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Chinatown: a private investigator is led blindly into a complex conspiracy involving murder, betrayal and state-wide fraud. What surprised me most was Polanski‘s bland and underwhelming direction – which I was expecting to be stellar given the endless plaudits Chinatown receives. It doesn’t even feel like much of a Noir compared to staple genre pictures like The Maltese Falcon, or even a modern stab at Noir, like Brick. The story’s slow-burner, and isn’t always the easiest to follow, but worse still, almost none of the characters developed enough to connect with – they just seemed to be there to facilitate the next plot twist. When it finally rolls around the final act is as good as the film gets, but it feels like too little too late – it also may have been crazy / shocking / controversial back then, but when held up against the shocks we see these days, it carries a far lighter punch on modern audiences. For me, the combination of story, direction, acting, script and overall ‘wallop’ are average at best; although I suspect that having appeared in almost every ‘best films ever’ list, maybe the bar was just set far, far too high.

Score: 4/10

... after.

… after.

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DJANGO UNCHAINED FILM STREAM WATCH CLIPS Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Laura Cayouette, Ato Essandoh

Django Unchained: a German bounty hunter frees a slave, then partners up with him to make some cash and rescue his girl from a flamboyant plantation owner. As expected, Waltz absolutely steals the show with what’s essentially a re-write/reprise of his intelligent, oddly-humorous ‘Jew-hunter‘. Everyone else turns up and does their thing entertainingly enough. While the film pokes a lot of fun at the stupidity of racism (KKK mask scene & Sam Jacksons rant about Foxx sleeping in the house), for me the ‘N-Bomb’ is dropped far, far too often: which may have been accurate of the period, but it’s such a loaded word that drags the tone down – taking it way beyond any ‘light-hearted’ Blazing Saddles similarities. Clocking in at 2hr 45, it’s also far, far too drawn out, for such a simple revenge tale, especially once Dicaprio pops up: some scenes seem to go on forever with rambling, empty, dialogue and plodding shot after shot. While they’re all quintessential Tarantino scenes, it also suffers from his trademark lack of self-censorship. Finally, although, stylistically, most scenes are undeniably QT -and this isn’t really his fault – his style’s been ripped off so many times (funky music, uber-gore and back-and-forth dialogue) that it no longer packs the punch it once did. As a stand-alone film, Django Unchained is a decent film dragged down by its ‘epic’ runtime and the difficult task of balancing racism and comedy. It’s only when you step back and hold it up against a film like Inglorious – equally long, but crammed with great, tense and cinematic moments – that you realise how ordinary Django Unchained is.

Score: 6/10

DJANGO UNCHAINED 2 FILM STREAM WATCH CLIPS Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Laura Cayouette, Ato Essandoh

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.

Score: 5/10

Note: this is post #500 since starting the site way back in July of 2009! To mark this, next week will feature guest reviews, several ‘feature’ posts as well as some more regular Paragraph Film Reviews. Thanks to everyone that reads, comments and visits the site, particularly the regulars. You folks are ace!

Seraphim Falls: a determined bounty hunter (Neeson) and his hired guns are chasing a skilled man (Brosnan) through the wilderness for reasons unknown. With two big actors centre screen you’d expect this film to play well… Broz takes his grunting to a whole new level as he’s on his own for most of his part – unfortunately, there’s also a scene where he’s genuinely out-acted by a horse! Pre-heroic re-invention Neeson feels miscast here, and in general everyone looks a bit disinterested. The writing is sloppy, and storytelling has a lot to be desired – an Indian and saleswoman appear – only to facilitate a showdown – and we don’t know why Broz is even being hunted for around 90 minutes – who should we be rooting for? With this, there’s not a whole lot of tension (essential for a decent cat-and-mouse story). It’s partially well-shot, making the biggest reason to watch this some great scenery of wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Overlong, uninteresting and full of questionable acting, Seraphim Falls feels like a bunch of guys walking about in the words, then desert for the most part – it’s is nobody’s finest hour. 3:10 to Yuma is still the daddy of modern westerns!

Score: 3/10

Coco Before Chanel: follows the early life of Coco Chanel, who would become one of the most important fashion designers in the world, like, totally, ever! So she starts out as an orphan, and slowly grows up / whores herself into the most ungrateful super-leech in the world; this character is so unlikable that you wonder why anyone in the film tolerates her, let alone why all of the men are fawning and fighting over Coco. Early 1900s France is a lovely setting but the story, and eventual romance, are tedious. I never, ever thought I’d watch a film like this and be craving more dress-making, tailoring, and general fashion talk… but that’s how boring everything else in the movie is. Above all else the snail’s pace destroys any hint of momentum; as the film dwells on gentry lifestyle, a sulking brat-like Coco and boring class-struggles.

I scraped through the first 90 minutes, couldn’t have given less of a crap about the final 20.

Alternative plans: left my lady to it and made my supper early – mentally filed this in my crammed cabinet of boring period dramas. Couldn’t get the Stellastarr* song ‘My Coco’ out of my head… so not all bad.   Other walkouts…

Melancholia: follows a group of upper-class people with first world problems as a stray planet is scheduled to do a close fly-by past earth. This film feels like Von Trier spunked most the budget in the opening and closing 5 minutes with the arty, expensive-looking, Tree-of-life-esque scenes – then worried about filling the rest as an afterthought. For being an ‘apocalyptic drama’ there’s not enough apocalypse or drama in the story for my liking. Dividing the film into two chapter-parts is ridiculous: part one is dedicated to Kirsten Dunst’s chest, at her wedding (which is brimming with pomposity) and showing us that her character is a total dickhead – this goes on for far too long. Part two is more of the same but focusing on Gainsbourg and her flaws… The film looks pretty good (cutting edge SHD Arri Alexa cameras) and is shot well barring the uber-shaky cam scenes. The acting’s also decent, but not as amazing as is being made out. The bottom line here is that it appears Mr Von Trier seems to have lost his flare for proper stories and proper storytelling. Annoyingly boring, really should have walked out.

Score: 1/10

The Eagle: twenty years after his father led 5,000 Roman soldiers to their death a rookie tries to restore his family’s name by finding the lost Roman ‘eagle standard’. In a nutshell the biggest problem this film has is lackadaisical direction – every other issue seems to stem from this: naff/ridiculous plot, complacent acting, lazy storytelling… There’s genuinely a scene where a minor character says “To find them you have to go over the snowy hills and into the next glen” – there’s a 5 second shot of our soldiers struggling through snow, and wham – they’re back in normal terrain again!!! Complimenting the visual vomit is the corniest stock Gaelic music, that drones away in the background when the soldiers are in the highlands. To make the film more sellable there are a few gratuitous action scenes but you can’t really see what’s going on, and it winds up a blurry, shaky mess. The only redeeming part is when Mark Strong appears and shows everyone how to act properly!  All in, it just all feels a bit amateur, and like more of a project about someone finding their roots / heritage, than wanting to let a decent story take centre stage. If you wish to see a film about southerners taking on crazed tribes of ugly Scottish people check out Doomsday instead! Or if you want to keep it historical – Spartacus.

Score: 2/10

The Living Daylights: James Bond must ensure a senior Soviet defector’s safe escape from the country, then hunt down and kill a senior KGB agent, then find and foil the plans of a notorious arms dealer, then help an Afghan militia, then give a cellist the international break she deserves…

Who's this windswept fellow?

Almost 20 years after initially being approached to play Bond, Dalton finally gets his shot. I’ll put it out there straight away – I think Dalton’s great, and brings some much needed credibility back to the world’s greatest spy. This 007 is broodier, more intense, ruthless, dangerous again. He doesn’t care about the theatricalities, most evident when he charges through the immortal (but seemingly obligatory) “Bond… James Bond” line.

Bond, James Bond - and he will totally fucking shoot you!

This new style is further aided by some of the bleakest scenes in the series so far; we see 004’s lifeless corpse bounce down a cliff and slam into a gutter, Bond’s ally get mauled by a glass sliding door. Bond also tears the clothes off a defenseless woman to form a distraction… we truly believe he’s capable of anything that he’ll use his Licence to Kill at any point.

1980s Bond roughs up the bad guys - not the naked ladies - for a change

It’s all going quite well, and the plot’s developing nicely… then it all goes a tits up when they do a SATC2 and start traipsing around the desert in “Arabian Knights” fashion with camels, turbans, beards, horses and AK-47s.

"Could he really be the 'Lawrence of my Labia'?"

The lack of a definitive baddie is both good and bad; it’s the single biggest reason for a strong, twisting and intelligent plot (not just ‘jape with and hunt down the villain’), on the other side of the coin, history has shown that strong villains can make or break a film, and for the first hour or so Bond’s essentially just chasing his own tail. The lack of a strong Bond girl also affects the film, and puts – quite unfairly – far more emphasis on Dalton’s breakthrough performance.

A highly divisive film, some people think it took a wrong turn...

The action is back on the right tracks, opening as it means to continue with the Gibraltar invasion – a great piece of espionage/action cinema that’s both tense and unpredictable, yet still so very 1980s cool! The car chase from a B-road – through a truck – and on to a frozen lake is also one of the best; and the hand-to-hand milkman vs chef fight is one of the best since From Russia with Love. Other sweet aspects to The Living Daylights are: the pipeline escape (and boosom distraction), such a hack theme song, The new ditsy Moneypenny (Definitely the end of an era), travel-companion feel – Russia, through central Europe, and the Middle-east.

Astin Martin with rockets, lasers, skis and a jet engine!! Hell yea!

In the same sense that chunks of A View To A Kill were perhaps ‘Dalton’-styled with Moore at the reins, sections of this are definitely Moore-centric with Dalton plonked in front of the camera. The first 2/3 is a rock solid thriller/spy film, with feet back firmly on the ground – and the last 1/3 is passable but feels somewhat gratuitous in the action department. It’s definitely a step in the right direction after Moore’s tenure.

Score: 6.5/10

"Eee got thu flew"

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: hard to tell, but ends up being the military strategist arms dealer yank – who plays with toys – FAIL. 2
Henchmen: Aryan muscleman – pretty brutal. Slick-haired Ruskie Koskov – pretty boy. 5
Bond Girl: Boat Babe – pretty good. Cello chick Kara Milovy – vapid vacuum, no glitz. 4
Action: Gibraltar + Explosives truck / Kitchen fist-fight / Snow Chase (Ace car + cello) / Rooftop Run / Prison fight / air base raid / luggage net. 8

Don't know if Bond could cooperate with muslim fighters these days...

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Row Three
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A View To A Kill: After recovering a unique computer chip from a dead 003 in the USSR, Bond traces it back to Zorin industries, and soon discovers that Mad Max Zorin plans to flood silicon valley and monopolise the computer microchip market.

Recent studies blame 007 for global warming!

The film opens with a Zorin disclaimer, the first time this has been done, and strange given the number of characters ‘borrowed’, based or impersonated from the real world through the years. It also opens with one of the best theme songs: Duran Duran’s a View to a Kill. This is an unrivaled 1980s pop song!

The method of transportation that best suits the complex life of a modern villain

It’s usually crazy science and physics that push the James Bond plots forward (lasers, death rays, nukes…) but this film’s all about super-crazy geology, which for some reason feels harder to debunk – it could be more ridiculous than pew pew laser fights in space but who knows?!?

Moneypenny's last outing too - she got drunk at the races! Good on her.

As with any Bond film, A View To A Kill plays to the trends of the era, taking place in Silicon Valley, we have some new-age computers, and it’s essentially about one man becoming the king of microchips. Finally moving on from the ridiculous tone of the 70s movies this feels like a true stepping stone on to the darker Bond vibe; with people being killed right, left, centre, and literally getting machine gunned down in their dozens!

A cheeky sparring session with May Day and Zorin

In saying that, there’s still time to make the police look like buffoons in a token ‘wreck a police car’ scene on the raising bridge. The  renault cut-down-car-chase through Paris feels like Moore putting his final stamp on the film before he leaves. You kind of get the feeling that this was more of a goodbye Roger party at time, with everyone turning up and having a laugh on set.

Heads up!

Zorin/Walken is great as a bad guy – first out and out “genetic experiment” baddie and looks intense and insane throughout – usually laughing and at his happiest when he’s inflicting fear, desperation and murder on someone! Not many of the scenes or action set pieces are overly memorable; however, the appearance of Zoro now and then is really when this one comes to life.

Score: 5.5/10

The sound of retirement beckoning Roger

TOP TRUMPS
Villain:
Zorin – rogue KGB agent, computer chip cartel, nasty man with a nasty plan! 8
Henchmen: Grace Jones and her black arse. Scarface chap – lame. 6
Bond Girl: Jenny Flex & Stacey Sutton. Classic 80s Golden Girl look. 8
Action: Snow chase / Paris cut-down-car chase / horse race / Cty hall / Firetruck chase / Mine / Golden gate 8

So long Roger... you horny ol' dawg!

RELATED LINKS
The M0vie Blog
Undy A Hundy
The Reviewer
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The Good, The Bad, The Weird: Set in the 1930s, a bounty hunter, most-wanted criminal and petty thief are all after the same ancient treasure map. This flick has it all: style, action, plot, rivalry, twists, adventure, suspense, guns, huge sets, humour and explosions. Most of all, it’s actually great fun to watch, with the exception of a few short ‘meh’ sections and one psychedelic scene – the rest is all killer. The whole story, but most notably the final  scenes are brilliantly executed classic Western. The Bad and Weird characters are great to watch, and the director‘s on good form. Definitely a bit more of a bloodbath than you’d expect from an upbeat film like this with scarlet, limbs and fingers flying all over the place. The audio track really comes alive during the action scenes and there’s a nice nod to Tarrantino with an epic song choice for the huge chase scene. There’s also a nice bit of Korean history thrown in the mix. Overall, it’s an amazing film from a director with a great track record, and another brilliant example of why Korea is one of the best countries as far as movie exports go.

Score 8.5/10

The Wolfman: Re-make of a 1940s Werewolf film, and probably just as lame and cheesy as the original! I can’t really sum up how bad this is in mere words but I’ll give it a go: it’s essentially a classic 1980s action flick with inane modern effects and a terrible story. This got more laughs than shocks in the cinema as it was just so cheesy, the highlight being Anthony Hopkins’ campy lord character – how they managed to con such a respected cast into this is absolutely beyond me. It’s far too reliant on cheap jumps / special effects, and the music is as bargain-bin as the script. It’s excessively gory, but even that doesn’t distract you from the cinema butchery. Despite the ‘expectations bar’ being set outrageously low this films still managed to comfortably limbo underneath. Avoid at all costs.

Score: 2/10