Yakuza Apocalypse: a virus that turns everyone into a yakuza mobster is sweeping through a sleepy Japanese town; along with some vampires, goths, and a ninja frogman. There are two fairly major signs that you’ll either love or hate this film: firstly, the ‘Manga’ logo guarantees some mental Japanese stuff; secondly, Takashi Miike directing is another indicator of mental Japanese stuff. Suffice to say that there’s so much silly, random, and mental Japanese stuff (like a bird goblin man, kung fu frogman in a frog suit – mostly for no obvious reason) that it becomes a chore to keep up with. You get the feeling that Miike was going for a ‘Happiness of the Katakuris’ vibe, but got bogged down in the randomness and forgot about the plot. It opens with an ultra-violent bloodbath, but stalls immediately after and never really hits the top gear again: even the anti-fight at the end is a disappointing reductive idiom gag (massive build up / deliberately rubbish fight). A disappointing non-film from one of the most hit-or-miss directors on the planet. One for the Manga / Japanese / Miike fanboys only.
Mad Max: Fury Road – in a bleak future where oil and water are scarce and controlled by gangs, two rebels at different ends of the system go head-to-head with the status quo. From the opening scene the aesthetic of the movie feels fresh and unique – like a cross between a high-production Slipknot video, and a demented steampunk circus gone wild; it’s like nothing else you’ll see on the big screen with this much budget behind it. Everything about Fury Road is certified batshit mental – the ganglords and their henchmen are all grotesque and eccentric with masks, nipple clamps, and caricatured physicalities. Big shout out to the ridiculous moshing / headbanging gayerish masked flamethrower guitarist suspended to one of the armored rigs – not just a mascot for his clan, he perfectly sums up everything that’s demented but enjoyable about this movie. The score is another crucial element that lifts the film far beyond mediocrity; a mix of classical orchestral licks paired with magniloquent tribal drumming – it’s a delight to listen to, and keeps your pulse racing. Conceived in 1998 and spending until now in ‘development hell’ or cancelled, Mad Max 4 is 100% worth the wait. A balls-to-the-wall straight up action movie that has it all; epic and sustained action set-pieces that continually impress; great actors, and set in a unique and impressive world – just shut down your PC right now and go see it on the biggest screen you can find.
The Cabin in the Woods: 5 friends go to an isolated cabin for a party, and although a bunch of zombified rednecks lurk in the woods, this is far from your average slasher/horror flick. My only real complaint is that the film puts all of the cards on the table a little too early – although it’s understandable, because such an ending would be too much to nonchalantly tag on during a finale. There’s plenty decent acting, even better SFX, good suspense / tension / scares, brilliant streak of tongue-in-cheek genre humour (The whiteboard with entries like “Angry Molestation Tree”, and ‘trowel’ quip are golden). The film works its way towards the revelatory ending, and the final reel is one of the best pieces of horror in decades – it’s an insane roller coaster paying both tribute and homage to the last 100 years of horror cinema. This is clearly made by horror fans, for horror fans. Don’t watch the trailer, or even read any more reviews, just get your arse to the cinema and check this beast out for yourself. Cabin in the Woods is creepy, entertaining, smart, fresh, funny, original and goes far beyond (and behind) the standard horror movie formula. Easily one of the best modern horrors in a long, long time.
Bonus: here’s a screenshot of the whiteboard – Click to Enlarge
Stake Land: when his mum, dad and baby sibling get their shit ruined, Martin is taken under the wing of a Vampire Hunter, and they make their way north to a vampire-free sanctuary. It’s easy to forget that this is a B-movie; no stars, no big sets, ton of gore, no-name production company… yet it’s well filmed, looks great an doesn’t just rely on schlock or clichés. in fact, it’s because this is a B-movie that this packs more of a punch; there’s not much character sentimentality, and several pretty rough scenes to watch. The story’s great, and keeps you intrigued, even with a distinct lack of dialogue, ridiculous cult, and almost no character backstory. The creatures are somewhat of a Zombie/Vampire mish-mash, that land somewhere between Romero, Rami and a manga adaptation. Breathing new life in to busy, but rapidly boring genre, Stake Land is a solid entry, proving that vampires don’t have to suck, and that the horror genre can step up it’s game now and again.
Let Me In: re-make of a 2008 Swedish film of a vaguely similar name:
– Overall execution
– More concise, and clearer story
– Cut out a bunch of ridiculous scenes (cat lady et al)
– No shot of gnarly genitalia
– More tension in big scenes
– Father/ Cop were better acted
– Kid’s relationship not as good
– Kid actors aren’t quite as good
– Cheesy soundtrack
– OTT Vampire effects / SFX
– Cut out decent story lines (Kid’s dad)
– Still slow, boring and Emo
– Large sections are literally scene for scene
– Embraced the 1980s too much; music, pac-man, fashion, sweets etc
– Deliberately identical aesthetics (lots of fake snow)
The final product is stronger than the original, although that wasn’t hard to do for me.
Let the right one in: totally, 100%, utterly underwhelming – the amount of buzz this film’s generated only makes it even disappointing. The story of the friendship between the two teenagers is pretty good, and their acting is absolutely superb, but that’s about the only memorable aspect of the entire film. Most people bang on about how beautiful it looks – it’s OK, but this isn’t really one of the best-looking or best-shot films world cinema has to offer. The story’s very slow and nothing much really happens for the most part – the first hour the film could have been named “Daily vampire errands”. The mundane-ness is reminiscent of Lukas Moodyson films, just not done as well. I couldn’t tell if the black comedy moments that broke the film up a bit were meant, or if it was jumpy / scary moments gone wrong… Overall it got more laughs than shocks, glossed over most of the risky material from the book (drugs, theft, pedophilia, prostitution) and is probably one of the most over hyped films I’ve seen. It was so wrapped up in Swedishness that I also spent the whole time waiting for a Lordi cameo. Definitely a love-hate film… and I hated it.
Mystic River: drama/mystery that follows three childhood friends in Boston from a day that changed all of their lives forever. Acting-wise, this is an absolute powerhouse of a roster with too many big names to do justice; Penn‘s passion and attitude are outstanding – a career-defining role for him, Bacon‘s awesome at staying cool and reserved, Fishbourne‘s flawless as a badass cop, Robbins is great at portraying a man on the edge, and hell, even the bit-part boyfriend’s hyper believable… everyone involved is outstanding. Technically, the film’s a masterpiece. Every shot is picturesque, the detail’s all there, the camerawork is spot-on, the direction is simple but effective and the lighting in particular adds a whole other dimension to the film – most noticeable with Robbins, who’s progressively lit to look more crooked and bizarre as the film goes on. The final product is haunting, atmospheric and unbelievably gripping as it builds up to the finale. On paper, this is as depressing a story as any other Eastwood film of late – but with a cast this strong, great pacing and simple storytelling this a proper tour de force – and while it is quite bleak, that’s where all of the mystery and drama comes from. in a nutshell, this is simply a great film.