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De Palma - Brian De Palma, Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow, Martin Scorsese, Lauren Minnerath, Matt Ma Sisters, Obsession, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchable

De Palma: two directors plonk a camera in front of legendary director Brian De Palma, and he discusses his turbulent career, warts ‘n’ all. This kicks off with a brief history of his journey into cinema; starting as an indie director through to his studio system break alongside Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, and Coppola. The rest of the documentary feels like De Palma defending his stinkers and bigging up the films that initially underperformed, but have been subsequently lauded. My main issue with this documentary is that I don’t know who it’s supposed to be aimed at: the 2-5 minute recap of every single film is too high-level for De Palma nerds like me – even with the odd anecdote – yet it pretty much spoils the best parts of every film that ‘De Palma n00bs’ won’t have seen yet. As it’s just De Palma talking, it feels a touch self-indulgent – massaging his own ego – and coming over as a tad weird, bitter, & unhinged by the end. This is capped off with a final few minutes that turn into the biggest self-congratulatory handjob; where De Palma states that he is the only director keeping Hitchcock’s notions of “pure cinema” alive! This is the only time I’ve ever though that what I was watching could have benefited from more talking heads lending different perspectives and additional context. Don’t get me wrong, De Palma is one of the most under-rated directors out there; and although he’s had some stinkers, he’s also made some of the greatest movies of their times… but this isn’t the tribute that I was expecting; or that a masterful director like Brian De Palma deserves.

Score: 3/10

If you really want to explore De Palma, scrap this and go watch Blow Out, Femme Fatale, Scarface, or The Untouchables to see the damage this guy can do with a camera.

De Palma - Brian De Palma, Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow, Martin Scorsese, Lauren Minnerath, Matt MayerSisters, Obsession, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables

Witchtrap (AKA – The Presence / The Haunted): before leasing out his family home, a warlock’s son calls in some parapsychologists to rid the house of evil spirits. For a low-budget late 80s B-movie the video and audio transfer are better than some of the bigger studio pictures from this period. The audio track – which was botched on the movie set – is particularly clear as every line and effect had to be re-recorded in post. The film itself is of a fantastically cheesy vintage; it went from inception to ready-to-shoot in under a week, so the plot is mechanical, (seven people enter a house – fewer leave) and the dialogue is massively overripe, but in a fun, corny way… and it’s not helped by the ‘detached’ ADR performances. Characters are all fairly stock, and are championed by a John McLean-style wisecracking hardboiled detective, who is – in all honesty – way too cool for this type of movie, but his constant jabbering helps the film remain on your good side. For the first few deaths it feels like the movie is wimping out of showing maximum gore, but the final act throws in a lot of blood and over-the-top kills, including an unusually long and graphic shooting and a monster melting sequence. It’s also surprisingly well directed; with slow and ominous camerawork (paired with an equally doom-laden soundtrack), plenty jumpscares, and some technical/dolly shots that you don’t usually get in this type of film. The new Blu Ray release is the first uncut/unrated version; it also boasts a heap of extras including an honest & interesting interview with the director. Nothing about Witchtrap is exceptional or original, but it’s better made, more entertaining, and as nostalgic as any other film in this genre. (Linnea Quigley also gets her waps out!)

Score: 5/10
B-movie Score: 7/10

Deathgasm CORPSE PAINT Jason Lei Howden, Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure, Tim Foley, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Jodie Rimmer

Deathgasm: after playing a very old piece of music, newly-formed metal band accidentally unleash evil spirits on their hometown. If you even remotely like any kind of Rock or Metal music this film is an absolute must-see as it’s 90 mins of lovingly poking fun at ‘metalheads’, metal bands, and most of the sub-genres. There’s jokes about everything from glam/hair metal and dubstep, through to Rick Astley and the ridiculousness of ‘extreme’ metal band names (Deathgasm spitball through other potential band names like ‘Murder Boner’, ‘Maggot Sperm’, and ‘Cannibal Unicorn’). There are so many throwaway jokes that you lose track, and when the film’s not poking fun at music it’s throwing some seriously good ‘old school’ over-the-top gore onto the screen – with a body-splitting, blood-drenched aesthetic that lands somewhere between Evil Dead and Braindead. Direction-wise, the blend of horror and comedy is absolutely perfect, and there’s a lot of horror (and wider cinema) nods through ‘classic’ camera shots and visual references. The only two negatives I can mention are that scenes like demons being beaten to death in slow motion with dildos and anal beads may not be for everyone, and I’m not sure if the gore alone would be enough to win over non-metal fans (there’s not a lot of new ‘horror’ ground covered). Deathgasm is a crimson-covered gem of a film that is a blast to watch, entertains for the full 90 minutes. Brutal!

Score: 8/10
B-Movie Score: 9/10

Deathgasm BAND Jason Lei Howden, Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure, Tim Foley, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Jodie Rimmer

Deathgasm AXE BABE Jason Lei Howden, Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure, Tim Foley, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Jodie Rimmer

Marshland, La isla minima, Raúl Arévalo, Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Nerea Barros, Jesús Castro, Alberto Rodríguez, Mercedes León, Adelfa Calvo, Manolo Solo, Salvador Reina, Jesús Carroza, Juan Carlos Villenueva, Alberto González, Manuel Salas, Cecilia Villanueva, Ana Tomeno, 

Marshland (La isla minima): two out-of-favour Madrid detectives are sent out to the middle of nowhere to investigate the disappearance of two girls; they soon uncover a serial killer and potential police involvement. The main drama of the film comes from lots of complex and conflicting relationships; the detectives and the villagers, the villagers with each other, the detectives and their new boss, and even the mismatched investigators themselves with their ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ approaches. Aesthetically, and tonally, this is very similar to HBO’s True Detective (although they came out at the same time); the palette is dominated by earthy, natural, and rustic colors & locations, which help the odd top-down  drone shots of ethereal landscapes really stand out. The film also holds an interesting Spanish angle too; being set at the start of the 80s in a ‘New Spain’, but calling back to the Franco dictatorship and exploring how large and looming the shadow of that time still is. Marshland is a very well made, excellently acted picture with a sufficiently eerie & suspenseful score: however, there’s nothing particularly fresh or exciting in the story itself… it’s just been tarted up and presented in a more unique setting than normal.

Score: 7.5/10

Marshland, La isla minima, Raúl Arévalo, Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Nerea Barros, Jesús Castro, Alberto Rodríguez, Mercedes León, Adelfa Calvo, Manolo Solo, Salvador Reina, Jesús Carroza, Juan Carlos Villenueva, Alberto González, Manuel Salas, Cecilia Villanueva, Ana Tomeno, 

Marshland, La isla minima, Raúl Arévalo, Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Nerea Barros, Jesús Castro, Alberto Rodríguez, Mercedes León, Adelfa Calvo, Manolo Solo, Salvador Reina, Jesús Carroza, Juan Carlos Villenueva, Alberto González, Manuel Salas, Cecilia Villanueva, Ana Tomeno, 

Marshland, La isla minima, Raúl Arévalo, Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Nerea Barros, Jesús Castro, Alberto Rodríguez, Mercedes León, Adelfa Calvo, Manolo Solo, Salvador Reina, Jesús Carroza, Juan Carlos Villenueva, Alberto González, Manuel Salas, Cecilia Villanueva, Ana Tomeno, 

Marshland, La isla minima, Raúl Arévalo, Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Nerea Barros, Jesús Castro, Alberto Rodríguez, Mercedes León, Adelfa Calvo, Manolo Solo, Salvador Reina, Jesús Carroza, Juan Carlos Villenueva, Alberto González, Manuel Salas, Cecilia Villanueva, Ana Tomeno, 

 

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Hardcore Henry (Хардкор): when he is resurrected with no memory and new robotic limbs, Henry must save his kidnapped wife from a telekinetic psychopath who has plans to weaponise a robo-army. From the opening credits (graphic, but blackly comic violence) you can tell this isn’t your usual action film – most of the movie is shot from a ‘First Person’ perspective, from the point-of-view of ‘Henry’ using an intricate head-cam rig. The film is basically 90 minutes straight of Henry running / jumping / shooting / punching through a long line of obstacles; with some awesome freerunning & parkour (seemingly no wires – or brains!), and high intensity and very high quality stuntwork: the elements combine to create a truly unique  and awe-inspiring action spectacle. There’s also a great anarchic/punk sensibility to the movie; anything goes, and there’s a lot of crazy & zany elements… it even using things like subtitles to make a few jokes with. The biggest problem is that when everything is up at 150% the whole time, you end up becoming a bit numb to it towards the end. Another downside of the FPS style is that the camera is very shaky and has a warped fish-eye lens which distorts a lot of the outer frame. Hardcore Henry is a film that is truly cutting edge, in that it couldn’t have even been made a couple of years ago – the only remotely close comparison you could draw would be a less offensive, but higher-octane version of the Crank films. It’s fun, impressive, and completely mental, but overall struggles to engage after a while. Best viewed after consuming a twelve pack of Red Bull.

Score: 7/10

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NOTE: The entire film was spawned from this music video – if you fancy 90 mins of this, look no farther than Hardcore Henry.

hardcore-henry-tramp-sharlto-copley-danila-kozlovsky-haley-bennett-tim-roth-andrei-dementiev-svetlana-ustinova-darya-charusha-oleg-poddubnyy-will-st

hardcore-henry-poster-sharlto-copley-danila-kozlovsky-haley-bennett-tim-roth-andrei-dementiev-svetlana-ustinova-darya-charusha-oleg-poddubnyy-will-s

hatchet-2006-boat-tamara-feldman-kane-hodder-joel-moore-deon-richmond-mercedes-mcnab-parry-shen-joleigh-fioreavanti-robert-englund-tony-todd-adam-green

Hatchet: a boatful of tourists go on a haunted swamp tour and end up coming face to face with a local superstition… the murderous Victor Crowley. There’s some strong horror ancestry in here; Kane Hodder (Jason/Leatherface) is the main baddie, with Tony Todd (Candyman/Final Destination) and Robert Englund (among others) popping up in cameo roles. Even though this is the kind of sloppy horror premise you’ve seen a thousand times before Hatchet is different in that it’s very well made: it’s brilliantly lit, boasts supreme gore FX & inventive deaths, and has a cast full of good performances. It takes everything that people love and expect from a slasher film and turns it up to eleven: e.g. you don’t just get to see one pair of boobs, but are treated to entire line-ups of Mardi Gras waps. It’s also got a cool comedy/horror vibe in that if it wasn’t for the brutal ultra-graphic moments of cartoonishly over-the-top deaths, the film would probably be a 12A, as it’s overall quite playful and funny; the wannabe actresses in particular provide more than their fair share of the LOLz. There’s also a beautiful ‘classic’ orchestrated soundtrack that wouldn’t be out-of-place in something like Indiana Jones. Everything comes together nicely to create a movie that’s surprisingly hard to describe or define, but is undeniably fun… it’s not quite a parody, and it’s definitely not a kids film, but it’s a rip-and-roaring “Old School American Horror” – and for once, a slasher that lives up to its tagline.

Score: 7.5/10
B-Movie Score: 9/10

hatchet-gore-headsnap-2006-tamara-feldman-kane-hodder-joel-moore-deon-richmond-mercedes-mcnab-parry-shen-joleigh-fioreavanti-robert-englund-tony-todd-adam-green

hatchet-freddy-krueger-tamara-feldman-kane-hodder-joel-moore-deon-richmond-mercedes-mcnab-parry-shen-joleigh-fioreavanti-robert-englund-tony-todd-adam-green

 

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Kickboxer: Vengeance – when his brother is killed in an underground deathmatch by the brutal Tong Po, a young fighter plots his revenge with the help of a master fighter (JCVD). I love martial arts movies and despite what you’ve read elsewhere this is a solid remake. First off; there’s shitloads of fighting – as in every five minutes, fight fight fight. There’s all the punches, all the kicks, a homoerotic rain fight, workmen walking through fights with panes of glass… there’s even a couple of street / marketplace fights that remind you of something like Ong Bak. Director John Stockwell clearly knows and respects the ancestry of this film; retaining key markers like the training montages, and bringing back key cast members; he even throws in some gratuitous boobs… however, most of the cheesier elements have been dropped and the story is more (Tong) po-faced. Just when you think they missed out the infamous car crash drunk dancing scene our new lead pays his respects with some truly horrendous Van Damme jivin’ during the end credits. Casting-wise, the new lead (Moussi) isn’t much of an actor, but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for with some high end fighting/action/stunt prowess; Batista doesn’t have a whole lot to do, although he’s a larger-than-life baddie; meanwhile JCVD steals all of his scenes with his cheeky acting chops, legendary moves, and unbelievably shredded torso. My only real niggle was the weirdly flashy subtitles clearly aimed at people who don’t read subtitles!. There’s a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the original Kickboxer: it’s ultra-80s, it hasn’t aged well, didn’t actually contain much fighting or action, and was basically a showcase for JCVDs moves. Kickboxer Vengeance however is a worthwhile and respectful remake that’s short on acting but crammed full of action. A sturdy modern martial arts movie.

Score: 7/10