Fry) and Michael (Mazouz) have been on a camping trip with some friends, and young autistic Michael has discovered some pebbles with runes on them inside a cave where a strange Native American village once stood.


Michael’s communication issues cause him to not tell the rest of the family about his stones, and he becomes, all of the sudden, very possessive of the backback he keeps them in.

The family starts having problems, and weird things start happening around the house as whatever it is that Michael has brought into the house starts to eat into their fear and escalate their failings. Michael in particular starts acting strange, and then the weird occurrences start taking place… and then all hell breaks loose.


Peter’s boss, Simon (Paul Reiser) suggests they get in touch with a psychic his wife knows to see if they can alleviate the situation… but will they provoke it instead?

For me this was a well acted, well cast, well directed film but the story suffers from being so generic, as far as the ‘haunting’ aspect goes. The familial issues are right out of a decent drama film and are probably the best part of the script especial with the delicate subjects of autism, bulimia, alcoholism and adultery, but all the ghost story stuff reads like a megamix, best-of, greatest hits album of ghost movies, and the lack of originality makes the story suffer, which is a shame as all the other, previously mentioned stuff is quite good.

With a better, more original story this had the potential of being some great, rather than something sub-average. Shame.

Score: **1/2


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was an Australian region 2, 4 and 5 DVD which has a flawless 2.40:1 image and a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The film runs for approximately 88 minutes.

Score: ****

Extras: There is an alternate ending which runs for about 9 minutes and honestly is the far better, ‘shocking’ ending. Also we have 9 deleted scenes which whilst don’t move the story forward, do flesh out the characters and their various issues.

Score: **

WISIA: I’m not really a ghost story type so I can’t really see myself watching it again.

Easter Review: Bunny the Killer Thing (2015)

It’s Easter and so I wanted to review a film for the kids about bunnies as Easter has some of its mythology based around the Easter Bunny and the delivery of chocolate eggs. Unfortunately I couldn’t stomach the saccharine sweetness of those films so I instead opted for this film, Bunny the Killer Thing.
Happy Easter.

One from the to watch pile…

Bunny the Killer Thing (2015)


Film: Normally I would do some kind of introduction to a film I’m reviewing, but I’m not going to preface this film with too much palaver as, well, I don’t quite know what to say. The cover to this Monster Pictures release claims it is a ‘must-see for any fan of wtf cinema.’

The most honest thing EVER written on a DVD slick EVER!

A group of friends are stopped on their way to a weekend away, drinkin’ and screwin’, at a cabin in the woods by a group of three men whose car has broken down. The friends offer the men an overnight stay as there are no nearby hotels, but what they don’t realise is these three men are in the employ of a scientist who has experimented on a man to turn him into a kind of a half human-rabbit mutant. 


The thing about rabbits though is, they mate… a lot, and so this hulking monster, with a giant mutant rabbit penis, wants nothing but, as he continually cries ‘PUSSY!’ and he won’t stop until he gets it ALL!

So an ever increasing bunch of strangers trapped in a cabin in the woods against a seemingly unstoppable monster with horror-comedy elements? Sounds like a 1980s, nudity filled, gorefest, but in actual fact it’s a 2015 tribute to those types of films made brilliantly by Joonas Makkonen from a story he wrote with Miika J. Norvanto, and it’s a blast.

The costume on the monster is actually just a really bad mascot costume with a gigantic dildo attached to it, but that can be forgiven as the story is actually interesting and engaging, and actually at times funny. The rest of the blood and gore is frequent and so stupidly inventive I can’t figure out why no one has ever thought of some of it before.

I mean, a beer can launching crossbow… surely someone came up with that before!

Actually, probably not, but I do have to admit I have never seen a penis being helicoptered as frequently in a film before. Ever. So that was new too.


Many films claim to be ‘tributes to 80s horror’ but some of them fail miserably. This film not only works as a tribute to 80s horror, it also works as a horror-comedy in its own right. A warning though to any who don’t like subtitles, this is both in Finnish and in English, so some of it may require a bit of reading. Please don’t let that stop you from watching though, because it’s a hoot.

Score: ****


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in an excellent 16×9 widescreen presentation with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a couple of decent extras on this disc. 

The first is the original short film ‘Bunny the Killer Thing’ which actually goes for about 20 minutes or so, and is more of the same, and still entertaining.

Promotional Demo and Demo Teaser are two trailer, basically, for the short film of BtKT.

There is also a trailer.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: There are two reason why I will watch this again. The first is to show it to friends so I can see the same incredulous look on their faces when it finishes, and the other is because it is so bat-shit crazy it deserves another viewing!

Easter Review: Critters 2 (1988) 

Happy Easter from the To Watch Pile! Thanks for your continued support. Over the next three days we’ll have three special reviews JUST for Easter!
One from the re watch pile…
Critters 2 (1988)


Film: In the 80s, after Gremlins, every movie company wanted to try their hand at a little furry monster film. The difference is, whilst it took Gremlins several years to pop out a sequel, other series’ came and went, like Troll, Ghoulies and this series Critters.

For me, Critters didn’t grab me… well, not until this sequel which came out a few years later me and I totally dug it. The beautiful thing about this sequel was it realised that the premise, and the Critters, were a little stupid and decided to amp up the comedy aspects. This also may be due to the trend of horror films at the time was to make ‘horror comedies’ at every opportunity, thanks to Freddy K and the humour that had been injected into his series.

For me this was the best idea, and it really works. Sure a lot of the jokes refer to other movies (and with Mick Garris co-writing and directing, you can guarantee a Stephen King joke is gonna slip in there too) and if I’m totally honest, there is a load of Dad-jokes throughout the preceding.

Our story tells of Bradley Brown (Scott Grimes), who has returned after two years to his home town which several years ago had been the victim of an alien incursion by little furry eating machines called ‘Krites’.


Unfortunately for Bradley, his return also heralds a return of the Krites as a local antiques dealer purchases a bunch of Krite eggs that have been dormant (they’ve been in a cold barn) for this whole time. As soon as he puts them in his warmer antiques shop, they begin to hatch, but not before he sold some to a local childcare centre so they can paint them for their Easter parade.

Bradley teams up with the daughter of the town newspaper editor, Megan (Liane Curtis) and intergalactic shapechanging bounty hunters Ug (Terrance Mann) and Lee (played by various actors including scream queen Roxanne Kernohan and professional nerd Eddie Deezen), and their human sidekick, former town drunk Charlie (Don Keith Opper) to fight the Krites, but will the small town of Grover’s Bend be able to survive another alien attack? 


Mick Garris is one of those directors who doesn’t do anything special with his direction, but really conveys a story brilliantly and he does so here. The sense of whimsy in this film is present all the way through and it seems clear the cast and crew had fun making it. As I previously stated, there are several dad jokes and some sound effects added to visual jokes that make a slightly amusing scene even funnier. 

The cats is extraordinarily likable and you can also spot support acting regulars like Lin Shaye (Insidious), Barry Corbin (No Country for Old Men) and Sam Anderson (Ouija:Origin of Evil): I kid you not, these last two faces will make you point at the screen and go ‘that’s the guy from the thing with the man in that TV show’. 

One warning though: Cynthia Garris has written a jingle for the towns fast food restaurant ‘Hungry Heifer’ that is so insidiously catchy that you’ll find yourself humming it for days later.

I thoroughly enjoy this film and of the 80s horror-comedies, which I don’t REALLY called horror, it’s one of my comfort-food styled favourites, liked a celluloid hot chocolate.

Score: ****


Format: The review of this film was performed with the New Zealand (which is really a ratings re-stickered Australian one) Region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 82 minutes and is presented in a good 1.85:1 image with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Only a trailer I’m afraid.

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah I’ll watch this film again and again… and not just for Roxanne Kernohan! It’s a hoot!

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Doctor Strange (2016) Review


Film: Disney and its Marvel movies: that unstoppable juggernaut that is telling one gigantic tale. The series of films that as they go on, people who are behind need to spend even more time attempting to catch up. The series of films that some blindly follow as if they are the ultimate form of cinematic storytelling. The series of films that will eventually implode due to either the fact that no viewer will want to accept a replacement Tony Stark or Steve Rogers (when the actors get too old to play them), that the weight of how many films you need to watch becomes inconceivable or just cinema moves on and away from superhero movies.

… and don’t think that won’t happen: it has before! Ask all those failed superhero films that fell apart, or worse, failed at the box office, after 1989’s Batman. I still to this day wish that the Plastic Man film with Paul Ruebens had been made!

To their credit, I have enjoyed most of them, but noticed some of them have been shoehorned into the series for no reason other than to introduce the character, which I feel the first Thor was like, and others have had their inclusion in the Marvel Universe forced upon us, like the ‘Falcon’ scene in Ant-man. I do have to admit to getting a minor twinge of excitement when I watch them though, having been a lifelong comics reader.

Doctor Strange was one film I was quite interested to see how it would pan out. The visual style of the early comics, especially those drawn by Steve Ditko were going to be a MAJOR part of how the film should look, but they were so way out, and so revolutionary in their art design that I couldn’t actually perceive how it would translate to cinema.


Thankfully, they managed to pull that part of the design off, but I found another few problems within the film. Much like the movies, the comic of Doctor Strange, invented by comic legend Stan Lee and the aforementioned artist Ditko, was invented to show a more mystical side of the Marvel Universe after so much had been science based, like mutations, or radiation.

Our story introduces us to pompous blowhard surgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who whilst driving, and picking and choosing which medical case he should help to further his career, has an accident which destroys his hands.

He spends his fortune on trying to get them rebuilt so they can be used again, but instead finds salvation in a place that a skeptical man of science wouldn’t: spiritualism.

He meets a man who’s irreparable backbone is seemingly fixed and he attributed it to the teachings of the citizens of Kamar-Taj, and so Strange journeys to Kathmandu hoping for a quick fix, but what he finds is that the teachings of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) do much more for him than just fix his hands.

Strange is a quick and cheeky student and quickly is caught up in a skirmish within Kamar-Taj’s ranks when renegade student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) steals pages from a mystical book so he can destroy the barrier between the astral planes letting the ancient being Dormammu (also played by Cumberbatch) take control.

Strange, along with disciples of the Ancient One, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) band together to try and stop Kaecilius, but will they all survive the time-bending will of this being from another dimension? Only the end of the film will know for sure!

This being a Marvel film, don’t forget to stray for two post credit sequences, one which reveals this film’s link to the rest of the Marvel films, and also a revelation as to whom may be Strange’s villain in a sequel, should it come about…

I had high hopes for this film as Strange has always been an amazing comic, so visually exciting that I couldn’t wait to see how it would be executed. The initial trailers depressed me as all I could see was a visual rip off of Inception, but I’m glad to say that those thoughts were abated by the actual film. 


There was a lot to like in this film. The cast, for the most part, play their parts well, and the production design is fantastic, and I have to say that to not have the ending being a gigantic slugfest, but instead something more cerebral was a nice change for a superhero film. The inclusion of Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, one of the three main characters from a brief seventies comic called Night Nurse, is pretty cool. Mads Mikkelson and Benedict Wong both deserve a mention too as their performances are excellent.

The special effects are particularly amazing. I love how Marvel films push the envelope and really explore every technical thing they can do, and can’t do yet, to get the visual comic-ness happening in the film.

My criticisms of this film lies in only one area, but it repeatedly took me out of being ‘in’ the film: Cumberbatch’s American accent. My wife used to be a big fan of the TV series House, but I couldn’t stand it for one reason: Hugh Laurie’s awful American accent, and I feel Cumberbatch’s accent is similar here. It feels like a parody of the accent rather than an ‘actual’ cinematic American accent. That may seem petty, but every time he opened his mouth I was reminded that he was a British actor playing an American, and being removed from the roller coaster ride of a film so regularly makes it difficult to enjoy. That inability to maintain my suspension of disbelief made the film somewhat of a chore to watch. That may seem petty, but it was like being repeated interupted during the film, and I just had trouble investing my full attention into it due to that.

Overall I enjoyed the story of the film, but I couldn’t get INTO it due to the accent factor I mentioned above. I like to be absorbed by a film, and this didn’t do it for me.

Score: **


Format: As one would expect from a modern film on bluray, this looks magnificent. This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, which runs for approximately 114 minutes and is presented in 2.39: 1 image with an outstanding DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: As expected on a Marvel Studios disc, there’s more extras than you can poke a stick at!

There’s a bunch of featurettes including which explore the creation of the film: A Strange Transformation (which looks at the character of Doctor Strange himself), Strange Company (an exploration of the co-stars), The Fabric of Reality (looks at the costuming and production design of the film), Across Time and Space (more production design but now with the more dimensional aspects of the Strange world) and The Score-cerer Supreme (obviously, about the score to the film as created by Michael Giacchino). These featurettes can be watched separately or as a whole, which I think is a far better way to watch it.

Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look explores where the Marvel films have come from, their impressive ability to make one story from different titles (which, like I mentioned, could also be there downfall), and where they are going to upon entering phase 3.

Team Thor Part 2 is an amusing look at what Thor has been doing whilst ‘off duty’ which is basically being a bum and torturing his flat mate in Australia.

Deleted and Extended Scenes features 5 scenes not seen in the film, my favourite being Strange meeting Daniel Drumm, who Marvel fans will not as being the brother of Brother Voodoo, the 70s horror character, and one time Sorcerer Supreme. Typically, none of these scenes move the story forward so the film is better or without them.

As using there is a Marvel gag reel, which is professional actors screwing around. Hilarious.

We also have a pretty cool commentary with Scott Derrickson, the director of the film, and it’s one of those interesting commentaries where the director is quite invested in the project.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ll probably only watch it again if I binge watch the entire Marvel catalogue, otherwise, probably not.