The Kentucky Fried Movie: a series of spoof movie trailers, commercials, films and news sketches – set out like you’re watching TV. Sometimes going in to a film completely cold is a great thing because when the opening line is a newsreader informing you that “The popcorn you’re eating has been pissed in. Film at 11.” it grabs you by the cojones and tells you everything you need to know about the film. Despite an unorthodox format, it allows the film the freedom to deliver a range of brilliant genre parodies: Women in Prison, Blaxploitation, Disaster Movies, Sex Ed, Russ Meyer, and a 30-minute mini-film “A Fistful of Yen”, which perfectly mocks everything about 70s Kung Fu films, specifically Enter the Dragon – everything is 100%, from the editing and SFX down to the cheesy synths. Written by the Zucker brothers, this has their trademark ‘joke joke joke joke joke’ style, so that even when some miss the mark, the next laugh isn’t far off. The only downside is that because there’s so much going on over so many sketches and ideas, you don’t always get enough time with the funniest characters: Wally and Beave in court were hands-down my favourite. While some comedies are era-specific, relying on the culture and news stories of their time – this film was made in 1977 and is easily one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Kentucky Fried Movie is the film that kick-started the careers of the Zucker brothers and John Landis – so if you like their comedies, there’s absolutely no doubt that you’ll love this.
The Hunger Games: set in a dystopian future, teens from 12 impoverished districts must fight to the death in a custom-built arena, where only one can survive, and it’s broadcast live. The biggest problem is the overlong setup – even if it is kicking off a franchise, a totalitarian, elite ruling class keeping the rest of society in the pits doesn’t need to be explained or dwelled on for over an hour (it also makes the ending feel majorly rushed). The Capitol – imaginative name for a city – itself is pretty stupid; granted it’s unique, but the clothes / hair / beard and furniture designs were all beyond silly and ridiculous. The acting roster is great, there’s a few shaky characters (sister / mum / BF) but once it leaves district 12 it’s mostly decent from both young and old. Woody and Hutcherson in particular are magnetic presences – Katinis is also decent, but you learn far more about her in the games than the actual character building nonsense. Other than the pacing issues, CGI dogs, and a few poorly edited, bloodless, fight-scenes the film’s petty solid, and looks great. The difference-maker between The Hunger Games being received as good or great will depend on age; anyone old enough to have seen the dozens of movies with sci-fi city-scapes, morally bankrupt quest for ratings, or organised deathmatches, will no doubt feel that this is retreading old ground. But if I was 12 and seeing all of that for the first time, I’d probably shit my pants with excitement.
The Eagle: twenty years after his father led 5,000 Roman soldiers to their death a rookie tries to restore his family’s name by finding the lost Roman ‘eagle standard’. In a nutshell the biggest problem this film has is lackadaisical direction – every other issue seems to stem from this: naff/ridiculous plot, complacent acting, lazy storytelling… There’s genuinely a scene where a minor character says “To find them you have to go over the snowy hills and into the next glen” – there’s a 5 second shot of our soldiers struggling through snow, and wham – they’re back in normal terrain again!!! Complimenting the visual vomit is the corniest stock Gaelic music, that drones away in the background when the soldiers are in the highlands. To make the film more sellable there are a few gratuitous action scenes but you can’t really see what’s going on, and it winds up a blurry, shaky mess. The only redeeming part is when Mark Strong appears and shows everyone how to act properly! All in, it just all feels a bit amateur, and like more of a project about someone finding their roots / heritage, than wanting to let a decent story take centre stage. If you wish to see a film about southerners taking on crazed tribes of ugly Scottish people check out Doomsday instead! Or if you want to keep it historical – Spartacus.
The Mechanic: after wiping out his boss and mentor a Mechanic (Hitman) takes it upon himself to train the boss’s wayward son – but will the son find out his dirty secret… What can you really say about this one? Jason Statham playing another Jason Statham character in a Jason Statham film for the umpteenth time – if you don’t know the drill by now, please exit the cinema quietly. The story’s 100% predictable, right down to the very last Statham scene – absolutely no surprises. On the other hand the acting’s generally pretty damn fine and although there’s not as much Statham action as you’d expect, it’s all done really well and there’s some really memorable Statham deaths. Knowing what kind of Statham film this is – and needs to be – everything is geared at the lads; there’s the gratuitous nudity & Statham sex scene, antique cars, and laughable close up shots of manly men (i.e. Statham) firing big guns with huge bullet casings flying out the side. The fantastic Statham script pleases the crowd, with all the cheeky Statham hard-man line’s you’d expect; someone even tells Statham: “I’ll put a bounty on your head so big you own reflection will want to shoot you in the face” a quality Statham film line by any previous film standards. Disappointingly, there are two major distractions from this Statham fest in Ben Foster‘s scrawny little tramp beard and ridiculously shitty French muse hat – no points to the costume designer! If you like Statham doing his Statham thing in a Statham film this will certainly not disappoint Statham fans. The mechanic is nothing new, or nothing original but it’s a well-excecuted popcorn action flick. Statham!