Piranha: (Piranha 3D – 2010) Spring break is ruined as an earthquake releases a massive school of 2 million year old cannibal super-piranhas into a party-lake!! The movie’s divided in to two parts: set up (nudity-fest and just enough gore) and bloodbath (gore-fest and just enough nudity). The cast is a who’s who of B-movie stars, all typecast and wafer thin characters; in saying that, Christopher Lloyd’s great fun, Ving Rhames is Ving Rames, Kelly Brook is ball-tighteningly hot and porn stars Gianna Michaels / Riley Steele also get their 3D lungs out – no complaints with any of that! The gore‘s decent enough; most of it is real effects so looks pretty good but the CGI is a bit rubbish and the underwater scenes look very dark with the 3D glasses on. The 3D itself is generally good if a tad sloppy – they clearly spent the most time on the buxom booty and a few cheap ‘poke outs’ and not enough time on the piranhas themselves, but on the whole it was decent. There’s a bunch of nice nods to Jaws, from the poster through to ‘the dolly shot’, when Brody realises what’s happening, and even the casting of Dreyfuss. My biggest complaint is that for the robbery extra cost of seeing a 3D flick it’s very short – although given that Piranha barely sustains itself for 75-80 minutes this may be a godsend! All-in Piranha’s everything you expect it to be: shallow and camp, but bulging with entertaining gore, red dye and constant nudity… what more could you want from a B-movie? Guilty pleasure of the summer.
The Dark Knight: (Blu Ray) Opens up with one of the best bank jobs in history and almost everything going forward is first class; especially the story, enemies, drama and action – it’s all just so epic. Heath Ledger’s absolutely on fire as the anarchist Joker, genuinely looking insane – watching his lips, tongue and ticks should freak anyone out – and he nails the offbeat humour with conviction to spare. Bale continues to make Bruce/Batman believable as the human-turn-superhero. Katie Holmes magically transforms into Maggie Gyllenhaal; no complaints from this reviewer. Eckhart’s great, despite only being able to half-act in the last hour. Lt. Gordon wins my ‘Worst husband ever’ award, no contest. Downsides: it’s a tad long and has lots crammed in (the last half hour could have been in a third movie, and a great posthumous send-off to Ledger?), Batman’s voice is ridiculous and Two-Face / Dawes / Scarecrow don’t get nearly enough screen time. The picture’s great with fantastic detail and stunning aerial shots, but once again the bombastic sound dominates the disc – every gunshot, explosion & Batmobile ride rocks you to the bone. The constant thrills and spills topped off with slick visuals and a great cast make The Dark Knight far superior to the strung-out character study of Wayne that was ‘Batman Begins’. With a final movie just being announced I’m drooling at the prospect, although I don’t fancy the chances of it topping this.
Batman Begins: (Blu Ray) Going to be controversial and say that this one bored the pants off of me. Because it’s a re-boot it’s laden with backstory and takes about 40 minutes before it gets going. Caine & Freeman are too safely cast and the so-called ‘jokes’ all fall flat, landing somewhere between ‘terrible’ and ‘was that supposed to be funny?’ For the positives it definitely makes batman cool and scary again – miles away from the campy original or souped up 90s movies. Gotham’s got a nice hint of Metropolis about it. The picture is very dark, so it doesn’t blow you away. On the other hand, the sound will as it dominates all speakers, especially the Bass – fans should get the BD. Overall it’s too long, quite boring and Wayne has no really cool enemies. It does tee-up the Dark Knight well though…
One Day Removals: Two removal men see their day go from bad, to worse, to worser, to – how do you say it… ah… ‘fucked’! Being a low-budget, local, film I didn’t really know how bad it would be, but was totally surprised when it turned out to be pretty damn professional. For a sub-b movie this punches above its weight. A really good black comedy, with quite an original story and enough laughs to make it enjoyable. The effects and gore are impressive, the sound mix is solid throughout and you can tell that a lot of effort has gone in to it. Unfortunately, only Scottish people will be able to completely understand this as it’s in the full-blown local dialect. It’s also the most sweary film I’ve seen in a long, long feckin’ time! The news spoofing and court montage are great, but it’s worth picking up the DVD for the ‘Sewary Edit’ and out-takes alone. You can buy the film here, and it would a great gift for any homesick Scottish / Aberdonian people you know!
Face/Off: is what happens when John Woo makes a film about a cop and a baddie swapping bodies. The rule is that any film that opens up with a double-assassinaton attempt, fake moustaches and a kid getting shot is going to be great. The first 40 minutes are filled with ridiculous over-acting and pseudo-science; a fully working face swap, really?!? Neither actor can pull off the madness of Caster Troy convincingly and when he wasn’t making ridiculous noises and faces, Cage was trying his damndest to un-act. Then there’s the action, and Face/Off is crammed with huge slabs of over-the-top action, culminating in the apartment shootout carnage with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ pumping through the speakers; one of the most epic and intense action scenes I can remember. Because both guys’ families are in danger it makes the story more gripping. There’s a lot of face touching, religious symbolism and bad parenting throughout (what ever happened to the hot goth Dominique Swain?). Despite the cheese and clichés this is my top action film of the 90’s, perhaps ever. If you’ve not seen this yet, where have you been hiding?
A Bittersweet Life: follows a loyal and solitary badass as one mistake throws his life into bedlam. My favourite aspect of this film is how almost every single shot reveals something new about the story or a character, adding depth with unmistakably brilliant direction. The entire cast are great, the main in particular is nothing short of fantastic. The long fight scene is one of the best, and most emotive of any I’ve seen, and all of the action set pieces are choreographed and pulled off effortlessly: although the violence may be rough for some. Comically dumb gangsters provide just enough humour to ensure that the film doesn’t become overbearing and no Asian movie would be complete without some generic ancient proverbs about pride, honour, tradition and morals. This film looks great and is stylish to the max – just like the characters. Unfortunately, this is often compared to Oldboy and although they share some themes, A Bittersweet Life can most definitely speak itself. Korean Masterpiece.
The Host: creature feature from South Korea. Starts off like a trendy comedy horror, with awful over-acting, but gets more serious as the story progresses. There were a few awesome moments of suspense, but in general it didn’t seem to know whether to be funny or serious – ended up an eclectic mix. The music also conveys this, being spot on in parts, but totally ridiculous in others. The start and end are great, action-packed and when the film really comes to life, although the mid-section isn’t as good, coming across as drawn out and filler. The most outstanding part of this film was the monster, and the special-effects. Other than the very end it’s amazingly convincing and looked great. Some good, but predictable jumps along the way, and why is it that people in films like this always fall over when they’re running for their lives?! Mini political agenda regarding media hysteria, chemical warfare, failure of ‘the system’ and western criticism but it’s never really in your face. Far more focus on the family than the monster. Great action and tedious backstory but don’t really understand how it became the biggest Korean film of all-time, reasonable attempt nonetheless.
Rollerball: ‘updated’ re-make of 1975 classic. NHL potential heads over to the Soviet Bloc to partake in a dangerous sport. Opens with an awesome downhill street luge race through ‘cisco. Everything about Rollerball is totally macho: the sport, cars, bikes, heavy metal, technology, steel, babes, action… which begs one question: who cast the effeminate Chris Klein as the hero? He’s far too nice & boyish to be a convincing gruff badass – and looks ridiculous with fake stubble. Even LL Cool J is a bit cuddly these days. Surely a pair of real badasses would have been more appropriate!? The industrial / metal music’s used well for heightening the action scenes and it seemed to borrow visuals from the Running Man, Starlight Express and PS1 game Dead Ball Zone, neither of which is a bad thing. Some crazy spot-the-cameo moments. The last half hour absolutely ruined the film with a lame night-vision chase, feeble sound effects (boi-oi-oing), a clichéd ending, poorly edited action, and the super-crap super-dated symbolism of an American starting a revolution on Soviet territory. Not quite ‘RollerBollocks’, but not far off.
Doberman: follows cops, robbers, bent cops and transvestites entangled in a feud & bank robbery – although there’s only a few minutes spent in the bank. The film has a strange, over-exposed and grainy, look but remains slick and stylish throughout. There’s a ton of hyper violence culminating in the world’s worst facepalm, but it’s all pretty surreal as it’s based on a pulp comic. The script’s just as brutal and not very PC, mainly due to the transvestite / gay / fetish characters and general eccentric stereotypes. Also, what is it with directors treating Monica Belluci so roughly? Unfortunately, it lacks the depth, substance and story of similarly styled Besson / Tarantino films. Definitely a visual treat, but it’s a bit of a no-brainer and stays in-your-face from the very first frame. Style over substance.
Battleship Potemkin: 1925 silent movie about a bunch of sailors getting mutinous on their cap’n after being served bad soup. After seeing this, it will be a long time before you forget the striking photography: plate-smashing, ques of people, ominous cannons, religious bashing, dead sailor and so on. Perhaps the most famous scene in cinematic history – the Odessa steps massacre – is worth watching the film for and, despite studying and having seen dozens of times, it still makes me feel uneasy. It’s a great shame that the rest of the film doesn’t reach this standard! For its time, and as a work of art Potemkin was decades ahead and is credited as the original use of the now-common ‘montage’ technique. However, as a story it’s essentially an ultra-embellished propaganda film, that’s not the easiest to watch due to pivotal and symbolic scenes being dragged out and over-emphasised. I’d recommend this film to anyone, but would advise them to read a little about Eisenstein and Russia in the early 1900’s to contextualise it.