Game of Thrones (Season 1): several noble families with royal ties feud over the right to rule all seven kingdoms in a medieval-ish fantasy epic. One year prior, Spartacus was balls deep in rumpy–pumpy and graphic violence, which felt like it was pushing boundaries; then someone in HBO said had said: “lets take Spartacus as a starting point, then add as much over the top sensational stuff as you can. 3, 2, 1… GO GO GO!” GoT is loaded with full frontal nudity (sausages, chuffs, and udders), blood, gore, prostitutes, lesbians, and as much offensive language as censors allow; not to mention the taboos like breastfeeding and incest being pretty major plot points. Whilst these add to the show’s notoriety, it detracts from the Rome-like inter-weaving political storylines; continually reminding you that it’s actually being pitched at teenage boys. Other than the odd stinker (Arya Stark!!) the cast are generally decent; although different characters giving their roles different levity levels – from scenery chewing (King) to borderline comedic (Bronn). Peter Dinklage is the one actor that really sticks out from the vast ensemble – impressing and entertaining with his larger than life character. Due to the number of characters, families, locations and concurrent plots there’s a lot of dialogue-heavy slapdash whistle-stop history & exposition lectures between characters – some hit the mark better than others, but most are required. While there’s one big “Holy Shit” moment, Season One feels like a 10-hour teaser – promising better things to come; introducing white walkers (zombie-ish creatures), dragons, teeing up a war – but blatantly not following any of it through to anywhere near conclusion.
The Master: a veteran returns home and is eventually taken under the wing of a charismatic charlatan. To get the ‘acting’ chat out of the way, Joaquin Phoenix turns in a career-defining performance of a multi-layered borderline perverted post-war wayward career alcoholic who is – we’re led to believe – physically and mentally disabled – it’s an acting accomplishment of the highest order. PSH is good, but – and I know it’s ridiculous to say – you always expect big shouty performances like this from him now. The rest of the cast are top dollar, but only appear for minutes at a time. The film itself is rather vague; part psychology, part character study, part love story, part drama, part coming-of-age, part religious historical… it feels very unplanned and ill-though out. It borrows some major themes similarities from There Will Be Blood, and to a lesser extent harks back to Magnolia, and the similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology’s beginnings, and leader, are about as subtle as a brick to the face – it was almost silly to not name it. The Master is a strange one: the subject matter’s interesting, the acting’s top-drawer, it’s beautifully shot (so much so that plenty scenes resemble ‘art’ more than ‘cinema’) … but the way in which it’s edited, and the often bizarre content of many scenes’ make it infuriatingly alienating. By the end of this 140 minute endurance test, I was long disinterested. It’s a shame that some magnificent performances are upstaged and drowned out by such irreverent cinematic and narrative wankery (for the second time in two weeks!).
Father’s Day: a string of dads are being raped and killed by “The Fuchman”, so a priest travels the globe to track down the one-eyed anti-hero that can save the day. There’s dismemberment, gore, cannibalism & masturbation in the first few frames, so be under no illusions… this is exploitation smut at it’s most rotten! For the first 20 minutes, it’s not entirely obvious whether this is trying to be a serious b-movie or a comedy spoof; but as the gags start piling on it becomes clear. The film marries tongue in cheek genre humour with outlandish and graphic shocks; epitomised in a dick-biting scene which leaves little to the imagination. For a Troma-funded b-movie, it does well to capture the guerilla / ‘cult’ / independent / cheap vibe, synonymous with the brand – and for a low-budget movie, the budget is impressively stretched to infinity. It’s well-shot, but smothered in post-production Machete-esque grain and distortion which comes and goes for no particular reason. Towards the end it becomes totally absurd, the likes of which I can only really compare to some of the CKY skits from the first 4 videos, still it remains funny and entertaining. Father’s Day is a post-Machete, sub-Hobo, spoof / homage of the direct-to-video slashers of the 70s/80s, with a ton of blood and titties to keep modern audiences satisfied. While it lacks a coherent narrative, there’s a thousand ideas thrown at it, which is more than enough to save the movie, and leaves B-movie aficionados plenty like and admire.
Volver: borderline surreal movie that tells the story of a Spanish family going through some rough times. It would be impossible to watch this film and not notice that it’s pretty much a showcase of Penelope Cruz (and her magnificent chest). Despite this her performance is stellar as she leads the cast cast, once again proving that Spanish-language films truly bring out the best in her. The film’s shot brilliantly, and the vibrant colours and great cinematography really bring another dimension – the Blu Ray would be great. There’s a lot of over-acting, almost to soap opera level, and as the story progresses it gets less believable to the point where the drama isn’t effective. Some great dialogue and black comedy moments throughout too. All-in, it’s very Spanish and unmistakably Almaldovar, which is by no means a bad thing; although it’s not quite his best. Definitely worth watching.