Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Terminator Genisys



Title: Terminator Genisys
Director: Alan Taylor
Released: 2015
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Lee Byung-hun

Plot: When Kyle Reese (Courtney) is sent back in time to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Clarke) only to find himself on an alternative timeline were Sarah is already a capable warrior and even has her own terminator “pops” (Schwarzenegger) while the threat of Skynet remains ever more present than before.

Review: Since the release of the phenomenal “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” the Terminator franchise has found itself for the most part floundering and in dire need of some kind of direction to drive the franchise forward. True these attempts have meant that we got to see Judgement day happen (Rise of the machines) as well as a disappointing attempt to set an entry in the post apocalyptic future (Terminator Salvation) whose scripts from its troubled development promised more than we ultimately got, but then what can you expect when you allow McG to direct the movie.

Now rather than doing the logical choice of just driving a dump truck of cash to James Cameron’s house and beg him to return to the franchise instead this time Alan Taylor steps up to direct who is best known for directing TV with his most noteworthy film credit being “Thor: The Dark World” which now the fans of the Marvel cinematic universe have gotten over the initial shine of getting comic book movies and proclaiming their love for everything the studio puts out regularly rank it as one of the worst films to come from the studio. So hardly the most reassuring credential going into this film, but hey Arnold was returning so that’s a postive….right?

Knowing what the fans had made of this entry ahead of time my expectation was kind of at a low, especially when the trailer had hardly done anything to grab my attention. Of course it was a big suprise when 40 mins into the film I found myself really enjoying myself as we got to see the final battle against Skynet being won and Kyle being set back in time, all things we’d heard about in the previous films and only now were getting to see actually happen. Even when we get into the alternative 1984 and see an older version of Arnold’s terminator battling his clone I was digging the homage, especially when so much care was being taken to replicate the scenes from the original film. And then we time travel again to 2017 and things started to become unglued.

For some reason once we take that leap forward the film really starts to fall apart and almost feels like the first half was directed by someone else and that Taylor was brought in by the studio to finish the film as its almost jarring how suddenly the quality of the film drops and all we’ve done is make one jump in time.

One of the biggest issues comes with the latest Terminator development which this time sees John Connor being replaced by a nanobot Terminator the T-3000 which might have worked a lot better as a plot device had the trailers not given away this major twist and as such it ends up coming off flat and devoid of any kind of emotional response that might have been there. As a villain though he brings nothing new to the table outside of having some slightly different abilities and when the end game is to blow up Cyberdyne again you can’t help but feel alittle frustrated to see the franchise still going in circles.

On the plus side Arnold is still as fantastic as ever in his iconic Terminator role even bringing a few new elements to the role this time as this time he plays Sarah Connor’s guardian Pops, perfectly working in the fact that he is much older than the last time he played the role, as its revealed that the flesh covering his robot exoskeleton can age, a concept which came from James Cameron when the producers approached him about rebooting the franchise. This is further added to by Pops showing signs of old age as his joints start to seize and give out and it really adds to the character while proving to be the one thing to justify all this timeline hopping madness.

The action is fun as always with Arnie showing that despite his age he can still throw down with the best of them as we get plenty of terminator on terminator violence with Pops saving the pair from a variety of terminator models including a new version of the T-1000 played here by Lee Byung-hun who even mixes things up slightly by including the ability to throw metal spears which makes for a nice touch especially when so much of his scenes feels like we are watching a rehash of Terminator 2 which also rang true during the helicopter chase. The T-3000 meanwhile gets old quick especially not having any real powers compared to the previous terminators we have seen. Yes he’s good as the unstoppable presence, but compared to Byung-hun he just falls flat when you compare the two.

The other issue here is that Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney have zero chemistry together which is already supposed to be akward from the start seeing how they are destined to be together which certain parties know from the start with Pops amusingly asking Sarah if they’ve “bred” or not. But looking at this pair you can see them never getting together, while the introduction of the adult John Connor on their timeline just comes off confused and akward with a stupid plot idea only seeming the worse as this pair attempt to interact with their adult child.

Its frustrating as this film certainly has its moments with the first 40 minutes really being promising. It’s just a shame that it all falls apart from there. While it might be an improvement over parts Rise of the Machines and Salvation this really could have done with a stronger script let alone not feeling like it was borrowing from the second film so much. As such approach with caution.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

American Ultra



Title: American Ultra
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Released: 2015
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale

Plot: Stoner Mike (Eisenberg) is content with his life in the backwater town of Liman, West Virginia were he works as a convenience store clerk with plans to propose to his longterm girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart) despite his plans being constantly self-sabotaged by his panic attacks. Little does he know that he’s also a sleeper government agent, whose just been reactivated when his former handler (Britton) learns that he is to be eliminated by her rival Yates (Grace) as part of a clean up program. 


Review: What is it about Max Landis that seems to instantly irk certain members of the critical / blogging community? Is it because he’s perhaps had more doors opened to him due to his father being cult director John Landis or the fact that he so openly flaunts this blood connect rather than taking a pen name like Joe Hill (Son of Stephen King)? What ever the reason the mere mention of his name being attached to a project for some reason seems to raise the same kind of destain that M. Night Shyamalan or Eli Roth being attached to a project does.

Personal gripes aside though its hard to see why Landis creates this kind of reaction, especially considering how his body of work as both a writer and director of the rather fantastic shorts “The Death and Return ofSuperman” and “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling” have shown him to be one of the more original if occasionally unfocused minds currently working since he burst onto the scene with his script for “Chronicle” and this is what we find again with this film.


One of a number of scripts sold on the back of the success of “Chronicle” here he teams up with Director Nima Nourizadeh who previously directed the millennial party movie “Project X” and this time gets to build upon those brief moments of chaos and carnage with the first stoner action hero who might also be the most dangerous man with a spoon!

An interesting concept and one certainly added to with Landis’ unique style as we are introduced to Mike who despite being a stoner isn’t exactly a slacker as he holds down a job working at the local convenience store working on his comic aswell as towards being able to propose to his girlfriend Phoebe who he sees as being the best thing in his life, who he is also paranoid will leave him especially when he self-sabotages their planned trip to Hawaii with his panic attacks.

While the expected path for the film to take would be to have Mike suddenly turn into a badass once he’s activated and all his skills implanted in him by the Ultra program become available to him. But unlike the likes of “The Long Kiss Goodnight” what we get instead is Mike suddenly finding himself able to defend him using his implanted skills and knowledge while at the same time having no clue as to why he is able to do any of it. This was something I found to be kind of jarring the first time I watched the film were for some reason it didn’t seem to sit with me. Upon re-watching it though this time with knowledge of what to expect I found that the experience this time much more enjoyable.

Of course Eisenberg himself much like Topher Grace is far from your traditional action hero and that itself is part of the charm here to see him utilising household objects to maim opponents or pulling off far fetched trick shots using a frying pan to ricochet a gunshot into his target. Its outlandish for sure but there is something so enjoyable in watching these action scenes unfolding, especially with Eisenberg able to tap into this cold and unflinching side whenever his training kicks in and he enters into what could almost be considered a badass autopilot. Balancing out these burst of violence though is his believable relationship which sees him reuniting with former co-star and onscreen love interest Stewart which was certainly welcome after how well they played off each other in “Adventureland” and it was great to see them being able to recapture that chemistry here aswell.

Topher Grace gives a fantastic villainous turn as CIA Agent Yates whose Napoleon complex has him acting the tough guy by hiding behind the many resources available to him, while certainly riding on a power trip gain from his position. This means that we get to see him flying off the handle frequently while refusing to admit even to himself that the situation is quickly escalating out of his control, let alone the clean up operation is really a thinly veiled cover for him wanting to get back at his rival agent Lasseter.

The action throughout though is fantastic especially with Mike often switching off as his training takes over, while the bursts of graphic violence scattered throughout certainly keep things interesting while reminding the viewer that Mike isn’t doing a lot of these things because he can, but because its been what he’s been re-wired to do. At the same time Yates has his own group of killers to match Mike’s skills including Walton Goggins aptly named Laugher who constantly giggles to himself as he goes about his work. Still like we saw in “Chronicle” and “Mr. Right” Landis really knows how to write an original action sequence and this is once again the situation here, though the black light room fight was probably a misstep as it soon becomes something of a migraine to sit though.

Despite having some colourful characters the film does at times feel like it pacing is more plodding than it should be, especially when it comes to the sections based around Mike’s past which certainly could have benefited from being more streamlined than an excuse for trippy visuals. This kind of distracted writing has plagued a lot of Landis’ scripts and again its the same case here but when this film is working its a lot of fun. Perhaps if Nourizadeh had been able to clean up Landis’ script this might have been something a lot more special than it ultimately ends up being but at the same time there is still enough there to make it worth giving a watch even if its not the film it could have perhaps been.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Willow Creek



Title: Willow Creek
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Released: 2013
Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson, Laura Montagna, Bucky Sinister, Peter Jason, Timmy Red

Plot: Jim (Johnson) is a Bigfoot believer keen to capture footage of the mythological creature and now dragging his non-beliver girlfriend Kelly along for the ride they head for the town of Willow Creek.

Review: Despite being best known as a director more for his warped comedy movies in tone with his unique comedy style, this film marked a rare venture into horror for Bobcat Goldthwait as here he turns his focus to crafting a found footage horror which in turn might be one of the best offerings from the genre since “The Blair Witch Project”

Starting off light-hearted as our film making couple roll into “Willow Creek” which is not only seen as the Bigfoot capital of the world but also home to the Bigfoot festival, though judging by the amount of cash-in’s on the myth are scattered throughout the town from wood carvings to stores named after the creature it would seem that its a festival that runs all year round. Still as we soon discover the locals all have their stories to tell or even a song to offer on the Patterson-Gimlin footage that I’m sure we are all familiar with showing the Sasquatch striding along the sandbar and to Jim serves to fuel his belief in the creature while his girlfriend continues to defiantly deny that it could be real.

This gentle start to the film might be a little off-putting to some viewers, its worth sticking with as Goldthwait seemingly establishing the background colour is infact just luring us into a false sense of security which is slowly peeled away when the couple head off into the woods to shoot their own footage and choose to ignore the stern warning by the man they meet at the entrance to the woods to head back to town.

Once we get into the woods the real horror vibes start to come quick and fast as the couple soon find themselves quickly out of their depth with the tension being cranked up to an all time high during the 18 minute scene of the couple in the tent while something lurks outside the canvas walls and which was shot in one take and works perfectly to put the audience completely on edge as all we can hear are strange whooping noises, wood being knocked together and the occasional rock hitting the side of the tent that leave you expecting something to burst through at any moment.

It's simple concept for sure but one which works well here, largely thanks to Goldthwait avoiding all the usual pitfalls of the found footage genre, such as shaky camerawork while characters remark about things we would be able to see if someone wasn’t shaking the darn camera! Instead the camerawork is crisp throughout which really takes us on the journey with the couple especially as they enter into the woods which seem to envelop them much like the audience.

Okay minor spoiler time but I feel its worth noting that this is a bigfoot movie were you don’t get to see a bigfoot, which might be something of a blessing considering some of the monstrosities this frequently overlooked subgenre has produced over the years. This might be seen as a disappointment but here somehow it works with the noises we hear and general taunting conjuring more horrific imagery than perhaps the budget would have allowed.

Considering Goldthwait’s background in comedy its surprising to see him being equally effective as a horror director and as with Kevin Smith’s “Red State” it leaves me wanting to see work more in the genre if only to see what else he would bring especially in these times were the horror genre is crying out for new ideas and fresh takes which this certainly provided, even though this might not be so apparent to those going in expecting something more visual and less subtle than we ultimately get here.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Big Game



Title: Big Game
Director: Jalmari Helander
Released: 2014
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Ted Levine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Stevenson

Plot: When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists President Moore (Jackson) his only hope of survival lies with the 13 year old Oskari (Tommila) who is on a hunting mission to prove his maturity to his kinsfolk, only not to find himself instead aiding the President to escape the terrorists now hunting them.


Review: After giving the world a truly unique take on the Father Christmas mythos with his debut film “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” which itself built on his short films “Rare Exports Inc.” and “The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions” Finnish director Jalmari Helander shared with the world his unique world view were Santa was less the jolly fat man but rather a horned beast incased in a block of ice, while his elves were a bunch of naked old guys. Now four years after his memorable debut he takes a stab at the action genre while still carrying across many of the traits which made his debut so memorable.

The most expensive film to be produced in Finland with a budget of $10 million this is a film which for whatever reason seemed to disappear as quick as it appear on the release radar leaving me entering into this film with a sense of trepidation, especially when compared to “Rare Exports” which it seemed the blogging community were keen to discuss unlike this film which no one seemed to be talking about. Thankfully I shouldn’t have worried as Helander once again has delivered a film which is similar to “Rare Exports” in so many ways as Helander gives us his take on the action genre.

In much the same way that his take on Christmas was unique the same could be said for his take on the action genre which not only gives nods the action / adventure movies of the 80’s and early 90’s which arguably shot through what almost feels like the lens of a family film, alas one with terrorists and gunfights. Still thanks to a committed cast which see’s him bringing back cast members from “Rare Exports” aswell as casting American actors like Jackson who arn’t afraid to work with more unique material like this.

Opening to Oskari as he stands before the hunter wall of fame, showcasing the boys who’ve take the same right of passage he’s about to embark on were 13 year old boys from the village are sent into the Finnish wilderness to hunt by themselves, the photos all showing his predessorts all proudly posing with their kills including his father he idolises. Oskari on the other hand is not quite the hunter as we soon discover as he struggles to pull back on his bow a worrying sign when the trail is designed as a test of proving a young boys maturity into manhood. This kind of tough upbringing we saw in his previous film and once again its the same relationship we see between the gruff father figure who hides a softer side and his son which might be off putting to some, but this is the enviroment in which Oskari is growing up were life is tough and childhood fleeting as young boys are expected to be able to hunt skills the trial is designed to test.

It’s certainly far from your usual setup for this film, especially when you consider that featuring kids is usually the kiss of death for most action fans enthusiasm, but perhaps because of how Oskari is introduced its certainly less of an issue here even though Oskari still gives us a few moments of being a wise ass kid, using a cup and string phone to initially talk to Moore in a scene which actually was pretty charming and no doubt equally has a lot to do with Jackson’s ability to commit to the most random of material as highlighted by the 174 credits he currently has on IMDB at the time of writing this review.
Jackson’s Moore himself is an interesting character racked with concerns over his declining popularity, let alone his own concerns over being able to perform as a president and while his character might have benefited from more development the charisma of Jackson once more carries the character across. At the same time he’s played off against Secret Service agent Morris (Stevenson) along with the pychotic and insanely rich Hazar (Kurtulus) whose schemes are less about holding the President hostage and in keeping with his personality is more focused on hunting Moore for sport with the intention of having him stuffed and mounted as the ultimate hunting trophy.

While you might expect to know the direction the film will be heading, throughout the brisk run time Helander constantly manages to catch the audience off guard, which might be slightly disapointing to those who saw the trailer and went into the film expecting more of action fest, when here the action comes more in bursts with the focus being largely on the friendship between Moore and Oskari, while the frequent switches between humour and drama happen so often it can be hard to really latch onto any one mood for the film. The action scenes we do get though are enjoyably outlandish including a refrigerator escape sequence which makes the much lauded one from Crystal Skull seem quite plausible in comparison as we watch Oskari and Moore tumbling down the mountainside following the exciting chase through the woods as Hazar attempts to transport his prize off the mountain side inside said refrigerator. The ending though only up the ante further with Helander ending on a huge setpiece involving an ejector seat, a bow and arrow and an exploding lake!

While the action might be kept to the most part to the mountain side we do get the obligatory cuts to the pentagon crisis room were an enjoyable Victor Garber does a lot of hand wringing as the vice president and Jim Broadbent basically steals every scene he’s in as the head of the Terrorist Intel Unit while somehow managing to make a sandwich last the whole film, let alone showing a rare darker side we haven’t seen since “Art School Confidential” and one I would love to see more of. Yes at time these scenes can feel like throw away exposition but thankfully they do lead up to something bigger by the finale in a rather shocking twist that comes seemingly out of nowhere.

As with “Rare Exports” its hard to say who exactly the audience is for this film and with such a strange family adventure vibe running throughout the film, combined with Helander’s general refusal to commit to any one tone I’ve found myself refering to this as a “Starter Action Movie”. The kind of movie you could show the kids as a gateway into the genre before you show them the Schwarzenegger / Stallone / Van Damme classics. More so when this film is free of the usual bad language and ultra-violence you might not want to expose the kids to, still if we can have starter horror movies why not the same for action movies?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Symbol

Title: Symbol
Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Released: 2009
Starring: Hitoshi Matsumoto, David Quintero, Luis Accinelli, Lilian Tapia, Adriana Fricke, Carlos C. Torres, Ivana Wong, Arkangel De La Muerte, Matcho Panpu, Dick Togo, Salam Diagne

Plot: A Japanese man wakes up in a plain white room covered with phallus like switches which cause random events to happen within the room, while I attempts to find a way out. At the same a Mexican luchadore called Escargot Man prepares for his match despite being concerned that the fact his opponent is much younger than him. At the same time the worlds of these two men are surprisingly connected.

Review: Director Hitoshi Matsumoto might be a director whose work I never intend to seek out and yet our paths for some reason keep crossing, first with the Kaiju parody “Big Man Japan” and later the delightfully perverted “R100”. This time though its a lighter tone that Matsumoto brings to this film of two randomly interconnected tales even though from the start they couldn’t seem to be further part.

Of course surreal worlds have always been one of the trademarks of the comedian turned director and here that’s certainly the case for at least one half of this film as Matsumoto plays the unnamed man who wakes up in the plain room devoid of any colour bar his garish poka-dot pajamas. He has no idea how he got there or why he’s there and certainly by the end of the film we are arguably none the wiser, but it certainly doesn’t stop it being fun to see him being put through the slapstick ringer like your watching “Saw” with jokes.

The main humour of the film comes from him trying to figure out his new surrounding which seem to have designed to purposely test him at all times. The main one of these challenges being the phallus like switches which at one point turn into cherubs which emerge from the wall before disappearing again. Each switch causes something to happen or appear in the room, be it a plate of sushi, a pair of chopsticks or even cause a Zulu warrior to run through the room and this is the challenge which he is faced with let alone the fact that they all look identical.

Just seeing Matsumoto try and find a solution of each problem as he encounters is facinating to watch and his background in comedy only helps further sell even the simplest of jokes such as counsuming a small pile of sushi after resigning himself to the fact that there is no soy sauce only for the next switch he presses to produce the much desired soy sauce. Often these problem solving sections are presented with comic book storyboards while he stares at the viewer just clicking his fingers and the trail and error of the situation is designed so that you want to see him succeed yet at the same time the pay off for each failed plan is so amusing your equally wanting to see him crash and burn aswell.

The second story involving our ageing masked Mexican wrester is a much gentler far and works well running parallel to Matsumoto’s tale. Escargot Man loves his craft as a wrester yet at the same time he’s worried that his age is meaning that he is almost out of the game, especially when faced with competing against a pair of wrestlers half his age. Seeing him permanently wearing his mask regardless of if he is wrestling or not felt like a fun throw back to the likes of “Santo” while at the same time keeping in with the traditions of Lucha Libre. Over the course of his story we see the impact it has on family, including his son who is see defending his father’s in ring ability when two of his classmates make fun of Escargot Man.

Compared to my previous encounters with Matsumoto’s work this one surprisingly didn’t have a darker edge to it, or even go anywhere remotely downbeat in its tone. True instead the finale is a random mish-mash of ideas which includes a Kiss tribute act, ascension and a rather unique ending to Escargot Man’s match. True by the end of the film I might not have been any the wiser as to what I was watching than I was at the start but the ride is so unquestionably fun you really don’t care, while for those willing to take a few risks with their movie watching then this is certainly worth checking out, especially as a more gentle introduction to Matsumoto’s work.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A.C. Film Club #4 - Chungking Express



On this latest episode myself and Stephen (Gweilo Ramblings / Eastern Kicks) take a look at Wong Kai-Wai's "Chungking Express", a film comprised of two rather untraditional love stories as Takeshi Kaneshiro plays a cop who finds himself caught up Brigitte Lin's mysterious drug smuggler. At the same time Tony Leung (also playing a cop) who in attempting to get over the loss of his girlfriend (Valerie Chow) attracts the interest of the quirky snack bar worker Faye (Faye Wong) who has become determined to improve his situation

Music podcasts - Music podcasts -

We also share our Asian cinema shames as we take a cue from the "Cinema Shame" project and reveal the films they perhaps should have seen but for whatever reason have yet to, while also taking a look at the films of Kim Ki-duk

Further Watching


 

 








Fallen Angels
3-Iron
Samaritan Girl

A full list of films covered on the show can be found here

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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...