The Purge Anarchy: America remains a prosperous and healthy nation thanks to the continuation of The Purge – a 12-hour window where, once a year, all crime is legal. Instead of a single home invasion this is spread over a metropolitan ‘downtown’ area over several families & plots, which come together in order to form a ‘multi-racial, rich-and-poor misfit bunch fighting against the odds’ scenario – luckily for the gang there’s a gruff anti-hero among them. This leaves the film creeping into more generic survival thriller territory; however what’s lost in immediate plot is compensated for with a more interesting take on the purge itself, seeing the bigger picture with military contractors, organised protection, organised crime, class wars, and flat-out buying poor people to butcher all coming into play here. Retaining its real-world and ‘realistic’ roots really help generate and maintain a sustained sense of threat, and the world is unquestionably dystopian and off-kilter enough to feel creepy throughout – other than the central characters everyone else feels like a dark caricature. Ultimately, The Purge movies work best if you buy into the conceit; for me the concept is brilliant and Anarchy is more ambitious and interesting than the previous purge, but in doing so becomes a little bit more familiar.
Mad Max: Fury Road – in a bleak future where oil and water are scarce and controlled by gangs, two rebels at different ends of the system go head-to-head with the status quo. From the opening scene the aesthetic of the movie feels fresh and unique – like a cross between a high-production Slipknot video, and a demented steampunk circus gone wild; it’s like nothing else you’ll see on the big screen with this much budget behind it. Everything about Fury Road is certified batshit mental – the ganglords and their henchmen are all grotesque and eccentric with masks, nipple clamps, and caricatured physicalities. Big shout out to the ridiculous moshing / headbanging gayerish masked flamethrower guitarist suspended to one of the armored rigs – not just a mascot for his clan, he perfectly sums up everything that’s demented but enjoyable about this movie. The score is another crucial element that lifts the film far beyond mediocrity; a mix of classical orchestral licks paired with magniloquent tribal drumming – it’s a delight to listen to, and keeps your pulse racing. Conceived in 1998 and spending until now in ‘development hell’ or cancelled, Mad Max 4 is 100% worth the wait. A balls-to-the-wall straight up action movie that has it all; epic and sustained action set-pieces that continually impress; great actors, and set in a unique and impressive world – just shut down your PC right now and go see it on the biggest screen you can find.
The Purge: In the near future crime and unemployment are at an all-time low, thanks to the purge – 12 hours every year where all crime is legal. I loves me a good old B-Movie, and this film has it all: a strong single-concept, near-future dystopia, home invasion / terror flick. It’s 80 minutes long, and could have even cut a bit more out of the setup. There’s’ action. There’s some gore. The baddies are sufficiently scary, whilst remaining authentically ‘Kids next door’. Best of all, there’s a serious social commentary that runs through the entire movie; that makes you think about what you’d be doing in this family’s shoes. In fact, the only thing that bugged me about this was that the son was such a complete idiot-hole moron assface – who continually did the most stupid things for no reason (although it did conveniently push the plot along). The Purge is the kind of film that if you don’t buy into the conceit, you’ll completely hate it. I bought into it, and loved every minute of it.
The only two rules of Purge Club
- No government official holding Rank 10 or higher is to be murdered, harmed, have harm caused to them, or in any event brought to harm in any case.
- Weapons above Class 4 are forbidden, meaning that destructive devices (rocket launchers, grenades, bombs or missiles) and explosive materials are excluded from The Purge.
Bullet to the Head: a career hitman and police detective team up in order to bring down a corrupt politician. From the opening scene (and every other frame of the duration) this is 100% a shameless Sly Stallone action vehicle – making him out to be as cool and badass as possible for the duration – which, let’s face it, a 66 year-old action hall-of-famer, doesn’t really need to do. His voice sounds like a sub-sonic stroke victim – so close to requiring re-dubbing or subs. Almost every minor character (wannabe models and actors) seem to be using this film as nothing more than exposure. The action scenes are poorly handled; but even blurry focus, fast cuts and shaky cam can’t spice up what’s clearly shit fights! To make up for this Sly and Walter Hill cram as many other things from the action B-movie checklist as possible: big loud guns, sexy cars, booze, nudity, drugs, tattoos, broads and more fights – and it never aims higher than that. The bi-racial ‘buddy’ element (90% of the film) reeks of 1980s – and generates cheap ‘cultural misconceptions’ and ‘hilarious’ misunderstandings RE: opposing work-ethics. The final talking point is some in-yer-face product placement – namely cars and Bulleit Burbon. While The Expendables (& #2) takes everything that was awesome about 80s action films and cranks them up past 11, up to 15; Bullet to the Head feels like a typical action B-movie with one big star and half a budget, and in the end, it’s not a bad film, but despite their best efforts, this is nowhere near Stallone or Hill’s glory days.
The Sweeney: a hardboiled copper that plays by his own rules has internal affairs crawling over his operation, just as a jewelry heist bears all of the hallmarks of an old nemesis. First off, I’ve never seen the original TV show, so have nothing to compare it against. The story arc is as ‘cop drama’ cliché as they come, but the characters, primarily Winstone, are what pulls the film through. The few action scenes that pop up (Trafalgar Square, caravan car chase, house raid…) are well-handled & ambitious and they’re balanced off with some great comedy moments – particularly the restaurant/date scene. With the budget limitations (a meager £3M) it sometimes feels televisual, but there’s usually enough flare to notice the slick direction. Ray, Ben and Hayley do well with their characters, but nobody else has much to do. While it’s not the most original story, and not the biggest-budget affair, The Sweeney is a rock-solid cop thriller that punches way above its weight. Do you like it when Ray Winstone calls people ‘slegs‘? Do you like gritty cop thrillers? Do you understand thick LANDAN accents? If so, then this is a film for you.
Here’s the science bit: Sweeney = Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad
The Dark Knight Rises: eight years after The Joker’s antics Batman faces his latest, and toughest opponent – Bane. The tone straddles the story-driven Batman Begins, and the action/spectacle of The Dark Knight. Rises also functions surprisingly well as both a stand-alone movie, and trilogy wrap up: epitomised by Scarecrow, who appears, but isn’t dwelled on. The action set pieces are great (especially the Police Vs Goons fight!!) and when it’s matched with such slick visuals and the booming post-Inception soundtrack – it’s an unbeatable force. Of the three new characters, JGL does the most impressing, although it’s mostly because of the other two’s costumes: masking a performer like Hardy, reducing him to just eyes is nothing short of a travesty, and Hathaway amounts to little more than her catsuit, merely serving as a story catalyst. All other performances are rock-solid across the board – particularly Caine, who I’ve rarely enjoyed, but was surprisingly emotive in this. The biggest pain in my ass was the unresolved voice issues with Batman in costume, hospitalised Gordon being too gravelly to fully understand, as well as Bane whose voice is both hard to tune in to and so ridiculous that it wouldn’t be out-of-place in a South Park episode. I also felt that the duality between Bane and B Wayne was interesting, but even as someone who has never read the comics – it could probably have been explored further. What’s impressed me most about the trilogy is the dedication to keeping everything grounded and realistic – even with the list of ‘superhero’-style of characters, there’s always an explanation and it always feels plausible. I’ll take my hat off to Nolan, who has made yet another smart, sophisticated film out of ‘superheroes’ / comic book material – while keeping it accessible and enjoyable to all audiences.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: the IMF’s best agent Ethan Hunt is back again; his team go off the grid as they’re blamed for bombing the Kremlin – they must also stop an unfolding global Nuclear War – instigated by a madman! This film sticks to what the franchise does best; action and tension. The tension is wrung out and maximised like a boss; the Kremlin corridor and double-meeting in particular are proper edge-of-your-seat scenes. The action is also well above par, bone-crunching fist-fights and well-handled/edited camera work (other than the sloppy sandstorm chase). This story is typical of the other three films, with more newfangled espionage in various hyper-photogenic locations. Pegg comes out on top of the cast, providing a bit more comic relief than usual, but avoids becoming the clown – everyone else is solid. There’s some awesome gadgets and technical details for your inner-geek, the fastest-booting servers in the world and an onslaught of Apple products. On the downside, it definitely needed more Ving Rhames quips & ass-kicking, and Nyqvist as the ‘main’ bad guy could have done with more screen time and evil development. M:I-4 is another slick instalment of the winning James Bond formula cranked up to 11.
Bangkok Adrenaline: four backpackers lose a card game and now own local gangsters 1 million baht – so they kidnap an heiress and everything kicks off. It looks like (and is) a mid-low budget film, but that gives it a cheesy-charming and admirable vibe; it also makes light of many B-movie action tropes, which is a good touch of humour. Filmed in Thailand and only 80 minutes long, the budget goes a long, long way here. it’s very ‘laddish’ – opening 10 minutes are identical to Lock, Stock – and it’s end-to-end packed with machismo / babes / fighting / gambling / cars /guns and even has a slow-mo walking scene! The story’s pretty simple but the action is an absolute roundhouse kick-o-rama; this is how everyone should choreograph, film and edit action set pieces! There’s about 5 jaw-dropping fight/chase scenes, and the final 20 minutes, all worth picking this up for alone – and all done to a higher standard that most Hollywood films. This won’t be for everyone, for fans on Tony Jaa / District 13 style films it’s a must-see action flick that delivers he goods.
Luther (Series 2): Detective CI John Luther Thud! Is back on the streets of London Thud! Stopping more bad guys Thud! and saving the day Thud… Hear that? That’s the sound of the BBC dropping the balls of everything that made series one great. 1) Format changed from 1 hour 1 case to 2 hours 1 case – also instead of 6 there are only 4 episodes (and only 2 cases) 2) Bad guys are ridiculous, one is straight out of a Saw film, and the other was just a normal nerd – neither particularly scary, or believable 3) Good, established characters are neglected – most noticeably crazy Alice, who is majorly poo poo’d – and the show suffers big time – and Schenk, who was hot on Luther’s heels in S1 and now his immediate boss. 4) Worst side story ever (Geezers, porn, drugs…) although I strongly suspect it was written as a 2-episode case, but was so bad they cut it in to the others as a backstory. 5) Super-Luther… he was suspiciously good in Series 1, but it’s all a bit too “just one more thig…” this time round. On the up side, there’s some really tense scenes, we get more of Ripley, the acting and production are to a high standard, and it’s still watchable. Don’t get me wrong, Series 2 is still good TV by UK standards, but it’s a mere shadow of the brilliant series 1.
I’m A Cyborg: offbeat buddy movie set in an asylum as two very, very memorable characters form an unlikely friendship. There’s an absolutely insane first part, with a ton of story unfolding, busy shots, hectic scenes, crazy and colourful sets; it all pumps you up and gets you excited. The leading lady absolutely steals the show with her portrayal of a girl who genuinely believes she’s a robot – and can talk to electrical appliances – however the main male (Rain, who hulked up for Ninja Assassin!!WTF!!) and Chan-wook behind the camera are both continually vying for your attention. Most of the script, puns and jokes translate in to English very well, which is uncommon and is a welcome kick in the teeth to the Asian symbolism and culture that doesn’t always export. The only real downer is that whereas the first 70 minutes absolutely fly by, the final 30 feel quite sluggish in comparison as the pace is deliberately throttled… there’s still some great scenes, but it definitely peaks too soon. It’s a great concept, crammed with yet more exciting filmmaking from Park Chan Wook, Almost like a quirkier modern day cuckoos nest, with robots and masks – and I’ll definitely be re-watching it again soon.