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By midlandsmovies, Feb 6 2020 03:58PM

Daniel Isn't Real (2020) Dir. Adam Egypt Mortimer

Based on In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw, Daniel Isn’t Real is a new horror-thriller starring Miles Robbins (Blockers) as a young man with some serious psychological issues. After witnessing a shooting, a young shy boy called Luke meets Daniel whose outward confidence ends up connecting the two boys as friends. However, Daniel cannot be seen by Luke’s mother and after his imaginary friend tricks Luke into almost poisoning her, Luke metaphorically locks Daniel in an old dollhouse.

Years later, a teenage Luke (now played by Robbins) has become a worried student who unlocks the dollhouse after travelling home one day, and now an older Daniel (played by Arnie’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger) reappears to him.

An interesting idea, the film could be the worst of b-movie horrors but takes its set-up and characters mostly seriously. As Daniel begins to help out Luke overcome personal demons and help others, the figment of his imagination is soon involved in assaults and violence and becomes a real demon of his own.

The film cleverly uses Luke’s photography hobby as a metaphor for image and self-projection and his old camera along with other students’ artwork focuses the film on symbolic duplicates, replication and the internal and external aesthetics of persona.

As Luke’s mother struggles with her own mental health issues, the film does swerve from its analysis of schizophrenia and move into more body-horror and the supernatural. This is no bad thing though and through sex, drugs and self-medication, the film attempts to tackle more heady themes than you’ll see in an Insidious or Annabelle.

Reminiscent of Austrian movie Goodnight Mommy (2014) and a bit of Fight Club (1999), the film does have somewhat of a reveal later on but it’s a pleasant surprise to have the conceit explained early on to avoid a clichéd denouement.

From the opening sequence to a body possession, there are also flashes of some brilliantly constructed and visually arresting shots yet the film doesn’t quite get away from its less-than-original premise. And narratively I felt you could mostly see where it is going beat-by-beat.

However, for the first horror of 2020 I’ve seen it has set the standard of mixing genre tropes with a few new ideas to provide a satisfying albeit slightly inconsequential tale of terror.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Oct 30 2019 08:34PM

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Dir. Tim Miller

‘Produced by James Cameron’ screams the marketing but the legendary director’s visionary visuals and interesting ideas are nowhere to be seen in this 6th out outing for Arnie and his sci-fi chums.

Another plodding franchise filler, Dark Fate has killing machine Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) going back in time to terminate Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). But she is protected by fellow time-traveller and enhanced super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Along the dreary journey she picks up a mature Linda Hamilton who returns as original hero Sarah Connor. She has doubts but then joins forces with a family-orientated (!?) T-800 and Schwarzenegger appears with his head the size of a ham.

An interesting opening leads to bland action-beats and it’s generally cheap looking (it’s budgeted at a phenomenal $185m but looks half that) with video-game cinematography and new robot overlord “LEGION” is an attempt to steer focus from previous sequels but is just a cheap-ass SKYNET.

I could say it’s another T2 rip-off but we’ve already had two of those so this is essentially a Genisys rehash. I know some of the ideas are staples of the franchise but the film is so boringly familiar, it's a wonder why they've bothered at all.

From a liquid metal Terminator 'creeping' through a windscreen, a big yellow vehicle smashing into cars and a protagonist stepping out from a vehicle pulling up to a side-on halt, Dark Fate fails at any sense of originality. Hasn’t Miller seen Fury Road? Or MI: Fallout? Or The Raid? Or Blade Runner 2049? These should be the influences but it’s more run-of-the-mill action splattered with yawn-inducing CGI and haphazard editing.

With a final smackdown at an industrial factory and a shot of Arnie sliding down a dam, the film is another misstep thinking a Terminator in a superhero pose is “cooler” than Arnie speaking to a police station receptionist. And in many ways, I could have simply copied and pasted my Genisys review as all the same flaws apply here.

Hamilton is the one saving grace yet is hugely underused and its over an hour before she meets with Arnie. And to be brutal, it was at that point I thought this is where the film should have BEGUN. Ditch the previous hour as it’s so forgettable.

I therefore left the Terminator Dark Fate screening with a huge sigh. It’s not comically bad but it’s nowhere near the shot in the arm this franchise needed. And in the end, it’s simply unforgiveable that all the mistakes from the last few sequels have not been rectified in the slightest, but in fact they have been duplicated like this film’s badly designed villain.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 12 2018 08:10AM

Killing Gunther (2017) Dir. Taran Killam

Directed by funny-man Taran Killam, this new “comedy” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who plays the world’s best hit man and the attempts by a group of assassins to try and get rid of the legendary killer.

The film is shot in a documentary/hand-held style and begins by introducing us to the contract killers explaining their background and relationship to Gunther as they join forces in their plans to kill him.

The documentary makers are there as proof they complete the job – thus also getting around the old question of “who is filming this” of such films. The hand-held nature seems a choice of low budget – no doubt a lot went to afford Arnie himself – but don’t be fooled by his appearance at the centre of the film’s poster. He actually arrives in the final 20 minutes!

The Gunther character DOES appear before then, as a thorn in the group’s side, but he is consistently covered in a trench coat, shown in blurred whip pans or merely talked about off-screen. In fact, it’s a bit of a hood-wink and without the draw of Arnie, the unfunny cast and low production values often fail to deliver anything of interest at all.

As they hunt Gunther, they become stalked themselves yet other than a few well-edited action sequences (clearly CGI enhanced) the movie’s puerile humour and OTT performances have all the charm, and value, of a Saturday Night Live sketch. And one that certainly didn’t need to be beyond the 10 minute length.

The film’s few positives nearly all occur when Arnie arrives as he pantomimes his way through a silly character in a ridiculous performance that is sorely missed from the rest of the film. Don’t be fooled by the marketing, this isn’t Arnie’s film at all, and in the end this awful comedy experiment will make you feel disappointed if not a little cheated.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 1 2015 03:07PM

Terminator Genisys (2015) Dir. Alan Taylor

“It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

So said Kyle Reese in 1984’s seminal sci-fi success The Terminator and it is with a nod to that film that this movie begins by trying to fix what happened in the past. Or is that Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap?

Anyways, similarly this film seeks to literally travel back “into” the previous film a bit like Marty McFly did in Back to the Future Part 2 and thus begins one of the most confusing plots of a Summer blockbuster since Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

So, the story – if I can summarise such a convoluted set of beats – involves Kyle Reese (now played by “franchise-killer” Jai Courtney) sent back to 1984 (as per the first film) only to find a reprogrammed Arnie there already. He has brought up Sarah Connor as a young girl so she is ready for action and kills the evil “1984” Arnie as he arrives in LA. Still with me? They then fight a T-1000 who has also been sent back to 1984 and the movie starts to edge away from the first film now having “re-set” the timeline. This is followed by a plan to leap forward in time, not all the way to the Skynet future, just a little bit (good god!) and then the old John Connor is sent back from the Skynet time to the slightly future time. Can you guess why this film is a mess yet?

Plot aside, the film’s flaws are many. The actors are simply awful. Courtney has already established himself as a charisma vacuum whilst Emilia Clarke as Sarah looks about 12 and has no chemistry with Courtney at any point. The dialogue is delivered with all the passion of a dead dog, the script is cobbled together from previous films alongside images we have all seen (many many times) before.

I liked Alan Taylor for his work on Thor 2 (I was one of only a few) but here he brings no visual flair at all. It’s shot like a TV movie and although he apparently fought executives to hide the film’s twist from the trailer – which makes sense but he didn’t win that battle – he can’t just use that as an excuse for the rest of the film.

In the past I’ve said Terminator 2 is possibly my favourite film of all time. To give further context, I very much hated Terminator 3’s PG-rated repeat of that film whilst again I was in the minority to enjoy Salvation. I thought the new focus on the future was a more interesting direction to go in and liked the more serious atmosphere. This one is like a covers album CD though. You’ve heard and seen everything before. It’s nothing new and incredibly “beige” in every unmemorable department as well as lower in quality than the original.

The first part of a planned NEW trilogy (I thought Salvation was too) I can only hope $400 million is not enough of a box office haul to make another along this particular timeline. I enjoyed the opening “future” scenes where the resistance was taking Skynet and discovered the time-machine. They had an authenticity and freshness that was nowhere to be seen for the next 90 minutes of dullness.

Its audience was once the serious adult action/sci-fi genre but it’s now family-friendly nonsense and I wish the films returned to a higher rated and darker tone (much like Mad Max did and look how successful that was in maintaining its core fans). However, unlike Skynet, I cannot see the future but from the previous evidence, further Schwarzenegger-approved comedy cash-ins will be a Judgement Day-like inevitability.

So, much like Terminator: Genisys, I take this review full circle all the way back to the beginning…

“It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

Sadly, this line now resonates as a symbol of the Terminator franchise itself; An emotionally void, terminally ongoing machine that will not stop until it claims every last bit from a resisting human audience.

6.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2015 04:22PM

Maggie (2015) Dir. Henry Hobson

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in his first horror film since End of Days (1999) in this lo-fi indie film that takes a look at a virus infected post-apocalyptic world and the impact that has on one rural family.

Arnie is Wade, the father of Maggie (Abigail Breslin) who after being trapped in a city curfew ends up with a bite mark and is quarantined by the authorities. After much searching, Wade brings her back to his farmhouse and starts to deal with the harsh realities of the inevitable after-effects. Maggie’s stepmother Caroline, played well by Joely Richardson (who hasn’t appeared in anything for far too long) supports the family as they come to terms with the situation as Maggie’s health deteriorates.

Cutting off her black liquid oozing finger in one scene, Maggie attempts to live an ordinary life with her friends and family as Arnie protects her from the encroaching authorities whilst at the same time defending himself from attacks from local townfolk who have already succumb to their infections. As the doctor encourages him to make a decision, quarantine or suggesting he “make it quick”, Arnie deliberates on the repercussions but keeps her at home increasing their bond together. However, her infection continues to change her actions and her appearance before Wade, Maggie and the Sheriff face off together in a struggle of wills.

If all this sounds exciting and a unique take then you’d be half right. The twist of looking after an infected loved one is a solid premise but the film’s pace is so often slow and dragging that the great ideas are lost in endless establishing shots, Arnie looking thoughtfully into the distance and a low-key score. Shots of rustling trees remind us for the hundredth time this is a personal and “deep” story but only serve to halt any intensity brought into play by previous scenes.

Schwarzenegger’s limited range as an actor is helped by his limited dialogue but the film suffers so much from its lacklustre pace. Clearly trying to define itself away from an action aesthetic, it sorely misses out on some “punch” to keep the narrative moving forward. That said, I’d much rather Arnie try something new and innovative – even if it doesn’t quite hit the mark – than churning out the middle-of-the-road blockbusters he is known for.

The film therefore is an admirable attempt to bring an alternative look at familiar zombie concepts, but the execution is just not up to standard. Dull and disorderly, Maggie may not be a disaster by any means but definitely squanders its fresh ideas on time-consuming scene-setting and underdeveloped roles.

A disease ridden disappointment.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 23 2015 09:24PM

All Arnold Schwarzenegger Films Ranked from best to worst

Here’s our countdown of Arnie’s best movies since he became an actor all the way back in 1969.

We’re sticking with starring roles so some cameos, bit parts and TV appearances are not included. Sadly that means no Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time (1996) – the movie short directed by James Cameron that appeared during Universal Studios’ Terminator ride at their Florida theme park. It’s still better than Terminator 3 though! I haven’t included Maggie and Terminator: Genisys (both of which are due for release later in 2015). “I’ll be back” with a position for those two films after Summer ;)

29. Batman & Robin 1997 Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze Warner Bros. Pictures

Well, the least favourite for Arnie is one of my least favourite films of all time too. With ice-related puns coming quick and fast (27 in total!) and an awful design aesthetic for Arnie’s costume and the film as a whole, it’s no wonder it was Empire’s #1 Worst Movies Ever in 2010.

28. Red Sonja 1985 Kalidor MGM / United Artists

A sort-of spin off from Conan, Arnie does not play Conan but a carbon copy warrior (the film could not get the rights to the character) in this awful fantasy. Arnie never slates his films (not even his worst attempts) but went as far as telling his kids that: “If they get on my bad side, they'll be forced to watch Red Sonja ten times in a row”. Punishment indeed.

27. Conan the Destroyer 1984 Conan Universal Pictures

After original director John Milius was unavailable, the film company went with a more family-friendly affair much to Arnie’s protests which subsequently made him only star in contemporary films from then on.

26. Collateral Damage 2002 Gordy Brewer Warner Bros. Pictures

A simply unremarkable film that both haters and lovers of Arnie’s oeuvre cannot often recall in this 2002 movie. Its terrorist subject matter was played down and publicity kept to a minimum in the wake of 9/11 but once it did get a release no one cared anyway.

25. Jingle All the Way 1996 Howard Langston 20th Century Fox

Some have found a commercial/capitalist political undercurrent in this Christmas farce but I think it’s a load of old tosh that not even Turbo Man could save. Festive yet frightfully poor.

24. Hercules in New York 1969 Hercules Trimark Pictures Credited as Arnold Strong

To nab the role in his film debut, Arnold’s agent said he had years of "stage" experience, implying the theatre but Schwarzenegger owned up later to say this was simply bodybuilding stages. The film is awful but can be enjoyed as a cult curiosity given Arnie’s subsequent rise.

23. End of Days 1999 Jericho Cane Universal Pictures (US)

Coming 2 years after Batman, Arnie was struggling to get insured after his heart attack but was eventually back doing his action in this mostly forgettable Satan-based story.

22. The Expendables 2010 Trench Mauser The Expendables 2 2012 The Expendables 3 2014

I’ve lumped these together as they are as much cameos as they are full parts. It was great to see Arnie back on screen after his career in politics came to an end but his age was starting to show and Sly’s films were pale imitations of the awesome 80s action films he was attempting to emulate.

21. Stay Hungry 1976 Joe Santo United Artists

Playing a professional body builder was hardly a stretch for Arnie in this film but his solid stint actually resulted in him winning a Golden Globe Award for "Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture" (even though Hercules was actually his first!)

20. Junior 1994 Dr. Alex Hesse Universal Pictures

Directed by Ivan Reitman who also made Kindergarten Cop and Twins, Junior reunited Arnie with his co-star of the latter film Danny DeVito in a meek comedy about a pregnant man and although it’s made with heart, the result was a misfiring and mostly unfunny comedy

19. Raw Deal 1986 Mark Kaminsky

Originally intended to be called "Let's Make A Deal”, this forgettable action film was part of a contract Arnie negotiated which ended in him making Total Recall many years later. The story of an ex-FBI man going undercover is as old as the hills but Arnie’s career skyrocketed as he began stamping his big presence all over these types of action films.

18. The Last Stand 2013 Sheriff Ray Owens Lionsgate

Modern Schwarzenegger came back after T3 with this tale of an over-the-hill Sheriff in a small town. Johnny Knoxville does his best to ruin the film, but Arnie’s jokes about his old age and some neat action sequences push the film along and whilst hardly a classic, it demonstrated Arnie had not lost his big screen presence.

17. Twins 1988 Julius Benedict Universal Pictures

“I’m your twin brother Julius!” Arnie’s comedy teams him up with DeVito as two long lost brothers in an experiment gone wrong. With a much-mooted sequel called “Triplets” (with Eddie Murphy as the third sibling) never materialising, Arnie was content with making $35 million from his 20% video sales contract - earning more from this than any of his Terminator movies in this amusing mismatched farce.

16. Red Heat 1988 Captain Ivan Danko TriStar Pictures

A cold war buddy-cop movie matching Soviet Schwarzenegger with James Belushi, this culture clash film had solid action and comedy whilst scenes depicting Moscow’s Red Square were actually shot incognito as the crew had failed to get permission to film there.

15. Escape Plan 2013 Emil Rottmayer / Victor Mannheim Summit Entertainment

A long overdue proper team up with fellow 80s action hero Sly Stallone for this second comeback film, Arnie (again) plays on his old action persona but the film had one surprising scene with Arnie speaking in his native Austrian language. I think this was possibly the best acting I had ever seen from the “oak”. Showing that he still has some surprises left in him I would love to see more of this and less of the “jokey” Arnie he often descends into.

14. Eraser 1996 U.S. Marshal John Kruger Warner Bros. Pictures

Erased had a troubled production with Arnie playing mediator between crew members as well as last minute re-writes meaning the film didn’t hold together as well as it should. But with James Caan as an evil villain and some impressive CGI-augmented guns, the action beats were all there for more classic mayhem.

13. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003 The Terminator Warner Bros. Pictures

Arnie’s terrible turn as his iconic role still manages to lift this awful film above its station. Killing off Sarah and a bleak ending involving Nick Stahl were two miscalculated decisions but with all the series’ motifs returning, Arnie showed he could still take a battering as a ‘bot. A misfire on so many levels but ‘bad Terminator’ is still better than most sci-fi action films out there.

12. Pumping Iron 1977 Himself

From his humble Austrian beginnings to the bright lights of World Bodybuilding, Arnie’s autobiography compliments this amazing documentary and highlights how much the sport helped him develop and how much it means to him. Helping to focus Arnie’s talents and then taking his big persona across the globe, Schwarzenegger used this as a platform to get him into movies but not before ensuring we had a better understanding of our bodies and health. Whilst some of the stories were embellished (Arnie has admitted that not attending his father’s funeral was an outright lie) the doc shows the rivalries and ripped biceps of the biggest lifters on the planet.

11. The 6th Day 2000 Adam Gibson / Adam Gibson Clone Columbia Pictures

An overlooked gem in my opinion, this sci-fi cloning movie disappeared without much fanfare at the turn of the millennium but its multi-personality themes and chase narrative is a classic Arnie trait through and through. The action is solid and it concerns itself with more serious issues than most but with the usual one-liners and plot beats. With a satiric tone and big ambition it fails to hit the loftiest heights but gives an admirable showing of the action genre that Arnie does with aplomb.

10. Kindergarten Cop 1990 Detective John Kimble Universal Pictures

A silly piece of fluff is probably the best of Schwarzenegger’s family-friendly films as he plays a rough cop going undercover as a teacher at an elementary school. With the kids proving adorable and annoying to our hero in equal measure, its soft edges are the main contrast with Arnie’s mountainous and imposing frame. From funny one-liners (“It’s not a tumour”) to a fine cast of child actors, this was the pinnacle of PG-Arnie. But he didn’t make many thank goodness!

9. Conan the Barbarian 1982 Conan Universal Pictures

Sword training, martial arts and horse-riding made sure Arnie had the skilled components to play the legendary barbarian in this fantasy film. Alongside James Earl Jones and a series of exciting set-pieces, the film shows revenge, orgies and war battles and Arnie’s towering physicality brought to life the comic book anti-hero.

8. Commando1985 Colonel John Matrix 20th Century Fox

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vernon Wells have remained close friends ever since the making of this action movie and a sequel was drafted by Frank Darabont which eventually went on to become Die Hard. However, this was the perfect template of B-movie action fests that became Arnie’s calling card. With all the clichés in the world – retired elite Black Ops Commando? Check. One-man war? Check. South American criminals? Check. Kidnapped daughter? Check. AND an exiled dictator – meant that it has been providing Saturday night thrills ever since.

7. Last Action Hero 1993 Jack Slater / Himself Columbia Pictures

Misunderstood on its release, this quirky pastiche of genre clichés has since received a warmer welcome from critics who now appreciate its post-modern take on the films that made Arnie who he is today. Containing such random touches like a cartoon sidekick, Arnie as Hamlet and endless crossover parodies of characters from real life and fictional, the film tries to do too much AND aim for a broad family audience. Whilst it is a failure from one angle, it’s a subversive (albeit messy) success from another.

6. True Lies 1994 Harry Tasker 20th Century Fox

Along with Sigourney, Cameron found a bit of a sci-fi muse in Schwarzenegger and although this is probably the worst of their collaborations, it still holds up as a fine spy-caper riffing on everything from Mission Impossible to James Bond. From suburban slob to secret spy, Arnie is hardly the most convincing undercover agent you will see but with housewife Jamie Lee Curtis’s stereotypical terrorist, the cast managed to gracefully tango the fine line between genuine thrills and silly escapism. An enjoyable but nonsensical vehicle for Arnie’s trademark guns and violence, truly this was one explosive blockbuster from the mid 90s!

5. The Running Man 1987 Ben Richards TriStar Pictures

Apparently inspiring American Gladiators (just Gladiators here in the UK, awooga!) and loosely based on a story by Stephen King, this film featured Arnie as a man set-up to take part in a violent TV game show where he needs to survive along with fellow captured resistance fighters. Fighting off against such hilariously named “stalkers” like SubZero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo and Captain Freedom (ex wrestler and fellow Predator chaser Jesse Ventura) Arnie takes down host Killian who televises the shady show in the oppressive police state. Fun and frantic, the movie moves at a fast pace and strangely Arnie criticised the director for filming it like a TV show! His character also says “I'm not into politics. I'm into survival”. Quite.

4. Total Recall 1990 Douglas Quaid / Hauser TriStar Pictures

Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) made this film part of his classic sci-fi oeuvre which stars Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid, a man bored with his life who has implanted memories put into his mind. When the procedure goes wrong, he uncovers he could be an undercover spy (or is it part of the inception) and goes off on an adventure to free (another) oppressive regime. With one of the first uses of CGI for the X-Ray scanner, another Arnie-on-the-run film was helped by Verhoeven’s satirical take on familiar genre tropes and by adding 3-boobed aliens and Oscar winning special effects made this one fans would recall again and again as near-perfect Arnie.

3. Predator 1987 Major Alan "Dutch" Schaeffer 20th Century Fox

With a script by Shane Black (who also stars) Predator may even beat out Terminator as Arnie’s most quotable film even though the best lines are spread throughout the cast. “Get to the Chopper”, “I ain't got time to bleed” and “Come on... Come on! Do It! Kill me!” will be familiar to all of his fans and the support from Carl Weathers and Bill Duke round out a brilliant ensemble. With a jungle rescue mission going awry, the party are picked off one by one by the alien hunter in this brilliant mix of dialogue and dread in the dark and drizzly rain forest.

2. The Terminator 1984 The Terminator Orion Pictures

Giving him his most iconic role, James Cameron cast the ex-bodybuilder as an almost indestructible cyborg from the future on the prowl to kill the mother of a future resistance leader. Requiring few words, a huge physique and robotic acting range, it has to be said that Arnie was perfectly cast as Cameron takes a b-movie premise and gives it a much needed jolt with wit, great actions scenes, some innovative special effects and a solid cast to create a sci-fi behemoth. Which leads us to...

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 TriStar Pictures

Schwarzenegger was indeed “back” as Cameron delivered a high budget follow up to his “tech-noir’ original. Upping the ante with more action, deeper themes and an equally iconic CGI villain made of liquid metal, the mix of blockbuster action, clever smarts and spot-on casting cemented Arnie as the character we all loved. Becoming the “goodie”, this neat switch meant that audiences had a brand new story rather than a rehash making Cameron the king of sequels with this and Aliens. Being the only sequel to win an Academy Award when the previous movie wasn't even nominated, T2’s legacy is still being felt today with subsequent films trying to capture the unique and iconic magic of this 90s classic.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 13 2015 04:52PM

The Worst Sequels of All Time

With a mix of franchise balls-ups and delayed sequels as well as the truly horrid unnecessary follow up, here is my countdown of 30 of my least favourite sequels of all time with a few reasons why.

Sorry for those wanting to see Matrix Reloaded (the action saves it for me), X-Men: Last Stand (it’s pap but finishes the story fine for me) or Terminator: Salvation (it’s not the worst in the franchise by a long way) but I hope there’s plenty of others that got on your nerves without spoiling too many of your favourite films. From classics to straight-to-video, you’ll also find no prequels here (so no Phantom Menace or Dumb and Dumber: When Harry Met Lloyd) but definitely some of those WTF were they thinking moments and the always difficult to accept changing of established cast members.

Let the countdown begin..


30. The Exorcist 2 – replace the horror with grasshoppers and “visions” and you lose any audience that may have come with you from the original.

29. Rocky V – a franchise killer with Stallone casting family members unable to act in key roles.

28. Star Trek V – seriously old men camping in coats talking to God in this “action” sci-fi.

27. Spider-Man 3 – as a big fan of the Raimi-helmed web-slinger it pains me to include this but a duffer it is with far too many villains and THAT emo-Peter Parker dance scene. Tingling.

26. Son of the Mask – remove the excellent Jim Carrey and replace with Jamie Kennedy. That’ll work. No, it didn’t. It really didn’t.

25. Teen Wolf Too – replacing Michael J Fox with Jason Bateman was this film’s worst crime.

24. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – *spoiler warning* bad enough was a belated sequel no one cared even slightly about, but the original provocateur Oliver Stone concludes his movie with a ridiculous happy ending. This from the man who brought us Natural Born Killers, JFK and Platoon. Unforgiveable.

23. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo – a contender not because it spoilt the original – a mildly amusing gross-out farce – but because it could be the least funny comedy ever on screen.

22. Staying Alive – do you want to see a sweaty John Travolta in a leotard trying to make it as a dancer on Broadway directed by Sly Stallone? Nope. Neither did anyone else.

21. Sin City 2 – possibly the dullest sequel for sure and one that missed its chance of success by nearly a decade too late.


20. Robocop 3

Different actor for Robocop? Check. Directed by someone with no pedigree at all? Check. Ninjas? What the fuck but yes, check. Flying Robocop? Why the fuck not?! All the ingredients for a right old fuck up were here and present as Verhoeven’s original is stripped of any edge for a future children’s audience. You have the right to remain terrible.

19. S. Darko

Seriously. Whose idea was this? It’s such a mind bending decision that I would have rather seen a film about that than the absolute knock-off/money-grabbing sequel that was released.

18. Blues Brothers 2000

The terrible replacement of a beloved character (in which the actor died no less) is no way to begin thinking about creating a sequel 20 years after a classic. Add some worse musicians, an annoying kid and a rubbish plot and you have one of the lamest films from John “Trading (I forgot he was once good) Places” Landis.

17. Jaws 2/Jaws 3-D/Jaws: The Revenge

A truly special entry for 3 films that are all terrible in their own unique ways. Jaws 2 was always going to live in the shadow of its classic forerunner, whilst 3 added a low budget gimmick and terrible effects to the proceedings. The final mess of a film is universally despised (and rightly so) with the pissed off piscine hunting its prey and swimming 2000 miles in 3 days to do so. A franchise fail of great white proportions.

16. Grease 2

The not-needed sequel to the only musical film I really love was a huge mistake and not even one of my favourite actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer, can save this monstrosity. Throw in a few cameos from supporting characters (i.e. the only people who needed the money) and you’ve got a film that is far from supreme.

15. Matrix: Revolutions

Along the same lines as a film we’ll see later on the list, Revolutions thought more complexity equalled more interest. As we spend even less time in The Matrix (including an opening set in a limbo-representing subway, remember that shit?) the plight of Zion becomes something we care less and less about until an overblown fight and disappointing ending got the whole debacle over with and left us with the fading memory of that amazing first film.

14. Highlander 2

A legendary bad sequel that not only was a bad film, it totally changed the concept of the film before by including an alien back-story that made little or no sense. It would be higher in the charts if I was a bigger fan of the first but I know a duffer of a sequel when I see one and feel the pain of a once-beloved film being shat on.

13. Scream 4

A big fan of the original films (even 2 & the misjudged 3), here was a belated sequel literally no-one was crying out for – maybe except Courtney Cox’s accountants. With some behind-the-times allusions to cyberspace and celebrity culture, the first trilogy’s self-referential tone was lost amongst Epic Movie style pop culture “jokes” and zero scares.

12. Transformers 2

I’ve mentioned elsewhere my unapologetic and superficial enjoyment of the first Transformers film but by the sequel we were already seeing where this franchise was going. With less emphasis on the humans, more focus on comedy, a 2 ½ hour runtime and more product placement than you could shake a stick at, this sequel set the new low- standard for the others that came next.

11. American Psycho 2

Didn’t know this film exists? Well it does and this direct-to-video movie has Mila Kunis (of Black Swan fame) killing fellow students for a good grade. It also stars, wait for it, William Shatner. An absolute mess of a sequel and the pinnacle of low (no) budget filler follow ups.


10. The Godfather Part 3

It’s going to be difficult to follow up the Oscar winning original and the lauded sequel but what you shouldn’t do is wait nearly 20 years, give a key role to your unable to act daughter and not include one of your main protagonists (Robert Duvall). Despite 7 Oscar nominations and a large budget, this is rightly hailed as a template for why sequels can fail.

9. Terminator 3

I will still never understand the hate for Salvation whilst Rise of the Machines is in existence. Arnie’s “comedy” robot, Nick Stahl’s annoying Connor and SFX somehow worse than T2, this film should have been so much better but a disappointment was all we got.

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

I literally still have no idea what went on in this film. Part 4 was bad but at least had a self-contained story. This third part lost its navigation and do you remember that bit with Jack Sparrow as a chicken or talking to a goat? Well, it’s there and we’ve collectively blocked out this appalling stinker.

7. Alien vs Predator: Requiem

Watching this revealed one of those moments where you literally stop and think “how did we get here?” From the TV-soap opera cast and awful “story” we are light years away from Ridley Scott’s original space horror.

6. Blair Witch Project 2

A sequel to the infamous found footage horror ditched the main conceit of that film – the found footage aspect – and made a sequel with such bad acting and lack of connection with the previous film that its surprising it was even released as a sequel at all . Bland Witch Project.

5. Superman IV

An interesting one as I kind of remember enjoying this as a kid but a recent rewatch showed up the huge lack of budget and hilariously abysmal special effects. Heck some of the shots were even reused within the film. An absolute franchise killer for almost 20 years. Super!

4. Speed 2: Cruise Control

This is one of those completely unnecessary sequels that not only moved the exciting freeway-speeding concept to a rather slow boat, it lost its biggest star and still got a cinema release! The only remarkable thing was the speed in which the quality went from classic action to box office bomb.

3. Batman and Robin

I was such a huge childhood fan of Batman that when I hired this film from the shop, the 15-year old me turned it off halfway through and took it back the same day. Well done 15 year old me and I stand by that decision to this day.

2. Ocean’s Twelve

As a huge fan of the first heist movie, it lost everything that made that movie fun and its worst crime was Julia Roberts playing a character who gets mistaken for Julia Roberts by Bruce Willis. Yes, that’s the level of this film.

1. Die Hard 5

If you ever want a franchise killer, here’s one. Nothing like any of the previous films, Willis (showing up in spots 2 and 1) sleepwalks through a PG-level film making it my worst film of that year and the worst sequel ever since. My hatred of this film is immense and if it were possible, Die Hard 5 should be on its own list whereby if you have seen it you can get your mind wiped of its badness as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 30 2014 11:46PM

Okay, so The Expendables 3 has come out and although it is far better than 2 for me (despite its 12A rating) it is not quite as good as the first one. My dislike for The Expendables franchise is pretty clear and the main reason is the same as why the Transformers franchise also no longer works. For me, each film was best experienced as a one-off oddity that would have worked as a cult film. Audiences my age couldn’t wait to see their childhood memories of Optimus Prime and co come alive on screen whilst The Expendables brought back memories of those great films starring the Hollywood beefcakes of the 80’s in what appeared to be a dream action hero cast.

So what went wrong? Well, Transformers went nowhere and after the initial awe at the photo-realistic CGI, the film had nothing else in its bag of tricks whilst I’ve already stated that The Expendables is neither funny enough to do the Hot Shots-style pastiche or serious enough to be a good action film.

My reason for this list then is that since 2009/10 when the first Expendables was made and released I believe there are better examples of guilty pleasure 80s/90s high concept films that relate far closer to the types of films these guys were actually making. Many will undoubtedly argue I’ve missed the point but I don’t want to see Arnie/Sly/Bruce take the p*ss out of themselves (age, out of shape-ness, catchphrases etc) as to me they never did that in the past. The closest they got at spoof were the duds like Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero.

If you really want to capture the “essence” of that period, you have to look at a wider range of films. Predator wasn’t a comedy. Terminator wasn’t a comedy. Die Hard wasn’t self referential. They were more over the top actioners with a new twist on an established formula. Sure, they weren’t the most original concepts and the leads were the reason for much of the inevitable success but they have stuck around longer andit's why, for me, The Expendables is not catching that vibe at all. I thought Escape Plan was much more on the money from the geriactioners we have to date.

So – with all that in mind, the rules I’m trying to stick by are that the films are a) made at the same time as the Expendables franchise (which is 2009/10 onwards) and b) do not star the actors from the Expendables themselves and finally c) a (very subjective) decision that they have a 80s/90s vibe about them. My mantra, if you like their films of the period – watch these, you’ll be more satisfied!

80s buddy cop comedy (Lethal Weapon, Red Heat, 48 Hours)

The Other Guys and 22 Jump Street both riff on the clichés of the genre but have good action, clever set ups, some actual plot (although very slight) and are all the better because of it. The cops from opposite sides teaming up (young/old, black white, jock/nerd, USA/Russian) is a conventional set up but with charismatic actors and some more up to date jokes and sequences, both films nail the comedy/action balance perfectly with a genuine sense of friendship, laughs and criminal chasing and shooting throughout.

The cops versus criminals terrorists (Die Hard, Under Siege, True Lies, Air Force One)

Well, you’ve got the cop(s) ready to take on the terrorists in one place (building, boat, plane) which keeps the action contained but also creates tension as we are not distracted by other story strands and allows us a more intimate look at the characters as well as the cat-and-mouse dynamics that help push the plot along. So, for those who prefer flying fists I would recommend the ultra violent crime-fu pic The Raid whilst those into guns and bullets should check out Dredd (a graphic novel franchise Stallone already had a go at once and fluffed up beyond belief) whilst finally, those who want more of the Die Hard wise-cracking vibe of a visiting agent caught up in by accident in an attack then check out White House Down – a film that should have been the 5th Die Hard with a better concept and was far superior than what Willis eventually delivered.

Man and machine (Terminator 2, Universal Soldier)

Michael Bay’s 80s toy reboot Transformers proved that big dumb machines were clearly an audience puller but Del Toro showed him how to do it with his neon-drenched Asian-influenced Pacific Rim which put men (and women) at the heart of the machines but without scrimping on the effects budget one iota. With the Terminator learning more about humans and family bonding in Cameron’s sequel, the relationship between generations and a father-son dynamic was front and centre in Real Steel which used the concept of boxing robots to convey its message. The film is also fun if you’re a fan of Rocky and the classic underdog, broke father figure and comeback narrative which permeated that franchise.

Mind (and body) bending Sci-fi + Aliens attack (Total Recall, Predator)

Well there’s plenty to choose from in this genre with Repo Men depicting a future trading in body parts whilst Neeson in Unknown is essentially a Total Recall remake!

The genre crosses over in the amazing District 9 where aliens and body modification are centre stage in this analogy of South African apartheid whilst a more gung-ho army blast-fest was seen in the 80s style Battle Los Angeles where a group go into the urban jungle a la Predator to destroy human-hunting aliens.

Time related travel (Timecop, The Terminator)

Jumping in a machine and putting right what once went wrong was the cornerstone of many a film and TV series from the 80s/90s and one of the best modern movies to tackle the subject was Duncan Jones’ Source Code which played like an episode of TV classic Quantum Leap. In Time, starring Justin Timberlake was closer to Logan’s Run but it had a number of time-based concepts that did nothing new with the genre but was inoffensive guff in a Saturday night popcorn flick kind of way.

One man army (Desperado, Rambo, Commando)

Definitely one of those “of the time” genres that do not particularly hold up these days but Liam Neeson in Taken 1 & 2 shows that a man on a solo revenge can still be done in this cynical age given the right impetus – in this case, the kidnapping of various family members. If you prefer it in a more comedy style then Robert Rodriguez’s Machete is clearly in the same vein as The Expendables but with a more grimy grindhouse feel. Finally, a serious take was Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan in the criminally underrated Hanna which replaces grizzled machismo with an adaptable young girl.

Historical action film (Indiana Jones)

Harrison Ford has already ruined one beloved franchise and we hope he doesn’t do it again in the Star Wars sequel, however, my first choice for a similar fun jaunt though history chasing after important artefacts would be the Nic Cage starring National Treasures but they don’t count being made before 2010 so I’m going to chose Sherlock Holmes 2 which improved upon Guy Ritchie’s first film and once again had the audience following a fighter and a thinker across the globe.

Prison or on-the-run films (Lock Up, Demolition Man, The Fugitive)

From Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) to Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) the prisoner escape film is a perennial fave (Stallone has at least 4 entries here) but the guiltiest of pleasures is the modern update of Law Abiding Citizen – a complete nonsensical film of one dimensional characters, OTT acting and explosions galore but done with a pace that doesn’t allow too much time to analyse the gaping plot holes. In a similar vein, Elysium showed Matt Damon as a future prisoner trying to free himself and the entire population (a la Demolition Man) from an unequal future we’ve stumbled into.

Transport troubles (Passenger 57, Die Hard 2, Under Siege 2)

Often terrorism related but sometimes just pure accident, the violence on vehicles was seen in many an 80s action film and decent flicks that updated the premise include Non-Stop (with strapping Laim Neeson again) and Denzel Washington in runaway train movie Unstoppable. In an apocalyptic future, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell tackle Orwellian-style tyrants in 2014’s Snowpiercer which sees them battle from carriage to carriage within a train that is circling the globe during a future ice-age. The movie is an all out old-style action flick with a serious tone from Asian director Bong Joon-ho.

Apocalypse Films (Mad Max)

With a remake of Mad Max with Tom Hardy soon to be released, Denzel Washington channels the apocalyptic vibe in the brilliant The Book of Eli with a story twist, great action and the hunt for a book replacing oil whilst Tom Cruise’s Oblivion covers similar territory but with floating iPod style robots and a big conspiracy to uncover.

Sports rivalry (Rocky, Driven)

Finally, it would be easy to go with The Fighter or Warrior as a companion piece to Rocky but these two films are far too serious for the action fest of Sly and his buddies so if you want a fast cutting, high octane sports rivalry film then you better check out the adrenaline fuelled biopic Rush - you’ve done it again Howard!

Midlands Movies Mike

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