Catfight: after losing touch in college former friends – a struggling artist and a trophy wife – become bitter rivals, and find their lives changing dramatically at the hands of each other. This is an interesting film in that it’s the type of movie that doesn’t really get made anymore. It feels like something from the early 2000s: quirky and eccentric “Woody Allen style” New York caricatures coming together in a semi-absurd plot that could have come from someone like Todd Solondz or Larry David. It’s also refreshing in that you don’t often get to see female actors in this age bracket lead a movie. Both Sandra Oh and Anne Heche get to chance to showcase their fine acting chops – playing irritating characters, but making the most of the comedy in the script through their respective stereotypes. The film’s performances complement Tukel’s unique directorial voice and style, although his ability to craft and capture so many deadpan scenes, wry cameos, and absurd lines is what shines the brightest – this absolutely smashed through the six-laugh test. Where the movie fell down for me was that it took a lot of swipes in the background at American culture, the U.S. government, foreign wars, inequality, topical Television shows, etc… This felt like easy – even lazy – targets for a film with this much promise and talent, and distracted from the central rivalry. The three prolonged ‘slobber-knocker’ fights also push the film momentarily from comedy & satire into a cartoonish farce: the hits are too big, with ‘wooshing’ & ‘crunching’ sound effects that become ridiculous, and the sequences feel much longer than they needed to be – although the film is called Catfight…. Catfight feels genuinely refreshing – coming through in an time where the majority of movies feel more like ‘safe investments’ designed by committee, that actively avoid taking any risks. This feels unique, original, fresh, and although it doesn’t land every punch, it’s is more than funny enough to remain entertaining for the duration.
Tekken: after WWIII the megacorporation Tekken controls what was once North America, and is staging it’s annual ‘Iron Fist’ tournament. Obviously, for a film like this, actors are cast for their athletic looks over their talent – which leads to some god-awful line delivery from most people, but hey, at least they look very similar to their pixelated counterparts. The set-up is fairly good for this type of film, integrating a lot of detail from the game series. What drives Tekken is the action, and this film knows its audience, assigning about 2/3 of the runtime to 1 on 1 fights from the games, death-matches, or other action scenes. Despite being nothing new to the genre, Tekken is more watchable than most computer game conversions – and as good as any average cyberpunk / dystopian future movie.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: the IMF’s best agent Ethan Hunt is back again; his team go off the grid as they’re blamed for bombing the Kremlin – they must also stop an unfolding global Nuclear War – instigated by a madman! This film sticks to what the franchise does best; action and tension. The tension is wrung out and maximised like a boss; the Kremlin corridor and double-meeting in particular are proper edge-of-your-seat scenes. The action is also well above par, bone-crunching fist-fights and well-handled/edited camera work (other than the sloppy sandstorm chase). This story is typical of the other three films, with more newfangled espionage in various hyper-photogenic locations. Pegg comes out on top of the cast, providing a bit more comic relief than usual, but avoids becoming the clown – everyone else is solid. There’s some awesome gadgets and technical details for your inner-geek, the fastest-booting servers in the world and an onslaught of Apple products. On the downside, it definitely needed more Ving Rhames quips & ass-kicking, and Nyqvist as the ‘main’ bad guy could have done with more screen time and evil development. M:I-4 is another slick instalment of the winning James Bond formula cranked up to 11.
Jennifer’s Body [Blu Ray]: when a slew of horrific murders hit a sleepy town, Needy starts to think her best friend is a blood-thirsty vampyre. On the surface this appears to exists as a Megan Fox bootay appreciation vehicle, which is fine by me, especially because she plays a sexy femme fatale – with some brilliantly lewd lines. Fortunately, there’s more here than just foxy Fox. The film is laced with a good dose of black humour and absurdity; just enough to confirm that it’s not taking itself too seriously – 8675309 / Goths at a Funeral / Emo band story arc etc. It’s also ‘teen horror’ to the core: with an emphasis on ‘hip’ music, high school setting, sexually charged ‘teens’, pop cultural references, slang vocabulary… right down to the Prom Night finale. The direction’s strong, and BD picture and audio quality are both very good – also the directors cut is apparently far superior to the theatrical version. I was more than surprised as I watched this with a constant smile, and some proper belly laughs; it’s one of the best in its genre since the likes of the Faculty and Idle Hands. After its initially poor cinematic reception Jennifer’s Body will hopefully shine a lot brighter on DVD/Blu Ray as it’s far better, runnier, sexier, more violent and smarter than it looks, and you’d expect.
Zombie Beach Party: aka (Zombie King and the Legion of Doom aka Enter… Zombie King) A troupe of masked wrestlers tag up to fight off a powerful arch enemy and his army of the undead before they take over the town! The good stuff: nice Inter-title cards introducing the main cast at the start, some pretty good and fun exhibition wrestling fights, super-rapid Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart cameo (as the sheriff). The bad stuff: more so than most b-movies there’s pretty much no acting (face or voice) as all the main characters wear masks, the night scenes are terrible due to bad lighting, poor quality film stock, on top of all the usual B-movie gaffes. The film tried to be a parody of the zombie genre and a homage to wrestling – it does both, but neither particularly well, not to mention there’s almost no zombie action! At the end of the day this ring-slid well underneath my bottom rope expectation!! Wrestlemaniac was way better, and that’s saying somehting!
Obsessed: a married guy gets harassed by an increasingly obsessive woman until it gets out of hand… I’ve genuinely seen porno films with better acting, music, direction and even story. And no – I haven’t mixed this up with Fatal Attraction. Idris Elba lapsed in and out of good acting without warning. The crazy secretary (Ali Larter) was awful, but couldn’t really do much with her paper-thin character. Beyonce, meh, just there for the end really… and stick to singing love. Whether it was the budget of a massive case of ‘can’t be assed’ this looks & feels like a directorial debut – not someone that’s been behind the camera since 1995 (!) on projects such as Deadwood (!!), The Good Wife (!!!), The Sopranos (!!!!) and The Wire (!WTF!). Inexcusable acting, story and a spectacular f-up on the part of everyone’s agent. Tour De Fail.
Candy Strippers: A gherkin-looking membrane transfers and infects female hospital workers through kissing, turning them into seductive murderers… nothing to do with pole-dancers; I want my money back! Definitely bags the ‘Misleading title of the year’ award. It’s refreshing only having infected female killers for a change, but that’s where the originality ends. The last 40 minutes is just 20-somethings carelessly running around a hospital getting chopped up one by one. The last 10 ten minutes is a ludicrous needle-fest. Generally skipped through all the ‘plot building’ after the 20 minute mark. Nothing groundbreaking here: lame ‘monster’, average gore, terrible gags, unfathomably hot females, some gratuitous boobs and dumb people doing dumb things.
Kill Bill Vol 2: (Blu Ray) retribution continues at a slower pace as the back story is given more attention. This installment starts off as it means to continue, totally rip-off retro: effects, music, voiceovers, homage, etc. The story’s very strong until the last 45 minutes when it grinds to a halt, feeling drawn out with heavy conversation and that stupid truth serum. I’m not a huge fan of Tarantino’s ‘natural dialogue’. It’s not Kevin Smith bad but still quite annoying, and it really bogs down the end of Vol 2… On the upside there’s still some great cinema to be had; parts like the blacked out buried alive scene utilising big sounds to strike fear in to you are movie gold. The acting is top notch again, from Uma through to the let-himself-go Bud, sharp-as-ever Bill and the (still) foxy Elle Driver – it helps that all characters get good screen time to develop. The Blu Ray is absolutely stunning; close-up skin, face, hair and clothing detail will blow you away – even in the intentionally grainy Pai Mei scenes. The sound’s also fantastic, again making it worth the upgrade. It’s definitely the weaker stand-alone film, but when viewed back to back with Vol 1 it’s a great conclusion to one of the most epic revenge tales committed to celluloid!
Machine Girl: (Blu Ray) the story’s just a vehicle for the onslaught of gore, so it’s not even worth dwelling on… ‘revenge’ should cover it. This action & blood fest includes… <spoilers> shot in the eye, face shot to bits, hand hacked off, exploding head (2), maid murder, extreme bullying, tempura arm, brains facial, intestine facial, blood facial showers (gave up counting – ?), cook brutality, forced cannibalism, ninja stars (?), fingers sliced, amputation (2), necrophilia, urban ninjas (3), decapitation(?), blood drinking, nails in the face, fountains of blood (?), chainsaw deaths (?), bucket of death (2), limb fighting, an unforgettable boob job and many an OTT gory death. To lighten he mood they also chucked in some… swordfights, cleavage, ghosts, questionable first aid, midriff, sexy lingerie, a drill bra, pant wetting, death by strobes, Japanese schoolgirls and a MILF. </spoilers> The picture quality drifts between barely acceptable and below upscaled DVD, the sound is also poor – definitely not worth paying more for the BD. Bad and camp acting throughout, but for being on a budget the gore’s pretty good and is more comical than serious. It’s pretty entertaining but definitely a required taste: think ‘Story of Ricky’, ‘Braindead’, ‘Versus’, ‘Bad Taste’…
Foxy Brown: Pam Grier is out to avenge her junkie-loser brother and snitch boyfriend by sticking it to the man, big time. Everything from the soul / funk soundtrack to the gritty view of ‘real life’ is aimed at adolescent black guys, so for a honky to review this in one paragraph, probably won’t do it much justice. Naturally everyone evil, or with any power, is a white bigot: although the casting department went a step too far by hiring the most upper class ‘gangsters’ I’ve ever seen. The opening credits are like a cheap James Bond rip off and the action in the film’s admirable, but not quite there. Despite all the fist-clenching bro solidarity, melodramatic scenes and social issues / stereotypes raised it’s an OK action-flick, made easier to watch courtesy of Grier’s one-of-a-kind figure being flaunted throughout. Girl Power / Black Power!
Gingerdead Man: a bunch of failures stay in a bakery, despite everyone getting mauled by a rabid gingerbread man. Really bad acting, even worse ‘funnies’. After 30mins of boring backstory I started skipping to the gore. The production was so bad I thought it was filmed in the 80’s (not 2005) and the music was terrible. Rubbish gore, absolutely no attempt at continuity, the most obvious and generic plot ever. Doesn’t deserve to be classed as a comedy or horror, let alone both. It was only about 55 mins long! When did Gary Busey decide to do films this bad? They could have made so much more out of this but it was totally beyond shit. What’s worse is that there’s been two sequels… seriously?! Totally undercooked rubbish.
StagKnight: over the top 2007 British ‘black’ comedy horror about a stag party’s midnight paintball session and a murderous knight, awoken from a deadly slumber. Off the bat the film is laden with obvious jokes, bad accents, truly bizarre scenes, and some of the worst costumes you’ll ever see in a feature length… so far, so b-movie. There’s a diverse crew of stereotypes (mod, punk, nerd, Asian, wigger, fatty, wimp, hero, etc, etc), and despite being an 18 the gore’s kept to a minimum, with the majority of violence being suggested off screen. Despite it’s pitfalls the film looks very professional, with great audio and video – especially given that it’s almost entirely filmed in the dark: almost unheard of in this genre! Because of this it’s one of the few b-movies I’d have not felt ripped off by if I’d paid to see it at a cinema. It’s definitely horror for the ‘lads’ / sun readers, although it’s an admirable attempt.