Monday, 24 July 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children



Title: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
Director: Tim Burton
Released: 2016
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot: When his grandfather is mysteriously murdered Jake (Butterfield) travels to an island off Wales in search of answers only to find a time loop which hides a school for extraordinary children who he is destined to protect from the evil Hollowgasts.


Review: It’s been a rocky road for the last decade or so with “Sleepy Hollow” marking the end of what we could consider his golden period as he instead went off to play around in the studio system, remaking his childhood favourites. However with the release of “Frankenweenie” and the overlooked “Big Eyes” it would seem that cinema’s weird kid is keen to get back to his roots.

Adapted from the novel by Ransom Riggs who constructed the story around unusual photographs he had collected with the end result playing in many ways like a 1940’s set version of the “X-men” and making it all the more fitting that the script was written by Jane Goldman who previously worked on both “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. Of course this story is seemingly written with Burton in mind as it celebrates the abnormal and bizarre to create a “Freaks” like family.

A pipe smoking Eva Green (something we didn’t know we wanted to see until now) plays a Ymbryne here which basically means she has the ability to change into a peregrine falcon aswell as minipulate time which might be one of the more unusual combinations of powers we have seen, but it does enable her to hide the home in a continual time loop of September 3, 1943. Here she is essentially a Burton vision of what “Mary Poppins” might have turned out in his hands and here heads up this unusual children home which brings together children of exceptional abilities.

The so called “Peculiar children” are unquestionably the real draw here as they all come with their own unique powers ranging from the aerokinetic Emma (Purnell) who is forced to stomp around in lead shoes to stop her from floating away, the super strong little girl Bronwyn (Davies) and the invisible boy Millard (King). At the same time we also have the kids who might have come from the mind of Burton had this not been an adapation with the human beehive Hugh (Parker), a pair of masked twins and Enoch who can resurrect both the dead and inanimate object all come with an air of classic Burton to them. The only one who didn’t work was Horace (Keeler-Stone) whose ability of being able to project his dreams like a human projector ends up coming off kind of pointless and more whimsical than anything close to an essential character.

While this was sold a family fare, there is certainly a dark vein which runs throughout the film be it Enoch using his powers to orchestrate his own fights to the death between his twisted doll creations or the Hollowgasts who are the twisted mutant forms of the evil wrights who battle their mutation by consuming the eyes of Peculiars a grotesque spin on the book which saw them consuming the souls of the children. As such in many ways it feels like the kind of family movies of the 80’s and early 90’s such as “The Dark Crystal” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which weren't afraid to throw in some darkness in with the fun.

Another aspect of the film which stands out is with the design work for the characters and locations throughout which sadly loses a lot of its charm during the modern day segments with those set in the 1940’s being packed with interesting details especially the Wrights whose flashback to the experiments which caused their mutation dripping in steampunk fantasy while Samuel L. Jackson clearly is having a blast as Mr, Barronthe leader of the Wrights. Of course this is a world were the kids can take a sunken ship and magically make seaworthy by combining their abilities and as such works best when your not questioning the fantastical logic it runs on.

The downside to the film though comes when we get into the modern day which are painfully bland and uninteresting compared to those set in the more colourful and generally more interesting 1940’s sections. Even when we get into the final showdown which see’s an army of skeletons battling the Hollowgasts in modern day Blackpool, the best parts are filmed in Blackpool tower whose styling makes it also seem like the 40’s setting despite being modern day, but then as someone who spent their childhood summers in Blackpool I can confirm that this is no doubt pretty accurate considering how they love nostalgia and why the place hasn’t really changed in the last 30 years.

A fun ride throughout despite the departure of Eva Green earlier than I would have liked, the pace is kept brisk throughout while for the fans of Burton’s earlier movies, this will no doubt feel like him getting back to making the films we’ve been wanting to see from him. I can only hope that he comes back for a sequel as there is clearly more to explore in this world and with the books currently set to be joined by a forth novel in the series it would seem that there is still plenty of material to draw inspiration from still.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A.C Film Club #3 - Tears of the Black Tiger



Stephen (Gweilo Ramblings / Eastern Kicks) and myself head to Thailand for the latest instalment of our introduction to Asian cinema which on this episode looks at possibly the most fabulous western ever "Tears of the Black Tiger".
Download Music - Free Audio -


An Eastern Western which combines elements of romantic melodrama with John Woo style heroic gunplay and a Sam Peckinpah western to create something truly original 

We also take a look at the career of Meiko Kaji as well as the live action spectacle that is “Kaiju Big Battel” and their upcoming video game from “Super Walrus Games

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Resident Evil: Retribution



Title: Resident Evil: Retribution
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Released: 2012
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing

Plot: Picking up directly after the end of “Resident Evil: Afterlife” Alice (Jovovich) now finds herself captured by the Umbrella Corperation and placed in an underwater facility which also doubles as a demonstration ground for the effects of the T-Virus. Now Alice must team up with the mysterious Ada Wong to escape the facility which is now under the control of a recently reactivated “Red Queen”.


Review: Its staggering to think at this point in the series that we are five films deep in the franchise which at this point has also gone on its own very unique path from the source material as we continue to follow the journey of Alice in her battle against the Umbrella Corporation and of course the zombie hordes created by the T-Virus. Still just when we thought the series had already gone way off the deep end Director Paul W. S. Anderson somehow manages to find a way to top it.

Seeing how the previous film ended on the fantastic cliffhanger of Alice on the deck of of the Umbrella Tanker Arcadia as she stared down a squadron of Umbrella Tiltrotors. Now half expecting the film to open with Alice being captured what Anderson gives us instead is actually something pretty special as we get to the events which transpired played out in reverse slow motion which honestly only serves to make it all the more impactful than if we’d seen it played out normally.

One of the strengths of the series has always been Jovovich’s performance as Alice a role she truly has made more and more her own with each film even designing Alice’s outfits through her own fashion line. Here though we get to see a new side to Alice as she finds herself waking up in a suburban dream life complete with husband and deaf daughter Becky (Engineer) only for dream to quickly turn into the same sort of zombie nightmare we saw at the start of Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake. Here in lies the kicker for this instalment as Alice finds herself in a facility made up of large scale remakes of various cities such as Tokyo and New York which originally had been designed as a way of selling the T-virus to various countries replicating the rival country at the facility. This of course really is just an excuse for Anderson to craft a series of large scale and flamboyant action sequences as the film itself feels like one long shoot out, especially with the plot moving at such a fast pace.

The action throughout is great to look and while this entry perhaps features more heroic gunplay than previous entries with the introduction of Ada Wong here played note perfect by Li Bingbing whose performance was surprisingly dubbed well by Sall Cahill but watching the film I couldn’t tell . Ada as a character though is finally a character able to stand toe to toe with Alice and to see them working together in the film really was a thrill. Afterall why have one kickass lady when you can have two.

Each of the settings are unique enough to stand out and provides a decent change from another round of post-apocalyptic wastelands or the sterile facilities of the umbrella corporation. True none of it is shot with seemingly the slightest concern for what is realistic or not but its really hard to complain when its so much fun to have scenes such as a high speed chase through a simulated Moscow or an army of zombie soldiers. These scenes only being added to by Anderson’s visual style which here once again works really well.

This facility setting for the film also means we get to see the return of several characters such as James (Salmon) and Rain (Rodriguez) who get to return to the series as clones. Rodriguez in perticular getting to play two versions of herself as we see her playing her Strike team persona from the first film sent to hunt Alice and Ada aswell as the suburban version who plays like the complete opposite as she acts openly shocked at the idea of using guns. Yes I could have done without seeing Colin Salmon again, but then I can pretty much do without seeing him in most things., Rodriguez meanwhile is enjoyable as always and getting to see the super powered version at the end was only an added treat.

For some reason Anderson here also chooses to saddle Alice with a Deaf daughter, who its explained early on is infact a clone from the suburban simulation created to play her daughter. Of course knowing this Alice still shows a mothers devotion to the child perhaps because Anderson couldn’t find a way to morally justify dumping the kid without turning her into a zombie kid. Maybe this was just another way of working his obsession with James Cameron’s “Aliens” into the film and creating his own version of Ripley and Newt. At the same time you could also see the different settings the group travel through as being a nod to “Westworld” which was also reportedly another source of inspiration for the film.

Ending on another tantalising cliffhanger with Alice having her superhuman abilities restored and the sight of humanity making its last stand from the grounds of the fortified White House. Say what you will about Anderson as a director he really knows how to make an audience crave that next instalment.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Crow: City of Angels



Title: The Crow: City of Angels
Director: Tim Pope
Released: 1996
Starring: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks, Thuy Trang, Iggy Pop, Thomas Jane, Vincent Castellanos, Eric Acosta, Beverley Mitchell, Ian Dury

Plot: When mechanic Ashe (Perez) and his son are murdered under the orders of Los Angeles drug kingpin Judah Earl (Brooks) after they accidently witness a murder being carried out by his followers. Resurrected as the Crow Ashe now sets out to seek his revenge.

 

Review: It was always going to be a difficult task to follow on from the cult original film but believing that they could make a franchise out of the idea, the Weinstein’s offered the job to Music video director Tim Pope for his feature film debut. They also brought in David S. Goyer to write the script who at this point was yet to really make a name for himself having previously written the scripts for “Death Warrant” and “Demonic Toys” with this film sitting on the cusp of his mainstream success as he also working the scripts for “Dark City” and “Blade” at the same time he was writing this script.

Moving the story from Detroit to Los Angeles the look of the cityscape is still pretty much the same landscape of seemingly eternal darkness and urban decay. Despite this similarity Pope and Goyer had initially wanted to make a film which was different from the first film especially out of respect to Brandon Lee. who only for the Weinstein’s in their usual misguided wisdom to make demands for the film to be recut so that it was similar to original as possibly ultimately leading to both Pope and Goyer disowning the film as it no longer represented their vision. Goyer was especially dismayed by the changes having fought to cut out the resurrection of villains Top Dollar and Grange from the first film.

One character who does return from the first film as well as admittedly older is Sarah who is no longer the skateboarding tomboy of the first film but here is all grown up and working in the city as a tattoo artist and painter. Here she serves to fill in the mythology when required as she helps Ashe on his quest for vengeance. One of the potential scripts for the film had her returning as the female Crow, which while certainly a cool idea is one I was glad they didn’t go with for the film and even though Sarah returning wasn’t anywhere on the list of things I’d want to see from a sequel here it still works and her appearance also means we get to see Ian Dury showing surprising acting ability as her boss Noah.

Equally surprising in their acting ability is Iggy Pop whose acting C.V. is surprisingly more extensive than his brief appearances in “Tank Girl” and “Hardware” and here as one of Judah’s thugs “Curve” he makes up for turning down the role of “Funboy” in the original film and turns out to be one of the better aspects of the film and really gives us one of the more odious villains of the film and arguably the real villain of the piece had they choose to cut out the theatrical antics of Judah. It equally be noted that the amount of musicians appearing in the film would have been increased has the casting gone differently with Jon Bon Jovi originally being interested in playing the lead while Tori Amos was considered for the role of Sarah only for her to turn down the role.

The role of the Crow as played by Perez is thankfully not a rehash of the Eric Draven version of The Crow and even though the make up makes little sense that he would share the same dark Jester design. True Perez overplays the theatrical moments as seen during the scene he stalks Spider Monkey (Castellanos) which just comes off as deranged than intimidating. Still seeing him stalk his foes with his Spirit crow on his shoulder looks fantastic much like the scenes of him riding through the streets on his motorcycle. It’s just a shame that he’s not given anything to do which makes him any more than your usual action hero, only pulling out the one creative kill through the film and certainly giving us none of the themed kills while the Crow outlines often end up feeling forced.

The villains we get this time round are far from as defined as they were in the original film and ultimately come off as something of a mixed bag of undeveloped characters who like so many aspects of the film you can’t help but feel would have been much more effective had their characters been given chance to breathe. Sure they all have their own vices (drugs, voyeurism etc) but with the exception of the sole female member Kali (Trang) they are nearly all interchangeable. Worst of all is out supposed big villain Judah who is just a mess of theatricality and mystic nonsense. Perhaps Michael Wincott set the bar too high as “Top Dollar” in the first film but here everything about Judah feels like a poor imitation.

While the mythology of “The Crow” was kept simple in the original film here the film attempts to expand upon things so that its no longer the case that Ashe has his powers while the crow is alive, but also that its a power which can be transferred which feels like one of those ideas which might have worked in the script but only serves to take away from the film which in its final quarter ends up descending into mythical nonsense including Ashe being able to command a murder of crows which really add nothing to the film.

When I originally saw this film I honestly didn’t care for it, but now rewatching it and knowing what to expect it feels more frustrating to see glimpses of what could have been had it not been ultimately another casualty of Weinstein meddling. What it did give the franchise though was the potential to go anywhere it wanted essentially as no longer was “The Crow” just Eric Draven but essentially any person who was wronged and in the films / novels / comics which followed we have seen that principle creatively used aswell as the series “Stairway to Heaven” which ran for one season before being axed on a cliffhanger. In the scheme of the franchise this might not be the worst, but its a far cry from the best and as such provides little than a passing distraction for fans of the series and little really for anyone else.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Commando



Title: Commando
Director: Mark L. Lester
Released: 1985
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, James Olson, David Patrick Kelly, Alyssa Milano, Bill Duke,

Plot: Retired Commando John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) has settled into an isolated life with his daughter (Milano), only to find himself being forced to carry out a political assassination when his daughter is kidnapped. Now Matrix has eleven hours to rescue his daughter from her kidnappers.


Review: Having launched himself into the public conscious with the Conan movies and “The Terminator” with this film we really started to the see the foundations of the Arnie formula starting with his introduction in this film consisting of close up shots of his muscular frame which only seem to make everything seem bigger and more impressive than it is. Even the chainsaw which looks pretty tiny when we see it, looks like its 6 ft long in its vanity shot.

The opening shot of Schwarzenegger carrying a log over his shoulder is such an iconic shot and feels almost like the studio introducing a major star being introduced  and it could be considered so seeing how compared to the films which came before it, it’s tonly very different with Schwarzenegger trading in the sword and sorcery antics of his early films (Conan / Red Sonja) being changed out for one liners and heroic gunplay which would become the foundation of the classic Schwarzenegger movie formula. Its only on rewatching the film that you also realise just how bonkers that opening title sequence is as we go from shots of the all powerful, man of the earth to shots of Matrix and his daughter getting ice cream and hand feeding a deer, which while important to show the life that Matrix has made for himself since his retirement from the special forces tonely is just such a random switch.

The plot itself is paper thin and really only serves to guide the audience from one exciting moment to the next, especially when Matrix has to do very little work to find his way to the villain Arius’s (Hedaya) hideout on the fictional Val Verde which was also referenced in both “Predator” and “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” which like this film needed a Spanish speaking country like Cuba or Nicaragua but at the same time wanting to avoid any potential diplomatic issues. Sadly the film really lacks a defined villain so it ends up that the henchmen here are actually more interesting than Arius with of course the most key being Vernon Wells “Freddie Mercury on steroids” Bennett another stone cold psycho as Wells channels the same kind of driven intensity which made “Wez” in “Mad Max 2” such a memorable villian, though the questionable fashion choices remain present as here he trades in his ass-less chaps for a chain mail vest! His knife fight with Schwarzenegger though at the finale is the stuff of action movie legend.

Of course the Arnie formula isn’t quite perfect at this point as Matrix is not only shown as being the muscular badass but also capable to superhuman feats of strength such as the ability to tear phone boxes out of the ground or throw nine mall security guards through the air. The strength element is always played down usually with Schwarzenegger’s body size being more of a key element than any kind of strength. These moments as a result end up being pretty jarring when they occur though this film more than nails is the ridiculous elements of heroic gun play which in turn would form the blueprint for the action movie genre.

The action scenes are unquestionably the best parts of the film and only build as the film goes on from a hotel room fist fight with Bill Duke’s green beret (he eats them for breakfast) hanging David Patrick Kelly (who looks comically short throughout) off a cliff. The grand finale being the now legendry shootout with Arius’s personal army which see’s Matrix not only getting to pull out all the “War Toys” but also fire countless bullets without ever having to reload but also find something to turn into a weapon regardless of how cornered he appears to be. The body count alone for this finale might be one of the largest ever filmed.

The other noteworthy aspect of this film and certainly its most overlooked come from Rae Dawn Chong’s unlikely sidekick and air hostess Cindy who is initially unwillingly coerced into helping Matrix get his daughter back only to turn out to be surprisingly resourceful let alone perhaps the first ever member of the “Girls with Rockets” club by taking out a police truck with a rocket launcher. Why is it so rare to see women firing rocket launchers or similar in films? Certainly its a question which came to me when I was on the “Exploding Helicopter Podcast” discussing “Hard Ticket To Hawaii” and lead to me creating a list on Letterboxd to log every film this happens (feel free to name your ideas) so its safe to say thats this film should also get a credit for being so forward thinking to have her weld such a traditionally male weapon with just as much competence as her male counterpart….even if she does initially have it the wrong way around.

A fun side note is that originally this film was going to have a sequel which would have been a reworked version of “Die Hard” and seen Matrix being hired to head up a security team at the big corporation were his daughter is also working as a lawyer. Matrix would make up a team of the toughest and most dangerous people he knows only for them to turn out to be inline with the company he’s working for which is really just a front for illegal arms deals. Matrix of course ending up to fight through all the people he hired to rescue his daughter again which sounds like a great plot but at the same time its hard to argue against how “Die Hard” ultimately turned out. Who knows maybe this will be the plot of “Expendables 4”

For mindless fun this is unquestionably one of the key Schwarzenegger films and one whose cult status has only increased in recent years. Here though we get everything we want from an Arnie movie and while it might not be perfect there enough mindless violence and action to make for the perfect popcorn movie.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Buffalo '66



Title: Buffalo ‘66
Director: Vincent Gallo
Released: 1998
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent, Anjelica Huston

Plot: Released from prision after serving five years for a crime he didn’t commit, Billy (Gallo) is keen to get his life in order starting with a visit to his parents. However to maintain the lie of his whereabouts all this time he kidnaps tap dancer Layla (Ricci) to play the role of his fiance.

 

Review: The debut film from the man of many talents Vincent Gallo and who here writes and directs the film, though if your to believe Gallo he was also responsible for the cinematography aswell.

Made on a shoestring budget of $ 1.5 milion this aggressive little indie film is not one for those of use who watch films for escapism or to generally not feel like garbage by the end credits for this is far from the happiest film as Gallo crafts a film full of hate and vitriol as Billy is introduced angry and carries it through for nearly the whole film as he angrily searches for a bathroom, argues with his parents and even gets angry at Layla for daring to actually have feelings for him. That being said though in Gallo’s world view everyone is seemingly just as angry.

A favourite of not only the critics where it appears frequently on the top 50 lists of independent cinema but also the majority of Letterboxd reviewers whose glowing reviews for this film made me wonder if I’d stumbled into a different movie as this was far from the most thrilling cinema going experience as instead I found myself feeling like I was locked in a filthy room with only a single Kleenex to clean up. Honestly I wasn’t sure what there was to enjoy about a film were for the first hour it just seemed to be a stream of people determined to let each other know just how much they hated each other.

Of course there have been other equally grim movies such as “Requiem for a Dream” and “Irreversable” that dare I say I’ve enjoyed, but with those it was clear that there was a destination they were heading towards and that it wasn’t just some demented experiment in endurance that the director was seemingly trying to craft. It’s here of course that I find the biggest question mark about the film in that its unclear what Gallo is actually trying to achieve here other than fuelling his own ego as throughout Gallo ensures that he constantly the focus of the film while the now legendary fallout from the film which saw Gallo claiming that he carried Ricci while refering to her as being a “Puppet”, he also blamed Anjelica Huston for the film being turned down by the Cannes film festival.

As a lead character Billy makes this far from the easiest experience to get through as there is no one that he won’t pick an argument with or shout abuse at and while Gallo might with painful tedium strip aware these layers of aggressive armour as the reasons are revealed from the abusive family home which is layed on thick for if you couldn’t tell by the general bitterness around the family table Gallo throws in a flashback to Billy’s father killing his puppy when he didn’t clean up after it. We also flashback to the events surrounding his imprisonments was he’s interrogated by his bookie Mickey Rourke whose surprise appearance here was one of the spattering of high points scattered throughout the film.

Ricci’s Layla makes an interesting counterpart to Billy as represents the light in this world, even though her lack of concern for her situation let alone willingness to go along with Billy’s plan remained a sticking point for myself especially when Billy is just so continually aggressive towards her only to suddenly fall for her in a moment of sickening smaltz because of course she’s the only one who can save him from his own darkness. Still despite the cliché path for her character here Ricci still manages to craft several moments throughout the film such as a spontaneous tap dance at the bowling alley. But with her doe eyes and general manic-pixie-dream girl aura around her its hard to not like her character

While the film might be a slog to get through it does however incorporate some interesting visual ideas into its cinematography to hold your attention with the best of these coming at the finale were we get to enjoy freeze frame gunshot wounds as the camera moves freely around the frozen figures. For all the flashy camera work though, it often feels like more of a distraction for the general unpleasent tone throughout this film.

Sure this fans might have its fans but like its leading man this was one film whose appeal was lost on me.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

MBDS Showcase #49 - Dog Soldiers / Cannibal Holocaust



Fellow Brit Zoe (Zobo With A Shotgun) joins me for this latest episode to share her love of all things dark and twisted which formed the basis of her site. 

On this episode we look at British horror with Neil Marshall's "Dog Soldiers" aswell as the notorius former video nasty "Cannibal Holocaust"

We also discuss the censorship and the darker side of horror, living near horror movie sites and Zoe reveals which horror icon she'd most like to take for a pint.



You can find the full MBDS Showcase movie list here

Opening Theme: "Hyperfun" - Kevin Macleod (http://incompetech.com/)

End Theme: "Out of Limits" - The Marketts


Follow the Show



Podomatic

ITunes

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Zoom



Title: Zoom
Director: Pedro Morelli
Released: 2015
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alison Pill, Mariana Ximenes, Tyler Labine, Jason Priestley, Don McKellar, Claudia Ohana, Jennifer Irwin

Plot: A comic book artist who works in a sex doll factory, a model who wants to be a novelist and an egotistic film director discover that their lives be more inter dimensionally linked than they realised

 
Review: A random little indie film which seemingly slipped under the radar only to randomly turn up recently on Sky Movies in their independent cinema section, but at a loss for something to watch recently I thought I would give this a watch if only to cross off another Gael Garcia Bernal title off the watchlist.

Crafting the sort of tale that we’d expect to come from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, this is certainly an ambitious concept that director Pedro Morelli attempts to tackle for what is only his second film. Still here he attempts to craft this interconnected not to mention interdimensional tale which switches back and forth between its three leads.

First we have Emma (Pill) a comic book artist who works with her boyfriend in a sex doll factory, while she harbours her own fantasies of a comic book heroine figure. At the same time she is writing a comic book about the chauvinist director Edward (Bernal) unaware that what she is drawing is actually happening in Edward’s world.

Edward heads up the second plotline in particular him being struck down with a micro-penis thanks to some vengeance alterations on Emma’s side. Keeping in tune with the comic book theme his segments are all shot using rotoscoping which adds a unique element to the film and perfectly suits the reality he’s living in. Edward also provides the link to the third plotline with his film being about the model and aspiring writer Michelle (Ximenes)

Michelle’s story is also one of the weakest of the three as she has spent her life getting by on her looks, only to find that no one including her boyfriend Dale (Priestley) believe in her abilities as a writer. Of course the book she is writing also happens to be the one controlling Emma’s reality bringing everything full circle….still keeping up with us?

Initially this was film which didn’t sit with me and it was only after the first thirty minutes that it really clicked and all started to slowly pull together. It’s key to note this as I can see this being a film which a lot of people could dismiss on that opening half hour which serves to introduce the three plot lines while at the same time with perhaps the exception of Emma neither of the other two leads exactly jump out and this sadly remains the case for Michelle’s story which remains pretty much a non-starter throughout.

The main issue for Michelle’s story is that for the most part it feels like any “discover yourself” style story, as she skips out on the luxury apartment and good looking boyfriend to escape to Brazil to write her book, along the way of course discovering this sense that she doesn’t need any of the finary. Its the kind of story you can plot out pretty soon after it starts and its really once the worlds start to blend during the finale that things actually get interesting for her character. In fact its the moments of blending between the worlds that provide the actual moments of intrest for her character which is otherwise largely forgettable. I mean she’s not even featured on the poster or the DVD cover which kind of only further highlights what an afterthought her story was.

Emma’s story feels like it could have been its own film without the inter-dimensional cross over which if removed could have been a lightly comedic crime thriller as her story moves from her getting superheroine style breast implants to her and boyfriend Bob trying to move a large quantity of cocaine she gets in the mail thanks to a postal screw up. It could with these plot elements very much be a Coen Brothers style crime caper which we ultimately only get hints of here due to Morelli having to juggle the three plotlines.

Gael Garcia Bernal’s plotline as Edward takes alittle longer to warm up of the three as he initially comes off as a totally unlikeable character as he engages on sport lays and surrounds himself with people who massage his already inflated ego. This of course makes for the best setup for the main meat of his tale which see’s him suddenly being struck down with a micro penis thanks to the meddling from Emma’s side. This sends him on a quest to reclaim his manhood which includes experimenting with the Rolls Royce of fake phalluses.

Bernal here gives another great performance while somehow managing to work once more with unusual material which not only makes it easy to go with, but somehow manages to reflect in her performance the audiences confusion. His willingness to take on such unique material continues to make him such an enjoyable talent to watch while bringing back memories of Johnny Depp’s early work before the oddness essentially consumed his originality alongside his overwhelming amount of collaborations with Tim Burton. Its especially impressive that he can still project his performance as well as he does despite being rotoscoped while giving us such fun scenes as him drinking a cup of tea during a threesome or attempting to deal with a malfunctioning phallus its fascinating to watch.

While this might not be the greatest experience there is still a certain amount of originality which has to be commended even if it feels like an attempt to imitate Charlie Kaufman’s style, there is something to this film which make it worth giving a look, especially if you want to see something different and its to that extent that I wish that this was slightly more polished as when it works its great, but far too often it just doesn’t making it all the harder to recommend. Still in terms of originality its certainly up there.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Woman



Title: The Woman
Director: Lucky McKee
Released: 2011
Starring: Sean Bridgers, Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis, Zach Rand, Lauren Ashley Carter, Shyla Molhusen

Plot: Country lawyer and supposed family man Chris (Bridgers) capture a primal woman (McIntosh) he finds in the woods during a hunting expedition, whom he proceeds to chain in his cellar while making plans to “civilise” her, not realising the effect she will have on his family, who are already a fractured unit to say the least with his wife Belle (Bettis) suffering from his casual abuse, while he seems to be moulding a monster in his own image with his son Brian (Rand), meanwhile his eldest daughter Peggy (Carter) lives in constant fear of her father, with the only one untouched by Chris’s influence seemingly being his youngest daughter Darlin’(Molhusen), while this family clearly is a powder keg waiting to explode and the woman could be  the spark to do just that.


Review: There are times as a critic were you will encounter a film, which makes you stop and say “I really have no idea, how the hell I’m going to review this” and much as was the case with “Martyrs” arguably the closest film I could compare this to and once again I’m presented with exactly the same situation, so this is going to be real interesting to see how this works out….so here goes nothing.

Lucky Mckee one of the more fiercely independent horror directors currently working, having first burst onto the horror scene in 2002 with “May”, he has continued to maintain his indie roots while continually proving to be one of the few continually exciting horror directors currently working in the modern horror scene. A reputation which he further cements with this film, which could also be his most controversial to date as  he once again teams up with horror writer Jack Ketchum for his second adaptation of Ketchum’s work after previously directing “Red”. While “The Woman” might be the sequel to Ketchum’s “The Offspring”  it is not essential to have read that book or even seen the film version, to get into this film as it is still very much a standalone movie,

Since its premier at Sundance “The Woman”, were a man in the audience walked out complaining about the violence and misogyny featured (as shown in a much discussed YouTube clip), it has essentially has been a hot bed of controversy since then, with Director McKee crafting a potent mixture torture, nudity, rape and visceral gore, but surprisingly the most shocking thing on here is more the casual abuse which Chris is happy to hand out to his family, to maintain his position as the head of the household. When all these factors are combined this is far from an easy movie to watch, yet Mckee still manages to keep a vice like grip on your attention, slowly twisting the tension as he builds up to the inevitable meltdown.

The cast are all pretty much faultless with Mckee’s once again casting his long term partner in crime Angela Bettis once more having cast her in all his film since, playing the titular “May” in his debut feature she has proven more than capable of adapting herself to the various roles Mckee has written for her in the past and here she perfectly embodies the character of Belle, who has now been reduced to a timid shell of a person, to the point were she unquestionably follows her husbands plans to civilise the woman, without Chris bothering to properly explain his intentions, while being certainly even less willing to stop him tearing the family apart. Bridgers is equally fantastic as Chris, easily switching between his dominating side he reserves for his family and the southern gentleman face he projects to the public on his day to day life, while only truly revealing the true depth of his evil at the climax which like his third side comes seemingly out of nowhere. Still he is very much in the mind of the end justifying his means, as he regularly beats the woman when she disobeys his commands, while not even thinking twice to use a power hose to clean the dirt of her body.

With such controversial material on display, I found myself questioning how much the younger cast members were aware of the content of the film? Still both Carter and Rand handle their roles wells with Carter certainly being one to watch, with her portrayal of Peggy proving to be especially memorable, as she takes the audience with her on an emotional journey, as she struggles to handle the chaos around her, let alone the fact her parents are keeping a feral woman in the cellar. Yet at the same time you feel that she longs to feel the same acceptance that her father shows to her brother, frequently emasculating her appearance by cutting her hair short and wearing baggy clothes, seemingly to disguise her femininity ideas sadly not explored further, much like a last minute pregnancy accusation which comes out of nowhere, yet to which Mckee seems especially keen to nail down, even when the audience is doubting it’s plausibility, let alone that it is used as the breaking point for the family. Rand on the other hand is more of the curious teenager and monster in the making, as his father bullies him constantly to mold him in his image, while when left to his own devices even starts imitating his father’s actions with the woman, quickly changing from the naive teenager into something a lot more dark and sinister whenever he is near the woman.

McIntosh is truly believable as the titular woman, whose statuesque figure embodies this Amazonian like character, whose very nature is deeply rooted in our most primal instincts as she lives only to further her own survival, happily chewing off Chris’s probing finger without seemingly the slightest bit faze by the violence of her acts, while communicating only in the most basic of grunts and howls. Even though she seems to understand what is happening around her, the woman remains true to her primal instincts throughout, as especially shown during the bloody climax were she truly shows what she is capable of, as she sets about extracting her own brand of revenge on her captives.
Despite several moments of extreme gore, outside of Chris loosing a finger, Mckee has make the bold decision to keep the gore for his shocking finale were he delivers in spades and truly ensures that the film gets a bloody send off, while seemingly being more happy to torture the audiences psyche until then, through scenes of Chris’s torments let alone a rape sequence which is handled in a thankfully non gratuitous manor and serves solely as a representation of the decline in morals that the woman brings out in the men in the family, as Mckee once again demonstrates a keen intellect behind his desire to shock.

While it might be easy to get caught up in the sexual politics which Mckee continually plays around with throughout to varying degrees of success, it is essentially best to leave these points open to personal interpretation, while for myself I found it to be a film which worked best when looked on as a grim portrait of picket fence hell, while proving once more that hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Texas Chainsaw 3D



Title: Texas Chainsaw 3D
Director: John Luessenhop
Released: 2013
Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Thome Barry, Paul Rae, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen

Plot: Picking up the shortly after the events of the original film as a group of vigilantes burn down the Sawyer family home and seemingly killing every member of the family. Decades later Heather (Daddario) finds out she has inherited a mansion from her grandmother, only to find out that it holds more than its share of secrets.


Review: A film I’d originally dismissed as another attempt to cash in on the legacy of Tobe Hooper’s breakout film and former Video Nasty which wouldn’t get a UK release until 1999. Despite this the studios have frequently been keen to milk the franchise and turn its chainsaw welding maniac into another iconic slasher figure. Due to this I had little intention of watching this film, especially after the abysmal “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Begining” which kill dead any potential momentum the original and surprisingly decent remake had. It was infact only after hearing Emily and Christine recommend the film on their podcast “The Feminine Critique” that I thought it was time that I finally give it a watch.

In a unique twist this film doesn’t attempt to remake the original film, but instead takes the unique move of following on directly after the Tobe Hooper original ignoring all the films which followed which if you haven't seen already director John Luessenhop helpfully spoils by giving you a highlight reel of all the best parts. True this does help bring the viewer up to speed to were he wants to start his film, but I can’t help but feel this is kind of a downer for anyone who chooses to start with this film or enters it expecting a delayed follow up to the 2003 remake. Suprisingly the film was originally pitched as a new trilogy with the films being released out of order with the first film being set in a hospital, the second film would act as a prequel and the third completing the storyline. The producers however feeling that audiences might not get the ambitious idea instead scrapped the plans in favour of the film we have now while for no discernible reason also releasing it in 3D.

Seemingly a fan of the series Luessenhop opens with a siege on the home of the family of cannibals now known as the Sawyers in a scene which not only attempts to rip off the opening siege of “The Devils Rejects” but also features some of the worse CGI fire effects ever. Still for the fans we get cameos from Marilyn Burns, the original Leatherface Gunner Hansen and Bill Moseley who played Chop Top in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”. Having killed off the family and burned the house to the ground we now move forward to present day and the introduction of Heather and her friends as they road trip out to the mansion she’s now inherited from the grandmother she never knew she had.

Okay before I go any further lets just say that there will be a few spoilers ahead, so if any of what I have covered so far sounds interesting then give it a watch and if it didn’t well the original is always going to be there.

Right from the start its clear that Heather is far from the usual scream queen as we are shown her working in a butchers shop, carving up with almost glee meat using a bandsaw while her home she uses as a studio for her bone art. Now I’m not going to say that attractive girls can’t be Butchers or have an interest in the grotesque arts, but this is the movie world and hence nothing can usually exist without hinting at something else and the film really put as spin on the mythos as Heather slowly discovers her links to the Sawyers.

The main plot worryingly starts off perhaps alittle too similar to the original film as Heather and her friends pick up a hitchiker, or should I say they almost hit him with the fan before deciding to pick him up, something which he’s surprisingly not overly upset over since he can blag jerky off them. I was half expecting this hitchiker to have some link to the family which he doesn’t though he does attempt to steal pretty much anything that’s not nailed down when Heather her friends deem him trust worthy enough to leave at the mansion. A strange move seeing how they’ve only known him for about five mins but atleast he ends up falling foul of Leatherface so I guess theres some sort of karma there.

While the hitchiker might be a thieving SOB, her friends are equally none that brilliant as we have her douche bag boyfriend Ryan (Songz) who is off from his first introduction so it comes as little suprise to discover he’s cheating on her with her best friend Nikki (Raymonde). The sole redeaming member of the group is Kenny (Malicki-Sanchez) but he’s frustrating never given much to do making his early departure all the more sad especially when there is much more deserving victims to be had.

While this might all sound like another run of the mill slasher with the good looking teens being chased by the hideous killer, but surprisingly Luessenhop is actually trying to do something different with the mythos this time round by turning an ageing Leatherface into the blunt instrument of justice. For the first half of the film its business as usual for him but by the second half of the film were we find out about the corrupt cops in town and Heathers relationship to Leatherface has been reveals via some rather ropey quick cuts as she looks over a police report it could be seen that Leatherface wasn’t actively hunting the teen but rather defending in his own warped way his home.

Leatherface played this time by Dan Yeager really lacks the required presence that Gunnar Hansen brought to the role or just the hulking size of the 2003 version. Despite being 6’6 here he seem a lot shorter thanks to how he’s shot by Luessenhop which remove a lot of the characters daunting presence and ultimately came off a little tepid while the less said about that stupid tie he randomly puts on for the finale showdown the better. I mean is that supposed to symbolise him going to work?

The kills throughout are a lot of fun with some frustratingly being reworked or recycled from the original film, something alittle harder to ignore when you show us all the original kills at the start of the movie. Still the final pay off gives us a memorable death which is only hampered slightly by the use of CGI, something which is such a common issue in modern horror it almost feels like a pointless exercise to mention it. Sure its easier for the film maker by cutting down on the shot reload time but when it comes at the cost of presence for the viewer should the film makers convenience always win out?
While far from the best entry in the series its equally not the worst and certainly brings enough unique ideas to make it worth giving a look, but this is far from the film to represent the tone of the franchise.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

AC Film Club #2 - King Kong Escapes




On this episode of the "Asian Cinema Film Club" myself and my co-host Stephen (Eastern Kicks / Gweilo Ramblings) look at the second attempt by Toho to cash in on the appeal of King Kong by this time having him face off against his mecha counterpart Mechani-Kong in "King Kong Escapes"

Directed by legendary Kaiju director Ishiro Honda the plot itself is the usual randomness with Evil scientist Dr. Who creating his Mechani-Kong which he plans to use to dig for “Element X” in the North pole only to find that the radiation emitted by Element X shuts down his creation. Meanwhile Commander Nelson  and his crew have discovered Kong living on Mondo Island who Dr.Who now plots to use to dig out the Element X by hypnotising the giant ape to do his bidding. Of course its not long before Kong goes wild once more while heading for a showdown with Mechani-Kong on top of the Tokyo Tower!!

Also on this episode Stephen shares his thoughts on the Live-action adaptation of "Ghost In The Shell", The anniversary and legacy of Gundam Wing aswell as why "Attack On Titan" is so essential.

Further Watching



Godzilla (1954)

Destroy All Monsters


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Lady Bloodfight



Title: Lady Bloodfight
Director: Chris Nahon
Released: 2016
Starring: Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu, Jet Tranter, Mayling Ng, Sunny Coelst, Rosemary Vandebrouck, Lisa Cheng

Plot: While attempting to escape her troubled homelife by backpacking in Hong Kong, Jane (Johnston) attracts the attention of Shu (Hofmann) when she is forced to fend off a group of thugs. Now under Shu’s training she enters into the all-female underground fighting tournament known as “The Kumite”.

Review: Originally created by writer / producer Bey Logan as a project to showcase the top female talent of Hong Kong martial arts cinema such as Maggie Q and Shu Qi only for the project to languish in development hell. Picked up by “Voltage Pictures” the film was instead turned into something for a more mainstream audience though surprisingly retaining a gritty edge to its action.

Directed by French director Chris Nahon who is no doubt best known for “Kiss of the Dragon” aswell as the live action adaptation of “Blood: The Last Vampire”. Here he once more brings a highly visual style to the film, though you might want to lower your expectations before you go into this expecting another “Kiss of the Dragon” arguably one of the best of Jet Li’s films. At the same time it should be noted that despite being given what essentially is a gender-swapped version of “Bloodsport” still manages to give us a surprisingly enjoyable brawler.

One of the big issues of this film really falls on the lack of plotting and character development which plagues this film throughout. Lets take Jane our heroine for example who arguably gets the most development of any of the cast and who we are introduced to working as a waitress were her zero tolerance for being harassed by pervert customers sees her being fired from her job and with only her slovenly chain smoking mother at home, she decides to find out what happened to her father who disappeared eight years previous while competing in the Kumite and well that’s about all we ever find out about her.

The other main plotline here involves rival masters Shu and Wei (Kathy Wu) who we see battling at the start of the film in the previous Kumite and from the large amount of time lapse photography spliced into their fight, we are lead to believe is also a fight which has gone on for hours, despite neither fighter seemingly any less dishevelled nor beat up than when they started. When the pair managed to ultimately fight to a draw they are tasked by the Kumite to each train a fighter to represent them in the following years competition which bring in Jane as the fighter of Shu while Wei finds her fighter in the thief and hoodrat Wai (Jenny Wu) who with her hotheaded nature could be seen as the closest the film really has to a villian outside of the psychotic Russian convict Svietta (Mayling Ng).

The fight scenes throughout are surprisingly brutal with this film certainly being more about attractive female fighters engaging in titillating catfights but rather them beating each other to a bloody pulp which is certainly the case for Jane who frequently comes off the worse in her fights. The fight scenes are further helped by the background of many of the actresses having a martial arts background which is certainly the case of Mayling Ng whose IMDB page features as demo real of her skills. Amy Johnston on the other hand has an extensive list of stunt woman credits and much like Zoe Bell who she also co-starred in “Raze” with makes the transition to actress with ease and believability here.

The downside to the action scenes comes from some seriously choppy editing and misguided attempts to include flashy camera work to heighten these scenes and add to the excitement. The other issues comes from Nahon shooting so close to the fight scenes rather than giving them the space to breathe and allow the audience to be able to see what is happening on the screen.

Despite being a DTV title certainly here on these rain soaked shores this film really fights above its expectations and while it might not be the most groundbreaking film of the year, while perhaps verging on blatant plagiarism of “Bloodsport” this is still an entertaining if slightly flawed brawler that’s still worth giving a look.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Lifeforce



Title: Lifeforce
Director: Tobe Hooper
Released: 1985
Starring: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard, Nicholas Ball, Aubrey Morris, John Hallam, Chris Jagger, Bill Malin

Plot: When the crew of the space shuttle Churchill discover a spaceship hidden in Halley’s Comet the crew choose to investigate finding three humanoid life forms in suspended animation which they choose to bring back to Earth unaware that they are a trio of space vampires.

 
Review: When we look at the “Masters of Horror” collective Tobe Hooper would be another of the directors like Stuart Gordon and perhaps to an extent Joe Dante whose work never really gets the recognition it deserves. More so in Hooper’s case were he found early success with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” arguable one of the scariest and intense movies ever made, only to find it overshadowing the films which followed as he strived to replicate it with the films which followed in career littered more recently with more misses than hits.

This film really marked the beginning of the decline for his career which would following its release descend into medeocricy outside of the occasional high point which can be found in his TV projects such as the pilot episode for “Dark Skies” and his episodes for the “Masters of Horror” series. This film however would be the first film in a three-picture deal which he was offered Cannon Films following the success of “Poltergeist” and which would lead to Hooper directing both the “Invaders From Mars” remake aswell as the cult favourite “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”.

So were do we begin with this film? Its far from an easy question as this is a film which is seemingly never sure what exactly it wants to be as we start off as an “Alien” style space movie whose similarities are not all that suprising when you consider that the script was co-written by Dan O’Bannon. From here the film seems to be settled into its Space Vampire groove, only to then shift into a body snatchers mood before then switching to an all out zombie apocalypse on the streets of London. It’s a wild and random ride to say the least and one I will attempt to decipher in this review as best as I can, but even as I sit down to write this review I’m left with the same sense of confusion that I got with Hooper’s experimental hippy debut “Eggshells”.

The first half of the film is actually pretty enjoyable as we get the crew of Churchill investigating the mysterious craft, finding fossilised giant bat like creatures and our trio of naked space vampires asleep in suspended animation. Originally this discover sequence was to be shot in silence which would have been really interesting to see, especially when how this opening portion is shot and the zero gravity movements of the characters are almost hypnotic to watch and there is so genuine tension to these scenes of exploration aboard the alien craft.

Unsurprisingly the focus is placed on the hot naked space chick (May) and not the two space studs who are pushed to the background for the most part. Back on Earth she of course wakes up suddenly and wastes little time sucking the lifeforce out of her victims all while wandering around completely naked and with little desire to actually find clothes. In a fun twist her victims which are reduced to shrivelled husks also start feeding on the lifeforce of anyone near them causing this vampire like virus to soon begin spreading out of control, while those unable to find a victim explode into dust which for some reason never gets old.

We are also introduced at this point to our hero and SAS Colonel Caine played here by an impossibly young looking Peter Firth who I was most familiar with his role in the TV series “Spooks” as the MI5 officer Harry, so it was kind of surreal to find him randomly turning up here. Inturn his appearance really gives the film a feeling of a Doctor Who episode, especially as he carries this Quatermass attitude which I really wasn’t expecting to find with this film.

While it seems at this point that you know were the story is going with Hooper seemingly crafting a space vampire romp, things instead take a turn for the random when Churchill crew member Tom Carlsen (Railsback) suddenly returns to earth in the ships escape pod. Carlsen randomly shares a psychic link with the female space vampire who for some reason they never both to name, even in the credits she is listed as “Space Girl”. The psychic link angle really is overplayed throughout the second half of the film which is also were the film starts to grind its gear and loose the momentum it had in the first half with Hooper working in a bunch of Dracula style seduction dream sequences between Carlsen and the female vampire. It also serves to take us out into the British countryside for no real discernible reason I could think of other than to stretch the film out or that Hooper just really fancied filming in the countryside. The body snatchers angle this diversion introduces makes absolutely zero sense and what I would say needed to be cut from what is a greatly inflated runtime which needed to loose around thirty mins. At the same time it would also mean losing Patrick Stewart's appearance as the manager of a hospital they believe she is hiding out in.

The ending though is really were the film not only jumps the shark but the whole aquarium as the film suddenly turns into a full blown zombie apocalypse which you can’t but wonder if it served as the inspiration for the post-apocalyptic London of “28 Days Later”. This finale Hooper just goes nuts and throws everything at the screen with Caine battling his way through the zombie hordes and seeing how much Peter Firth is seen smiling throughout these scenes its hard to tell if he’s just having fun or just given into the fact that he’s just resigned himself to the fact that none of this is making the slightest bit of sense. It is however a lot of fun to see London being reduced to rubble, thanks to Hopper getting access to a recently closed model village which he could blow up as a substitute London.

Were the film really excels however is with the special effects, in particular the practical effects throughout the film thanks to John Dykstra whose work here really stops the film from being just another throw away Cannon title, while making it non to surprising that it was also one of their most expensive productions alongside “Master of the Universe” and “Superman 4: The Quest for Peace”. What it does give us though are dried husk zombies whose body rejuvenate when they suck the lifeforce out of their victim or explode into dusty clouds when they can’t. By the finale they are more traditional looking zombie effects which is to be understood, but really made up for by some fun body horror elements.

A truly random experience which certainly could have afforded to hack out half an hour, especially the distraction provided by the third act which throws in the unneeded bodyswappers element which really brings nothing to the film apart from adding confusion to the film which would have taken away from the film more had the finale been so much fun. Its hard to say were this film lies in terms of being good or bad as it somehow manages to fall somewhere outside of such ratings and while its far from Hooper’s best film its one which is still worth watch if only to be astounded by its sheer randomness as there really is nothing else quite like it.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

12 Rounds 3: Lockdown



Title: 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
Director: Stephen Reynolds
Released: 2015
Starring: Dean Ambrose, Roger Cross, Daniel Cudmore, Lochlyn Munro, Ty Olsson, Sarah Smyth, Rebecca Marshall, Toby Levins, Bill Dow, Sharon Taylor, Matthew Harrison

Plot: Detective John Shaw (Ambrose) returning from recently being shot while on duty in an incident which claimed the life of his partner, he has little time to settle back into work when he accidentally uncovers incriminating evidence about fellow detective Tyler Burke (Cross) who soon locks down the precinct with his team of dirty cops leaving Shaw alone to get the truth out.

Review: The second of the “Action Six-Pack” series from Lionsgate and WWE Studios after the Soska Sisters prison drama “Vendetta” the script for this film originally titled just “Lockdown” was nothing to do with the previous “12 Rounds” films, but with the studio clearly keen to have another franchise to go alongside their ever popular “Marine” series the script was reworked to create this second sequel to the Renny Harlin original which stared John Cena. Unlike the previous two films though which saw their hero being forced to complete 12 challenges, this film does away with the concept entirely and instead goes with the much more literal 12 rounds which Detective Shaw has in his gun to take on the dirty cops now hunting for him.

When it comes to the WWE Films its always with a sense of impending dread and hesitation that I often find myself entering into these films with. More so when it means being faced with Wrestlers not being able to carry the charisma of their ring personas over to the screen. There was a brief period were this issue was countered by the films featuring the wrestler in a supporting role as seen with the likes of “The Call” and “Dead Man Down” but lately they seem to be drifting back to the original model of having the wrestlers play the lead roles. True we have had several wrestlers who’ve proven themselves capable of carrying their films such as The Miz and to an extent Kane but at the same time we’ve also had the clumsy comedy of Triple H in “The Chaperone.

When it comes to Dean Ambrose whose ring persona is that of a deranged lunatic you’d expect to see him cast in a role like Riggs from “Lethal Weapon” and despite seemingly being introduced as the sort of cop who plays by his own rules end up coming off like more of a John McClane styled character especially when this film boils down to what is essentially Die Hard on a budget. At the same time Ambrose might not be the worst wrestler turned actor but at the same time here he never seems to ever get out of first gear with his persona which generally just stays on one level throughout the film. At the same time his character is barely developed throughout the film, despite plot points being scattered throughout the film such as his responsibility over the death of his partner we never really get a feeling of him being a fully developed character especially when outside of this fact we don’t get to know anything really about him.

Roger Cross’s dirty cop Burke on the other hand is an almost cartoonish villain seemingly modelled after Alonzo Harris from “Training Day” who somehow has a whole mini-army of fellow dirty cops who he can not only bring in at a moments notice, but are somehow able to lockdown the whole police station with minimum amount of hassle, let alone how easy Burke is able to convice everyone that Shaw is the dirty cop which would be easier if he was the loose cannon kind of cop you’d expect Ambrose to be playing, but when he’s been viewed as the good cop who just wants to make a difference it makes zero sense that he could be so easily framed.

Another issue the film has is that Shaw never has someone to play off like McClane had Al in the original “Die Hard” and instead leaves us with scenes of him muttering to himself and Burke barking orders and generally voicing his frustration at constantly being thwarted in his attempts to take out Shaw. We do get the rookie office Taylor (Smyth) who seems to be introduced to fill this role for Shaw and perhaps in some way help redeem him for getting his partner killed, but sadly she never gets to play much more than a bargaining chip between Burke and Shaw.

Thankfully the action scenes here really make up for a lot of the flaws in the film with Reynolds crafting exciting scenes of both gun play and general hand to hand combat with Shaw showing the same kind of inspired thinking on his feet which made John McClane such a memorable action hero as seen here by him convincing the bad guys he’s gone into the vents when he’s actually hiding out in the same room.We also get a unique use for a taser which really needs to be seen.

While the plotting is pretty standard and by the numbers it largely works and plods along nicely throughout while being broken up with decent bursts of action. However it is let down by the final act which sees the inclusion of a much unneeded double cross which should have been cut out as it not only has zero effect on the plot but doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

On the whole this is like so many of the WWE Studio films in that its disposable yet entertaining and if anything much like “Sausage Party” I’m actually kind of concerned by how much I enjoyed this one, though hardly a breakout role for the acting career of Dean Ambrose. Still compared to the dreck being churned out by the likes of the Sci-fi channel you really could do a lot worse than giving this a watch.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

MBDS Showcase #48 - At The Earths Core / Challenge of the Tiger


The "MBDS Showcase" is a cult movie podcast which aims to provide an introduction to cult and obscure cinema, while inviting my guests to share their own cult movie obsessions.

Youtuber and cult cinema fan Brandon Tenold (Brandon's Cult Movie Reviews) returns for an ass kicking double as we look at the overlooked Bruceploitation movie "Challenge of the Tiger" in which Bruce Le directs and stars as a CIA Agent paired with Richard Harrison's swave womaniser as the pair try to locate a super-sterility drug 

We also get to see Doug McClure team up with Peter Crushing for "At The Earth's Core" as he fights dinosaurs, seduces cavewomen and solves problems by punching them!!
 
All this plus Canuxploitation, movie ratings and the appeal of bad movies, plus much more!



You can find the full MBDS Showcase movie list here

Opening Theme: "Hyperfun" - Kevin Macleod (http://incompetech.com/)

End Theme: "Out of Limits" - The Marketts

Follow the show



Podomatic

ITunes

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...