Killers (キラーズ, Kirazu): a serial killer who uploads his work to a ‘DeathTube‘ site inspires an everyman to go vigilante. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen directors harness everything down to the distributors & funders logos to add to the film’s aesthetic; and with this level of detail from the get go, the film is technically admirable – sound, editing, camerawork etc. The opening 5 minutes really set the mood, with a shocking and ultra-graphic murder: the violence slowly escalates and darkens as the runtime progresses. Unlike The Raid‘s gritty-but-styalised – and even poetic – gore, this film is just plain gritty. One killer is a savvy psychopath fit for Dexter, the other is an everyman pushed over the edge, Falling Down style. Another unique aspect is that it’s a collaborative effort from two directors (The Mo Brothers – not real brothers), filmed in two locations – Japan and Indonesia – with English spoken parts when the two leads interact; it doesn’t hinder the film’s international appeal, although something feels lost in translation story-wise. At 140 minutes it does lose feel rather long-winded and intricate for what is essentially a serial killer movie with a disjointed story and not much in the way of themes or messages. If you like your gore gory, and your films stylish this ticks both boxes – although not a lot else. The main stars of Killers are the directors, who with more focus (shorter runtime and tighter story) could pose a serious threat to Gareth Evans as the king of contemporary Indonesian action.
Danger 5 (Season 2): the team of global super spies are re-united, this time in the 1980s, to stop another of Hitler’s quests for world domination. It’s soon apparent that this is – paradoxically – undeniably Danger 5, but also quite different to the previous season. The writers tampered with the cocktail recipe a little too much; Pierre has totally changed for no explained reason, another lead was swapped out for a ridiculous brat-character, most of the established running jokes dropped, and 80s throwback has been done to death lately – giving it a less cool / kitsch feel than the 1960s format. On the other hand the show manages to remain funny, wacky, surreal, psychedelic, and a celebration of satire (there’s an episode called “Back to the Führer” – come on!). I hate using the word ‘random’, but the ‘randomness’, madness and surrealism of the gags is the main thing that raises Danger 5 and sets it apart from the mediocrity that you expect of most modern comedies. All of the changes add up to fewer laughs per episode, but despite this Danger 5 Season 2 is still a great show, that is equally bonkers – but has a significantly different look and feel.
Gone Girl [Spoilers!]: on their 5th wedding anniversary an American Sweetheart goes missing, and it doesn’t take the public long to turn on the husband. This is a film of two halves split right down the middle: the first part is a dramatic and gripping missing person case that leads you down one path. The second half is where the film unravels – it would have been better if Amy had just stayed in the wind, followed her plan, or the plot just followed the downward spiral of Nick, but when Amy meets up with the demented ex, it opens up so many ‘that’s silly / the police would totally be all over it’ aspects and undercut the hard work of part I. It’s almost as if the longer the film goes on, the more silly it becomes – to the point of TV/B-movie. As with all Fincher movies it looks fantastic, it’s beautifully shot, well acted, but it’s all rather low-key, with none of the flare you’d expect from a director this good. The Blu Ray sound mix is also pretty shocking; music and soundscapes dominate and dialogue is completely lost in the mix. Had to watch with subtitles on. There’s a good critique of the media and how dangerous their clout is, paired with some minor social commentary – but for the most part it feels bolted on. All in all, an unremarkable David Fincher film is still way above your average movie – and for that reason alone, this is worth checking out – just dont’ watch it if you’re in a new relationship, or about to get married!
Fifty Shades of Grey: when a fumbling Plain Jane student interviews a perverted and tormented young millionaire both of their lives are oh so romantically changed forever. Firstly; this is the least sexy film you’ll ever see about kinky sex, mostly due to the fact that everything else about it is a total turn off. The dialogue is atrocious; the wannabe racy/saucy lines don’t even come close to innuendo, although with the source material it didn’t really stand a chance. Secondly, the colouring is laughably basic: everything is depressingly washed out and grey (we get it!) except for sexy red things like mood lighting, cars, and arse-smacking paddles. The films is unashamedly uninterested in doing anything even remotely interesting with any of the characters, plot points or even the technical aspects. You want a better love story? Watch Twilight. You want to see some kinky bondage? Browse the internets. You want to see a proper film about this stuff? Watch ‘The Secretary‘, which is better than this in literally every way. As it was obviously going to be a number one smash, Fifty Shades of Grey never had to try, so it didn’t. A ham-fisted, disappointingly fist-free softcore movie with boringly-acted one-dimensional characters on a non-story that takes forever to go anywhere.
We Are the Best!: three teenage girls embrace counter-culture and form a punk band in 1980s Stockholm. Directed by controversial Swedish auteur Lukas Moodyson, Adapted from his wives graphic novel. Moodyson is the back in his wheelhouse; fly-on-the-wall documentary style retro Sweden; and it’s what he does best. He’s also great at capturing snapshots of youth that transport you right back to your childhood – of which there are plenty in this movie. Plot-wise, it pretty much follows the same arc as his movies, particularly Fucking Amal (Show me Love), but with younger kids – unfortunately, it’s not quite as powerful a coming-of-age story. Together was all about family, Fucking Amal was a love story two girls, but We Are the Best tries to juggle family, girls, boyfriends, and punk… making it feel less focused. Another Moodyson-stamped nostalgic and enjoyable trip down memory lane, with good music and all of the teenage feels.
Special ID (Tè Shū Shēn Fèn, 特殊身份): an undercover cop finds himself in danger when he’s set on a collision course with an old protégé. Tonally, this film is an absolute mess; there’s Loony Tunes style moments of slapstick comedy in the middle of realistic MMA-Style fight scenes; despite it being a big-budget movie with slick intentions it continually returns to the super-cheese with bawdy music and silly melodramatic over-acting; there’s also a few sleep-inducingly boring scenes (one about Tattoos in particular). The timeline is all over the place, jumping around with no explanation, unaided by the lax direction and editing. There’s some woeful Volvo product placement: not satisfied with having their ‘City Safety’ mode blatantly pimped, there’s an entire fight scene AROUND THEIR CAR – it also doesn’t blow up when it’s dropped from height, unlike those rubbish Land Rovers!!! Ppsschhhtt!!! On the plus side, the action is generally impressive (particularly the two elongated fights at either end of the movie) despite some superhuman abilities being thrown in to the mix here and there. I love Donnie Yen and will watch anything he’s in, but he’s going for a Jackie Chan style cheeky-chappy role here, and doesn’t quite have the charm/charisma to nail it. In the end, this is amounts to little more than another completely forgettable Asian undercover cop film – with two decent fight scenes.
New mini-feature about the great use of great songs to make a great scene even better.
Song: “Mein Herz brennt” by German ‘Industrial Metal’ group Rammstein
Film: Lilja-4-Ever / Lilya 4-Ever
Scene: the central character Lilya has escaped from imprisonment and is running through a foreign city, not knowing where to go, and nobody is offering to help.
Why it’s awesome: it’s Rammstein. It’s a brutal mashup of rhythmic orchestral strings and over-distored heavy metal guitars. The sound is overwhelming, and the visuals are distressing (shaky cam and frenetic cuts), which makes this a very memorable and powerful opening. It puts you right in the scene with her, disoriented, afraid, and desperate.