Thursday, March 31, 2011

An American Werewolf In Paris

 I watched this last night after coming home from Winter's Bone. What a contrast in style, genre and quality! I mistakingly brought it home believing it was the London version which I have only seen once, and that many years ago when I was still in highschool...I think it was still the Dark Ages anyway!! So it goes to show...always read the label!!!!!!
 Anyway I got down to watching it as I quite like a werewolf flick. I didn't pick this up because of the recent foray to Red Hiding Hood, that was just coincidence. As a werewolf movie this is all over Riding Hood even though it is as b-grade as you can get! Also, compared to the abysmal Survival of the Dead and Haloween II, Paris is absolutely brilliant! It had no where the budget of either of the afore mentioned atrocities and yet still outdoes them.
 In some of my other b-grade movie posts, such as the Anaconda franchise, I say I like b-grade movies. I do! And I thoroughly enjoyed this!! It was a bit of light relief after the harrowment of Winter's Bones, and I had a real blast. Paris may be b-grade but it is intentionally so and really sticks its own tounge into its own cheek. The lead actor is totally hamming it up and is great fun. He is surrounded by other actors who are more serious in their roles and the contrast is really neat.
The acting is what you expect from a b-grader and so are the sets. It is interesting in b-grade movies how quite often they do have quite substantial budgets. Paris must have as there are many different sets which are similar in colouring to the Mummy franchise as well as the Scorpion King. They are actually quite good but seriously b-grade! Th CGI is also b-grade heaven!! It is far from bad , and it is all fun all the way in how lame the werewolves look!! Ananconda was the same with the rubber snakes. It is just great entertaining, no brainer, fun!!
 I think too many horror afficiandos take their genre too seriously. Most horrors are b-grade and hence are somewhat limited to what they can achieve. Paris is no exception, and yet it is far from being garbage. It is intentionally hammy and becomes somewhat comedic in parts, but it never takes itself too seriously as a horror.
 Fun, fun, fun....and nothing but fun!! I seriously enjoyed this movie and it was a relief too watch after some of the bigger named horrors I have watched recently that were pure crap. Plug in, tune out, and have a few chuckles along the way!!
 Oh my god!! I almost forgot...unlike the Anaconda movies we get some boobs in this!! Nice little French ones, ( and they get quite a fondling too!! ). Mmmm nice little milky white boobs....well what do you expect, it is a horror, and you have just got to have the cliqued horror tit shots!!!
Click here for a synopsis and more:
And here for some fang-tastic stuff:
And here again for more hairy fun:

Winter's Bones

 I am still seriously out of sequence here as I have watched Dances With Wolves and Evil Dead 2 several nights before heading off to the local theatre this evening. My writers block hasn't eased up and I am really finding it hard to squeeze anything out of my poor little brain!

 As you all know the Oscars have come and gone, yet Winter's Bones has only just opened in NZ cinemas. I say this because I didn't realise that Jennifer Lawrence had been nominated for an Oscar for leading actress. I wish I had seen this and Black Swan closer together because as much as I liked Portman's performance ( and I'm not a Portman fan ), I believe Lawrence's performance was the better of the two. For a twenty year old in Bones she has displayed acting talent well beyond her years would suggest she should have.

 She is now cast in another X-men movie and I fervently hope that she doesn't get caught in making that type of movie. She is a very good looking twenty year old and it would be a trap for her if she takes on roles based on her looks alone. Being eye candy is a go no-where career move. After Bones it is very clear this girl has an unbelievable amount of talent that I hope is harnessed and used properly for herself and for the world of cinema. 

 I believe she was over looked for the Oscar because Bone's is an independantly made film and the Oscars don't do independants. Portman was fortunate Black Swan was mainstream, and it would have been interesting what would have happened if Bones had been as well. Oh well, it is done and dusted so it is no point crying over spilt milk as they say. Portman won and Lawrence didn't. But she must still be fully acknowledged  for her outstanding performance.

 I actually went into Bones with a low expectation. Lawrence has been portrayed as a 'pretty girl' and I thought she was going to be like Amanda Seyfried. I was expecting a teen themed movie. Boy I couldn't have been more wrong.

 Winter's Bones is set in Missouri and it is a bleak setting. The people portrayed aren't quite hillbillies and not quite poor white trash. They are on the poverty line and close to being the forgotten element of society. It is an incredibly sad thing to see how they live. Their houses are either log built shacks or patched up remnants of their former selfs. The yards are full of old cars, junk is every where, it is just unbelievable watching. I was really moved by how these people lived. This is an America we don't see very often and can only be described as the 'other 'America. There is no Iraq, 9/11, Wall Street, Hollywood, high society, high rollers here. This is how the other half lives folks.

 What got me was that every house owns a gun of some description. They are brandished almost like toys and yet not in a 'gangsta' type way. They grow up with them and they are an everday part of life. It is eye-opening and shows how far out of main stream society they are. This is the genuine back and beyond baby.

 The people are as hard as the country they live in. Lawerence plays a seventeen year old girl and yet she is more like a twenty five year old woman. There is no girliness, make-up, dresses, soft cuddly toys, etc, or any thing else you would associate with a teenaged girl. The other girls of her age are the same and in fact most are already women. They are married with babies at a very young age. The harshness of their environment sees them having to grow up fast as it is a world of survival of the fittest. Lawrence, with no father to support her two youngest siblings, and an ill mother, survives by shooting squirills to eat.

 Jennifer Lawrence's performance is just incredible. I can't believe how she has completely stripped away any femininity. She is hard, pragmatic, and just doing her best to survive from day to day. A girl of seventeen shouldn't have a life like that, she isn't even interested in boys as she doesn't have the time. She lives among a tight community with everyone virtually related to one another and knowing each others business. Lawrence's father has skipped a court apperance and had signed his house and land over to the bailers. As he hasn't showen then Lawrence will lose all.

 She attempts to find him but she discovers he had been narcing to the cops about the local meth trade. It slowly becomes apparent that he is likely to have been killed to shut him up. For her troubles she gets badly beaten up for her questions. She takes it in her stride but she tells the local bad ass her story and he backs off after assurances from her uncle she'll be quiet. It is an awful situation. She is seventeen living among hardened criminals who'll kill at a moments notice. She lives with this over her young head everyday and one can only admire her resolve, and yet pity her lose of youthful innocence in the process.

 This lose of innocence becomes all too real when when the women who beat her up take her to her father's body in a local swamp. She has to reach down and pull up his arms so that they can be cut off with a chainsaw. Harrowing, absolutely harrowing stuff. She is seventeen for god's sake and has to witness that sort of thing being done to her own father??!!! She takes the severed arms to the police to prove he is dead and hence the bailers cannot take the property.

 It is all unbelievable and I was shocked at the harshness and brutality of their way of life. All the performances are superb, and boy there are some real hard bastards here. Back woods Missouri is beautifully filmed and adds a surreal air. It is hard and cold country with little colour, and the viewer can see how and why the people mirror the countryside as you have to be hard to survive.

 Winter Bone's is a quite brilliant film. Young Jennifer Lawrence is just unbelievable. You MUST NOT miss this as she puts in a performance as good as any you will ever see. She is the standout among some good performances. It is a harrowing film. Bleak,gritty, and uncompromising, the viewer can only admire Lamerence's character the more for her reslove, and yet feel extreme sympathy to see such a young girl doing what she has to do just to survive at the expense of ever being young and having a life of her own. not miss the chance to head down to your local theatre and see this. You won't be disappointed. It is a qualtiy film and I highly, highly recommend it. For me it is the best film of the year so far, but be prepared, it is a harrowing ride. And remember the name of Jennifer Lawrence because I'm sure we'll be hearing alot more of her in the furture. She is an unbelievable young talent and I hope she makes the right career choices because she has the ability to be become one of our generations truely great actresses. Watch her in Winter's Bones and tell me you disagree!

Click here for a synopsis and more:

Here for more:

And here for even more:

And here for the official site:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Halloween II

 After the awfulness to my eyes and senses imposed on them by that bastard Romero I didn't think it was possible for my night to get worse. Boy was I wrong....dead wrong ( oh no, a pun!! ).
 If Survival of the Dead was crap what possible anti-supurlitave do I find for Halloween II?????? I rented this because I saw the trailer on a recent DVD and thought it looked quite reasonable as a slasher flick. Those trailers led me astray...bloody things, isn't that false advertising???!!!!!!! They made this look really scary but it just plainly isn't...the only thing scary about this movie is the fact that it was ever made!!
 The short and sweet of it is that Halloween II manages to be worse than Survival of the Dead and that took some doing! Garbage, garbage, garbage!! Don't even bother with letting your hot little hand even tempt itself to pick this off the shelf even to read the back cover. Walk on by and keep your hands deep in them thar pockets!!
 After subjecting myself to this crap ( I swear I lost some intellect just having this in my home ) I think it is time film companies, and their reaspective makers, finally retire Michel Myers for good. He is now a tired acronism just like Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kruger. They have had there day and surely the movie going public has had enough of being subjected to the increasingly poor re-makes of  very much dead franchises. Let it go guys,  live with the memory of what great slasher movies these characters provided instead of trying to keep them alive and dis-honoring them with such garbage.
Click here for more time wasting:
And insult you intelligence some more here if you like:

Survival Of The Dead

 I'm out of sequence here like I was several reviews ago. I watched Dances With Wolves before this abomination but am steeling myself for the thought and effort I'll need to review such a fine film.
Survival of the Dead will be very easy though, short, sweet, and to the point. It really isn't worth the shelf space it takes up in a video store, let alone the effort required to rent it or carry it home.
 This is crap, garbage, rubbish, refuse, shit, trash..oh, and crap. It is as terrible a movie as you could ever hope to see. In a nutshell just don't bother. Coming from the master of the zombie genre, the man who all but invented it and brought it to the world, has sunk to unbelievable lows with this un-masterpiece. I honestly nearly cried when I finished this...was this really a Romero effort?? Yep, unfortunately it is and I'm afraid if this is the best the zombie master can now do it is time for him to retire and find himself a deep dark hole so he cannot present to the world anything as bad as this ever again!!
 Avoid, avoid, avoid!!! Told you it would be short and sweet. I really cannot be bothered to write much more about it, let alone find any redeming features of which I could write about. Oh how the mighty have fallen!! An incredibly sad demise to George Romero, may you rot in hell for this crap...forever and ever.......and bastard!!
Click here for more...but really it isn't worth bothering about:
And here for more just to show how bad it is:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Carlito's Way

 Ah isn't writers block a wonderful affliction!!! I watched Carlito's Way immediately after A Constant Gardner, but once I had typed up the afore mentioned review the blockage kicked in. Damn!! It is very frustrating because I started a new blog several days concerning the fiction I read but am unable to type a word on it!!
 The worst thing about blogging is actually garnering enough people to read your blog. It takes me over an hour to type one review because my touch typing skills are so atrocious, so it can be a real bugger when very few people read your efforts! But never mind the writing practise is good and sometimes some of the things I write come out really well and that is reward enough....but only sometimes!!
 But I ramble, which is a classic sign that I can't sit down and nail a review. Carlito's Way divided critics on its release. Some felt it re-treaded old ground and was un-original in premise. To a certain degree that assessment is correct, but Carlito isn't the first, or last, movie to offer up a re-hashed plot is it? 
 The movie centres around a recently released drug dealer named Carlito. In the first scenes we see him in court vowing he is going straight and will never be put behind bars again. The judge shakes his head and says he's heard that one before. As we cut to Carlito's first days outside we see him on the streets and unable to believe his word on going 'legit'. His lawyer and former colleagues don't believe it either and try to intice him with new deals. But it doesn't take us, and the criminal fraternity, long to find out he is actually serious.
 Al Pacino as Carlito is quite interesting as he plays a Puerto Rican who has a cross between a drawl and lisp speech impediment ( Colin who won an award recently for something similar?! ). As a criminal this is familiar territory for Pacino, who as an actor, I'm somewhat hot and cold on. He can be brilliant and yet turn around and be quite flat. In Carlto he is a bit middle of the road, neither outstanding or awful. Solid would describe his performance.
 For me Sean Penn is the stand out, and yet again re-afirms his position as one of our generations truely great actors. I have yet to see him turn in a poor performance, it is a pity he is such a jerk in his private life though. Pacino and Penn, great actors though they may be, don't really develop an on screen chemistry here. They work well together professionally, but somehow they just don't gel. I never felt they were the buddies they were meant to be, or as close. Again it is a solid performance but nothing more. Penn as a crooked lawyer is outstanding. He is a partially bald Jew with curly red hair. It is a real transformaton and it took me some time to recognise him as he looks so different.
 The realtionship between Carlito and his former girlfirend Gail feels the same way. Solidly performed but somehow they just don't gel as an on screen couple. Compare them to Fiennes and Weisz in a  Constant Gardner who were brilliant. Part of the problem is the age gap. It is too vast to be credible and Pacino looks like he is robbing the cradle as Carlito. Penelope Ann Miller as Gail, is an incredibly attractive woman/actress ( and quite stunning nude...what breasts you have my dear!! ), but I couldn't help but feel she was there as nothing more than eye candy and to stroke Pacino's ego. She is very good in her role but the chemistry isn't there, and Pacino really does look like a dirty old man. 
 So unfortunately we have here in Carlto's Way a movie that sees its actors unable to gel even though they each put in solid performances. I would have thought the chemistry between a quality cast as we have here should have been better. The movie suffers somewhat for it because the performances feel too individual. Even Viggo Mortensen has a minor part and is quite good as a whiner, and like Penn has his physical apperance radically altered which makes him hard to recognise at first. The lack of geling between the actors sees Carlito's Way as a movie relagate itself to being just above average. As stated the plot of a crim vowing to go straight and yet unable to escape the lifestyle isn't new. Combine that with the somewhat remote performances of the actors amongst themselves means Carlio's way is nothing out of the ordinary. It seems all I have done is critisie the movie. In many respects I have, but it is still a reasonable watch and shouldn't be discarded too quickly. It is just above average in terms of quality and originality, but as you all know there is some real garbage out there in the world of cinema and fortunately Carlito's Way isn't in the former.
 I recommend it for a quiet watch on a rainy day or for when you want something that is a reasonble, easy on the brain, type watch. If for nothing else see it for Sean Penn, because he is the standout as a real shit person,  and crooked lawyer. Just marvel in his apperance as it is an incredible transformation!!           
Watchable? yes, enjoyable? yes, but ulimately unremarkable? yes.
Click here for a synopsis and more:
Click here for more:
And here for for:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Constant Gardner

 I re-call giving this a miss at theatres because it looked too lovey-dovey for me! What an idiot because last night I learnt this is based on a John le Carre novel and he is far from writing romances! He is in a fact a very good thriller writer, and if The Constant Gardner is anything to go by he hasn't lost his touch.

 The problem with the theatrical trailers for this movie is that they seemed to concentrate on the kissing scenes which gave no indication as to what the movie was about. That is why I gave it a wide berth. It was a very big surprise to find that it wasn't a romance per se but a thriller that starts with a couple who meet, shag, find that a bun in the oven is the result, and get married. 

 Ralph Fiennes and Rachael Weisz pull off a very credible on screen marriage. There seemed to be real a chemistry between them. As an on screen couple I really liked them. Their 'intimate' moments were well done, and they really gave the impression of being totally besotted with one another. They set the tone extremely well for later events when the marriage is under strain from Weisz's character. The whole cast is extremely good with some high quality British actors involved. But for me Rachael Weisz was the revelation as I never thought she could act very well. She of course was in the Mummy movies and they are b-grade material to say the least. Starring in them had obviously coloured my view of her abilities because in The Constant Gardner she is a completely different actress and puts in a truley magnificent performance.

 She is for me the star of the show, and even though she is killed of well before the end her performance is the one to watch and revel in. She is extremely good and deserving of her subsequent Oscar win. I really was knocked out by her as I really thought she was nothing but a b-grader and likely to stay that way. Her character is lovely! She is young, fresh, alive and totally yummy!! Not only that she is a total humanitarian and really cares about the plight of the poor in Kenya. She is just so believeable as Tessa Quayle that the viewer buys into her struggles and is genuinely saddened, and sickened, by her murder.

 Ralph Fiennes in a very fine actor as we all know and is the absolute compliment to Weisz. He as a character is more timid than his wife and he finds it difficult to share her passions. He feels more pragmatic as he realises the enormous struggle she is taking on to get aid to the poor. His character under takes something of a transformation though after he finds out his wife was murdered and why. At one stage it looked as if the marriage was on the rocks and that she was cheating on him. She is a desirable woman as he well knows and several scenes in the movie lead us to believe that is what is happening. Fiennes plays the jilted husband well but can't face her because he doesn't want to know the truth. It is only after her murder does he find out she wasn't cheating on him at all, and was still utterly devoted to him.

 The marriage angle in the plot is well done and superbly acted. Fiennes and Weisz deserve credit where it is due because they do make a very credible and nice on screen couple.  Within a thriller this is unusal and the two are inter-woven beautifully. Tessa is a lovely woman who is murdered by a high profile company because she was about to expose their use of poor Africans as guinea pigs for their drugs. Fiennes is also murdered at the end and we feel real sympathy for him as he goes to the place where is wife was murdered to join her. It is a sad ending to a genuinely lovely married couple.

 Of course their murders are to a extent a pull on the viewer's heart strings. They were such nice people though that the drug company, and the politicians backing them, are shown in their true light as money hungry bastards with no true regard for human life. They intigate a conspiracy and cover-up which leads to the Quayle's murders ( Bill Nighy is the main politician portrayed here and he is a real shit ).

 The plot of The Constant Gardner is not particularly original as such. You have the usual little man taking on the big man scenario. The big man, with his money and power though , is able to arrange the killing off of the inconvienient little man to keep him quiet. Problem is the little man has the last laugh as he finds the appropriate evidence and exposes the big nasty man with it. Nothing new there really, but it doesn't mean the movie suffers for it as it is still an extremely good, top-notch, thriller.

 The slums of Kenya are a real eye opener and worth the price of the rental. I believe the cast of the movie was so moved by the poverty they saw that they started a charity to raise funds to help the local aid agencies. Good on them as what you'll see in this movie is horrifc and absolutely appalling. The poverty is unbelievable, and the filth and squalor these peolpe live in is just indescribeable. It may be a fictional account of a drug companies nefarious actions and attitudes to the poor of Africa, but there is absolutely nothing fictional about the on camera filth and misery you see. It is truely shocking, and very moving and humbling to realise how lucky we are to live where we do and with what we have.

 The Constant Gardner then is an extremely good thriller. The acting is superb, especially from Rachael Weisz, who is nothing short of outstanding. Fiennes is also very good as her husband and they both play a really believable married couple. The plot is your usual thriller fare but above the average as it involves on its peripheral the love of Weisz and Fiennes' characters. It is central to what Fiennes character does after his wife's murder. Set against the unbelievable poverty of Kenya this is a better than average watch and I do believe you will enjoy it. It is thought provoking even though fictional, and you will remember Rachael Weisz's performance for a long time afterwards.

Highly recommended.

Click here for a synopsis and more:

And here for more:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rosemary's Baby

 It has been many a year since I last watched this classic. I have actually stumbled across a few reviews recently on bogosphere so when I saw it at the video store I brought it home and watched it immediately after Romper Stomper. Try as I might I can't remember how long ago I saw this, but I do recall it being on telly late at night.
After last night I'm surprised at how much I had forgotten with certain scenes a bit hazy to say the least. I did enjoy it the first time I watched it but this time round it just pissed me off! It is a great movie to be sure so it isn't a quality issue. It was more Mia Farrow's character and her weaknes and naivety that drove me nuts. 
 I realise this is part of her role as a stronger character would not have let things go as far as Farrow did. I had forgotten what a pain the elderly neighbours were and they quickly got on my nerves with their constant intrusions. Personally I would have said 'fuck off' long before!! The old bag with her screechy voice and nosiness quickly grated and I found myself cursing everytime she appeared. But I cursed Farrow more for letting herself be pushed about so easily.
 Farrow plays her part as a blonde bimbo extremely well, and I was surprised at the amount of nudity this had for a 1968 movie. We get to see Farrows butt and boobs on several occasions which I couldn't remember before hand. It is actually quite interesting to note that besides Farrow most of the cast has subsequently died. Sure many of them were elderly anyway, but Farrow's husband wasn't and he died in his fifties. God's retribution on them for starring in a satanic movie??!!
 So how satanic is Rosemary's Baby? I haven't read the book so can't judge that, but the movie I can. From the eyes of today it is quite tame. It isn't Paranormal Activity, but in its day that would have been its equivilent. I really like the fact that it didn't need to delve into gore and straight out frights to project creepiness and a feeling of evil. Modern film makers should take note here and see what real atmosphere is about. Rosemary's Baby has dated but it is still a creepy movie just for the fact that we see so little and yet know there is a lurking evil within the building.
 The satanism is very subtle. Again I like this. When Farrow is tied up ready for the devil to have his wicked way with her we see her dreaming ( or is she? ), the visions include goatsheads, fire, brimestone, and the likes. All very subtle but leaving the viewer in no doubt this isn't a christian ritual we are about to see! Of course we see the devil's hands on Farrow and a shot of his eyes, but the obliqueness is superb because again, the viewer is lead into Farrow's mind as she herself wonders if it is a dream or not.
 It is hard to judge now how explict this was in 1968 terms. By our standards it is very dated as we have been bombarded with Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kruger, and co for years, so a few 1960's shots of the devil aren't going to scare us are they? But if you put that aside it is the impliedness of the devil that makes Rosemary's Baby so good. We know she has been 'given' to satan by her husband, the creepiness is in seeing her come to the realisation.
 I suppose the crowning moment of the whole movie is when she sees the baby and cries 'what have you done to his eyes?', and gets the horrific reply, 'he has his father's eyes' and the witches start hailing satan. Farrow's character must have been in unimaginable repugnance at knowing what had been done to her. 
 But I come back to the point of this movie pissing me off. We see Farrow enter the neigbours apartment through the closet with a knife. She drops it when she sees the baby though. I mean if that were me I would have immediately stabbed that little bastard spawn of satan!! And yet all Farrow does is cry and...well...cry some more. I just couldn't bring myself to sympathise with her becasue she was too weak willed to stand up to those around her. The neighbours in particular were having an affect on her and she just let them, me..they would've been out on their ears with no airs or graces about it!!
 But again that was her character and hence she was an easy target for the witches with her gentle personality. She didn't stand a chance with a weak willed husband who was unable to resist the promise of fame and fortune at the expense of his wife. How he expected her to stay with him after she found out is anyone's guess and he deserved the lot of spit in his face. He is reprehensible and the viewer feels nothing but disgust for him.
 Rosemary's Baby is a very good horror and the precursor to the stronger 1970's masterpiece of all horrors, The Excorsist. It isn't blatant it it's satanic portrayel and is superb for it. Everything is behind closed doors and subtle in its implications. This creates a diabolical creepy crawly air of evilness that many modern horrors fail to emulate. It shows that not all horror has to be in your face to be effective. Not only is this a good horror it is a good enough stand alone movie without being put into a specific genre.
 A real classic of its time and still a good watch today. I enjoyed it even though Rosemary and those pesky neighbours drove me to despair. But ultimately grrrrrrrr ! Why the hell didn't you kill the baby when you had the chance Rosemary???!!!!........ because I sure would have.
Click here for a synopsis and more:
And here for more:

 I also strongly urge a visit also to wikipedia as thier page goes into how the cast was selected and has links to the Ira Levin novel ( who of course also wrote a personal favorite of mine, The Boys From Brazil ).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Romper Stomper

 I'm getting old!! I can so vividly remember seeing Romper Stomper way back in the Dark Ages of 1992, and yet it doesn't feel like nineteen years has passed by. That is truely scarey and I'm still coming to terms with how long it has been. I saw this is the old State theatre and the one thing I can't rememeber is actually seeing it there! I thought I had seen it at Readings down the road which would have been impossible since that didn't open until 1995-96-ish.
 For you outside of the land of Oz and NZ this movie caused a huge stir and hubabaloo when it was released. This is one of the most controversial movies ever to come out of Oz. To look back now it is laughable because the depicted violence is quite tame by todays standards. But in its day it was vicious and brutal, which brought a wealth of condemnation down on its head. I remember it all so well. There were people on telly moaning about it, churches moaned about it, politicians moaned about it, so it was subsequently slapped with an R-18 rating. All those who moaned were outraged stating the film should have been ourightly baned from NZ cinemas!! It all made me laugh because all it did was raise awarenes of the movies existence and people flocked to theatres to watch it!!!
 The last movie that caused so much controversy in NZ, which is still somewhat conservative, was 8mm. Again it drove people into cinemas and not away!! It seems so ridiculous now in the age of 'gorno' type movies like the awful Saw series and Hostel, which barely raised a whimper when released. Saw and Hostel are garbage, and whilst I believe in freedom of expression and thought, both those movies trouble me and I would rather see shit like that removed from our screens. They have no real purpose but to be gross for the sake of some perverted idea of entertainment.
 In its day Romper Stomper wasn't like this. It was a serious look at rascism in Melbourne by a bunch of skinheads towards Asian migrants. It always annoys me how a serious film that has a no holds barred approach is critised for its realism whilst Hostel, which is disturbing to say the least, is barely commented on. Romper Stomper was absolutely put through the wringer in 1992 for its violence. It may look tame now but back then it was full on and ultra-violent. The fight scenes had all the street weapons imaginable from chains, soft ball bats, knifes, nun-chucks, and even sharpened up garden tools like spades and slashers.
 We see both asians and skinheads get beaten senseless and left for dead. It is harrowing stuff . Critics of the movie could only concentrate on its violence and not what what was causing it, namely racism. The running street brawl is a culmination of the skinhead's tomenting a local Vietnamese community which finally has enough and deals to them. The skinheads are eventually out-numbered and driven from their pad. We feel no sympathy for them. In fact we feel disgust at how pathetic they are. They are thugs and straight out animals who can barely look after themselves properly in the way of cooking or house keeping. They are the low lifes of society and the movie isn't shy in showing us this. Glorifying skinheads, racism and violence? Hardly!
 This was Russel Crowe's breakout role. He has gone on to bigger and better things and is one of the world's premium actors. All this even though he is a complete egotistical dickhead. Back in 1992 that was all before him and in Romper Stomper we can see the early days of his talent. He plays Hando, the leader of the skinheads, and he is chilling. Crowe masters the role as a hardened racist and street fighter. He has no morals and is a real hardnut. When the gang gets beaten up and dispursed he wants revenge and turns to buying guns to get it. Some of the others have had a real wake up call and are having serious doubts about their way of life.
 Eventually, through being narced on to the police, and their own stupidity, the skinheads become Hando alone who is prepared to go on. His best mate has had enough and shacks up with Hando's ex and wants out of the lifestyle. Hando won't leave him be saying 'you are all I have left', and he talks them into going to Adelaide to escape the police. On the way Hando tells his mate, Davy, to ditch the girl, who refuses and stabs Hando who then dies.
 This is not, and never was, a film that glorifyied violence. The skinheads are shown for what they are, scum, pure and simple scum, and no viewer is ever going to sympathise with them. They are neo-Nazi racists without really understanding the dogma they purportedly follow. They are just thugs for the hell of it and their ways eventually lead to their own demise. Most of the actors involved in the movie have disappeared and I could only recognise two, Crowe, and a guy who recently played the bent lawyer in the brilliant Animal Kingdom.
 For all its initial controversy Romper Stomper was a good film and even in its day, I, as a wide eyed bushy tailed twenty two year old, 'got' its message. I'm not fussed on the idea of racism and couldn't imagine going out and beating people up for being different to me.  This movie highlighted the ugly side of racism and it is unbelievable that it was so controversial. If it played today it would hardly raise an eyebrow as the violence has dated, but its core message hasn't.
 Worth a look if you can find a copy. It is well enough known to Aussie and Kiwi audienences so I'm keen to know if anyone else in the big wide world has seen or even knows of it. Like Gallipoli for Mel Gibson, Romper Stomper was Russel Crowe's big break and for any fans of his out there then this will be worth seeing for this is where it all began.
 Not a bad low budget film that emulates the classic, and controversial, A Clockwork Orange, with a unique Australian flavour and outlook.
Click here for a synopsis and more:
Here for more:
And here for more:

Battle: Los Angeles

 After walking out of one theatre I had a short wait for Battle: L.A to start. Like Red Riding Hood I had not read anything positive about it. I had seen the terrible, awful, and atrocious Skyline last year and heard that this was not better, so it was with the utmost trepidation I sat down to watch.
 First up it is NO-WHERE near as bad as Skyline. It isn't great but Skyline was the pits and it is always with disgust at myself in knowing that I sat through it!! Battle: L.A is fairly much the same premise, aliens invade. humanity gets it butt kicked, but hey luckily America has the Marines, and they eventually prevail, no retreat, ooo yah, semper fi!! And that pretty much sums it up.
 The problem with Battle is that when the battle scenes stop the awfulness starts, and unfortunatley it is the usual Hollywood characterisations that make the rest of the world cringe. It all but rubs our faces in how great the U.S is and that without the Marines and their patriotism the world would be lost, aren't we the greatest, our dicks are bigger than yours cliques. I am not anti-American, but this Hollywood bullshit rubs me the wrong way and is a false representation of the American people. The problem being is many outside of the States watch this garbage and believe what they see. I'm a firm believer in loving your country but Hollywood takes it too far and for me as one of only four million Kiwis this shit grates on my nerves.
 Ok, so in between the fighting there is alot of cheesy nonsense to deal with.That is the bad part of the movie and I personally fidgeted and groaned at how bad it was. If you can survive it then Battle isn't too bad. The fight scenes are plain awesome and the CGI spectacular. It is a pity the whole movie couldn't have been one long running scrap between the ooo-rahing Marines and the aliens. The aliens here are really nothing but a disguise for Iraqis as this is a blatant attempt to depict the 2003 invasion and what combat was really like.
 For all its awfulness the combat depiction is superb and realistic. I was in a cinema and felt scared at the amount of ordnance being thrown around!! Soldiers do actually get killed and aren't indestructable Rambos, buildings are stunningly destroyed, freeways recieve the same treatment, it is just brutal warfare and L.A isn't spared! I haven't seen a combat movie that has shown the fierceness of combat like this since Saving Private Ryan. Sure they face aliens but put that aside and watch the tracer bullets fly and tell me you would want to be under that sort of fire. The thing I most rememer about Ryan was the sound of the German bullets pinging off the steel girders on the beach. In the theatre it was realistic and down right frightening. Battle L.A  may be fictional but I feel it is as close to real combat as any of us would want to get ( just watch those tracer bullets because they are scary angry little hornets! ).
 It has the usual clique moments where the Marines defy the odds and stand around yahooing and slapping each other on the back ( all but blowing each other in their wonderfulness!! ), which is pure crap because do you honestly believe soldiers do this during battle or that bullets stop flying just so they can do so?! Ah Hollywood you have done it again!! So as much as it is realistic there is some serious unrealism that lets down the good. Again Hollywood kicks in and the spectacular and stupid takes over and combat is reduced to a stroll in the park.
 Battle: Los Angeles is a reasonbly acted movie ( but I am geting sick of Michelle Rodriquez playing the same role ). The battle scenes are superb and this alone makes the movie worth seeing on the big screen. If you can tune the awful crap from between the battle scenes out then you'll like this movie more. The premise isn't original and can be only described as Black Hawk Down meets War of the Worlds. 
 There is some truely awful Hollywood moments and dialogue that does jar but boy when the action starts it is full on and you'll forget it until it stops. Worth a watch for sure but nothing new and done before. All you really get here is to see Los Angeles laid to waste ( watch Collateral instead and glory in L.A at night!!! ), and some marines spouting the usual ooo-rah cliques. It is a 50/50 movie, if you see it you have seen, but it if you don't then you haven't really missed much.
 Entertaining but with some real painful cheesy moments, you have been warned!!
Click here for a synopsis and more, ooo-rah, semper fi!!
And semper fi here, ooo-rah!!
And no retreat here, ooo-rah!!
And ooo-rah yourself silly at the official site!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Red Riding Hood

 Thursday night equates to my weekly trip to the local theatre. On offer was Red Riding Hood and Battle Los Angeles. I was very sceptical on seeing either of them after comments I had read within blogospere. But I can't live without my weekly theatre dose so I would have sat through almost anything!!
 I saw the poster to Red Riding hood weeks ago and really liked it. It is one of the coolest I have seen in a while and I hoped the movie would mirror it. The recent reviews though had me re-coiling in horror and I thought 'oh no' can it really be that bad? Well in this humble cinema goers opinion it isn't! I won't say it is great but it isn't terrible either. I will say this though, it could have been so much more. It has some really good ingredients but somehow it didn't deliver enough to satisfy. 
 What did i like? Well I really liked the cienmatography. It captured the Grimm's fairy tale setting very well. It was dark and moody, with a mild gothic feel and I revelled in it. But at the same time it was all a bit too clean. I liked it but it bothered me at the same time. I did like though that the makers tried to make the setting as fairy tale as possible without making it all ridiculous. Take for example the trees outside Red Riding Hood's grandmother's cottage with huge spikes for branches. There is prodigious use of CGI which is good and easy on the eye. So visually I wasn't disappointed and got what I expected.
 The acting is what it should have been but Gary Oldman, as one would expect, was the standout. He steals his scenes as a father obssessd with werewolfs to the point of inempathy for its victims. It is indicative that when he arrives the peaceful, gentle village is put under a military type lock down and the villagers systematically beaten and degraded. This is a father who is nothing but a hypocrite. Interestingly Oldman's isn't the headline name as Amanda Seyfried's is, and yet Oldman is the bigger star.
 Seyfried is her usual self and I really wish to see her in some more challenging roles.She is getting to the age where she isn't convincing as a teenager anymore. At times I could see the twenty five year old she really is. She can't keep doing roles like this. I'm not overly fussed on her as an actress as she has played the same roles too often. It is time to play parts that mirror her actual age and not ones fitted to her looks. She is certainly a good looker but those looks won't last forever so she must seriously look at her future and change tack if she wants to stay a Hollywood starlet.
 As Red Riding Hood she is fine with all the virginal innocence ( Seyfried herself virginal? hah hah hah!! ) of youth and has all the appropriate facial expressions. It is nothing she hasn't done before though. The rest of the cast is fine but I can't help but feel there is too much Twilight here and a lack of character identity among the young cast members. This is a movie that is trying to be all things to all viewers and yet isn't either. It isn't totally a teen film or adult enough, so neither generation will feel completely satisfied by it.
 Also it is a take on the Red Riding Hood story and yet it delves off into werewolfs, whereas the actual story involved a straight wolf. Maybe the plot should have discarded the Riding Hood analogy and tried to make a werewolf movie instead, because as a Red Riding Hood werewolf movie it again tries to cover both bases and fails to do so adequately enough. There is too much Riding Hood and not enough werewolf. In fact it only appears twice in the whole movie!! The viewer is hence left unsatisfied as to what the movie is trying to be.
 The plot has been shot to pieces by reviewers and yet I found it fine. It didn't bother me as it was possibly the only constant in the movie. Horror fans have decried the lack of it being a decent werewolf tale. What they are forgeting is that this isn't horror per se, and is intended to get as many patrons into see it, so no R ratings. Again the whole movie doesn't quite know what it is, and I do feel agrieved at the lack of werewolf compared to the amount of Seyfried!!
 All in all Red Riding Hood isn't bad as it is disappointing. It has some good points like the cinematography which gives a decent 'fairy tale' air. The let down is that for a werewolf tale there isn't enough of the black hairy beast! I can live without it delving into a horror but surely some more of Mr Wolf wouldn't have gone astray? The real problem is that this movie is trying to play on the success of Twilight in having a young, good looking cast, to appeal to teenagers and having Oldman to bring a serious air for an adult audience. It does neither for either generation and falls flat in its attempt.
 Ultimately Red Riding Hood is unsatisfying. It is certainly not bad and worth seeing because far worse movies have been played before my eyes. Just don't expect too much because once you have left the theatre you will almost immediately forget what you had just seen ( a bubble gum movie, after the first three chews the flavour is gone!! ) Unremarkable, and a disappointing take on what could have been so much better. But isn't that the way with so many movies??
Click here for a synopsis and more:
And here for more:
Here for the official site:

Kelly's Heroes

 Another Wednesday trip to my local video store and back under my arm came seven DVDs!! It has been years since I last saw Kelly's Heroes, let alone read the book. After watching this several nights ago I was surprised to learn something. That thing being how aging brings us a new perspective on movies we have seen in the past and how some are now garbage and yet others we see in a new light, and if anything got better.
 I have always liked Kelly's Heroes but when I was younger I always viewed it as a straight war movie and yet after my lastest viewing I realised it isn't. A war movie yes, but not in the strictest sense because it hides an anti-war sentiment that wasn't apparent to me before. Here the benefit of having read just a bit, combined with age came into play. As a younger being I enjoyed war movies and never really understood the idea of what anti-war meant. But in recent years I have read the likes of the brilliant All Quiet on the Western Front and The Boat and have come to understand the concept much better. 
 Kelly's Heroes is a war movie with a bit of comedy thrown in, but those two ingredients only disguise the anti-war message. This is very much a book/movie adaptation in the vein of Catch-22 ( if you have read the book you will know what I mean ). Catch-22 is a very dark, cynical black comedy and a masterful anti-war novel. It is total fiction but a sad indictment on the military and warfare. I have never seen the movie and in many respect don't want to as I believe this is an almost impossible book to make a movie from.
 The book this is based on isn't very long and can be read in a matter of hours. Unfortunately it is years since I have read it so I can't comment on it here. Where Kelly's Heroes is like Catch-22 is the absurdity of the characters and the events surrounding them. For instance one captain finds a yacht and decides to have it shipped back to the States. He has it put on a transporter to have it taken to taken away, as it does so he yells to his men that taking from the locals is stealing, yet is oblivious to the fact that he is doing just that!! It is a scene straight from Catch-22. I loved it and laughed out loud!
 The characters are all there. We have the quatermaster who is essentially a coward and yet controls all the goods coming in and out ( Don Rickles ). We see a scene where he has a stash of whiskey bottles behind him, but do you think the front line troops will ever see any of it? We have the segeant who is yelling and screaming at his men and taking the war all too seriously ( Telly Savalas ). We have the former officer busted to the ranks who quietly goes on with the war but isn't shy of getting out when he spots an opportunity, and sixteen milion in gold is quite an opportunity! ( Clint Eastwood ). Also there is the two star general who rants and raves and wants the impossible to make himself look good ( Carroll O'Connor ), and finally the nut, Donald Sutherland in the role as Oddball, the most memorable of them all ( who views his role as a tanker as being 'defensive'!! ).
 And then we see the absurdity of it all, because when word gets out about the gold it seems as if the whole American army gets of its behind and is on the move. O'Connor as the two star finds out and is incredulous as he doesn't know what is going on and yet impressed and rushes of to be at the front ( I love it when he comes up to a soldier, shakes his hand, then drives off saying over his shoulder, 'I have a medal here in the jeep for you'!! ). All the crack pots come out of the wood work and it all becomes farce. Really good stuff and very black in its comedy and cynicism.
 What an eclectic bunch! All different and viewing the war in their individual ways. We have seen these types portrayed in war movies before but it is usually one character among many. Here we have them all in one melting pot and it is superb.
 The cast is great and lifts this above just another war movie. We all know about Clint Eastwood, but though he stars this isn't his movie. It really is the Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland show. Eastwood has an understated role, he plays it well and lets Savalas and Sutherland shine whilst he himself plays a more quiet and thoughful character. It shows his lack of an ego as an actor as many would never let anyone else do so. Telly Savalas was never really an actor I thought much of. In kelly's Heroes he is outstanding, and I could really buy into his sergeant role. He cares about the lives of his men and hates the war. The stupidity and decisions of his superiors wind him up no end, and we see him as a very tense, highly strung character.
 Savalas is very good here and I really enjoyed watching him. Too serious maybe but that is the point when you compare him to the absurdity of the two star general commanding him and the division. He is completely out of touch with reality. There is a very subtle parody of George Scott's Patton in O'Connor's performance as he hams it up no end, and is both Patton and Catch-22 rolled into one.
 Savalas is a standout but Donald Sutherland is the real star of the show. He puts in a stella performance that must rate as one of his very best ( I have always liked him in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers re-make as well ). As stated when younger so much of this movie for me went un-noticed. Sutherland as an eccentric off-beat character passed me by but now I'm older I 'get' him. He is just brillaint as a 1944 type hippie and is a sly reference to the said movement of the late 1960's. Like Savalas he totally immerses himself in his role and he provides the comic relief of the movie. His lines aren't so much laugh out loud comedy as much as laid back and eccentric. I love one part at the end where his tank breaks down during the battle for the village and he is sitting down 'eating some cheese, drinking some wine, and catching some rays' as he so infuriatingly tells a livid Savalas. Classic Oddball and just sums up his laid back views to life and the war. He is determined not to let anything upset him and is the complete opposite of Savalas' character.
 Sutheralnd's is the stand out performance of the many littered throughout Kelly's Heroes. But the movie goes so much further than good acting. What really struck me was the accuracy of the uniforms and weapons, especially of the Germans. They are actually German!! So often in movies of the era as I stated in my Where Eagles Dare review historical accuracy wasn't a high priority. This movie was made in Yugoslavia and the weaponry in particular was borrowed from the Yugoslav army as it was still in use by them. I am so impressed by this fact and it only lifts my regard for this movie. Its anti-war sentiment can only be taken more seriously for its attention to detail.
 The thing I have always liked about this authenticity was the attempt to make supposedly German tanks actually look like German tanks. The three 'Tigers' aren't geunine Tigers but Russian T-34's that were heavily modified by Yugoslav army engineers and initially used in a Yugoslav WW 2 movie. No other war movie before it had done this and it wasn't until Saving Private Ryan that German tanks were made to look like German tanks again. When you have a serious look at Kelly's Heroes you get a real sense of what is meant by 'budget', which must have been astronomical. Whole villages and bridges are destroyed, ( remember this is well before CGI ), whole roads are packed with military equipment, camp scenes huge and realistic, the list goes on and on. The realism is staggering and again I didn't see it when I was younger and only do so now becuase my knowledge has also increased over the years.
 In Kelly's Heroes we have the true meaning of 'Blockbuster' This must have been a staggeringly expensive movie to make and I think we today take film budgets for granted. Tens of millions are thrown at special effects in an attempt to make each movie a 'blockbuster'. Most fail miserably and it is a sad indictment on the film industry when you look at Kelly's Heroes and see what a real blockbuster is. It also has the mandatory length of a blockbuster of its time as it runs to a shade over two hours. It is rare today to have a movie run over ninety minutes so in its day it was real value for money. 
 The other thing that stood out was the freshness of it. In wide screen it was fantastic and it has dated extremely well. It doesn't look like a forty year old movie and again shows the detail that went into its making to achieve this. It is quality all the way and still an excellent movie. This is what sets the rubbish apart from the good. Kelly's Heroes would have been a spectacular film to have seen in 1970 and yet forty years later it can still hold its on in an era of mass produced, self proclaimed block busters. Watch this and see what a real blockbuster is as they don't come much better.
 This is a quietly great movie. I don't think many would think to put this on their lists of the greatest movies ever made, and yet it deserves to be. Its anti-war message is clear, the acting superb, as is the realism, and it still is a fine looking movie. I find there is an aversion in rating war movies as great but this one must surely be among the very best. If you haven't seen it then I recommend you do, if for no other reason than to see Donald Sutherland ham it up. He is brilliant!! And so is the movie overall. It is a true blockbuster of its era and still worth watching as it is a good excersise in quality film making with a point to make.
Click here for asynopsis and more:
And here for more:

 Those of you with an eye for cinema will love the parody of the three way stand off from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, with its appropriate music! It is all great fun and so tounge in cheek as three guys walk up to a giant German tank!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

 Well well well...just after Michael Gough turns in his fine innings Elizabeth Taylor joins him after a run of 79 years. I can't really say much about her as I think I've only ever seen one film of hers and that was National Velvet when I was very young.
 For all I've heard of her I believe she was once a fine actress but all I'll probably know her for is having been married to Richard Burton...twice, and being something of a joke in her later many mariages was it Liz?? I'm afraid as she aged I found her painful and un-newsworthy. Anyway I'm sure there are those out who will mourn her loss, but unfortunately for myself, as an actress she means little to me as I have never seen her films.

Dead Man Walking

 I'm somewhat out of sequence here as I watched this immediately after Hombre and not Collateral. I have had trouble writing a review for it as it is one of the best films I have ever seen and want to get it right. This is now my second attempt.
 I saw this when it was released but I almost missed it as the screening I saw was the last one. When thinking of this I remembered the days when my local cinema would always announce in the paper how many days were left until the run finished. It has been a long time since they have done that and I can't recall when they stopped doing so. Isn't it funny the little things we remember when we look back over all the years we have been going to the flicks?!
 But onto a more serious note because Dead Man Walking is a very serious film with a serious message. It was interesting to have watched Hombre before this as both have clear messages they are putting across. Here in Dead Man Walking it is about the death penalty. I will always remember this film vividly because of the impact it had on me. I quite literally felt punched in the face by it and its gritty, uncompromising story of a convicted murderer on death row.  Only two films in all my life have shaken me as much as this and they are both fictional, Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects. As fine as those two are I'm afraid Dead Man leaves them for ( please excuse the pun ) dead.
 It is based on a book written by a nun who becomes the spiritual adviser to death row inmate Matthew Poncelet after he asks her to be. It is an absolutely harrowing film as Poncelet is not a nice guy at all. He is an arrogantly ignorant racist full of biogotry, and hatred. He is the epitome of poor white trash who spouts his admiration of Hitler. As we meet him we immediately dis-like him, and we can only marvel at the strength of character and faith of sister Helen Prejean, who herself can't take to him either.
 Sean Penn is absolutely brilliant as the dispicable Poncelet. This was his break out role and I still consider it is best, even over Milk and 21 Grams. Maybe the 'method' is being used here and Penn is delving into his own bad boy persona, but he is believable and chilling as the red neck Poncelet. One thing I remember about Dead Man is that Penn was critisised heavily for his hair style. It was said to be too poncy and vain, but for god sakes this is a vain, arrogant, piece of the proverbial. The hair style fits him perfectly and only highlights his smug belief in how tough he thinks he is. Penn was nominated for an Oscar for this performance and I will always believe it was criminal he didn't recieve one.
 Susan Saradon is also brilliant and did win an Oscar. This for me is her stand out role and she is just utterly believable as Sister Prejean. She pulls off the gentleness and patience of a nun superbly even when faced with such a loathsome person as Poncelet. She is outstanding as a nun who finds the depths of despair and reaches the point of asking God for guideance as the reality of death row hits her.
 The whole film is incredible and full of outstanding performances. The parents of the victims are well portrayed as is their hatred towards Poncelet. They all struggle to comprehend how this nun can supposedly be on his side and ignore their views. She does go to see them in their own homes but one couple turn her away when she says she will still see Poncelet. The other couples marriage falls apart and the father slowly asks Sister Prejean for her help. All very true to life and depicts grieving parents of murdered children far better than Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.
 But ultimately this is Penn and Saradon's show and they are good, very, very good. For me the whole film is excellent, and Tim Robbins must be highly commended for making this film what it is. It is right in every detail. Poncelet is repellant. Sister Prejean gracious and patient. The parents grieving and hateful. Poncelet's family disturbed and bullied. The jail staff just doing their jobs, etc. Which all leads to the final twenty minutes of the film. And here things really get gut wrenching.
 Those last minutes depict the last half hour of Poncelet's life. He and Sister Prejean sit on death row and watch the minutes tick away. Finally Poncelet cracks and the truth comes out. He admits he killed the teenaged boy and raping the girl. He falls to pieces as he admits he only done so because he was hanging out with an older and tougher guy who he was scared of and wanted to emulate. Up to then we have dis-liked Poncelet but when he confesses we feel a real streak of sympathy for him. He is a creature of poverty with no education and no future. He drifted into crime because their was nothing else and ulitmately paid the price by siding with the wrong sort of person.
 It is a truley powerful scene and once watched is never forgotten. It was as fresh in my mind as if I'd only watched it the day before and not fifteen years previously. The whole film leads up to it and is very clever in doing so because it humanises Poncelet and shows his actions in their true light. So while we gain sympathy for him we can't forgive him.
 The point of the whole film, and especially the last twenty minutes, is that we find out through Poncelet's confession that he didn't kill both teens. His partner stabbed the girl seventeen times after he raped her and yet only got life imprisonment. When that comes out the whole point of the film is the death penalty the right answer? Is it fair? In this case it wasn't fair because one murderer got life and the other got death for exactly the same crime.
 Honestly, this is as good a film as you will ever see. Powerful isn't a good enough word here. It is gut wrenching and extremely thought provoking. The viewer is asked so many questions and is pulled this way and that as they are introduced to all sides of the story, that by the end they are mentally shattered. Brilliant performances from Saradon and Penn lift this film to unbelievable heights. For me personally, Dead Man Walking, along side The Bridges of Madison County and The Usual Supects, is one of the greatest films to come out of the 1990's.
Brilliant, objective, and unmissable.
Click here for a synopsis and more:
And here for more:

 I recommend also a British film starring Timothy Spall call Pierrepoint. It was made in 2007 and is also about the death penalty. Spall plays the British hangman who hung most of Britain's death row prisoners and also many Nazis after the war, particularly those from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It is also well made and extremely thought provoking. Pierrepoint himself said after the death penalty was scrapped in Britain that it was nothing but vengence gone wild.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


 This is the last of the nine DVD's I rented last Wednesday night. I left it to last as I'm not a great Tom Cruise fan and even less so of Jamie Foxx. If this hadn't starred Foxx I would have ventured to my local cinema and watched it. Well after Monday nights viewing I can say uncategorically that I now regret my decision. This is a very good action/thriller and one that should be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. 
 As I have stated I'm not overly fussed on Tom Cruise. When a Cruise movie is released I don't go running to my local cinema in anticipation. The only film of his I will, and have made an exception for, is Valkyrie. I think this is best role by far and I feel it is because the events it depicts are bigger than Tom Cruise. He had to reign in his ego because if he didn't Valkyrie would have been a Cruise show case and not the historical piece it is. I should be reviewing Collateral but Valkyrie is important as it shows Cruise can act if he leaves his ego and bullshit at the door. He is superb as von Stauffenburg in Valkyrie and must be praised for his performance.
 I would place Collateral second on my list of his performances. In this he exceeds himself and actually plays a part suited to his real self. In life he is a egotistical dick head so his role in Collateral isn't much different from his real persona as they are both dis-likable characters ( the school of 'method' acting being dipped into maybe?? ).
 Jamie Foxx has always puzzled me. How did he ever make it into a-grade movies? He isn't a particulary gifted actor and yet there he is. I had yet to see him in anything that impressed me. All I have seen him in it always felt like Foxx playing Foxx. His performance in Collateral then came as a surprise. It is incredible to think such an overall talentless actor can turn around and secure an Oscar. Credit where it is due because I did like him in this movie, as I did Cruise. Michael Mann take a bow, because this really is you who should take the credit for getting out of this mediocre pairing their respective performances.
 And more of Micharel Man here. I don't usually go into a directors role in the films I watch. I have recently with the many Clint Eastwood films I have seen but this is unusual. I don't ignore them but I like to look at the final product as this is what you see and all the behind the scenes stuff is exactly that, behind the scenes. But once in a while a director leaves an imprint that can't be ignored and must be commented on.
 In Collateral there is another character to contend with. It isn't a cop, a junkie, a street hood, or a bum, it is the city of Los Angeles itself. I have never seen a city so incredibly and beautifully filmed as L.A is in Colaterall. Here we come back to my saying it is a must see on the big screen. The whole movie is shot at night and the proverbial 'city lights' have never been put onto film like this. It is almost mesmerizing and a cheap and effective ( not to mention free!! ) prop to the movie. It is so well filmed that you want to watch it again and be able to reach into the screen and push Cruise and Foxx out of the way just to glory in those lights ( take a bow Mr Mann!! ).
 One scene is a standout though. Cruise is after his last 'hit' for the night and is in a large law building quietly stalking the victim. All good and well, yeah I can see that, etc, but behind him is the real star...the lights of L.A. It is a spectacular scene and must be seen to be believed. You'll honestly wish you could kick some guy called Tom Cruise out of the way and sit there just watching the lights. I'm sure any of you out there with a city view can testify to this feeling. You never get sick of sitting in front of the window and admiring the view of a city at night. For me personally it is one of the greatest sights and pleasures I can think of. Full credit Michael Mann as this has never been bettered and an added and wonderful addition to an overall good movie.
 This is more a thriller than an actioner. There are some action scenes but this isn't the core of the movie. It goes even further than that as it delves into character observation. Foxx plays a cab driver who has 'bullshitted' himself into believing his job of twelve years is only temporary. The problem is that it applies to his whole life. He is stuck in his routine and can't get out of it. He meets Cruise's character who quickly sees through him and is uncomprimising in telling him how his life really is. He tells him to do something about it quick before it is all too late.
 It is an interesting premise in that a detestable character as a hitman is also quite prescient on life. He is an asshole but shows an interest and sympathy with Foxx that one wouldn't expect. Right throughout Cruise  rides Foxx to the point where Foxx loses it and tells him to get fucked and intentionally crashes his cab. It is instructive in that Foxx, after having had enough of Cruise riding him, is so pissed off at hearing the truth about himself he doesn't want to have to face it. There is some great dialogue between the two and lifts Collateral well above just a hitman movie into a quiet look into the characters of individuals and how they live life and percieve themselves.
 Foxx opens up to Cruise whereas this openess isn't reciprocated as such. Cruise doesn't give a toss how he is percieved and isn't worried about how he came to his occupation. He deflects people who try to look at him by turning the tables on his inquisitors and their failures in life. The dialogue from Cruise is superb and unsettling because so much of what he is saying is true and yet we hate him for it. How can this prick think he is in any position to be so observant and judgemental?  These scenes between the two are superb and must be seen as they are very good. With such a superb script and the streets of L.A slowly sliding by it has an almost hypnotic feel. It is one of those movies you experience both visually and intellectually.
 I can't begin to praise Collateral enough. On every level it is a winner and better than could be imagined considering the casting. Cruise has had his hair dyed grey and looks completely different. He is out of character in being the bad guy for once and looks and feels the part. This is not a nice guy and unbelievably Cruise is damn good at it ( his character is so good that one can't call him an anti-hero as he has no redeemimg features what so ever ). Fox, like Cruise, is a revelation. He is outstanding as a cabbie stuck in a rut who finds himself in a corner with a dis-likable killer, who sees through him and tells him so. The script, premise, the dialogue and the fantastic lights of L.A at night make this a must see movie. It is better than what you think even if Cruise and Foxx aren't to your taste. 
 Michael Mann, in making Collateral, has made an intelligent crime thriller and brought untapped talent out of Tom Cruise And Jamie Foxx. It is a fine character study of people in general and original and unsettling in that they come from a hit man. The score is another thing to be aware of because it is very subtle but superbly atuned to each scene. It perfectly sets mood and I love how Mann has selected certain tracks to match how the city scape is slipping by the cab windows. It is very skillfully done. He sets it all off with a city back drop like no other. If for no other reason watch Collateral, ignore the people and concentrate on the city, it is simply magnificent and beautifully filmed.
Click here for asynopsis and more:
And here for more: