Possession (Original Cut): follows the breakdown of a relationship between an international spy and his increasingly disturbed wife. Highly stylized, the masterful direction immediately jumps out; the camera is perpetually moving, with long and involving shots that roam around the actors, thrusting you right into the middle of the powerful, visceral drama. The acting is superb throughout, borderline theatrical but it assists in dragging you further into the intriguing plot. The entire film has an unusual vibe that’s both quasi-religious and heavily-surreal – somewhere between arthouse and exploitation – aided by a phenomenally creepy score that is one of the most unsettling I can remember. Not without it’s flaws, by the 75-minute mark, I was wishing I’d opted for the 90-minute edit, as the film takes a lingering detour into an examination of the body, soul, god, chance, and faith. It’s also a movie that has echoed strongly throughout the years, with a lot of imagery and powerful shots “borrowed” from this, and some of the most photogenic Berlin buildings – inside and out. Capped off with a genuinely crazy, jaw-dropping ending this is a film that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry; yet is such an intense experience that you won be rushing to re-watch. Marginalized because of it’s supernatural and excessive elements, Possession is ripe for a retrospective viewing: almost 40 years on it remains a modern thriller/horror that was way, way ahead of it’s time.
Strike Back: Shadow Warfare – when an undercover Section 20 agent is executed in cold blood Scott and Stonebridge set their sights on the killer and his terrorist organization. For this first time, this season pulls out some big names with the likes of Martin Clunes (best death face ever), Dougray Scott, Robson Green, and Rhona Mitra. And when you thought it wouldn’t be possible, everything is EVEN MORE ridiculous, funny, cheesy, trashier and sensational than the previous outings: a sexy Russian agent-babe is introduced in one scene, and literally a having vodka sex (with Scott, obvz) in the next one; a gay transvestite pensioner hard-man starts prison riot; and only Strike Back could have the Real IRA team up with Muslim terrorists and get away with it. This is the first season where the different directors stand out as the opening two episodes have computer-game / John Woo slow-mo vibe, with epic music and everything exploding; the middle six feel more ‘traditional’ action episodes, and the final two play out more like 24 episodes with the focus being on twists and reveals (and some poorly handled shaky cam action). The overall story and structure stick to previous season formulas, but hey, every plot thread in Strike Back is just chasing McGuffins to serve up more action scenes. When things aren’t being blown to shit, the drama stuff is well handled, characters get a bit more time to develop, and the show still isn’t afraid to pull punches or shock the viewers with main cast killings. I’ve pretty much ran out of superlatives and phrases to describe how good Strike Back is because it’s so consistent in delivering five top-drawer action B-movies season after season. The show gives its audience (14-40 year old boys) exactly what they want: action, babes, guns, nudity, explosions, gadgets… and the fact that this rollercoaster series ends with a sex scene says it all really. The tagline for this season is “The world’s not saving itself”; but Strike Back is definitely saving the action TV genre.
STRIKE BACK REVIEW
STRIKE BACK: PROJECT DAWN REVIEW
STRIKE BACK: VENGEANCE REVIEW
Demons (Dèmoni): after being lured into a free movie screening a diverse cross-section of society are trapped and attacked by a demon curse. Essentially a zombie film but with demons, everything about Demons is an excuse to get more gore on the screen, and the crimson effects are unbelievable – puss, bile, blood, guts, and even whole demons bursting out of people – all done with physical FX. Not unlike some of Argento’s films of the era the production feels surprisingly high quality, which has made the modern blu ray release look way more impressive than similar movies from this era. The soundtrack is also interesting; packed with heavy metal royalty (and Rick Springfield) – Saxon, Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Pretty Maids, Accept – which give the film an authentic and nostalgic edge. To pad out the runtime we’re treated to longer-than-necessary sections of a film-within-a-film, and a completely ridiculous (and unrelated) street punk side-story – but it’s forgivable stuff. There’s also lots of ‘bad’ / ‘hammy’ aspects to the film which make it ripe for B-movie / cult status: it’s very 80s, and things like the dialogue, characters (like a black guy who just happens to be a switchblade proficient pimp), and performances carry a ‘midnight movie’ feel. Demons is not for everyone, but gore fiends and metal aficionados are the target for this badly dubbed pan-European cheesy horror.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Bridge of Spies: an all-American lawyer must represent a Soviet spy in court; then broker a deal in Berlin to trade him for a captured American pilot. This movie has got crazy ‘Mad Men’ levels of period nostalgia, so much so that it feels deliberately aimed at older generations: bowler hats, vintage suits, cars, produce, umbrellas, briefcases, Nescafe – all from the good old days when you at least knew who your enemy was (Ivan the Russki, obviously). Everyman Hanks is on everyman form but, as the award shows have reflected, Rylance completely steals the film – even with his best Mrs Doubtfire accent – and they have some cracking scenes together. It’s also funnier, and more upbeat that you’d expect, although not all laughs hit the mark (like the huge hotel breakfast). With Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, Tom Hanks & Mark Rylance starring, and a remarkable supporting cast… the biggest disappointment is that it’s not a ‘great’ movie. Other than the ‘old-timey‘ orchestrated score, you’d hardly even know you were watching a Spielberg film; the drama and emotions are kept at arm’s length, and it could have done with a bit more drama or tension – like not knowing if the accused was or wasn’t a spy from the first scene. It also feels fragmented; not just in that the it’s two separate stories; but it’s part legal drama, part cold war, part family, part political… Overall, it feels like less than the sum of its parts, but as you’d expect, a ‘satisfactory’ Spielberg movie is as good as most people on form. Bridge of Spies is two interesting Cold War tales, told in a very matter-of-fact, flat and peril/drama-free manner – that fails to suck you in to the story.
NEKRomantik 2: The Return of the Loving Dead – follows a Berliner called Monika who’s torn between two boyfriends: a corpse and a porno-dubbing ‘normal’ guy. This is easily the weirdest and most contradictory film I’ve ever seen: it’s a cine-literate, ultra arthouse picture that contains more explicit gore, shocks and taboo than the top horror and most notorious exploitation films. It’s stylistically directed, with an increasingly surreal tone, some ‘auteurial’ touches like a 4:3 Academy Ratio, long ‘silent movie’ sections, a musical number, outstanding dolly & time lapse shots, and a film-within-a-film ‘My Dinner with Andre’ parody – director Jorg Buttgereit clearly knows what he’s doing. Not all choices are solid however, most scenes linger on longer than they should (fun fair / zoo), and especially towards the end it feels deliberately slowed down and padded out. Then there’s the small matter of gore and taste: from the opening frame – a grotesque suicide and spunk moment – this is an assault on your senses. Do you want to see a hot chick get off straddling the chest of a slimy grey corpse…or intimately dismember and gut said corpse with a hacksaw… or the skinning, butchering and decapitating of a seal? Then look no further than this. The elongated and graphic nature of these scenes test even the most hardened gore fans, and make it feel like more of an endurance test than a film. It’s a movie so notorious that it was the first film since Nazi Germany to be confiscated and outlawed by the police; it’s clearly the blueprint for Human Centipede 2 – and it’s the only film I’ve seen that surpasses it on the crazy gore spectrum. NEKRomantik 2 is explicit, depraved, stomach-turning and completely unforgettable – it could well be the pinnacle of notorious shock cinema.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
As with all of their specials, Arrow have given this the ultimate VIP treatment: a director approved pack with Blu Ray, DVD, OST CD, Postcards, a booklet, and a phenomenal stack of bonus material.