Quentin Tarantino Presents – My Name is Modesty: based on the Modesty Blaise comics, this film tells us her background during a casino heist. It’s an internationally confusing film; the DVD cover makes it look like an Asian gang-thriller, it appears to be shot in Eastern Europe, supposed to be set in Spain (or Morocco?), featuring Hong Kong, European and American leads. The script is pretty terrible, with amateur written all over it, and isn’t helped by several foreign actors having to speak varying degrees of English. About half way through it starts to dive in to the cheesiest, clichéd backstory in the history of B-Movies – how Modesty learned her skill set from a wondering academic that also happened to be well versed in kung-fu, archery, etc. Everything else reeks of cheese, right down to the “wave your hand over dead people’s faces to close their eyes” trick. The story judders along with not much happening until a single, pithy, action sequence at the end. The film was rushed due to a rights issue, but if this is the best a studio can do for an action-packed, saucy, successful female spy comic, they deserve to lose it and let someone else have a shot. At a meager 75 minutes, such a short movie has never felt this long – with terrible production, script and ropey acting, I’ve seen better TV pilots.
Note: the DVD does have several of long interviews with QT and the cast, and Modesty Blaise creator.
13 Assassins: a group of chosen samurai are tasked with killing an evil lord, for the future of Feudal Japan! The first hour is intense, but slow-paced – perked up with some token Takashi maddness / grotesque violence. Then you have the 45 minute long action scene, which starts as a tactical battle but quickly turns into a bit of a generic hack-and-slash – and you don’t see much action, just swords flying and splatter sound effects. Takashi does a good job of playing up / emphasising what outsiders most associate with japan: shogun, samurai, dynasty, honor, respect, code, infatuation with death etc… almost to a patriotic level. The biggest downfall was the focus and development of all 13 characters, which doesn’t count for much when they all have the same outfit, haircut and are pretty blurry in the battle. 13 Assassins is a solid ‘against-the-odds’ type story, but collapses a bit under its own grand finale.
The Host: creature feature from South Korea. Starts off like a trendy comedy horror, with awful over-acting, but gets more serious as the story progresses. There were a few awesome moments of suspense, but in general it didn’t seem to know whether to be funny or serious – ended up an eclectic mix. The music also conveys this, being spot on in parts, but totally ridiculous in others. The start and end are great, action-packed and when the film really comes to life, although the mid-section isn’t as good, coming across as drawn out and filler. The most outstanding part of this film was the monster, and the special-effects. Other than the very end it’s amazingly convincing and looked great. Some good, but predictable jumps along the way, and why is it that people in films like this always fall over when they’re running for their lives?! Mini political agenda regarding media hysteria, chemical warfare, failure of ‘the system’ and western criticism but it’s never really in your face. Far more focus on the family than the monster. Great action and tedious backstory but don’t really understand how it became the biggest Korean film of all-time, reasonable attempt nonetheless.
Diary of the Dead: maybe the first mainstream FPS horror? (It’s pre Cloverfield) Mostly filmed on 2 hand-held cameras, which surprisingly lures you right in to the action and gets the blood pumping. The atmosphere created is great, but does rely on some cheap jumps and music. It’s all a bit ‘horror 2.0’, frequently citing the ‘web, hits, bloggers, hackers, kids and how they can beat the mainstream in an emergency, which was a bit cringey. Also states people behind the camera (aimed at the media) have no limits & can’t stop filming, no matter how bad the scene in front of them gets. It’s self-referencing, with old-school broadcasts tying it in with the original film, while making a nod to resident evil (the game) as well as highlighting zombie / b-movie clichés. Above this it features the coolest deaf Aumish guy in the history of cinema! All-in it’s actually quite clever, in trying something new and modernising the franchise. It was generally poorly received so most people must be expecting a generic rehash. Much better than Land.