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.
The Other Guys: when New York’s most badass detectives come to an untimely end, two unlikely schmucks try to step up and fill the gap. Didn’t expect much from this one but was pleasantly surprised by how funny the film was, with Wahlberg and Ferrell both flexing their comedic muscles with ease. The script and scenarios do a great job of mocking every buddy-cop-film scenario you could think of; and there’s a few amazing running gags about Ferrell’s past and Keaton‘s chief detective unknowingly quoting TLC songs. Story-wise, it follows the classic up-down-up relationship you see in these movies, but it loses its way a little by the end when the jokes thin out and the story needs a-wrappin’ up. Didn’t really understand the random narration from Ice-T, and despite the film being entertaining enough the infographic credits were one of the most interesting parts of the film! The Other Guys isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch but it’s absolutely carried by all of the jokes – especially the delivery by Will and Marky – which make it funnier and more quotable than your average buddy cop comedy.
War of the Arrows (AKA: Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon): [No points for guessing which of the titles is American]. In the second Manchurian invasion of Korea a talented archer has to evade capture, and save his sister from the aggressors. At a glance this looks like just another historical Asian film, but don’t be fooled. It’s far more engaging than the run-of-the-mill, politically skewed, national pride / anniversary movies we’ve seen lately; the central character is developed beyond simply ‘the hero’; it’s also both character and action driven, and is centered around a simple story. Most importantly, it’s unbelievably well-directed: looks great and very stylish, with intense & bloody fights (it has some of the coolest action scenes in a loooong time), and great use of multiplying many small locations together and making this feel like a huge story. All of this makes the story more immersive, which is most evident during a fist-pumping underdog uprising and final act. Having become turned off by the though of watching another historical Asian flick, War of the Arrows is a great film that re-instated my interest in the genre – it hits the target, bullseye! South Korea does it again.
44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.