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Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
This multi-limbed Tremors rip is better than it should be!
Despite the fact that David Arquette is the quote-unquote 'star' of this – or any – film and that his name appears before the main title, 8 Legged Freaks is a fairly entertaining albeit instantly forgettable giant creep-crawly romp.
In the small town of Perfection *AHEM Tremors fans* Prosperity, Arizona, a toxic spill in the local water near a spider farm (!) has resulted in a new batch of 8 legged uh-ohs. This means Chris (Arquette) has picked a bad time to come home for the first time in over a decade, even if is for the noble intent of stopping Big Business from trying to buy out the town for some initially unknown (but assuredly fiendish and underhanded) reasons.
This leads to Chris, a young Scarlett Johansson, B movie queen Kari Wuhrer and some bug-loving kid to join forces against an incredible array of over-sized arachnids – 95% of them the CGI variety – who after they announce themselves to the sleepy town jump, crawl, scuttle and leap after, on and over the local population.
It's silly, inane, implausible and full of crappy effects and even worse acting, and the sound effects have to be heard to be (incredulously) believed. Just about everything that you could ask for in your B Movie creature feature really.
The only major drawback to Eight Legged Freaks is the dodgy CGI, this could have been Piranha 3-ish with today's computers and a few better jokes. That aside if you're after a decently atrocious $1 weekly rental you could do a lot worse, if only to see that even at a young age Scar-Jo already had a fair amount of what has made her so famous today. (I looked, she was 18 here, so it's merely creepy, not borderline illegal.)
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. David Arquette's best film is a silly el-cheapo bug flick? That sounds about right to me.
The Innkeepers (2011)
Ladies and Gents, Ti(me to get paid) West!
House of the Devil was an 80 minute build up followed by crushing disappointment, like a virgin who has saved his pennies and after an hour in the waiting room finds he has arrived at an S&M club to have his testicles smacked around.
Despite my lone disapproving opinion director Ti West received great critical acclaim for his throwback aesthetic, long silent scenes and creative camera angles – things my ADD mind found altogether boring.
And because a review cannot betray the ending no-one got to point out that it sucked.
Now a couple years on Ti West brings us The Innkeepers, and even though this latest effort is a long way from great, it boasts a little more in the (still quite slow) build up, and actually has an ending worth hanging around for.
Credible, over-rated Ti West, meet Ti(me to get paid) West.
An elegant but outdated hotel is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary. By closing its doors permanently. With only one long weekend remaining as a functioning entity the hotel – the Yankee Pedlar – is running on a skeleton crew of two staff, Luke and Claire. The duo are two typical 20ish employees counting down the clock and giving the bare minimum effort.
When not winding up the few guests and napping in any of the many unoccupied rooms Luke attempts to cash in on rumours that the hotel is haunted by a female guest alleged to have died horribly in the hotel last century. He runs a website examining the ghostly possibilities and has Claire patrol the hotel of a night time with equipment designed to take readings and identify spectral phenomena.
One of the precious few clientele is an ex-actress – now faith healer / psychic – who warns Claire that she might be better served twiddling her thumbs as the minutes wind down.
Those who seek trouble are often the first to find it.
In a welcome departure from The House of the Devil, which from memory expected me to sit through 80 minutes of bleh before it rewarded my patience with meh, The Innkeepers at least tries sporadically to wake you up. In true commercial horror form though the first four scares are cheap ones, a couple of 'Boos', a dream sequence and essentially a viral email that has been doing the rounds for years in various incarnations.
But while the slow build is interspersed by some clichéd moments at least this film does more than replicate the 70s, more than that it gets to a destination that makes it worth the journey.
It must be hard to make a ghost story, unless you are a true believer in the paranormal it is easy to write off the genre as silly – what with the wailing and people in sheets and all. If you try too hard for a scare a minute you fall into the Insidious trap, only exacerbating the silliness, don't do enough and you're boring.
For the most part The Innkeepers toes the precarious line well enough, it builds tension frequently yet wisely releases the audience just a little through minor scares or moments of levity. In truth there is really only one decent scene in the film where the tension and trepidation are earned, at that point I squirmed on the couch just a little.
That scene alone warrants a look at The Innkeepers. There are thousands of horror films around with most ranging from 'totally sucks' to 'mostly sucks', The Innkeepers has flaws and doesn't make a whole lot of sense at times, but it isn't boring and for those few minutes you are genuinely nervous.
That's why we watch horror isn't it?
Final Rating – 6 / 10. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Ti West for embracing the ummm what is it again ? oh yeah money. Welcome back Ti.
Westerns don't come along too frequently. Good ones even rarer. This is a good one.
They don't make Westerns like they used to
and by that I mean they just don't make many Westerns period these days. Rotten Tomatoes lists only 33 Westerns in the dubbos with enough reviews to get a rating, and basically half of those were deemed rotten (the chicks with guns flick Bandidas inexplicably gets a Fresh rating, Shanghai Noon is another!).
My Dad grew up on Westerns, still watches pretty much exclusively Westerns and was the only reason behind me plucking Appaloosa from the video shop shelf recently. Having less than 2 films per year in his favourite genre must suck – and by reckoning half of those weren't true "Black hat – White hats facing down at sunup" Westerns.
Less than one a year Appaloosa was one of the 17 good ones.
As Appaloosa adheres to the Western tradition of keeping things simple the story has two tough looking gents a-riding into the town of Appaloosa one day as the previous sheriff is now feeding the worms.
These two gents have been hired by the town's big-wigs to keep the peace and basically protect the citizens from a ruthless local rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his men who exhibit – to coin a phrase – outlawish tendencies.
Virgil is a quick draw and a quick thinker, his main asset is perhaps the fact that he knows that while quick he can't take down too many guns at once, and while a thinker he might not be the most intellectual man in the wild west. To remedy this he rides with Everett, who is similarly quick on the draw but carries a big "Don't argue" shotgun and fills in the gaps in Virgil's vocabulary when called upon. The duo set upon restoring peace to the sleepy town, firstly by letting Bragg and minions know that they aren't having things their own way from now on.
A tenuous stalemate comes to pass for a time then a woman arrives to ruin it.
My only issue with this film is the fact that the woman who has arrived into Appaloosa by train, Allison French, is played by Renee Zellweger – I know it must have been said but she looks like she's just swallowed a whole lemon at all times – and it's only worse when she *GULP* smiles. With a look like that I am genetically predisposed to detesting every noise or line that she emits thereafter, and I did here. (Even my Dad said "I wouldn't get shot for her" at one point.)
Allison quickly realises that Virgil is the Top Gun in Appaloosa and hooks her claws into him. Bragg equally swiftly works out Virgil's new fugly weakness and arranges for Allison to be taken, and Virgil inexplicably doesn't just decide "Phew, I nearly married it" but decides to head after them.
And then the film proceeds as cowboy films must, with saddle sores, gruff terse dialogue and quick shootin'. To describe more would be a disservice to the film, suffice to say Appaloosa is an entertaining film, the action is scarce on the ground but carries an impact when it arrives, the effortless interplay between chatty Virgil and the more reticent and thoughtful Everett is well written and often amusing, and Irons creates a solid bad guy as Randall Bragg whose larger than life demeanour steals each scene that he appears in.
Being born a little late to fully get into the Western genre I must admit I seldom look them up, but if I see a trailer that looks gritty and realistic I will pick them up at the video shop, if they were all of the calibre of Appaloosa and weren't released so far apart this might happen more frequently.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Westerns don't come along too often these days, good ones even less frequently. This is an solid, efficient and entertaining Western that manages to overcome Zellweger's lamentable cat's a*se of a face.
Super creative. Not just another "Rain Man got skillz" clone.
Malcolm (Colin Friels) is a toddler both emotionally and from a mental maturity standpoint. In one scene he is gifted a brand new television and is more impressed with the robustness of the cardboard box.
Afraid of contact and unaware of social niceties and intimacy, Malcolm lives alone after the death of his Mother in a small suburban home in Melbourne, confining interaction to only absolutely unavoidable situations, and even then conversing in only the most basic, factual sentences.
Malcolm likes things this way. He likes his countless model trains *ahem* trams, his pet parrot and his job at the Melbourne Tram services. He doesn't need human contact at all.
Then he loses his job.
Without a job Malcolm becomes a shut-in, but a shut-in with no income doesn't eat. Malcolm doesn't initially understand this, burying himself in backyard inventions that range from cute to ingenious, but after his remote controlled 'shopping buddy' returns home from the local deli with a note saying 'no more without $' instead of milk, he is forced to look at other possibilities.
At the behest of the kindly shopkeeper Malcolm advertises for a boarder, which brings Frank (John Hargreaves) – and later his missus Judith (Lindy Davies) – into his life.
Initially all parties have trouble finding their niche and dealing with the others, Frank is rough and ready and doesn't understand Malcolm's mental state, nor his meticulous drive and OCD tendencies. Judith often acts as a go-between for the two gents, she loves Frank but also takes a shine to Malcolm and his eccentricities.
As they become accustomed to each other Frank realises that Malcolm is somewhat of an engineering savant, capable of seeing possibilities with steel, wire and spare parts that few others can comprehend.
Malcolm in turn is fascinated to learn that Frank has only been recently released from prison for robbing banks. Malcolm is intrigued by the mechanics of such a job – not the ethics or legality – which gives both men inspiration, and Judith frustration and dilemma.
The unlikely 'crew' start with some 'live' practise runs which necessitate some amazingly creative inventions and entertaining getaways. These all build up to the big one, which entails remote controlled vehicles, ashtrays, clown heads, rubber gloves, Ned Kelly in a wheelchair and an ice-cream van.
What were you expecting? The small cast is excellent, Friels as Malcolm especially, he manages to underplay the vulnerability and eccentricity of the character so that he doesn't become a cliché or a cartoon. The story remains simple also, which breathes life into the sequences where the inventions and escape plans can take centre stage.
If the heist itself sounds strange and delightful the getaway is even more so, and in fact if you can ignore the legal ramifications the entire Malcolm experience will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Malcolm might sound like just another I Am Sam, Rain Man clone, but it is entirely different to both and deserves to stand alone in its own right. Malcolm might be hard to track down, but it leaves an indelible impression and is worth finding.
The Divide (2011)
Undeniable proof of de-evolution...
Here is some undeniable proof in de-evolution. Both in terms of human beings and cinema.
In your stock standard, straight off the shelf post-apocalyptic environment a small group of survivors huddle in the basement of their apartment building alongside Micky (Michael Beihn), the building superintendent who seems to well prepared for just this possibility.
Before the shellshocked masses have any real opportunity to swap insurance information a group of white suited men with big guns breaks through the metal door, kills a few, takes some others and leaves, this time sealing the remaining few from the outside. Then it's back to bickering, panicking and chewing their nails.
Unfortunately for us, the 'highlight' of the film just came and went and we didn't even know it.
All that remains are questions. What is going on outside? Who is responsible? Who are left? If the airtight basement represents the only safe-haven from pollution, radiation and contamination why the fff... heck we all smoking like chimneys?
But above all WHY WON'T THE PLAINTIVE PIANO PLINKING STOP?!?
Don't bother worrying, this film doesn't bother even trying to answer any of these things, it is more worried with growing more and more claustrophobic, menacing and rapey.
If that floats your boat then have at it. For me though, I now have a new post apocalyptic perspective. If it ever eventuates that the big BOOM arrives, and I am blessed with options, here is how I would like to go out.
1. Alone with cockroaches, (Wall-E made it look quite fun). 2. Die in the blast. 3. Survive with only a DVD player and a copy of this film. 4. Survive with the moronic freak show that populates this basement.
And for the record, I ummed and aahed between alternating 3 and 4 for a couple minutes. This film was that lacking in entertainment, creativity or worth. I don't care how realistic, possible or well made it is – and for the record I don't really think it was much of any of these things – The Divide is dull, depressing and pointless.
Final Rating – 3.5 / 10. If I ever voluntarily sit through this again you know the end is nigh. That and I couldn't find a cockroach friend to play with.
The Dead (2010)
Beautiful in its ugliness...
The Dead is beautiful in its ugliness.
Here is a zombie movie with no pretensions to reinvent the genre or inject unneeded creativity into proceedings. It is the purest of pure scenarios where Character X & Y must get from Point A to Point Z on a map – the primary impediment being that all Points in between are infested with zombies.
And genre purist rejoice for the time of shuffling is at hand. These are the most Romero-est of zombies, mindless, numerous, and hungry They have no rage or desire for violence, driven by base instinct and savage only by necessity, as the quickest way to the sweet blood of a living being is through the outer epidermis into the red goo beyond.
Unfortunately for the living these zombies are like fat people with a KFC bucket – they can never stop at one Another significant plus (for me at least) is the fact that the movie opens with no explanations. The zombies are just there, and by there it seems everywhere, at least in West Africa where the film takes place.
Brian is the lone survivor of a crashed plane taking the more privileged (read: white people) away from the bloodthirsty menace. He finds himself alone and smack dab in the middle of The Dead with no means of transport.
Brian teams with Daniel, an African soldier who is looking for his son, who is thought to have survived the initial onslaught and fled North with other uninfected.
After some initial race fueled resentment – Brian is a Caucasian-American and Daniel a black African-African – the duo realise that together they have a better chance of survival so they set off in a busted ute to risk exhaustion, heat, exposure and evisceration. Two guys, two guns and hundreds of miles of zombie rich terrain.
Again The Dead rebels against the standard motifs that have permeated the zombie genre in recent years, there is little infighting aside from bickering caused by stress and exhaustion. No-one learns any significant lessons, unbreakable bonds aren't formed and they don't have an epiphany in the finale along the lines of 'gee maybe we aren't so different after all'. It is simply a case of the Living Vs the (millions of) Dead.
Winning isn't the name of the game, merely survival.
Of course there can be no tension if you can simply run past the shuffling undead, so cars won't start when they should, torches blink and characters steadfastly refuse to look in the right direction until the most perilous last second, all forgivable requirements in such a film. The Dead is like last year's vampire equivalent Stake Land, it isn't as well acted, produced and directed – but then zombies have always been the ugly cousin to the pretty-boy vampires – but it is nearly as effective, and in truth remains truer to tone throughout (Stake Land had a couple of disappointing 'look how cool this is!' moments at the beginning and end of the film).
For many casual horror fans this probably means that The Dead is booooring, but I for one have grown very tired of sparkling vampires and trainable zombies in recent years, I sometimes prefer everybody shuffling every now and then to remind me that at base level zombies are dogged, vacant and extremely dangerous.
Push beyond the cheap CGI, occasional bad acting and threadbare plot and appreciate The Dead for what it is, a mindless, shuffling, determined zombie movie that demands you use your braaaaaaaiiiinnnnnnsssss.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Who knew the unglamourous side of zombies could be so very pretty? .
Repeatedly punch yourself in the groin instead, it's more fun and burns more calories.
Word on the (imdb) street is that director Dennis Hopper was so p*ssed with studio interference that he asked for his name to be removed from the credits. Apparently he submitted and initial cut that ran over three hours and was then distraught when it was deemed too long and culled to a lean 90 minutes.
As a viewer I can only pass judgment based upon what I see, and I can sympathise with both parties. For one I cannot fathom sitting through another 90 minutes of this eye-vomit, but on the other hand it seems that an absolutely insane editing decision renders the viewing experience incomprehensible.
The upshot of that is as always no-one wins.
Consider this: Anne (Jodie Foster) is an avant-garde artiste who witnesses a murder within approximately 27 seconds of entering a 'bad neighbourhood'.
This moment of incredibly inopportune timing puts both mob and the FBI on her trail after she refuses to testify and shoots through to pursue a lifetime on the run in disguise.
Dennis Hopper plays Milo, the elite hit-man hired by the mob to eliminate Anne and put an end to this nonsense, only Milo is apparently entranced by Anne's artwork and almost instantly changes from a cold blooded hit-man into a creepy stalker-rapist.
Now. While all this is indeed mostly reprehensible it is not yet implausible. But wait there's more (I would ordinarily warn of Spoilers to a 20 year old film here, but they are blabbed all over the back of the DVD cover so I don't feel so bad.) After Milo kidnaps Anne, threatens her life, forces her to don sexy (a word that should never appear in the same sentence as Jodie Foster) lingerie and rapes her – her words – we cut abruptly to a scene apparently only a short while later where they are both very much in genuine love.
Wait. What the f*ck? Anyway the rest of this god-awful mess exists if you care to find it. I wouldn't suggest it. Repeatedly punch yourself in the groin instead, it's more fun and burns more calories. Unfortunately for me I didn't take that option and was still sitting glassy eyed when the credits rolled The only other thing worth mentioning is that this stain of a film actually boasts a top-notch cast of actors punching well below their weight; Fred Ward, Joe Pesci, John Turturro, Dean Stockwell, Catherine Keener and Charlie Sheen all wasted parts of their lives appearing in it.
As for the 'headliners' Jodie Foster was always miscast in a role that demanded 'sexy', and Dennis Hopper over-acts to sh*t in this film. If that isn't enough he adopts a ridiculous and annoying accent. Not being an American I have no idea if the accent is authentic or not and frankly I don't care, all I will say is that if it is legit perhaps it is advisable to simply not have characters from that particular region in film from this point on.
Like this film there are things that don't need to exist.
Final Rating – 3.5 / 10. If I was Dennis Hopper and had to live with the realisation that I was even partially responsible for Back-Track / Catch-Fire / Cinematic-Turd I wouldn't seek to remove the name Dennis Hopper from the film, I would seek to remove myself from Dennis Hopper.
Dip huet seung hung (1989)
Another John Woo classic bullet-opera.
John Woo is a sensitive new age guy who is probably busting to make a period drama filled with romance, lush backdrops, glorious costumes and electrifying dialogue.
It just so happens that his primary skill is choreographing hugely elaborate gunfights with insanely high bodycounts and much bloodletting.
Such is the case with The Killer, the film opens with peaceful music, an opulent candelit backdrop – replete with the requisite white doves – and a handsome guy giving a friendly smile at the nice lady in the club who is singing beautifully for the appreciative patrons.
Then with a start action-Woo takes over, perhaps realising that a mortgage payment is due and that doves, smiles and pan-pipes don't pay the bills. The smiling guy is Jeff (Chow Yun Fat), a contract assassin in the club on business. He sets about his tasks and 73 spurting squib-assisted deaths later he can knock off for the day Unfortunately in the hail of bullets and cacophony of death cries and splintering shrapnel Jeff managed to inadvertently blind the nice singing lady named Jenny with the powder blast from one of his many death dealing shots. Being the nice guy that he is he takes pity on Jenny and in the weeks that follow her release from hospital spends much time helping her readjust to her new sightless existence, and of course the two gradually fall in love – with Jenny never realising that her beau is in fact the very man who rendered her likely to fall over her own furniture As with every John Woo film the hero needs a counterpart, because without one there can be no Mexican standoff later in the film – and yes this film has more than one – the foil to Chow's killer is Inspector Lee, though they end up calling each other Mickey Mouse and Dumbo in much of the lamentable dialogue that permeates the 'waiting time' between shoot outs.
Jeff and Lee see similarities in each other despite standing on opposite sides of the law, another staple of Woo films, the bad guys aren't really that bad and the cops always seem to readily sympathise and even befriend them. But that said both men shoot often, shoot straight, and things (and people) tend to explode and be propelled upwards when they shoot them.
And they each have numerous chances to shoot at things in glorious intricately designed lengthy sequences of carnage and explosions. (I had a joke about China needing a one-child policy because Chow Yun Fat killed all of the males in John Woo films, but even I dubbed it borderline racist.) I can't say that Jeff takes out hundreds of armed assailants single-handedly in this film, because even though he does take out that many he often utilises both hands, each gripping the pistol tightly as he flies all over the place taking out thugs and punks.
The plot is merely a frame to hang some of the best shootouts in cinema history on, and the undeniable truth is that some of the non-shooty scenes are frankly pretty amateurish. But this is an action film, and when scrutinised as an action film is stands head and shoulders above many modern day pretenders. Jeff and Lee ultimately end up in a breathtaking showdown vs a never-ending horde of blindly (no pun intended) charging assailants who storm their church hideout about 6 at a time Left 4 Dead style. As they repel these invaders in stylish fashion they share an ongoing dialogue about how much they mean to each other and such, pausing only to grit their teeth and pick off still more would-be assassins.
Even in near death situations John Woo still wants people to share their feelings...
There is an ongoing argument over whether this and its companion piece Hard Boiled are truly classics or simply well choreographed bullet-operas. I'll just say that where action is concerned no-one stages a bloody shootout as well as Woo. I'd much rather watch this or Hard Boiled than any of the last 17 generic action flicks churned out by Hollywood.
If I had to choose, I would rate the hospital shootout in Hard Boiled as better than anything in The Killer, but the church finale here does take a lot of beating also.
Ultimately though you can't really go wrong with either.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. John Woo films are like the contestants for Miss Universe pageants – breathtaking to look at, but it's always slightly disappointing when they talk
The Muppet Movie (1979)
A fine entry into the Muppetational universe.
An inspired combination of slapstick, music, vaudeville and charm, The Muppet Movie takes all the now familiar characters away from the Muppet Theatre where humans were the minority, and plonks them right among the (almost) real world.
We meet Kermit alone in his swamp singing beautifully to himself, and after a chance meeting with the frog, a crocodile and a movie agent – yes it's that kind of film – Kermit is inspired to try to forge his own path in showbusiness.
Along his journey to Hollywood he meets aspiring stand up comedian Fozzie, amateur stunt man Gonzo and a group of zany musos known as The Electric Mayhem. He also finds that romantic sparks fly when he meets a diva pig with delusions of grandeur.
That's the core part of the initial Muppet group identified, the slightly awry element arrives in the form of a fat, sweaty guy in a white suit named Doc Hopper, who just happens to sell frog's legs as cuisine. He takes a shine to Kermit's pins and decides that he simply must have them to promote his wares, whether Kermit agrees or not.
The remainder of the film is essentially an extended chase sequence as Kermit and the gang hightail it towards Hollywood with Doc Hopper and his toadying (no pun intended) assistant close behind.
And this to me is the problem with the initial Muppet Movie, the best parts are the simple times, Kermit sitting on the log singing Rainbow Connection without a care in the world, the awkward but undeniable chemistry between pig and frog, the stoner-ish hep dialogue between the members of the Electric Mayhem, the stand-up bear who is terrible at stand up.
They kinda lost me when the film veered into 'eating the primary character's legs' territory. They definitely lost my four year old in the looming torture scene, and nearly killed the poor boy when the Frog assassin clad all in black and looking decidedly evil showed up. (I really didn't remember these things from my previous viewings.) Despite these depressing and out of place sequences there is still a lot to love about the first Muppet Movie, the constant breaking of the fourth wall is already obvious, the general funkiness of the Electric Mayhem and the timelessness of Kermit's tunes, the cheesy jokes that are so bad that you can't help but smile – especially when delivered with such innocence and charm by a handpuppet the inclusion of several big name cameos, none of whom for a moment let on that they are conversing with a sock, yet some of whom still manage to out-ham the very same talking puppets.
The Muppet Movie finds a bunch of frogs, pigs, bears and whatevers coming to terms with their own existence, growing into their own skin and fur. Over the years some peripheral characters became more central, and others stepped back to spout occasional quips when required.
Most of all this film showed that there was entertainment value to be found in these talking socks, and that people of all ages could enjoy their shenanigans guilt free.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. 'Mature thematic elements' aside, this is a fine intro to the Muppetational world.
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Still fun, but lacks the spark that made the first two films so memorable.
After getting the formula about right with The Great Muppet Caper, the series takes a strange turn with 'Manhattan' only a few years later. Veteran Muppet Frank Oz takes the helm from Jim Henson and makes a few minor but noticeable changes. Gone are the nods and winks to the audience for the most part, and the film is far more plot based and linear than the slapstick shenanigans of the first film.
Kermit and the gang are finishing college and pondering their futures, which will very likely result in them all moving on separately and losing touch. However Kermit boldly concocts a plan that will see the gang remain together, by heading en masse to Manhattan to launch a massive stage musical called Manhattan Melodies, with all the Muppets as performers or stage hands.
Unfortunately after just a few short days, no success and low on funds, the various characters are forced to disperse and forge their own future, with the promise from Kermit to summon them all if/when the musical gets greenlit. Kermit takes a job in a diner and everyone goes their separate ways.
In many ways this is a more depressing film than the first two – even with the frog killing theme – for long periods of time the characters mope and ponder a future alone, and it seems that the Muppets will never again operate in unison. Of course this isn't how the film ends, but even in a puppet movie you don't need to be kept sad for over half the running time.
The jokes are less frequent and the tone less tongue in cheek. The cameos are still plentiful but are more 'look here's the famous cameo' than in other films. The inclusion of the Muppet Babies in a thinly veiled promo for the spin-off is as entertaining as it is blatant, and in some ways is a minor indictment on the dull tone of the rest of the film that it can be upstaged by a flashback.
There is another attempt at a grand sequence with Piggy taking a skate through the park, but it is far less successful than either of the sequences from Caper, and the big finale was an apt but desperate ending to proceedings.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I by no means am saying steer clear of Manhattan, but after the Muppet Movie got the ball rolling and Caper took such a great leap forward, it is disappointing that the franchise would take a step back like this.
Action Jackson (1988)
Aaaahhh, the late 80s...
Aaaah the late 80s
The fact that a character's name is 'Action' Jackson didn't need to be justified. It just was. We take for granted that Action Jackson is scary and awe-inspiring as peripheral characters tell us so. Ditto the fact that his passion for his job and creative methods have resulted in him being demoted and his wife leaving him The bad guy is identified early. Better still he is already Action Jackson's nemesis. Better still, still. The guy responsible for his demotion and wife leaving him. Unexpected and unnecessary nudity was both expected and necessary. The bad guy has a hot trophy wife (Sharon Stone) and a hot mistress (Vanity). Both of whom are more than willing to take their clothes off for little reason.
Women get out of the shower nude. Guys are wearing jeans. Performing in a club with a totally see through top isn't noticed by anyone in the club – but those of us watching at home It doesn't matter if the hero doesn't actually say something funny or clever, as long as he and the other characters seem to think what he is saying is funny and/or clever. Post-kill quips still need work though, no "Hasta la vista Baby" or "Stick around here" (though "How do you like your ribs" was OK. The answer is apparently 'exploded'.) Dangerous minions can time their hit and run assassination attempts to coincide with the came split second that their target walks through a door, despite traffic and the fact that they are hundreds of yards away with no possible way of knowing that this was the point he was to emerge "I have to catch a cab' means a chase scene, with Jackson not only catching up but giving him a mouthful through the window of his speeding car while still on foot! Leading to big explosions and certain civilian deaths, none of which are mentioned again. People get hit in the face and actually bleed. (Happens less on film nowadays than you think.) Cheesy pop music on the soundtrack is justifiable for the fact that it was the 80s, the spiritual home of cheesy pop music. Every character actor in the film is recognisable from another classic film of the era. In the first 10 minutes I saw minor roles filled with actors from Predator, Beverly Hills Cop, Red Heat, Back to the Future and seemingly half of the cast of Die Hard. We know the big showdown will be a fist fight when we see the Bad Guy training in hand to hand combat. A good body double can make you think that a 60 year old is a karate machine why don't we ever manage to see his face while he pulling off these athletic moves ? Stunt men are plentiful and disposable, and unnecessary CGI is not needed. Movies were 80 minutes long and had a beginning, middle and end.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. None of the above things are bad. Action Jackson is not in the same league as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and their peers, but it is a solid formula action comedy, which proves that Carl Weathers had genuine on screen likability.
An immaculately filmed, well muscled ball of confusion.
It is Greece, 1228 B.C. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his armies seek to overthrow the Gods – with whom he has a personal grudge. The Gods have decided long before not to meddle with the affairs of Man, and sit high above in the clouds like beautiful gold clad Statler and Waldorfs.
Hyperion is a nasty piece of work, a bitter and violent man who will stop at nothing to get his way. He feels that the only thing standing between him and the Immortals is a magic bow called Epirus, but it is so well hidden no-one knows where to find it. So Hyperion seeks the assistance of the Virgin Oracle (Frieda Pinto), a pure spirit who can see things no-one else can.
While Hyperion roams the lands in his never-ending search for the Epirus bow and the Oracle, he multi-tasks by killing potential threats to his future rule along the way. These include any villages that favour the Gods, and especially pregnant women who might raise children to fight him down the track.
One of these women slain happens to be Theseus' Mum.
Theseus was not born to be a warrior, but with determination and guidance from a 'wise old man' (John Hurt) he is perhaps the best credentialed threat to Hyperion's bloodthirsty quest. Indeed the Gods themselves have noticed from upon high in between preening themselves and polishing their attire, and have decided Theseus warrants special favour.
After some chance meetings Theseus sets off with the Oracle and a soldier Stavros (Stephen Dorff) in tow towards a big violent climax a la 300 and practically every big quest flick of the last decade.
While the name Immortals might suggest grandeur and everlasting legend, this film is anything but. In fact the memory of this particular flick might not last more than a couple weeks beyond next year's DVD release date.
That's not to say it's terrible – it's okaaaaayyyy – but it battles with so many internal conflicts that it can't possibly overcome with such a derivative script.
The problem is that the film is a polarising mish-mash of excellence and incompetence. The costume, sets and production are flawless, but the acting (I'm looking at you Mickey Rourke), plot and action are adequate at best. And why does every second film released lately have a score that seems to rip off Inception? The film is necessarily violent but not in any especially new or cool way, I've seen a lot of limbs and heads severed lately. Yawn.
I can't fathom why the Greek Gods keep popping up again and again in big budget Hollywood films despite the fact no-one has managed to make a decent film about them Oh yeah, all that money what they done made.
Let's just say that it's better than Clash of the Titans and far less cheesy than 300, but that's like me claiming to be the world high jump champion because I can step over a phone book.
Director Tarsem Singh has some of the most astounding and memorable visuals in his films, but his failing lies in telling a story coherently. I love looking at his films but I don't often understand them, that applies to both The Cell and The Fall from last decade. Immortals falls victim to the same issues, it is a gorgeous bitch of a film, nice to look at but it will ultimately leave you cold.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. The backdrops are purrty, the combatants oily and well muscled, but the film itself is merely OK.
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
Competent, but I hated it... and I hope for society's sake you do too.
I have seen Casey Affleck in comedies (Tower Heist) and dramas (Gone Baby, Gone and The Assassination
blah-blah-blah). He is most definitely a far more accomplished dramatic actor. The Killer Inside Me is an extremely dramatic film and Affleck is a compelling presence in it, but despite all that I can't find a reason to recommend it or for me to revisit it at any point in the future.
It is Texas in the 1950s. Affleck plays Lou Ford, a cop in town small enough that everyone knows him, and he knows them. Being the authority figure in a close knit community the consensus is that Lou is an all round nice guy – in fact he is set to marry one of the more well thought of young women in the community, Amy (Kate Hudson).
But as Lou himself informs us with his narration the truth is a little more complicated, and as we learn through sporadic flashbacks and the action within the film decidedly more depressing and bleak.
The 'fun' starts when Lou is called upon to move on a known hooker who has set up shop on the outskirts of town. When he arrives he finds that Joyce (Jessica Alba) is none too co-operative to his requests. After giving her a taste of the back of his hand Lou finds that Joyce might just like it a little rough.
And Lou likes the fact that Joyce likes it rough.
The two set to a passionate affair with Lou dropping in as frequently as he is able without drawing undue attention. In their post-coital chats Lou is told that he is not the only 'regular' dropping by, and the pair decide that they should fleece the son of a wealthy local and flee the community to a new life elsewhere.
In the days that follow Lou changes the plan somewhat, leaving us to ponder whether he likes tail more than dollars or is it something else entirely.
Straightforward heist films without twists and turns are boring, and The Killer Inside Me can't be accused of being straightforward. Lou is a multi faceted character, with the depth of his 'quirks' and his ever altering mental state being drip fed to us as the film progresses. Along the way this brings the attention of the District Attorney Howard (Simon Baker) and Joe (Elias Koteas) the local union rep.
They all think they have a handle on Lou. None have. For them – and many others – this is not good news.
I can't leave without saying a few things. The Killer Inside Me is very violent, the kind of violent that I find particularly unpalatable. It also is unlikely to teach you much about life aside from perhaps it takes all types to make a world, but hopefully you knew that by now anyway.
So I'll end by repeating myself. Casey Affleck makes Lou Ford a commanding presence and a complicated character. I still don't think this is enough to warrant tracking this film down.
And for those of you who seek some Jessica Alba or Kate Hudson love scenes. They are here, but they don't end the way you hope. At least I sincerely hope they don't.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. It's probably fair to say that a lot of aspects of The Killer Inside Me are handled well. It's equally fair to say I didn't like the film much at all. I also don't think I am being anti-social by openly hoping you won't like it too
Will have you mouthing 'really' a lot, but usually with a smile.
Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) is an ambitious up and coming policeman studying law with an eye on entering the legal system sooner rather than later.
His big break occurs when another similarly ambitious man – albeit in another field of endeavour – transgresses the boundaries of the law directly in front of Nick, and more tellingly a man holding a video camera. The ensuing media coverage makes a minor 80s viral star of Nick, allowing him to rapidly advance into the offices of the District Attorney, while simultaneously ending the fledgling criminal career of one Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow).
Blake stews in his own juices in prison for years, allowing his grudge against Nick to become an obsession. An obsession that is not helped by the frequent media coverage his more popular nemesis continues to garner.
Blake formulates an escape / vengeance combo that is as impossibly convoluted as it is (apparently) embarrassingly easy to pull off. After his daring and bloody escape that leaves many dead – according to the authorities Blake among them – he easily and painlessly infiltrates Nick's family, career and inner circle within mere days, somehow managing to turn Nick from a local law abiding hero into a pariah wanted by the law, hated by the public and mistrusted by his own friends and family.
In case you haven't guessed by now Ricochet is unbelievably silly, but unbelievably silly fun, back in the days when R rated movies were still allowed that indulgence.
Lithgow has a ball as the profane, violent and intense Earl Talbot Blake, some of his disgusting statements and retorts are blackly quotable, and his over the top mannerisms and facial gestures are so serious they're hilarious. Denzel too allows himself to get a little dirty, he swears up a storm and even though it is not his intention manages to bang a hooker and ingest a powerful cocktail of illicit substances, all in the one scene.
Having Ice T around as a smack talking ne'er do well just adds flavour to proceedings, and Kevin Pollack gets to try a couple of his character impressions as Nick's former partner and best buddy.
Ricochet is violent, silly, implausible and somehow absurdly entertaining. It is over the top in all the right ways, stopping short of Crank level histrionics, but thankfully going a lot further than many of today's PC influenced sober snoozefests.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I can't say that it is that great a movie, but you'll never be bored, and the film pulls out all the stops to hold your attention, even if for much of the time your eyes are bugged and you are mouthing 'Really?' incredulously.
I liked Ricochet as a gormless kid in my late teens, I am pleased to say I enjoyed it almost as much today, but perhaps for slightly different reasons.
Fun and frivolous in just the proper proportions.
Imagine my pleasant surprise to find that Captain America is fun and frivolous in all the right ways.
In 1942 America's involvement in WW2 was in full swing, with their rude introduction occurring at Pearl Harbour the previous year. Countless brave young Americans line up to defend the honour of their proud nation against the Axis of evil.
Unfortunately thanks to a laundry list of health and wellbeing issues, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is unable to be accepted as one of them, despite his best intentions and continued applications, he finds his weak frame keeps him out of the army. He also finds that his big mouth, noble principles and never say die attitude continually gets him into trouble.
Then Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci) identifies this scrappy runt with a heartbeat that keeps time with the Star Spangled Banner. Erskine tells Rogers of a new program which he refers to as his last and only shot of being able to serve his Country, of course Rogers agrees immediately and undergoes a painful procedure that Springfielders might say embiggens everything about Steve.
He enters the lab a scrawny 50 kg weakling and emerges more video game hero than man; a handsome, smooth, chiseled buffalupagus with the same super-GO USA-principals and incredible physical abilities. One of the (possibly unintended) side-effects is definitive swooniness.
Without too much messing about Rogers is plonked into an army unit where he is written off as a science project by his superior Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and sympathised with by Soldier Peggy Carter (a gravity defying Hayley Atwell).
After a brief delay to promote the cause Rogers is sent to the front line, where his new powers are put to the test against the Nasti Nazis, primarily the fiendish Hydra unit lead by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a man with physical secrets of his own, and a man who has aspirations of no less than world domination. He also has the coolest toys – more on that later
The strength of Captain America is how it deliberately toes the superhero movie line, the beauties are beautiful, the men noble and brave and the bad guys appropriately back-lit to appear instantly ominous. There is also the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, and of course the Nazis are always good superhero escapist fodder.
Unfortunately I can't mention the strengths without the minor weaknesses, for while Captain America is indeed worth watching I can't help but feel it has been a victim to The Avengers success thus far, as the sheer number of big names already in The Avengers universe has resulted in Chris Evans being dragged off the bench for duty.
Chris Evans' best role that I know of was his 10 minute character role in Scott Pilgrim Vs the World as a charisma-free beefcake action star moron. Here he plays the supposed antithesis of that guy, but he once again fails to bring the charisma, Evans might be a bona fide buff guy as the first unveiling of his super-modded physique shows, but there must be dozens of guys in Hollywood all better credentialed for the acting part of Steve Rogers – the problem is they are all in Iron Man/Thor/Hulk/X-Men/Green Lantern and so on.
Chris Evans is less the leading man for Captain America, he is more the last man standing in this game of superhero pick up.
Hugo Weaving and I on the other hand have a long relationship, he played an over acting robot/computer program (I don't care which nerds) in The Matrix and was once again a scenery chewing over-enunciator spitting Tolkien dialogue in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Schmidt/Red Skull he claims to have used the voice and accent of renowned German filmmakers as his template, but bugger me if it doesn't come across as 99% Arnie Schwarzenegger to me – the one oft-copied and universally derided by millions. So either Hugo is busting out another crappy accent, or we should lay off the Arnie bashing because apparently that's how all Germans talk !
But that aside, the best part of the film though is the prevailing sense of entertainment over all, the fact that this is not historically accurate or scientifically possible is not mentioned. They don't try to introduce ridiculous justifications – radioactive spiders anyone? – and more or less say 'don't ask why, we just can'.
Or perhaps more appropriately 'Don't ask, Don't tell".
The Hydra team have some of the awesomest toys in cinema history, with Schmidt/Red Skull boasting a simply insane garage filled with a monstrous car, a slick one man submarine and numerous supercool aircraft. His men also have bad-ass uniforms and helmets and weaponry that other cinema bad guys could only dream of. The Nazis might be the undercard in this film, but they sure look cooler.
Watching this film made me realise that the much maligned 'look how fast we've developed and what we can do now' montage is under-appreciated and underused. This leads to a film with one foot in the Avengers camp and the other in Indiana Jones territory, pretty good company I would argue.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. If you like your superhero films to be escapist entertainment look no further, I just can't help but feel that this might be an 8 if there were better leads involved, (and it might tip into a 9 with some Hayley Atwell nudity)!
Sleeping Beauty (2011)
This isn't art. This isn't poetry. This isn't good.
The movie is called Sleeping Beauty.
Women who watch might call it Stupid Beauty.
Guys will see it as Sleeping Booty.
I see it as an amazing feat for star Emily Browning, who managed to segue effortlessly from her role as the scantily clad pouting idiot in the execrable Sucker Punch into this. The film that I would choose Sucker Punch over.
Hang on, I just threw up in my mouth.
By day Beauty is an everyday teen, juggling school and multiple part time jobs and supplementing her income with submitting herself as a test bunny for medical and/or scientific research, (apparently into how long a woman can have a tube in her mouth without vomiting). She is apparently so busy that she never sees the Australian sun – albino Eskimos have better tans than Emily Browning.
Personal relationships seem fleeting at best, and generally see Beauty placating various people, an alcoholic (possibly abusive) mother, a friend with addiction, and more mundanely flatmates by coming up with the rent on time and doing some cleaning.
By day she is known as Lucy.
The evenings are spent with casual drinking, drug-taking and prostitution After responding to a classified as Beauty finds what she sees as a promotion. No longer casual and freelance, she now gets to wear a uniform and serve clients – only her uniform is by no means in the Macca's style, and her clients are little more than rich old pervs.
By night she is known as Sara.
'Sara's' boss/madam/pimp is Claire. Claire is prim, proper and demanding. The customer is always right, regardless of how messed up or creepy he is.
The work is well paid but sporadic, but Beauty doesn't do it for the money. In one scene she casually burns a $100 note and watches it crinkle and melt without emotion. The 'job' involves nudity and submitting oneself to potential abuse and ridicule, but Beauty doesn't do it for titillation, satisfaction or compulsion. She just seems to do it. In fact, half way through the film I thought a better title might be The pasty girl who never says no. The phone rings, she answers, and with monotonous frequency heads of immediately at the caller's bidding.
Whether the director meant this to appear empowering or pathetic is beyond me.
Regardless of intent eventually Beauty finds another promotion, essentially becoming little more than the world's largest Pillow Pet for essentially the same clientele.
We learn practically nothing about Lisa/Sara/Beauty. The film has little music, minimal dialogue and moves at a languid pace like melted icecream down a kerb, but I would argue watching this is more of a tragedy than dropping your Drumstick.
Then with a scream it all finishes, and you wonder why. Keep your artsy. Save your fartsy for another day. To me this is 100% uncut dull and pointless fare. Sure we have an up and coming Hollywood starlet shedding her clothes frequently, apparently this is challenging, daring and mesmerizing.
I just wonder how challenging, daring and mesmerising it would all be if – how you say? – a more natural woman was in the lead. Say the girl from Precious instead of Casper's sister
Final Rating – 3 / 10. This isn't art. This isn't poetry. No-one learns lessons. No-one is better for the experience. What it is is a drab two hour exercise in making beautiful female nudity distasteful and unlikable. If anything that is perhaps the film's crowning – and only – achievement.
A rare 'shirt-on' Stallone success story. Oddly enjoyable.
Most of the time the enjoyment value in a Sly Stallone film can be astutely judged by the trailer. If he appears with his shirt off (Rambo / Rocky / The Expendables) your juvenile entertainment value is all but assured. If he somehow manages to keep his shirt on (Judge Dredd / Rhinestone / Stop! Or my Mom will shoot etc) things generally don't go so well.
In Daylight Stallone keeps his shirt on. Despite this though he manages to find a companion piece to Cop Land in the little known field of 'shirt-on successes'.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Some naughty guys manage to cause a massive explosion in the New York – New Jersey tunnel, simultaneously blocking both ends and leaving the precious few survivors cold, wet and rapidly running out of options. Unfortunately the explosion was 15 or so years too early to prevent the escape of the Jersey Shore and Jerseylicious idiots, but you can't have everything.
(Nothing to do with the plot but the actual explosion and subsequent fireworks is awesomely pulled off, I'm not sure if it was miniatures or 90s CGI, I only know I wished for a Blu-Ray instead of the DVD I rented.) Enter Sly Stallone as Kit Latura, who until moments before was merely another New York Cab Driver who didn't speak English. Using skills gleaned from a previous career – that we hear of throughout the film – Kit manages to save many victims in the tunnel exterior before promptly deciding he is the only man capable saving those still trapped inside. And whaddya know he's right.
After another tension filled scene Kit finds himself inside and meets the usual motley crew of huddled desperates, with the added spice being provided by the inclusion of a few hardened prisoners that were in transit before the explosion. Among the others are a middle class family, some retirees, a tunnel worker, a genuine high rolling thrill seeker, and of course even a damsel for Kit to save and bond with (Amy Brenneman).
From here it is all Hollywood; Kit must cajole and caress the survivors through a series of ever-increasing dangers and perils, with new causes of premature death only seconds behind at all times. There is a direct correlation between how cocky / dangerous you are and your likelihood of living, and of course some good people must be sacrificed in the name of viewer empathy. There's even a dog and a kid for the more hardened viewers out there.
Will this sneaky manipulative emotional blackmail ever end? These cumulative dozen or so people, all of who rely solely on Kit to save them from almost certain death by an ever-increasing range of threats, are alternately indignant, ungrateful, defeated, elated, helpful and supportive, depending on the needs of the film at the time.
The strange thing is that we've seen it all before – many times – Outbreak came out the year before and tried all the same tricks. But with this film there are 25 examples of 'just when you think it can't get any worse ' and somehow they all work. Sure it ain't a Picasso, but strike me if it isn't a tension filled thrill ride (that's at least what the promo poster might say – but it is!).
When I plugged in the DVD and settled back I was hoping for little more than a couple hours of time killing. While future viewings might deaden my support I quite enjoyed watching Daylight, which in itself guarantees there will at least be one more viewing at some point in the future.
Having avoided Outbreak deliberately for a decade and a half I only wish I could say the same for that monkey-virus drivel.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Hollywood formula all the way to the bank. The enjoyment bank. (Last The Simpsons joke rip-off for at least 24 hours, I promise.)
House Party (1990)
Because we can't be serious all the time.
House Party was an unexpected low budget hit upon release in 1990, something about the bright colours and an 'urban movie' without a single drive by tapped directly into the consciousness of a teen market wanting desperately to embrace hip-hop culture without getting a gold tooth.
Kid 'n' Play host their own mega (to them) party. The be-all and end-all of House Parties. Where they can let their personal freak flags fly. Where a good time will most certainly be had by all.
And they basically do.
In a lurid blur of motion and colour these attractive teens set about enjoying themselves in the most PG 13 ways imaginable.
For a 15 year old this was like opening a window to another world: the outlandish gravity defying haircuts that I envied but would never dare attempt. The stoopid (in a good way) rhymes and dumb (in a hopelessly dated now) phrases spouted by these fly guys and home girls were new and dangerously addictive, if terribly out of place in the small town I grew up.
Shennanigans were plentiful, but amounted to little more than messin' playfully with the man in blue, freaking the establishment and clearly exposing the gaping generation gap by juxtaposing these carefully manicured teens against the pompous and staid older types.
Characters are broad and never less than frenetic and loud, dialogue makes little sense but sure sounds fresh and exciting.
And boy are these kids budding model citizens.
Overindulgence of alcohol is frowned upon, but with a supportive message of limitation rather than abhorrence. Violence is for punks and drugs aren't even mentioned. Sex is OK but only when 'safe' and amenable to both parties, no 'c'mon baby, you know you want it' here.
And there is an anti-prison sex rap. Finally someone stands up against it!
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. House Party spawned several sequels, none of which I even vaguely recall. But this 90 minutes is always likable and elicits warm memories of my teens (not that I acted like this, but I watched a lot of movies where characters did).
The freakiest film you probably won't see this year!
I talk a lot about films, and in recent weeks I have spoken most about only two topics: how much I hated Real Steel and how bizarre this film is.
Jean Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Wishaw) was born into an 18th century French society that was decidedly pungent – and his birthing scene is equally graphic. After being literally left for dead in the mud he is instantly orphaned and shovelled off to a dingy and – yes smelly – orphanage, where his cries and hunger inspire the other orphans to try to kill him.
This early sequence is as brilliant as it is gross and depressing. And it is quite gross and depressing.
But Jean-Baptiste survives of course, and grows up to adulthood an able bodied, albeit nearly mute and emotionless, young man. A young man with nostrils with no equal, stuck in a role where he could not take advantage of his scent skills.
So Jean-Baptiste became a renaissance Rain Man of sorts, an obsolete olfactory aficionado. A man with no prejudice against any odour regardless of how unpleasant it might seem, but also oblivious of the niceties and morals of modern society.
That is until a chance meeting with a perfumer named Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), a mid-tier artiste frustrated by his inability to distance himself from the more sought after perfumers of the land. Baldini initially ignores Jean-Baptiste's claims regarding his abilities, but this swiftly changes once Baldini recognises the innate genius of the awkward creepy young man, and more tellingly the commercial prospects that having a man on staff with his skills.
In the short while the pair operate as master and apprentice Baldini passes on his limited knowledge regarding the techniques of scent manufacturing, with which Jean-Baptiste promptly utilises to create some of the most aesthetically pleasing perfumes possible.
But Jean-Baptiste is far from satisfied with his incredible advances in both skills and social standing, he openly yearns to make his mark on the globe through the creation of the 'ultimate' scent. To do this he decides he must head away from the city
I can't go too much further without over-disclosing, however this film starts gross and heads to creepy, before ending in an orgy of olfactory over-indulgence that must be seen to be disbelieved.
For lengthy sections of the film Jean-Baptiste is the lone figure on screen as he continues his bizarre quest, and as he is practically mute and almost robotic in his actions this makes for some tough going. Peripheral characters waft in and out of the story as they enter Jean-Baptitse's orbit, some only for a few moments.
As Jean-Baptiste Ben Whishaw has a particularly thankless role which he performs admirably, he commands attention his dull expressionless eyes, simultaneously unnerving and yet somehow demanding sympathy, even as he carries out acts that are especially heinous to you and I but merely necessary to him.
Perfume: The story of a murderer is not a film that I will revisit again and again, except in my mind. I also can't describe the two scenes that scream out to be told. I can only say that it is for the most part a straightforward telling of a quite remarkable and impossible tale, which loses it more than a little in the final few moments. And it is those few moments that you will be describing to incredulous others for years
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. I can't recommend that you see Perfume. But I can guarantee that you won't unsee it if you do.
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Not great. But the best kind of big, dumb, bare-chested action.
Unlike many other thirty-somethings I wasn't that enamoured by the Conan franchise in the 80s. I mean I saw them all and only a few years later was converted to a full Arnie-Fan with Predator, Commando and The Terminator, but his leather loin-cloth and gleaming weapon never did that much for me.
So saying I looked at the reboot with some trepidation is a bit of an understatement. Well here is the almost apologetic square up: Now that I have seen Conan 2011 I wish I caught it in its (extremely limited) cinema run.
Forget Centurion and The Eagle (though The Eagle is perhaps a better film), THIS is what big screen dumb bare-chested action is all about. Put another way; anyone who enjoyed the Arnie originals – or anyone who spends too much time staring at heavy metal album covers – will find much to enjoy here.
Conan was born in the same place he lived – on a battlefield – in a hasty poor man's caesarean amid a huge ongoing bloodbath. As he aged and matured Conan was similarly premature in his battle readiness, beheading his first four savage assailants and proudly displaying them to his proud chieftain Father (Ron Perlman) before his barbarian-balls dropped.
Then on the same day Conan's life changed. Jay Leno announced he wanted his old gig back and wait, wrong Conan.
On his fateful day Conan's Father died, and the final piece of an ancient mask with supernatural powers was gathered by a vicious murderer named Khalar Zym (Stephen Land), a man with a rapidly growing army of heavily armed followers and aspirations of global domination. With the mask in hand all Khalar Zym needed to fulfil his prophecy was the blood of a 'pure woman', and he, his army and his young witch daughter Marique (Rose McGowan) set off to search for it.
But Khalar Zym didn't tie up one very important loose end. He left young Coney alive to swear vengeance with his final words before his mighty voice broke What follows is everything you expect from a film with Barbarian in the title. And more. Conan 2011 is violent, blood-soaked and action packed on a suitably large scale, with tough mono-syllabic talk, furrowed brows and heaving bosoms of all kinds.
Along the journey Conan must face a myriad of faceless minions, fanciful monsters and magical creations, all seemingly desperate to leap athletically upon his huge sword. Speaking of huge swords, Conan must also escort the damsel with the afore-mentioned pure blood, a young woman named Tamara (Rachel Nichols), with who Conan shares a 300 style sex scene that sets him apart as the most giving barbarian lover on record.
Jason Momoa does his best as he can as Conan in a role that practically demands that he be wooden and dumb, Stephen Lang is suitably villainous as Khalar Zym and benefits from being surrounded by a menacing menagerie of minions (Hey I love alliteration), and Rose McGowan chews the scenery as the evil witch who is quite possibly 'Daddy's little girl' in a most inappropriate sense.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. I watch too many movies. I now look for reasons not to revisit films and subsequent sequels. I cannot extol Conan as one of the films of 2011 – far from it – but if they decide to make a sequel to this reboot I will watch it, this time at the cinema.
Red Riding Hood (2011)
This is not only 'not for me', I really hope it isn't for anyone...
Red Riding Hood is boring. It perhaps shouldn't be, but it is. It wants to be part love story, part action flick, part whodunit. But it isn't much of anything but a bland teen-targeting borefest trying to elbow into Twilight's audience.
Long ago. A remote European village filled with brooding beautiful and/or handsome citizens is under siege from a werewolf. Each month at the full moon the village goes into lockdown, with no-one emerging until daylight. Yet still some locals manage to turn up dead.
The latest is Valerie's (Amanda Seyfried) sister. It is obviously a very sad day for the village and particularly the family, with Valerie's alcoholic Dad and super-serious Mum both extremely upset.
Valerie loves Peter, a local woodcutter who seems decidedly swoony. She is unfortunately arranged to be wed to Henry, who isn't a woodcutter but is almost as dreamy. And he's rich.
After the latest fatalities an outside expert is brought in to rid the town of the furry evil, a man who chose to kill his own wife when he found she turned into a snarling, vicious monster every month or so (I'll leave the obvious and unsavoury joke alone).
The new wolf-hunter is Solomon (Gary Oldman), he is brash, loud and confident, perhaps because he is backed by several heavily armed men, perhaps because he swiftly realises that everyone else in this crappy film is too busy brooding and looking mysterious to show a pulse.
Solomon summons the entire village to inform one and all that not only do they have a werewolf, but he is a resident of this very village *GASP* and soon a 'blood moon' will come, meaning the wolf can infect others and make more werewolves.
So we're left with two questions: 1/ Will Valerie break with formality and choose beefcake over rich-boy? And; 2/ Who is the wolf? The answer to both is that only teen-girls could give a damn. I tuned out early, then had to hold back vomit when I learned that the dodgy as hell looking werewolf could communicate with Valerie via telepathy or something.
As mentioned only Gary Oldman seems to realise just how bad this all is, and his over-acting replicates that of Anthony Hopkins in Dracula – in fact his character is basically the Van Helsing role here in this patently obvious rip-off. Everyone else shuffles about like emo-zombies with flawless skin, backed with tasteful lighting and teen friendly angst music.
I could write this off as being 'not for me', but I sincerely hope that utter garbage like this isn't possibly right for anyone
Final Rating – 3.5 / 10. A film aimed at a Twilight crowd that is so awful in every respect that I would rather rewatch Twilight than this.
Everything that made the first two films unexpectedly good - now pointing at you.
Harold and Kumar are two young Americans who swear, fornicate and like pot. (Geez I could have made that even briefer by just saying 'Harold and Kumar are two young Americans'.) Now we find revisit them six years after their last escapades. Harold is now a successful and Maria are married and trying for a child – nice one Harold. Kumar has broken up with and is still slobby, lazy and decidedly non-driven. The once inseparable pair have gradually grown apart.
Perhaps in an attempt to fill the respective voids that they each feel after the loss of the other, both have new 'best buds'. Harold the over keen and totally dorky Todd (Tom Lennon), Kumar some new stoner dude.
The plot isn't the point of this threequel. But if you MUST know Harold and Kumar reluctantly team up with new buds in tow to find a replacement Christmas tree so that Harold can please his Father in Law (Danny Trejo) who is spending his first Christmas with them.
Along the way expect drug use, beer pong, Ukrainian gangsters and tripping babies.
The point of the film is that it is in 3D, so at various times we can witness the following items fly past, over or toward us: smoke (natch), eggs, joints, baby Jesus and wait for it, semen.( Yep, bring your folks to this one.) Patton Oswalt plays a mall Santa in an unfortunately all too short cameo, Neil Patrick Harris is once again back to play an alternate NPH, and as always chaos reigns.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is everything you expect – i.e. nothing you could rightfully expect – and nothing you don't – i.e. good taste, low key, well crafted jokes – but it's all too stupidly funny to bother hatin' on it.
Suffice to say if you liked Harold and Kumar in 2D, you'll like them just as much in 3D.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. I saw this last night and now only one sleep later can hardly remember it, in saying that I would be just as happy to watch it again tomorrow. (But I'm not shilling another twenty on it fellas.)
Brutal, violent, depressing - but compelling - one woman revolution.
After last night Moo-Do island in South Korea has rocketed to the very top of my 'bad places to live' list, though I guess not so much if you're a guy.
Hae-Won is a beautiful young woman living the city life in Seoul. After a particularly bad day it is 'suggested' that she take some leave to recharge her batteries and regain some perspective. This break sees her leave the mainland for the aforementioned Moo-Do island – her childhood home – and a place seemingly unchanged since her departure at a young age.
Inertia isn't always a good thing, but initially this is a boon for Hae-Won, her trendy haircut, high heels and pale skin (not darkened by spending countless hours working outdoors) make her a minor celeb to the small number of residents still living on the island. While none of this small number are her direct family Hae-Won tentatively bonds with Bok-Nam, whom she recalls vaguely from her childhood, and Bok-Nam's young pre-teen daughter Yeon-Hee finds Hae-Won fascinating, having not seen anyone quite like her.
Right. Fun's over folks. Be under no delusion. This is NOT a happy film, and I have seen nothing like it for a very long time Moo-Do island is a serene and beautiful locale, remote, sparsely populated and peaceful. However there remains a distinct caste system that harks back to the dark ages.
On Moo-Do island women inhabit the very bottom rung of the totem pole, this is not a nasty secret but essentially common knowledge. They work harder and are given the most thankless tasks, are treated with nary a modicum of respect or even common decency, and where 'release' is concerned they are expected to be prepared and willing at all times.
It seems the women understand that it is what it is, especially the older women who no doubt had to deal with it during their younger years, but the problem is that with only a single digit population there are only two females who appear to be under 50, Bok-Nam and her daughter.
Hae-Won knows nothing of this initially, and she is bemused but ultimately a little annoyed by the cloying attention of Bok-Nam in the days following her arrival. Gradually though they both come to realise how the other truly lives Unfortunately we the viewers are granted a far clearer and more depressing picture of what Bok-Nam deals with on the day to day, to label the local male population as South Korean rednecks might just be a disservice to regular rednecks. In fact I wondered for a while if the only truly apt description might just be the one word I have refrained from using on this site. I might also point out that some of the older women are hardly better examples of humanity, one in particular is especially vile and loathsome, with her continued verbal beatdowns of Bok-Nam becoming worse by the day.
But back to the island of don't ask, don't tell. The looming cloud of inevitability closes in on the two childhood friends, with Bok-Nam seeing Hae-Won as a potential saviour, but Hae-Won rapidly realising that she might just need to be equally concerned for herself.
And as horrible as this all is it gets worse when they go and start implying that the young girl Yeon-Hee is at risk.
While I have seen some repugnant and disturbing behaviour on film in my many decades of devouring cinema, I can't recall another occasion where I have been so disgusted and bothered by the actions of fictional characters. The equally depressing fact is that this queasiness and unease is a direct result of the plausibility of the film, meaning the film is effective and well made. (I hardly fluttered an eyelid at the ridiculous crap that plays out in the Hostel films and their ilk.) The key to a good revenge film is making sure that there is something worthy of (usually violent) reprisal. All I can say is that there have been precious few revenge films with reasons as valid and 'worthy' as this one. Might I also say that there haven't been many films where the acts of revenge more than made up for the transgressions. There is a long and deliberate 'sharpening' scene that acts as a prelude to the payoff that is one of bloodiest I can recall, yet for a while I actually shared the blood-lust ('Yeah, now get that one next!'). At least in principal.
But as with every good freak-out the danger is that things can go too far, and that is indeed the case here near the conclusion of the film, let's just say I never thought the phrase 'Put some bean paste on it' could mean something so very extreme.
Bedevilled is one of the more legitimately disturbing films that I have ever seen, and I am not just referring to the graphic violence. It unfolds gradually and the sheer scope of the situation is allowed to seep into your consciousness before you suddenly become aware that there can only be one way that this film will – no MUST – end. Unlike your Saw films and even more traditional revenge flicks like Death Sentence the violence is less sick than it is sad, mainly because in the real world you really hope that there are no places where such subjugation and blatant mistreatment of people exist, though the whole while knowing full well that they most certainly do.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. This film will definitely not make your day enjoyable, but it might open your eyes a little to the fact that you haven't got it that bad.
Harold & Kumar continue their smutty, profane, nudity filled, oddly enjoyable adventures.
Harold and Kumar gained a tiny amount of publicity because the two titular leads are of non-Caucasian descent, not because of their pilgrimage to a burger chain restaurant.
They got a sequel because the first film was funny and not mean spirited, and because the two leads Kal Penn and John Cho are so effortlessly likable and share strong chemistry.
H & K 2 is not as fresh or amusing as the first film, and it reaches a little much in trying to bring something new and R rated to the table – everyone is searching for their own MILF type idea – but it is worth a look all the same.
Picking up immediately after the first film left off as the lads prep for their trip to Amsterdam to chase down Harold's 'elevator-action' buddy Maria, the film wastes no time in reminding us of the tone of the first. The first 3 or 4 minutes are built around a diarrhea joke and a masturbation joke inclusive of an unwanted money shot
Once the film proper starts it is just a case of hijinks aplenty for our American friends, as the film finds them;
Being waylaid on their way to Amsterdam thanks to a drug related mishap.
Before; Being incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists, where they avoid physical and sexual torture by immediately escaping. (Seriously, while the film informs us that they will be escaping the prison, you might have expected that this part of the plot might warrant more than 5 minutes of screen time. It doesn't.)
Then; Trying to break up the impending wedding of Kumar's ex to a wealthy, powerful and privileged young man who seems 'too ideal' for her.
While; On the run from the continued dogged pursuit of the FBI, primarily Agent Ron Fox (Rob Corddry), who is the one guy in America who is clearly incapable of seeing the facts.
Then; Enjoying some Southern hospitality in all of its forms while once again in the esteemed – and constantly intoxicated – Doogie Howser MD aka Neil Patrick Harris (the 'P' stands for Poon-handler!).
Before they; Run into a recently retired President of the United States, who helps them get high and resolve the entire misunderstanding in 5 minutes flat, and to think he is not remembered fondly by some folks.
Harold and Kumar 2 is almost as enjoyable as the first film, though it has to try harder to entertain and misses the mark a couple more times than the original. Many of the jokes are recycled from the first movie – some work, some and it uses every stereotype in the book as fodder for its humour, somehow deciding that as it boasts two Asian-Americans on the cover (India is part of Asia!) that this is somehow its exclusive right to do so.
I doubted that I would enjoy the sequel as I was so surprised to find value in the original to begin with – and in truth it isn't as good a film. But in keeping with my rating scale I must say that it is indeed a film with a few notable moments, and as such warrants a 'pretty good' 5.5 score.
Also I can't go without mentioning the strangely decent soundtrack. Same as the original the film contains many songs -none of which I have heard before – and while none of them cause me to google them for more info, none of them make me cringe and recall just how out of touch with modern music I am. That doesn't happen too often these days, especially with a film so obviously not aimed at my demographic as this one.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. Harold and Kumar continue on their smutty, nudity filled profane and oddly enjoyable adventures. The rules state that this series will rapidly become a lame comparison of the original, for now they have avoided the jinx.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton's finest pasty skinned, overblown, Gothic moment.
I only realised that since Beetlejuice in 1988 I have seen every single full length film Tim Burton has made, but scrolling down the IMDb page today I can't say that aside from this film I found any of them especially memorable.
Granted Burton has undeniable visual flair and his movies POP out of the screen, also inarguable is his willingness to experiment and try new things, I mean who else has a musical, a big budget comic book adaptation, and stop motion animation films on their resume. So while I've admired his output and will continue to check out his films he has never made anything that resonated with me like Sleepy Hollow does – and besides some of the more obvious reasons I can't explain why I like it so much
When Constable Icabod Crane (Burton muse Johnny Depp) is reposted (but really shuffled out of the way) to use his advanced investigation and new fangled means in detection to ascertain why the average height of the locals is reducing he obeys only as it is his duty.
Upon arriving in the small town and meeting with the locals he is sat down and sombrely informed that the 3 recent victims who no longer have use for nice hats were allegedly abbreviated by a serial killer who is similarly headless, only this one rides an undead steed and tops his victims with swords, axes and scythes. The Horseman is essentially dead, so bullets and swords do little damage, he also looks a lot like Christopher Walken (in a wicked cameo) when his bonce is perched on the shoulders, and his teeth are filed into fangs for a more imposing and unnerving appearance.
Now Icabod is above all a creature of logic and reasoning and all this sounds too far fetched, so his takes his Lil Sherlock bag filled with self made tools and looks into things, vowing science and analysis will do the trick.
When his initial findings bring up little of substance Icabod turns to the locals and commences questioning those that might know, it seems that everyone in the quiet town has secrets and everyone is somehow related in some way by blood or marriage, but ultimately like the recently deceased he comes up short.
The more senior town officials – namely the men who requested police assistance in the first place – are particularly cagy and there is much muttering and conspiring behind closed doors.
Icabod is quartered in the loft of a well-to-do farmer Baltus Van Tassell and his wife Lady Van Tassell and daughter Katrina (Christina Ricci). Icabod and Katrina have a spark between them, (which seems logical, after all one is 21 Jump St and the other the only young chick in town and also someone who wears a dress so tight her cleavage is up around her ears!).
When still another victim is taken Icabod takes on the newly orphaned son as his apprentice and dogsbody – and the two continue the case, often with young Katrina alongside.
Before I cut descriptions of the plot short – so to speak – I must say that at one point Icabod indeed learns that the Headless Horseman is not only possible but he is perpetrating the crimes – though possibly with the guidance of others.
Through the remainder of this excellent film Icabod is given cryptic messages and gradually his investigation and interpretation leads him to the truth which involves witchcraft and deeply buried local secrets.
He not only discovers where the Headless Horseman "resides" but how he came to be in his current state, and more importantly how he selects his next victims.
I believe that Sleepy Hollow was predominantly shot on one massive sound stage, which is amazing considering just how many scenes occur outdoors, including horse-and-buggy chases.
The sets and costumes are all grayish and pale and the countryside forever coated in light mist – is that why Johnny Depp has such flawless skin? – all the better to highlight the garish unnatural looking red of the blood that frequently spurts and gushes, often onto Icabod himself.
Being a Tim Burton film there are constant Gothic touches, odd imagery and the afore-mentioned blood, this is undoubtedly his most violent film too (Sweeney Todd is runner-up), aside from the frequent and graphic decapitations citizens are impaled and severed in half.
As I mentioned earlier Sleepy Hollow has all the base elements that make up a Tim Burton film so we know it will at least be interesting and a visual treat, but Sleepy Hollow goes a couple steps beyond the normal Burton effort, as well as the everpresent Johnny Depp, the formal sounding dialogue, the amazing visuals and the attention to detail this one has a reasonably effective plot even with an undead assassin and witchery.
It is the story that often gets set aside in Burton's flicks to make room for more odd antics and intricate visuals, Sleepy Hollow though has a plot that keeps you interested in more than what you are seeing, so even if this looked banal and flat it would still be worth watching – the fact that the story is aligned with a Burton production elevates Sleepy Hollow above all other Tim Burton efforts.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. The stars finally align for Tim Burton, at last a film that looks great but is backed up by performances and plot comparable to the backdrop.