Wednesday, 22 March 2017

AC Film Club #1 - Ghost In The Shell



































On the latest episode of the MBDS Showcase we kicked off our brand new sub-show "The Asian Cinema Film Club" in which myself and my co-host Stephen Palmer (Eastern Kicks / Gweilo Ramblings) set out to provide an introduction to Asian cinema by on each episode highlighting a title worth seeking out. 

On this first episode we kick things off with "Ghost In The Shell" as with the live action remake fast approaching what better time to go back an revisit the 1995 original anime, widely considered to be one of the best anime of all time after "Akira".

Directed by Mamoru Oshii The film's follows the hunt by Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Cyborg team leader Motoko Kusanagi finds herself drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master.

Further Watching



Redline

Seoul Station / Train to Busan



Friday, 17 March 2017

Redline



Title: Redline
Director: Takeshi Koike
Released: 2009
Starring (English Dub): Patrick Seitz, Michelle Ruff, Liam O’Brien, Lauren Landa, Laura Post, Afred Thor, George C. Cole, Jamieson Price, David Lodge, Michael McConnohie, John White, David Roach, Sam Regal, Joey Morris

Plot: The Redline is one of the most popular races in the galaxy attracting some of the most dangerous and competitive racers who will do anything to win. At the same time with the race set to take place on Roboworld, a planet ruled by militant cyborgs whose President doesn’t take kindly to the race happening on the planet especially when it threatens to uncover secrets hidden beneath the planet surface.

Review: Originally planned to be released as one of four films released by Madhouse in 2009 alongside Summer Wars, Mai Mai Miracle and Yona Yona Penguin though delays saw it finally being released in 2010. This is of course not taking into account that the film already took seven years to complete the 100,000 hand-made drawings which make up the film.

The directorial debut for director Takeshi Koike who cut his teeth working as an animator on classic anime titles such as “Wicked City” and “Ninja Scroll” before getting his first chance to direct as part of “The Animatrix” were he directed the short “World Record” which also showcased a unique anime style which you can see served alongside his work as a Key Animator on the likes of “Dead Leaves” and “Afro Samurai” as test run for this film.

Using a hand drawn style compared to the preferred CGI assisted animation that most new anime titles favour this is a stunning film to look at as this constantly looks like a comic book page brought to life with each scene crammed with intricate details which serve to complement the colourful characters that this film is certainly in no shortage of. Heading up the racers is pompadour favouring JP (Seitz) who despite being blown up in his last race in the Yellowline his popularity sees him being voted into the Redline were his rival of sorts, the wonderfully named Sonoshee “Cherry Boy Hunter” McLaren (Ruff).

Racing against this duo we get a classic roster of oddballs and mutants such as cyborg and reigning champion Machinehead (McConnohie) whose body is also his own vehicle, bounty hunters Lynchman (White) and Johnny Boy (Roach), dirty cop Gori Rider (Cole) whose only entered to seek revenge on fellow racers and sibblings Miki (Regal) and Todoroki (Morris). This colourful cast of characters really is a great throwback to the sci-fi sports movies like “Arena” while Koike clearly is drawing inspiration from western comics like “Heavy Metal” and the British mainstay “2000 AD” which also gave the world “Judge Dread”. Another big inspiration especially with the scene construction appears to be the French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud while at the same time Koike can equally be seen to be finding inspiration in the work of “Akira” creator Katsuhiro Otomo, “Dead Leaves” director Hiroyuki Imaishi whose frenzed animation style heavily influences the race sequences and Leiji Matsumoto with whom it would seem he shares a love of switches and dials as seen with the frequent shots that Koike includes of the vehicle interiors.

Playing out like a weird combination of “Wacky Races” meets “Aeon Flux” the film wastes little time in establishing its world as we open to the final stretch of the Yellowline race and even though it might not have the prestige of the Redline the competition is just a fierce with the competitors being shown unleashing rockets and various weapons on each other as they constantly push their quickly crumbling vehicles towards the finish line. Just within this opening sequence

The race sequences are unquestionably the selling point of the film as Koike favours a fast paced animation style which ignores the rules of physics let alone any kind of plausibility and even when the racing action threatens to slowdown you have the Roboworld military who turn out on mass to stop the race happening and this is not even without mentioning the bioweapon which gets unleashed in the middle of the race as here it is all about the spectacle and that’s something which he delivers by the truckload as this really is a unique experience that words really don’t do justice as this is a film which has to be experienced to fully appreciate it.

Thankfully the film doesn’t just rely on having a bunch of exciting action sequences and while the character development is minimal to say the least with most of the racers getting a brief background you still feel that you understand their motivations and characters. JP as the lead obviously gets a lot more attention as we see the relationship between him and his pit crew, though his relationship with Sonoshee feels alittle underdeveloped especially in terms of their past which is limited to a brief flashback of him sabotaging one of her early races.

While the film might be lacking depth in some areas such as characterisation there is no denying just how fun and frenzied it is which really helps to distract from such issues especially when its such an exillerating and exciting experience from start to finish, this is an anime which puts the pedal to the metal from the start and doesn't let up until the end credits so strap in and just enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Dragon



Title: Dragon
Director: Peter Chan
Released: 2011
Starring: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Tang, Jimmy Wang Yu, Kara Hui, Wu Jiang

Plot: Liu Jinxi (Yen) is a papermaker living a quiet life in Liu village until one day when he kills two bandits attempting to rob the general store. Despite being regarded as a hero by the village he raises the suspicion of detective Xu Bai-Jiu (Kaneshiro) who begins to suspect that Liu is not who he says he is.
 
Review: While his name might leap out to most but Director Peter Chan certainly as a producer has been responsible for some of the best titles of 90’s and 00’s Hong Kong cinema including “The Eye”, “Three Extremes” and “The Warlords” he even produced the underrated John Woo movie “Heroes Shed No Tears”. Here though he equally proves himself once more to be no slouch in the directing chair either with this visually stunning martial arts movie which not only plays like Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” set in 1917 but also provides yet another showcase for the jaw dropping martial arts skills of Donnie Yen who also handles the action choreography here.

While the film does have a pretty big twist, if you’ve seen “A History of Violence” you will know what to expect here, but just to cover ourselves lets just say *spoilers ahead*

As with its Cronenberg counterpart when we meet Yen’s character of Liu he is just a family man living a simple quiet life in the village with nothing to give us any indication that he is anything than just another villager working at the paper mill. Of course this is another story much like “First Blood” were it would be a much shorter film if it wasn’t was for the persistence of one sheriff in this case detective Xu who is seemingly half Rottweiler as once he gets it into his head that Liu might not be who he seems, he hounds him mercilessly. Even when the local magistrate tells him to let it go he continues his investigation which only becomes all the more ludicrous as it goes on with him believing that Liu is secretly a martial arts master and hence attempts to test him by knocking him off a bridge and hitting him with a knife believing that he would be able to defend himself using his Chi ability.

Of course when we do get the big reveal things quickly spiral out of control with Xu no doubt wishing that he hadn’t poked this beehive with Liu being revealed to be the former second-in command for the psychotic warrior clan the 72 Demons. Detective Xu’s belief that no criminal can change their ways brought about by an incident in his past really adds to this twist as from the audiences perspective we just want Liu to live his life hassle free but Xu at the same time maintains that nagging issues of if he could really have changed. Still Chan decides that the best way to show this in the film is by having Liu’s former clan show up looking for him which is also lead by his father played here by the legendary Jimmy Wang Yu who here is on top evil form.

Despite being a Donnie Yen movie, here the action is for the first half actually pretty restrained with his showdown with the two bandits being the sole action scene we get. This is hardly a disappointment though as like all the action sequences here it is stunningly shot and only added to by the replays we see Xu playing out in his head as he tries to figure out who Liu really is. When the 72 demons show up though the action seriously ramps up though despite seemingly being setup to have Liu and Xu taking on the 72 demons instead Donnie Yen restrains the action so that its kept to small groups and intricate choreography which really pays off while complemented further by some inventive camera work which only adds to these sequences.

The final showdown between Donnie Yen and Jimmy Wang Yu really is a piece of fanboy wish fulfilment to see these two masters finally squaring off. The fact that Yen is fighting him one armed really only adds to the sequence by giving us a homage of sorts to Yu’s role as “The One Armed Swordsman”. How he comes to loose said arm is perhaps one of the more random and baffling aspects of the film but by the time we get to this final showdown your hardly caring about such minor issues. Jimmy Wang Yu here though is on top evil form and the tension is really cranked up in the build up to this showdown which only make the pay off only the more sweet.

A fantastic martial arts movie combined with enjoyable thriller elements make this a film well worth checking out, while Peter Chan’s eye for detail and use of slow motion really only heightens the film above being just another run of the mill kung fu movie while making you wonder why Donnie Yen still hasn’t been snapped up by the Hollywood system the same way as his predecessors but then do we think he would get the freedom to make films like this there like he does within the Hong Kong studio system.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Elwood's Essentials #17 - The Terminator



Title: The Terminator
Director: James Cameron
Released: 1984
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen, Bess Motta, Rick Rossovich, Dick Miller, Franco Columbu, Bill Paxton

Plot: A cyborg assassin known as a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) travels back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Hamilton) the future mother of the human resistance in 2029 before he is born. At the same time Kyle Reese (Biehn) a solider from the future has also travelled back in time to protect her.


Review: Who’d have thought that the director of “Piranha 2: The Spawning” would go on to be the director of some of the most iconic and visually inventive cinema of all time. A graduate of the Roger Corman film school were he started as a miniature model maker before briefly being given the Piranha 2 gig taking over from original director Miller Drake before he too was fired topping off what had proven to be a nightmare debut for Cameron who topped off the experience by getting food poisoning.

It was while battling this illness that Cameron had a nightmare about an invincible robot assassin sent to kill him from the future which formed the basis for this film while also drawing inspiration from “The Outer Limits” episodes “Soldier” and “Demon With A Glass Hand”. Cameron also traded recordings with his friend Bill Wisher who helped him turn his draft into a finished script. This original script featured two Terminators and also introduced the idea of the liquid metal Terminator which had to be scrapped when he realised that the technology at the time wouldn’t realise his ideas leaving it for the sequel were he would introduce the now iconic T-1000.

With this film Cameron gives us two distinctive worlds as he opens in the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles of 2029 were humans have been driven to brink of extinction by the robot uprising brought about by the AI defence network Skynet. Its an iconic world vision of the future that Cameron gives us as towering machines rumble over fields of human skulls. Even though this vision of the future is limited it’s still unquestionably effective and perfectly establishes this alternative future. From here we are taken back to 1984 Los Angeles which though Cameron’s lens is shown in a grimy and neon lit style which makes for the perfect battleground for this game of cat and mouse to unfold on.

Returning to this film as an older film watcher it was now that I could finally appreciate this film beyond its set pieces, which certainly helped keep its sequel in heavy rotation during my film watching youth. This original film is a much difference beast than its action orientated sequels as here Cameron’s focus is purely on building atmosphere and tension to create a film which is as equal parts a cat and mouse thriller as it is a slasher only this time the killer is a seemingly unstoppable killing machine.

The casting is another key aspect of why this film works despite the fact that Schwarzenegger was to be cast as Kyle Reese only to talk himself into the Terminator role following a lunch meeting with Cameron, though the Terminator role could easily have gone to both Lance Henriksen or OJ Simpson who were both in the running for the role with the latter being dismissed as they felt no one would buy him as a killer. No doubt neither of them wouldn’t have made the role as iconic as it was in Schwarzenegger’s hands which itself is largely down to the amount of work he put into developing the character to truly sell the idea of him being an unstoppable killing machine and its hard to say if it was this role or Conan which was the bigger star making role for him.

Schwarzenegger as the Terminator is such a dominating presence throughout though Cameron does for the most part keep his personality cold and calculating its never to the point here that he stands out by giving machine like responses as he is shown talking with Dick Miller’s pawn shop clerk whose lack of response for why he’s buying such a shopping list of guns is more questionable than the responses that Schwarzenegger is giving. Even his iconic “I’ll be back” is a perfectly acceptable response to what he is being told by the police station clerk, only here its added to by the fact that its followed up by the Terminator driving a car through the front of the police station.

Unquestionably its a gritty sci-fi thriller that Cameron crafts here with both the Terminator and Kyle being introduced as they land nude in the present day before having to find the resources with the Terminator coldly killing a group of Punks while Kyle is shown having to break into a clothing store while evading the police in a wonderfully tense sequence and Cameron really doesn’t establish the motivation of Kyle’s character until his first confrontation with the Terminator during the now iconic tech-noir club sequence, until this point he is just shown running around the city with a modified shotgun while the Terminator works his way (or should that be kills his way) through the Sarah Connors in the phone book which is such a great touch that the machines only have a name and a location rather than an actual idea of what she looks like.

The relationship between Sarah and Kyle is an interesting one as for the most part she is unsure if Kyle is who he says he is and not just some delusional nutcase as everyone keeps telling her. The reasons for them getting together however are slightly convoluted and even now the idea of the Sarah’s future son giving Kyle her picture and essentially match making his own parents just never sat right with me even though its kind of an essential aspect to the story. This aside having a human soldier as the sole defence against the Terminator really adds a tense aspect to the plot, especially when we see the Terminator easily despatching everyone he comes into contact with. Its equally a ballsy move on Cameron’s part to *spoiler alert* kill off Kyle and leave Sarah to have the final showdown. Obviously for Sarah it perfectly sets up her character evolution from being the damsel in distress as we get to see in the next film even though having a Terminator take on the protector role does remove some of the edge that the human vulnerability of Kyle brings to the film.

The action scenes throughout are still fantastic to watch even after multiple viewings be it the police station massacre of Kyle and Sarah being chased by the Terminator, Cameron really knows how to hold the audiences attention and really craft genuinely exciting action scenes. Of course the appearance of the exo-skeleton Terminator at the finale does loose some of its effectiveness due to being such an iconic image for the franchise while its movements Stan Winston has quite nailed in this film. That being said it still makes for a fantastic finale and a wonderful creation.

While this film might be overshadowed by its sequel, the subtle charm of this film and slow build tension makes it none the less of an essential watch while also the film which marked Cameron out as talent to watch as he would unquestionably prove with the films which followed in its wake.

Friday, 3 March 2017

School Daze



Title: School Daze
Director: Spike Lee
Released: 1988
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell, Kyme, Joe Seneca, Art Evans, Ellen Holly, Ossie Davis, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot: Morehouse College a leading and historically black college serves as the battleground for several cliques as their individual causes leads them frequently in to conflict with each other.

Review: Drawing from his own college days here Spike Lee follows up the success of his debut “She’s Gotta Have It” by again working with an all black cast, something which was certainly more of a key aspect to the film back when it was released while giving us a film which juggles multiple interconnecting storylines to craft a picture of campus life.

Opening to Vaughn (Fishburne) leading one of his anti-apartheid demonstrations as he continually makes himself a pain to the school administrators with his demands that they along with his fellow students divest from South Africa. At the same time he also has an ongoing rivalry with Julian (Esposito) who heads up the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity.

The Gamma Phi Gamma are certainly a random bunch with Julian insisting on being referred to as Dean Big Brother Almighty while enforcing a dog theme on his pledges referred to as “Wannabees” as they are lead around on dog leads while on any given moment being asked to drop to all fours or engage in one of their stomp chant sessions. Amongst the Wannabees is Vaughn’s cousin Darrell aka “Half-Pint” here played by Spike Lee who continues to show off his acting skills after memorably playing Mars in “She’s Gotta Have It” and its again the oddball that we see him playing here as the most downtrodden of the wannabees.

As to be expected anytime we have someone pledging for a frat humiliation is not to be far behind and its once again the case for Half-Pint and the other pledges as they find themselves being put through ever more random tasks to earn their place in the fraternity and it strange that with this group of characters he chooses to have them played so comically over the top when everyone else is played so straight. Still they make for a fun distraction to break away from the constant fighting and drama of the other groups, even if towards the end it seems more cruel for the pledge than you have to think it would be worth going through.

While it might have been enough for Lee to focus on the clashes between these two groups, we also have the clash between the Gamma Ray’s who match the dog theme of the frat with their own cat meows which they work into their chants especially when antagonising the non-Greek co-eds mainly over their skin colour and hair which Lee here memorably works into a homage to his love of MGM Musicals by having the two groups randomly burst into the big musical number “Straight and Nappy” whose music and lyrics were composed by Lee’s father Bill Lee. True perhaps this number is not as polished as those he is trying to homage, but its sudden appearance in the film really is one of the high points here.

Lee’s general refusal to stick within the usual framework for this kind of movie really brings something new to the film as he’s clearly shooting with his own rules, hence if he wants to have a random musical moment he’ll have one, while the big football game is not shot from the stands but rather based around the reactions of the crowd as they become more frenzied the worst the team loses.

An intresting mainstream debut for Lee who certainly doesn't hold back on his experimental side as he crafts a unique tale of college life if one infused with his own personal politics this is still an enjoyable and inventive watch. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Summer Wars



Title: Summer Wars
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Released: 2009
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sumiko Fuji, Takahiro Yokokawa

Plot: Kenji (Kamiki) is a high school student with a gift for mathematics who also works as a part-time moderator along with his best friend Takashi (Yokokawa) for the VR World OZ which has replaced the internet for worldwide conectivity. However when an AI called “Love Machine” hacks Kenji’s account her is drawn into a battle with the entity before it takes over OZ.


Review: Following on from the success of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” Director Mamoru Hosoda here once more returns to give another unique spin on a fantastical subject, having previously combined High School romance with time travel for his previous film, this time he combines elements of a family reunion drama with a tech fantasy.

While it might have been enough to set the film within the virtual world of Oz which is introduced at the start of the film as this sprawling network of information were users create unique avatars which they can then use to interact with other people to play games, socialise or even conduct business there really is no limit to what you can do, all the while watched over by its guardian whales John and Yoko. This of course provides the perfect area for Hosoda to conjurer up any fanatical idea he can think of. Needless to say its rather fitting as we become ever more dependent on living our lives on the net that Hosoda would craft this story which really questions if perhaps with a more fantastical edge what would happen if the network contracted a virus that took it all out.

The other element to the plot concerns Kenji being invited by his friend and fellow student Natsuki (Sakuraba) to her great-grandmother Sakae (Fuji) 90th birthday being held at her estate, were to his suprise he finds himself introduced to her family as her fiancé. This of course is the least of his worries though as its safe to say that Natsuki’s family are a colourful bunch to say the least as we soon get to discover aswell as how one of them is connected to Love Machine.

The world of OZ while essentially a white background with characters superimposed on the top so that they fly around the central structure of this world and yet its a world which perfectly works for this idea of a super information hub, especially once the battle against Love Machine starts as it becomes one which can be turned suddenly into any structure Hosoda needs and enables him to craft some truly exciting sequences such as showdown between Love Machine and Natsuki’s cousin Kazuma whose avatar King Kazma takes the form of a samurai rabbit.

While the majority of the film takes place in the virtual world we also get a sizeable portion spent with the oddball characters of Natsuki’s family who ultimately become key in beating Love Machine as they perhaps alittle to coincidently all come with either skills or access to resources that Kenji needs and leading to the slightly surreal scenes of a supercomputer suddenly being delivered let alone a ship being dumped in the koi pond to power it and yet somehow none of them are able to chase up a few fans to keep the computer cool leading to the ground instead filling the room with large blocks of ice, which seemed kind of strange considering everything else they’d put together on the fly.

Despite their usefulness the family group I felt could have benefited from losing a couple of members as while on one hand its amusing seeing Kenji trying to deal with this huge group while on the other we end up with several members feeling supplemental and underdeveloped. That being said they are still a colourful group of characters and help hold your interest when not in the virtual world. It can be assumed that the decision to have such a large family unit was derived from Hosoda’s own large family and this ends up just being one of those overly sentimental nods that just doesn’t quite play out.

The animation is unquestionably vibrant throughout with every character being animated it makes it only the more enjoyable to see what each character is doing on the screen, rather than just using looped animations that other productions might use for their background characters. The crispness of the animation is none the more clear than those in the virtual world which at times can feature hundreds of unique characters bringing back fond memories of “Paprika”. Again like our real world characters the avatars we encounter in this world come with their own personalities let alone distinct designs which of course only adds to the scenes when you have large groups on the screen. True a lot of these avatars are more simple designs than those belonging to main characters like Love Machine or Kazuma’s Samurai Rabbit avatar King Kazma.

An entertaining film which with its engaging visuals and colourful characters makes for a great companion piece to the likes of “Paprika” as Hosoda juggles multiple genres to craft a truly fascinating anime which reminds us that anime goes a lot deeper than giant robots, ass kicking schoolgirls and tentacle porn a stereotype which Hosoda seems more than happy to break.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Goat

 
Title: Goat
Director: Andrew Neel
Released: 2016
Starring: Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Gus Halper, Danny Flaherty, Jake Picking, Virginia Gardener, Austin Lyon, James Franco

 
Plot: Still struggling to deal with his assault over the summer break Brad (Schnetzer) is hoping that college will mark a new start for him, while at the same time he is lured into pledging for his brother Brett (Jonas) fraternity Phi Sigma Mu not knowing what awaits him as him and the other pledges are put through the hazing of “Hell Week”

Review: Opening to the so called brothers of Phi Sigma Mu shirtless chanting and jeering in slow motion at some event we can’t see as the camera remains fixed on their grotesque and monstrous expressions, though knowing what lies ahead we can pretty much guarantee by the end of the film that it was something horrible being inflicted on one of the pledges. Like with “Spring Breakers” this is the latest dark project taken on by a former house of mouse member in this case Nick Jonas. Jonas for those not into top 40 pop music, especially that backed by Disney was formerly part of a pop trio with his two older brothers imaginatively titled “The Jonas Brothers” who peddled that non offensive, Christian tinged pop rock that Disney loves to churn out. As with all the former House of Mouse members there of course reaches a time when they become to old (read replaced) and its normally around this time we get to see them taking on the more darker project as we saw with Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez taking on “Spring Breakers” and this film could essentially be viewed as the same kind of career move for Jonas.

Based on the memoir of the same name by Brad Land of his experiences as a Fraternity pledge the film paints a grim portrait of the often very real hazing which happens during the so called “Hell Week” which Fraternities and Sororities put their potential new members or pledges through a week of continuous humiliation and abuse to weed out the weaker pledges in the hope that they’d quit. Its this week that forms the main focus for the film with Brad and the other potential pledges refered to here as “Goats” are thrown unwittingly into the process spearheaded by the intimidating pledge master Dixon (Picking) whose role seems solely to find ever more disguising and humiliating trials to put these Goats through all the while being fully backed up by his frat brothers who often join in with the taunting and general celebration of the misery being inflicted on these potential new members.

The fact that hazing is outlawed by the student handbook seems to do little to faze the members as shown by Dixon reciting the passage to the pledges while at the same time openly mocking the text as “pussy shit” while his inspiration for this torture he’s inflicting on the group seems to be largely steemed from a desire to make up for his own Hell Week which is hinted at by him mentioning a former brother putting out a cigarette on his ass. At the same time its clear that the saftey and mental well being is of little concern to any of the members as seen with some of the trials which often are more based on the general amusement of the brothers than any of them stopping to think for a moment if they should be doing any of these things, while hiding behind ideals of masculinity and brotherhood.

The hazing scenes are especially rough to watch right from the start as the goats are herded (no pun intended) into the basement of the frat house where they are stripped, tied up and forced to drink until they throw up, while another is locked in a cage where he is urinated on and taunted by the brothers who once they have tired of the goats force them out of the basement by beating and slapping them leaving the goats to collect their clothes from the paddling pool they have been tossed into…..and this is day one. From here things only get progressively more grim and disgusting with the climax of these coming from the group being forced to mud wrestle for the brothers, before being forced to drink a whole keg between them or risk being forced to have sex with an actual goat. The scenes which follow being far from the most pleasant I’ve had to sit through as the group struggle to empty the keg leaving us with an aftermath of them essentially broken by the ordeal, covered in a mixture of mud and vomit while one member vainly tries to complete the task. Its really just a matter or when rather than if when all of this will go horribly wrong.

So what inspires someone to put themselves through this? Well seemingly the promise of popularity, sex and an open invitation to parties wrapped up in the illusion of brotherhood is all it takes for someone to put themselves through this ordeal as the dangerous allure of popularity once more makes itself known here. Many of this group of pledge are self confessed nerdy kids who never fit in at school and now see the fraternity life as a way to finally find the popularity many of them so badly crave with Brad’s room mate gleefully rejoicing that he had sex for the first time because he was associated with the frat when Brad attempts to get him to quit.

Outside of the frat drama we have the subplot about Brad getting over his assault we witness at the start of the film, which soon boils down to him looking at the selfie of his bruised and bloody face at various points in the film while never being fully resolved despite being called to identify his attackers in a line up it just all feels very undeveloped much like the ending which itself just film like the film had just stopped than reaching any kind of conclusion.

While the cast are all good in their various roles the acting is still nothing remarkable and while the material might be dark for someone like Nick Jonas to be associated with but at the same time his character while participating at first soon becomes the sole voice of reason in this storm of madness and testosterone. Yes its admirable seeing what some of the actors put themselves through in the film but that alone does not make for a good performance.

A grim viewing experience made only the more shocking to know that these kinds of things are actually taking place, let alone that some bozo is going to see the film as some kind of endorsement of the hazing tradition the same way that they missed that “Animal House” was making fun of the Frats rather than celebrating them as often misconstrued. This is the sort of film to file alongside Larry Clarke’s “Bully” or Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” especially as its unlikely your be rushing back for a second viewing.
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