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Self/Less: when a terminally ill millionaire has his mind copied into a young and healthy body he gets a second chance at life… but there’s always a catch. This one has a great, high-concept idea at the core, however it deliberataly shifts lanes into a generic Bourne-type action movie instead; shying away from the higher brow sci-fi elements. It’s not all bad though as the action is to a decent standard, the story is a bit different, and because it’s a Tarsem Singh film the look and design is fantastic (although it’s nowhere near as styalised or ‘Tarsemmy’ as his other movies). The emotional scenes are also stronger than you’d expect from a film like this. Reynolds is great at portraying a new man; and I love how he isn’t afraid to take on more risky and interesting pictures than his peers: stuff like Buried, RIPD, The Nines, Deadpool. While Self/Less won’t be going down as a Sci-Fi (or action) classic, it’s a both solid and interesting enough to keep you entertained – and maybe even think a little – for two hours.

Score: 6/10

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There are very brief glimpses of Tarsem’s visual flare

Blackhat Festival Michael Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, Yorick van Wageningen, Tang Wei, Andy On, Manny Montana, William Mapother, Archie Kao, Cheung Siu Fai

Blackhat: when a Chinese powerplant is hacked (and blown up) using parts of his old code a l33t h4x0r (‘elite hacker’ to you and I) is released from prison to help the FBI hunt down the threat. Q: how do you sex up a computer attack at the hardware level? A: lots of flashy and swooshy CGI of bits, bytes, circuits, electricity, keyboards, transistors – obviously. Unfortunately, none of the actors really shine, because none of the characters feel developed beyond their required contribution to the story line. Even parts of the plot don’t really work, like the weird romance angle, which feels like it’s just in there to broaden the film’s appeal: strangers becoming sacrificial lovers in a couple of days, just because the film required it. Pushing that stuff aside, you still get a solid Michael Mann film with two big shootouts (a decent one at an airport, and a fucking great one in a shipyard) and a very realistic crime scenario: from the IT Security stuff and hackers evading surveillance, through to the inter-departmental squabbling and larger China-US relations – it all feels authentic. You can see how this film could flop – it’s about hacking / security / information, non of which are popular movie subjects – but I fail to understand the hate/backlash for Mann: he’s one of the few directors that could shoot a dumpster and make it look fantastic; he is pure cinema – abusing colours, locations, and an always-moving camera. Blackhat uses a somewhat wooden story to ask bigger questions about technology and global security – and with all of the slick visuals you’d expect from a world-class director.

Score: 6/10

Blackhat matrix code python PHP Java Michael Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, Yorick van Wageningen, Tang Wei, Andy On, Manny Montana, William Mapother, Archie Kao, Cheung Siu Fai

 

 

 

The Raid 2 Berandal 01 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth Evans

The Raid 2: Berandal (aka The Raid: Thug): following on directly from events in The Raid… after his brother is murdered the rookie SWAT member goes undercover in order to flush out the city’s dirty cops. It feels like director Gareth Evans is “doing a Tarantino here, drawing from a lot of established Asian movie elements: the story is essentially Infernal Affairs; the themes feel like those of a fairly standard Japanese – notably Takashi Miikegangster flick (internal power struggles, territorial battles, OTT Violence, honour, betrayal, black humour); and the visuals feel like you’re watching a modern Korean movie – e.g. Park Chan Wook – as it’s loaded with rich imagery and patterns (like the art deco ballroom and bar, sterile kitchen, snow fight) and some cartoonishly menacing enemies (‘Hammer Girl’, and the ridiculous side-combed, cane-wielding baddie) – there’s also a shitload of nods to A Bittersweet Life, from the Car/Warehouse fight to the impeccably dressed mobsters. The action scenes remain unbelievably entertaining, expertly choreographed and jaw-droppingly inventive – although shaky cam is used a lot more in this one. You never get tired watching Iko Uwais play human pinball with dozens of henchmen, exploiting the various locations, and through most of the big fights you can’t help but grab your equivalent body part that has just been mangled on-screen and shout “fuuuuck!”, every 20 seconds. Once again, there’s a good peppering of ultra-black humour to provide a little relief from the action. At 150 minutes there’s a lot that could have been cut out and not missed – from developing minor characters through to shots of nails, water, snow – although it is rigidly punctuated with big set-pieces so you never get the chance to nod off. The Raid was a powerful, gritty, relentless and raw 90-minute virtually dialoge-free history-making fight-fest that raised the bar for all action movies – and although I can understand why Evans didn’t want to just do the same again, in ‘beefing up’ The Raid 2 he has leaned a little too heavily on other director’s works, taking the edges off – and diluting – the 90-minute, 10/10 movie that’s contained in here. Niggles aside, the film is still packed with genre-defining action, cutting edge fight-choreography, and more hard-18-rated violence than you could shake a poorly-aimed shotgun at.

Score: 8/10

The Raid 2 Berandal 02 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth EvansA546_C016_06060BThe Raid 2 Berandal 04 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth EvansThe Raid 2 Berandal 05 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth Evans

The Alan Partridge MovieAlan Partridge: Alpha Papa: North Norfolk’s best DJ finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation. Well, when all other characters fail, thankfully there’s always Partridge for Coogan to fall back on. As far as the comedy goes, this is easily one of the funniest films of the year; the writing and delivery are both fantastic, it’s a great heist farse, and – most crucially – it’s as quotable as the best Partridge to date. I also love how it’s all so British, but in such a loving and honest way; the throwaway lines and small encounters, the cultural references, down to the one-hit-wonder heavy ‘Classic Rock’ / ‘Dad Rock’ soundtrack that really aids the movie’s feel-good tone. Anyone with doubts as to whether or not the TV star can sustain a feature-length will be monumentally converted. The film also stays true to the TV show, with appearances from regulars Lynne, Michael, DJ Dave Clifton, and Sidekick Simon – although it would have been good to see a few more cameos (Dan, Tex, Sonja). I just wish that Coogan would stop getting his bum out ever time he’s in a film. Let’s be honest, Alan Partridge is a national treasure, and most fans were apprehensive about a movie; that being said you couldn’t ask for more of Alpha Papa, it’s simply a great comedy film that will be appearing in many critic’s lists at the end of the year.

Score: 9/10

alan-partridge-alpha-papa Steve Coogan, Alan Partridge, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenal, Colm Meaney, Monica Dolan, Nigel Lindsay, Darren Boyd, Jaspal Badwell, Robert Whitelock, Peter Baynham, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci

Human Centipede 2 - Martin - Laurence R. Harvey, Maddi Black, Ashlynn Yennie, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude, Georgia Goodrick, Emma Lock, Katherine Templar, Peter Blankenstein

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (Not for the faint hearted): A car park security guard becomes obsessed with his Human Centipede DVD, and sets about creating his own pet with 12 people instead of 3 – and no medical knowledge, or tools… The premise is interesting, very post-modern and ‘meta’. But getting down to business: on a shock/gore/filth level, director Tom Six promised to make the first Human Centipede film look like “My Little Pony” when held up against this – and much to my disbelief, it genuinely does. Unlike the first one, where the horror is all off-screen and in your mind, in THC2 everything is laid out on the table, in glorious HD: torture, mutilation, teeth bashing, skin slicing, stapling, hacking and shitting – it’s hyper-graphic and positively gut-wrenchingly, toe-curlingly, vomit-inducing. The final 30 minute gory climax is absolutely beyond excessive, beyond boundaries, beyond taste, and beyond the thinkable – and that’s with 2mins 30secs of cuts. Gore and controversy aside, there are actually some things to like about this film. The main guy Martin – Laurence R. Harvey’s feature debut – is an outstanding genre-defining bad guy. His bug-eyed physicality is amazing, coming across as a truly deranged, demented, creepy and repulsive person, without saying a single word. Between the killings, kidnappings and gore, the film’s tone and direction are jaw-droppingly arthouse – as opposed to the cliche’d run-of-the-mill horror/B-movie cheapness & lazy non-efforts you’re used to. Filming in black and white make sense given all of the physical SFX – and even gives Tom Six the chance to insert an absolutely ridiculous Schindler’s List joke with dark orange projectile diarrhea. In the end, The Human Centipede 2 it’s made by someone who clearly knows and loves everything about the horror/extreme/torture genre, and most surprisingly, knows how to direct, well. I’ve not seen “A Serbian Film”, nor do I particularly want to – but I would still bet that this is one of the nastiest and most extreme pieces of ‘film’ anyone could legally get their hands on. As with the first one, this is absolutely not for everyone, but if it’s even possible to like the sound of it, or you fancy an endurance test, give it a spin.

Score: 4.5/10
B-Movie: 7/10

Human Centipede 2 - Centipede - Laurence R. Harvey, Maddi Black, Ashlynn Yennie, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude, Georgia Goodrick, Emma Lock, Katherine Templar, Peter Blankenstein

NSFW/TASTELESS/EXPLICIT DETAIL WARNING: According to Wikipedia: the stuff that didn’t make it in to the UK cut “Martin masturbating with sandpaper around his penis; graphic sight of a man’s teeth being removed with a hammer; graphic sight of lips being stapled to naked buttocks; graphic sight of forced defaecation into and around other victims’ mouths; Martin with barbed wire wrapped around his penis violently raping a woman; a newborn baby being killed; and the graphic sight of injury as staples are torn away from individuals’ mouths and buttocks.”

Human Centipede 2 - Tools- Laurence R. Harvey, Maddi Black, Ashlynn Yennie, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude, Georgia Goodrick, Emma Lock, Katherine Templar, Peter Blankenstein

Infernal Affairs III: part sequel to number 2, and part semi-prequel to the original movie. The layout of the story in this film is ridiculous: it leaps all over the entire ‘Infernal Affairs’ timeline like a demented flea – so much so that it’s a chore trying to keep track of what’s before, after and between the previous two movies. It also doesn’t help matters that 6 characters have been thrown back on the screen after being killed in the first two movies! It even feels like it’s been directed by someone else, which it hadn’t, but tells us that even the director couldn’t be arsed. The signature moments of flare and tension are replaced with lots of forced, over-egged dramatic moments that rely on swooshy sound effects and slow-mo camera movements to create drama out of nothing. It really feels like IA3 only exists because the first two movies were so successful; it’s clearly retrospectively written, rushed, ill-conceived and a tad cynical. it’s a bit of a crushingly disappointing way of capping off a brilliant first and decent second film.

Score: 2.510

Rumble in the Bronx: whilst visiting his uncle in New York, Keong fom Hong Kong finds himself in the crosshairs of several gangs. The premise is basic (like the far East’s rebuttal to Black Rain – the West is full of uncivilized, violent punks!), the plot twists are silly and the acting’s borderline woeful, but this film has Jackie Chan; and an on form Jackie Chan of that! The action set pieces are still among the best you can find today; the shop fight, back alley fight, car park chase, and the superb gang den fight… action doesn’t get any better than this: strength, acrobatic skills, timing, planning, intuitive use of space & objects – it’s almost unbelievable. I could genuinely watch these scenes on loop all day and never get bored. The biggest stunts have a timeless jaw-dropping quality, mostly because they’re real and well-edited: you want to pull down a building? Lets build one to demolish! You want a hovercraft/car chase scene? Lets make it happen on real streets! Jackie Chan jumping a large gap between to 10-storey buildings? CGI boring and waste of money! Above the eye-blasting stuntwork there’s a lot of camera-friendly graffiti, clothes, cars, buildings and other such eye candy. There’s a couple of bizarre slapstick scenes that stick out like sore thumbs, but other than that, it’s all gravy. Sure it will never be on a Criterion or AFI “best films of all time” list, but Rumble in the Bronx is entertainment in one of its most pure and watchable forms, and they just don’t make ’em like this any more.

Score: 8/10