Good Kill: follows a former fighter pilot turned drone operator as he struggles with the morality of killing people from 7,000 miles away. A wide variety of opinions on drone warfare are expressed through the torn protagonist, the objectionable (token female) co-pilot, indifferent Colonel, and pro war Generation Kill meatheads – the opinions however are all just dumped on the table for balance, and never really used or explored further. The Colonel (Greenwood) absolutely steals his scenes with an intense and assured performance (he also gets all the best lines); Hawke on the other hand struggles to truly convey inner conflict and remorse, leaving his character less sympathetic than he needed to be. The biggest let down is that the story doesn’t really go anywhere, there’s no consequences, and very little changes between the start and end of the movie – it’s just strike after strike after strike. There’s also a crowbarred in in family melodrama; an unexplored love story; pointless policeman side, and plenty driving up the Vegas Strip – just to perk the visuals up. As you’d expect from Andrew Niccol, this feels well shot and directed, and although it looks great, there’s a lot of dry yellows and cold turquoise filter to ‘moody up’ the settings. Good Kill is less impressive, ambitious, or thought-provoking than Niccol’s previous works like Lord of War, In Time, Gattaca etc. Overall, it boils down to a simplistic “drones are bad… mkay. The CIA is also bad… mkay” overly liberal, and somewhat empty, undergrad political statement.
“Drones aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re going everywhere.”
The Frozen Ground: when an upstanding citizen is accused of kidnapping, torturing and raping a ‘lying’ prostitute the case is immediately dropped, but lands on the desk of a diligent detective. The first-time director coaxes solid performances from an impressive cast: Con Air’s Cage and Cusack are always welcome (and Cage looks like he actually wants to be here!), supported by the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Kurt Fuller, Brad Henke, and 50 Cent’s teeth. Unlike 99% of serial killer films, this is different because you know very quickly who the baddie is – it’s not a random character added in the last act – so we see the cop stalking the killer, while the he tries to evade detection, not unlike Insomnia (in setting / location too). In fact the only real mis-step is the clichéd ‘over-committed-detective-with-suffering-family’ trope, but it’s a minor part of the picture. As great as this is, it’s a tough one to recommend because it’s pretty grim viewing in parts, but I’d put this as being head and shoulders above your average movie in the burgeoning ‘true crime / serial killer’ genre.
Super: A socially inept weirdo with ‘visions and voices’ creates the alter ego superhero, ‘The Crimson Bolt – armed with a monkey wrench, pipe bombs and the catch phrase “Shut up, crime”. It’s the total opposite of everything you’d expect from a superhero movie – the characters are all deeply flawed, the humour is super black and is contrasted with some full-on bone-crunching, brain splattering violence. Technically, it’s also very different, with a lo-fi handheld style and toe-tapping indie/pop soundtrack that give it a unique, botique, wholesome style – I was sold from the TSAR opening credits. The biggest hit is Rainn Wilson, he’s utterly fantastic, pitches the character perfectly, and genuinely makes the movie. Kev Bacon is great as a scumbag, and Page does a decent job as a foul-mouthed youth. The humour is twisted and black with a deep, dark streak running through the movie – very awkward, offbeat, black, but really really funny (“The Finger of God had touched me”, “Don’t steal, don’t molest kids, don’t butt in line”, tentacles, the sex scene… it’s all absolutely mental). On paper Super looks like another Kick-Ass, but everything about it is different and unique, which makes this a little indie belter that stands out from the copy/paste films in the superhero genre.
Nude Nuns with Big Buns: tasteless throwback nunsploitation revenge flick with a latino twist. The single best thing about this film is that the entire female wardrobe could have been packed in to a purse; this is proper bang-for-your-buck stuff – with so much tits and ass that birthday suits seem normal by the end! It’s also way more offensive than your standard b-movie with some genuinely filthy scenes like the gas station encounter and motel self-surgery – it feels like a proper old-fashioned video nasty but without the hype – and it’s actually nasty. Story-wise, it’s pretty standard for the genre – following a lesbian, drug-addicted nun-gone-wild, with plenty of bad habits(!!). Technically, it’s pretty solid for a low-budget b-movie, and the acting’s passable for a bunch of z-listers playing stock characters. With possibly the most honest title in cinema history, this is genuinely packed full of gratuitous nudity and violence; it’s also got the greatest dispatch of a main bad guy in any film. Although this definitely isn’t for everyone, Nude Nuns with Big Guns is an entertaining, formulaic Machete-esque revenge flick aimed at the proper fans of ‘blood and titties’; a solid B-movie
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: (Blu Ray) Film adaptation of the eponymous novel – follows an investigative journalist and a computer hacker as they investigate a 40 year old disappearance, which in turn unearths much bigger crimes. The one thing that grabs you for the duration is the performances offered up by the cast, particularly the two mains: Rapace is great at portraying an enigmatic character, who is strong and smart, yet damaged and vulnerable; Nyqvist on the other hand effortlessly portrays a determined journalist and dedicated researcher with incorruptible morals. Mains aside, nobody else really drops the ball either and the strong cast definitely make the film more believable, engaging and gripping. As for the story, you’ve seen it a thousand times before, but never done like this: it’s essentially a Miss Marple ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery served up with a huge wedge of modernity – metro setting, bit of snuff, bit of action, bit of romance, and lots of graphic scenes & descriptions of terrible crimes – add to this a bunch of critiques (violence against women, corrupt big business, modern Sweden…) and you have a very busy film. My favourite aspect of Dragon Tattoo is how the story’s told – it obviously helps to have great source material – but the direction is outstanding, and no matter how hard it gets to watch, or how long it goes on for, you simply can’t stop watching. My only major nitpick was the constant flashbacks as everything else about the film batted a lot higher. The BD picture is decent enough but typical Scandinavian washed out bleak pallet means that nothing really jumps out – sound again is alright, but nothing special. The final product is a modern facelift of the classic murder mystery that continually makes you wince, yet keeps you hooked through to the very last scene
Richard Pryor Live in Concert: a 74 minute stand-up show filmed at one of Pryor’s 1978 gigs. Starts with an onslaught of “Whiteboys do this stupidly, niggers do it a different way” observations, although they weren’t as frequent after the first 15 minutes. In the course of this he covers topics as diverse as: police methods, dogs, death, fathers, camping, boxing, running, kids, Chinese people, and sex all with enthusiasm and fantastic execution. As someone that’s performed stand-up live and enjoys the genre, it’s clear that Pryor was light years ahead of the curve with his personification of things, delivery, voices and acting. Unfortunately, because this gig – and Pryor – are now so famous all of the best bits are shown on every TV clip show and countdown. Although it’s clearly a great performance, the focus of race throughout puts me off a bit. Pretty dated, slightly risque but unquestionably funny.
The Take: based on a Martina Cole novel, this was a 4 part mini-series following the two Gangsters as they rise through the London criminal underworld. From the outset (Kassabian theme song, stock gangster names, and violence accompanied by lame gags) you know it’s not going to be high-brow entertainment. It’s full of over-acting, terrible cockney accents and generic geezers that you’d associate with Danny Dyer / Guy Ritchie films. It started in the early 1980s and ended mid-90’s, leapfrogging months or years at a time, sometimes with little indication. Despite this it was shot well, the original music was great, had moments of drama and although it was fairly predictable, the story does keep you watching. The settings and props were also spot-on. They tried to make it smarter as smart as they could, but it still turned out to be a middle-of-the-road, sensationalised crime tale.