PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES REVIEW AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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Johnny Depp plumbs new depths in the latest Pirates movie out tomorrow. Thankfully Geoffrey Rush remains a better part of a franchise on its way out. I wish I could tell you otherwise but alas you can read more of my thoughts here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-tales/

I’m very grateful to have another review of a brand new blockbuster movie published over at the wonderful Buzz Magazine. It means a lot to get published on such sites and I appreciate anybody taking the time to click on the extra link and check out my work.

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

My wife enjoyed the film well enough so maybe it’s just me but I feel a responsibility to tell you that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still out in cinemas and a damn fine film. Once again I appreciate anybody who clicks on the link to read it and hope you enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

ALIEN CONVENANT SURE WON’T BE MISTAKEN FOR ALIEN: COVETED

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Alien: Convenant has opened to mixed reviews and solid if not exciting box office. Such a reaction may spell the end of Ridley Scott’s plan to close out a new trilogy of Alien films for this decade but will this film grow in prestige with time. Setting out to serve two audiences it may fail to completely satisfy either but there’s no denying there’s good stuff here. Is it enough?

GenXers growing up in the shadow of the first two films were always keen for more go arounds when rumours would arise of James Cameron or Ridley Scott returning to the franchise. At one point long before Avatar took up his time there were even rumours Scott would direct a film written and produced by Cameron but alas that was not to be.

in 2012 though Scott returned to science fiction for the first time since 1982 with Blade Runner to make a Prometheus that would deal with origins of the Aliens and answer finally who was that infamous space jockey. The infamous space jockey turned out to be a giant, bald grey humanoid who took a shot of tequila and made human kind. Or at least one of his ilk did a million years ago. Beyond that we didn’t learn much about them but the ending of Prometheus promised us we would find out in the next film. We don’t.

Prometheus saw the Hollywood debut of Noomi Rapace who did a solid turn as Elizabeth Shaw and before heading off on a new adventure at the end setting up a compulsory sequel. Don’t expect to see much of her in this sequel.

Prometheus sported some incredible visuals but its weak point were fucking moronic characters who played cute with space cobras and took off space helmets for no good reason so they could propel the narrative forward, felt ill and possibly contaminated but still had sex with their girlfriends and in a panic ran in straight lines ahead of rolling giant objects bearing down on them.

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Thankfully there were bright spots and not just some neat sexual tension between naked push-ups champ Charlize Theron and handsome Idris Elba. There was Michael Fassbender as peroxided android David. A character you definitely couldn’t trust but was endlessly fascinating whom with a mix of intelligence and naivety engaged me.

I had time for some of the human characters in Prometheus, but I wanted to find out what happened next to David. To this end Alien: Convenant is more of the same. Michael Fassbender returning as David and also starring as Walter a newer model android is easily the most engaging performance/s of the film. Nothing against Katherine Waterston or Danny McBride who acquit themselves well but they’re types and also lambs for the slaughter. Nobody is still wearing a space helmet again but at least the word quarantine comes up in conversation and it just seems like the momentum is always against the human characters here that you understand why mistakes are made even if they are still clearly mistakes.

I guess you want to hear the plot right? Okay people on a ship in cyrosleep going to a planet. Fire on ship, people wake up. Get signal from other planet. Decide to go there because it is habitable and just had people die on fire on ship. Get there and….aliens. Sort of.

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There-done. I can’t state this enough Fassbender and Guy Pearce having a conversation in a white room at the beginning of the film was far more thrilling for me than an Alien tearing down spaceship corridors in the third act. Everything with David and Walter was far more fascinating to me than the alien scares and I suspect the same for Ridley Scott. Despite this though I do think the venerable director has had a red hot go at making the xenomorph scary again and giving us fantastically gross deaths to try and top the chest-bursting scene of the original. Creatures in long grass leaping out at dusk illuminated by nearby burning wreckage. Bursting open backs rather than stomachs. Neomorphs braying quietly an inch from you like a horse. The classic cliché of a shower sex coupling interrupted by other appendages moving in are memorable images as are pathogens moving through ear canals. If there is any complaint it is that it would have been nice to up the creep factor a bit with some of these sequences. Sadly the creatures themselves often move too fast and with little weight obviously rendered by computer their movements are now too sleek compared to the haunting creature in the earlier films. However the scene much touted in the marketing where a belayed Waterston does battle with the classic xenomorph on top of a careening space vehicle while packing a modified Steyr assault rifle is the kind of sequence that couldn’t have been done 20 years ago the same way and makes great use of modern technology.

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The film itself is less pretty than Prometheus sporting harsher colours, the planet in this film replaces the bare black volcanic rock with forests and medieval like structures but the sky is darker, the colours even more muted adding up to convey a nightmarish quality of a ruined world. Positively gothic. Which is kind of the point and maybe why this may struggle to find a huge audience. This is a dour film offering no real easy answers. There’s plenty of horror and action in it but its more interested in bigger themes. Yet saying that big themes and moodiness is why this film won’t click with some is just an excuse. Plenty of dour films can still entertain you with their effectiveness. There are interesting ideas in Alien: Convenant, some neat deaths and two compelling performances from Michael Fassbender. I was angry about the idea of having already waited five years for answers when Convenant was only going to leave me hanging for more but I am now intrigued to see where Scott takes this. Yet that does not a satisfying film make and Alien: Convenant is far from satisfying. Wait for it to come out on Disc or streaming. While Alien: Convenant seeks to address some of the criticisms of Prometheus I would argue the latter is still the better film. I’m also putting it out there in this corner of the internet, Sir Ridley I’d like to see Alien 5 with Ripley, Newt and Hicks more than I ever wanted to see this.

-Lloyd Marken

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EXTRAS WHO ADD A LITTLE SOMETHING – NEIL MULLARKEY

We’re stretching definitions with Extras in this series of posts. Extras are termed that by the fact that they are mostly in the background and once they have a line of dialogue they cease to be extras and becoming speaking parts. We’ve featured people who spoke but barely previously in this series. Here we’re pushing the boundaries further with a speaking part of several lines that plays over a scene. The character does not get a name and it is doubtful you would remember them but they are not really an extra and probably those in the previous posts weren’t extras either. So what’s the difference between an Extra Who Adds A Little Something and Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact? For me the latter usually involves more screen time, involves a scene I always remembered with a character who may significantly alter how the story goes. Yet these are not hard and fast rules to play by. For me there is a difference but it could all be in the eye of beholder. This week we’re talking about a scene that I don’t think really stuck in my mind but when I watched the scene again recently I enjoyed the way the performer did his moment. For Extras who truly stood out please refer to the awesome post by Mental Floss.

Finally we come to this months Extras Who Add A Little Something.
Recognise this man?

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How about now?

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Educated at Cambridge, 55 year old Neil Mullarkey worked the pub circuit as a double act in the early 1980s with British comedian Tony Hawks. When Hawks left, Mullarkey teamed up with Mike Myers. Image result for neil mullarkeyOften they would perform at the George IV in Chiswick where a young Hugh Grant was performing in the Jockeys of Norfolk revue. That must have been a grand time. Mullarkey remains a working comic performer, writer, voice-over artist and actor making a living doing what he loves and doing it well. To me this is a wonderful achievement.

In 1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery came at an interesting time in Mike Myers career. He had become a star thanks to Saturday Night Live, gone supernova with Wayne’s World and an obligatory sequel but had failed with So I Married An Axe Murderer. I don’t know if having old friends around were a comfort or even if Myers doubted this film would be good but Mullarkey who had done script edits on Axe Murderer appears here with his old colleague as the Quartermaster Clerk (listed 21st on the cast list at IMDB).

It’s a simple scene, superspy from the 1960s Austin Powers has woken up from cryosleep in 1997 and is being handled his personal effects. It’s funny as so many scenes in this film are, one item Powers is handed plays a part later on in saving his life but not much happens. Yet Mullarkey’s line reading of “Babee” always makes me smile. He also ties the scene in a nice little bow at the end with his final gesture.

I just don’t see the scene playing as well in lesser hands than Mullarkey and Myers but maybe that’s just me. You can check out more about Neil Mullarkey at his website here http://www.neilmullarkey.com/

-Lloyd Marken

 

STAR CHARACTER ACTORS – AL LEONG

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Character actors are actors who get stuck playing a type in several high profile productions. Maybe over time they become famous for doing several of these roles or they become well known and branch out. Al Leong as a stuntman trained in martial arts with a distinct look was destined to play henchmen and whenever Hollywood went through a martial arts craze he was well placed as an Asian performer to get roles. I never knew his name but as a child from the 80s I never failed to recognise the guy with the long flowing goatee and receding hairline. Looking over his credits at IMDB it’s not hard to see why, he was in almost every damn TV show I watched back then. Image result for al leongThe Greatest American Hero, The A-Team (re-cast in several episodes as different henchman or thugs), Knight Rider, Airwolf, MacGyver and Magnum fucking P.I.

No wonder I recognised him in his more famous film appearances which include Big Trouble in Little ChinaLethal Weapon, Die Hard, Black Rain uncredited, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as Genghis Khan rolling around on a skateboard, uncredited in The Last Action Hero and uncredited Big Showdown in Little Tokyo. Image result for al leong

In 2000 he wrote, directed and performed in the film Daddy Tell Me A Story, a small film which I don’t recall. Unlike say Stephen Tobolowksy though Mr Leong never really got to branch out into different types of roles. Maybe his range as an actor was limited but we may never know since there are few opportunities to see for ourselves. Two come to mind, his reluctant torturer in Lethal Weapon in which he got a few lines and delivered them well. The other is Die Hard where his henchman in tense moment comically scavenges a chocolate bar. The kind of decision a performer will make to give their character some personality and add some extra flavour to the film. Health issues including beating brain cancer and enduring two strokes led to him doing less film work. You can read more about his life here at Dazed where he was interviewed upon the publication of his memoir The Eight Lives of Al “Ka-Bong” Leong in 2014.

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Whatever he’s doing, I hope he’s happy, recent photos suggest he’s remained in tip top shape. We should find out soon as the documentary Henchman: The Al Leong Story is in post production. Al Leong left an indelible impression on my childhood with his professionalism, graceful physicality and a love for Crunch chocolate bars.

-Lloyd Marken

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 REVIEW AVAILABLE ON BUZZ

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There were two films I was most looking forward to in 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Good trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman have me excited about those films like Logan did previously and of course I can’t wait for Oscar season every year. But Guardians was it for me and it came out last week in Australia.

While I’ve never read one of the comics there was something new and interesting about the team since I saw the concept art for the first film. After the trailer for the original dropped I told friends in early 2014 that this was a film that could be Star Wars for a new generation. As it turns out we were lucky enough to have Star Wars be Star Wars for this generation but Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be a success beyond expectations too.

Three years later and you can read my review of the sequel here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/guardians-of-the-galaxy-review/ at Buzz Magazine.

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

It is a huge honour to have anything I write appear on their website but to have it be for such a hotly anticipated film that I have fallen in love with is quite a thrill. Once again I appreciate anybody who clicks on the link to read it and hope you enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

BERLIN SYNDROME REVIEW AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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I continue to be fortunate enough to have reviews published online at respected magazines. If you wish, please click on the link to read my review for Berlin Syndrome here at https://heavymag.com.au/film-review-berlin-syndrome/#.WQhkK421vIU

An effectively made horror film without the gore but all the squeamishness, it boasts two brave performances from Teresa Palmer and Max Riermelt. I applaud the technique of the filmmakers but wonder who will really get much out of a film that deals with such harrowing subject matter as abduction and imprisonment.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I am very grateful to have had this review published on their website.

-Lloyd Marken

SOME STATS ON MY ‘THE FOUNDER’ REVIEW – OVER 1,000 VIEWS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2017

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I apologise for this ‘tooting of trumpet’post and also for said trumpet not being as impressive as some of my fellow blogs saxophones, clarinets and French horns. Stats though have for a long time been fascinating to me so I thought I would share this never to be repeated occurrence.

I published five reviews in 1 day back in January to effectively catch up on films I’d seen in the past year. The day was January 18, 2017 and concluded with a post about The Founder titled Ray Kroc…What An Asshole! It proved the most popular of those five reviews and closed out the month less than a fortnight later with 53 views averaging 3 views a day with the majority coming in the first 48 hours. So far, so normal for this blog. Some posts retain interest over the months. Last year reviews for Eye in the Sky, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Star Trek: Beyond kept getting interest months after being published with a few views sprinkled here and there. So it was no surprise when some love came the way of Ray Kroc Asshole in February. Yet it quickly became apparent something else was afoot and due to fellow blogger Beetley Pete’s own experiences and knowledge it was ascertained that the review was being featured on some app which greatly increased it’s profile. There were also a lot of people coming out of The Founder and google searching Ray Kroc Asshole and variations on that. Also as Beetley Pete pointed out as the post became my most seen it started to feature on references to my site through various means. The more popular a post becomes the more it defaults to coming up in searches and references. It’s not in my humble opinion one of my best or worst reviews. It is relatively short though and I think reflects a broad consensus on the film which is that it is well made with a particularly great Michael Keaton performance but that it is hard to enjoy due to Kroc being such a…well you know.

In February there were 372 views with an average per day of 13 views for that month.

In March there were 212 views with an average per day of 6 views for that month.

Fair to say as April began the views were slowing down but with 637 views there was a good chance one day we might reach 1,000. Then the views shot up following digital and disc release of the title across the world. April 19 I posted happily that the milestone of 1,000 views had been reached, quite a lucky break for my little corner of the internet.

Yet the views while slowing down again now kept coming for the rest of the month and I just to share some of these stats. In April Ray Kroc….What An Asshole received 1,098 views with an average of 36 views per day. On the 23rd of April it received 135 views which only a handful of other posts on this blog have received in their lifetime. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army has received 141 views mostly due to it kindly being featured on GP Cox’s site. 124 views for The Heroes of Kibeho have been received and that is a reflection of how painful, moving and important the story of those Australian soldiers is. While my review of the ever popular Hunt for the Wilderpeople has received 123 views. 115 views have been received for a post about South Vienamese General Ngo Quang Truong whose story can only be heard more. My Sunshine Blogger Award post has not retained interest but still has 107 views all up. 99 views have been received for a review of my favourite film from last year Eye in the Sky.  For that week there were 414 views, more than the crazy amount of views in February 2017.

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In fact with this crazy amount of views that stats for the blog are out of whack. There were 1,712 views in America for 2016, for just this past month there have been 1,077 views from the United States of America. 2017 with 5,495 views and 3,277 visitors now has almost as many as the whole year of 2016 with 5,673 views and 3,206 visitors and it’s not really because the blog has grown in popularity but just because this post has featured on an app and is now in the google search matrix.

Again this isn’t really a reflection on what I’ve done but more on the skill of IT gurus and the makers of The Founder who at the very least created a strong reaction from the audience to the central character.

An interesting tidbit, the most popular blog post from April was Over 1,000 Views For The Founder with 56 views. Either way, fluke or not, I’m very grateful for it and I hope those people who came across the post enjoyed reading it.

-Lloyd Marken

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