Maniac (Remake – 2012): the deranged and murderous owner of a mannequin shop crosses paths with an artist who understands his appreciation for the figures. Not for the faint hearted, this is packed with violence and gore; in all of the graphic scenes you keep thinking ‘they’ll cut away from it now… Now… NOW?!?!’. These gut-wrenching effects are paired with a deranged and explicit sound design, which makes this very unnerving and creepy to watch. Elijah Wood is sufficiently creepy-looking and charming – although he doesn’t get the same chance to push his range as this version is mostly shot from his point of view (POV). Because of the POV shooting, brutal sound effects and explicit gore you feel more like a participant than an observer, which works disturbingly well in the voyeuristic and chase sequences. The original Maniac is great, and still holds up today, but times have changed and this one ups the ante in every aspect, becoming more shocking by comparison, whilst retaining a certain retro ‘video nasty’ / ‘classic exploitation‘ vibe (aided by plenty homages and similarities to the original, and an exquisite post-Drive 1980s synth soundtrack.) On a scale of ‘one to creepy’ this is CREEPY AS FUCK and – like the original – although this is 100% unrecommendable, the Maniac remake is an exploitation and slasher masterpiece.
Brotherhood of the Wolf: a French knight and NATIVE AMERICAN WARRIOR (!!) investigate reportings of a murderous wolf-like beast in 1700s France. I can best describe this as a 1980s fantasy fanboy political aristocratic period drama ‘horror‘; with werewolves, camp comedy, bawdy action, and token European tits. Trying to cover this much ground, it’s simply far too weird and ridiculous for its own good. The acting is theatre at best, the plot is nothing short of batshit mental, there’s also lots of hammy slow mo, rubbish CGI, and a laughable bone-sword. The beautiful Monica Bellucci can’t even save this, as a tracking shot of her naked body morphs into a CGI woman-shaped mountain-scape… really!?!?! The film’s like a wholesale sized can of industrial strength WTF, focus grouped by the biggest nerds in the world – and I love geeky films.
I endured 45 minutes then skipped through the rest of the film, stopping at the action scenes only.
Alternative Plans: sat in the corner of my room – confused, angry and disoriented – bashing head against the wall, thinking why… why… why… why…
The Girl Who Played with Fire: Lisbeth heads back to Sweden after becoming the number one suspect in a treble murder – she tries to get to the bottom of the set-up while Mikael is out to prove her innocence. The writing is a lot sloppier than Dragon Tattoo with a few cheap characters written in for no reason other than making the story a bit more interesting – particularly the real-life boxer guy and two biker goons. In saying this, the story is still decent, even if it is all geared at backgrounding Lisbeth. Once again the two leads carry the story with enviable ease, Rapace in particular gets a lot of time to shine; the smaller presence of Nyqvist lets the film down a little. It also feels a lot more fictitious, with Mikael main guy out-foxing the police at every turn and Salander’s espionage / fighting super-skills. With a different director behind the camera the tone of the second film is worlds apart from the Dragon Tattoo; couple this with the weaker story and it’s nowhere near as gripping or memorable, as it unfolds somewhat predictably. As a stand alone film this would have been a good effort but after Dragon Tattoo this just seems so much more tamer and safer. Despite this review sounding hella negative Played with Fire is a good film, and does a solid job of keeping the trilogy going, while setting up the third installment.
Goodfellas: (Blu Ray) A semi-fictional take on the life of Henry Hill; notorious American Mobster from Brooklyn. The chemistry between all the characters is fantastically played, sure there are some stereotypes, but the main three are very believable and realistic, yet completely different. Liotta’s acting is great, but his commitment was even more noteworthy; starting off naive and weedy but becoming a fat, ruined, coked-up mess for the last 30 minutes. Women don’t get much of a look-in, and it’s a good job because Bracco’s acting and ‘jewish accent’ are unforgivable. Scorsese shows he’s a master of the craft with many great, long, signature single-take shots – in particular the journey from the car to the table at the front of the club and from the skies to the meat truck – very powerful directing for the duration that backs up the story. The only anomaly is a bizarre breaking of the fourth wall at the very end of the film. The elegance of the direction is contrasted with a lot of brutal, no-holds-barred violence: beatdowns, bitchslaps, chest-stabbing, face shots, and a lot of gun-butts to the nose! Unfortunately, the Blu Ray doesn’t do the movie justice; the picture’s mediocre and the audio track is pretty lifeless – not once does it make you think “wow”. As divisive as this statement may be, I truly believe that this is the ultimate gangster movie and does in one film what The Godfather fails to do in three – an interesting and highly-watchable epic about the rise-and-fall of an ordinary man, that was accurate and true to the Italian Mafia.