No Blood No tears (피도 눈물도 없이, Pi-do nunmul-do eobsi): Korean mish-mash film centered around a gangster’s wife and some girl power – I think? The DVD box, and most reviews have ‘Guy Ritchie’ plastered all over them – this comparison feels like a massive stretch as No Blood No Tears is very rough and low-budget, with very occasional glimpses of competency and ‘cool’. Most obviously, there’s a few half-decent fight scenes, but these, and anything else people may enjoy in this film are marred by some shambolic storytelling that cuts around time and location for no apparent reason (I guess that’s the Guy Ritchie stuff?). Half an hour in and there were still plenty of new characters popping up, and I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Ultimately, I expected better from the director that went on to do Arahan (batshit crazy) and Crying Fist (Solid boxing film), but I knew from the opening 35 minutes that there was no way on earth I was going to like – or finish – this one. Not the worst film ever, but just majorly confusing. Perhaps it’d be like a Korean watching Lock Stock for the first time and just thinking… WTF?!?!
Alternative Plan: eject this and straight on to the next movie
Shaolin Soccer (少林足球, Siu lam juk kau): a has-been footballer (soccer player) convinces a struggling Kung-Fu master to form a football (soccer) team with his equally gifted ragamuffin friends. It’s so silly, bawdy, theatrical and over-the-top that it feels like it’s based on a manga series – apparently it isn’t! The story’s a bit stupid, but the film finds some form during the wire-work and CGI heavy ‘football’ (‘soccer) matches. Even by bad Asian standard the acting – although probably closer to mincing – is fairly shoddy, and it’s difficult to know if the actors were hired for their martial arts skills because most of the action is entirely green screen. Shaolin Soccer is entertaining enough, but behind the SFX it’s quite a formulaic sports film that’s too erratic to properly enjoy, and not particularly funny or dramatic enough to be noteworthy. All-in, I can’t understand why there’s so much love for this – definitely not one for proper football (soccer) fans.
Top Gun: a hot-headed fighter-pilot is sent to train with the top 1% at the Air Force’s finest training school – Top Gun. This is one of those films I watched in complete disbelief, why is it that this has become such a popular, ‘must see’ movie? The best thing about it is the music, but even that’s criminally overused: Danger Zone pops up 3 times, and Berlin’s Take My Breath Away appears 4 times!! The aerial combat scenes (central to the plot) aren’t quite as fluent and obvious as you’d expect – with limited shots and a lot of rough cuts: it relied more on the pilot’s communications to keep you informed. Not much to say about the script, other than it’s terrible, beyond hammy, and packed with so much innuendo that they had to have deliberately been going for a campy vibe: one character actually shouts “I want some butts”. Kilmer and Cruise don’t have to do much other than oil up, stand about in towels covered in sweat beads, square up chest to chest and erotically whisper lines like…
“Yea, I know”
“What about it”
It’s a film jammed with so much machismo that it unknowingly ends up mincing it’s way over to the ‘camp classic’ section.
“I was invaded!”
Breaking Bad (Season 4): The pressure’s turned up even higher as Walter White and his protégé Jessie Pinkman play a dangerous game of tactics with Mexico and ABQ’s top drug kingpins. This is the first season of BB that comes out of the blocks sprinting, starting dramatically, with the coldest murder to date. Almost every episode has a narrative purpose, story & character development and some solid drama – it’s not just about the characters anymore (finally). Needless to say the acting is some of the finest on TV; Walt and Jessie continue to evolve, but it’s Gus who shines brightest as an ever-calm, focused, calculating, courteous, professional, ruthless, business-minded, innocuous drug lord. Hank gets a lot more time, and a gripping sub-plot as he does some top investigation work; as does Mike, Gus’ hardened, dryly comic right-hand man. Visually, the show is like nothing else, with so many innovative & beautiful time-lapses, montages, and knockout camera shots. They’re often unusually high or low which sticks out; attached to an object (like a shovel or self-navigating vacuum cleaner); and sometimes stuck inside / behind / under something – a pipe or oven – and there’s even a dodgy ‘filming up through glass pretending to be underground’ shot. The show’s visual flair is one of its best and most unique features, and something that always keeps you on your toes. The tone also becomes more eclectic as everything closes in on Walt: synth music and manic laughter wouldn’t feel out of place in The Shining, and there’s some flat-out slapstick moments like Walt scrambling around his house trying to evade hitmen. Season 4 is when Breaking Bad finally makes the leap from good to fantastic and unmissable TV; every aspect is continually improving and evolving in to everything you could ask of a show; stylistically, plot-wise, and such 3D characters – which comes together to produce a final product that is entertaining, thrilling, dark, funny, ‘gritty’, and believable.
Breaking Bad Season 1 Review
Breaking Bad Season 2 Review
Breaking Bad Season 3 Review
Tokyo Decadence (トパーズ, Topāzu): a specialist prostitute with a very particular set of skills is doing some very strange things with salarymen in the hotel rooms of Tokyo. The opening scene has a girl strapped to a chair, gagged, blindfolded then injected with heroin – if that makes you uncomfortable, this film’s probably not for you. It starts of feeling like an exploration piece/eye-opener focusing on an extreme (sub)culture. The film portrays some extremely ‘out-there’ acts, without appearing to be overly leery or vulgar. It keeps upping the ante scene by scene until there’s nowhere else left to go; then it implodes during an ending which, out of nowhere moves the film from a risqué/explicit/shock melodrama into plain old existential pompousity. It’s packed with rough cutting and hard editing; difficult to know if it’s intentional/stylistic or just budgetary constraints. If you like a bit of smut dressed as art or ‘world cinema’ then this is about as wild as you’ll probably get; and if you dig S&M, Bondage, BDSM, Dominatrices etc etc then it’s probably a must own. As a film however, Tokyo Decadence is fairly unremarkable, and if you took away the controversial/notorious S&M scenes it would be a completely unremarkable 2-hour instantly forgettable snooze-fest.
Angry Boys: Australian comedy mockumentary (12 Episodes) that follows 6 people – Identical troublesome teenage twins Nathan and Daniel; a kid’s hip-hop star S.Mouse; mother & manager of American-Japanese skateboarder Jen Okazaki; veteran juvenile prison officer Gran; and former surfing world champion, Blake Oakfield. There’s a 50-50 split between the better and more believable stories/characters (the twins and Gran) and the ridiculous stereotypes of Okazaki and S.Mouse – Blake just feels like filler. Six comedy characters is a large remit for shape-shifting Lilley, but he throws himself into the roles well. Not unlike his previous outings smut and shock provide the most laughs – although every episode only has about one or two proper laughs, and the rest is just ‘funny enough’. It’s also just as politically incorrect, and with a the Asian and Black characters there’s some line-treading racial stereotypes. There’s no real story convergence until the very end and the ‘big finale’ is quite the let down; although would have been almost impossible to execute. Angry boys is entertaining enough to push through the season, but not by much more. The scope of 6 characters and 12 episodes diluted and hid some of great material and characters in the script.
Slither: A small hick town is invaded by mind-controlling aliens, sound familiar? That’s because it’s been done a thousand times. I thought the big budget and production would have saved this… I thought wrong. For the first 40 minutes the only highlight was seeing a 5 second clip from the ‘Toxic Avenger’ on a television. The gore and effects were fairly good and there’s a tiny sliver of nudity but the rest is bad news, bad news that even Michael Rooker couldn’t save. Cheap jumps, stock characters, inane animal brutality, oral-loving CGI slugs and generally showing off the SFX covers the rest of this flick. I’d rather watch a cheap B-movies with heart than another boring CGI orgy, any day. Gory twaddle.