The Girl on the Train: follows a homo sapien with two X chromosomes on a track-based transport vehicle. Seriously though, blackout drunk alcoholic becomes involved in a missing person case that keeps throwing up more questions than answers. Blunt is outstanding. One of the best performances I’ve seen anyone give in a long time; complaints about her being too glamorous (duh, she is Emily Blunt!!) don’t wash with me, as she’s looked like a trainwreck for the majority of the film. The remaining cast – championed by an equally impressive Haley Bennett – are firing on all cylinders, it’s impossible to pick out a bad performance. Like the best narratives, the film is continually revealing new information that changes how we view the relationships between the main characters, and constantly shifting the focus and blame. It’s also refreshing to see a film centered on three completely different women; providing various view on motherhood, being a wife, and their strange three-way relationship, which are intelligently pleated through one another. I think the off-kilter, dark, and borderline horror tone (screechy strings, close-ups, titled cameras) will have alienated a lot of casual viewers. Critics and book snobs couldn’t beat this film down enough but as someone going in completely cold, it really impressed me: the only part I could imagine tightening up would be the lengthy introduction, but even then, it’s not too flabby. Although it was sold as “if you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this” I’d sooner watch this again. The Girl on the Train is a gripping, dark, Hitchcockian thriller where nothing is spelled out, and it’s constantly swaying and misdirecting you, through to the revelatory ending.
Good Kill: follows a former fighter pilot turned drone operator as he struggles with the morality of killing people from 7,000 miles away. A wide variety of opinions on drone warfare are expressed through the torn protagonist, the objectionable (token female) co-pilot, indifferent Colonel, and pro war Generation Kill meatheads – the opinions however are all just dumped on the table for balance, and never really used or explored further. The Colonel (Greenwood) absolutely steals his scenes with an intense and assured performance (he also gets all the best lines); Hawke on the other hand struggles to truly convey inner conflict and remorse, leaving his character less sympathetic than he needed to be. The biggest let down is that the story doesn’t really go anywhere, there’s no consequences, and very little changes between the start and end of the movie – it’s just strike after strike after strike. There’s also a crowbarred in in family melodrama; an unexplored love story; pointless policeman side, and plenty driving up the Vegas Strip – just to perk the visuals up. As you’d expect from Andrew Niccol, this feels well shot and directed, and although it looks great, there’s a lot of dry yellows and cold turquoise filter to ‘moody up’ the settings. Good Kill is less impressive, ambitious, or thought-provoking than Niccol’s previous works like Lord of War, In Time, Gattaca etc. Overall, it boils down to a simplistic “drones are bad… mkay. The CIA is also bad… mkay” overly liberal, and somewhat empty, undergrad political statement.
“Drones aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re going everywhere.”
Blood Rage (AKA: Slasher. AKA Nightmare at Shadow Woods. AKA Complex): an evil child frames his twin brother for murder – 10 years on, when the sane brother escapes from an asylum, he finally has an excuse to kill again. The clunky dialogue and bog-standard horror scenarios really emphasise the wooden performances – championed by the mum, who is drunk in one scene, then normal, then catatonic, then madly cleaning, then scoffing food off the floor… she’s laughably terrible. Strangely, the direction itself isn’t bad; conjuring up some striking and iconic images, and the ‘twins’ aspect (both played by the same actor) is well done; arguably the most impressive thing about the film. Despite the catalogue of unintentional missteps it’s a fun enough film to watch – namely due to the comically extreme and over the top slashtastic gore: entire sets are painted red, and limbs & bodies end up everywhere. Mash this all together and it kind of works in a weird, HDTGM type of way (nothing about the story makes sense). While Blood Rage isn’t a great film in anyone’s book; it’s the best type of bad film, for having a high body count, and being knowingly bad (like the Cranberry sauce zinger!). it can still be enjoyed, and is prime for cult viewings and drinking games.
B-Movie Score: 7/10
The Arrow Blu Ray 2K restoration is great: the film looks cleaner and brighter than it has any right to be, and – as always – there are shedloads of behind the scenes, extras and interviews with the cast. Making this a must-have for B-Movie aficionados.
Non-Stop: an alcoholic veteran air marshal must figure out which of his passengers are picking the others off one by one until their ransom is met. To be fair, the director did all he could with this, but it’s a difficult task making a SMS conversation seem dramatic – although that can and has been done better with an even smaller scope. Neeson is in full-on Bryan Mills mode; the gruffly mumbling back-against-the-wall everyman with mad fighting skills and a character-defining family backstory. After the first couple of completely preposterous twisty-turney moments you learn not to think too hard about the rest of the plot. The one thing this film does have going for it is a sincere moment about the ‘Illusion of security’, which totally stands out against the dumbness of everything else going on. Probably an idea that sounded fantastic in a pitch, but was ultimately too great a task for the writers and director: leaving the end product feeling a bit daft. Japes on a plane! Proof that turkeys can fly! Plane rubbish! Etc etc…
– Dafuq Jeff – Plz stop sendin me grindr dik pics u basic bitch
– LOL IDGAF, shut yo skanky ass ratchet mouth #YOLO ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ex Machina: a young programmer wins a contest to spend a week with his boss to complete every nerds fantasy; participating in the ultimate Turing Test with a sexy humanoid robo-babe!! There’s no doubting that it’s an ambitious movie; it’s not particularly dumbed down, leaning on some quite technical programming / A.I. terminology and dialogue – there’s no explosions or robots hitting robots in here, and the focus isn’t solely on the droid-meets-boy angle. It’s a fun film to watch because the script and acting are continually misleading and distracting you – hinting that a person or story may go down one path, which isn’t always the case. The direction’s solid, especially for a first-timer – there’s a sustained creepy and unsettling tone, especially once the plot gets rolling, which is aided by an ominous electronic score, crafting a slowly unraveling spiral that even dabbles with horror and body horror elements towards the end. The coldness of the house/facility, and TrollHunter-esque organic, wild and remote scenery also play a large part. My only real issue with this is that the last 5 minutes include some seriously lingering shots of nudity, which felt unnecessary – especially given that the characters are covered for most of the duration. The slickness and simplicity of Ex Machina is like a shiny facade, behind it are dozens of bigger questions about humans, creations, robots, A.I., ethics, religion… although it’s hard to tell if this is all deliberate, as it’s somewhere between Blade Runner / A.I. lite and a slicker, stripped back Frankenstein – with a hardware and firmware updates, of course.
Rudderless: after his son dies in a school shooting a grieving father finds his musical demos; learns them, plays them live and inadvertently ends up in a band that’s becoming successful. It’s all about the music, kind of like that film Once, but doesn’t suck hairy Irish balls. The musical aspect of this is solid; with believable songs and a good portrayal of gigging, jamming, the minutia of band life etc. The plotline is also an interesting take on taboo/sensitive material, and runs along nicely – if a little slowly – until the last act where it becomes more of a paint-by numbers affair, as the loose ends get tied up. Performances are top drawer too; Crudup is strong, and pulls you right in to his situation – it helps that he can play guitar and sang. Fishbourne steals all his scenes, and it’s clever casting Selena Gomez in despite being in 2 just scenes. Some would probably point out that the characters are thin, but it feels deliberate, in order to force the audience’s interest – enough subtle hints are laid out in the script for you to piece things together, and only key elements are eventually explicitly mentioned in the dialogue. The only major thing that bugged me was the continuous non diegetic music trying to manipulate you in to feeling what William H Macy wants as each scene plays out. As far as directorial debuts are concerned, WHM couldn’t have done much better; an interesting and compelling story, well acted, shot and edited – but was just a little too low-key / indie / shoe-gazing to fully enthrall.
Seven Psychopaths: whilst working on his screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths” a struggling writer gets caught up in his best friend’s dog-snatching scheme. This film takes crime-thriller genre head on, and turns all of the well-worn tropes on their heads for fun, and to make a stale genre more entertaining. More than anything else, the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – to the point where, if you like the absurd, risqué and offensive humour, you will have a sore face by the end: the epic imagined gunfight/showdown in the graveyard had almost everyone in the cinema crying with laughter. There’s lots of top acting from the leading men (Rockwell storms the film, although he does have the best character and funniest lines) but the ladies on the other hand – other than Walken‘s wife – don’t get much of a look-in. So there’s an entertaining story, good characters, lots of jokes – but there’s a catch: the film is let down by trying to be far too self-aware and ‘filmy’ to the point of being a quite ‘wanky’. There’s a scene in the middle film where the characters have just had a load of action and are driving to the desert, while talking about the middle of the ‘seven psychopaths’ script, where the characters are driving to the desert after an action-packed first half… I was almost chewing my fingers off with cringery. Seven Psychopaths ends up being a violent, sweary, funny and entertaining black comedy caper, with a promising ‘real’ plot is hampered by the quirky/indie emphasis of the ‘film-within-a-film’ sub-plot.
1. She thinks she’s hot Shih Tzu
2. The non-violent one
3. The seemingly normal one
4. He won’t take any Shih Tzu
5. The Passive-aggressive girlfriend
6. The one with the bunny
7. The one with issues
Killing Them Softly: a mob ‘enforcer’ investigates the robbery of a protected card game. the style is a bizarre mix of Indie/Arthouse, and cutting-edge (often trippy) blockbuster effects and visuals. The sound mix is equally as strange, mostly through the ‘background noise’ being deliberately amplified in almost every scene. The script is very dry, boring, overly – and offensively – misogynistic, and contains characters called Frankie, Mickey, Markie – which gets hard to follow at points. Most scenes are overlong and rambly, Gandalfini in particular gets far too much time. Pitt is the best in class, everyone else coasts on mob/Australian stereotypes. Scoot McNairy – decent performance, but hands-down THE most annoying voice of the year. There’s a blatant political/economic overtone – mostly through in-picture TVs/Radios – and it’s as subtle as a brick to the face. Most frustratingly,, it plays out exactly as you know it will; with no twists, turns, surprises or originality – and you can’t root for any of the characters. Killing Them Softly is a bleak / grim / crushingly realistic mobster-procedural critique of corporate culture (where underpaid people do the dirty work, and getting a decision from the bosses is impossible – original, huh?) – unfortunately, it’s nowhere near entertainment.
Cassandra’s Dream: two brothers in financial trouble turn to their wealthy uncle for help… First off, this has more simplistic teenage-level melodrama than a papa roach album. It’s also full of good actors doing terrible acting, with dodgy accents… it’s hard to tell if it’s the shit script, stock characters (forenames only – a major pet hate of mine), soap-opera story or just bad direction. The characters are established through teeth-grindingly clichéd dialogue, not to mention that the entire story can be guessed at least ten minutes ahead at all times. To top it all off, it’s yet another Woody Allen film set in a romanticised version of a city, crammed with ra-ra artisan characters who have old-timey sensibilities (like a countryside drive in the old motor to a meadow picnic). By the time that Tom Wilkinson gets to inject a bit of acting and class in to this the film is already dead. Cassandra’s Dream is a piss-poor excuse for a tragedy; the biggest example of which is that this is what Allen’s career had come to.
Killer Joe: a young redneck with bad debts finds out that his mother has a $50,000 life insurance policy, so he contacts the world’s dodgiest cop – Killer Joe. While this is pitched as a thriller, it’s more like a deep-south trailer-trash crime-caper, which was a nice surprise. More surprising, is the absolutely wicked streak of very, very black humour that holds the movie together, providing an unexpectedly high number of laughs. Better still is the perfectly selected cast, all of whom portray brilliant – memorable – characters, but it’d be wrong not to single out Juno Temple (for her no-holds barred performance) and McConaughey, for his portrayal of a scary, twisted, stickler-for-manners-and-the-rules dirty cop – he’s unbelievably good. A few scenes (the dinner date in particular) feel overlong and lifted directly from a play – because this is based on a play, doh! There’s tons of nudity, a jarring/uneasy synth soundtrack and a totally subversive ending that you couldn’t begin to predict. Not unlike The Killer Inside Me, this is a difficult one to recommend: it’s unbelievably dark and uncomfortable to watch in large parts yet it works so well as a piece of entertainment, with some great laughs: above all else, this is a stunning performance piece from all actor involved… including Emile Hirsch!!! (And Gina Gershon, and Thomas Haden Church…)
Crazy, Stupid, Love.: ensemble rom-com loosely following a couple’s divorce and the subsequent mid-life crises. This is a film of two halves: the front end is brilliant, Ryan Gosling in particular is on top form as the no-nonsense, face-slapping, tough-love female guru – and his relationship with Carell is very watchable. For me, the second half was much quieter and a bit more predictable, falling back on a bog-standard personal journey and ‘gratifying’ wrap-up – although the climactic scene at the house is wildly entertaining, and quite clever. The film also shoots itself in the foot by having about 4 endings, it seems to just go on and on. The humour catches you off-guard, usually big budget/big cast comedies are given terrible, watered-down scripts, but there’s more than enough laughs on the table here. Carell has a strangely Jim-Carey-lite-like watchable presence, however he can’t really hold his own when it comes to the more emosh scenes. Crazy Stupid Love exceeds expectations as far as a comedy goes, however the second half of the movie lets it down and drags it out.
The Raven: murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe stories mark him as a suspect, however he and the police must use his specific knowledge to crack the case and find the real killer. Despite Renner, McGregor and Phoenix being marked for the lead, I don’t think any would have been as entertaining as Cusack, who film heavily relies on to elevate it above a standard thriller – he nailed the hard job of playing a watchable, likable asshole. Supporting cast are also solid, from Evans doing a Nelson Van Alden to Alice Eve‘s boobs and teeth – Gleeson‘s accent though, WTF?! The story’s dark, accompanied with some explicit gore and graphic death scenes. There’s some sneaky misdirection towards the end, and the killer could have been anyone really; the post script in Paris is also a little out of tone with the rest of the movie. It’s well-directed, with some great suspense built up, particularly in the pursuit and masked ball scenes – it also never drags. The script is generally good, although there’s some tactical swearing and spats of dialogue that seemed a little obvious and uninspired for such a great mind. Sure, a killer looming over foggy candle-lit 1800s streets isn’t a new idea, but I’m surprised at the heavy critical bashing this has taken; although perhaps it’s because this is only my first Poe movie, so have no comparison? For me, The Raven was a thoroughly enjoyable, old-fashioned, ‘classical’, gothic, Hammer-esque, atmospheric murder mystery romp with a hint of Giallo – and all the better for being a blend of fact, fiction and Poe’s famous works.
Goon: a bar bouncer joins a misfit Ice Hockey team as their tactical muscle (a goon) and helps them struggle through the play-offs. Humour is about the only thing that carries this film; it’s crammed with classic jock/locker-room insults. Sean William Scott somewhat over cooks the stupid angle, making Doug the Thug look a bit more Forrest the Gump at times. The ragtag team are a great bunch of characters though – the juvenile eastern Europeans and Richard Clarkin as the divorcee in particular are great to watch. The insult-centric jokes won’t be for everyone, but with ‘Superbad’ and ‘Pineapple Express’ plastered over the poster/trailer you should know what to expect – a swear x-rated comedy. Full of sports movie underdog clichés and sports-comedy clichés (like the inappropriate announcer) it adds absolutely nothing new to the genre, and when you think about it, nobody – not the director, not the fans, not even the cinema audience – even cares if the Highlanders win the cup at the end, it’s all about the brawling! Like Win Win it’s an indie-feeling sports flick centered around a normal guy; but this focuses more on the humour than developing a decent story. Baseketball, on ice, on drugs. Goon is funny beyond expectations if you like these sort of films, and enjoyable to watch, even if it’s a predictable sports story.
Black Christmas: [Mild spoiler] a sorority house plagued by abusive phone calls starts losing housemates at a rapid rate, but who is the killer!? Widely considered to be the first ‘slasher’ film, it contains everything we now take for granted in the genre – deranged serial killer with an aversion to young folk (always played by significantly older folk), meticulous stalking, savage attacks, all held together with of blood, terror and tension. This is one of the more technically superior horrors I can remember seeing; the first-person camera stalking is extremely impressive – especially given the size of old equipment – it’s cleverly shot, creepy sounding, well mixed, and remains convincingly festive. This still looks great for a 35 year old low-budget horror – if you can ignore 70s fashion. The high-quality means that a proper atmosphere is built-up, and it becomes genuinely creepy in parts. It’s also ahead of the curve with gratuitously foul language, which stands out more than the gore you see. On the down side, there are some major pacing issues with several sections of boring non-story, non action filler. Most disappointingly, there’s no reveal of the killer, motives or even a face – definitely missed a trick, leaving a bitter, unsatisfying taste. Black Christmas is a good B-movie, better than most of the stuff that’s churned out en masse these days – even after decades of imitation. It’s unfortunate that what would have been so fresh and shocking back in the day is now more interesting for everything behind and off camera – and how it was once innovative, unique, interesting, and bold enough to kickstart a genre.
Matador: a struggling salesman and troubled hitman meet in a bar… no it’s not a joke! First thing’s first, Brosnan absolutely owns this film as an alcoholic, borderline psychopathic, burn-out, jaded, lonely, vulgar assassin with homosexual undertones, including a wicked tache and fashion sense. He is nothing short of pure entertainment, with great comedy timing and black comedy vibe, effortlessly creating an unforgettable character. Greg Kinnear’s also rock solid, and plays the straight-laced guy perfectly – because there’s only two mains they’re both fleshed out well. There’s a great off-kilter tone throughout and it harks back to the classic screwballs – which keeps the film interesting. Visually, it’s delightful with lots of bright colours, tourist-friendly cinematography and some unique direction. There’s a few great songs masterfully inserted too. Of all the decent things that Broz has ever done, this is the one film that put him up for a Golden Globe – make sure you see why! Bottom line, it’s a well-made, very funny, black screwball comedy with two great characters at the centre.
Blitz: a crazed killer is knocking cops over like skittles in London, but focusing only on one police station… Story-wise, this follows the tried and tested formula featuring an alcoholic on-edge loner cop, a really bad man and some cat-and-mouse games. It looks quite good, but because of the story and realistic feel you’d associate it more with TV shows like The Bill or Luther. Action scenes are the only parts that remind you it’s a movie, although there’s a cracking chase sequence and several brutal / graphic incidents executed really well. Considine is great (as always) in an understated hero cop role, Gillen does a solid bad guy and Statham nails another Statham-type role, although he’s a bit grittier than usual. There’s absolutely no new ground covered, but for a solid cops vs cop killer story this is a cracker.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: shows two married couples and what happens when infidelity and ‘real life’ takes over. It’s starting to feel a bit like Woody Allen only has one story, and he just changes the
locations, names and occupations of his characters. Once again, the focus is on some ridiculously beautiful, artistic, troubled and self-obsessed middle class people that are quite hard to empathise with. This one struggles, trying to juggle far too many characters and flesh out each of their stories: the divorced female wreck, mid-life crisis pensioner, wife seeking family, disillusioned writer, art gallery owner, exotic love interest, blonde bimbo… As we expect from Allen, there’s some sporadic narration by the most Jewish voice ever, a really adorable ragtime old-fashioned score, and a whimsical / romanticised vibe – although I spent over half of the time shouting in my head “THIS IS NOT LONDON!!” There are some really nice touches; great lines hidden among the script, proper belly laughs and the odd comedy character – like the charlatan. It is enjoyable, but not much more. Don’t get me wrong, I like Allen but he’s been doing this schtick for far too long now.
Bad Santa: An alcoholic deviant and his pint-sized sidekick pose as Santa and an Elf for a seasonal job; they then plunder the mall they’ve been working at, but can an 8 year old show them the real meaning of Christmas? BBT is superb at playing a senseless degenerate and all round terrible person, but no matter how low he stoops the scrooge in all of us still connects. With any other Santa, the Kid (Brett Kelly) would have been the star, pulling off a shockingly good junior Rainman. Then there’s the Dwarf, Mall Manager and Security guard… all great characters. For a festive film, this one’s as smutty as they get, sex, swearing, conmen, booze, strippers, blood, violence for the duration… The dwarf’s insults in particular are pure entertainment – great to listen to. The film’s backbone is some fantastic deadpan humour & black comedy, championed by a few recurring lines; shit right for a week, fix a sandwich, etc. It’s well made, well written, well paced, with well measured and well timed jokes. While it’s an anti-Christmas film, it’s still quite festive and uplifting towards the end. Great holiday movie, but don’t watch it with the kids.
Merry fuckin’ Christmas!
The Warrior’s Way: Seriously, $42M spent on a film that has ninjas, cowboys, guns, swords, circus freaks, dynamite… and it’s still this boring? With almost nothing physical to film +85% of the buildings, scenery, props and even people are CGI. Because of this it looks pretty dreadful and feels cheap. The trailer suggests a fun action-fest, yet there’s around an hour of awful character building – this is not the type of film in which I wish to invest in characters!! When the action finally rolls round it’s emotionless, over-styled, plagasised, dull, vague, and edited to within an inch of its life to preserve a 15 certificate. The main guy (Yang Dong-gun) is a total vacuum; with almost no lines he tries his best to convey mystery and enigma but ends up just looking confused. The Leading lady (Kate Bosworth) looked good, but was the human version of Jessie from Toy Story – down to the bad accent. The script is riddled with clichés, there’s corny narration, an unforgivable pseudo-Asian soundtrack, and a heap of ‘cutesy baby’ shots!? I can only
imagine hope this will be Sngmoo Lee’s first and last time behind a camera. I walked in to the cinema yearning to like this but there wasn’t a single scene where I thought “That’s original” or “That’s cool”. 100% stick to The Good, The Bad, The Weird as it’s not an Asian stereotype and actually has story, acting, exciting action, a proper ending, Even Sukiyaki‘s worth your time, but not this – ever…
800 Bullets: When you see the phrase “tribute to Spaghetti Western“ splattered all over the box you’re kind of expecting a good old-fashioned cowboy flick, not the story of some washed up stunt guys waiting for the day when Spain will once again be the set of Western movies!! Parts of it are trippy, like some of the midnight movies (Black/White/Red credits especially). There’s the most gratuitous boobs & sex I’ve seen in a long time – you always expected in b-movies but it just feels out of place here. The ending totally doesn’t match the tone of the film. On the up side it’s very Spanish, with emotions flying all over the place and a few familiar names and faces. There’s a handful of classic and iconic Western camera shots scattered throughout, and in general the film looks great – from the landscapes to the costumes. By the end, you could divide 800 Bullets up into the following: 40% banal story focusing on main stuntman’s family; 40% ‘what keeps punters interested’; 20% love letter to old westerns and stunt guys. Overall, it just feels like a pretty bad idea, dragged out for far too long. For stories about washed up stunt men, stick to The Fall and for Spaghetti Western tributes this should do the trick.
Hot Tub Time Machine: 3 middle-aged guys and a nephew go on a Ski Trip, and get transported back to the 1980s via a malfunctioning hot tub; partial hilarity ensues. It’s essentially a mish-mash of several tried and tested movies: American Pie, High Fidelity, Back to the Future, The Hangover, any ‘Buddy Comedy’ you can think of and the Butterfly Effect. Additionally, the characters are all pulled from the ‘Familiar and Safe’ cupboard; the cool / normal guy, Mr under the thumb, the wildcard and nerd loser. The strangest aspect was that it’s essentially a teen movie, but starring adults… weird to watch. There’s puke, piss, shit & many a gross-out but the ratio of hot tits to saggy men’s asses was disappointingly even (note to the director, this shouldn’t even be a ‘ratio’) HTTM is funny, and by no means a bad film, but it’s exactly what you expect a film called “Hot Tub Time Machine” to be and nothing more. Inevitably suffers from trying to be to broad and tick a huge bunch of ‘safe’ boxes, stick to the Hangover.
The Ghost (Writer): A Ghostwriter replaces his predecessor who died under mysterious circumstances, as he researches and re-writes the memoirs of Britain’s ex-Prime Minister all is not what it seems on the surface. It’s a pretty generic conspiracy story, and just when it’s starting to drag everything happens in the last ten minutes, which feels a bit rushed: the ending’s quite disappointing / obvious but the final scene more than makes up for it. It’s very contemporary, political, and unashamedly based around Tony Blair; portraying him in the worst possible light! For a political movie the script’s quite warm and funny in parts, and other than some dodgy accents the cast are pretty solid – Cattrall’s just a more educated version Samantha, Olivia Williams is all over the place but you can’t go wrong with the Broz or Ewan McGregor. The main star for me though was Polanski, whose direction is outstanding (especially given he was under house arrest!). He lets this thriller tell itself, with no fancy trickery and just plain old-fashioned brilliant directing. Definitely worth a watch if you like this type of movie.
Note: As mentioned on Have I Got News For You: the film’s been given a 15 certificate in the UK, Polanski swears it’s 18!
The Legend of Drunken Master: [Region 1 Import] Apparently this was deliberately dubbed in retro ‘Engrish’, lucky for everyone there’s not much dialogue. It’s also unfathomably camp, and terribly unfunny but what this one makes in is the action, and this is action like you’ve never seen before. Every fight and chase scene is mind-blowingly fast and intricate, yet universally enjoyable. The martial arts, especially drunken boxing, are great fun to watch and the physical prowess of a young(ish) Jackie Chan really has to be seen to be believed. It would be forgivable to think he was superhuman but there is absolutely no CGI involved – even when he’s scrambling over the hot coals! In particular the fight with hundreds of hatchet men at the tea house is suspiciously similar to, but infinitely better than, the computer-heavy Agent Smith fight in the Matrix reloaded: mostly because of the bravest, or dumbest, stunt guys in the world. Health and safety officers would have had a field day on that set! The story goes a bit pear-shaped around the middle, but on the whole is one of the best old-school action films available. Jackie Chan’s finest hour?
Together: set back in 1975, it documents the make ups and break ups of a crowded hippy commune in Stockholm – doesn’t sound great but this is one of the best drama films out there, easily. Other than a few zooms there are no fancy tricks to this film, leaving everything to come from the characters; vegetarians, homosexuals, hippies, confused teenagers and alcoholics under one roof – it’s basically a scrip-writer’s wet dream. There are no main roles, just an ensemble of credible characters that you can relate to – from the uneasy teen to the textbook socialist – which makes the story very absorbing. There’s some nice subtle and awkward comedy hidden there too. It may be a tad slow for some but has one of the best endings that I can remember. All in, it’s a simple feel good tale about the ups and downs of living with people. This is was only Moodysson’s 2nd film, and between this, Fucking Amal and Lilja-4-ever he definitely started his career with a bang. We’re better together.
Shiri: Korean action blockbuster that opens up promisingly with some apeshit assassin training followed by a slew of hits that leave police scratching their heads. Throw in a couple of grudges, potential moles, twists, numerous gunfights and you’d think this film was solid gold. Unfortunately, it’s not very original: secret weapon nicked by breakaway terrorists who threaten to use it against the public. Someone basically nabbed the best bits from films like Nikita, Heat, Hard Boiled and Die Hard. Unfortunately, they didn’t steal a good soundtrack, as this one is beyond rubbish. The 2D characters could have benefited from a better script. Despite on-screen animosity between North and South Korea the film’s clearly pro-unity. Overall, it’s a pretty standard effort that brings nothing new to the table. Brainless action flick – best stick to the one’s mentioned above.