Monthly Archives: March 2013

Chernobyl Diaries

Chernobyl Diaries is a modern Frankenstein, as the unwitting “extreme tourists” venture into an abandoned town in the shadow of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor they realize that the mutants which live there are the heartless offspring of their own sick society, a reflection of their need to consume power made material. This is what Chernobyl Diaries could have been, it all starts off well, the abandoned city is suitably spooky and weird and the inevitable dead eyed doll turns up on the floor, its a brilliant setting for a horror movie. From here there are two options, first is to go balls out terrifying, have killer mutant animals and shit turn up and eat the crap out of everyone, maybe one of the cast offs themselves rather than face the horror and at least one should mutate on screen, seem vaguely normal for about five minutes then maybe eat someones ear off. Option two is to make some sort of social commentary about the dangers of nuclear power a la my initial Frankenstein description. This film does neither of these things, choosing instead to take the film away from the spooky abandoned city into the bowels of a nuclear reactor, not that you’d know that it was one because all you see is stair cases, like millions of stair cases, and ends with a sort of incoherent mutant attack underground weird science experiment ending that is excessively less satisfying than watching all the cast get torn to bits by mutant bears. Just for the record, I didn’t count, but I would be willing to bet that they run down more stairs than they go up. Chernobyl Diaries has a few scares, but it could have been a hell of a lot better, and what is frustrating about this is that it had all the ingredients, they have just been mixed up wrong.

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Ghostbusters

I defy anyone to say that Ghostbusters looks dated, no one actually knows what ghosts or giant marshmallow men look like, so how can we know that they are not sort of puppet like/see through-ish? With talk of a new Ghostbusters movie on the horizon its important to remind ourselves that the original is in fact the perfect film. A bold claim, but a true one. You can watch it with your mum, who will even laugh at the dick joke, because it is hilarious. It is not massively long so you wont fall asleep – and anyway the plot moves along at such a rate that you feel like its all over in five minutes. Finally, ultimately, its about good guys overcoming evil in the pursuit of filthy lucre/fame/women, which everyone knows it the best plot of all, its why everyone likes Hans Solo the most. I mean there may be a few unanswered questions, like why does the theme song containing the line “bustin makes me feel good” make me laugh so much? why does no one care that masses of people probably die from falling debris in the finale? I am not sure what the fact that Sigourney Weaver ends up first being a weird demon temptress then a dog/statue says about 80’s gender politics? or the fact that the black guy turns up part way through for apparently no reason but that the Ghost Busting team was looking predominantly white? Troubling questions indeed, especially the first one, but all fade into insignificance once you realize that, secretly, deep down, everyone wants to be a ghost buster.

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The Specialist

I have said it before, but it deserves saying again, no Stallone film is bad. Take The Specialist for instance, it is bad, but its not bad, because it has Stallone in it, and Sharon Stone, and a cat. Its certainly steamy, there is a sex scene which lasts for what seems like a year in there which reveals that Stallone’s cock must be impossibly long, and potentially have some sort of kink in the middle like one of those bendy screwdrivers you can get for tight spaces, given the positions they adopt. Its steamy because all this takes place in a shower, not because there is any sort of on screen chemistry or anything like that. This is fine, I didn’t watch this for chemistry, or acting, or storyline or any of those silly things which people sometimes say they like about films, I watched it for the explosions and the wisecracks. Explosions count is technically five, if you count the end as one big explosion, and don’t include the fact that this bombed at the box office (sorry) and they are all pretty excellent, wisecrack count is similar though slightly lacking in the second part of the film, I mean there is not a single wisecrack during the sex scene and as I mentioned this is about an hour long, bringing down the overall average. What is really important though is the cat. Stallone seems to be obsessed with cats during the 90s, they turn up everywhere! I have had a little look around the internet and no one seems to be able to explain why cats seem to love him. I mean trust me I am going to put in some serious hours doing the research – questions include – Is it his cat that he has for some reason decided to put in all the films he is in? Why does he think that we will believe that he will carry lose fish in a bag with the rest of his groceries? Is it supposed to show that he is a nice guy? Is there some sort of secret meaning to the cat, like is Stallone part of some sort of “secret order of the pussy” and the cat means that it is time to elect a new leader. Fear not, I shall not sleep until I have answered these questions, then I will watch some other Stallone movie from the 90’s which will no doubt feature a cat, and I will bring you those answers.

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The Prey

I sometimes wonder if generally French films are far better made than others, or if it is a consequence of a distribution system which will only spend time subtitling and distributing the “best” films. Either way I can’t help but think what is really a pretty standard plot here has been executed with such aplomb that it rises above its Hollywood equivalents with ease. The protagonists seemingly super strength is slightly hard to believe, and all the characters are quite stereotypical, especially the ancillary ones like the hard nosed police chief. But this can easily be forgiven because the story is well written and exciting, but more so because it is so well shot. There are places here were huge explosions and ridiculous car chases would have been appropriate, but the film generates far more tension by underplaying things. The music is top rate as well, though I cannot for the life of me work out the significance of the classical duet in the prison, if someone works it out please let me know. So I think, this film is far better because it was made in France, but perhaps not because the French are better film makers, but because they are not in Hollywood, and so do not blow things up.

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Amour

Amour is ever so depressing. Really, awfully depressing. That doesn’t make it an awful film. Its a brilliant film, and the acting is absolutely amazing. Given that it is so awfully depressing, and almost the entire film takes place in one apartment I never felt like I did not want to be spending that time with those characters, in that place. So is there a lot to say about Amour which has not already been said? Well the most important thing is the pigeon. The pigeon is without a doubt the most important part of the film. I have not fully worked out why the pigeon is the most important part of the film, but I am very sure that it is. This is because the pigeon is the instigator of one of the most touching scenes of the film. Also because its a pretty well trained pigeon – some really outstanding pigeon acting here. Seek this film out, don’t watch it with your mates and a few beers though, unless your mates are pigeons.

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The Postman

Never before has it taken so long to get to such a predictable ending. What actually happens at approximately the hour and a half mark is that everyone involved in the film forgets that films are supposed to end, and they just keep on shooting more and more stuff! I say stuff, because very little in The Postman actually makes any sense, it is all just lots of stuff all occurring, with Costner sort of wandering through all the stuff and with other stuff happening around him. At one point he goes in a sort of weird aerial runway ride thing for literally no reason at all. Ostensibly it is so he can get to the next town quickly, but we don’t actually see him at the next town, he just shows up somewhere else entirely with an army or something, the entire aerial runway scene is just some stuff that happens. Most of the stuff is supposed to be moving and inspirational (or potentially theme park ride inspiring, this is the only reason I can see for the inclusion of the aerial runway) but no amount of orchestral cues and teary eyed blind women can cover up the fact that no one in the film actually acts like a normal human being, and so we end up not really having any emotional attachment to them. I think Costner realises this is the case, at one point, rather than ask for a script re-write (could have put in an ending while they were at it) he just makes it all ok by repeatedly calling the women he is sort of having a kid with (long story) “weird”. Yeah, she is really weird, 90% of the stuff she does and says makes no sense at all, she shoots a horse and burns a house down for goodness sake. She could have just not done those things, but rather than throw away those pages of the script they just wrote in a couple of extra lines explaining that she is weird – well that makes it all ok then. So anyway, if we get past the fact that its a big soppy cheesy badly written behemoth of film we eventually come down to the fact that it is clearly a re-imagining of the American Civil War, though re-imagining is giving it a lot of credit. So, I think to myself, what was going on in America in 1997 which could have inspired this sudden interest in transposing the Civil War into a future dystopia, well … I came up with nothing. What I did find out though is that the film is based on a book which was written in the 80’s. I have since read said book, and can confirm that it is so completely different from the film that to say it is based upon it would be a crime, I mean just turning the book over immediately confirmed my initial suspicion, that it did indeed have an ending. So the 80’s were a slightly more turbulent time for America than the late 90’s, more call one might think for a big cheesy opus to what the United States represents. But in reality the weird Civil War thing doesn’t appear in the book, nor does most of what happens in the film. And so we are no closer to knowing where on earth it all came from. Perhaps this is why the film did so badly at the box office, it is a call to arms released at a time when there was nobody to fight, that said the implication is that were it to be released today it might do better – it wouldn’t.

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Lockout

Lockout is so stupid its quite hard to think of any other adjectives to describe it, none the less I shall try – dumb, idiotic, silly, annoying … What mostly comes to mind is a sort of noise that starts of like this “duuuuhhhh” and ends with “whatthefuckingfuck”, the last bit should get more high pitched towards the end. Try saying it out loud and you’ll see how this is the a good, neigh the only good response to Lockout. Its not so much that there are plot holes (though there are many many plot holes) its that so much of the stupidity could have been solved so simply. Case in point – only eight prisoners of a population of thousands seem to have the wherewithal to stop fighting each other for the ten seconds it takes to find a hostage, EIGHT! I mean for goodness sake, what the hell are all those other motherfucking prisoners even doing! This could so simply been solved with this one line of dialogue “I locked the door behind us, can’t have all those other motherfucking prisoners messing with our hostages”. It would have been that simple, but no, instead I must believe that they were all simply too dumb to do anything but move five paces then have a fight. Were the only dumb thing in Lockout i might forgive it, but its literally full of crap like this and the usual “but it has good action sequences/boobs” argument doesnt stand up here because all of that is overshadowed by the fact that its also a bit racist, and so eye wateringly sexist that even someone who would use the argument that a film can be good purely because it has boobs in it would find it offensive.

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Man Bites Dog

There were people in the world who were worried that this film exists (I am sure there still are, but its not banned in Sweden anymore as far as I know), perhaps because it has a ridiculous number of brutal murders in it, but more probably because no one shows the slightest bit of remorse for the victims. Following fictional serial killers was controversial with Bonnie and Clyde, was controversial here and I am sure would be as controversial if this film was re-released today. I think what makes films about killers problematic is that the format of the film doesn’t have any time for victims, the film makers, and by implication the audience is as guilty as the murderer of moving on too quickly from the crime. There is no time here to feel remorse, sadness, guilt, because there are so much more important things to be doing, like getting drunk, seeing family, contemplating town planning … and this pisses people off first because they have confused the gravity of someone pretending to get shot with someone actually getting shot but moreso because it says something about our societies obsession with killers. Who makes it onto the cover of Time magazine? The killer or the victim? What is exceptional about Man Bites Dog is that this is all made explicit by its faux documentary style and a film crew which becomes as implicated in the murders which take place as the bona fide murderer. They begin by observing him going about his “work”, for he kills purely for financial gain. The act of observing murder without taking action is in itself abhorrent and this is where the film begins to work on other levels. Having the action take place well after the filming has started we can only imagine the negotiations which must have taken place not only to make the whole venture possible, but in the heads of the film makers to justify their actions. Imagining this puts us in the place of the film makers, can we justify it to ourselves? In effect because we are watching, have we agreed to be entertained by the murderer just as the film makers have? The murderer is entertaining, he is intelligent, eloquent and funny, and whilst he has some pretty awful views he also has some interesting ones. All of this makes it all the more fascinating when he ends lives without a second thought, or if there is a second thought it is to question his “technique”. Is it O.K. to be fascinated? Inevitably the film makers end up helping to commit murders. So using the violence of the film to define a position of outrage towards it is revealed as just a cover up, the argument is: I surely cannot be guilty of finding killers interesting if I am disgusted by their actions. The reality is that murder is big news, and for it to be big news someone died, this is an uncomfortable position to be in, but one easily solved with a nice easy bit of moral outrage rather than the critical introspection that the position deserves.

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Westworld

Westworld doesn’t play so well now, at nearly 40 years old that’s allowed, especially for science fiction, but its main downfall is that Crichton took many of the same themes, and in fact same scenes and used them to much better effect in Jurassic Park. Whilst staying stock still to avoid a massive t-rex eating moment is measured tension wise as maybe a mountain, the same thing with a cowboy robot amounts to a veritable mole hill of tension, and thats even ignoring tension depleting plot holes. The only reason to watch this instead of Jurassic Park (literally, I cannot stress enough that they are the same film, but this one has robots instead of dinos, no tension and, perhaps thankfully no awful “importance of the family” storyline) is first that it has that brilliant super red seventies blood, and second, that given we are getting ever closer to creating hyper-realistic robot versions of ourselves the questions it raises here are as prescient as ever. Though really in terms of inevitability that the first things we’d do with hyper-realistic robots is fuck them, and shoot them, is on a par with the fact that they would eventually go haywire and murder us all in the boxed marked “will definitely happen”.

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Hara-Kiri – Death of a Samurai

Japan is at peace, the Samurai, with no one to fight, have become complacent and ill trained, hiding behind the honour that that comes with their name, but without truly embodying it. When a young Samurai shows up uninvited at a feudal lords house asking that he be allowed to commit ritual suicide there to regain some of the honour lost in becoming destitute, he sets in motion a slow burning story which culminates in a true demonstration of the honour of the warrior. Its a dark film, I mean literally I had to mess with the brightness on my tv to work out what was happening, that is not to say the photography is poor, the contrast works to highlight, and the darkest times in the characters lives occur in surroundings which befit them. This also isn’t for fans of the out and out Samurai action film, a sword is not drawn in anger truly till over an hour and a half into its two hour run time, but we need this to fully understand what is at stake. It is a revenge narrative where simply taking lives is not enough, in fact no lives are taken directly at all, and to know why this is the finest revenge you’ll just have to watch the movie. Look out for when the cats show up.

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