Klown (aka Klovn, aka Klown: The Movie) – to prove that he’s father material an awkward and unlucky guy takes his 12-year-old nephew on a canoeing trip with his sex-obsessed friend – what could go wrong!? It’s based on a successful Danish TV show, and the style feels stuck in that format – ‘Dogme 95’ is about as close as you could describe it in cinematic terms. The story plays out like a jet-black feature-length Curb your Enthusiasm episode: lots of small details and throwaway lines coming together for cringe-tastically embarrassing ‘shouldn’t-be-laughing’ mishaps, but don’t let Curb put you off if you’re not a fan as the Danish humour is vastly different. The two-fold aspect that sets Klown apart from contemporary comedies is a phenomenal script outline that gets very dark and risqué; which is built on by two great comedians improvising and bouncing off each other. It’s more male-centric humour than you usually see, but Klown had me continually laughing out loud for the duration. If you can’t handle a finger in the bum, lots of willy talk, or the phrase ‘Tour de Pussy’ being repeated lots you probably won’t be a fan of this. Klown is a crass but surprisingly heartwarming road trip movie that blows most Hollywood output out of the water.
Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a Chan–Wook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.
Wolf of Wall Street: based on the memoirs of a drugged-up banker that did a load of bad things. Most obviously, three hours is just far, far, far too long for this story, which is essentially: motivational speech, loads of drugs, party harder than Andrew WK, repeat x20. The premise is classic Scorsese – rise-and-fall – but they way in which it’s told, what he chose to film, and how he chose to film it is anything but. There’s so much skin, sex, sensationilsm, and alpha-male testosterone in here that it felt like Michael Bay defiling a Scorsese sceenplay. Another huge problem is that the main character – Jordan Belfort – isn’t even remotely likeable or interesting; just a one-dimensional, remorseless asshole. On the plus side the script it great, the casting is magnificent and Scorsese really gets the most from them. It’s also very funny, funnier than most comedies, although it does have a lot of time to play with. Sadly, it feels a bit cheap coming from someone that’s brought us films like The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver… and it made me remember how good a film Boiler Room was. Scorsese – you’re above this. Studios – no director is above cutting empty & pointless scenes from! Not Scorsese, not Tarantino, nobody.
Starbuck: a middle-aged slacker gets the wake-up call of his life when a lawyer informs him that he has fathered 533 children through a series of sperm donations from 20 years ago. First off, this is one of the few genuinely feel-good, heartwarming, upbeat films I can remember watching – the majority of films in this genre suffer from being far too sickly or cheesy. Director Ken Scott gets the tone absolutely perfect, as it juggles ‘happy viewing’ with enough drama and comedy to keep it interesting and varied. The film looks fantastic for the duration, great use of colour, imagery, locations, that lead to a pop-art, borderline dreamy effect. It’s a ballsy and unique directorial style, but complements the film perfectly. Patrick Huard, as the lead, is a solid screen presence that – no matter what he’s doing – manages to stay entertaining. The film’s kept fairly safe in that it’s never portrayed as creepy that the guy is unknowingly interfering in the kid’s lives, and that ethical / acceptance issues are glossed over, it also gets a little sappy as the ending approaches. The vibe of the film reminds me of ‘Love Me if you Dare‘, both colourful, artistic, upbeat and undeniably French. Starbuck wasn’t much of a hit in the cinemas in the UK, but it is an absolutely top-drawer feel-good comedy film, and a European gem.
Note: naturally, with this being such a good film, Hollywood has decided to give this the Vince Vaughn treatment – renamed ‘The Delivery Man’. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but I don’t think that Mr Vaughn has anywhere near the amount of charm or magnetism to match Patrick Huard’s performance.
Love Exposure (愛のむきだし): everything’s epic these days: a night out, food, car insurance, 99% of fails… how about this for a movie epic: a 4 hour film examining the relationships between religion, cults, family, perversion, sins, obscenity, love, erections, and upskirt photography. THAT’S EPIC! First-off, it feels a lot more like a TV series: technically (camerawork, budget, quality etc) and story-wise in the four, quite individual hour-long segments of the film. The acting however is fantastic; all three youngster are great to watch, but the two main adults are particularly engaging and believable – really adds to the drama. When one of the main story threads is the usage of ninja moves (and weapons) to take upskirt pictures in order to sin – it’s mental, it’s batshit mental, and when you throw in some schoolgirl karate lesbians it could really only be from Japan. In saying that, it’s all done very well and with lots of humour, much like the pervert’s motto the film is “Careful, Oblivious and Bold”. Staying true to it’s subject matter, there’s at least one – if not a montage – panty shot every 10 minutes – so if that’s your bag, this is an absolute must-own. For being as long as it is, the melodramatic final half hour is the only time the film feels like it’s truly stretched. Love Exposure is a lot of things, but at four hours (237 minutes!) long, and containing this subject matter – forgettable is definitely not one of them.
Juan of the Dead (Juan De Los Muertos): when zombies infest Havana Juan and his friends start up a zombie disposal service for survivors that want zombies out of their house. For a zom-com this is, crucially, really funny – the film’s held together with great moments of dark humour, and several genuinely laugh-out-loud running gags about the zombies being branded “dissidents” by the government, harpoons and poking fun at wider horror clichés. For a country with such a tiny film industry, it’s well shot and directed – with decent action scenes (mostly hacking and slashing) – and it looks great, save for some lame CGI explosions. The political undertones and jibes at the government are great because it’s something that Romero did at the beginning of the Zombie resurgence that has been lost in the plethora of modern flicks. Being Spanish, it does suffer from some over-acting, with most of the supporting cast ‘hamming it up’, and for some reason, a completely unnecessary random man in drag. It’s also crammed with naff music that sounds ripped off of cheap TV adverts and old ‘carry on’ films. Juan of the Dead is far more than just a witty title (and tagline “He’s Havana killer day”) – it’s a funny, entertaining zombie romp with more to say than most horror films.
“She’s a blogger; one of those people that write nonsense on the internet”
3-Iron (Bin-Jip): a young man takes temporary residence in the homes of holidaying families; washing their clothes and fixing their broken stuff as payment. The central character is absolutely fascinating: peculiar, creepy, kind, well-meaning, frugal, meticulous, disturbed, zombie-like… what makes it all the more unbelievable is that he doesn’t say a word for the duration – it’s an exceptional performance. The central aspect of the film is a bit odd, but it’s the attention to detail and ghost-like existence of the characters that make it all so unsettling. The film gets a tad silly towards the end with the hiding in plain sight/shadow dancing stuff, but it’s poignant and justified nonetheless. Being such a peculiar love story set in a bizarre situation, I can see why people wouldn’t like this film; it’s also two almost-speechless leading roles, but the performances are haunting and memorable – if you give this a change and ‘buy in’ to the idea – 3-Iron is a truly unforgettable film.
Giallo: when a string of beautiful foreign women are abducted, brutalised and dumped in the streets of Torino an air hostess and jaded detective join up to catch the killer. Everything about this reeks of a cheap 1980s horror; the foreign setting, production values, film quality, characters, hairstyles, music, storytelling, and the ridiculous villain… Other than a few modern-ish torture scenes, this could easily be mistaken for an old, cheap film. There’s an eccentric pan-European cast, with some terrible acting and broken-English phonetic dialogue delivery, headed up by Brody, as a hammy New Yorker who looks like he’s forgotten everything he learnt about convincing acting. What’s most disappointing is that Dario Argento, someone who was once a master of the horror genre, is still pumping out films that show zero progression from his 1970s/1980s titles – if anything, they were far superior. It’s under 90 minutes long, yet contains so many unnecessary filler shots. Basically, this is no better or different to any of the thousands of low-budget shitty horrors you’d find on satellite TV (although some score higher!). At its best, this is a semi-competent euro-slasher. At its worst, it’s like a spoof genre picture where a pursuing policeman falls over after running into a mop. I’ve seen it all before, far better.
Due Date: After both being put on the no fly list two polar opposites have to share a car across America to make it back in time for the arrival of a baby. The first half is like a gag machine gun, then they swap some of the joke time for more serious character development and curveball story points ’til the end. Being in 99% of the scenes both actors needed to be bang on the money, and they were. Downy Jr’s reprises several of his semi-likable borderline mad man roles, and Galifianakis has impeccable comedic timing, nailing a fleshed out version of Alan from the Hangover. While it’s funny the trailer reveals a lot of the good stuff, definitely reducing the impact of at least 1/2 the jokes – in saying that, there’s much more packed away in the film. The humour cover all bases too: slapstick, black, stoner, witty and gross-out – never thought I’d see a dog do that. A bit like Art Race there’s a ton of great shots of America from being on the road. While it’s not quite as good as the hangover, it’s the same mish-mash of comedy, fraternity, and crazy random events that will make it a similar hit. The final product is gag after gag threaded together with a believable and melodramatic relationship that works quite well – and in the end, it’s Just an all-round funny and watchable film.
Spartacus Blood and tits Sand: 150% testosterone-fueled 13-part swords and sandals epic – It’s essentially what would happen if the cast of 300 violated the story and actresses of BBC‘s Rome. I’ll get the controversial stuff out of the way first. Violence, there’s literally GCI bucketloads of flying limbs, heads, blood and teeth every time someone grabs a weapon – most memorable; a gladiator cuts a dead opponent’s face off and wears it as a mask in his next fight – awesome… just awesome. Secondly, Spartacus is a celebration of Skin; it’s a conveyor belt of gratuitous Spartan chests, fake and real breasts, naked men fighting, women getting rammed, guys getting tugged off and gay gladiators bumming each other – most memorable; Lucy “Xena Warrior Princess” Lawless getting her gobstoppers out! Thirdly, the Dialogue sounds like 20 drunk sailors sat at a whiteboard and played the ‘best insult ever’ competition – some of the combinations are so imaginative and foul that they even impressed this sweary Scotsman. Controversy aside the actually story is so, so epic, and nowhere as linear or predictable as you’d expect – it twists and turns right to the last scene with endless betrayals, story developments and murders. The acting is also startlingly good given that there’s very few big names, so many characters, and everyone falls into either i) meat-head gladiators (for action) ii) sexed-up women (for skin) or iii) slimy political figures (for progressing the story). Other than a couple of slower episodes Spartacus is an absolute hit, that gets better as the series progresses: my lady even went from “this is so ridiculous” to a total convert, no mean feat for a series aimed at 15 year old boys! When the show works, it totally works – and if you can see past the gratuitous violence, skin and language – at the heart of Spartacus lies a compelling, well-written and well-executed story. Brilliant mix of drama, action and trash!
Shortbus: follows the shortcomings of several sexual ‘misfits’: a gay couple on the rocks, dominatrix that can’t connect and sex therapist that’s never orgasmed… Be warned, don’t watch it with your parents as some scenes are pretty much porn. The opening of this is among the most unforgettable of any movie, as are many of the zany characters you meet, and several of the scenes – it’s pretty much a one-of-a-kind. Despite being chocked-full of taboo and graphic (real!) sex Shortbus does a fantastic job of remaining funny and charming for the duration, because the emphasis is on the people and their emotions, not the sex. There’s some funky animations of NYC and most of the characters are likable. The film remains interesting as each person’s story progresses and the climactic ending is really upbeat and fitting with the movie as a whole. It’s not for the prudish, and because of the warnings on the box you’ll probably feel a bit dirty just buying this – although it’s totally worth the momentary shame! Extraordinary comedy about sexual emotions!