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
Chungking Express (重慶森林): follows two lovesick Hong Kong police officers as they try to get over their last relationships. You can immediately tell that the visuals are the driving force of the film – the camera movement is light and fluid, framing and camera angles are experimental, the lighting is bright and bold – it ties together to create a very unique look. Unfortunately, no other elements of this movie come close to distracting you from this: the performances are decent but the characters (and their philosophy-lite inner dialogue) feel whimsical and slight; and the plot is inconsequential – relying on artsy / cutesy / quirky moments and fanciful gestures of romance to hold it all together. The film is split into two stories that have a few similarities (talking to inanimate objects, tinned food, chef salads, Indian people, and varying opinions on tears & water) but would have worked better focusing on the second part. If you think of a big HK movie in the 1990s, this is the complete opposite; so much so that it feels like a rebellious statement – ‘screw what you know about HK directors… I’m making a tedious homage to the French New Wave, suck it up losers!’ At over 100 minutes long it doesn’t half drag, which is a shame because a handful of nice moments and ideas get swallowed up by the dominating pop-video style, excessive runtime, and hammy dialogue – see below for genuine quotes. Chungking Express appears on list after list of seminal movies, but in reality it’s a barely-worked-on, directionless, and lightly scripted pet project between other movies – and it feels like nothing more than that to me. I’m sure he’s a lovely Won Kar-Guy, but I don’t understand Won Kar-Why the ratings for this are so Won Kar-High!?!? There are better films about Hong Kong and far better films about love: this is a definitive example of style over substance.
” If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries.”
” Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?”
” In May’s eyes, I’m no different from a can of pineapple.”
” When people cry, they can dry their eyes with tissues. But when an apartment cries, it takes a lot to mop it up.”
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.
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
Die Hard: European terrorists hold up a skyscraper and are issuing a lot of bogus demands; unbeknownst to them, NYPD’s biggest badass is crawling around in the air-ducts. John McClane is undoubtedly one of cinema’s greatest action heroes – the cheeky chap with so many timeless quips that have been ingrained into the general consciousness. For some reason, against all of the cut/paste Communist/Russian terrorists in 1980s movies the fact that the Die Hard baddies are German feels inspired. The film contains everything that was great about that era’s action films – right down to the male toplessness, black/white cooperation, violence, and a boss-fight within a perilous industrial setting. Most interestingly, although you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the lead roles, this was both Willis’ and Rickman’s first big movies – and McClane had previously been offered to Arnie, Sly, Ford, Gere, Reynolds, Eastwood – so the casting director is an absolute hero. Decades later, this is still one of the best examples of a timeless action movie; and the re-watchability factor alone makes this an instant classic. Not just the best Christmas movie ever, but one of the best movies ever. If you don’t like this, I don’t like you!
- Why are we here again? - I need a new house...
The Cold Light of Day: when his family are kidnapped near Madrid an everyman has to find a briefcase and return it to the captors in time. This is a strange one: coming out of the cinema it felt like a serviceable ‘nuts and bolts’ action movie, however, two days later the only parts i can recall are the Nike, Blackberry, Coca Cola, Audi, Land Rover, Fabrik Nightclub co-promotion scenes. There’s a couple of night-time action scenes that were too shaky and poorly lit to be even remotely coherent – although there are a few interesting flares of camerawork, and it fades in and out of attempting to have the atmosphere and music of a classic Boir thriller – it’s just not consistent enough. The story is quite derivative, sloppy, and predictable genre writing – and everything down to the title feels focus-grouped to death. God bless Cavill for trying, but there’s next to nothing for anyone to work with – all characters are like concentrated stock. The Cold Light of Day is one of the laziest films I’ve seen in a long time; it just wants to coast on the back of the names involved – although the biggest (Sigourney and Bruce Willis) phone in two of the sleepiest and offendingly unremarkable paycheck performances of the year.
The Artist: follows a silent film star struggling to cope with the advent – and subsequent dominance – of sound in Hollywoodland after 1927. It’s black and white, there’s almost no digetic sound, the picture is box ratio… yet it’s in crystal clear HD! Definitely missed a trick with ‘worn footage’ or ’genuine reel’ look, feel and sound that would have polished off the aesthetics perfectly. Despite this, the film looks sublime, is beautifully shot and full of bold, striking, iconography and period detail – all packed in to the stunning mise en scéne. The charisma of both leads leaps off the screen – genuine eye candy – particularly Dujardin who without saying a word effortlessly entertains for the duration, while guiding you through his highs and lows better than most ‘talkie’ actors can. The story is simple, and drawn out in parts, most noticeable in the mid-section (Valentin’s struggle), giving the film quite a large, over-emphasised, centre-sag. The original score feels authentic, old-timey, and carries the movie during the slower parts. Above all else, The Artist is an adorable love-letter to ‘classic’ cinema in both its style and content; the opening theatre-in-theatre is silver-screen gold. However, because of this – and in the same vein as films like Cinema Paradiso – it feels like most critics, reviewers and cinema enthusiasts have been hypnotized by the cinematic history/nostalgia (combined with the non-standard formatting) and are clambering over each other to gush the highest praise imaginable. It’s a cute period piece, no doubt, but ‘Film of the Year’ is a big stretch for me. Equally good and novel (if you never watch B/W/Silent films), The Artist is enjoyable, entertaining and undeniably unique sitting in modern cinema listings; but the more steps back you take towards objectivity, the lighter, fluffier and style-dependent it begins to look.