De Palma: two directors plonk a camera in front of legendary director Brian De Palma, and he discusses his turbulent career, warts ‘n’ all. This kicks off with a brief history of his journey into cinema; starting as an indie director through to his studio system break alongside Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, and Coppola. The rest of the documentary feels like De Palma defending his stinkers and bigging up the films that initially underperformed, but have been subsequently lauded. My main issue with this documentary is that I don’t know who it’s supposed to be aimed at: the 2-5 minute recap of every single film is too high-level for De Palma nerds like me – even with the odd anecdote – yet it pretty much spoils the best parts of every film that ‘De Palma n00bs’ won’t have seen yet. As it’s just De Palma talking, it feels a touch self-indulgent – massaging his own ego – and coming over as a tad weird, bitter, & unhinged by the end. This is capped off with a final few minutes that turn into the biggest self-congratulatory handjob; where De Palma states that he is the only director keeping Hitchcock’s notions of “pure cinema” alive! This is the only time I’ve ever though that what I was watching could have benefited from more talking heads lending different perspectives and additional context. Don’t get me wrong, De Palma is one of the most under-rated directors out there; and although he’s had some stinkers, he’s also made some of the greatest movies of their times… but this isn’t the tribute that I was expecting; or that a masterful director like Brian De Palma deserves.
If you really want to explore De Palma, scrap this and go watch Blow Out, Femme Fatale, Scarface, or The Untouchables to see the damage this guy can do with a camera.
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.
Night Watch (Ночной дозор): after a truce that has lasted for centuries, tensions between Russia’s light and dark sides come to a head when the most powerful ‘Other’ has to choose which side to join. This is an ultra-styalised, almost indie-spirited blockbuster that combines multiple sci-fi/fantasy genres and glues them together with a large dose of Russian folklore. It’s filmed with an impressive style; the colours are bold and bright, the cinematography is striking, the camera work is technically sound, and the editing is fast and exciting… The most impressive aspect of this is that it was made for $4.2M despite being CGI heavy, and looks better than most $100M pictures. Good vs Bad, Light Vs Dark – it’s just a shame that the story is nothing to shout about. Overall, this is a solid pre-twilight vampire film that’s less about the emotional complexities of being a vamp, and more about utilising their superpowers to create exciting action set pieces. Night Watch is totally watchable, entertaining, and big/loud/shiny enough to help you forget that the story is actually a bit pants.
The Purge: In the near future crime and unemployment are at an all-time low, thanks to the purge – 12 hours every year where all crime is legal. I loves me a good old B-Movie, and this film has it all: a strong single-concept, near-future dystopia, home invasion / terror flick. It’s 80 minutes long, and could have even cut a bit more out of the setup. There’s’ action. There’s some gore. The baddies are sufficiently scary, whilst remaining authentically ‘Kids next door’. Best of all, there’s a serious social commentary that runs through the entire movie; that makes you think about what you’d be doing in this family’s shoes. In fact, the only thing that bugged me about this was that the son was such a complete idiot-hole moron assface – who continually did the most stupid things for no reason (although it did conveniently push the plot along). The Purge is the kind of film that if you don’t buy into the conceit, you’ll completely hate it. I bought into it, and loved every minute of it.
The only two rules of Purge Club
- No government official holding Rank 10 or higher is to be murdered, harmed, have harm caused to them, or in any event brought to harm in any case.
- Weapons above Class 4 are forbidden, meaning that destructive devices (rocket launchers, grenades, bombs or missiles) and explosive materials are excluded from The Purge.
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.
Dexter (Season 1): Miami’s top blood-splatter expert has a nice little hobby of dispensing the city of its criminals that the justice system spits back out. I know it’s the first season and everything needs to be established, but there’s no need for the dialogue (and lazy voiceovers) to be this wincingly bad: “This box is like me, completely empty,” “if I had a heart, it would be breaking…” WE GET IT, You’re an emotionless sociopath! THIS IS THE PREMISE OF THE SHOW – DUH!!! Dexter’s (Michael C Hall) acting is also good, or bad, enough (hard to tell when he’s playing a psycho) to convince us he is truly cold, and always trying to act normal. Plot-wise, the bigger “ice Truck Killer” story is far more interesting than the scumbag of the week episodes, however they do reinforce, and slowly let you see Dexter’s M.O. which is interesting to watch. Dexter Season 1 has some good watching in it; and features TVs smoothest asexual, and most supportable vigilante.
Tokyo Decadence (トパーズ, Topāzu): a specialist prostitute with a very particular set of skills is doing some very strange things with salarymen in the hotel rooms of Tokyo. The opening scene has a girl strapped to a chair, gagged, blindfolded then injected with heroin – if that makes you uncomfortable, this film’s probably not for you. It starts of feeling like an exploration piece/eye-opener focusing on an extreme (sub)culture. The film portrays some extremely ‘out-there’ acts, without appearing to be overly leery or vulgar. It keeps upping the ante scene by scene until there’s nowhere else left to go; then it implodes during an ending which, out of nowhere moves the film from a risqué/explicit/shock melodrama into plain old existential pompousity. It’s packed with rough cutting and hard editing; difficult to know if it’s intentional/stylistic or just budgetary constraints. If you like a bit of smut dressed as art or ‘world cinema’ then this is about as wild as you’ll probably get; and if you dig S&M, Bondage, BDSM, Dominatrices etc etc then it’s probably a must own. As a film however, Tokyo Decadence is fairly unremarkable, and if you took away the controversial/notorious S&M scenes it would be a completely unremarkable 2-hour instantly forgettable snooze-fest.
Sunshine Cleaning: to ensure her son can get a good schooling, a struggling mum enters the lucrative, but stomach-turning, crime-scene cleanup business. The best part of this is that it’s fairly funny and upbeat considering the grim subject matter; the characters aid this most, other than the most annoying kid in history – If that was my spawn I’d have beaten him into shape by that age. Emily blunt looks great as an angsty goth, nails the accent and steals the show for me. Amy Adams was solid too – but was clearly during her ‘must have a scene in my underwear’ phase. Chloe form 24 once again plays her bread and butter TOTAL WEIRDO role – needs to diversify! The direction and story are both simple and effective, although it goes a little off-chorus in the final third, but enough groundwork was put in at the start to give this a nice indie sleeper-hit feel to it. Sunshine Cleaning cleverly walks the line between funny and serious, and successfully avoids become farcical or gloomy.
The Hunted: the FBI turn to a master survivalist/tracker to hunt down one of his former star pupils, who has since become a rogue special forces operative. Tommy Lee Jones is guilty of a little overacting, although he does spend most of the runtime poking, touching and staring at his surroundings for clues – so I guess he’s making up for that. Del Toro does his tried and tested stone cold killer routine, but with such dialogue-light characters neither feels properly developed. The underlying issue being that you should really be giving guys of this caliber deeper, more rounded characters to play with. The film’s cut well for the action scenes, with a few standout heavy-handed, bloody fights – however there are a few moments where Del Toro feels more like a bogeyman than a human. The film’s full of good locations, good story, good leads – but it somehow fails to fully engage or grip you. Biggest flaw is the lack of mood music, when it appears it’s very low volume, and makes the film feel flat, and vacuous. Director William Friedkin could have got away with spending less on big stars for empty roles, and more for big music over flat scenes. The Hunted starts off with a bang, but loses focus and audience by about the half-way mark, relying on big, macho action to keep interest up.
Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os): an unemployed wayward man falls in love with a whale trainer – but in European cinema, it’s rarely as easy as that. This feels like a mish-mash of many big European films – although to name some would probably be spoilers. There’s not much of a scope or message, and as the film jostles with so many big questions that you leave the screen wondering what it was all about – love, coping with disability, family, sex, fighting, morals, fatherly responsibility… to name but a few. It’s also pretty nihilistic, to the point where you hope one good thing happens to the characters, although there’s a few silver linings, and some brief comic relief. You can’t fault the acting much – big, powerful, deep, solemn performances – but it’s very “European social-drama” (open, blunt, provocative everyday dialogue), which matched the vagueness of the story. It’s also peppered with dozens of random arty shots, for no reason other than filler. For such a diehard ‘European’ film, the American Indie/Pop soundtrack felt really out of place, and like it was screaming for international attention. The computer effects (greening out) when required were fantastic, seamless, you would think that everything you saw was absolutely in-frame. Rust and Bone is an interesting film, and to a point it’s watchable, but the vagueness and slow-pace means that your interest dips in and out, and it’s hard to engage with. It does end up feeling like a random bunch of poignant scenes and circumstances.
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. What do Francis Ford Coppola, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Dennis Hopper, Joe Dante, Robert De Niro, David Carradine, Pam Grier, and Ron Howard (to name but a few) all have in common? …give up? They all got their first break from one man; Roger Corman. Much like the majority of his movies, Corman’s career feels like fiction; as a story reader at 20th Century Fox he singled out the script for The Gunfighter, added some suggestions and got no credit for the film’s success, so he left the company in 1955 and self-funded his first movie – he hasn’t stopped working on films ever since. The biggest weapon in this film’s arsenal is Corman himself; he’s fascinating and a very watchable presence – intelligent, unassuming, genuine, happy, modest, energetic, amiable… to be honest, I’d have been happy with a more in-depth 90 minute conversation. His relevance and importance through the decades is truly eye-opening, which is nicely contrasted with Corman’s penny-pinching / budget maximisation methods that have seen him direct and/or produce well over 300 movies and almost never make a loss. The doc does lose some steam and focus around the hour mark, and in patches it feels like a sugar-coated, rose-tinted fanboy piece, but they’re minor complaints. Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel does a decent job of covering the highlights of an amazing +50 year career in 90 minutes, letting the audience know how his surname embodies an entire genre. Most importantly, I sat with a smile on my face for most of the runtime
The man. The Legend. Roger Corman. Doesn’t look like an exploitation master!
Caché (Hidden): a couple begin receiving video tapes of someone watching them and their home, but who are they from? It starts off fantastically with some phenomenal, haunting long takes that really let your mind run away with who, or what, has their eyes on the family. Unfortunately, the film only has one pace: crawl. Many more long shots, lingering cameras, and a lot of (mostly) banal scenes later, it finally lands at the infuriating, non-event, cop-out ending – not satisfying, and an epic disappointment given how much the movie asks of the viewer. Personally, I’d have liked to see the film slowly build up and gaining momentum through to a conclusion, but hey, what do I know? Towards the end, Auteuil was the only thing keeping me watching – he has a truly magnetic screen presence in almost every movie. It’s very middle-class; based on well-to-do characters in artsy/intellectual jobs and questionable parenting. On the whole, I’m a fan of Haneke’s work, and the social commentary that usually comes with it; unfortunately this is just a little dull, and doesn’t appear to have a whole lot to say. Despite being slow, vague and borderline tedious, Caché is not without some merits; the camerawork is great, and individual scenes are solid and terrifically staged / shot / acted. Divisive French anti-thriller.
Bound: Violet wants to leave her mobster boyfriend after hooking up with ex-con Corky – so they hatch a little ol’ scheme to steal laundered some money. A project to prove that the Wachowski‘s could actually handle a film before studios gave them money for The Matrix, it had to stand out, so the guys made a noir film with a unique twist – LESBIANS!!! The retro vibe mixed with the semi-corny script, cheapy music and lesbian undertones make the first 30 minutes feel a bit like a soft porno. When two beautiful women start fingerblasting each other it feels like an actual porno, but with more passion & realism. After the setup the film picks up the pace; with the story twisting along and the directors quickly proving that they can handle themselves. It’s very, very slick and stylish, well shot, technically proficient and a dramatic rollercoaster towards the end. A couple of really high tension scenes are also handled masterfully, and although the script’s a bit clunky, the story makes up for it. Both females (Tilly & Gershon) do well with their characters, as does Pantoliana but seeing Cypher with hair is a bit weird. The final act in particular has a real Reservoir Dogsy type feel to it in both the bloody violence, and the career kick-startability. As a readiness project, consider this mission accomplished, although the Wachowski‘s would soon realised that all the money in the world couldn’t make a good film *coughMatrixRevolutionscough*
How will we convince people to give us money for our project... LESBIOOOBS!!!!
Thirst: after a failed experiment a priest develops an urge to drink human blood, it doesn’t help that the world thinks he’s blessed by god, and he’s falling in love. For most of the runtime the film never really ups gear, remaining slow and intense from start to finish – the setup in particular takes time to get going. Adding to the mood are some morbid undertones (suicidal priest, very awkward sex scene etc). The final act feels like a jumbled-up mess, with lots of sudden developments and a lot to tie up, although the last scenes do save the movie. Much like OldBoy, JSA, I’m a Cyborg, and Sympathy for Mr vengeance, Park Chan Wook’s streak of offbeat, oddball and very, very black humour crops up to provide some guilty laughs. Leading man Song Kang-ho is superb to watch as his character wrestles between his moral/religious background and new-found vampire urges. The scariest part of the film is how technically proficient and well-directed it is, no matter how dingy or clinical the settings are, they’re immaculately planned, framed to perfection, and the camera movement is immense… this guy is, without a doubt, one of the best directors in the world. Whilst Thirst is a fresh, poetic, and ultra-stylish take on the crammed vampire genre, its own silver bullet is the slow pacing and lack of drama for the most part. It’s not a bad film, by any stretch, but will probably appeal most to goths and fans of vampires / blood / self-harming / sex.
The Grey (AKA Wolf Punch): a suicidal wolf-sniper must lead a group of plane crash survivors back to safety when they ditch near a wolf den in Alaska. The biggest shock to me was Neeson‘s star appeal; it was the busiest screening I’ve seen in a long time – and the poster for this is just a close-up of his coupon. While there’s no other A-list actors, they’ve all been around the block and are a solid bunch of hands. The film has surprisingly artistic sensibilities; in particular the opening character building with voiceover, and overall focus / investment on the group, their dynamics, (& latterly the scenery) – instead of fighting wolves every 20 seconds. The plane crash is overwhelming, there’s couple of solid jumps, the CGI wolves look great, the gore is pretty visual, and overall the continuous threat of attack keeps you guessing. The only real downside is that there’s not a whole lot of wolf-punching to be had, and when it happens the frenetic action cam makes a mess of it all. As for the final scene, I still can’t tell if it is the bravest, dumbest, or most disappointing in memory – definitely a bold move. Neeson gets his token action line ‘let’s sharpen a big stick and ram it up this wolf’s ass’… as well a several emotional runs through the poem below, oh, and Taglet looks identical to Half Life’s Dr Freeman. The Grey isn’t the action-packed wolf-punching cheese-fest that you walk in expecting; instead it’s a tense, character driven well-made survival thriller; this will be a nice surprise to some, but a disappointment to others.
Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.
Underworld: Awakening (3D):
27th 4th installment of vampires vs werewolves where Kate Beckinsale jumps around in a skin-tight pvc suit, firing shiny guns at hairy beasties. The Vampires vs Lycans story is stretched about as far as it can be here, a couple of plot contrivances later and you have a non-sensicle semi-story (i.e. a reason for the SFX) that almost justifies another film. The action is decent enough, styalised slow-mo and very gory; there’s blood, bones and limbs splattering everywhere. Instead of standard filler, the film gets carried away with good wedge of characterisation and ‘emotional scenes’ – not what you’re expecting, or wanting here. Technically it’s decent although some of the werewolves look like jerky claymation in times (could be the 3D) and it may as well have been shot in black and white. The 3D is wholly unnecessary, so subtle that there was no real depth in the picture, or pointy pokery – no 2D option available at my local. Underworld Awakening is more of the same, exactly what it looks like, and probably won’t overly disappoint (or impress) fans of the franchise and stray punters alike.
Rubber [Blu Ray]: For reasons unknown, a discarded tyre comes to life, and starts a murderous rampage using its psychokinetic – head exploding – powers. There’s an awesome short movie in here, but in order to ‘beef it up’ into a film, several (ridiculous) elements are thrown in that don’t really do it for me. A film that’s punctuated with meta sequences and references should have a better reason for doing so than simply adding to the runtime; the entire observer side-story just broke up and detracted from the fantastic personification of a demented tyre. The SFX and direction are impressive – the tyre’s personality is built up piece by piece as he shakes, moves, inquires, turns, breathes, rolls, crushes and showers all on its own. Moreover, the film has an art exhibit / music video style and feel throughout, with fresh visuals and great cinematography featuring the Californian desert. The BD picture is among the best I can remember watching, every texture is rendered crisp and sharp; audio is generally flat, but bouncing when the music kicks in. I liked Rubber, but really wanted to love it – ultimately, it should have either been a 20 minute intense short, or full-on 80 minute character study of the tyre.
The Next Three Days: When his wife is sent to prison for a murder she didn’t commit, an everyman embarks on a long-winded jailbreak from the county’s most secure prison. The brunt of the film is Crowe scoping out the prison and dealing with Pittsburgh’s criminal underbelly – making it essentially the Russell Crowe show; which is great because he’s Russell Crowe, but bad because he’s one of those superb actors that manages to elevate otherwise average films above their natural place (see State of Play). The tone jumps up and down, with up to 30 minutes of slow-moving planning, then Crowe getting his action on for a minute or two. When you’re watching it, most of it seems plausible at a stretch, then you think back to everything that a sleepy English lecturer actually did… and feel violated! Also, unless I’m an idiot, they didn’t reveal one question: how did the blood get on to the back of her jacket?! Despite being pretty well made you get the sense that everyone here’s underachieving, and that it’s a film for the sake of being a film, with some big names… for the sake of having the big names (Neeson is in one scene, yet gets 3rd billing.) It’s also more about The First Three Years than The Next Three Days!!
NEDS: follows a catholic kid in Glasgow circa in the 1970s at the teenage crossroads between continuing education or joining gang life. With a no-holds barred approach to the story and filmmaking, this is gritty, raw and violent for the entire duration; the mentality of the characters is particularly shocking – but as a Scot, I can (sadly) vouch for the realism. The language is coarse and very broad Scottish, so will be pretty difficult for anyone outwith the country to fully understand it. The central character is also one of the meanest pieces of work I can remember, with a likability score of zero, even as the school SWAT. Put this all together and you’ve got a moderately depressing story that in parts makes Trainspotting look like a sitcom – but there’s a few saving graces. There’s a lot of great performances, especially from a cast made primarily of non-actors; most notably the father and both the young & teenage Johns (esp Conor McCarron). Secondly, although it gets to some pretty dark places, the story arc is fantastic, proving to be very powerful and surprisingly effective as a whole. I’m glad I saw NEDS, at first I wasn’t impressed but as the story continued I was slowly drawn in and engaged through to the last 5 minutes. Even though it’s pretty dismal, this film won me over in the end.
Let Me In: re-make of a 2008 Swedish film of a vaguely similar name:
– Overall execution
– More concise, and clearer story
– Cut out a bunch of ridiculous scenes (cat lady et al)
– No shot of gnarly genitalia
– More tension in big scenes
– Father/ Cop were better acted
– Kid’s relationship not as good
– Kid actors aren’t quite as good
– Cheesy soundtrack
– OTT Vampire effects / SFX
– Cut out decent story lines (Kid’s dad)
– Still slow, boring and Emo
– Large sections are literally scene for scene
– Embraced the 1980s too much; music, pac-man, fashion, sweets etc
– Deliberately identical aesthetics (lots of fake snow)
The final product is stronger than the original, although that wasn’t hard to do for me.
We Are What We Are: Mexican film about a cannibal family who don’t know what to do when the father (and provider) dies. Sounds like a great premise for a black comedy of errors, right? Wrong. This one was Arthouse – to the point of parody – for the entire duration. Shot after shot of people looking vacant with a somber cello accompaniment; the entire soundtrack was hammy and very old-fashioned. There was very little gore, and when it arrived it felt gratuitous and out-of-place – bones snapping and many more sound effects from a butcher’s counter. The acting was decent, especially the kids – but the mother was exactly like the crazy gypsy from Drag Me To Hell. This would have fitted in quite well with the ‘video nasties’ of the 1970s, but today it just seems totally feeble. Missed a lot of tricks. Bad, slow, un-engaging, pretentious and dull ‘horror’.
Let the right one in: totally, 100%, utterly underwhelming – the amount of buzz this film’s generated only makes it even disappointing. The story of the friendship between the two teenagers is pretty good, and their acting is absolutely superb, but that’s about the only memorable aspect of the entire film. Most people bang on about how beautiful it looks – it’s OK, but this isn’t really one of the best-looking or best-shot films world cinema has to offer. The story’s very slow and nothing much really happens for the most part – the first hour the film could have been named “Daily vampire errands”. The mundane-ness is reminiscent of Lukas Moodyson films, just not done as well. I couldn’t tell if the black comedy moments that broke the film up a bit were meant, or if it was jumpy / scary moments gone wrong… Overall it got more laughs than shocks, glossed over most of the risky material from the book (drugs, theft, pedophilia, prostitution) and is probably one of the most over hyped films I’ve seen. It was so wrapped up in Swedishness that I also spent the whole time waiting for a Lordi cameo. Definitely a love-hate film… and I hated it.
Gamer: (Blu Ray) it is the future (!) and computer games have reached the next level with humans controlling prisoners in a live PPV bloodsport called Slayers. The film opens with such a WTF battle – guns, explosions, slow mo, blood and teabagging. More generally the action’s scenes feel totally anarchic – good for conveying confusion, bad for having any idea of what’s going on. It takes sci-fi to the next level of ridiculousness with 1980s pseudo science; Butler being mind-controled in a game by some Justin Bieber lookalike through a fake brains… So many parts of the film reek of “This scene / character would be totally LOL” – let’s have the fattest, ugliest, stereotype computer geek – LOL; let’s have butler get drunk, then piss and puke – LOL; let’s get a rapper in it, LOL; Dexter as a baddie would be so LOL… by the end it’s trying way too hard, especially that ridiculous dance number. The story’s a carbon copy of films like Running Man / Condemned / Death Race – and it has a vibe somewhere between cyberpunk and goth S&M freaks The BD picture’s very good throughout (camerawork and cinematography are great) but the soundtrack is on a whole other level – much like War this works the entire system… would be a great demo, if your shop was for over 18s. All-in, Gamer’s a pretty broad genre-spanning punky type film that doesn’t taking itself too seriously. There’s a good punt at a story, and enough action to keep everyone interested. I got the feeling that Gamer was just a really fun project for the people involved to be working on. Made by video gamers for gamers, while stereotyping their culture and the media… bizarre.
The Wolfman: Re-make of a 1940s Werewolf film, and probably just as lame and cheesy as the original! I can’t really sum up how bad this is in mere words but I’ll give it a go: it’s essentially a classic 1980s action flick with inane modern effects and a terrible story. This got more laughs than shocks in the cinema as it was just so cheesy, the highlight being Anthony Hopkins’ campy lord character – how they managed to con such a respected cast into this is absolutely beyond me. It’s far too reliant on cheap jumps / special effects, and the music is as bargain-bin as the script. It’s excessively gory, but even that doesn’t distract you from the cinema butchery. Despite the ‘expectations bar’ being set outrageously low this films still managed to comfortably limbo underneath. Avoid at all costs.
Volver: borderline surreal movie that tells the story of a Spanish family going through some rough times. It would be impossible to watch this film and not notice that it’s pretty much a showcase of Penelope Cruz (and her magnificent chest). Despite this her performance is stellar as she leads the cast cast, once again proving that Spanish-language films truly bring out the best in her. The film’s shot brilliantly, and the vibrant colours and great cinematography really bring another dimension – the Blu Ray would be great. There’s a lot of over-acting, almost to soap opera level, and as the story progresses it gets less believable to the point where the drama isn’t effective. Some great dialogue and black comedy moments throughout too. All-in, it’s very Spanish and unmistakably Almaldovar, which is by no means a bad thing; although it’s not quite his best. Definitely worth watching.
Assembly: an epic Chinese film of one man’s struggle through two wars and his quest for recognition of his fallen soldiers. The first 60 minutes of the film shows 4 battles, 3 of which are so realistic that it makes Private Ryan look like a scouts training exercise – the only downfall is they cranked the ‘shaky cam’ up to advanced Parkinsons level in the first one. Some great suspence sequences leading up to the fights. The second part of the film drags on a little as the story weakens but the acting / cinematography / Chinese scenery keeps it more than watchable – and the ending picks up a bit. It’s brutal but humane, and Zhang Hanyu’s performance is utterly jaw-dropping.
Shoot ‘em up: bit of a let down, especially after reading a load of reviews saying how mental / violent / bloody / gorey it was (and that it was the most fake blood used in a film ever!). So I sat through the whole film waiting for the mother of all gunfights… but it never kicked off! Clive Owen is once again cast to play another gritty hard man, he must be getting bored of doing these roles. Overall it’s a ridiculous over-the-top action-fest of a film, with little plot and awful one-liners. More watchable than Crank, but Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti are definitely better than this!