LOGAN [Spoilers]: as Professor X’s health deteriorates Logan has to keep him – and the first new mutant in years – safe from all the bad guys. This is unlike any other big superhero film you’ve seen: grisly, balls-out, 15-rated (borderline 18!). There’s lots of “Fucks”, gratuitous boobs, and exploitation-level gore; with claws hacking up limbs & digging in to skulls etc. It’s also a film where the titular hero spends the majority of the runtime hobbling, coughing, and lumbering around like a broken man. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give an absolute masterclass in character and acting, supplemented by a star-making performance from Dafne Keen. I wouldn’t want to be the actor that has to follow Jackman when the inevitable X-men reboot goes ahead – after 17 years in the role, he is Logan. The action scenes are sparse, but next-level-superb throughout – the highlight being the first time were introduced to Laura (a 10 minute fight-chase). As for flaws, there are only a few minor ones: Stephen Merchant’s horrific accent brings you right out of the film; and it spends a bit too much time introducing and building some minor characters. One of the main criticisms leveled against this is that it’s too “depressing” or “downbeat”, which I assume came from the same people who would prefer to see robots leveling cities. Logan is a character-driven road-trip western film (that happens to contain superheros) rammed with pathos and peril – what’s not to love?! It’s brutal, dark, raw, emotional, and – for me – this is the new standard for ALL future Marvel / Superhero / Comic Book movies.
Deathgasm: after playing a very old piece of music, newly-formed metal band accidentally unleash evil spirits on their hometown. If you even remotely like any kind of Rock or Metal music this film is an absolute must-see as it’s 90 mins of lovingly poking fun at ‘metalheads’, metal bands, and most of the sub-genres. There’s jokes about everything from glam/hair metal and dubstep, through to Rick Astley and the ridiculousness of ‘extreme’ metal band names (Deathgasm spitball through other potential band names like ‘Murder Boner’, ‘Maggot Sperm’, and ‘Cannibal Unicorn’). There are so many throwaway jokes that you lose track, and when the film’s not poking fun at music it’s throwing some seriously good ‘old school’ over-the-top gore onto the screen – with a body-splitting, blood-drenched aesthetic that lands somewhere between Evil Dead and Braindead. Direction-wise, the blend of horror and comedy is absolutely perfect, and there’s a lot of horror (and wider cinema) nods through ‘classic’ camera shots and visual references. The only two negatives I can mention are that scenes like demons being beaten to death in slow motion with dildos and anal beads may not be for everyone, and I’m not sure if the gore alone would be enough to win over non-metal fans (there’s not a lot of new ‘horror’ ground covered). Deathgasm is a crimson-covered gem of a film that is a blast to watch, entertains for the full 90 minutes. Brutal!
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Dear God NO! [Grindhouse Cut]: a murderous outlaw biker gang kill their rivals and hide out in the woods, where they meet a crazy scientist and big foot… I think. Yup, here’s another ‘nasty nostalgia’ film with faux grain effect, pops and scratches, heavy saturation, projector sounds, mono/muffled soundtrack, tracking issues, etc, etc. It’s only 81 minutes long, but is crammed with filler: you get 5 minutes straight of up-close ‘mondo’ style topless dancing, a psychedelic heroin dream trip, and a Nazi Dr Frankenstein babe trip – all for no reason other than padding out the runtime (and increasing the shock factor). Made on a shoestring, the film’s packed with bad dialogue, bad acting, bad characters, actor changes, and ‘plot threads’ that make literally no sense. It’s like the director asked a 15 year old boy what he thought was cool – boobs, swearing, drinking, and bad attitudes man – and just rolled with that. We first meet the biker gang the morning after they trash a bus full of nuns and rape/murder them all, and it only goes downhill from there; bottoming out with a snuff scene that goes too far with a double rape and fetus removing/killing. I’ve seen much worse than this and not been as disgusted as this just nasty for nasty’s sake; and I couldn’t believe that there are directors out there that make Rob Zombie look like a proficient filmmaker. I’ve sat through some truly terrible movies in my day, and this is down there with the worst of ‘em. The only good thing about the entire project is it’s old school poster, and the only way I can imagine convincing anyone that this has worked is if you pitch it as a poor-taste no-budget physical effects show reel – or a masterclass in using controversy and a good poster as a get-rich-quick idea. A very very niche and ultra-nasty bikesploitation film.
The Green Inferno: when she joins a deforestation activism group, a naïve student comes face to face with the cannibal savages she’s trying to protect. I’ll put it straight out there; I’m not a big fan of Eli Roth… that being said, I had a blast with this film. The naive protagonist / final girl is surrounded by thin and/or unlikable characters (angsty alternative goths, far out hippy protesters, etc) so you’re not all that fussed about their fates, and watching them get dispatched is rather entertaining. There’s some outrageous practical effects, showcasing bloody and disgusting gore, but it’s all tongue cut out in cheek – think ultra black horror / borderline stoner comedy – with several laugh out loud moments. There’s a fun Final Destination style plane crash, followed by an intense tribe meeting (the scariest part of the film) – and after that it’s all killer. The only two downsides are that the film takes around halve the running time to get going; it also feels less urgent / more detached than the ‘found footage’ ‘real life’ cannibal exploitation films of the 70s & 80s. It would have been foolish to try to pull off a ‘Mountain of the Cannibal Holocaust Ferox God’ movie in 2015, as it just wouldn’t have the same impact, so Roth has taken the ‘cannibal movie’ template and given it a nice postmodern spin. The Green Inferno got an unfair rep by people mostly focusing solely on the gore; but tonally, it feels more like an out-and-out send up of student, or ‘leftie’ activism to me. Over time I hope it’ll become a cult hit along the likes of Cannibal the Musical and Delicatessen. Disgustingly enjoyable.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Yakuza Apocalypse: a virus that turns everyone into a yakuza mobster is sweeping through a sleepy Japanese town; along with some vampires, goths, and a ninja frogman. There are two fairly major signs that you’ll either love or hate this film: firstly, the ‘Manga’ logo guarantees some mental Japanese stuff; secondly, Takashi Miike directing is another indicator of mental Japanese stuff. Suffice to say that there’s so much silly, random, and mental Japanese stuff (like a bird goblin man, kung fu frogman in a frog suit – mostly for no obvious reason) that it becomes a chore to keep up with. You get the feeling that Miike was going for a ‘Happiness of the Katakuris’ vibe, but got bogged down in the randomness and forgot about the plot. It opens with an ultra-violent bloodbath, but stalls immediately after and never really hits the top gear again: even the anti-fight at the end is a disappointing reductive idiom gag (massive build up / deliberately rubbish fight). A disappointing non-film from one of the most hit-or-miss directors on the planet. One for the Manga / Japanese / Miike fanboys only.
The Mutilator [AKA Fall Break]: years after accidentally killing his mum (which drove his father insane), a teenager brings some friends to the estranged dads beach condo for an autumnal break. Despite being firmly in B-Movie territory, it’s quickly apparent that this is a completely amateur production. The big faults of the film fall at the feet of one-time director/writer/producer Buddy Cooper: there’s no tension, lots of awkward silence, bad original music, stale acting, and every scene feels dragged out for longer than it needs to be – to hit the coveted 90-minute mark. In fact, everything about this picture is so corny and cheap, it gives The Mutilator a certain charm that all the money in the world couldn’t buy: things like the second-long pause between lines in conversations, the stilled delivery of dialogue, the seemingly straight sentences like “I got a baaad feeling about this”, the awkwardness of every extra, and the campy death screams… The saving grace are the substantial gore effects of Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II, X-Files, Buffy) as each character gets picked off with boat motors, battle-axes, pitchforks and fishing gaffs – the latter being the films single ‘ho-leeee sheeeet’ moment. A solid poster, catchy tagline, sensible re-naming, and handful of gory moments will ensure that this routine slasher flies off the shelves for years to come. Despite the professional level blood ‘n’ guts, everything else about The Mutilator has an Alan Smithee quality which will be enjoyed, but only by hardened genre fans and drunk friends.
B-Movie Score: 5/10
As always, Arrow Films have given this relatively unknown film the definitive release: it’s completely uncut and director-approved for the first time in the UK, boasts a 2K scan from the original copyright print, original mono soundtrack, and more commentaries / features / stills than you can shake a bloody axe at!
Gladiator: an army general turned slave must rise from the pits of the Colosseum and take down a false leader who murdered his family, friends, and previous employer. The cast is a jaw-dropping mix of ‘classic’ thespians, up-and-comers, bodybuilders, and comedians but everyone feels completely at home in their roles. The plot is simple, but packed with so much Shakespearean betrayal and deception that feels hypnotic in parts. Action scenes are huge, flashy, and bloody – but remain visceral & entertaining, and stand up against anything coming out today. It’s hard to find flaws in this: In fact, my only minor niggle is that some of the setup feels rushed and clunky; like how you can pick anyone off the ground and make ‘em a slave. You know a film is special when even after a handful of viewings and years of TV re-runs it still grips you, and the 155 minute runtime flies by. Everything about Gladiator feels truly ‘epic’ in the classic Hollywood sense – the sets, the action, the plot, the acting, the score – and it all comes together perfectly to create what’s arguably the perfect swords and sandals film.
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.
Blood Rage (AKA: Slasher. AKA Nightmare at Shadow Woods. AKA Complex): an evil child frames his twin brother for murder – 10 years on, when the sane brother escapes from an asylum, he finally has an excuse to kill again. The clunky dialogue and bog-standard horror scenarios really emphasise the wooden performances – championed by the mum, who is drunk in one scene, then normal, then catatonic, then madly cleaning, then scoffing food off the floor… she’s laughably terrible. Strangely, the direction itself isn’t bad; conjuring up some striking and iconic images, and the ‘twins’ aspect (both played by the same actor) is well done; arguably the most impressive thing about the film. Despite the catalogue of unintentional missteps it’s a fun enough film to watch – namely due to the comically extreme and over the top slashtastic gore: entire sets are painted red, and limbs & bodies end up everywhere. Mash this all together and it kind of works in a weird, HDTGM type of way (nothing about the story makes sense). While Blood Rage isn’t a great film in anyone’s book; it’s the best type of bad film, for having a high body count, and being knowingly bad (like the Cranberry sauce zinger!). it can still be enjoyed, and is prime for cult viewings and drinking games.
B-Movie Score: 7/10
The Arrow Blu Ray 2K restoration is great: the film looks cleaner and brighter than it has any right to be, and – as always – there are shedloads of behind the scenes, extras and interviews with the cast. Making this a must-have for B-Movie aficionados.
Tromeo & Juliet: A modern punk re-telling of the Bard’s classic story that sees two young lovers from feuding families risk everything for each other. Other than the ending, this is a reasonably true interpretation of Shakespeare‘s story – even large chunks of olde dialogue have been kept – but as this is Troma there’s (obviously) an exploitative twist in that it’s packed with blood, sexy goths, lesbians, gratui-tits, piercings, monsters, tampons, vomit, showtunes, popcorn, rats, and a bunch of masturbation / poop / piss / gay / incest jokes. Most annoyingly, there’s a ton of shameless and distracting Troma self-promotion like huge posters, VHS boxes, and Toxie even makes a brief appearance… as if this movie was destined to be the most successful Troma release! It’s very 1990s (the clothes, haircuts, music, the references, and technology like CD-ROMs) as well as being very low-budget effort even by Troma standards: the pairing of which provides a double kick of nostalgia and admirably guerrilla low-budget aesthetic. For a comedy however, it’s not particularly funny although the the end credits provide more laughs in 5 mins than the previous 90 – with dozens of fake entries, and someone proudly proclaiming “Now I don’t have to read the play!”. None of Troma’s releases are aimed at mass audiences and despite taking on one of the most famous stories of all time, Tromeo and Juliet is no exception – it’s low-fi, silly, violent, and controversial in true Troma/Kaufman-style. Despite all of this, ultimately, it isn’t as funny or shocking as it needs to be to sustain a movie this basic. I picked up the Blu-Ray, which I could only recommend for mega-fans of the film as there’s a bunch of extras and four different commentaries – all quite funny.
The Exterminator: when his best friend, and fellow ‘Nam veteran, is killed by street punks one man goes on a vigilante rampage by baiting and killing the scum of New York. Unlike most of the ‘notorious’ video nasties this one feels like it ‘s actually worthy of the infamy; it gets pitch-black dark in places; the violence is slow and extreme; and is all the more effective for having such a baby-faced normal-looking everyman in the main role. There are however a couple of aspects that let the film down: in particular the comically stereotypical ‘street punks’ that have drug and sex parties in crack dens, and the action scenes feel very ‘budgety’ – particularly in the finale. The character development feels a touch over-egged as the plot focuses on the Anti-Hero and main policeman sharing some clunky similarities. It’s definitely a film of its era, with a thick layer of Post-Vietnam / ‘veterans in society’ commentary, as well as capturing the seedy streets of New York during its most dangerous period. Overall, The Exterminator is a film that has a message, and although it’s not particularly insightful, there are enough shocks and attitude to pull it off.
Game of Thrones (Season 1): several noble families with royal ties feud over the right to rule all seven kingdoms in a medieval-ish fantasy epic. One year prior, Spartacus was balls deep in rumpy–pumpy and graphic violence, which felt like it was pushing boundaries; then someone in HBO said had said: “lets take Spartacus as a starting point, then add as much over the top sensational stuff as you can. 3, 2, 1… GO GO GO!” GoT is loaded with full frontal nudity (sausages, chuffs, and udders), blood, gore, prostitutes, lesbians, and as much offensive language as censors allow; not to mention the taboos like breastfeeding and incest being pretty major plot points. Whilst these add to the show’s notoriety, it detracts from the Rome-like inter-weaving political storylines; continually reminding you that it’s actually being pitched at teenage boys. Other than the odd stinker (Arya Stark!!) the cast are generally decent; although different characters giving their roles different levity levels – from scenery chewing (King) to borderline comedic (Bronn). Peter Dinklage is the one actor that really sticks out from the vast ensemble – impressing and entertaining with his larger than life character. Due to the number of characters, families, locations and concurrent plots there’s a lot of dialogue-heavy slapdash whistle-stop history & exposition lectures between characters – some hit the mark better than others, but most are required. While there’s one big “Holy Shit” moment, Season One feels like a 10-hour teaser – promising better things to come; introducing white walkers (zombie-ish creatures), dragons, teeing up a war – but blatantly not following any of it through to anywhere near conclusion.
Maniac (Original – 1980): A psychopathic killer is on a spree in New York, terrorising and scalping the public. This one bursts out the gates with two pretty graphic murders, and is evenly punctuated with some full-on eye-opening, jaw-dropping gore throughout. Once scene in particular had me completely shocked – which is a total rarity. Joe Spinell puts in a top shift as the unhinged lead; switching from feral, deranged and demented through to normal, vulnerable, childlike, and charming. The audio helps emphasise the unsettling vibes the movie gives, with creepy internal dialogue and an off-kilter synth/electro track for tension building. It’s visually strange too, with creepy mannequins, seedy New York locations, and a bizarrely open ending. Put this all together and you have a film that’s way above the standard of the genre, and arguably beyond the taste of other slashers from this era. Dark, completely bonkers, and still genuinely shocking 35 years on; Maniac is a thoroughbred slasher film that’s difficult to enjoy, easy to appreciate – but ultimately hard to recommend to anyone that doesn’t like video nasties.
Danger 5 (Season 2): the team of global super spies are re-united, this time in the 1980s, to stop another of Hitler’s quests for world domination. It’s soon apparent that this is – paradoxically – undeniably Danger 5, but also quite different to the previous season. The writers tampered with the cocktail recipe a little too much; Pierre has totally changed for no explained reason, another lead was swapped out for a ridiculous brat-character, most of the established running jokes dropped, and 80s throwback has been done to death lately – giving it a less cool / kitsch feel than the 1960s format. On the other hand the show manages to remain funny, wacky, surreal, psychedelic, and a celebration of satire (there’s an episode called “Back to the Führer” – come on!). I hate using the word ‘random’, but the ‘randomness’, madness and surrealism of the gags is the main thing that raises Danger 5 and sets it apart from the mediocrity that you expect of most modern comedies. All of the changes add up to fewer laughs per episode, but despite this Danger 5 Season 2 is still a great show, that is equally bonkers – but has a significantly different look and feel.
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.
The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, Dean “Hank” Norris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!
Ghost Shark: when a wounded shark floats into a satanic cave and dies its ghost comes back with a vengeance, leaving any amount of water unsafe: swimming pools, baths, puddles, cups, even rain! What do you want from a SyFy direct-to-video film called “Ghost Shark”? Bikinis and gore per chance? For a 15-rated shark romp there’s an abundance of both: the film uses every scene as an excuse to show some bikini-rocking babes, and there’s a bunch of great gore moments – people being bit in half, split in half, pulled down toilets ass-first and chomped into tiny buckets of soapy water – it’s all well beyond what you’re used to from these films. Despite the knowing tongue-in-cheek feel of the film it’s one of the better shot and acted SyFy affairs (for what that’s worth!) I’m not even going to start on the plot, because, well it’s about a shark that is a ghost – and the title alone should tell you everything you need to know about the level of the film. While Ghost Shark won’t be winning any Academy awards next year, it tears chunks out of the recent slew of shark–based monster movies.
Evil Dead: five friends go for a remote, relaxing break at a cabin in the woods… where they accidentally unleash an angry daemon. So I’ve seen this film about ten times, yet it still gives me the willies: from the outset there’s a lot of weird, floaty camera movement as it sweeps through the woods; something spooky or shifty happens about every 2 minutes; and you couldn’t have picked a more eerie set of locations: rickety house, basement, woods. The film’s packed with masterful moments of suspense, and the old school horror soundtrack gives it a timeless quality – screeching strings. There’s a few funny bits (and black humour thread throughout), but it’s definitely more horror than comedy. Whilst Bruce Campbell isn’t the best actor in the world, his presence is something else. The film builds towards a gore filed gory gore-fest of an ending – that will satisfy the hardest of horror fans. Essentially a B-movie, made on a shoestring budget; it has more than enough going on to totally distract you from the fact that it’s so cheap and brimming with continuity errors. The Evil Dead has more atmosphere, tension and impact than 20 empty, modern, derivative horror knockoffs. Proper horror cult classic.
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (吸血少女対少女フランケン): the new girl in school is a vampire, but she’s determined to steal the boyfriend of the resident bad girl. The picture above is a girl with steel from the Tokyo Tower extending her limbs, and legs spinning round her head (to fly), having a fight with a vampire, on the Tokyo Tower, with Mt Fiji in the background… in case it wasn’t clear! The bloodsoaked bloody bloodbath of an opening sets the tone for the movie – it’s fantasy gore, cranked up way past 11. Bad acting, short skirts, stockings, skimpy outfits… feels like it’s dangerously close to – at any moment – turning into a porn film. Every aspect of the most convoluted storyline ever is in there just to get some more blood on the screen, and the FX team go through gallons of the stuff. Acting-wise, it’s not meant to be serious but the expositional narration by the main guy is so lackluster – sounds like the most uninterested person in the world, despite all of the crazy shit happening around him. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl feels less like a movie, and more like an extreme SFX experiment – and in that respect, it’s alright but there’s not much else in there for people outside of the novelty gore crowd to enjoy.
Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon): a TV producer and widower stage a fake TV audition in order to find the latter a new wife, but the best candidate seems too good to be true. The opening half hour feels a little too rom-com-y for a ‘horror’ film (upbeat music, cheesy jokes etc). The film trudges on and after 1hr 15m of setup it gradually becomes weirder and more interesting until the payoff semi-ending finally kicks in. Knowing that there’s something not quite right with the ‘perfect girl’ is a tad unsettling, but you couldn’t have predicted an ending as extreme as this – the sound of bone being sawed is vomit-inducing! There’s a small, but obvious social critique about the time in lines like “The whole of japan’s lonely”, and “Japan is Finished” – not-so-subtle! What makes this worthwhile is that it is a unique horror film in that is doesn’t pander to conventions, or give you what you expect. It also beat the wave of late 2000s movies that kick-started ‘torture porn’/’Splatter’ craze again. As original and unique as Audition is, it’s essentially a psychological drama for this most part with 10 minutes of gore capping off a lot of humdrum!
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.
Piranha 3DD: a year after the Lake Victoria spring break disaster the vicious prehistoric piranha threaten a newly opened water park. It feels more like a glamour model show reel as every five minutes – like clockwork – there’s an exposed, tight, perky body. Almost every girl is also a D+ cup, however the slow-mo running – read as bouncing boobs – couldn’t be more sleazy & leery, or less sexy – same goes for the waves of gratuitous, unnecessary nudity, used as a weak attempt to make you forget how bad the film is. The actual ‘actors’ here are all small-timers (see graph below for acting analysis), and the ‘famous people’ / quick-buck-cameos are beyond cringe-worthy – Hoff’s agent did him a solid: singing, quips, but too much time on-screen. There’s about 10,000 lame puns/innuendo based around the word ‘wetness’. The SFX is worse than before, and the bloodbath finale has absolutely no payoff – it’s just a series of vaguely connected CGI moments. Most annoyingly, for a 70 minute movie there’s around ten minutes of filler/establishing/scenery shots. Whereas Piranha 3D was kitsch and camp enough to counteract some of the shortcomings, this one is just terrible. Really, really terrible. I pity everyone involved because the only semi-smart and semi-funny part of Piranha 3DD is the title.
Prometheus: a team of crack scientists travel to a distant planet to discover humanity’s beginnings, however, what they find could finish us all off! The opening aerial shots of breathetaking, sweeping landscapes are geography porn, it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the entrance fee alone. The rest of the film looks just as great, with sumptuous visuals, well-designed costumes & sets, and totally seamless impressive CGI. To match this, the acting roster’s impressive, although it’s absolutely owned by Fassbender‘s portrayal of David the android; he’s efficient, calculating, and believably robotic – surprisingly, he’s also by far the most interesting character, and the film’s biggest driving force. Charlize Theron’s role disappointingly amounts to nothing more than “hottie in a cat suit”. Frustraitingly, the film spends most of the runtime raising, contemplating and flirting with massive questions & themes – religion, evolution, why are we here, meeting our makers… – It’s just a shame that it spends next to no time resolving or answering any. As for being an Alien prequel, it feels intentionally distanced, with not much more than a fleeting post-script that is clunkily added-on. All in, I think Ridley’s hoping that the big loud grand spectacle will serve as a distraction from the fact that the story is neither strong, nor particularly original – which is epitomised best in Fassbender’s time in the fancy, flashy galaxy simulator thingmy-bob.
Father’s Day: a string of dads are being raped and killed by “The Fuchman”, so a priest travels the globe to track down the one-eyed anti-hero that can save the day. There’s dismemberment, gore, cannibalism & masturbation in the first few frames, so be under no illusions… this is exploitation smut at it’s most rotten! For the first 20 minutes, it’s not entirely obvious whether this is trying to be a serious b-movie or a comedy spoof; but as the gags start piling on it becomes clear. The film marries tongue in cheek genre humour with outlandish and graphic shocks; epitomised in a dick-biting scene which leaves little to the imagination. For a Troma-funded b-movie, it does well to capture the guerilla / ‘cult’ / independent / cheap vibe, synonymous with the brand – and for a low-budget movie, the budget is impressively stretched to infinity. It’s well-shot, but smothered in post-production Machete-esque grain and distortion which comes and goes for no particular reason. Towards the end it becomes totally absurd, the likes of which I can only really compare to some of the CKY skits from the first 4 videos, still it remains funny and entertaining. Father’s Day is a post-Machete, sub-Hobo, spoof / homage of the direct-to-video slashers of the 70s/80s, with a ton of blood and titties to keep modern audiences satisfied. While it lacks a coherent narrative, there’s a thousand ideas thrown at it, which is more than enough to save the movie, and leaves B-movie aficionados plenty like and admire.
Black Rain: a NYPD officer escorts a known Yakuza back to Japan; when the criminal escapes the mulleted cop must find him to prove his innocence, and serve up some justice-flavoured sushi! First off, this is a visual fantasy / offensively stereotypical Japan; there’s neon signs, neon trucks, neon clubs, neon everything (in Osaka there’s only a handful of streets lit like this), doesn’t matter though, it looks great. I’m also sure that not everyone in Japan is efficient with a katana, is a gangster, writes Kanji, wears traditional robes, or sings karaoke… but I’ll let that slide too. For the sake of equality Garcia plays a dumb, loud New York schmuck stereotype. Being a Ridley Scott flick, there’s a lot of manliness in every frame; motorbike races, fighting, broody man hero, all culminating in a laughable / ludicrous fight at the end. The one woman in the film is there purely to be lured at. Technically it’s good to watch, poppy/distracting visuals, despite ageing quite badly, but there are a few ill-judged scenes like the Garcia karaoke debacle. If you want a Japanese culture on steroids, ‘man film’, with motorbikes and a whole lotta mullet – this is the film for you! For being so highly regarded Black Rain is just feels like another terminally cheesy, typical 1980s, cop-out-of-water action flick – with a bit more budget than most.
Zombie Beach Party: aka (Zombie King and the Legion of Doom aka Enter… Zombie King) A troupe of masked wrestlers tag up to fight off a powerful arch enemy and his army of the undead before they take over the town! The good stuff: nice Inter-title cards introducing the main cast at the start, some pretty good and fun exhibition wrestling fights, super-rapid Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart cameo (as the sheriff). The bad stuff: more so than most b-movies there’s pretty much no acting (face or voice) as all the main characters wear masks, the night scenes are terrible due to bad lighting, poor quality film stock, on top of all the usual B-movie gaffes. The film tried to be a parody of the zombie genre and a homage to wrestling – it does both, but neither particularly well, not to mention there’s almost no zombie action! At the end of the day this ring-slid well underneath my bottom rope expectation!! Wrestlemaniac was way better, and that’s saying somehting!
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!