Body of Lies: while hunting for a big fish terrorist, power and the upper hand continually shift between the Americans, Jordanian secret service and the man on the ground trying to bridge the cultural gap. It has the look and feel of an action thriller, but there’s not a whole lot of action (although when it’s on, it’s fairly violent). There’s a romance corner, an espionage corner, a cultural differences corner – it juggles quite a few things, which are all are done reasonably well, and fused together nicely. The problem is that with all of these things going on, it feels less focused than something like Zero Dark Thirty – the peripheral stuff detracts from the central terrorist plot. Also, because the whole Jihad genre has had a lot of material lately, they all sort of blend in to one – it took took well over an hour to realise I’d already seen this. Acting wise, you completely buy in to Di Caprio‘s conflicted character; Crowe properly gets on your nerves as the brash and cocksure US agent; and you marvel at Strong’s portrayal of an old-school espionage master. Body of Lies looks and feels as slick as you’d expect from Ridley Scott; it’s also acted beyond what you’d expect from A-listers; unfortunately the plot feels completely borrowed and unimaginative. Despite looking a little worn and generic these days, it’s still completely serviceable modern jihad-thriller.
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.
Your Highness: when a lovely damsel is kidnapped, her heroic husband-to-be and his useless brother set out on a quest to save her. With this big budget, cast, and timeless mix of fantasy / peril it would be hard for this to go wrong… Above all, this film is pegged as a comedy, and for me it delivers, particularly if you enjoy some reductive and juvenile toilet humour. The special effects are turned up to eleven in parts – to keep the kidz of 2010s amused, and my nemesis (shaky cam) appears big-time during the last big set piece. The entire cast all play it well; Franco and Portman appear to be having fun and role-reversing both their Oscar-nom roles of 2010; Danny McBride does more of what he’s good at, as does the ever wide-eyed offbeat Deschanel – basically everyone is perfectly cast to play to their strengths. Big fights, dragons, magic, damsels, knights, nudity, swearing, hot pixies, drug jokes, robots, and the most unsettling ‘great wise wizard’ in cinema… what more could you ask from a rompalicious comedy? Laugh-a-minute, potty mouthed x-rated kids film.
Bangkok Adrenaline: four backpackers lose a card game and now own local gangsters 1 million baht – so they kidnap an heiress and everything kicks off. It looks like (and is) a mid-low budget film, but that gives it a cheesy-charming and admirable vibe; it also makes light of many B-movie action tropes, which is a good touch of humour. Filmed in Thailand and only 80 minutes long, the budget goes a long, long way here. it’s very ‘laddish’ – opening 10 minutes are identical to Lock, Stock – and it’s end-to-end packed with machismo / babes / fighting / gambling / cars /guns and even has a slow-mo walking scene! The story’s pretty simple but the action is an absolute roundhouse kick-o-rama; this is how everyone should choreograph, film and edit action set pieces! There’s about 5 jaw-dropping fight/chase scenes, and the final 20 minutes, all worth picking this up for alone – and all done to a higher standard that most Hollywood films. This won’t be for everyone, for fans on Tony Jaa / District 13 style films it’s a must-see action flick that delivers he goods.
5ive Girls: Q: What do you get when you mix the following: a sadistic (borderline lesbian) head teacher, Alcoholic (touchy feely) priest, five hot-but-too-old-to-be-real school chicks, a dead ex-pupil and a creepy janitor? A: Yet another unnecessary horror movie. Poor script, terrible acting, and a generally pants story about witches. “Possessive nouns” did get a laugh, and why is the devil always so nasty in horror films? To top it off, the soundtrack was so upbeat it felt like it was lifted from an American Pie film. Even Hellboy couldn’t save this. Shockingly bad.