Big Bad Wolves (aka מי מפחד מהזאב הרע, Mi mefakhed mehaze’ev hara): Three men’s lives come to a head when a child is murdered and the hunt for the killer intensifies – Israeli black comedy horror/thriller. Off the bat this is a very odd mix that flips from gruesome child murders straight to bawdy comedy with no hesitation. Centered around the question of “is he / isn’t he guilty” the main chunk of this plays out like a Mystic River / Prisoners dilemma… showing normal men becoming monsters. The torture scenes are very visceral and gnarly, difficult to watch. It also starts becoming darkly comical in the last act, as the multiple – seemingly innocuous – strands are brought nicely together. Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of 2013, this is one of his shout-outs that is actually worth a punt!
Sharknado 2: The Second One – while promoting their new ‘How to survive a Sharknado’ book, Fin and his ex-wife April get caught up in an even bigger storm in New York City. Due to the runaway success of the first movie everyone wants a bite: it’s cameo city with a distracting number of ‘famous’ people clambering over each other for lines and gory deaths; the camera lingers on extras that feel like crowbarred in Z-list celebrities; and more cynically, some big brands have waded in NY Mets, Subway, The Today Show… On an unrelated note, an extremely large proportion of the cast have wrinkle-and-expression-free crazy facelift faces. It’s not all bad though: the effects have improved big time, the action is far more outrageous, and it feels more ambitious than the original – pushing the ‘Sharknado‘ idea further, and getting more mileage out of the concept. Despite continuing to break almost every continuity rule known to cinema – it’s surprisingly fun to watch and has a few laugh-out-loud moments, like the absurd shark info graphics on weather reports. Sharknado 2 is still a SyFy straight-to-dvd ‘film’ – the DVD even opens with a ‘Stonado’ trailer (replace hungry sharks with exploding stones!) – but it’s bigger, better, dumber, funnier, and more enjoyable than its predecessor.
B-movie Score: 7/10
– Home Run
– Bat Impalement
– Chainsaw’d in half
– Machine Gunned
– Angry Mobbed
– Super-Soaker Flamethrower
Killers (キラーズ, Kirazu): a serial killer who uploads his work to a ‘DeathTube‘ site inspires an everyman to go vigilante. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen directors harness everything down to the distributors & funders logos to add to the film’s aesthetic; and with this level of detail from the get go, the film is technically admirable – sound, editing, camerawork etc. The opening 5 minutes really set the mood, with a shocking and ultra-graphic murder: the violence slowly escalates and darkens as the runtime progresses. Unlike The Raid‘s gritty-but-styalised – and even poetic – gore, this film is just plain gritty. One killer is a savvy psychopath fit for Dexter, the other is an everyman pushed over the edge, Falling Down style. Another unique aspect is that it’s a collaborative effort from two directors (The Mo Brothers – not real brothers), filmed in two locations – Japan and Indonesia – with English spoken parts when the two leads interact; it doesn’t hinder the film’s international appeal, although something feels lost in translation story-wise. At 140 minutes it does lose feel rather long-winded and intricate for what is essentially a serial killer movie with a disjointed story and not much in the way of themes or messages. If you like your gore gory, and your films stylish this ticks both boxes – although not a lot else. The main stars of Killers are the directors, who with more focus (shorter runtime and tighter story) could pose a serious threat to Gareth Evans as the king of contemporary Indonesian action.
Chopping Mall (aka Killbots): it’s the near-future, where mall cops have been replaced by security robots, and “absolutely nothing can go wrong,” but a couple of lightning strikes later… yuuup, things are going wrong for a bunch of “teenagers” stuck in the mall overnight. If one thing defines this film, it’s the knuckle-chewing levels of cheese present in every scene. All characters are hyper-generic (nerd, wallflower, hunk, party boy) and the dialogue / delivery is terrible across the board – even the cool and quotable lines like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambo gram!!” The film plods through as a by-the-numbers pedigree b-movie, that’s not quite bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good – but everyone seems to know how bad it is, and rolls with it anyway. Shopping centre boffins will note that this looks very similar to the one from Commando!! Chopping Mall just isn’t as shocking, gory or violent as the ‘slasher’ title would suggest; it just ends up feeling like a 1950s sci-fi film with a 1980s face-lift.
It’s like Krieger’s robot and Cheryl/Carol from Archer!
“Where the shopping can cost you an arm and a leg”
Pain and Gain: A group of dim bodybuilders kidnap and extort some rich folks. This basically takes a bizarre true-crime story and gives it the Michael Bay treatment (boob job, botox, facelift etc). If there ever was a director with an unsympathetically “In-Yer-Face!” style, it would be Mr Bay. Every female in this is a big-titted supermodel, there’s scenes in strip-clubs where the camera just stares at topless strippers (I felt bad for not tipping), there’s a raft of un-PC/racist jokes, there’s midgets, supercar fascination, drugs, pumped up bodies, dildos / sex toys, dick and homo jokes, and generally everything is over-styalised, and turned up way past 11. In fact; Rebel Wilson’s token crude material is probably the least offensive thing in this. The direction is equally aggressive; resembling high-end music-videos with vibrant colours, rapid cuts, loud music, a superficial glaze, and plenty on-screen stamps/graphics reminding you of what you should be thinking. And having this much character narration is just plain-old sloppy for a director that’s been around as long as Bay. Despite all of the unlikable elements coming from behind the lens, at least he chose some of the most sympathetic and charismatic actors to front the movie: Wahlberg, The Rock, Anthony Mackie… however, these guys are playing cold-blooded, pre-emptive killers, who are picking on hard-working, self-made targets – hard to empathise with. On the upside, there a lot of laughs to be had in this, although they’re mostly at the expense of someone. There’s a fascinating story buried somewhere in this film, but you have to look so far behind all of the bullshit surface that it’s almost impossible to pick out – would have been much better as a less sensational, properly-handled movie.
Edge of Darkness: when his sick daughter is gunned down, detective Tom Craven starts looking for people with a grudge against him, but maybe he wasn’t the target. This is a good-old corporation/government conspiracy film that feels like a throwback to the blunt movies of the 80s. There’s a few totally unexpected, and fairy graphic deaths that have genuine shock value, and get properly etched in your brain. The plot starts to feel like a runaway train, where the crazy and unbelievable things start piling up. We also get treated to a variety of terrible Boston accents, which make some of the dialogue difficult to catch. Gibson pulls out a decent performance, given his characters complex mental state – but everyone else can be filed under ‘hammy’ or ‘generic’. One final note, to Ray Winstone, please stop being Ray Winstone! Despite sitting on the Edge of Realism, Edge of Darkness is a decent, albeit depressingly nihilistic, action / thriller / revenge / conspiracy picture from the director that had the stones and talent to save the James Bond franchise twice.
Party Down (Season 2): Henry, Ron, Casey, Kyle, and Roman are still working L.A’s weird and wonderful functions, along with new team member Lydia. The episodes are more of the same, but a lot slicker, more refined, more outrageous scenarios, more product placement snuck in, and more great comedy cameos. The characters all feel more defined and rounded, and the writing in general is a lot better as the episodes aren’t as self-contained. Everything’s generally improved, except for one small aspect… it’s not quite as funny, with only a couple of big laughs per episode. The main reason appears to be that Season 1 was based on observational/awkward comedy moments, whereas this feels far more like a straight-up sit-com with elaborate and more ridiculous functions to cater for. Worse still, the writers criminally dropped Henry’s fantastically awkward catchphrase “Are we having fun yet?!”, which was by far the best source of cringe-inducing laughs in S1. Roman and his associated ‘Hard Sci-Fi’ get a lot more mentions – even a whole episode – which appealed to me. Season two of Party Down is still very good TV; it’s smart and funny, but easy to watch and good for dipping in and out of, the only downside is that it feels a tad over-written, and all of the rough/raw edges have been taken off. Still, can’t deny that it’s a great sit-com.