The Monster

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“Less would be more.”

monsterThere is a time when a film-maker needs to fall out of love with their script, and approach the resulting movie with a cold, critical eye, analyzing every scene with a single question in mind: Is it essential to the story being told? And if the answer isn’t “Yes”, then the scene needs to be ruthlessly excised. If you don’t, then what results is this film, where a good idea, which could have been lean, mean survival horror at its most stripped-down, becomes instead a cumbersome exercise in social drama.

Single mother Kathy (Kazan) is driving teenage daughter Lizzy (Ballentine) to her father, when they hit a wolf that has run out into the middle of the road on a remote country stretch of highway. While injuries are relatively minor, the car is unable to continue, and they have to hang out and wait for a repair truck to show up. However, when it does, and the mechanic is at work beneath their vehicle, the wolf’s corpse vanishes. Lizzy tracks it down in the woods, only to discover it shows signs of having been eaten, leaving her and her mother to wonder: what was bad enough that it could make a wolf run? They’re about to meet the answer.

It’s all the film needs, and when it concentrates on this, Bertino (who directed above-average home-invasion film, The Strangers) crafts a taut, effective work, as mother and daughter have to put aside their differences in the name of fending off the creature. The problem is the film’s insistence on inserting entirely unnecessary flashback scenes. They’re unnecessary because the dysfunctional nature of Kathy is established perfectly well before they have even left the house; everything thereafter is superfluous, and had me suppressing an urge to yell, “Enough, already! We get it!” at the screen.

I also get that the creature is intended to be a metaphor – though whether it’s intended to represent Kathy’s addiction-affected personality or Lizzy’s issues with trust and abandonment, is likely open to discussion. Either way, the mother is the monster in this interpretation; but again, it’s the kind of thing which works best when left for the audience to figure out or not, offering bonus depth if you want it. Here, Bertino seems to prefer whacking the viewer over the head with his subtext, to the point I had to undergo concussion tests.

On the plus side, Ballentine makes for an engaging young heroine, and the monster was laudably done with practical effects rather than CGI; given the relatively small budget, it looks decent enough. If you liked The Babadook – and I wasn’t particularly impressed with that either – then you might look more kindly on this attempt to merge the cerebral and the visceral. Only the latter half worked for me, the former providing more of an annoying distraction than offering any enhancement to the story.

Dir: Bryan Bertino
Star: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine

The Muthers

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“Jolly rogered.”

This is a strange cross-breed between a blaxploitation flick, a pirate movie and a women-in-prison film. Then again, a lot of the seventies films coming out of the Philippines tended to be at least somewhat bizarre, and this is likely no exception. The titular gang are pirates, led by Kelly (Bell) and Anggie (Katon), who roam what appears to be the Caribbean, going by the mention of Santo Domingo, but is actually in the Eastern hemisphere, boarding and robbing unsuspecting vessels, and fighting with a rival band of brigands using their kung-fu skills. However, Kelly’s sister goes missing, and is tracked down to a coffee farm belonging to the evil Monteiro (Carreon), which he runs in the manner of a pre-Civil War Southern plantation. Our heroines go undercover, only to discover getting out will be tougher than getting in.

It starts off in fine form, coming over as a modern, urban version of a sixties swashbuckler, and it’s a shame it didn’t stick to this premise, which would have offered something rather innovative. Instead, from the time Kelly and Anggie – yes, there is apparently an extra “g” in there – show up on the farm, it goes down too well-worn a path, with sadistic guards, fellow inmates who cozy up to their captors, and showers. Lots of showers. After the expected breakout attempts, recaptures and punishments, things eventually end in an equally expected riot, enlivened somewhat by the unexpected return appearance of the rival pirates, as allies of Monteiro,

muthersBoth Bell and Katon had worked with Santiago before, in T.N.T. Jackson and Ebony, Ivory & Jade respectively, and make a decent impression here. I’ve read a few other reviews that rip into this for poor-quality action, yet I can’t say I hated that aspect too much. Sure, there are times, particularly for any acrobatic moments, where the doubling is not exactly well-concealed. But there are other times where they’re putting in their fair share of effort, and should be appreciated for that. It is, if not quite tame, rather less sleazy than some on Santiago’s offerings. At first, I thought this was because I was watching it on Turner Classic Movies (yes, a refreshingly broad definition of “classic”!), but turns out to be fairly mild. Mind you, Bell’s ultra skin-tight top doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination there!

On the whole though, I’d have preferred if it had stuck with the pirate theme present at the beginning, which was a good deal fresher than the rote WiP fodder served up in the middle. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I did lose a bet with the wife: on seeing a guard tower overlooking the workers’ huts, I predicted it would later explode in a giant fireball, as a guard falls from it. I am disappointed to report that this simple pleasure was with-held from me. Sheesh, what is the world coming to, when a film from the golden age of Phillsploitation can’t even deliver on this expectation?

Dir: Cirio H. Santiago
Star: Jeannie Bell, Rosanne Katon, Trina Parks, Jayne Kennedy

Maggie Marvel

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“Juggling family and career can be murder.”

maggiemarvelMaggie Marvel (Beretta) is a single mom, with all the issues that implies. She has to try and juggle work with raising young daughter, Samantha (Katherine Brennan), on her own. But complicating matters enormously, is that work in this case is operating as an assassin for criminal kingpin Dutch – who also happens to be Maggie’s estranged father, who sent her away after his wife (and thus, Maggie’s mother) tried to poison him. Maggie was raised instead by Dixie Brown (Barron), who also works for Dutch as a killer. For he believes women are better at the job, and though he employs men, such as Bobby Shea (Dan Brennan) and his brothers, they are kept for non-lethal work. However, this line gets blurred as Bobby has fallen for Dixie, and his request that Maggie work with him on a bank robbery – hoping to make Dixie jealous – kicks off a series of events that threaten to destroy Maggie, her family and the entire crime organization.

It’s a good concept, and is helped enormously by Beretta, who was even more awesome in Hell Fire, even if her Australian accent requires some particularly convoluted explanations. Indeed, the story-line here in general is sometimes insanely complex, which explains why this runs 108 minutes: in some ways, I suspect less plot might well have been more successful here. Could certainly have done with less of the aspects which, particularly in the early going, occasionally make this feel like it’s a fetish tape for glove enthusiasts… Instead, writer-director-costar Brennan (who cast two of his own daughters in this, as well as it being produced by his wife Jean, keeping it a family affair) could perhaps have expanded on the single mother aspects, Maggie using her skills to deal with bitchy PTA rivals, recalcitrant teachers, etc., in a way similar to Serial Mom.

However, there are still a number of positives, not just Beretta. Most of the performances are solid, and the technical aspects are better than I was expecting – it’s often indistinguishable from a “real” movie. The comedic aspects work particularly well, in particular those surrounding the bank job. It involves both a vault which can only be opened by tap-dancing the combination, and also the impersonation of a German princess by someone who is neither a princess, nor can speak German. This kind of dry wit is endearing, and plays into the strengths of Beretta and the rest of the cast. The action is plentiful, though appears mostly constructed in the editing room rather than out of the participants’ obvious skills. It’s something of a shame the movie doesn’t build to the expected face-off between Maggie and Dixie, instead diverting into one of the subplots, this one involving an actress hired to play the part of Maggie, because… Well. I’m sure there was an explanation somewhere. Like much of the film, probably best not to sweat such details, instead just appreciating a strong lead and the quirky independence here.

Dir: Dan Brennan
Star: Selene Beretta, Dan Brennan, Katherine Barron, Dianna Brennan

Morgan

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Hannah goes Haywire.”

I watched this twice: once on an airplane flight from London, and once after I returned, and I think I preferred the second viewing. For the ending here, if not perhaps what you’d call a “twist”, does provide a piece of information about the lead character, that will change the way you watch her performance in subsequent viewings. It’s something I appreciate, and also goes a long way to explain what would otherwise potentially be flaws in the plot. Said character is Lee Weathers (Mara), a “risk-management consultant” for a tech company, who is sent to a remote outpost, literally buried in the heart of the countryside.

Its inhabitants have spent more than five years working on developing an artificial life-form; after multiple failed attempts, their current creation, Morgan (Taylor-Joy) had appeared to be doing better. Initially, crafted with talents such as accelerated growth, she (or, as Lee stresses, “it”) is now developing unexpected talents such as precognition. However, a violent streak is also making itself known, culminating in Morgan stabbing one of the researchers in the eye. This is where Weathers comes in, seeking to assess the viability of the project, as well as whether it should continue or not. And if not? Well, as the one-eyed researcher, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, bluntly tells her, “You’re a goddamn assassin.” But Morgan’s creators won’t take that lying down; nor will Morgan her/itself.

Mara captures just the right degree of cold, passionless disinterest, and is helped out by a very solid supporting cast. This includes Leigh as well as Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti and even action heroine icon, Michelle Yeoh, albeit in a non-action role, playing the head of the project. After the opening scene, depicting the eye-stabbing from the POV of the complex’s security cameras, we already know everything is going to kick off, it’s just a matter of when. Given this, the first half could be considered too slow; we really don’t need to be introduced to everyone, because what matters is the Weathers-Morgan dynamic, perhaps with a side of the latter’s closest “relative”, Dr. Menser (Leslie, not without her own action cred, having played Ygritte in Game of Thrones – like GoT, this movie was filmed in Northern Ireland).

The arrival of Dr. Shapiro (Giamatti), the man in charge of carrying out Morgan’s psych evaluation, signals the start of this inevitable escalation of hostilities, and the pace certainly kicks up from that point forward. It’s this aspect which separates it in tone from the similarly-themed Splice, a more horror-oriented story, also about an artificial life-form gone awry. I note the stunt personnel here included Zara Phythian, a British action actress, whose star appears to be on the rise. Despite the loaded cast – it helps having Ridley Scott as a producer! – this was relatively cheap to make, at $8 million, and was somewhat unjustly overlooked on its cinema release. Even if it probably does take two viewings to appreciate it.

Dir: Luke Scott
Star: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie

A Marine Story

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“Topples over from worthy into over-earnest.”

marineLet me start with the Amazon synopsis, since this explains what it’s doing here: “Dreya Weber stars as Alex, a decorated Marine officer who is unexpectedly discharged from her wartime duty. Returning to her conservative home town she agrees to coach and counsel the precocious teen rebel Saffron (Paris Pickard). Alex is the no-nonsense role model and authority figure that Saffron needs, and in true Karate Kid style she inspires the young woman s transition from slacker to boot camp-ready Marine recruit. But as Saffron is finally finding the strength to grow up, Alex must find new courage to face her own demons.” While not technically incorrect in any detail, it’s probably significant that it makes absolutely no mention of a very significant plot element, which impacts just about all other aspects of the story. Alex was kicked out of the Marines for being a lesbian.

While knowing that likely would not have impacted my selection of the film, I would have to say the heavy emphasis placed on it likely did detract from my enjoyment. Not, I should stress, for the gay angle. The issue would be exactly the same if the lead character had been heterosexual, and defined to an equal degree by her relationships, because that’s the kind of thing I expect from a soap-opera character, rather than an action heroine. It’s clear the topic of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a subject about which both director and star felt passionately, and it’s perhaps unfortunate (for the film, rather than those affected by it!) the policy was revoked by the US government shortly after the movie’s release, rendering it a lot of well-intentioned hand-wringing about not much, from a 2016 perspective.

The rest of this isn’t bad, although the ease with which Saffron is turned around by Alex is remarkable, suggesting that a stint in boot camp is just the cure all America’s disaffected youth requires. The synopsis does nail this as in “True Karate Kid style”, being roughly as plausible. But I do have to say, Weber completely nails the Marine thing, both in well-muscled physical appearance – and, perhaps more importantly, the attitude of quiet, coiled energy and absolutely confidence in her own abilities. Yet there’s also a streak of aggression, and some which is perfect for a soldier, yet less compatible with civilian life, and causes no shortage of issues, especially when combined with Alex’s tendency to react first. There’s likely enough meat there for a story, without having to add the sexual politics angle which, as noted above, has not dated particularly well, and to be honest, becomes moral overkill before the final credits roll – complete with another nugget of social justice. No, the topic isn’t the problem here: it’s the heavy-handed treatment.

Dir: Ned Farr
Star: Dreya Weber, Paris P. Pickard, Christine Mourad, Anthony Michael Jones

Miss Frontier Mail

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“Unquestionably dated, yet still a pioneer,”

frontiermailIt has now been more than eighty years since this was released. It’s important to bear this in mind, because what you have here, is very much a product of its time and place – 1936 and Bollywood, respectively. That said, it possesses a far feistier heroine than anything coming out of Hollywood at that point. Indeed, you’d probably have to wait over 35 years, until Pam Grier showed up in the seventies, to find someone comparable to the characters portrayed by an Australian actress, known in India as “Fearless Nadia”. There’s more info on Fearless Nadia elsewhere, and you might want to start there, since background is likely near-essential to appreciating her movies.

This entry has her playing Savita, the daughter of a station master who is accused of murdering his deputy, a crime actually carried out by a gang of railway robbers that have been terrorizing the area, under their anonymous master, “Signal X”. Savita seeks to clear her father’s name, initially with the help of an informant inside the gang, who had been helped by the station master. But even after Signal X kills the informant, she continues to investigate them, seeking to expose his identity. Turns out the plan is to destroy the railway network’s reputation on behalf of an airline company. This involves a terrorist campaign, including blowing up bridges and deliberately causing train crashes, and Savita is the only person who can stop him.

Let’s be clear. The fights here are awful. My daughter and her friend used to make little films in our garage when they were early teenagers. They had better brawls. It appears the sole guidance offered by the director was, “Okay, look like you’re fighting. Action!” The results resemble a drunken shoving match at a wedding more than anything. Still… For there’s one sequence where Nadia and the rest of the cast are doing it on top of a moving train, and you know it’s not doubles, green-screen or CGI. There, I don’t care what you’re doing, because I would be desperately clinging onto any relatively-fixed point. There might also be whimpering involved. This cheerful and complete disregard for personal safety, along with some of the slapstick elements, feels inspired by the silent works of Harold Lloyd, etc.

This is a real hodge-podge with no consistent tone. Action rubs shoulders with romance, and drama with juvenile comedy. There’s a reason one supporting character is listed in the credits as “champion banana eater”, and I didn’t even mention the entirely gratuitous sequence of Savita weightlifting. At 143 minutes, it’s likely a good half-hour too long; interesting to see, both in that and the shoehorning in of musical numbers, elements that remain common to many contemporary Bollywood films. Yet, once your modern eyes adapt a bit to the approach, it remains entertaining, and remarkably forward-thinking. Virtually the only competent member of Signal X’s gang, Gulab (Gulshan), is also a woman, and while Savita does have a romantic interest, it’s handled well; she’s clearly more than his equal.

You could well argue that portrayals of women in Indian cinema have significantly regressed since this. Although the action elements do leave something to be desired for 21st-century viewers, and it all looks rather naive nowadays, that doesn’t detract from being decades ahead of its time.

Dir: Homi Wadia
Star: “Fearless Nadia”, Sayani Atish, Sardar Mansur, Gulshan

Muñecas Peligrosas

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“Carlitos Angels”

munecasNot far removed from Peligro… Mujeres en acción!, this is actually a sequel to Con Licencia para Matar, which I’m still seeking in a subtitled format. Some day… While nominally starring Fernando Casanova as agent Jim Morrison (maybe The Doors weren’t big in Mexico?), this is really about the Tigresses, a freelance group of female bodyguards, with a fetching line in black catsuits. There’s leader Emily (Cranz), associates Barbara (Angela) and Diana (Monti) and Tigress in training, Leonor (Ochoa), experts variously with a gun, bow, sword and fists. Jim brings them on board to help protect scientist Professor Livingson, the inventor of a key ingredient in rocket fuel, K-20; he’s travelling to Mexico to update its manufacturing plant. That will expose him to Garrick (Armando Silvestre), a villain who wants the secret of K-20 for himself, and it’s up to Jim and the ladies to protect the Professor.

Despite the name of the group, the title actually translates as “Dangerous Dolls,” and this takes itself a bit less seriously than Peligro – a mixed blessing. There are aspects that are deliciously silly: Garrick’s minions all wear uniforms and hats with his logo on it, making it look as if he recruited en masse from a Devo convention. There’s also a (likely borderline offensive now) running gag involving an obviously not-Japanese karate instructor, speaking gibberish. However, the storyline doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny at all, such as the way Emily just happens to be going out with Garrick’s second-in-command. What are the odds? I could also have done without the musical numbers, and describing most of the actresses’ action abilities as “a bit crap,” would be kind. It’s clearly less about what you do, than about how cool you look doing it, except for Leonor, who is there for comic-relief purposes. Fortunately, the martial abilities of Garrick’s minions are worse still – near what you would get if you did recruit from a Devo convention.

That all said, I can’t claim I disliked this, and it’s certainly self-aware, so the flaws don’t stop it from being entertaining nonsense. If Garrick’s motivation is largely obscure – what, exactly, is he going to do with the catalyst? – he’s very well-dressed, and it’s nice to see a supervillain with a sense of style to match the good guys. He takes the time to come up with ingenious items like an “organic disintegrating agent” and chivalrously sets a countdown time for four minutes, to allow the Tigresses and Jim time for a final fight-back. Meanwhile, the ladies (outside of Emily) are largely independent-minded, and in no need of male attention or help, quite a laudable feat for 1969 Mexico. I was expecting Jim to bed his way through most of them, and was gratified to see this doesn’t happen: it’s likely less chauvinist than Bond films of the era. If only they’d put more effort into the action.

Dir: Rafael Baledón
Star: Barbara Angely, Leonorilda Ochoa, Emily Cranz, Maura Monti

Mythica: The Iron Crown

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“Mythica makes its mark.”

mythica4While this fourth entry in the Mythica series is certainly flawed, I have to confess, I found it hugely entertaining. There’s a very strange Mad Max vibe present here, and no small amount of steampunk influence. But despite (or, perhaps, because of?) this, I still enjoyed the most of the series to date. It’s basically a feature length chase sequence, beginning with heroine Marek (Stone) and her two sidekicks ambushing a powered wagon, on which is being transported the fourth part of the DarkSpore. This must be kept, at all costs, from falling into the hands of the evil Szorlok, as he already has the other three. They succeed, picking up a zombie princess in the process. However, they then have to transport it to a secure location, while under attack from:

  • Szorlok’s trio of undead warrior minions. Fortunately,  Szorlok himself is otherwise engaged, having been yanked through a portal into another dimension by Obi-Wan Gojun Pye (Kevin Sorbo), where the two duel using their magic.
  • Owner of the wagon, Admiral Borlund Hess (Eva Mauro), is miffed at the hijack, and ambushed them from her airship and squadron of attack hang-gliders (like I said: Mad Max meets steam-punk).
  • A mercenary crew is also after the DarkSpore. Their employer wants to barter it with Szorlok, who currently has the titular headwear, which allows the owner to rule over the dwarfs.

Oh, and we also hear about the Hammer of Tek, a legendary, long-lost weapon that can destroy anything… even the DarkSpore. File this away for future reference, it may be important later, and should be quicker than a trip to Mordor, anyway. So plenty going on, and it’s more or less non-stop, beginning with a 20-minute action sequence which sets a fast-paced tone, that barely lets up thereafter. It’s largely a light-hearted contrast to the darker, almost brooding, atmosphere hovering over part three; not entirely a bad thing, since even the most serious of legendary sagas benefits from a slice of levity. It’s perhaps not the kind of style on which you could found an entire, mythic universe (unless your name was Terry Pratchett), yet as a one-off, I haven’t enjoyed a fantasy film this much in quite a while.

There are still a couple of mis-steps, such as a woeful attempt to depict pilots from the attack hang-gliders dropping into a shallow lake. I’m also concerned about how death appears to be not much more than a minor inconvenience. People are returning from the grave rather too often – frankly, once is too much, for a loophole I’ve hated since the episode where Buffy Summers came back to life. I know fans and creators get attached to characters, but if you kill someone off, then bring them back, what’s left in the way of threat? On the other hand, you can argue it’s not entirely out of character in an entry that’s likely a bit of palate-cleansing before the grand finale of The Godslayer. Suspect there’s not going to be much amusement to be found with that title.

Dir: John Lyde
Star: Melanie Stone, Jake Stormoen, Adam Johnson, Ashley Santos

Memories of the Sword

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“Looks lovely, yet literally loses the plot.”

memoriesoftheswordThe first 30 minutes of this are truly splendid: it’s got wonderful visuals, along the lines of Hero or House of Flying Daggers. But then, it’s as if the makers completely forgot about the story-line. The remainder of the two hours consists of semi-random scenes, half in flashback, featuring characters who apparently change names at random. While it still looks awesome, unless you have a detailed synopsis printed out in advance, you’re going to be reduced to going “Ooh!” and “Eh?” in roughly equal proportions.

As best as I can tell, the story is this. Hong-ee (Kim), also known as Seoi-hee, is a young martial arts prodigy, trained since birth by her blind foster mother, Seol-rang (Jeon), a.k.a Wallso. After Hong-ee’s talents become public knowledge, Wallso reveals the motive for the training. A long time ago, as Seol-rang, she was one of three rebel group leaders. The group were betrayed to the authorities by another leader, Deok-gi (Lee BH), who was rewarded with a position as the ruler’s right-hand man, and is now known as Yoo-Baek. He once loved Seol-rang, and realizes that Hong-ee is the daughter of the third leader, Poong-Cheon. [Fortunately, he was killed by Deok-gi, so does not complicate the plot further, under that or any other name] She has been brought up to act as an instrument of revenge, driven by the knowledge that Yoo-Baek killed her parents.

There is, it appears, a bit more than that going on, particularly in the middle hour where… other stuff happens. For example, there’s the inevitable romance between Seoi-hee and another young fighter, Yoo-Baek’s champion, Yull (Lee JH). This seems to have been added purely for cynically commercial purposes, though since it largely tanked at the Korean box-office… The action scenes are generally well-staged, though some of the CGI looks more than a little unconvincing. Some moments reminded me of Shaolin Soccer, and there has been close to 15 years of technological advances since then. It’s on more solid footing when using wire-fu, and both female leads are convincing enough in their skills.

The high level of confusion likely generated, however, means this isn’t going to be much more than empty emotional experience. You’re left so busy trying to figure out who’s doing what to whom, and why, you don’t have time to care about the participants. That’s why it falls so significantly short of the films it’s clearly trying to imitate, particularly Crouching Tiger. Instead, what you have here is purely cinema as spectacle. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this approach, of course. It’s just that when so much effort has been put into the technical aspects, you’re inevitably left wishing for more. If only the film’s heart and soul had been as diligently worked on as its cinematography.

Dir: Park Heung-sik
Star: Kim Go-eun. Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Byung-hun, Lee Jun-ho

Mythica: The Necromancer

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“In which Mythica levels up…”

mythica3Was it really less than a year ago I watched and reviewed the first two entries in the series? Feels much longer somehow, which probably indicates how little of an impression they made. This is rather better, I think. The special effects have gone from “best not looked at directly” to “actually enhancing the feel of the film,” especially when magic spells start flying. Central character Marek (Stone) is coming into her own, but the increased power poses increasingly difficult moral choices. That’s especially so, because nemesis Szorlok is closing in on his goal, of getting all four fragments of the DarkSpore, which will allow him to unleash an undead army on the world. How far will Marek and her allies be prepared to go, in order to stop him?

Here, however, the quest is somewhat tangential. Fighter Thane is captured by the head of the Thieves’ Guild, and used as leverage, forcing the other three on a mission to retrieve some cargo. To make sure they comply, he sends along his creepy minion, Betylla (Brodie), who uses beetles to communicate with his master. However, Szorlok is lurking in wait, and just when they think they’ve completed their task, and can return to free Thane… We’re back on the main storyline again, and the “Redthorns” (as the team has taken to calling themselves, a homage to the team of mentor Obi-Wan ) may be heading towards a significant reduction in permanent staffing levels. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

If there is still very much the feel of an AD&D adventure here, the players here seem to be growing into their roles, with a better sense of the relationships between them. Here, the most interesting arc belong to priestess Teela (Posener), who has to decide what matters to her, and where her faith lies on that scale of importance. Particularly toward the end, it’s certainly the darkest in the series, and you get a sense that this is going to be an increasing theme. Shit’s getting real, as I believe they say.  Turns out this is now a five-film series, rather than the three I wrote in an earlier review. With one piece of the DarkSpore still left for Szorlok to acquire, I’ve a feeling after this one that I know what the fourth installment is going to involve, setting up a grandstand finale.

I’m not sure if they spent more money here; it does feel more expensive. Either way, I’m a bit more hopeful the film will be able to deliver on what it’s building up to, than after the last installment. New director Smith was cinematographer on those, and brings a suitably epic feel to proceedings, mixing the practical and visual effects into a coherent whole. I found myself sufficiently enthusiastic to head straight into part four, with more anticipation than I’ve felt to this point.

Dir: A. Todd Smith
Star: Melanie Stone, Jake Stormoen, Nicola Posener, Philip Brodie