Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes): six short films about everyday people being pushed over the edge. Unlike most anthology movies, these are all done by the same director, which should give the segments more consistency than usual – right? Wrong! The six stories are all varying lengths, and wildly different in their tone, ‘enjoyability’, and humour. The shorter, punchier ideas are great but the longer ones in the second half all feel dragged out. With the throughline being ‘revenge’ they’re all quite dark with varying degrees of gallows / black humour. Stylistically though, they’re all meticulously directed, with dozens of striking and stand-out shots. The acting is also rock solid, with a lot of familiar faces from ‘World Cinema‘. It also walks a very tight line between reality and a tiny sprinkle of magic / surrealism – the obvious comparison being something like The Twilight Zone – but this doesn’t go near full on fiction. I really enjoyed the first half of this, but as the stories go forward, they get far too serious (and less funny). Overall, Wild Tales is a decent film with some great ideas, that suffers the same problem as most anthology pictures: the quality of each section is completely different.
Pasternak | The Rats | Road to Hell | Bombita | The Deal | Till Death Do Us Part
The Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were 2LDK and Aragami. (ARAGAMI REVIEW HERE)
2LDK: two actresses – who are also flatmates – have auditioned for the same leading part: they’ll find out who got it tomorrow morning, if they haven’t killed each other by then. This is split into two distinctive parts; 30 minute setup and observational comedy about living with an annoying flatmate, the other 30 minutes is simply two girls beat the tar out of each other in the ultimate catfight. Hearing the inner-ramblings of two polar opposites (paired with their polite spoken dialogue) as they grate on each other is entertaining, although it takes a few moments tuning in to 4 quickfire word tracks. The two actresses are great, but the main star is Yukihiko Tsutsumi with direction that has urgency, impact, flare and style, all in abundance; the framing is also superb. Such great direction means that the tension and action are served up raw. For a one-week rush-job the make-up and FX really add to the brutality. 2LDK is a highly enjoyable, momentum building, entertaining movie, that’s strangely relatable for anyone that has ever shared a flat.
Lockout: a wrongly convicted man is made to enter a maximum security prison, mid-riot, in space, and rescue the president’s daughter, thus winning a pardon. No, it doesn’t feature Snake Plissken, but bulked up Guy Pearce‘s supercop ‘Snow’ gives the character a good run for his money; he entertains and kicks ass in equal measures, and despite clearly having fun, he’s well above and beyond what is required in an action film this silly. It’s not just Pearce, as the two main baddies in Vincent Regain and Joseph Gilgun (despite the terrible Scottish accents) are a proper Dastardly and Muttley duo, both watchable yet nasty. Other than being set in space this has every other cliché in the action/cop genre; It’s physics-defying dumbness is laughable; it’s needlessly bookended by a boring & unnecessary briefcase / conspiracy side-story; and some really good action scenes are let down by a couple of ultra-cheap, poorly handled bouts of big, fast, loud, fuzzy CGI that are nothing but disorienting. Despite these snags, EuropaCorp delivers another film that punches way above its weight for a $20M sci-fi action picture. While it’s pretty much Escape from New York in space, Lockout is every bit as action-packed and blockbusterly satisfying as it looks, with a surprisingly entertaining cast, decent director, and a few good laughs along the way. I liked it, and oddly enough, so did my lady.
Taken: (Extended ‘Harder’ Cut) a stupid girl runs off to Europe to follow a U2 tour, and if that doesn’t warrant getting kidnapped I don’t know what does! Naturally, her badass daddy (conveniently ex CIA covert / black ops) has to sort it all out. My favourite thing about Taken is that it has an amazing mix of action, drama and a no-brain story. It’s very realistic; the fighting’s well-choreographed but never really over-the-top, there’s also a great – no holds barred – authenticity on the human trafficking story. Despite seeing this a few times my heart still ends up in the stomach when Kim gets kidnapped. Above all that, Laim Neeson’s on top form, showing his acting and action abilities in equal measure. I guess the downside is that it doesn’t exactly make you want to visit Paris in a rush. Unashamedly in the same vein as Bourne, 24, Man on Fire-type movies but other than that, you can’t fault this much!