Dear God NO! [Grindhouse Cut]: a murderous outlaw biker gang kill their rivals and hide out in the woods, where they meet a crazy scientist and big foot… I think. Yup, here’s another ‘nasty nostalgia’ film with faux grain effect, pops and scratches, heavy saturation, projector sounds, mono/muffled soundtrack, tracking issues, etc, etc. It’s only 81 minutes long, but is crammed with filler: you get 5 minutes straight of up-close ‘mondo’ style topless dancing, a psychedelic heroin dream trip, and a Nazi Dr Frankenstein babe trip – all for no reason other than padding out the runtime (and increasing the shock factor). Made on a shoestring, the film’s packed with bad dialogue, bad acting, bad characters, actor changes, and ‘plot threads’ that make literally no sense. It’s like the director asked a 15 year old boy what he thought was cool – boobs, swearing, drinking, and bad attitudes man – and just rolled with that. We first meet the biker gang the morning after they trash a bus full of nuns and rape/murder them all, and it only goes downhill from there; bottoming out with a snuff scene that goes too far with a double rape and fetus removing/killing. I’ve seen much worse than this and not been as disgusted as this just nasty for nasty’s sake; and I couldn’t believe that there are directors out there that make Rob Zombie look like a proficient filmmaker. I’ve sat through some truly terrible movies in my day, and this is down there with the worst of ‘em. The only good thing about the entire project is it’s old school poster, and the only way I can imagine convincing anyone that this has worked is if you pitch it as a poor-taste no-budget physical effects show reel – or a masterclass in using controversy and a good poster as a get-rich-quick idea. A very very niche and ultra-nasty bikesploitation film.
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: a useless U.S. office temp is mistakenly sent to the UK to shift thousands of cans of potentially toxic Thunder Muscle energy drink. The entire show hangs on the idea of cross-atlantic confusion, and will probably play marginally better to Brits, although not wholly inaccessible to yanks! The humour is ultra black, dry, witty, often-tasteless, cringe-inducing… which I love; and some of the jokes are so ‘wrong’ that if you didn’t laugh it off you’d be writing a letter of complaint to the TV station. There’s some fantastic running gags like Todd pissing himself at the end of each episode, terrorists using him, and the recurring lies about Leeds & The Who – more generally, there’s a lot of well-written, catchy ideas such as Thunder Muscle, £30 note, Bad Sanitation, and Steve Davis (polar opposite of energy, well played by him though). David Cross writes the central character to all of his strengths, and the supporting cast all deliver more laughs, again tailored to their brand of humour; coarse Arnett, Laddish Harrison… All in, something this edgy and crass won’t be for everyone, but if you like the idea of an ignorant American with no business acumen setting up shop in a foreign country, it’s comedy dynamite!
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.
Paul: two ultra nerds go on a US road trip end up assisting an alien fugitive, comical misadventures ensue! Despite a wealth of fantastic SFX and a fairly predictable plot, the overall feel, tone and dialogue remain quite indie. Paul/Rogen is surprisingly human in this, which is a massive relief as he could have easily been another Jar Jar – he also looks amazing, and you believe he’s in the picture for the most part. There’s a total shitload of mainstream and obscure sci–fi references throughout – from dialogue and sound effects to imagery and entire quotes – all lifted from other genre pieces, making this 100% a film by nerds, for nerds. Most surprisingly, Paul is actually really funny, although I’ll admit that most of the appeal for me was the juvenile moments – ridiculously creative swearing, ass jokes, smutty talk etc. Although the trailer makes it look like a low-rent comedy Paul really is easily one of the funniest films that’s been out in a long time, mostly down to the great ensemble cast.
Bad Santa: An alcoholic deviant and his pint-sized sidekick pose as Santa and an Elf for a seasonal job; they then plunder the mall they’ve been working at, but can an 8 year old show them the real meaning of Christmas? BBT is superb at playing a senseless degenerate and all round terrible person, but no matter how low he stoops the scrooge in all of us still connects. With any other Santa, the Kid (Brett Kelly) would have been the star, pulling off a shockingly good junior Rainman. Then there’s the Dwarf, Mall Manager and Security guard… all great characters. For a festive film, this one’s as smutty as they get, sex, swearing, conmen, booze, strippers, blood, violence for the duration… The dwarf’s insults in particular are pure entertainment – great to listen to. The film’s backbone is some fantastic deadpan humour & black comedy, championed by a few recurring lines; shit right for a week, fix a sandwich, etc. It’s well made, well written, well paced, with well measured and well timed jokes. While it’s an anti-Christmas film, it’s still quite festive and uplifting towards the end. Great holiday movie, but don’t watch it with the kids.
Merry fuckin’ Christmas!
MacGruber: Silver screen spoof of TV’s most resourceful hero McGyver. For a Brit that has never seen McGyver or the SNL skits it comes across as an American equivalent of Austin Powers?? The range of humour isn’t very wide; all jokes are either gross-out or something built up then made to look stupid… which starts to wear a little thin by the end. It’s also potty, very potty, with constant sexual references and a couple of back-to-back romance scenes that rival the Team America one. Some gags – like the villain’s name ‘Cunth’ being repeated – get boring pretty fast. The cast all hit the right buttons with their humour & delivery, and the WWE cameos were pretty sweet, especially the Big Show, who was good game. Val Kilmer (ate all the pies!) plays a Seegal-looking villain, and while he’s alright, he doesn’t seem to care much. The whole retro spoof has been done before but this more watchable because it’s done with conviction – the clichéd dialogue/script in particular was my favourite aspect, executed brilliantly for the most part. The soundtrack’s fairly bland, just song after song but with no real purpose other than just being from the 1980s. While it’s not the most polished or sophisticated film in the world it is funny for the duration, totally quotable and has ‘cult comedy’ written all over it. One of the better comedies so far this year.
Beast Cops: A bunch so-called ‘policemen’ (how they’re remained gainfully employed was the biggest plot hole) get a new boss that tries to shake things up a bit. Unfortunately this one takes about 50 minutes of 1-dimensional character-building before anything interesting happens; we got it after 5 minutes – there’s no honour among thieves in Hong Kong! The acting’s very hit-or-miss, ranging from subtly great to parodic overacting, and at times the script makes it feel like a sexual awareness campaign. Other than the lame credits the style’s quite slick and does a great job in distracting you from the plain story, however the main actors break the fourth wall several times, which is strange and unnecessary. The last fight is a pretty epic and brutal affair, and generally everyone in this film ends up getting a machete lodged in their neck at some point. To sum up, this is the epitome of a bog-standard Asian cop flick with a twist of ‘gritty street’ thrown in for good measure. Talks the talk all over the DVD box but fails to walk the walk.
Love Me If You Dare: Two children start a game that plays through both of their lives. As they grow up the game consumes them, eventually blurring the line between what’s playtime and genuine. Because of this the film is fully-stocked in the drama department, and it’s heightened even more by Cotillard and Canet‘s knockout performances & fantastic chemistry – especially as the game intensifies and the characters should become less likable. The film’s style slowly transforms from trippy and dream-like through to bleak and gritty, echoing the characters as they age from cute kids to jaded adults. The story and script are so poetic, stylish and quirky that it could only be French! A dozen versions of ‘La Vie En Rose’ dominate the soundtrack but it never gets boring – may have even subliminally got Marion Cotillard cast as Édith Piaf in her biographical film. The ending comes out of nowhere. and is quite bittersweet given the tone of the majority of the film, however the last few scenes leave a sweet taste in your mouth. Yes, they’re not role models and yes it gets silly at times but this is one of the most unforgettable romances I’ve ever seen. Definitely a Desert Island DVD.
Inglorious Bastards: original ‘B-movie’ version of the new Tarantino release. First big shock was how good the quality of everything was – other than the script! It didn’t feel much like a B-movie, more like the epic war films you’d see on TV in the afternoon. Film quality, locations, action shots and sets were all well above par. It’s been tagged as an ‘exploitation’ film, but it’s really just trashy and naff, with some risqué scenes involving black soldiers, Nazis and gratuitous unrelated boobs. The first hour of the film is a bit disjointed, but the train plot keeps everything sane. You’ve got to love how everyone jumps out of cars / windows / bunkers when they get shot – one guy’s body ascends over 10 feet off the screen! It’s an alright film, but not nearly as gnarly or action-packed as you’d expect (due to a 15 certificate)