100 Feet (2008)

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Credit where credit is due, SyFy Channel will occasionally try something different. This movie looks and feels nothing like their monster-of-the-week format; factor in what for them would be a super-A-list cast (Famke Janssen, Ed Westwick, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pare) and this is something altogether out of their comfort zone.

 

Given information about this is hard to come by, all this is supposition, but…looking under “production company” on IMDB, of the 6 listed, this is the last (or only) film for three of them, there’s the special effects house which got a production credit, and two other producers who didn’t do anything else for at least five years. I think this was a huge financial disaster for the people making it and drove them under, allowing SyFy Channel to snap the rights up for a song, and also for our enemies at The Asylum to get the DVD rights – you know they’re not paying unless they absolutely have to.

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If you recognise the name of writer / director Eric Red, then you loved horror in the 1980s. His first produced script was “The Hitcher”, one of my favourites, and he also wrote “Near Dark”, the beloved vampire movie.  After that? Not so much. Looks like he quit the business for a decade only to come back, make “100 Feet”, then quit again (he does have a directing credit for a dogs-gone-wild movie from 2015). I was happy to see his name, certainly.

 

Janssen is Marnie, being taken in handcuffs to house arrest, after spending a couple of years in prison for murdering her husband Mike (Pare). It was self-defence, thanks to years of beatings, but it seems absolutely no-one believes her – not her sister, certainly not Shanks (Cannavale), Mike’s old partner and the guy driving her. So, she’s taken back to her old house, and is fitted with an ankle-bracelet which will alert the police if she spends more than three minutes over 100 feet from the base unit, fitted at the top of her stairs.

 

*record scratch noise* You don’t need to be particularly eagle-eyed to spot the very significant problem this movie has. She’s not quite able to reach her front door before the alarm starts, meaning she has to do a weird stretch to let people in – if you live in a two-storey house, please go and measure the distance from the top of your stairs to the door. I’ll wait. I’m going to say not a single one of you got over 40 feet, and even the most generous measurement of her old house wouldn’t put it much above that. The alarm also triggers when she’s in her basement, which is probably even closer to the base unit than her door is. Did no-one involved in this say “maybe we should change the title to “50 Feet”? Or if 100 feet is a thing for house arrests, just put in a line about the base unit malfunctioning, or something. It’s really dumb!

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This crack then opens to release something of a floodgate of odd choices from Red. Marnie owns a huge old house in New York, with a value in the millions. Who was paying the taxes on it while she was in prison? They put in a scene with Marnie’s sister, who hates her, just to say that their mother used her life insurance to buy the house for her, but that still doesn’t explain who’s paying the bills. The NYPD? Thinking about it, why did her mother buy the scene of her abuse, and not just get her a nice new apartment somewhere else? She’s seen inquiring about a phone sales job at one point, presumably put in when someone thought about how she’s affording all this stuff, but it’s never mentioned again.

 

All this is a shame, as the meat of the movie is really quite interesting. Mike is haunting the place and starts assaulting her – to avoid the cops thinking she’s crazy, she explains away the bruises and cuts as clumsiness on her part…just as so many battered women do every day. It made me feel very sad at the same time as admiring its mirroring of her old life. The haunting increases in intensity, and she tries to get rid of the spirit by tricks taken from old books – maybe the script was written before the internet was a thing and no-one bothered changing it. Her developing friendship with grocery delivery guy Joey (Westwick) is sweet and believable, and she doesn’t look like she’s 23 years older than him.

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Despite the case involving his partner, Shanks apparently doesn’t read the file on the murder until halfway through the movie, despite the fact he’d definitely have been questioned about the abuse at the trial. He finds out that she’s not lying, and Mike did beat her regularly, so then goes from hating her to angrily wanting to pin the murder on Joey. There’s also the thing of how he spends all day outside her home, apparently – does he not have normal police duties to take care of? Could she not use his obvious harassment of her to get the terms of her house arrest eased?

 

Everyone’s behaviour in the last 10-15 minutes is just inexplicable. A quick word about the priest – at one point, while trying to clear the house of all Mike’s belongings, she finds a bag full of cash, like millions of dollars, and rather than calling her lawyer, then the police (which would help her case a great deal), she decides to give it to her local church. The priest comes round, takes her confession, takes the cash but when she asks him to bless the house, he just says “no” and leaves. What? Actually, she finds the money under some loose floorboards in her bedroom…why didn’t she notice those loose floorboards when she was living there before?

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Should you choose to watch this, I will leave you to ponder the very last scene and think “how is that person going to live, with no money, no social security card, and no family?” And, even though I’ve spent a thousand words laying into it, it’s still way above average for SyFy. Janssen is fantastic (even if the script and direction isn’t), in every second of the movie pretty much, and I like Westwick a lot too. Cannavale is meh, and Pare presumably did the part as a favour to Red (they’d worked together before), as he has no dialogue and spends most of the movie as a blood-soaked ghost. If you can ignore the Grand Canyon-sized plot holes, you’ll probably have a good time if it’s shown on SyFy any time soon. Although they’ll probably cut most of the swearing and bits of the sex scene.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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The Wolverine (2013)

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Although it’s impossible to give a biography of any big comic character, due to reboots and reimaginings and resurrections and them just plain forgetting their own backstory (see if you can read the Wikipedia page about his history without your eyes glazing over at least a few times), Wolverine has always had links to Japan. So to set a Wolverine movie there, in a place other than a big city with lots of buildings to blow up, already sounds more interesting than “X Men Origins: Wolverine” and “X-3”.

After the problems at the end of X-3, which was seven years ago so fair play for them to even remember what had gone on, Wolverine left the X-Men and went to live in the Canadian wilderness, occasionally coming into a small village to buy a few beers. Thanks to a bear he sort-of befriended, a chain of events starts that leads him to Japan, to say goodbye to the Japanese officer he saved at the end of WW2 when one of the nuclear weapons hit. That guy is now the CEO of Japan’s biggest corporation and is terminally ill, but he’s been spending like it’s going out of fashion to save his own life.

Wolverine gets himself involved in the struggles between the family members to take over the corporation, with involvement from a mysterious ninja-like group, the Yakuza and supervillain The Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova, who plays evil very well). The cast is very strong, with a few faces you’ll probably recognise – Hiroyuki Sanada (Lost, Helix, Revenge) and Brian Tee chief among them; and the women new to Western audiences are great too.

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Best of all, though, is Famke Janssen as Wolverine’s great love Jean Grey. She’s been dead in the films for some time, so appears to Wolverine in dreams, and her performance is just amazing – taking a character from the comics I never really cared that much about and turning her into a really strong force. She represents Wolverine’s tiredness with immortality and longing to end it all, and adds a huge factor to his character too.

The fight scenes are extraordinary, every bit the equal of any great martial arts movie you could name, and they look great too. It definitely benefits from not being the same as the other Marvel films – the stakes in this aren’t world domination or countless lives, they’re personal, and for that reason there’s a million different ways the film could end (apart from Wolverine dying, of course, because he shows up in the next film). In fact, you could say this film has more in common with Bourne than the X-Men.

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Okay, it’s not perfect. Asking yourself “who does that character actually work for?” about one or two of the main “villains” will leave you scratching your head, and the twist at the end is so telegraphed they may as well have not had it in there at all. But it looks great, James Mangold as director should have been hired for the previous Wolverine film too because he nails the character perfectly, and Huge Jacked Man is so good as the character that you can’t believe anyone else could ever play him.

Rating: thumbs up

Deep Rising (1998)

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Directed by: Stephen Sommers

I was flicking through Sky Movies this afternoon and decided to watch ‘Deep Rising’. I hit the ‘i’ button on the remote before the film began and learnt that it was about a bunch of pirates who attempt to rob a cruise ship, unfortunately “something had already got there first”. After watching the first fifteen minutes of the movie I assumed that the something was actually a “someone” and that stealthy sleek jewel thief Famke Janssen was the person who would outsmart the pirates. What I didn’t expect was a flesh eating multi-tentacled sea creature to turn up and kill everything in sight.

It was not until the cruise liner comes to a crashing halt and an Asian woman is killed in a toilet cubicle that I realized – hang on a minute, there’s something strange going on here. This is a monster movie.

Disappointingly it all goes downhill from there. The survivors battle against the odds, as one by one they get picked off by the monster in gruesome fashion. You’ve seen this movie before, either with an alien, a serial killer or a supernatural beast. It’s that formulaic. Our heroes and heroines discover something horrible, panic about the discovery, run away for a while, and then eventually escape.

Famke Janssen was my teenage movie crush in the nineties, and she’s the leading lady in this film, playing the sneaky Trillian St. James. I think my attraction to Janssen may have had something to do with her crushing Russians in her well-toned thighs in ‘Goldeneye’ or as an authoritative teacher in teen sci-fi horror ‘The Faculty’. Given that I’m regressing back to my horny teenage lusting period it makes sense to say something that I probably would’ve said back in the late nineties – Janssen smokes up the screen with her hotness. For a while she wears a tight fitting red dress, when the monster is raising hell she changes into something casual and ultimately more practical attire for fleeing from a blood thirsty sea monster.

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‘Deep Rising’ could’ve been dramatically different had the hero role of John Finnegan gone to Harrison Ford, instead Treat Williams got the gig and he does ok. Though I can’t help but wonder if he’s trying a little hard to be Jack Burton from ‘Big Trouble…’ (replace truck driver for hire with boat captain for hire), kinda bumbling along confidently despite having no idea what he’s going up against. For one thing he and his crew agree to ferry a group of heavily armed pirates and their torpedoes out on an ocean trip, destination unknown. Finnegan’s pretty dumb not to be at least a little curious about his passengers.

The multi-tentacled sea monster is able to do things that I’ve never ever seen a sea monster do on screen before, somehow it is able to stretch itself miles through pipes and corridors; its tentacles splitting off into several nimble angry fanged openings, hungry for anything with a pulse. The monster feeds on the ship’s crew and passengers, and then the invading pirates, leaving skeletons in the bowels of the boat. Despite seemingly being powerful enough to stop a ship in its tracks, and smash through iron, and even clever enough to sneak up on its victims, it has real difficulty catching the final few survivors, consistently getting outsmarted by them.

‘Deep Rising’ cost forty five million dollars to make, and made just over eleven million at the box office. It was a stone cold flop, and can be best described as a damp squid of a movie.

– RJW
4/10

Deep Rising on IMDB