Red 2: a Retired, Extremely Dangerous (RED) agent Frank Moses is back on the radar when an APB goes out to every contract killer in the world, with a tasty bounty on his head. First off, although he’s in a restrictive role (and – skeptically – probably only to sell tickets in Asia) I like the gamble of casting a Korean megastar that is relatively unknown in the West. Even delivering phonetic/over-dubbed lines Lee Byung-Hun steals his scenes, and raises the action bar – peaking in the impressive and innovative fridge-door fight in Moscow. It’s also as funny as RED was, but every single laugh is John Malkovich – “If there’s one thing I know, it’s women and covert operations”. Hopkins is entertaining, Louise-Parker & Zeta-Jones are both hyphenated surnames, and dame Mirren also enjoyable company. The setup is rrrrrather contemporary for a comic – a’la WikiLeaks, but the overall story (and film) don’t flow particularly well as they’re determined to have a James Bond style travelogue element – popping up here, there, and everywhere for no real reason: London, Moscow, Paris, America… despite this, it’s hard not to switch off by the end as the required ‘twisty-turny’ but overall a fairly predictable story arc plays out – what’s wrong with goodies being good and baddies staying bad?!?!? Basically, Bruce Willis doing a dialed-in ‘wise guy’ with diluted attitude, surrounded by people you’d rather be watching – all reminding you of that film ‘Paycheck’, but for the wrong reasons. Less Die Hard, more Die Soft and wrinkly.
Cobra: Marion Cobretti – essentially a paramilitary policeman – comes across his scummiest scumbag yet, but he believes this is more than just a one-off. This is a spin-off from when Stallone walked away from Beverly Hills Cop to make something more violent! It’s essentially an ‘Arnie Film’ but with a different star, and more than most of the Arnie movies around this era, this has a really nasty streak through it – the baddies are a fairly nihilistic, ruthless bunch working under the name “Night Slasher” – although their back-story & motives could have done with fleshing out. Stallone’s Cobretti is unnecessarily cool – Car, Shades, clothes, attitude – it’s laughable at times, but Sly always does this. The action scenes are all pretty good – including a superb car chase that feels straight out of the Fast franchise, a lot of shooting, a boss fight in a suitably 1980s industrial setting (a foundry) and even a cheeky homage to the Shining’s famous door-smashing scene. There’s also flakes of social commentary (particularly the failing justice system), and an under-appreciated ‘anti Christmas movie’ vibe throughout. While Cobra is absolutely nothing new, it’s all fairly enjoyable if you appreciate cheese, big action, and lots of hard-18 violence – although if it does require subtitles to comprehend Sly.
Chopping Mall (aka Killbots): it’s the near-future, where mall cops have been replaced by security robots, and “absolutely nothing can go wrong,” but a couple of lightning strikes later… yuuup, things are going wrong for a bunch of “teenagers” stuck in the mall overnight. If one thing defines this film, it’s the knuckle-chewing levels of cheese present in every scene. All characters are hyper-generic (nerd, wallflower, hunk, party boy) and the dialogue / delivery is terrible across the board – even the cool and quotable lines like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambo gram!!” The film plods through as a by-the-numbers pedigree b-movie, that’s not quite bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good – but everyone seems to know how bad it is, and rolls with it anyway. Shopping centre boffins will note that this looks very similar to the one from Commando!! Chopping Mall just isn’t as shocking, gory or violent as the ‘slasher’ title would suggest; it just ends up feeling like a 1950s sci-fi film with a 1980s face-lift.
It’s like Krieger’s robot and Cheryl/Carol from Archer!
“Where the shopping can cost you an arm and a leg”
Indie Game, The Movie: [I am not a 'hardcore gamer' - regular, but haven’t bought an ‘Indie’ title since the days of PS2] – focuses on a handful of independent games developers and their hugely anticipated titles. What put me off this from the get-go is that the four main developers featured come across as such a rather whiny bunch: “my [universally acclaimed] game [that made me rich] wasn’t enjoyed by users on the level that I had intended it to…”, “In order to be a world-class games dev I’ve had to sacrifice my social life…”, “If I couldn’t release this game I’d kill myself… “My INDIE game isn’t being advertised on the Xbox Live front page…” – wise up! You’re doing this fringe hobby/lifestyle as a choice, like every other struggling actor, photographer, painter & musician that anyone has ever met. The visuals are shoe-gazingly artsy – wide-aperture super-blurry slow-panning shots, accompanied by an equally cutesy, offbeat minimal score. This style echoes the outlook of the film; focusing solely on just three games, and blurring out the entire history (and future) of computer gaming. While IGTM is an interesting look behind the curtains at a small section of that particular gaming scene, it doesn’t show you anything that you couldn’t have guessed beforehand… games developers are socially awkward / misunderstood ‘nerds’ that live with their parents and program all day? No way!?!? For me, the best thing about this was that Charlie Brooker got to make a complimentary 90-minute doc that covered the entire history of gaming – from Pong to Twitter – called “How Video Games Changed The World.” IMHO, seek that out instead.
Strike Back: Project Dawn (Season 2) (Mild Spoilers): following on from the action-heavy British mini-series. Sky TV teamed up with Cinemax (aka skinemax) for season two, and as if by magic there’s more tits and ass in the first 5 minutes than the entire first season (and sex / tits / nudity at every possible opportunity moving forward!) Replacing believable badass John Porter with two new faces was a risky move, and it takes a while to adjust to the change, but they really shine from the mid-way point of the series: the British agent (Stonebridge) is played a touch too straight, and American Delta Force (Scott) a tad on the caricature side, but their chemistry, and “yo mama” style banter is thoroughly entertaining – like the highlights of a drunken Lad/Pub chat. Whereas the first season played out as a tight, tightly focused, serious political drama, season two is basically an action romp around the world – where everything explodes, everyone gets shot, and the American guy bangs every hot local in sight. The generic plot-lines only serve to deliver piece after piece of over-the-top action – chases, shoot-outs, sieges, espionage… it’s all there, it’s all good, and there’s 4 more episodes than the first outing! There’s very little resemblance between Season one and this, but they’re both great fun and totally entertaining in their own ways.
Episode 1-2 “Die Hard in India”
Episode 3-4 “Blown Away in South Africa”
Episode 5-6 “Taken in Darfur”
Episode 7-8 “Rambo in Kosovo”
Episode 9-10 “Every episode of 24 in Budapest”
Law Abiding Citizen (mild spoilers): when his wife and kid are murdered and the legal system fails him, a disgruntled everyman with nothing to lose spends years engineering his quasi-legal revenge. Gerrard Butler (Shut up, Butt wad), WTF are you doing man? You’re all over the place and why the fuck did your character get nude when you were arrested? The Fantastic Mr Foxx is OK, doing what he does (normal guy in a moral quandary) but his character’s role is unbelievably wonky: supposed to be a prosecutor, but does loads of detective work. The film starts off interesting – and the opening in particular is powerfully violent – the set-up is theatrically gruesome, but once Butler is in prison it turns absolutely ridiculous – and when you hear about his previous employment it’s like being slapped in the face with a big silly stick. However, it’s quite funny and enjoyable despite being so bizarrely cheesy and shockingly stupid. Deliberately 18-rated, over-the-top B-movie with an A-list cast.
Shooting Robert King (aka Blood Trail): follows an aspiring war photographer through 15 years and three conflicts. First off, Robert King is a total asshat. We meet him as a young – egotistical – douche, and see him grow to a middle-aged cold-and-jaded douche. He comes across as the worst parts of the psychotic “Cool Ethan” from Slackers and the grating Josh from Generation Kill (the singing driver). A lot of the “OMG” moments feel set up, or are ridiculously convenient. For a documentary about a photographer, there’s not actually a lot of his work, and it’s mostly nondescript handheld footage from his freelance cameramen buddies in the ‘good old days’. What’s weird is that he clearly wanted to film a documentary from day 1 of his career – hence the abundance of ‘look at me’ and ‘look at the peril’ type interviews he did. There are a couple of more disturbing / shocking moments – pics of dead bodies, and bombing / war aftermath; and a boring deer-hunting simile / parallel that is just unnecessary filler. The best part of the documentary is a 2-minute montage of his best photos; however the best thing on the disc is a 5-minute slide show in the extras – which are more powerful, interesting and tell a better story than the full-length 80-minute documentary. Most annoyingly, the doc doesn’t tell you anything about the wars he’s covering, showing only Robert King trying to make it all about him. Whilst his story is remarkable, having such an unlikeable person at the centre of this makes it very hard to appreciate.