LOGAN [Spoilers]: as Professor X’s health deteriorates Logan has to keep him – and the first new mutant in years – safe from all the bad guys. This is unlike any other big superhero film you’ve seen: grisly, balls-out, 15-rated (borderline 18!). There’s lots of “Fucks”, gratuitous boobs, and exploitation-level gore; with claws hacking up limbs & digging in to skulls etc. It’s also a film where the titular hero spends the majority of the runtime hobbling, coughing, and lumbering around like a broken man. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give an absolute masterclass in character and acting, supplemented by a star-making performance from Dafne Keen. I wouldn’t want to be the actor that has to follow Jackman when the inevitable X-men reboot goes ahead – after 17 years in the role, he is Logan. The action scenes are sparse, but next-level-superb throughout – the highlight being the first time were introduced to Laura (a 10 minute fight-chase). As for flaws, there are only a few minor ones: Stephen Merchant’s horrific accent brings you right out of the film; and it spends a bit too much time introducing and building some minor characters. One of the main criticisms leveled against this is that it’s too “depressing” or “downbeat”, which I assume came from the same people who would prefer to see robots leveling cities. Logan is a character-driven road-trip western film (that happens to contain superheros) rammed with pathos and peril – what’s not to love?! It’s brutal, dark, raw, emotional, and – for me – this is the new standard for ALL future Marvel / Superhero / Comic Book movies.
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.
Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon): a TV producer and widower stage a fake TV audition in order to find the latter a new wife, but the best candidate seems too good to be true. The opening half hour feels a little too rom-com-y for a ‘horror’ film (upbeat music, cheesy jokes etc). The film trudges on and after 1hr 15m of setup it gradually becomes weirder and more interesting until the payoff semi-ending finally kicks in. Knowing that there’s something not quite right with the ‘perfect girl’ is a tad unsettling, but you couldn’t have predicted an ending as extreme as this – the sound of bone being sawed is vomit-inducing! There’s a small, but obvious social critique about the time in lines like “The whole of japan’s lonely”, and “Japan is Finished” – not-so-subtle! What makes this worthwhile is that it is a unique horror film in that is doesn’t pander to conventions, or give you what you expect. It also beat the wave of late 2000s movies that kick-started ‘torture porn’/’Splatter’ craze again. As original and unique as Audition is, it’s essentially a psychological drama for this most part with 10 minutes of gore capping off a lot of humdrum!
Prometheus: a team of crack scientists travel to a distant planet to discover humanity’s beginnings, however, what they find could finish us all off! The opening aerial shots of breathetaking, sweeping landscapes are geography porn, it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the entrance fee alone. The rest of the film looks just as great, with sumptuous visuals, well-designed costumes & sets, and totally seamless impressive CGI. To match this, the acting roster’s impressive, although it’s absolutely owned by Fassbender‘s portrayal of David the android; he’s efficient, calculating, and believably robotic – surprisingly, he’s also by far the most interesting character, and the film’s biggest driving force. Charlize Theron’s role disappointingly amounts to nothing more than “hottie in a cat suit”. Frustraitingly, the film spends most of the runtime raising, contemplating and flirting with massive questions & themes – religion, evolution, why are we here, meeting our makers… – It’s just a shame that it spends next to no time resolving or answering any. As for being an Alien prequel, it feels intentionally distanced, with not much more than a fleeting post-script that is clunkily added-on. All in, I think Ridley’s hoping that the big loud grand spectacle will serve as a distraction from the fact that the story is neither strong, nor particularly original – which is epitomised best in Fassbender’s time in the fancy, flashy galaxy simulator thingmy-bob.
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.
Con Air: a released prisoner (former U.S. Ranger) gets caught up in a plane hijacking carried out by the criminal cargo. This is one of the best examples of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films (homage to 80s). There’s something about the huge fiery explosions, big loud action and epic weeping / heroic guitar licks that plunges me right into these films. Cage, despite being laughably shit and doing THE worst accent in the history of cinema, holds the film together surprisingly well. Malk is the perfect villain – whose calmness only makes him more terrifying – and his band of crazy henchmen are all gratuitously evil. Cusack is good, but his dashing young looks always make him feel miscast as an authority figure. Everything towards the end of the film (In Vegas) is beyond excessive, ludicrous, and poorly cut – but I guess that’s Vegas for you! Held together by the supercast this is a solid, big action, big entertainment, film that still holds up well.
Contagion: as a lethal virus spreads rapidly around the globe – we observe as the government, pharmaceutical industry and everyday people struggle through the pandemic. It’s always good to see an ensemble cast this big, but with the numbers involved some people go +30 minutes without an appearance, and each person’s angle feels underdeveloped. Too single one person; out I can’t tell if it was Jude Law, or the ridiculous blogger / twitter journalist he was playing, but that strand was just terrible. Other than the devastating virus and ensuing medical procedural hunt for a cure, there’s no single dominant story; there’s a slow build-up, mildly tense middle, and it ends quite abruptly as we just stop dipping in and out of the characters lives. Unlike most blockbusters the science is very realistic (on good authority from my buddy with a Master’s in Cellular Immunology). With the ultra realism in both content and a simple, minimal directorial style, you’re left with a ‘film’ that feels more like a discovery documentary / re-enactment – but with some familiar faces. The final product is a mildly depressing, Dell sponsored, montage heavy film that tries to juggle too much, with very little focus.
Kill Speed (aka Fast Glass): Three chiseled ‘fly guyz’ make huge wads of cash by transporting drugs from Mexico into California in their state-of-the-art fiberglass ‘planes… until the plan changes! This is 100% aimed at the Maxim/FHM market: Cars, planes, chopper bikes, guns, babes, surfin’, partying, X-box – and in that respect, it ticks all the boxes. Staple B-movie elements are all present; stock characters, standard script and longer than necessary, being the three most obvious. Where it excels are the aerial battles / stunt flying which are surprisingly good, in abundance, real eye candy and almost entirely real. In the last 30 minutes the action is also ramped up and it works well. The film’s also shot very professionally, given the scale and budget. The biggest annoyance was Nick Carter, who played a flat-out ridiculous white rapper, and gets out-acted by a wrestler (who’s only in one scene) and inanimate objets like chairs and scenery. I’d rather listen to every Backstreet Boys (and solo) album, single and demo back-to-back than watch him act again! The rest of the cast do well with the characters their given, and there’s a few familiar faces like Matt from Heroes and Robert “T-1000” Patrick!! It’s very aeronautically orientated, so if you’re in to dogfights and supersonic planes check this out – as there’s some straight-to-DVD B-movie goodness here.
The Matrix: Action. Adventure. Sci-Fi. Technology. Love story. Tragedy. Mythology. Drama. Explosions. Chases. Fighting. Guns. Lots of Guns. Style. Homage. Technological Advances. Solid acting. Vision. Betrayal. Great characters. Fantastic Soundtrack & OST. Tight script. Mouth-watering visuals. Slick editing. Stunning concept… Absolutely everything about The Matrix is pitch perfect, right down to Reeves’ vacant, and emotionally retarded acting – it just fits the film so well! (Will Smith/Nicholas Cage were first choices for Neo!) Hugo weaving is also brilliant as the borderline pantomime baddie. The fight scenes are outstanding, especially given that none of the actors are martial artists. Unlike 99% of films out there The Matrix is absolutely all killer – every single scene has a purpose. It’s been a career-defining film for everybody involved, and rightly so: cast, directors, tech teams etc. Even over ten years on everything about this is still so, so, so cool. It’s a modern Alice in Wonderland, but where Alice cartwheels while firing a machine gun and bends some spoons with her mind! The film also raised the bar for action / sci-fi and special effects, and the wider cultural impact is enormous. Despite an unhealthy number of viewings over the years (guessing at least 40) this film never gets boring and never loses the awe-factor. I’m struggling to find a single fault in it!
Inglourious Basterds: (Blu Ray) Not really much of a re-make after all. Straight off the bat the first 20 minutes are among the immense, intense and electric in memory. As the film continues there’s just so many great sections: Jews in hiding, the Jew Bear’s entrance, strudel meal, entire bar scene, cinema premier (Inc. Italian Accents). Cast-wise: Pitt looks ridiculous and uncomfortable, but is still very, very funny again; Stiglitz is great to watch, especially in the bar scene; Fassbender totally outdoes Mike Meyers, who plays a terrible British stereotype, and as for Cristoph Waltz, what can I say that has not already been said… It’s a bingo! He turns an already fantastic script in to comedy and tension of the highest level without even trying – 100% charisma!! The dialogue’s much more focused and natural than any of the previous Tarantino outings. I also applaud the use of foreign actors and dialogue, which most war films don’t usually have, Tarantino has masterfully cast some of the best European talent in a lot of the key roles – and although there are a lot of characters and story threads coming together it’s all managed quite well, with only a couple of minor lapses. The alternative history setting (& ending) is always a strange pill to swallow, but if you roll with it the film still works. The music chosen isn’t his finest to date. The Blu Ray Sound and picture are both fantastic, definitely reference material. While Tarantino may not be every critic’s cup of tea he keeps giving the public exactly what they want. Ballsy & enjoyable WWII action-romp.
Zinda: Unauthorised remake… Absolute rip-off of Oldboy. Story-wise it’s an ‘Indianized’ version of the original; scene for scene – barring the first and last five minutes – but with all humour, taboo, acting, style (and everything that makes the original great & watchable) ripped out. The script is beyond terrible & drifted between Hindi and English, which is bizarre, stupid and very annoying. The main fight scene is totally lame-o. It looks like this was filmed in the 1990s, on a home video camera with all colour deliberately washed-out, leaving a depressing blue. The shitty distributor logo (Eros) keeps appearing on the top left. There’s a ridiculous soft porn scene and loads of close-up torture / wound stitching for no real reason. The ending’s still messed up, despite being completely different, hats off for that. If I’d never seen or heard of Oldboy I’d have thought the story was alright but poorly executed (perhaps a 4/10) but having seen, and love, Oldboy I’m going to have to make sure this one’s dead and buried. Shame on everyone involved!
5ive Girls: Q: What do you get when you mix the following: a sadistic (borderline lesbian) head teacher, Alcoholic (touchy feely) priest, five hot-but-too-old-to-be-real school chicks, a dead ex-pupil and a creepy janitor? A: Yet another unnecessary horror movie. Poor script, terrible acting, and a generally pants story about witches. “Possessive nouns” did get a laugh, and why is the devil always so nasty in horror films? To top it off, the soundtrack was so upbeat it felt like it was lifted from an American Pie film. Even Hellboy couldn’t save this. Shockingly bad.
Bangkok Dagerous: (2008 Remake) The best hitman in the world goes on one last big job before retirement but breaks all his own rules and ends up in a whole bunch of trouble. Unfortunately this isn’t Cage’s finest hour, or hair cut, and although coming across as emotionally retarded generally works for hitmen he ends up looking super goofy in scenes that require any feeling. Even in the voiceover parts sound affected. I was bamboozled as to why almost everything about this re-make was so true to the original it turns out it was the same directors are behind this, which is no bad thing. Barring both deaf aspects this is shockingly faithful, even down to the rough, grainy and washed out look. It was a bit weird that Cage was the only white guy in a ‘westernised’ re-make, almost made it pointless, but I guess big names put the bums on seats. The 5.1 audio track is great, particularly in the action scenes. Not a bad film by any means but if possible, definitely check out the original.
24 – Season 7: Another action packed day of Jack Bauer disobeying orders to follow up the only lead, sound familiar? Cue the standard horde of real-time moles, threats, miracle cures, u-turns and law breaking in a different order. Like anything that goes on for this long the bar’s been pushed so high to keep it ‘fresh’ and ‘shocking’, that things like quadruple agents and people coming back from the dead make day 7 hit a new high on my ridiculous-o-meter. Bauer, Almeda and Voight are the only decent actors with most of the others struggling to convince – guess that happens when you kill off the talent every season. Unlike previous days the moral compass keeps raising its head; what’s the right thing? How many lives have to be endangered before torture is allowed? Let’s pretend Jack actually has a conscience, etc. Another thing that kept being repeated was every single detail relevant to the plot – they must think the average viewer’s pretty damn stupid. The writer’s strike also made it feel like two mini-seasons. Can’t believe they’re churning out another season… nothing new here.
The Host: creature feature from South Korea. Starts off like a trendy comedy horror, with awful over-acting, but gets more serious as the story progresses. There were a few awesome moments of suspense, but in general it didn’t seem to know whether to be funny or serious – ended up an eclectic mix. The music also conveys this, being spot on in parts, but totally ridiculous in others. The start and end are great, action-packed and when the film really comes to life, although the mid-section isn’t as good, coming across as drawn out and filler. The most outstanding part of this film was the monster, and the special-effects. Other than the very end it’s amazingly convincing and looked great. Some good, but predictable jumps along the way, and why is it that people in films like this always fall over when they’re running for their lives?! Mini political agenda regarding media hysteria, chemical warfare, failure of ‘the system’ and western criticism but it’s never really in your face. Far more focus on the family than the monster. Great action and tedious backstory but don’t really understand how it became the biggest Korean film of all-time, reasonable attempt nonetheless.
I Am Legend: was quite skeptical about this but ended up thoroughly enjoying it. Will Smith did a pretty fine job of holding his own through the first hour of the film as the only character. A couple of gratuitous action scenes thrown in to keep the masses amused. Details on why some people are immune aren’t given, which pissed me off. Trying to squeeze in the Omega Man soon as a comparison, but this is definitely worth a watch.