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The Accidental Spy Parasol Umbrella Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min-jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo, Cheung Tat-ming, Pauline Suen, Alfred Cheung, Scott Adkins,

The Accidental Spy (AKA – 特務迷城, Tè Wù Mí Chéng): an exercise equipment salesman from HK must hunt down his absent – now dead – father’s fortune and lung cancer cure. The story is a bit of a mess; far more convoluted than it needed to be, and for the most part – quite difficult to follow. The film mirrors this, opening with a rough Taliban-style massacre; then switching to a comedy Jackie Chan workout – and ping-ponging between quite dark elements and light entertainment. The action sees an older (but still totally ripped!) JC swap out some of his trademark physically demanding fights for more traditional big budget moments: an entire wooden pier gets trashed; and  planes, cars, & flaming tankers all explode after driving through every obstacle known to man. The highlight is a footchase from a Turkish bathhouse that sees Chan fight off various henchmen butt-naked whilst simultaneously covering his modesty; cheeky and entertaining – you couldn’t imagine anyone else pulling it off. People marvel at ‘peak’ Arnie, or Sly, but I’d rather have 1% of JC‘s agility and finesse than all the muscles in China! Overall, it’s one of the more forgettable Jackie Chan outings (like a lot of his made-for-the-west output), but even an average JC film is better than most action films. The Accidental Spy never overcomes the tonal mismatch of having the cheeky and goofy everyman surrounded by heroin-addicted damsels, violent terrorists, and absolutely retarded writing at the end (C.I.A. twist).

Score: 6/10

The Accidental Spy Turkish bath Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min-jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo, Cheung Tat-ming, Pauline Suen, Alfred Cheung, Scott Adkins,

BTDKYD 01 Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Brian F. O'Byrne, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Jord

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: two brothers struggling with debt hatch a plan to knock-off their parent’s jewelry store, but it doesn’t go down as planned. This must have had origins in a play or theater; it doesn’t feel remotely cinematic. Technically, it has the look and feel of a film-school project or directorial debut – not from the person that has brought us 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network etc. It contains the worst use of zooming and jump-cutting in the history of cinema. Worst of all, the film thinks it’s smarter than it is, and spends the duration flopping all over the timeline – and assuming the audience is too dumb to follow, it brands the time on screen at the start of every scene. For such a respectable cast (Hoffman, Hawke, Finney, Shannon, and Marisa Tomei’s tits) they’re all hamming it up – but every character is completely one-dimensional. The gratuitous crass language annoyed me more than it should have – mostly because it felt sledge-hammered in to make the film marginally more outrageous. This hasn’t aged well at all: made in 2007, feels like a film from the 90s. Nihilistic, boring, pompously-theatrical claptrap.

Score: 2/10

BTDKYD 01 Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Brian F. O'Byrne, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Jordan Gelber,

 

 

Archer Logo - Sterling Malory Archer, H. Jon Benjamin, Lana Kane, Aisha Tyler, Malory Archer, Jessica Walter, comptroller, Cheryl Tunt, Judy Greer, Cyril Figgis, Chris Parnell, Pam PooveyFor those that don’t yet know about this piece of TV gold, Archer is a smart, fantastically written, genuinely funny and raunchy animated adult comedy. It follows the world’s deadliest secret agent, Sterling Archer – a James Bond parody – at his mother’s spy agency ISIS. The show has the advantage of combining two great genres: mixing the world of ‘spy parody’ with ‘workplace comedy’ – and trust me when I say that fans of either genre should be watching this.

Like any other comedy worth it’s salt, there’s a long list of running gags and references that hardened fans will pick up, adding a much deeper appreciation. Here are my favourite gags:

Archer 01 - Cyril Hello1) Cyril’s welcome: Every time the ISIS sex-addict accountant-turned-field-agent Cyril is caught in a compromising situation he lets out the most innocent and child-like ‘Helloooo’. He even gets to say “Olllaaaaaa” when he gets caught in a Mexican quandary.

Archer 02 - Lana Kane YUP NOPE2) Lana’s Yep / Nope: The pronunciation (and frequency) of these two words uttered by Lana are so infectious that they will soon creep in to your everyday vocabulary. By the time season 3 rolls round it’s a full on catchphrase. It’s never a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with her, but an attitude laden YUUUUUUP or NOOOOOOPE.

Archer 03 - Krieger - I'm not a SERIAL Killer

I’m not a serial killer…

3) Krieger: there are too many standout krieger moments to warrant picking one out – his elaborately pimped out vans are ridiculous, he has a manga girlfriend who’s beamed from a projector, and so many grim and sinister ‘scientific’ projects that are always going wrong – he is easily the darkest aspect of the show.

Archer 04 - Do you want ants? Because thats how you get ants - may as well start an ant farm4) Do you want ants? Every time a piece of food is dropped on the ISIS carpet someone makes a remark about getting ants. It starts as a throwaway line, but is mentioned frequently enough to beome an in joke. It’s so ridiculous and out-of-place that it gets you every time – “We might as well just start an ant farm”

Archer 05 - Lana's man yetti shovel scoop cricket bat hands Lana Kane5) Lana’s Hands: Poor Lana. Despite being one of the hottest cartoon ladies ever drawn (is that OK to say?) everyone comments on her man / shovel / yeti / monster / cricket bat hands. Any time she touches someone these are likely to be brought up – even though they look completely normal. Poor Lana, although she doesn’t help herself by using them to death-grip her colleagues.

Archer 06 - Barry Bionic Barry Other Barry6) Archer / Barry rivalry: the relationship between Archer and his nemesis Barry, from ISIS competition ODIN, is so twisted and bitter that it has to be laughed at. Archer has dropped Barry from a great height (twice) and broken up his engagement, to which (Bionic and / or Other) Barry has returned the favours.

Archer 07 - Malory Archer7) Malory Archer: aside from the fact that not even she knows who archers father is (could be one of five men) Malory appears to have slept with almost every male character, from ex-colleagues through to Burt Reynolds. She’s also the, most stubborn, alcoholic and least PC character, continually spouting the most risqué and offence-courting dialogue.

Archer 08 - Passwords Guest8) Passwords: working in IT, this is particularly funny to me because it’s so close to the truth, yet played for laughs in the show. Every password to every database and ‘mainframe’ computer in the whole of ISIS is ‘GUEST’.

Archer 09 - Phone Elaborate Voicemail Prank Ringtone Mullato Butts

BOOM! Birthday Voicemail!

9) Archer’s Phone: a double-header: firstly, he has the most elaborate voicemail pranks you could imagine, some spanning +30 seconds, and usually aimed at his mother. He also has a completely awesome, but totally unexpected ringtone (Mulatto Butts) going off at the most inappropriate moments of his covert operations.

Archer Banner Poster TV ShowOf course, there are dozens of other jokes and smaller characters that keep re-appearing. Archer’s childhood flashbacks, and his obsessions with rampages, Lacrosse, turtlenecks/tactlenecks, significant historical names, and cars. Pam “Shit Snacks” Poovey as the shockingly incompetent, badass and blabermouth HR manager. Cheryl / Carol “You’re not my supervisor!” Tunt as the glue-eating choke fetish secretary. Archer’s life-long live-in male servant Woodhouse, and all of his innuendo & heroin. The ever disabled / able ‘Gay’ Ray Gillett. Brett “gunshot wound” Buckley, ODIN Boss Len Trexler, Nikolai Jakov (Khhheeaadd ov Kay Gee Bee) and so forth. Put all of these individual elements together and you have an unmissable comedy show.

Flight Denzel Washington, with Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman

Flight: an alcoholic / coke-addict pilot saves almost everyone on board from certain death, but he can’t avoid the spotlight as the air crash investigation picks up on his habits. This is a great all-round movie: funny when it had to be (Goodman / cancer guy), dramatic at times (relationship / hearing) and for the most part, engaging and entertaining. The crash itself is one of the most intense and dramatic scenes I’ve seen in a cinema; slowly getting louder and shakier and an increasingly high-pitched whaling from the plane; it was like a screw turning tighter and tighter. The only time it felt a bit off were several overly-emphasised parts about religion & faith – act of god, miracles, praying – although I guess it’s more prevalent in America. There were a few nice little in-jokes that almost passed me by: the ShamWow tv advert, the elevator music version of ‘I’ll get high with a little help from my friends’, and most songs in the soundtrack were about boozing or drug abuse. The cast were stupendously good performances all round, Denzel in particular was on fire – achieving an almost impossible mix of sympathy and resentability – and Kelly Reilly (also great) must have had a cleavage-based contract – loved it. All in all, Flight is an entertaining, enjoyable, and very watchable movie with entertaining performances all round.

Score: 8/10

GODFATHER 01 Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Abe Vigoda, Al Lettieri, Lenny Montana, Al Martino, Alex Rocco,The Godfather: first of three movies based on Mario Puzo’s tale of the Sicilian Mafia in New York, circa 1945-1955. There’s no denying that certain aspects of the film are great: it’s littered with original, shocking, powerful, and iconic scenes; there’s page after page of beautifully written dialogue (monologues and large conversations); the cast is truly monumental, and almost everyone is outstanding in their character’s portrayal. My biggest problem with The Godfather is that the sound mix is atrocious and – worse still – some character’s accents are so thick and/or non-enunciated that I watched the entire film with subtitles, in order to make any sense of some characters. Another flaw in the movie is that it could have been edited down, a lot; there’s entire sections of the film that have minimal impact on the story, but drag on and refuse to end (wedding, Sicily…). The direction’s OK – although editing is fairly rough – and the score really adds a punch to the movie. Perhaps this suffers from the ‘Chinatown Effect’ in that a mixture of lifelong hype, and the movie’s impact being far greater when it was released, that modern audiences are left a little cold and short-changed after seeing it. The Godfather feels like a great film diluted down into a good film, but ‘best film of all time’… sit your guinea-wop ass down in front of the tube, put on Godfellas, and tell me this is better – if ya do, ya’ll be sleeping with the fishes, see?

Score: 6/10

GODFATHER 02 Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Abe Vigoda, Al Lettieri, Lenny Montana, Al Martino, Alex Rocco,

Breaking Bad Series Bryan Cranston, Walter White, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Jesse Pinkman, Dean Norris, Hank, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Danny Trejo

Breaking Bad (Season 2): picks up immediately where Season 1 finished, as the two rookie criminals slowly harden and come to terms with murky business that they are now a part of. With almost double the episodes, and the character groundwork laid in S1, there’s much more scope for the  story strands to finally go somewhere. You get the feeling that the show is finally changing up the gears in the drama department. The biggest change is that we now see a lot the effects that the duo’s meth is having, in particular the social slant is much rougher than S1, with a proper – no-holds barred – look at the users, their families, and the more ruthless cartels. Both leads remain fantastic while their limits and attitudes constantly evolve, and it’s weird that no matter how horrific or low the things they do are, you’re still behind them all the way. Saul; a fascinating, funny, crooked lawyer, is a solid addition, and good comic relief in parts. Stylistically, it’s still very much unique, retaining it’s punky visual edge and stylistic colouring – which can, and does, liven up the slower sections of storytelling. So the stakes are higher, the operation’s bigger, the rivals are tougher, police more involved, personal lives more strained – what’s not to like about Season 2!? One of the few shows on the telly that manages to strike a great balance between entertainment, drama and comedy.

Score: 8.5/10

Awake is an American television police procedural fantasy drama, created by writer and executive producer Kyle Killen, that centers on Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), a detective living in two separate realities after a car accident. In one reality, in which he wears a green wrist band, his wife Hannah Britten (Laura Allen) was killed in the crash, and in another reality, in which he wears a red wrist band, his son Rex Britten (Dylan Minnette) was the one killed. Michael does not know which reality is real. He sees two separate therapists: Dr. Jonathan Lee (BD Wong) in the "red reality", and Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones) in the "green reality".

Awake (Series 1): after a fatal crash a cop lives two lives, one where his wife survived, the other where his son did – he’s just not sure which one is his dream. It’s a high-concept show, but it helps that both ‘realities’ are instantly distinguishable: different partners, cases, therapists and to further aid distinction, one has a cold turquoise hue, whilst the other is a glowing amber colour. The first 10 episodes are basically dual-homicide investigations, where details from one world are subconsciously pointing Detective Britten towards the clues in another, very interesting, and easy to roll with. There’s a much bigger story/conspiracy that’s infrequently – but ominously – mentioned, although it doesn’t materialise until Ep10. (Hello to) Jason Isaacs is fantastic, having a difficult dual-role and really shining towards the end of the series when his character and psyche starts to buckle under the stress. The rest of the cast are all decent, but it’s a one-man show. Episodes 10-13 are fantastic, thrilling and adrenaline-pumping, leading in to the final 15 minutes of the series; which has Inception levels of mind-bending inner-consciousness, in which it looks like we’re going to see a definitive, wrapped up, (brave) one-season deal – then WHAM… a wholly unnecessary – series tainting – final scene. Despite that, Awake is a fresh, new and interesting twist on quite a stale, overcrowded format & genre. Top production, writing, acting and more family/police procedural than action thriller – it’s very watchable top-drawer Telly.

Score: 8/10

End of Watch: two of LAPD’s finest end up with a bounty on their heads after accidentally disrupting the activities of a brutal cartel. From the opening car chase this feels very realistic, shot primarily on dashboard / surveillance / handheld cameras etc. This style not only lends itself to authenticity – glamour is played down throughout – but heightens the drama and urgency of action sequences. Both leads (Gyllenhaal and Peña) are superb, the naturalistic script makes them genuinely feel like friends, and their performances make you believe that they are regular guys – the fire scene in particular shows us that they are real heroes. What sets this aside from most cop films is that the antagonists are painted as being so ruthless and violent that there’s a genuine sense of danger that simmers throughout the film, hitting boiling point at the climax. My only major issue is that because the overall style is ‘handheld’/’genuine’ footage, characters in the middle of drive-by shootings / full-blown firefights / intimate moments are always carrying a camera/phone etc; even when there’s plenty shots in the film that aren’t handheld, so it seems a bit stupid. Also, if the penultimate scene had been cut, the ending would have also been so much more powerful. Niggles aside, End of Watch is a stunning cop film, with a strong ‘buddy’ vibe, real threat and two great performances at its heart. This is easily the best cop film in years, and arguably ever.

Score: 9/10

The French Connection: two NYPD narcotics officers uncover a smuggling operation with links to a French movie star. Despite being set in New York, his isn’t the Big Apple we all know;  it’s filthy, seedy, unpleasant, and realistic with bodies in doorways, fires in the alleys and racial tension – there’s a thick social commentary here, and with it, documentary-level realism. Hackman is great – carving out a legendary cop figure as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle; anti-heroic to the bone, he’s an unorthodox disobedient alcoholic racist, but has some fantastic lines and scenes to help out. Interestingly, the bad guys are also cunningly clever – particularly Fernando Rey, who’s the embodiment of dastardly, a joy to watch. Action scenes are intense (urgency of the car chase amplified by the road-level car cam) but are hidden among a lot of cops tailgating and observing their marks; it sounds boring but these sections are also very well done and exciting. Streets ahead of any ‘great cop films’ that came before it – sorry, Bullit – this became the blueprint for everything from cop dramas to computer games (Driver / Grand Theft Auto). Because of this it’s probably lacking a the full effect that it would have had 40 years ago – also, I didn’t understand the opening Marseilles scene – Doyle finds the smuggling ring without this. Bottom line: this is 90 minutes of all-killer, exciting and intriguing story – The French Connection is way, way more than just a fantastic car chase.

Score: 8.5/10

Nude Nuns with Big Buns: tasteless throwback nunsploitation revenge flick with a latino twist. The single best thing about this film is that the entire female wardrobe could have been packed in to a purse; this is proper bang-for-your-buck stuff – with so much tits and ass that birthday suits seem normal by the end! It’s also way more offensive than your standard b-movie with some genuinely filthy scenes like the gas station encounter and motel self-surgery – it feels like a proper old-fashioned video nasty but without the hype – and it’s actually nasty. Story-wise, it’s pretty standard for the genre – following a lesbian, drug-addicted nun-gone-wild, with plenty of bad habits(!!). Technically, it’s pretty solid for a low-budget b-movie, and the acting’s passable for a bunch of z-listers playing stock characters. With possibly the most honest title in cinema history, this is genuinely packed full of gratuitous nudity and violence; it’s also got the greatest dispatch of a main bad guy in any film. Although this definitely isn’t for everyone, Nude Nuns with Big Guns is an entertaining, formulaic Machete-esque revenge flick aimed at the proper fans of ‘blood and titties’; a solid B-movie

Score: 4/10

Animal Kingdom: Mid-budget Australian crime film focuses on one family and their ongoing struggle against the Melbourne police department. Probably more at home on TV than the big screen, there’s a few misfires that lead this high-potential film astray. The single biggest mistake was that it could have been an epic story, but the director forces it down the arthouse route, and it just didn’t work for me. Other faux pas’ were that it focuses on the wrong characters, honing in on the most silent and blank-faced kid; the music was so distracting – terrible psychological synths turned up to 11 that ironically drown out any ambience; moreover, it’s to bleak, grim and nihilistic – making it a difficult story to watch. What saved this from obscurity was the fantastic cast, some of whom you completely invest in: the mother and eldest son are two of the most heinous characters you’ll see this year and you even end up rooting for the wayward brothers; although he’s good, the main actor is one of the weakest in the film. Fiercely over-hyped, and at almost two hours, Animal Kingdom is dragged out at a pace that cripples the movie and really fails to engage. While it’s not in the same league as Romper Stomper and Chopper it will have the same effect in bumping much of the little known actors up to a bigger stage.

Score: 3/10

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. Werner Herzog’s tale of a crooked cop in post-Katrina New Orleans. This is to all intents and purposes a Nic Cage film, and boy is he back on form; overacting an eccentric, pain-ridden dirty cop and tripping on-screen for the full 2 hours… this is the man we fell in love with. The drug use brings a few bizarre and surreal moments ranging from Croc and Iguana close-ups to a breakdancing soul and Cage just talking absolute rubbish. There’s a good amount of very dark humour despite the drugs, murders, prostitution, blackmails and general shenanigans of the worst cop ever. The ending – particularly the scene at the Lieutenant’s desk where everyone visits him – felt like a massive cop-out and could have been so much more. Eva Mendes is good (and hot!), Stiffler‘s mum looks a little worse for wear until the end, Val Kilmer‘s only in about 3 scenes and I can’t see Xzibit without thinking about Pimp My Ride / Yo Dawg Yo. It’s really well shot, doesn’t drag too much and you know it’s well told when no matter how low the Lieutenant stoops, you’re still rooting for him. The amoral protagonist and situations he instigates will probably be the biggest turn-off here, nevertheless it’s a solid detective / drama film.

Score: 7/10