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Donald Sutherland

From the Vault #6: FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2001)

From 2012 onwards, before developing this blog, I wrote a multitude of reviews on the website Letterboxd. In this irregular series called From the Vault, I’m going to haul these earlier reviews out of mothballs and re-purpose them here.

This one is from May 3rd, 2014…

All the way through Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, despite being impressed by the revolutionary photo-realistic animation on show, my prevailing thought was simply… why aren’t they just making this film with *real* people?

Maybe that’s missing the point of Hironobu Sakaguchi’s endeavour in bringing his legendary & critically acclaimed futurepunk fantasy series of video games to the big screen, but on the other hand it employs major Hollywood actors to play these computer generated parts, and indeed the story is about as generic blockbuster as it’s possible to get. Very little about The Spirits Within couldn’t have been achieved with real actors on real sets in actual environments, rendering the whole point of this a little… well, moot.

Ultimately though, that’s not at all the reason this Final Fantasy is a creative failure in the same way it was a huge box-office bomb that sank its production company and upheld the ‘curse’ of video game adaptations.

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Blu-Ray Review: Lock Up (1989)

Sylvester Stallone’s career was on a high around the time Lock Up, one of his lesser known pictures, came to bear at the tail end of the 1980’s.

The same year as the popular Tango & Cash, three years after the towering success of the unforgettable Rocky IV, and a year after the guns blazing bravado of Rambo III, Lock Up sees Stallone riding his natural charisma and innate mix of machismo and vulnerability to diminishing returns. A direct attempt to challenge himself beyond the two major franchises which have marked his career, Lock Up suffers from simply being quite bland, rote, underwritten and stocked with cliches. Stallone’s spiritual successor a quarter of a century later, Escape Plan, at least has the virtue of being absurd. Lock Up seems to want you to believe it’s all quite plausible.

In truth, it’s about as high concept as films like this come. Stallone’s mechanic, Frank Leone, is a good guy who just happens to be in jail, serving his time as he awaits release and a life with his girlfriend, only to become the victim of the sadistic, vengeful Warden Drumgoole, of the infamous Gateway prison – a maximum security prison where the lowest of the low are sent to rot in hellish conditions. Can Frank find strength in adversity and gain the respect of his fellow prisoners? Can he expose Drumgoole’s cruelty and corruption before he ends up dead? Can he be reunited with the woman he loves?

It’s a Stallone movie. Of course he can. It’s just that this time, the journey along the way isn’t nearly as thrilling, charming or action packed as usual.