Danger 5 (Season 1): a team of Allied super-spies are tasked with stopping Hitler’s various advances in a 1960s interpretation of WWII. With a premise like that, you’d expect the show to be a little bit mental… and it is. The plot lines and characters are insane: it’s a show where a jazz improv band of white-suited apes fighting Nazi dinosaurs & reptiles isn’t just normal, but somehow funny. About half of the major characters have massive animal heads, and nobody seems to speak the same language… but you just roll with it. It has a very unique ‘tapey’ aesthetic, with grain, bad dubbing, Gerry Anderson style miniature sets (locations & action set pieces) and a 60s style surf rock soundtrack – it’s 100% kitsch and kampf. On a comedy level it’s very strong, with good loads of one-off belly laughs, and some cracking running gags like cocktail recipes, Hitler jumping through windows, bad food analogies and bizarre product placement. Although the first few episodes are the strongest the show is consistently funny. Danger 5 is what happens when you draw from a bunch of great TV Shows like Archer, Thunderbirds, The Young Ones (and throw in a pinch of Iron Sky). If you’re after a raunchy, risqué, alternative / subversive comedy packed with b-movie gore, sexy damsels, and – most importantly – laughs by the truckload, look no Führer than this. Pure cult TV that will undoubtedly snowball for years to come.
I Danced For Hitler
Lizard Soldiers Of The Third Reich
Kill-Men Of The Rising Sun
Hitler’s Golden Murder Palace
Fresh Meat For Hitler’s Sex Kitchen
Top Gun: a hot-headed fighter-pilot is sent to train with the top 1% at the Air Force’s finest training school – Top Gun. This is one of those films I watched in complete disbelief, why is it that this has become such a popular, ‘must see’ movie? The best thing about it is the music, but even that’s criminally overused: Danger Zone pops up 3 times, and Berlin’s Take My Breath Away appears 4 times!! The aerial combat scenes (central to the plot) aren’t quite as fluent and obvious as you’d expect – with limited shots and a lot of rough cuts: it relied more on the pilot’s communications to keep you informed. Not much to say about the script, other than it’s terrible, beyond hammy, and packed with so much innuendo that they had to have deliberately been going for a campy vibe: one character actually shouts “I want some butts”. Kilmer and Cruise don’t have to do much other than oil up, stand about in towels covered in sweat beads, square up chest to chest and erotically whisper lines like…
“Yea, I know”
“What about it”
It’s a film jammed with so much machismo that it unknowingly ends up mincing it’s way over to the ‘camp classic’ section.
“I was invaded!”
Tekken: after WWIII the megacorporation Tekken controls what was once North America, and is staging it’s annual ‘Iron Fist’ tournament. Obviously, for a film like this, actors are cast for their athletic looks over their talent – which leads to some god-awful line delivery from most people, but hey, at least they look very similar to their pixelated counterparts. The set-up is fairly good for this type of film, integrating a lot of detail from the game series. What drives Tekken is the action, and this film knows its audience, assigning about 2/3 of the runtime to 1 on 1 fights from the games, death-matches, or other action scenes. Despite being nothing new to the genre, Tekken is more watchable than most computer game conversions – and as good as any average cyberpunk / dystopian future movie.
Starbuck: a middle-aged slacker gets the wake-up call of his life when a lawyer informs him that he has fathered 533 children through a series of sperm donations from 20 years ago. First off, this is one of the few genuinely feel-good, heartwarming, upbeat films I can remember watching – the majority of films in this genre suffer from being far too sickly or cheesy. Director Ken Scott gets the tone absolutely perfect, as it juggles ‘happy viewing’ with enough drama and comedy to keep it interesting and varied. The film looks fantastic for the duration, great use of colour, imagery, locations, that lead to a pop-art, borderline dreamy effect. It’s a ballsy and unique directorial style, but complements the film perfectly. Patrick Huard, as the lead, is a solid screen presence that – no matter what he’s doing – manages to stay entertaining. The film’s kept fairly safe in that it’s never portrayed as creepy that the guy is unknowingly interfering in the kid’s lives, and that ethical / acceptance issues are glossed over, it also gets a little sappy as the ending approaches. The vibe of the film reminds me of ‘Love Me if you Dare‘, both colourful, artistic, upbeat and undeniably French. Starbuck wasn’t much of a hit in the cinemas in the UK, but it is an absolutely top-drawer feel-good comedy film, and a European gem.
Note: naturally, with this being such a good film, Hollywood has decided to give this the Vince Vaughn treatment – renamed ‘The Delivery Man’. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but I don’t think that Mr Vaughn has anywhere near the amount of charm or magnetism to match Patrick Huard’s performance.
End of Watch: two of LAPD’s finest end up with a bounty on their heads after accidentally disrupting the activities of a brutal cartel. From the opening car chase this feels very realistic, shot primarily on dashboard / surveillance / handheld cameras etc. This style not only lends itself to authenticity – glamour is played down throughout – but heightens the drama and urgency of action sequences. Both leads (Gyllenhaal and Peña) are superb, the naturalistic script makes them genuinely feel like friends, and their performances make you believe that they are regular guys – the fire scene in particular shows us that they are real heroes. What sets this aside from most cop films is that the antagonists are painted as being so ruthless and violent that there’s a genuine sense of danger that simmers throughout the film, hitting boiling point at the climax. My only major issue is that because the overall style is ‘handheld’/’genuine’ footage, characters in the middle of drive-by shootings / full-blown firefights / intimate moments are always carrying a camera/phone etc; even when there’s plenty shots in the film that aren’t handheld, so it seems a bit stupid. Also, if the penultimate scene had been cut, the ending would have also been so much more powerful. Niggles aside, End of Watch is a stunning cop film, with a strong ‘buddy’ vibe, real threat and two great performances at its heart. This is easily the best cop film in years, and arguably ever.
Henry’s Crime: Henry takes the blame for a robbery he knew nothing about, does three years in prison, and upon release hatches a plan to actually rob the bank: he’s done the time, why not commit the crime? My biggest issue with this is that, as a protagonist, Henry is one of the most uninteresting characters to lead a film – the personification of tedium and aimless. Vera Farmiga – playing an unpolished actress – does a really good job, where as Reeves has had a whole career being 2nd rate and seeing him ‘poorly read’ from a play-script actually blew up my irony-o-meter. James Caan steals the show as the loveable ‘confidence man’ – easily with the best character, best lines and all-round best performance. For an indie-rom-com-robbery-caper there were only 2-3 laughs, and it just felt like a really, really basic ‘bank job’ that wanted to be well grounded [like The Lookout] but was heavily laced with absurdity. Also, of all the plays to use in this type of film a high-brow Chekhov tragedy just didn’t fit the bill – and all the readings/scenes from that script really brought the tone down. There are a some elements that are good ideas; such as the prisoner that doesn’t want to leave prison, unlikely friendships, a bank robber being forced to take up acting, and changing the ending of an established play – however, the final scenes are a cinematic train wreck that you have to watch through your fingers. It’s all somewhat unfortunate because concept is great, and with this cast it definitely looks worth a punt, but having seen the film I realise why the distributors buried it in a busy month.