Friday, 30 May 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)


I only discovered this documentary after it was mentioned in a movie thread by a fellow flick lover. I'll be honest with the fact that I'm not overly aware of director Jodorowsky and his work so I went into this totally blind only knowing about the classic sci-fi epic that is Dune.

It all starts off with a relatively in depth look at Jodorowsky's previous work leading up to his Dune attempt. We learn about films such as 'El Topo' and 'The Holy Mountain' which appear to be his most famous works, films I have never seen or heard of admittedly but 'El Topo' does look the more interesting to me being a violent western. Its here that we learn how Jodo thinks, how he sees things, his imagination, creations and ideas, and basically one word sums it all up...surreal.

This doc explains how Jodo travelled all across Europe to lure various big names to his project trying to get his unique vision off the ground. The doc shows us lots of small sketches drawings and a small animated example of the way ideas were going, in all honesty there isn't a lot to be shown really. I was hoping for lots of big Ralph McQuarrie type paintings giving a clearer picture but alas no. Many of the images are unfinished or purely examples, not even the final idea, and half of which looked pretty terrible to me but that's a personal opinion. Everything has now been put into a ginormous book which I believe has the complete plot in hand drawn black and white pencil storyboard form (panels) with colour extras. Thing is we don't really get to see that much in this doc, maybe there isn't that much to see and what we do see is all there is.

Most of the doc is mainly dialog from various people involved with Jodo on the project at different stages. They discuss every aspect of the production including bits which I found more interesting such as approaching H.R. Giger and Chris Foss the sci-fi artist about design work, both of which resulting in some typically unusual yet familiar concept work. Intriguing to see Dan O' Bannon was also involved with this project for special effects...which most probably led the way for another certain alien film and probably influenced his imagination. What I found the most arousing was the possible casting choices by Jodo, whether or not these stars would have been used in the final film is anyone's guess but its a strange bunch.

Orson Welles as 'Baron Harkonnen' really felt like a bad choice to me and simply made because he was very fat at the time, Salvador Dali probably because Jodo was part of the surrealist movement which is hardly any kind of surprise and Mick Jagger as 'Feyd-Rautha' who did look the part but again was mainly thought of because of his fame at the time. Many of the outfits designed for these characters also varied drastically, from more grounded Star Wars type styles to very bright bold and colourful costumes that were garish and oddly revealing, especially Jagger's which was pretty much a male dominatrix getup. The only guy that seemed to fit the film to me was David Carradine, but again he was only chosen due to his current popularity and not because he may or may not have fit the role.

Overall I think this film was too much of a personal pet project for Jodorowsky, he clearly wanted to make the film desperately and gets frustrated during the doc. But from what I can gather he was casting people mainly because he simply liked them or they were popular, he cast his son as 'Paul Atreides' which kinda comes across as nepotism to me, he alters much of the book to suit himself and despite some groundbreaking concepts for effects and visuals, again his own taste seems to be heavily influencing the story of Dune. Any director must be happy with his vision sure, they will want to add their own style to it but Jodo seems to lose the concept of Dune in places to me and its only his creative team that kept him in check.

Bottom line I can't help but feel this film may have ended up like the cheesy 1980 'Flash Gordon' flick. A mixture of electro synth rock with a traditional score in places (Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and progressive rock?), possibly tawdry or gaudy visuals and loud hammy over the top performances. Seeing as Jodo was taking drugs during this time (he got O'Bannon high to sell his idea to him!) I worry that this film would have felt more like a hallucinogenic hippie ride than a sci-fi space opera. I'm sure the effects would have been good in places but they were really breaking new ground at the time (1975-76) so who knows how that could of gone. Jodo went against '2001' effects wizard Trumbull so the possibility of a realistic Dune universe may have been lost with him.

An absorbing documentary which definitely digs deep into the buried layers of a film that some call a lost epic. Jodorowsky is a true visionary no doubt but I'm not sure if his vision, at least some of it, was right for Dune. The only disappointment for me here was I was kinda expecting much more visual concept work to be show, seemed a bit thin on the ground to me. Never the less highly engrossing stuff that any sci-fi buff should enjoy. I would be very interested to see Jodorowsky's vision filmed now.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pompeii (2014)

Ah what better way to honour a true historical disaster by turning it into an action flick with the tagline 'This will blow your mind'. Although this tag seems to have vanished and has been replaced with 'From the ashes a hero will rise' which doesn't really make a lick of sense to me. But of course there's always 'A city will fall, a hero will rise', which again doesn't really add up does it...oh boy I really do sense pending doom here.

So I'm sure we all know about the ancient destruction of the Italian city Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD...yes? good. This W.S. Anderson directed film is all about that cataclysmic event but just like the James Cameron directed 'Titanic' it shoves a load of padding in before the actual real reason you go to see the film. Yes it sounds horrible and morbid but end of the day we all go to see films like this for the death and destruction. On one hand its simply morbid curiosity, intrigue and to see how it actually happened or looked. On the other hand its the perfect popcorn fodder that people enjoy because we are all sick sick beings (just like the Romans and their arenas).

So leading up to the carnage we are given a basic romantic setup, a typically old fashioned love yarn that we've seen many times but admittedly generally works. A young Celtic boys family are slaughtered by nasty Romans, the Nazi's of the ancient world...kinda. The boy is put into slavery and grows up to become a powerful this isn't Conan. He eventually gains the favour of his owner and is taken to Pompeii to fight there. Of course there he sees and falls for Cassis the daughter of Pompeii's ruler, thing is the evil Roman Senator kiefer Sutherland also wants Cassia's ass so as you can image this causes issues. What follows is a stereotypical romantic Romeo and Juliet gladiator based tale where Cassia hates the Roman Senator, falls for our buff sweaty hero and also has to deal with her important city ruling parents who have certain responsibilities to the Romans.

Basically without trying to beat around the bush too much...this is practically Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator' with a huge volcano at the end. Most of the film is centred around Milo (Milo?) the powerful slave who can defeat any foe in the arena no worries. Honesty some scenes are almost identical with the same kind of shots, direction, camera angles, lighting etc...this gladiator does all the same fights we saw in Ridley's film including the odd chariot. All the characters are incredibly cliched and predictable unfortunately. Milo the hero played by Kit Harington is pretty bad frankly, he pouts a lot and isn't overly attractive either, Cassia is your standard Princess type, her parents are your everyday rich snobby aristocratic types (although Moss does look the part of a Roman woman) and Sutherland has a blast as the ridiculously dastardly evil Roman Senator, cartoon villainy there folks. Oh and Milo has the standard big black slave friend too just like in Ridley Sco...

On the plus side I really must congratulate the film makers for impressive visuals, yes you read that right. The city of Pompeii has been meticulously recreated with the aid of computer wizardry combined with usage of the real ruins for a handy overall map layout. Apparently the whole city is very accurate to how the city would have looked right down to the paving stones in the streets and I gotta admit it does look fantastic on screen. The streets are bustling interesting and colourful, citizens looks realistically dressed, the surrounding landscapes are beautiful, the amphitheatre is stunning inside and out, animals roam around and the Romans all look slick in their armour clad uniforms (just like the Nazi's did in their snappy military garb). I gotta say even the combat sequences look good and rival Mr Scott's famous nice colourful visuals at least, not quite as good stunt/action coordination wise.

I guess if I'm honest I quite enjoyed the build up story in this film, it looks great and it isn't boring (unlike Cameron's ship flick), mostly because they stuff lots of bloody fighting into it, which works. The problems start when the disaster starts, don't get me wrong when Vesuvius blows it looks tremendous and highly authentic...but the following obligatory action schlock isn't. Yes despite the world falling down around them the hero and the baddie Romans still find time to battle one on one and try to stab each other at every turn. It becomes extremely jokey as we near the big finale, people are getting wiped out every minute by flying debris, a tsunami, buildings collapsing, gas heat etc...yet time stops completely for the main characters to clash until one of them is truly dead and stabbed.

The chariot chasing horse sequence is amazingly dumb with unbelievably fake CGI usage, unbelievably fake greenscreen usage and pretty much ruins the film. God knows what Anderson was thinking, he's got this pretty decent strong historical love story which is arguably realistic...but then decides to throw in sequences you'd expect to see in some shitty Michael Bay throw away action vehicle! He clearly thought he needed something for the kids to keep them entertained, there is no other explanation, terrible decision. What makes it so hilarious is the fact every single human being has vanished from Pompeii as this horse and chariot go tearing down the streets jumping chasms and dodging rock bombardment!! what!!

So the plot is completely and utterly cliched at every turn and rips off so many other films, the build up to the actual eruption plays out like 'Dante's Peak' in places. You know what I mean, faceless people getting killed by the odd cracks that start showing. I still admit, the simple old fashioned silver screen love aspect mixed with slavery survival and brutal battles works wonders, the volcano bit at the end feels like a whole new film.

The film has been well made, well directed and it looks and feels great overall in my opinion. Like other real events you do feel unsure as to whether you should be enjoying a film about such a disaster, it really happened to these poor people. I try to think this is a homage but in all honesty it does feel more like an action flick playing on the horror to milk money from our pockets, which feels wrong obviously. The start and end of the film does sort of honour the people focusing on the plaster casts of the victims, some of the films characters are based on a few of the real casts apparently. The very final sequence shows us this with the two main characters representing the 'Pompeii lovers' remains which is a bit emotional admittedly. In the end the film is quite touching in the right places and you can maybe feel that lump in your throat swelling. I just think Anderson spoilt a good thing with cheap lazy action sequences which kinda tarnish the memory of Pompeii.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Van Helsing (2004)

Pretty much the ultimate modern day homage to all the classic Universal monster flicks of the 30's and 40's, more specifically the few monster mash movies that were made including all the legendary monsters. Stephen Sommers takes his own hammy over the top Indiana Jones-esque schlock style from 'The Mummy' franchise and plumps it firmly into the Transylvanian homeland of Dracula, no CGI sparred. Oh and Kevin J O'Connor is brought along too yet again.

The plot? Van Helsing must do battle against Dracula and his minions plus werewolves and Frankenstein's monster...the end. This really is such a tough film to review for me, we all know Sommers from his Mummy films and we all knew exactly what to expect from his directing. This guy revels in complete tongue-in-cheek schlock action which is usually realised through heavy use of CGI. Its an old saying but think Indiana Jones but even more ludicrous, even more silly, even more quickfire quips and outrageously over the top everything. We all know this and going into this movie we again...all knew this, we knew it would be nonsense of the highest order, so I simply cannot complain about the fact the film is a total load of hammy cliches. I knew it would be! the only reason I wanted to see the film was simply down to the content...Universal's monsters.

This is the only reason why I had to see the film and why I give it kudos of any kind, the pure unadulterated fantastico monster mashing. But again I'm hampered! yes again!! the reason being I absolutely adored the concept behind this, the art direction, the atmosphere, the sets, the lighting, the use of that olde worlde Victorian steampunk style etc...but there are so many things about the film I hated and wanted to change. So many ideas that just begged to be awesome but the route they chose killed me artistically!

The monsters...ah those epic monsters...what the hell did they do to Dracula?! seriously! Could they have gone any further away from how this character should have looked at least. Sure Roxburgh does a good job with the role and stereotypical accent but his look...holy crapenstein! the Prince of Darkness looks like a rock star with that camp hair and God awful earrings. Yeah you could say that suits his style but the film is set within 18th Century not the present, it feels all wrong. They do get his Brides kinda right in monster mode at least although they seem to be dressed in Arabic style attire to me in human form, at least they are suitably hot although totally cliched with a blonde, a brunette and a redhead (why am I even saying cliched here?).

The werewolves look fantastic in wolf mode, love the thin pointed Batman type ears and overall colour schemes. Hated the transformation process though, instead of morphing they rip their skin off or shed which just doesn't seem right to me. That sorta indicates they would have multiple layers of skin going on and on plus what would their actual origin form be because there would always be another form underneath if you get me. The continuity is also off with the transformation because in some scenes their form seems to melt off.

Frankenstein's monster has a nice touch of the olde worlde steampunk theme going on about his person. I liked the jets of steam coming from his leg hinges/hydraulics and the metallic body sections, almost cyborg-like, but I didn't think much of the green CGI electric current on view in his head plates...bit too far there. On the flip side Van Helsing sports the usual superhero-esque long trench coat, broad rimmed hat and face hiding scarf in a dark brown colour scheme, but his weapons have a lovely steampunk style to them with a nice old fashioned cogs and wheels mechanical aspect (18th Century remember). Van Helsing feels very much like a historic version of 'Blade' and 'James Bond' rolled into one, and of course to complete that air of coolness he has his nerdy bumbling sidekick who supplies him with all his monster killing gadgets.

What I really couldn't get on with was the quite bizarre 'Alien' rip off where Dracula is trying to raise an army of his minions who have been incubated in 'Alien-esque' eggs! Apparently when vampires mate they create a sort of flying Gremlin/gargoyle type an egg, does the female vampire lay an egg or something?? The only way to do this is by using power generated from Frankenstein's monster? I think that was the game, beats me why. I also must ask why Dracula has hordes of little munchkins wearing gas masks as his henchmen, who the hell are they suppose to be? surely other vampires or zombies or something would have been better. Oh and where exactly is Dracula's icy fortress suppose to be? the good guys go through a portal of some kind to get there...sooooo is it not in Transylvania?

There are many bits that I could mention that frustrate me and force me to nit pick, I know its a daft Sommers film but it could of been a classic Sommers film had these things been different. There are VAST amounts of CGI throughout the film which at times work but at others look dreadful (more so than 'The Mummy' films, quality and quantity wise). Things like the little Transylvanian town at the start, Frankenstein's castle, moody skylines, werewolves, Dracula's Brides and some gore look really neat. On the flip side there is the entire action sequence finale where things get so absurd and incredible as the heroes leap around between these towers with ropes, seemingly invincible to everything that the film becomes a hyper cartoon. Again I know you're meant to leave you're brain at the door but really, some of the feats pull you right out of the film they are so super ridiculous. I also hated the awful looking CGI enhanced vampire jaws when vampires in human form roared or hissed showing their fangs. Why is that necessary? just use makeup and their real mouths! it looks like something out of the Mortal kombat films ugh!

A guilty CGI pleasure though must be the all out badass battle between a werewolf Van Helsing and Dracula in full winged demon form. Its a total CGI fest of course but these two monsters are pretty sweet looking and I simply can't resist it, just what a monster mash requires, almost on form with a Godzilla vs King Kong face off...almost. So yes the entire thing is practically 'The Mummy' in Transylvania but if you're of a fan of this classic genre then it should still win you over. Ironic that the film may have been even more spectacular if they had squeezed in a few mummies and maybe a creature from the Black Lagoon, overkill? nah that comes as standard with Stephen Sommers.


Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)

In the same year that Stephen Sommers hyper animated movie burst into the cinema we also got this not quite so hyper actual animated prequel. The short story tells us what happened before Van Helsing arrived in Transylvania, his previous mission trying to capture Dr Jekyll in London...obviously.

The plot for this is a bit far out if you ask me but I guess nothing is a surprise coming from Sommers. Van Helsing is investigating a very Jack the Ripper-esque affair where by people are being mysteriously murdered horribly and seemingly drained of their life force. Its nothing very original to be frank, at first I thought they really should of just used the Ripper as the villain its such an obvious copy. The thing is, Dr Jekyll is using this life force to make and keep his love...Queen Victoria, young and beautiful so they can be together.

Yep Queen if right, but that's not all the story makes out that beneath Buckingham Palace there are some huge hellish fiery caves or catacombs where Dr Jekyll will live with his young Queen Vic, it looks like some kind of underground city you'd see in the old 80's cartoon Dungeons & Dragons. I know its just a prequel idea for an animation that will never see the light of day but it is suppose to be cannon and may have been made had the movie gone down better (dunno why it wasn't actually). But the plot is so dumb and feels like its been whipped up so fast just to get it out asap after the movie release.

You only have to look at the DVD cover to see how poor it is, the artwork is lame and cheap looking, mind you the animation isn't much better. It really does look like an old children's cartoon that you'd watch on a Saturday morning, there is no flair, nothing quirky or unique about it, its just plain and average looking with really drab colours and layouts. On top of that the characters don't even resemble their movie character counterparts! Van Helsing is completely different looking facially and with straight hair, where as Wenham's character is now a young looking boy or someone in his early twenties. The only character accurately depicted is Mr Hyde who is spot on. Nothing wrong with that but only if they look good, these two heroes just look generic and boring.

Basically the only reason they made this is because of the one line of dialog from the movie where Van Helsing says to Mr Hyde that he missed him in London (referring to gun shots). Mr Hyde then replies that he didn't miss, he actually hit him. So for some reason Sommers and co thought we needed to see some fast tracked back story about how Mr Hyde ended up getting shot by Van Helsing and the rest of that mission. Yeah OK not a bad idea if the mission was of any interest and not totally crap, oh and maybe if the animation was any good also. Just having the actual cast voice the characters in this doesn't mean it will be instantly worth it, the rest must be good too.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Now this was back in the day when Renny Harlin was still a reasonably good director of sorts, think hard. This was also a time when Geena Davis was still a famous-ish star with her own action vehicles, remember her?. For this bombastic pirate adventure she teams up with the American version of Cary Elwes in Matthew Modine and together they sail the seven seas blowing the shit outta everything...this must have influenced Michael Bay's little brain in ways we can't imagine, oh wait.

So Geena Davis is the daughter of a pirate who betroths to her a treasure map on his deathbed which shows Cutthroat Island to be a treasure island. Guess what! off she goes to find this treasure with her fathers scurvy band of errrrrm...cutthroats, aboard her fathers ship. Oh and there are some other pieces of the map to find first naturally, whatever. But what pirate flick would be complete without a scenery chewing baddie to pursue the hero/heroine, I swear could this film be anymore cliche? (don't answer that).

Batten down the hatches mateys...errr, etc...It strange to think this film actually bombed as it did because in all fairness its virtually no different from the now famous Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Yeah it is! take a gander, both films have plenty of massive action set pieces including sword fights, jungle antics and galleon battles, of course you have a wide variety of dirty ugly crew members, the dashing hero and the sultry heroine both of whom are a dab hand at sword fighting, side kicks, monkeys, treasure and various olde worlde nautical pirating names for things. This film plays out very much in the same way as the overblown Depp franchise with similar characters and similar visuals, heck had this not failed then I'm sure we would have had similar sequels too. 'PotC' definitely followed suit from this film I have no doubt, the difference being star power, backing and timing I guess as the plots aren't too dissimilar really. 'PotC' became a convoluted haphazard of a franchise over time, at least Cutthroat was straight forward.

Where this film does fail in my eyes is the fact it feels just like a regular action flick that just happens to be set in the 16th Century. Davis the heroine goes around kicking everyone's ass whilst getting out of some of the most audacious scrapes you ever seen since Milla Jovovich went up against some musketeers. The whole thing starts off OK and you can accept the fact there's gonna need to be some suspension of disbelief required but Jesus Christ! things go from being semi reasonable to totally outrageous as the invincible Davis virtually back flips her way through the film. But nothing here feels genuine, you could take all of it and stick it in the present day and you wouldn't notice a difference, the period setting is just for visual kicks.

Everything just feels so setup and false its terrible, the visuals on the whole are average at best. It all seems to vary depending on the scene, most of the port/building set sequences, either interior or exterior, just look like what they are, sets ready to be blown up, burnt down or wrecked. You can almost see the props ready to go, you can certainly see stunt doubles and safety harnesses. The location sequences do look good as you'd expect with sunny locals and they add much needed authenticity.

Where the film does deserve praise are the well constructed ships we see. Now despite the ludicrous ship battles where cannons are fired by the shit load yet no damage is seen, the ships themselves do look pretty good. The highlight of the entire film being the moment one ship is blown to smithereens which does look impressive if I do say so myself. I won't linger on the fact that our two heroes dove off that ship just as it explodes which I'm pretty sure would cut them to pieces with flying debris and big ass splinters.

There's no real tension or excitement because you know who's gonna die and who's gonna survive. The fact that Davis is the butch hardass heroine (not particularly sexy at all) and Modine is the weaker bumbling love interest is possibly about the only semi decent aspect in the film really. Modine has those classic Errol looks but he isn't the classic dashing hero really, he needs rescuing most of the time in a neat role reversal which sees him as the damsel in distress of sorts. I mean yeah its nothing major in terms of a plot twist but its at least something in a sea of cliched action crap.

Most of the other cast/crew members are your stereotypical salty dogs, most have beards, scraggly long hair, some are bald, the token big black tribal guy, a bloke seems to have Maori tattoos on his face which was quite cool admittedly, eye patches, the odd wooden leg and one guy seems to have a retractable chain for an arm which seems out of place. Then you have the British who...well what do you think, they are all exactly like the British in 'PofC'. The only real stand out character must be Langella as the baddie pirate 'Dawg Brown' (yep that's his name). Now Langella is clearly having a ball as he chews up every scene he's in with gusto. It actually gets to a point where Langella is over acting so much, having so much fun as he growls, barks and roars with evilness, that situations become comedic pantomime in nature. Langella is virtually beating his chest as he looks up to the skies in one scene, its hilarious! but not good for the films tension really.

This really is your typical predictable action blockbuster that doesn't offer any kind of real tension thrills or excitement because we all know the very obvious outcome before its even started. Its like 'Waterworld' in the sense that its purely and simply all about effects and big stunts yet nothing more, the whole film could easily be a spectacular Universal Studious live show (just like 'Waterworld'). At no point do you ever really care about any character or their adventure because its all a cliched rollercoaster, did you really think Modine or Davis' characters would get killed off? or any of the main pirate crew cast? hell even that little monkey makes it.

This film really reminds me of the mid 90's and a time when very simple dumb cloned action flicks still got cinema releases (*cough!*...'Broken Arrow'?...*cough!*) . They were all the same kind of spiel but in a different location or merely with a new duo in the lead roles, same idea, new face combination. The plot and dialog is nothing more than filler simply moving us from one big setup to the next, and what dialog we do get is loaded with God awful snappy quickfire quips that make you cringe. The only one damn thing this film didn't manage to include and pillage was the most iconic visual pirate cliche ever...a parrot.

'Bad Dawg!'


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Bounty Killer (2013)

So do you like super sexy leggy femme fatales wearing stockings, knee high boots and a cute mini skirt ensemble whilst gunning down and slashing people with her boot spurs? course you do! Based on a graphic novel, apparently, we are back to the old apocalyptic Earth scenario with gangs of bikers roaming about the place ala 'Mad Max'.

The story is simple unoriginal and purely an excuse for bloody action. The world has been brought to its knees by the business world, titanic corporations hell bent on greed that set out to destroy one another but managed to wipe out the globe at the same time. Now the world (or is it just America) has been reduced to a waste land. The top business executives that initiated the mighty war have long since fled with the remaining wealth, but hot their tracks are the Bounty Killers, backed and supported by all the survivors, seeking revenge for the worlds ruin.

I do like this idea in general, the way the bounty killers are highly revered celebrities that rack up kills for money fame and kill count records. I also like the idea of targeting white collar suit workers (tie wearers) as the enemy and the fact that the corporate world brought down the human race and is now treated like prey, it feels right. Obviously the film has a cynical satirical dark humorous edge to it which works in its favor but I feel they don't quite exploit this advantage well enough.

The film does resort more towards the obligatory Tarantino-esque bloody fever pitch action...which is what its all about don't get me wrong but the plot had the promise of more intelligence if you ask me. Anyway the film is a graphic novel adaptation and it does exactly what it should by translating the kick ass gore to the screen in a truly gratuitous fashion, no holds barred, without a care in the world. Not to be taken seriously (naturally) the film is visually fun with a sexy scantily clad heroine, bizarre modified vehicles, lots of guns and flashing blades, face painted female warrior gypsies, people getting carved up, plenty of sex appeal and some nice animated interludes to fill in the gaps.

There does seem to be a lot of these fast food straight to DVD action filled splatter flicks these days. This whole concept of in your face over the top bloody action is very common place yet a tad mundane I must say, the visual style and characters all seem to be very familiar. You see this film and you know instantly where inspiration has come from, its not hard, but I can't help but feel a certain 'Kill Bill' kick started all this type of thing...the blood gore and costumes. Mind you saying that you could also compare this ultra sexy kick ass heroine to 'Barb Wire' and 'Tank Girl', you can see that vibe goin' on.

The one thing I don't really like here is the use of CGI blood and effects at times which spoils the fun, although there are some nice gruesome hands on special effects in there too. For the most part the film has good production values and is decent eye candy but I just hate the reliance on CGI when we know they don't have to.

I think violent mayhem and carnage sums this up pretty well, all delivered by a chick in a tight fitting outfit, so its one for the lads then. Totally crazy with larger than life characters (Gary Busey is a bad guy...say no more), bucket loads of goo, silly quickfire quips and ass. Plus points for visuals, some sweet real time gore effects and the whole idea, minus points for not taking that idea further, CGI bits and the fact they copy many other films. Its a cartoonish riot but everybody involved knows it so just go along for the ride.


Monday, 19 May 2014

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

So I think the main number one big ginormous flaw in this movie is the fact they use too many villains and plots, I'm sure we can all agree on this. Way back in 1992 a certain young Mr Tim Burton had free reign to create the sequel for his smash hit 'Batman'. In doing so he stuck in two main villains alongside his own creation...The Penguin, Catwoman and Max Shreck. This seemed to start a massive trend that has continued to this day! Following on from this initial idea many or most superhero flicks seem to have at least two villains as standard, sometimes more! and this is where this film implodes.

First villain is Venom, now this alien creature crashes to Earth in or on meteorite out of nowhere and that's it, we get nothing more on it at all. No idea where its come from, how, why, what its intentions are, why its doing what its doing etc...its just there and you gotta accept it. Whether or not the comics give us this information I don't know (although I'm sure they do), but here in this film its a solid mystery for anyone who isn't a comic fanboy, myself included. So back story and the way this character is played out in the film is new to me, I have no idea if its correct alongside the source material, all I know is how this thing looks and it did seem well created to me. The CGI was decent and seemed to capture Venom's appearance well although why it would alter Spider-Man's spider logo seems daft, it infects his outfit and body, why would it alter the logo?

Second villain was the Sandman who I know was bumped up from a minor comic position to a major role revolving around Parker's uncle. Now again whether or not this was the right way to go if you're a fanboy I don't know, as for the rest of us I felt the story arc did work pretty well and developed the Sandman into something other than just a common baddie. This character now had a good solid family arc combined with an emotional connection to Parker which did feel a little forced admittedly, like a clear after thought, but it managed to hold together. I also liked the visual design for this guy, he had a distinctly old fashioned feel about him, like a criminal from the 40's. The characters musical theme really pushed that vibe if you ask me, a very Bogart-esque tune. I liked his outfit too, again it had a very old fashioned look about it, like something Gene Kelly would wear.

The final villain squeezed into the film was Harry Osborn as the next Green Goblin, following on from his fathers work. Now I had no problem with this character being here because he's been here since the beginning and it felt right that this story arc should happen. Unfortunately along with the other two villains it all felt so convoluted and tight for space that the poor old Goblin was reduced to sporadic appearances. Well they all were really, Venom especially so, that thing vanished for half the flick. The Goblin gets conveniently injured right at the start, after a horrendously bad CGI battle in the sky with Spidey, and we don't see him again for ages. Its the same spiel as before with this character, just replace Dafoe with Franco, same action sequences, new outfit that's all (looks worse too). So in that sense it seemed weak but you knew he had to be there, if anything they should of dropped Venom as that really seemed crowbarred in, jostling for any kind of screen time.

The other problem I had with this film other than the multitude of villains was the relationship between Parker and Mary Jane. Oh my balls this got annoying, first they're together, then they're not, then they get back together again, then Mary Jane sluts around with Osborn, then Parker again, plus you've got Gwen Stacy in there too...holy ribbons of snot!! I got so fed up of seeing Parker and Mary Jane fighting whining and crying Jesus. Plus the fact Mary Jane gets fired from her stage show after one performance seemed a bit ridiculous and is obviously done to crank up the annoying emotional relationship issues. Then you've got all that crap where Parker goes to the dark side due to the Venom alien. Parker as a dark character apparently translates to a lame looking emo hairstyle, a bit of goth eye shadow and then acting like 'The Mask' in a nightclub, what an embarrassing mess that was!

I must admit to being disappointed with the effects this time also, is it me or do the effects actually get worse after the first film? Seeing Spidey swinging from rooftop to rooftop is still sweet, Venom was cool and the Sandman had some great effects in places but the action sequences became very hard to follow with fast moving terrible looking CGI. As I already said the initial fight between Osborn and Spidey was awful looking, but the big finale was just a shambles of shoddy CGI and greenscreen, a lot of it looked very obvious to me. Also not so sure why or how the Sandman is able to grow to such massive proportions or fly, how does sand enable that?? and he kinda looked like a big lump of poo.

I honestly think this is the most over stuffed flick I've seen for some time (or ever), it really is so overloaded and overly long. Stands to reason this effects the film negatively which is a shame seeing as this franchise hasn't been too bad. The best bit in this film for me was probably the amusing cameo from Bruce Campbell (again!) doing his best snappy snooty French maitre d'. Seems incredible to say that I know but it was a fun little scene, everything else was a mess frankly...apart from the odd visual moment.

There are huge periods where characters disappear from the film entirely so other sub plots can continue (Sandman and Venom), Osborn and Parker end up fighting over Mary Jane instead of Osborn's dead father, Osborn's butler is a horrible 'Alfred' rip off, the guy acting in the role is dreadful plus he only now in this film tells Harry about how his father was really killed!! And lastly even though the Sandman's story arc worked OK and has a good heart it did feel like they were trying to rewrite the original film. So definitely ambitious and not a total complete disaster but clearly one bad guy would have worked out better, we now all know Venom was only stuck in there to maximise the audience due to the characters popularity. I understand that but really they should have known better...well I say that but this is Hollywood.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

So after the massive success of the first film and fears about a low budget horror director taking the helm put to rest, amongst other things, we get the obligatory sequel. A second chance for another Spider-Man thriller with better effects, better sets, better costumes, better CGI...better everything, but still just a tad exactly the same as the first film.

Two years on and Parker is trying to cope with his daily grind, his love for Mary Jane and of course being Spidey. Ah but wait, Peter Parker let me introduce the rather stocky Dr. Octavius and his obvious pending disaster he calls a self-sustaining fusion reaction (which he handles with large mechanical, artificially intelligent tentacles attached to his nervous system through a special chip). Before you can say 'my Spidey sense is tingling' it all goes tits up as the experiment goes, errr...tits up! A power surge disrupts the spinal chip that controls Octavius's mechanical tentacles making them sentient, which in turn start to influence Octavius. And voila! the Doc becomes a dastardly baddie hell bent on...umm doing his experiment all over again for some reason.

Yep the introduction of Alfred Molina was yet another brilliant bit of casting as his performance as the calm methodical Doc Ock (along with his perfect build and looks) save the film from becoming rather mundane. Just like the first film the villain is the winning ticket and gives this adventure a shot in the arm which is so clearly required. Now I'm not saying this film was bad but the strangest thing...back in the day I always preferred this film over the original, but now the tables have turned and I find myself enjoying the original much more. I think the problem with this film is it really starts to lose its sense of semi realism and my suspension of disbelief goes right out the window.

Although that being said, the sequence where doctors attempt to remove Octavius's mechanical arms from his body is actually pretty heavy on the horror factor. With the arms developing sentience they take out all the doctors in a pretty ferocious manner, its pretty dark. Raimi clearly has fun here and even manages to include a little chainsaw homage.

Now I always thought Spider-Man was merely a regular guy with extra strength, speed, endurance and jumping ability, along with the few special skills of being able to climb walls and shoot gooey web stuff. But he was still able to get hurt, cut, bleed and generally die. In this film Spider-Man is virtually invincible and practically as strong as the Hulk or Superman so it seems. I mean really...he's falling from massive heights and slamming into walls and cars, he can hold up huge metal structures, lift incredible weights and stop a runaway train with his gooey web stuff and arms! Was Spider-Man always this powerful??

There are also some really silly hokey issues dotted throughout that bugged me. Doc Ock hides out in the one and only run down shack in the middle of the harbour and it stands out like a sore thumb, no one ever thought of looking there? Even when the lights were on? When Doc Ock robs the bank no one notices him just standing there right next to the vault door in his long trench coat, hat and shades looking pretty suspicious. Oh and how do you hide four giant mechanical arms under a coat? Why does the Doc go from being a decent human being into someone who would kill innocent people? I realise the tentacles are influencing him slowly but would he really kill people? Plus when the Doc goes to see Osborn for the tritium why didn't he just force Osborn to hand it over instead of agreeing to get Spider-Man in exchange for it, surely that would have been easier and saved time.

How does the Doc get all that expensive equipment? I know he pinched some cash from the bank but that wouldn't cover it. Plus how was it delivered?! Didn't anyone notice all this stuff being delivered to this abandoned building in the harbour where no one goes or lives? Didn't anyone think it was odd or suspicious? And what on earth was his experiment about?? What was it for? What would it do? It just felt like an outrageously diabolical device just for the sake of being a diabolical device. If he managed to finish it then what? Would he become a good guy again? All he wanted to do was finish the experiment so its not like he was trying to do anything bad, and the experiment was suppose to be for the good of mankind right? Maybe let him do his stuff?

The special effects in the film were an improvement over the first film but again looking back they still look a bit dated. Seeing Spider-Man swing through the city (but what the hell is he attached too?? its hilarious!) is looking much better but most of the shots were we see Doc Ock walking along via his four mechanical arms are really bad at times. The entire runaway subway train sequence is really dodgy looking nowadays, the fight on top of the train and seeing the Doc throw those obviously bad CGI people from the train...blimey its bad!

So yes the action is bigger louder and more impressive than the first film but the CGI effects are way more obvious to me, far more hokey looking. Close up shots of Doc Ock and his arms are fantastic, the way the arms lift him up, the way the arms look...all brilliant, but the bad outweighs the good I'm afraid. There is so much dodgy CGI and bluescreen work in here, the sequence where Parker rescues the little girl from the burning building, rescuing May Parker from the Doc halfway up a skyscraper made me cringe especially, the car being chucked through the cafe window etc...

Oh and why does Parker seemingly lose his Spidey powers halfway through yet gains them back again from nowhere? I realise Parker goes through something of a mental breakdown what with everything going wrong in his life, but would that cause his spidey powers to disappear? Would he really lose his abilities through sheer depression and anxiety?

Surprisingly I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would...and I'm honesty being honest here. Molina is superb as Doc Ock and the action is deserving of kudos for the ambition, but visually it lacks quality in my opinion and there are lots more silly niggly bits that stand out to me. This sequel definitely felt more along the lines of a Schumacher Batman flick at times, its reasonable fun but the original still easily surpasses it.


Friday, 16 May 2014

Spider-Man (2002)

Hey anybody remember those really old Sam Raimi Spider-Man films? you know there were three of them and I think they were quite popular at the time. Ah who cares now we have a much better rebooted franchise which isn't exactly the same right? errr yeah, sure.

Yep so we still have these old Raimi films, they won't vanish or anything. But before tossing these old Raimi films into the bin of film oblivion lets discuss how dated and so not cool they are now. So its film one and naturally we get the origins of Spider-Man/Parker and all the various characters around him. Harry Osborn is trying to maintain his company and experiments on himself with their new performance enhancing vapour drug stuff to try and keep the important military contract which is dangling by a thread (oh and he's already building the Glider and special suit combo too for some reason). Low and behold it kinda turns him crazy as an unfortunate side effect even though it does sort of work. From there on out Osborn slowly turns into the Green Goblin and Spider-Man must defeat him whilst protecting his family and friends.

What made me giggle a bit was the fact that Parker goes to this genetics laboratory where he is shown all these genetically enhanced spiders. He of course gets bitten by one of them which has somehow escaped and it leaves a nasty little red mark. Now you'd think he would report that asap really, you've been bitten by a spider in a laboratory full of dangerous arachnids, might die here fella. Nope he goes home feeling ill, once home the bite has now swollen badly and he's feeling pretty ill it seems, time to call the hospit...nope it'll clear up.

After the discovery he can climb walls, leap around like crazy, fight etc...he then gets carried away and goes off across the rooftops like someone who wants to get spotted and exposed. Oh wait he doesn't wanna do that does he, kinda silly thing to do then really. On an honest note I did quite like the origin build up in this film I admit, its done in a nice light-hearted true comicbook fashion that is simply likeable. The effects used to show how he can see fights and things in slow motion works really well without actually having to use all that Zack '300' Snyder tomfoolery. Seeing Parker crawl up walls is an old but neat trick of the eye and its a nice touch to see him in his initial childish homemade outfit getting to grips with his skills. Not too sure how he made his proper outfit though, he just swings into one scene and its there, presumably he made it? how?? looks expensive.

Of course the effects for Parker swinging through the air are now pretty dated looking even though it doesn't seem like a really old film. The CGI is average and ranges from passable to down right awful at times, although the famous Spider-Man outfit makes it look better than it actually is. There is also some nasty use of bluescreen here and there along with some quite cringeworthy comical moments, or should that be attempts. Even the photos of Spider-Man taken by Parker for the 'Daily Bugle' look completely fake which was amusing. It is a comicbook adaptation of course so there is a very limited amount of graphic violence or blood on screen, there are some edgy bits though no doubt but overall its actually handled well and holds that balance just right, in other words this isn't an infantile flick.

The Green Goblin was a hot topic at the time due to the fact it wasn't actually the Green Goblin, it was a man in a suit. I must admit  now I think this works OK, at the time I didn't like it and I can see why as you kinda feel cheated (bit like The Mandarin in 'Iron Man 3'). But watching this now I think it was a good move to show Osborn going nuts and developing a split personality, it feels much more realistic and gives much more depth to the did Osborn ever really have control? should Spider-Man tried to save him in the end? etc...The Goblin suit is a touch off visually I gotta say, I think they could of done that a bit better, used some other green tones on there, maybe make his helmet a bit more striking. It did look more like a giant plastic suit for a toy character that some poor sod would be wearing in a mall for advertising purposes, a bit hokey. On the other hand the CGI and prop work for the Glider was fine I think, looked pretty sweet.

The film ticks along just fine really and the cast are likeable fitting their roles well. Maguire is a good Peter Parker no doubt but I still have a hard time thinking he's under the Spider-Man suit, luckily we don't actually see that so it could be anyone and probably is. Dafoe is the best thing in the film by far with his scene stealing scenery chewing performance, not only that but his face is the perfect shape and structure for the Goblin too. When you see the Goblin swoop down you totally believe its Dafoe overacting all the way, I could almost say he saves the film because without a good villain this would have sunk, good CGI effects or not. I love the way he growls and cackles into the mirror with those devilish eyes of his.

The finale is daft I will say it now. How the hell does Parker/Spider-Man manage to hold onto that cable car full of kids with one arm whilst using the other arm to stay clinging to the bridge is beyond me. Its there I also realised that his spider web squirty stuff is also damn strong it seems...really damn strong! The actual final fight between the two main characters is decent enough though showing Spider-Man battered pretty good with blood!

In my personal opinion this is a better film than the recent rebooted version, its a much easier fun going Spider-Man adaptation with more comicbook-esque visuals. There are silly moments and bits that don't work sure, why on earth they stuck Macy Gray in there I don't know because that dates the film badly and her voice is annoying, there are a few Superman-esque shots where Parker rips his shirt to reveal the Spider-Man logo, Sony product placements! and Mary Jane only recognises Parker as Spider-Man by his kiss?! wut?! what about his voice?! The Green Goblin's attacks are also completely inconsistent as one minute he uses bombs and vaporising bombs to kill, the next he throws some whirling blade things when he should of used the bombs that would have worked very effectively. It is certainly pretty cheesy and pantomime-like looking back but hey that's fine, I found myself enjoying this film much more than I recall back in the day and like I said I also enjoyed it much more than the reboot.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Batman: The Movie (1966)

So after the television series exploded into American homes with a gusto back in 66 it was decided that the movie would go ahead in the same year. Originally the film was suppose to come first and promote the TV series but it was deemed risky money wise. This was the very first movie based on DC's Batman and it was big...big on everything! I love the artistic and quite noir-esque opening credits sequence I might add, really sharp imaginative sequence.

Considering the film is pretty much a kids flick and just like the TV show with goofy camp comedy, the plot is actually quite convoluted. I remembering watching this over and over as a kid but always found the story confusing...maybe I was just thick. Basically the villainous super team of The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman and The Riddler kidnap this old sailor fellow for his new invention which can dehydrate people into dust. The team intend to dehydrate all the important people in the United Nations Security Council for ransom I think. The whole film only seems to consist of various attempts by Batman and Robin to capture the villains but getting foiled by various dastardly traps. Wash rinse and repeat this formula over and over in different locations with different villains and weapons.

Now I know I shouldn't really moan about this film as I'm sure everyone knows what to expect here, heck the film and TV show were made like this deliberately. We all know this franchise was basically a spoof-like tongue-in-cheek parody, larger than life with bright bold colours, insane over acting, truly ridiculous gadgets toys and vehicles for merchandise purposes and extreme levels of camp. So that is a given and we're all fine with that.

'Holy Captain Nemo!'

But that still doesn't quite make up for the bizarre plot frankly because it makes no real sense, am I expecting too much here? I was never really quite sure what that dehydration thing was really for, why on earth would you need a thing like that? what was Commodore Schmidlapp gonna do with it?! Then there is the question of why the villains went to so much trouble to kidnap the Commodore just for the invention...just so they could dehydrate the UN folk and kidnap them? Wouldn't it have been easier to just kidnap them? I guess with them all turned into piles of dust makes it more convenient heist wise.

Everything is so elaborate in this film, the villains go to such crazy lengths to try and kill off or trap the dynamic duo its hilarious. The Penguin seems to have this surreal assortment of exploding sea creatures at his disposal, they just sit and wait in the ocean for Batman or Robin to drop in. The Riddler appears to be the most unhinged and merely displays his riddles everywhere (sometimes via massive nuclear missiles!) whilst wearing his pink girdle, Catwoman slinks around purring seductively (quite enjoyed that) and the Joker is merely a lackey for the Penguin. But seriously what the hell would anyone need an exploding octopus for?? The Penguin runs the show really whilst the others just take orders but its amazing to have them all together, more would have been even better. Their henchmen are also a fun colourful bunch of pirates wearing lovely hooped shirts and with some great names like Bluebeard and Quetch. Oh you've got that brilliant tilted camera angle every time the villains are on screen too...classic.

Need I mention the cast? the line up is like an all star team from the past. Could Meredith go any further overboard with his Penguin laugh and waddling? or Romero with his cackling Joker? These guys are so good in their roles its scary, they clearly loved doing it and that comes across whilst watching making it such a joy. Yeah Gorshin looks kinda cool yet also kinda foolish in his green spandex and that pink girdle (love that question mark design though, how iconic is that now!). Its hilarious how Romero refused to shave his moustache so the Joker always has that dirty mark above his lip (never could work out what that was when I was a kid, it looked like they hadn't done his makeup right). Meriwether is dangerously hot in her catsuit (very risque for young boys that), so amusing how she throws her black cat about, like what for?! But she's even hotter doing her Russian accent phew! I preferred her over Newmar I think, just sexier. End of the day we know all the cast and they are all brilliant hamming it up in their roles, flawless performances from everybody.

Of course the other fun aspect of this film and the franchise as a whole is the insanely daft Bat gadgets that enable the dynamic duo to escape virtually every flippin' scenario they encounter. Its almost boring really because you know these two simply can't die or ever get hurt, sure they get captured here and there but that's it. The fun bit is seeing what ludicrous instrument they produce to evade the clutches of the bad guys...and they just keep coming in this film. The Batcave a treasure trove of Bat equipment that comes in handy for every situation but overall I just fudging loved the shark repellent Bat-spray! its so utterly absurd and funny you just gotta go with it. Dig deep enough though and there are some nuggets like the Bat-spectrograph Criminal Analyzer, Batanalyst, Lunar Scanning Screen, Film Developer Tank, Drinking Water Dispenser, Terrestrial Scanner, Anti Crime Computer etc...and its all labelled in big bold letters just in case (I guess even the dynamic duo get confused with all their similar looking dull grey coloured crime fighting equipment).

I also love the ingenious devices the dynamic duo use (well Batman) for other situations like when they're magnetised to an ocean buoy. At that moment Batman just happens to have a Super-Energy Reverse Polarisor to stop the incoming torpedoes from Penguin's submarine. Its also brilliant how the bad guys know Batman is using his Super-Energy Reverse its a common weapon in the fight against crime. I tell ya, if it wasn't for Batman...Robin would be toast half the time. All he ever does is whip out quickfire holy tags...of which there are loads in this film I can tell you. Oh and the Super Molecular Dust Separator...certainly super alright, damn you're good Batman.

I mean honesty, is there anything funnier than seeing both West and Ward doing that running sequence against that horrendous bluescreen city background as the dynamic duo leg it to the UN headquarters. And that dialog! 'luckily we're in tip top condition, it'll be faster if we run'. Cue the pair looking like complete idiots in their outfits running through the streets of a bustling New York before we cut to the side splitting bluescreen effect.

The film is preposterous, even more so than the TV show, they ramp this movie up big time and just go for broke with everything. Due to the success of the first TV season they could do this without much worry, Batman was huge. There are more Bat-vehicles, lots more set detail, more locations, a lovely penguin themed submarine set (and model) along with bigger stunts and action set pieces. Its the TV show but through the roof with cheesy zany comicbook tomfoolery that really does look like a classic comicbook with each scene representing each hand drawn panel. This really is a joy to watch and a bit of history, we won't really see a film like this again, even Schumacher's 'Batman and Robin' can't come close mainly because that was meant to be a serious blockbuster. This fantastic movie simply does everything right, what you know love and expect, plus its a perfect family film. Best to brief the kids beforehand though as this isn't the Dark Knight they know of, no moulded plastic here...pure West.

'If Robin and I were to remove our masks, the secret of our true identities will be revealed!'


Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Frisco Kid (1979)

Imagine it, you've got Harrison Ford who's literately fresh off Star Wars and the hottest thing in Hollywood at the time. So what better way to follow on from that with...a Gene Wilder comedy set in the wild west?. This is probably the one type of film that I wouldn't ever expect to see Harrison Ford in.

The plot is very straight forward, a Jewish Rabbi needs to get across the US to San Francisco so he can take up his new position and meet his new wife there. Its a perilous journey and he's gonna need help, luckily along the way he meets up with cowboy and bank robber Ford to guide him. What follows is a classic old fashioned odd couple tale with Ford as the stern dashing risk taking criminal who's good in a fight and fast with his pistol, and dragging his arse behind him is the strictly religious meek kind gentle innocent Rabbi who absolutely refuses to ride his horse on a Saturday.

Its the typical Wilder vehicle really with cheeky clever dialog, visual gags and pratfalls, tonnes of charm and a heart of gold at the centre. You know what to expect along the way, its pretty obvious really, any cliched predictable cowboy setup and scenario you can think of but stick a Rabbi in the thick of it, you know its gonna be amusing. I won't say its the best comedy I've come across or the best Wilder comedy, its certainly cute cheerful and good viewing for all the family.  Its not quite as funny as I thought it might be admittedly, watching Wilder prance around in his Jewish tucks trying to cope with the wild west whilst Ford gruffly shouts at him is funny to begin with but does get a tad dull after a time.

The film does lack a bit of bite and could do with some more outright laughs really. Ford's acting is also a bit touch and go at first but he gets into it later on, only problem is he takes things a bit too seriously I think. You do tend to think this will be a farcical spoof type affair much like 'Young Frankenstein', the films poster hints at it and the combination of the ever lovable goofy Wilder alongside the manly Ford does seem to scream it. But this doesn't really materialise, in fact the film does swing more towards a soppy light-hearted drama towards the end which spoils the fun a bit for me.

The best moments are probably when the duo get caught by native Indians, again there are hints of great comedy here but it doesn't quite make it. And Again when the duo end up in a Trappist monastery (vows of silence) know where I'm going with this don't you huh. Yep its the classic setup for the kind of silly laughs you half expect to see in a Mel Brooks parody. Only thing is again they don't quite take advantage of the setup with only one funny silly moment.

I do feel there was a really classic comedy here just waiting to burst free but somehow its been smothered, not sure how or why. Maybe Wilder wanted to actually make a more semi serious comedy with some emotion. Its a strange little movie really, some nice bits of humorous dialog from Wilder at times but they get rained upon by Ford's overly assertive character. The films visuals are nice and cozy overall (you can see its an old film that's for sure) and generally everything ticks along harmlessly giving you the odd smile. Not really the manic wacky zany riot of belly laughs you've come to expect from Wilder. Never the less its a solid quirky alternative little western that's still worth a watch even though it does feel like its missing Mel Brooks' input.


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Brüno (UK/GER, 2009)

The third and final film of Cohen's main trio of characters he created for the Ali G show on TV. After the disappointing movie of Ali G Cohen wisely opted to stick with the plot formula that he used for his second film Borat which was a success. Like Borat this film is again a series of cringe-inducing sketches/setups strung together by a flimsy plot which doesn't really matter, its all about the embarrassing sequences dotted throughout.

The story follows Brüno as he travels to America to try and become the biggest gay star or celebrity ever in any way possible. There is only one other character along for the ride and that is his assistant 'Lutz' who was created for this film. So the plot has a familiar core in that once again Cohen's absurd character is travelling to the States to basically humiliate himself in any way he can...unknowingly on purpose.

This film is exactly the same as Borat's film in structure and execution basically, both characters follow their TV roots as we see familiar setups in various locations. Brüno is mainly set in and around LA, I think, as we see him attempting to become the latest hot thing on the scene. As you would expect much of this consists of hugely embarrassing and awkward scenes where he tries to make his own chat show pilot and gets upset at the focus group reviewing it, interviewing and trying to seduce an American politician (Ron Paul) who angrily storms off after Brüno takes his pants down in front of him and a fantastically funny scene where Brüno visits a spiritualist and mimes performing oral sex on a dead gay ex-lover.

But wait there's more, Cohen takes it even further this time as his character adopts a black baby and goes on an American TV show which just happens to be full of African Americans. He then exposes parents of child models by asking what they are willing to allow their kids to do for a gig, unbelievably these parents will seemingly allow their kids to do anything as long as they get the gig! Nazi uniforms anyone?. Of course this being the wild US Cohen can't resist the old deadly trio so easily found in America...homophobia, racism and American jingoism or extreme patriotism, and Cohen goes for the throat.

Its so easy to offend someone in the US with homosexuality...especially when two half naked men are trapped together in bondage and roaming the streets. Then again going to Christian faith gay converters and trying to chat them up won't help you're case much either, neither will going on a hunt with a bunch of redneck hicks and sexually harassing them whilst flirting with one of them. The best bit has to be the cage fight match where Brüno and Lutz face off against each other but end up making out in front of an enraged southern redneck crowd! Makes you wonder how they got out of there alive.

But wait, there's even more!! not only does Cohen upset the Yanks he also flies to Jerusalem to upset his own people! The sight of all these religious folks faces as Brüno swans around in his revealing camp attire is hilarious and the moment he is chased down the road by some Hasidic Jews (or very touchy religious Jewish folk at least) is mind boggling. How much of these sketches are real is difficult to tell in all honesty, whilst in the Middle East Cohen's character supposedly upsets a Mossad agent and a Palestinian terrorist leader (asking to be kidnapped!) which you'd think could be a very dangerous thing to do in reality. So it does beg the question was it real or setup? you kinda get the impression it wasn't quite as genuine as the US based stuff.

As you all know the character of Brüno is homosexual (did you notice?) so the film heavily features a lot of homosexual jokes, visual gags and naturally the obligatory bits of nudity. Where as in some countries like the UK you could probably get away with much of this stuff as the general public would probably just laugh at it, in the US its very different and Cohen knows it. Manipulating Americans seems to be Cohen's forte and he does it so well.

I think this film is probably the best out of the three personally, its much more riskier and certainly more in your face with all the homosexual references (full on cock n balls in your face actually). Many of the sequences are very funny, very offensive, very clever and very daring...we all know Cohen has balls of steel. As with all of Cohen's work its not gonna be everyone's cup of tea that's for sure, if you didn't enjoy Borat then this isn't gonna change your mind about Cohen. The film can come across as more homophobic than anything at times, so it depends on whether people can look past that. On the other hand if you liked Borat (and to a lesser extent Ali G) then this is you're lucky day as this is bigger bolder and badder than ever before.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Borat (UK/US, 2006)

(Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)


The second film in the Cohen trilogy based on his original character creations that we all saw within his Ali G show. Now even though these characters are all very clever creations and work well within the BBC comedy, the films varied. Myself I always thought Ali G was his best and funniest creation offering killer satirical comedy, but the movie of that character turned out to be quite poor and not overly funny surprisingly. 'Bruno', his third film and final original character was easily the next best character offering outrageously embarrassing homosexual tomfoolery, the film also lived up to that brilliantly.

Borat has always been somewhere in the middle for me, the character never really came across that funny on the Ali G show with the small sequences, I thought it slowed the show down. Of course his character is suppose to be simple, backwards, slow, dull, dated etc...that's part of the stinging gag that Eastern Europe is slightly primitive and centuries out of date (dare I say medieval? yes I dare). But working with this angle can also be risky as the jokes can be slow coming and childishly simple, Borat himself being on the same intelligence and life experience level as a child to a degree (when outside his native country).

So it did come as a surprise when this film actually turned out to be very very good, very amusing, highly awkward to watch at times and totally beat Cohen's first foray into the movies in 'Ali G Indahouse'. The main change to the programme here is the fact the plot is strung together around individual sequences showing Cohen making an ass of himself in dreadful cringe-inducing situations. Unlike Ali G where the film was spun into a proper full blown story with actual characters that you didn't care about whilst ruining the background myth of Ali G at the same time. This film merely introduces a sidekick who directs Borat as he goes across America making a documentary for the benefit of his homeland Kazakhstan...oh and searching for Pamela Anderson.

So just like the little sketches on the Ali G show we see Borat meeting various Americans, visiting various places of interest and generally showing himself up as the innocent wet behind the ears traveller who has no clue how to conduct himself in the modern western world. This film easily tops the TV show sketches for embarrassing moments, its like a car know the rest. Some of the things we see are just unbelievable, apart from much blatant racism against Jewish folk (Cohen's favourite), we meet a racist all American cowboy at a Texas rodeo who accuses Borat of looking like a terrorist down to his moustache. More racism in the South as Borat tries his hand at etiquette lessons (again) from some clearly well to do religious white folk, the funny twist being Borat's fat black hooker girlfriend turning up at the door. Full scale nudity of course, can't not have a bit of full scale public nudity (oh geez!), breaking stuff in a Confederate heritage museum (more obvious racial undertones) and finally assaulting Pamela Anderson in a Virgin Megastore (that shows the films age!).

Being America it is too easy for Cohen, the targets are so obvious and so simple to set up...racism, all American jingoism and homophobia are always gonna be his weapons of mass embarrassment. He sets his sights on these and hits them spot on, be it an old person, a young person, a famous/political person or even a crowd, Cohen can tease xenophobia or discrimination out of anyone with his naive questions and general approach.

While the film does feel more like an extended version of the TV sketches that was to be expected. It was also expected that whatever Cohen got up to here it would be bigger and bolder than ever before, that was certainly achieved. It starts off slow and ends kinda flat but unsurprisingly those are the sequences where Borat is a character within a films plot, its only when he ventures into the reality of everyday America that the film comes alive. Unfortunately the film is riddled with offensive moments which will and have upset many people which I can understand, unlike South Park the film isn't an animated cartoon so it feels more intense.

To a degree you could say that all the commotion surrounding the film only goes to prove it did what it set out to do, Cohen hit the nail on the head. Most will know of this character and Cohen's antics from TV, you know what to expect and get what you pay for, if you don't like this guys brand of humour then you know not to see this, it will offend. Although I do wonder how some of these people carry on their regular lives after being somewhat exposed in this film, that is if they are not actors of course, its actually very hard to tell in my opinion but I'm sure some may be. After the disappointing Ali G flick Cohen pulls it back and produces a great slice of wince-inducing shameful humiliation that will leave you with a sheepish grin plastered across your red face.



Monday, 5 May 2014

I, Frankenstein (2014)

Jesus bananas...I thought this type of film died out a long time ago, I mean seriously how dated is this entire concept! Do I even need to state which two movies this is clearly based around? Of course we all know why this is so familiar, because its an adaptation of Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel, which in turn is merely the same spiel as his previous creation 'Underworld'. All he has done here is change the battling supernatural creatures of the night...and what's with this title??

So there's a raging war going on under cover of night, a bloodthirsty religious monster war which is hidden from human eyes...well. On one side there is the Gargoyle Order commanded into being by arch angel Michael, on the other side a demonic horde of hellspawn unleashed by Satan after he was kicked out of Heaven. The demons are led by Bill Nighy and are after Frankenstein's monster to unravel the mystery of the reanimation of dead bodies so they can reanimate tonnes of human bodies for their army of demon souls to take over. Then they can take over the world and wipe out the human race muahahahaha!

My my this film is almost an antique, it is literately like we're going back in time to around 2003. Grevioux is a good visionary and solid writer but clearly all he's done here is try to milk the success he gained with the Underworld franchise. The films are virtually identical for Pete's sake! they even cast Nighy in the same role as the same character! This film is more of a monster mash admittedly hence the 'Van Helsing' vibe pulsating strongly as events unfold. Out go the interesting characters and fun real time stunts we saw in 'Underworld', in come lots of CGI beasties. The really bad thing is the CGI isn't even that good, the cityscape's and brooding skies look nice sure but the Gargoyles look pretty bad and dated effects wise. The demons fare much better because they utilise hands on makeup effects with prosthetics which is decent but they look more like big lizards than demons.

You see...the funny thing about this film is they have really really REALLY tried to make this as lavishly flamboyantly gothic as they possibly could. Every sequence and every shot they aim for something dark gloomy and...well basically everything you've ever seen before in various gothic movies starting with 'The Crow'. Don't get me wrong it does look nice at the start with the creepy graveyard set against dark rainy clouds and then as we move into the modern era with obligatory nightclubs and even more obligatory dark alleyways, but its all so cliche now and they are trying way too hard to push this look. Even the characters are dressed in attire we've seen before, everything is black leather, black suits, black hoodies etc...accept for the Gargoyles in human form who have a Thor thing going on. Also their weapons look like they've come from the 'Blade' franchise and basically all the demons in human form look like pale vampires.

The real fun deconstruction comes in the plot holes and details. Let me begin...firstly why are the Gargoyles always in human form? they aren't human so why walk around as one in private. I also feel confused about the Gargoyles genetic makeup, are they actually made of stone? they say they are gargoyles which humans see as are they made of stone? I'm guessing not as they probably wouldn't be able to fly and would also be indestructible. Also...the Gargoyle Queen? really? that sounds so lame, and she's heavenly white in colour oh geez! The HUGE cathedral the Gargoyles live that just for them or do humans use it? surely people would notice funny goings on in this place no?? and my God why is it so flippin' huge?!

This leads me to another point, this war is suppose to raging out of sight from the human race...but how is that even remotely possible when this creatures are flying about all over the show. In these modern times guess what...people do go out at night, people work during the night, they would be real easy to spot, especially with all the racket they make with their battles. Oh and they have these battles in the street!! haha...wut?!! Gargoyles turning into large bright blue/white balls of light and shooting up into the heavens (accompanied by thunder), demons burning up into piles of black ash on the ground all over the place...and not a single human in sight anyway!! What city is this again?? the city where nobody ever comes out at night or hears anything it seems.

In all honesty I don't really see how Frankenstein's monster even fits into this plot. The demons want to find the secret for reanimating dead corpses and they are mainly hunting Dr Frankenstein's book of secrets for that, so why do we need the monster? In fact the monster doesn't really do anything to help them in the end. Plus I gotta ask why is Frankie's monster so powerful and fast? he's made up of various regular human body parts, why on earth would that make him much stronger and faster than the average human. Oh and his name is Adam, as in Adam and Eve and the myth of following me here? Oh! and he also has a comical exaggerated deep gravely voice just like Bale used for whatshisname.

It really feels like this film should have been made in the late 90's, I think it would have gone down a storm back then, but right now its way outta time. There are some nice visual moments here and there but seriously this is such a blatant rip off of so many other films along with a blatant rehash of 'Underworld' its just shocking. You know what you're getting into when you see the trailer and if you like this type of thing then no worries, I myself do like gothic monster/superhero flicks but even this felt way too generic. Aaron Eckhart as the monster?? come on! the dude is buff and looks better looking than most regular folk who aren't stitched together with random body parts. You could of at least tried to make him look nasty or semi scary sheesh! its so daft, if you want a chiseled square jawed action hero then don't make it Frankenstein's monster.

The actual finale setup and visual concept is exactly the same as 'Van Helsing' with the massive technological lab full of vampire eggs...or in this case dead bodies. What made me giggle is the overly heroic stance of Eckhart at the very end as he stands atop a building against a stormy night sky, weapons in hand, legs apart and glaring menacingly into the darkness. His immortal quest to protect humans from the demon hordes...I'm Batman...wait...

'I, descender of the demon horde'
'I, my father's son'
'I, Frankenstein'

Shouldn't that be I AM Frankenstein and I AM my father's son...whatever.