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

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Shallows



Title: The Shallows
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Released: 2016
Starring: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Angelo Jose Lozano Corzo, Jose Manuel Trujillo, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, Janelle Bailey

Plot: Struggling to deal with the loss of her mother to cancer medical student Nancy (Lively) travels to the same secluded beach in Mexico her mother had visited. However when she is attacked by a large great white shark, she finds herself stranded 200 yards from the shore while being stalked by the relentless shark.


Review: Director Jaume Collet-Serra really is a director whose work its hard to place as while he’s given us films such as “Orphan” and “Non-Stop” he’s also the same director responsible for giving us the likes of “Goal 2: Living The Dream” and the “House of Wax” remake which so memorably was sold on the prospect of seeing Paris Hilton die. As such your never really sure what your going to get from him and while the concept and trailer for the film really gave it all the potential of being another disposable summer release this film thankfully really isn’t.

Stripping the film down to its key elements here Collet-Serra really crafts something surprisingly special as he seemingly knows that the real heart of the film lies in the battle between Nancy and the shark currently standing between her and the shore... and that’s essentially it. This is also what appealed to Lively who was drawn to the project when she saw the similarities between this film and her husband Ryan Reynolds “Buried”.

True it might be a big shark which continually torments Nancy but this at the same time this isn’t some gigantic creature with super intelligence, which makes this already miles better than the countless shark movies which have continually attempted and failed to top what Steven Spielberg achieved with “Jaws”. The shark here instead is designed with a much more natural behaviour for the most part with Collet-Serra really only letting it off the leash in the build up to the finale. As such the shark only attacks Nancy initially when she stumbles into its hunting ground, while her injuries only serve to maintain its interest in her.

Despite the fact that Blake Lively has hardly set my world on fire with her previous performances which always felt that she was getting by on just being the token pretty girl rather than anything resembling dramatic talent and yet she is fantastic here, especially when its a role that requires her to act by herself for about 90% of the film though she does get a seagull (nicknamed Steven Seagull by Lively) to chat with. While this sounds like kind of a drag here it actually works as we get scenes such as Nancy treating any time she has to perform first aid on herself like she is treating a patient, which sees her talking her way through each procedure which largely consist of short term solutions she can cobble together on the fly.

Seeing how Nancy only has her wet suit, jewellery and a strap from her obliterated surfboard to help her, its fascinating to see how she deals with a situation which only continues to get worse for her especially with the clock continually ticking down to high tide. This of course means we do get some cringy moments such as her pinning a leg wound together using earrings and her necklace and it surprised me to see how willing Lively was to play a character who is essentially brutalised by the elements for the film, especially when she does all her own stunt work here outside of the few moment of surfing which were handled by pro surfer Isabella Nichols who also taught Lively some of the surfing basics such as how to Wax the board and attach a leg rope to give it more of an air of authenticity.

Outside of the survival aspect of the story we also get brief asides to her family as her father questions her decision to drop out of medical school after her mothers death, while her younger sister only further cements the impression we get of her home life. We also get passing interactions with a pair of fellow surfers and her local guide which while they serve to provide potential saviours for her its soon clear that its going to fall to Nancy to get herself out of the situation.

By keeping the shark for the most part for the final quarter it really helps build a sense of creeping dread throughout the film. At the same time while it might be a CGI shark it is still miles ahead of the phoney looking CGI that the Asylum / Sci-fi have been lumbering their productions with and it makes for an effective threat by the production not skimping on this element, especially as we all know how a cheap effect can quickly deflate a production of any tension gained in its build up.

One of the big surprises of the 2016 release schedule this is a film certainly worth seeking out, especially for Shark movie fans left craving the same kind of thrills that “Deep Blue Sea” delivered. At the same time its tight plotting and brief run time stop it outstaying its welcome or becoming too outlandish.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

King Kong Escapes



Title: King Kong Escapes
Director: Ishiro Honda
Released: 1967
Starring: Rhodes Reason, Akira Takarada, Linda Miller, Eisei Amamoto, Mie Hama, Yoshiumi Tajima, Nadao Kirino, Shoichi Hirose, Haruo Najajima, Yu Sekida

Plot: Evil scientist Dr. Who (Amamoto) has created his own robot version of King Kong called 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 (Reason) 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.
 
Review: One of the numerous overlooked King Kong titles / cash in titles with this one seeing Toho studios who’d previously obtained the King Kong licence for “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” and which despite being a box office success Toho hadn’t exactly rushed to follow it up until this film for which they teamed up bizarely with the American production company Rankin / Bass who are no doubt best known for their Christmas specials despite putting out several giant monster / dinosaur features such as “The Last Dinosaur” and “The Bermuda Depths”.

Drawing inspiration from the Rankin / Bass saturday morning cartoon “The King Kong Show” which saw the giant ape saving the world from various aliens, mad scientists and other monsters. This of course makes for the perfect source material for director Ishiro Honda especially as it puts Kong more in line with the likes of Godzilla who at this point was engaging in his own world saving antics. Working with the other three “Godzilla Fathers” producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, composer Akira Ifukube and most key special effects by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya which is no doubt why this film appeals to my Kaiju fanboy side especially with Honda hardly deviating from his usual Godzilla format, Ifukube even recycles some of his Godzilla themes to great effect here.

If anything could be said about this film is that it really wastes no time in getting to the monster action as we are barely 20 mins into the film before we get to not only see Kong for the first time but also Gorosaurus who makes his Toho debut in this film and despite being killed by Kong would make a miraculous recovery for his more prominent appearance in “Destroy All Monsters”. We also get to see Kong battle a sea serpent who looks strangely similar to Manda.

Despite Tsuburaya handling the special effects, the Kong suit is still an awkward Kaiju reworking which is only slightly better than the one we saw in “King Kong Vs. Godzilla”. Of course that being said it is still miles ahead of some of the awful giant ape costumes we got in the Kong knock offs like “A.P.E.” and “Queen Kong”. Here Tsuburaya really appears to be trying to tap into the more human side of Kong as seen through the overly sympathetic eyes which serve to make him more humane than any kind of monstrous threat, though he just looks down right dopey when he gets hypnotised by “Dr. Who”. The Mechani-Kong on the other hand looks fantastic, even if its movements sound like a disco siren.

Of course the reason we are all here is to see Kong face off against his mechi-counterpart and while it might be kept for the finale its well worth the wait as the pair battle it out while hanging off the Tokyo tower. Interestingly despite being in Tokyo Kong actually chooses not to destroy anything….unlike Mechani-Kong who mere minutes of arriving in Tokyo is busy smashing building. Why Kong chooses to head to Tokyo from the North pole is unclear much like how he manages to get there so quick after escaping Dr. Who’s secret base which appears like the henchmen uniforms to have been recycled from “You Only Live Twice”

The plot itself is kind of nonsensical aswell as just downright sexist in places with Commander Nelson having an unexplained past with the villainous Dr. Who which causes the second half of the film to grind its gears in places as Dr. Who tries to win over Commander Nelson to his cause even employing the charms of Madame Piranha played here former Bond girl Mie Hama whose country of origin which she is supposed to be representing is kept a mystery as one of the more random running themes of the film as characters origins are frequently questioned. The film also borrows elements from the original “King Kong” with Susan (Miller) essentially playing the Fay Wray role as Kong falls for her meaning that she is able to control him, when not constantly being kidnapped by him or his Mechi counterpart meaning we get to see a lot of footage of a questionable looking doll standing in for her.

Considering when this film was made Ishiro Honda was Toho’s go to director for their Kaiju movies not only through his heavy involvement with the Showa era of the Godzilla movies, but also introducing the world to the likes of “Rodan” and “Mothra” with their stand alone films and to this extent this version of Kong perfectly fits in this unofficial Kaiju universe that Toho were making with these films and which Honda would essentially bring together with “Destroy All Monsters” the following year.

A fun Kaiju movie which brings a fun spin to King Kong mythos which is certainly a lot more enjoyable than some of the entries in the apesploitation genre. At the same time its quick passing and generally fun kaiju action makes this one worth giving a look if only for some throwaway fun viewing.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Police Story 4: First Strike



Title: Police Story 4: First Strike
Director: Stanley Tong
Released: 1996
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jackson Lou, Annie Wu, Bill Tung, Yuriy Petrov, Nonna Grishayeve, Terry Woo, Ailen Sit, Nathan Jones

Plot: Recuited by the CIA, Insp. Chan (Chan) to follow leads connected to a nuclear smuggling case, only to soon find himself on the trail of a missing nuclear warhead.

Review: Despite being the forth entry in Jackie Chan’s legendry “Police Story” franchise you really don’t need to have seen the previous three to enjoy this film and hence why it was sold to western audiences as just “First Strike” giving it the illusion of being a stand alone film especially to cash in on the success of “Rumble In The Bronx” which had introduced Chan finally to audiences not familiar with the Hong Kong cinema.

While this film takes perhaps alittle longer than his other films to get going with Chan engaging in some espionage antics before giving us the first of the films big set pieces on the snowy mountains of the Ukraine with Chan wearing little more than a humorous seal hat for warmth chases after a suspect and it what really sets the tone for the film as here we get to see Chan really working at the height of his powers as certainly highlighted by the now legendary ladder fight sequence whose painful screw ups really only demonstrate just how good Chan and his stunt team are. Its during the traditional mistake reel in the credits and you also see that Chan really wasn’t wearing anything remotely warm during the mountain sequences when snowboarding or being thrown into icy water that you may find yourself questioning the general sanity of Chan to put himself through such things.

Perhaps to the benefit of Chan for doing all those snow sequences the majority of the film takes place in Australia were he soon finds himself caught up with the sister of the suspect he’s been pursuing Annie here played by Annie Wu in her film debut. Of course the general plot is pretty thin and this is especially the case with her character whose only real purpose is to play the damsel in distress while the fact she works at the aquarium really is just to setup the finale. This isn’t a major issue thanks to the general charm of Chan’s performance aswell as the fact that most viewers will be here for the stunts and fights than the plot.

This is a great film for newcomers thanks to the light-hearted plot let alone how frequently ludicrious it is to have a film which features an aquarium of man eating sharks and a final showdown which takes place underwater. This of course is largely thanks to Chan’s performance as he’s essentially the every man rather than the bad ass, its just he also happens to be a martial arts master. At the same time he taps into the same slapstick action energy of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd especially with the fight scenes being focused on using the environment around him and making one movement flow into the next. There is no better example of this than in this film when he is attempting to escape from a pair of Russian thugs, one being played by man mountain Nathan Jones.

As I mentioned already the action is really the star of the show here and while it might not top what we’ve seen in the previous three films in the saga it is still inventive and unquestionably better than his current output were its clear as he’s getting older he’s less willing to maim himself for his art especially when those bones don’t heal as quick as they used to, but hey this is the guy whose had so many injuries that he can no longer get insurance so you can hardly fault him for wanting to take it easier in these later years of his career. As such its fun to see a film like this when he was wanting to take those risks. Here Chan is clearly trying to give the audience something they haven't seen before which might explain the underwater fight finale, while the snowboard chase and the apartment escape which sees Chan repeatedly running into closed windows all make for fun highlights.

Frustratingly all the releases of this film bar the Japanese DVD are missing 21 mins from the film, while also dubbed which is less of an issue considering the style of film, but you would think that by now we would be able to get the original version of this film which sadly is still not an option.

A fun entry in the “Police Story” saga though while perhaps not the best film of this period it is still miles better from his current output, while providing the perfect start point for the newcomers to his extensive body of work.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Imperium



Title: Imperium
Director: Daniel Ragussis
Released: 2016
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Devin Druid, Pawel Szajda, Nestor Carbonell, Sam Trammell

Plot: FBI agent Nate Foster (Radcliffe) is sent undercover as a neo-Nazi when it is suspected that a white supremacist group is plotting an attack.

Review: I’m not sure if its just me but I’m sure that the career paths of both Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood if put side by side would pretty much match up with both coming to the attention of the general movie going public through blockbusters before moving into more indie productions and arguably producing some of the best work of their respective careers with Elijah Wood giving us the likes of “Grand Piano” and “Maniac” after the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy while Daniel Radcliffe only continues to make the Harry Potter years seem like a distant memory as he’s matured as an actor let alone showing the same kind of ballsy role picking with films like this and “Swiss Army Man” that helped Joseph Gordon Levitt become such a darling of the indie scene.

Of course when you think of Neo-Nazi’s I’m sure that Radcliffe’s name would be way down the list of potential actors but then that was one of the main things which drew me to this film, after all this is a the kind of role which has become synonymous with the performances given by the likes of Edward Norton and Russell Crowe as well as perhaps to a lesser extent Ryan Gosling. Yet somehow Radcliffe pulls off the role playing up the lack of believability to extraordinary effect.

Based on the career of former undercover FBI agent Michael German who wrote the script with director Daniel Raguissis who makes his feature debut with this film. German over the course of his career spent time undercover with both supremacists and right-wing militants which brings some legitimacy to the always dubious “Based on real events” title card the film opens with.

When Radcliffe’s FBI agent Foster is introduced during the arrest of a terrorist suspect were he is pushed to the background of the arrest while his superiors claim the credit for his work. At the same time Foster is shown as being something of an intellectual loner as he spends his evenings drinking expensive wine, listening to Brahm’s and sharing his meals with a book. However this seemingly makes him the perfect candidate for going undercover it would seem in the eyes of Agent Zamparo (Collette) who is investigating the involvement of white supremacist groups in the theft of caesium-137 which could be turned into a dirty bomb. The fact that Foster is such an unlikely candidate for undercover work, let alone to imitate a neo-nazi is seemingly what makes him perfect for such an operation seeing how many members of these organisations share a similar upbringing as Foster.

This idea that people’s direction in life being affected by their life experiences really plays an under lying theme throughout the film, before being highlighted again at the closing. At the same time the film equally suffers from going through the usual motions of these kinds of movies as we get the initial introduction to the hotheaded agitators while the elder figure making all the big claims turns out to be far from the person they claim to be. We do however get some interesting moments scattered throughout which do bring some unique aspects to the story such as a gathering being held in a quiet suberban neighbourhood hosted by white collar family man Gerry (Trammell) were the guest all seem like regular upstanding members of society despite the fact that one of the wives has brought Swastika topped cupcakes reminding the audience that not all supremacist look the same.

The character of Gerry is another cliché aspect to the story in which we get the Neo-Nazi who can justify his love of Jewish conductors or black music and its the kind of character who turns up time and time again and perhaps its down to the enjoyable performance given by Trammell that it wasn’t such an eye rolling cliché moment here. Gerry though provides for Foster one of the few seeming safe harbours when surrounded by members of the various groups threatening to reveal his true identity, while their shared interests and similar personalities make for a genuine friendship which leaves you wondering if he’s getting too involved with the people he’s supposed to be investigating.

Crafting a tightly plotted story there is little hanging around with the plot while the tension is kept high throughout as doubt is constantly being cast on the different aspects of his story. While Radcliffe might not seem like the most intimidating actor, here it really works to his advantage with the path they choose to take with his character so that you never get the feeling of implausibility like we got when Elijah Wood tried to play a football hooligan in the dire “Green Street”.

On the downside the final act feels kind of forced and rushed and really could have done with having more time to breathe than the sudden introduction of new conspirators to the plot, while Foster rushes around to defuse a dirty bomb plot. While it does have some tense moments such as trying to pass off fake chemicals, it just all needs more time to develop especially when the journey to this point has been so great its frustrating to see such a rushed climax.

A fantastic indie thriller that approaches the Neo Nazi material in perhaps a more subtle way than the superior “American History X” or “Romper Stomper” but this is still a great indie thriller well worth checking out.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Boxset Binge #8 - Wanna Be The Strongest In The World



As of the time of writing we have just wrapped up another “Wrestlemania” which if your a wrestling fan is one of those events you wait all year for and with the WWE going all out to ramp up the spectacle its also one of the few shows even people who don’t usually watch wrestling the rest of the year will tune in for. With this in mins what better time to check out this wrestling anime.

Featuring one of the more random plot lines I’ve encountered as Haguwara Sakura a member of the girl / Idol group “Sweet Diva” decides to take revenge against the wrestler Rio who insulted her and her fellow idols by challenging her to a wrestling match. Arguably not the brightest of plans as she soon discovers herself with Rio easily beating her in their match. Now rather than just write off the whole experience Sakura instead decides to become a pro-wrestler and begins training with the all female wrestling company “Berserk” so that she can challenge Rio to a rematch.

Classified as an “Ecchi” anime which for those not up on your anime terminology means that its essentially a Softcore Hentai so big on fan service but without any of the uncomfortable sex scenes which lets face it a lot of the uninitiated assume that all anime is about. Still it would have perhaps would have been nice to get some kind of warning about what exactly I was going to get into as the fan service levels throughout this series are gratuitous to say the least.

Sakura is an instantly likeable lead for the series especially as she approaches everything with such a positive slant which really comes in handy for her especially when she spends the first half of the series being beaten down and forced to submit by every opponent she faces, with one of the commentators noting her losing streak of over 60 losses and yet somehow her devoted fans still continue to cheer her on, which lets face it regardless of if your the most lovable jobbler its hard to think that any audience is still going to be cheering for you when your rocking that kind of losing streak.

Entering into a gruelling training regime though Sakura is soon learning such valuable wrestling lessons as how to escape from submission holds and find a finishing move, all things that you would have thought that she would have figured out before stepping in the ring rather than seemingly just trying to wing it as a professional wrestler as seems to be her plan for the first half. Of course in the best sporting drama tradition by the time we are into the second half she is essentially a wrestling pro and able to defeat any of the grizzled pro’s who cross her path as the series build up to her matches against the world champion wrestler Jackal as well as the mysterious masked wrestler “Blue Panther”.

One of the strangest aspects of the show is how wrestling isn’t portrayed as a pre-determined contest but instead here is shown as an actual physical contest of fighting ability. Sure you still have to pin or make you opponent submit but seemingly no one is pulling any punches and also the reason that Sakura amasses such a losing streak as no sadist booker could really schedule her to loose that much. The actual wrestling though is exciting throughout the series though perhaps focusing a tad too much on submission moves which also serve to provide the majority of the fan service here.

Here in lies of the main issues with the series as the fan service here isn’t just the occasional panty shot but lingering crotch shots, while the competitors wrestle in the most flimsy of outfits which they constantly threaten (but never do) to spill out of. This combined with the whimpering cries of pain frequently coming from Sakura really can leave you feeling kind of sleazy watching the show, while I know just writing this now that I’m no doubt completely selling this to another sub-section of anime fan, but so is the nature of the beast when it comes to anime.

This is far from the deepest anime out there but at only 12 episodes and it certainly has its flaws such as the overwhelming and arguably unnecessary fan service but it still makes for an enjoyable filler between shows and especially if you can’t face another 112+ episode arc and while it might tease what the prospect of a second season at the time of writing one has yet to happen though personally I would certainly be down for a second round.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Panic Button



Title: Panic Button
Director: Chris Crow
Released: 2012
Staring: Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon, Michael Jibson, Elen Rhys, Joshua Richards
 
Plot: four strangers a brought together after winning a competition for an all expenses paid trip to New York on fictional social networking site “All2gether.com”. Having given up their mobile phones, the group board their private jet, were they are greeted by a mysterious voice represented by a cartoon Alligator, who appears on the numerous monitors in the plane, who proceeds to invite them all to play a series of games, in a bid to win even more prizes. It’s only once the games begin that the group realise that things might not be what they seem and even more so that they should really have read the terms and conditions.
 
 
Review: It’s safe to say that this era will be defined as the “the social networking” era, especially as it seems the majority of us can’t get through the day without our Facebook / Twitter fix and I know that i’m certainly no exception to this. So what better time could there be for “Panic Button” to come along, the second feature by English writer / director Chris Crow who here supposedly attempts to highlight the dangers of social networking sites, especially with it’s Dan Brown esq title card “Inspired by true stories shared via social networks”.

The group chosen to play the game though small in number are interesting enough from the first impressions we get from them as we have single mum Jo (Johnson), the geeky computer nerd Max (Gordon), the laddish Dave (Jibson) and the bubbly blonde Gwen (Rhys), but it’s once the games start that we truly learn who these characters really are, as their darkest secrets are dredged from their internet histories and social network pages and put on show for the others to see, as director Crow reminds us just how much information we send across the internet on a daily basis and what it can possibly revel about us. Though small in numbers especially when compared to the group numbers in similar films, they still manage to have enough dark secrets to compensate and the claustrophobic setting of the aircraft cabin certainly working to the advantage of such a small number of potential victims.

The cast are all unknowns yet still pull off believable performances, with the anonymity certainly working to their advantage here as no one is viewed with any preconceived notions of what sort of characters any of the group really are. Joshua Richards however seems to be channeling Brian Cox for his portrayal of the mysterious voice known funnily enough only as “Alligator” seeing how he’s represented by surprise! Surprise! of all things a talking alligator. Still this Brian Cox inspired voice acting is a great choice, especially seeing how Cox was so memorable with his own commentary in brutal PS2 game “Manhunt” and it’s a similar switching between playful and taunting that Richards brings to the role, which proves to be one of the stronger parts of the film, especially as he continually gives the impression of being in complete control, even as the group try to fight against the game they are being forced to play.

Premiering at “Horrorfest” it’s premise made this film instantly one of the most talked about films of the festival, with its premier being greeted with much excitement and honestly the first thirty minutes of this movie are really great with the tension slowly being cranked up, as the games start of innocent enough with truths about the groups members being exposed to revel such fun facts as who secretly has a pierced scrotum, only to then suddenly take on a much darker edge, as the once playful voice suddenly becomes a lot more taunting and with the plane in flight it leaves the group with no were to run and zero means of escape, leaving them fully in the hands of this anonymous voice. Sadly it’s around this point that the film soon starts to loose it’s way as the group members are each assigned their own individual tasks causing a serious break in the tension, as the film now starts to feel as if it has no place to really go and is essentially padding out its run time, with this drawn out final game.

The main problem though for the film is that it tries to keep the focus purely on the group, no doubt due to budget restrictions which makes sense to keep the action purely in one setting, though without a second plot thread to keep the film flowing it results in the audience soon growing bored of these characters, especially when we know who they are which results in grinding everything to almost a standstill. A quick glance at similar films to this one only further highlight this issue, for example “Saw” is set largely around the two guys locked in a disused bathroom, but we still have the second plot-line involving Detective Tapp tracking Jigsaw to help keep the action flowing, even “Cube” had it’s series of identical interlinking rooms to throw in a few surprises, were as here it feels that they have written themselves into a corner with the setting and outside of how certain contestants meet their demise, there is very little on offer to surprise the audience once their secrets have been revealed and we know who they really are, with the final big twist almost seemingly anticlimactic once the big revel is given, while when the face behind the mysterious voice is revealed it only results in more questions as to how they managed to orchestrate the whole thing, while the epilogue is certainly undeniably chilling.

Director Crow takes the refreshingly original direction here to keep the film largely gore free, which might be slightly disappointing for those expecting to see “Saw on a plane!” but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the film by not painting the walls with buckets of gore and amputated limbs, which after seven “Saw” movies is a much needed breath of fresh air for the genre and proving once again that you don’t always need to gross out your audience.

Despite having it’s numerous flaws “Panic Button” is still worth a rental, even if it doesn’t exactly manage to keep up the tension the whole way through, it still plays out well enough to keep your attention, even when it feels like such minimal plotting is being stretched way too thin, while Director Crow show potential for good things, it is still way too early to start categorizing him as the new voice of British horror, he has still managed to pull off an effective film on a minimalist budget which reminds you again that a good films doesn’t always need to have big named stars and a huge budget to achieve it’s effect and perhaps with a little more tweaking this film could have been a better example of this.

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.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Resident Evil: Apocalypse



Title: Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Director: Alexander Witt
Released: 2004
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Mike Epps, Mathew G. Taylor

Plot: Following on from the events of the first film Alice (Jovovich) awakens to find herself in Racoon City which has now been ravaged by the T-Virus which the Umbrella Corporation are now moving to cover up. Joining up with suspended police officer Jill Valentine, Alice and a small group of uninfected survivors must attempt to escape the city.

Review: Despite the fact the original film hardly reciving glowing praise from the critics and audiences alike it looked doubtful that Paul W.S Anderson would get to make good on the cliffhanger he ended the first film on with a post coma Alice waking up with a ravaged Racoon City. Still when you deliver a $102.4 million box office on a budget of $35 Million it was kind of inevitable that the studio would push for a follow up. Anderson however would not return for this first sequel other than to produce and write the script as at the time he was busy giving the world his sterile take on both the Alien and Predator franchises with the flacid “Alien Vs. Predator” and leaving second unit director Alexander Witt to instead helm the film which remains his sole credit as a director and having seen the film its not hard to see why.

While the first film might have drawn its inspirations from the first game, this time round its the turn of “Resident Evil 2” and “Resident Evil: Nemesis” both which took place in Racoon City before the series headed off for more exotic locales in the games which followed. However like the first film they are merely just the foundations for another original script from Anderson who despite not being in the directors chair is still keep the build on the world he established in the first film in particular the evolution of Alice as a character.

This time Alice has her memory back while thanks to some tinkering by the Umbrella scientists she now has superhuman strength and agility which from the writing perspective means that Anderson is able to work more than a few OTT scenes into the film such as her introduction to the films main group of survivors which sees her crashing through a church stain glass window riding a motorcycle before blasting the hell out of a group of lickers. For some reason she also seems to be obsessed with sharing her back story whenever given a chance regardless of if characters have heard it before so if you didn’t know that she is an ex-security officer you’ll certainly know by the fifth time she’s told the group. In this instalment we do get to atleast know alittle more history behind the T-Virus and how it relates to Alice through the introduction of the Virus’s creator Dr. Ashford whose daughter Angela, Alice has to rescue from her school in order to get out of the city. The plot for the most part is frustratingly plodding and really only picks up when there’s a big set piece to work in.

From this film we really start to see Alice as the superhero style asskicker with the genetic tampering of her DNA now being used as blank check to work in any ludicrous idea that Anderson can think of and seemingly being all the justification we are supposed to need to understand her evolution from slaying Zombies in a pretty red dress to here being more military in her clothing choice let alone her suddenly being an expert in combat and military tactics which enable her to evade helicopters and repel down the sides of buildings.

The group this time round are a pretty unlikeable bunch with the exception of Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine who is a perfect feisty counterpart to Alice as she is introduced shooting zombies in the head which for some reason seem to be of little concern to anyone else in the police station let alone the fact that she is blasting away in such a crowded setting. Also in this group is Jill’s fellow S.T.A.R.S team member Peyton (Adoti), former umbrella soldier Carlos (Fehr) who was also a character introduced in “Resident Evil: Nemesis”. The most irritating though is the motormouthed L.J (Epps) who was originally supposed to be played by Snoop Dog until he dropped out during pre-production and I can’t help but feel that this character would have been less irritating had he still played him.

Our big evil this time is Major Cain (Kretschmann) whose heading up Umbrella’s containment operation and from his introduction its clear that he cares little for the citizens of Racoon city with his concerns instead lying purely with covering up the outbreak by any means possible. This includes sealing the Racoon City residents in the city aswell as releasing Nemesis to kill off the remaining members of S.T.A.R.S

Nemesis is unquestionably one of the strongest aspects of this film and is perfectly transferred from the game where like he is here a towering monster who also happens to weld a minigun and rocket launcher, both which while might have seemed overkill in the game here actually work for the character. Credit also has to be given to Mathew G. Taylor for making this character work especially when the suit weighed around 60 pounds limiting him to shooting in 15 min bursts or risk the heat of the suit overcoming him though to make matters worse the Minigun also added an addition 60 pounds for him to carry. Yes the character might be limited to slowly plodding around the city, but like in the game this really only adds to the daunting presence of this monster.

The downside of this character however comes when it comes to him doing anything other than shooting his weapons which becomes only the more obvious when we get the scenes of Alice fighting Nemesis with a pair of police batons. Due to the restrictive movement of Taylor wearing the suit the whole fight sequence just ends up coming off clumsy for the parts we do get to see with director Witt insisting on shooting the action almost ontop of the actors its often hard to figure out what is supposed to be happening let alone feel any kind of engagement with these fight sequences.

As with the first film this is still a sterile zombie movie with none of the gore we’d expect from the genre, though this time we have to contend with this weird half speed effect that Witt seems to be obsessed with using throughout the film. At the same time he constantly insists on shooting the zombie scenes almost on top of the actors making it often hard to figure out what is supposed to happening and often leaving scenes feeling a lot more chaotic than they should be. We do however get a few decent scenes in the film such as one of the group being overcome by a group of zombie school children aswell as another fun scene with the zombie dogs who make a return here.

A step down from the first film which seeing how that film lingered around the ass end of okay, really doesn’t say much for this film, more so when the ending is dragged out an additional fifteen minutes so that Alice’s character can become even more powered up than before. As such its doubtful that you will return to it after your initial viewing leaving it one for the completionists.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...