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JAPANORAMA - Osaka BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgVersus Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda, Yuichiro Arai, Minoru Matsumoto, Kazuhito Ohba, Takehiro Katayama, Ayumi Yoshihara, Shōichirō Masumoto, Toshiro Kamiaka, Yukihito TanikadoAs part of JAPANORAMA I have been inviting my movie-reviewing peers to join in. This post is from Brikhaus over at the fantastic Awesomely Shitty. I love the site because it’s not afraid to stick the boot in and dissect anything and everything that the masses are generally scrambling over each other to fawn over – from Django to the Academy. Today Awesomely Shitty takes on Versus, a low-budget cult zombie flick. You can see the full review here, and follow on twitter @awesomelyshitty.

Versus (-ヴァーサス- Vāsasu): Versus is a bizarre, nonsensical movie. It’s a super low-budget cult film featuring cops, gangsters, shootouts, samurai, zombies, martial arts, karate zombies, sword fighting, and demons. It’s like the director grabbed a list of “cool shit” from the internet, and mixed it all together, hoping it would work. And depending on your point of view, it either totally works, or is a complete fucking mess. The movie has an odd tone somewhere between serious and wacky. I suppose if Versus had played it straight, nothing would work. The whole thing is just too goddamn crazy. The closest thing I can compare it to is Evil Dead II. The zombies are a mix of traditional lumbering zombies, and other zombies who can shoot guns and know karate. I can’t think of any other movie where you can see zombies shooting machine guns, or humans roundhouse kicking zombie heads off. At least it earned a few points for originality. At 2 hours and 10 minutes, Versus definitely overstays its welcome. Some of the fight scenes seem endless, and when they aren’t fighting, the movie sucks so hard you wish they were back to fighting again. It’s an endless cycle of shit. Versus is a hard movie to rate. I enjoyed the karate zombies and weird sense of humor. I also enjoyed the well-choreographed fight scenes. However, the movie drags at times, and it way too long for its own good. I’d say it rounds out to be an average watch. Good to watch drunk, but not otherwise.

Score: 6/10

An old review of Versus from this site can be found here.

Fast and the Furious 5 - Rio Heist, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Dwayne Johnson 01Fast and the Furious 5: Rio Heist: Initial stand-alone review here – only difference is that this paragraph holds Fast Five in the context of the box-set, and now knowing what happened in the previous movies. The Blu Ray ‘Extended Cut’ is hardly worth it, with just over an added minute’s runtime, only a rapid neck-snapping that felt new. The action scenes are absolutely outstanding: the train heist, safe chase, rooftop / favella footchase, convoy ambush – it’s all seat-grabbing, fist-pumping, adrenaline-rushing, and cooler-than-cool. It feels like an 80s throwback genre film with such big-budget action, the archetypal super-bad mega-villain, and more oiled-up machismo than you could shake a packet of beer soaked beef jerky at – with guys continually in-fighting, shouting and flexing their rippling muscles at any opportunity. That moment when the two action stars fight, and later when Vin picks up The Rock… it’s just action-movie gold! I really enjoyed Fast Five in the cinema, but having seen all of the films recently, I have to give an extra point to the such fantastically executed car-based mayhem.

Score: 8/10

Fast and the Furious 5 - Rio Heist, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Dwayne Johnson 03The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious
Fast Five (Old review)

Fast and the Furious 5 - Rio Heist, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Dwayne Johnson 02

Brick: when his ex-girlfriend goes missing, a teenager goes prodding around in his school’s underbelly to try to find some answers. Given the high school setting and the film’s leanings towards a Noir detective story – where everything down to the dialogue & clothing of feels old-timey – you don’t really get many films with such a uniquely stamped style and feel. Borrowing so heavily from the Noir genre starts off quite refreshing, but becomes borderline tedious and annoying by the end – it’s also the film’s biggest downfall that anybody remotely familiar with the genre will see the major twist way, way before it’s revealed. The olde vernacular and slang-heavy dialogue also flips and flops between cool and stupid, as some parts become hard to follow, given the speed of delivery and unfamiliar phrasings. The adherence to Noir also means that the characters are simply drawn – one-dimensional – and overly familiar. The film’s stupendously shot: light in particular is used superbly throughout to add crazy good detail, depth and subliminal characterisation – especially during the indoor scenes. It’s also full of nice little touches, details and tricks that raise it above your average genre rip-off picture. As a crime story Brick pretty good, but it’s a film that is 100% defined  as a modern take on 60-year-old conventions: sure it’s unique, stylish, funny and entertaining, but it’s also predictable, clichéd and full of stock characters because of its rigid adherence to the Noir genre. The positives do outweigh the trappings, making Brick worth a watch.

Score: 7/10

Rekjavik-Rotterdam: a struggling ex-con must secure his family’s safety by doing one final smuggling run. The film plays out like a stripped down heist/crime movie – but keeps its feet firmly on the ground, and whilst none of the story elements are particularly original, the execution is great. Equally impressive are the cream of Iceland‘s current talent – Kormákur creates a believable, desperate man, and everyone down to the stock muscle/thug guys feel like real characters. The story unfolds with excitement, tension, action and some comedy moments, so it’s well-balanced remains very watchable. The final 15 minutes wrap up the film cleverly, and there’s a cheeky passing use of a Jackson Pollock painting. Unsurprisingly, a film this good has already been remade and released in the ‘States as ‘Contraband’, starring Mark Wahlberg (interestingly, directed by the lead actor of this version). Rekjavik Rotterdam is a rock-solid, European thriller/drama that will hopefully open up a wave of new talent and movies from a country that’s relatively unknown for it’s cinema. I think Hollywood will struggle to match the heart and execution this version, but conceal that by turning everything up to eleven – absolutely check this version out.

Score: 7.5/10

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes): can say almost nothing about the plot without giving the film away – sci-fi / time travel / thriller. Being Spanish, it has a slight am-dram / soap opera feel to it with the suspenseful soundtrack and ‘passionate’ melodramatic acting. The story is tight; yet more proof that thriller/horror films don’t all have to be dumb. There’s a load of nice small details that make the plotlines fit together so tightly – one girl even has a Schrodinger’s Cat t-shirt! What I enjoyed most about this was the authenticity; the characters are realistic, settings are eerie, tense moments are drawn out, and even the masked killer fumbles around looking vulnerable and unsure at times – as opposed to the Hollywood stone-cold killer – all kept the film grounded. Triangle blew me away when I watched it, but it has borrowed heavily from Timecrimes, and unfortunately hampered my viewing of the film a little. For a cast and crew of relatively unknowns doing no budget sci-fi thriller this punches far, far above its weight.

Score: 7.5/10

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Based on the Jacques Tardi comic books, this follows a female adventurer in 1911 Paris who is traveling the world to find a cure for her comatose’d sister. With pterodactyls, mummies, bandits, hunters and a ton of other stuff, it’s all a bit crazy – landing as a PG adventure not a million miles from Indiana Jones / Jumanji / The Mummy etc… Louise Bourgoin is a great match for the quirky, strong, sexy, determined, action heroine, and to top it all of, out of nowhere… BOOM… nude bath scene (in a kids film!?!?). With Luc Besson behind the camera the film’s in good hands, it’s executed interestingly, but even he couldn’t put all of the randomness together seamlessly. It’s French, it’s crazy, and it’s quite an enjoyable adventure romp despite the absurdity.

Score: 6/10

Fast and the Furious 5: Rio Heist – Various characters from the past four films unite for one big job in Rio. Being brutally honest, I’ve never bothered with this series as it’s just not my thing… That being said, the films are brutally honest and up front; Fast cars, Furious stunts. The action in this is 100% gravity and logic-defying nonsense but the last, huge, set-piece is worth the ticket price alone – it’s absolutely stupendous and wouldn’t surprise me if it had swallowed over 50% of the total budget. Character-wise, there’s a troupe of broad catch-all societal stereotypes, headed by the mumbling charisma vacuum Vin Diesel and a bread-and-butter Rock performance – nobody else is noteworthy. The story is bog standard and merely a vehicle to set up the next action scene; the Rio setting was ridiculous as it could have been anywhere; and the post-script was groan-inducing. Doing what it says on the tin, Fast Five is nothing more than cars, babes and stunts so ridiculous that it’s impossible to not enjoy or appreciate. Guilty pleasure of the year so far.

Score: 7/10