Dogtooth (Kynodontas): three teenagers are completely isolated from the outside world by their overprotective parents; but they’re starting to become curious. This manages to successfully juggle various usually-avoided elements: it’s all very strange, quite full-on, and doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s completely awkward and deadpan – yet despite all of this, it manages to draw you in, entertain, and make you laugh. A lot of the funnies come from simple things like the misuse words; they call a salt shaker a telephone, a large lamp a cunt, flowers are zombies, and in one of the best – and weirdest – scenes the father intentionally mistranslates “Fly Me To The Moon”. The house is an unsettling location, almost like a laboratory: total white-out where everything is crisp, clean, clinical. There’s some full-on sex, full-frontal nudity, and a lesbian sub-plot – but these are also completely cold and sterile. Cast-wise, the three children are fantastic, and the main reason this film works: their naivety and childlike awe of external interference is completely believable and great to watch. It’s also masterfully directed, and effectively shot & framed – the most important part of scene is usually off-center, or sometimes completely out of shot. In a word Dogtooth is bizarre – on the cinematic map it’s in relatively uncharted territory between the severity of Haneke and the dark humour of Solondz – and as the runtime progresses it just keeps getting weirder and funnier. Dark and original, Dogtooth is a treat for those that want to try something completely different.
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.
Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.
Godzilla: 60% mega monster destruction and 40% bittersweet romance between two of the mains. It has the tried and tested 90’s mix of epic action and silly fun that you don’t often find these days. The one thing that struck me when re-watching this was that it has a lot of memorable scenes; Godzilla’s entrance at the pier, streets ‘jumping’ with his footsteps, ‘zilla on the Brooklyn Bridge, ‘zilla taking out the choppers – too many to name! The opening scene with a-bomb test footage and epic orchestrated score is pretty chilling. There’s a load of cheeky reptile references throughout which is a nice touch, and the stereotypical sneaky French guys (fronted by Reno) are good fun to watch. There’s also a lot of subtle product placement, the likes of which hadn’t been done again until I-Robot: although not quite as subtly! unfortunately, the beast hasn’t aged too well, with a shed-load of dated cultural references and naff CGI / mini-models. Despite this, it’s still a classic, and great fun to watch. Entertaining big buck blockbuster.
Shiri: Korean action blockbuster that opens up promisingly with some apeshit assassin training followed by a slew of hits that leave police scratching their heads. Throw in a couple of grudges, potential moles, twists, numerous gunfights and you’d think this film was solid gold. Unfortunately, it’s not very original: secret weapon nicked by breakaway terrorists who threaten to use it against the public. Someone basically nabbed the best bits from films like Nikita, Heat, Hard Boiled and Die Hard. Unfortunately, they didn’t steal a good soundtrack, as this one is beyond rubbish. The 2D characters could have benefited from a better script. Despite on-screen animosity between North and South Korea the film’s clearly pro-unity. Overall, it’s a pretty standard effort that brings nothing new to the table. Brainless action flick – best stick to the one’s mentioned above.