Monthly Archives: February 2014

Batman – The Dark Knight Returns Pt II

I think I have seen every batman movie. Unless there is some really obscure one that I have missed, and it is secretly awesome, this is hands down the best Batman I have ever seen. That means, so long as I am correct in thinking I have seen every Batman movie, that I think this is the best Batman EVER. Seriously. Just to qualify, its better than the Nolan trilogy, its better than returns, forever and Robin, its better than the Adam West ones – its better even than the Batman who turns up in the Lego movie. Really there is no character who appears in such a large and diverse collection of films who can ever top Batman, and I love them all for their own reasons, but to be more awesome than all of those other Batmans, what did this one have that the others didnt? Well, to be completely honest, it is because he is completely wonky in the brain cabin. Lots of story lines we have seen before, the vigilante aspect, the whole Joker storyline, Bruce getting on a bit, are all taken to their logical conclusions. I dont mean, for instance, the “Batman killed the Joker” ending of the Nolan Dark Knight, the one where you get to still think Batman is a good vaguely normal guy who happens to dress up as a bat and have a rigid set of rules which mean he wont take a life. Clearly “normal” people dont do this type of thing, but rather than just play with this idea, here it becomes central. So by logical conclusion I mean that Wayne has somehow to reconcile his need to maintain order with his self imposed rule book – and there is no avoiding the fact that this doesn’t really work. Batman literally fights, not evil, but the things which dont fit into his worldview. It makes the politics of the whole thing a bit strange, Batman clearly IS awesome, and he fights to preserve control in a world of chaos, but its hard to really get behind the undemocratic idea of the un-elected vigilante, to say nothing of what the ‘order’ he seeks to preserve represents. It only really works in a world where the bad guys are really very bad, and the good guys? Well they can just stay out of the way. Like part one this isn’t a kids animation, it stays true to the story and things occur that would never have made the cut in live action versions – the Jokers henchwoman (lover?) wandering around with a swastica on each nipple? Anyone? Did I mention Superman shows up too? No kidding, best Batman ever.

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Black God White Devil

Certain other vegetable based websites (I did have to check out the vegetable Vs Fruit question, its a vegetable by law in case you were wondering) would have you believe this is the greatest film ever. Ever. This is precisely why you need to head here instead, here is the straight talk. This isnt exactly the easiest watch. By that I mean it is a series of events puncutated by infanticide, rape and really long and confusing speeches. I know the last one really doesn’t match the other two in terms of seriousness, but they all fall into the category of things that make this film rather challenging. Generally its rather plot light, the two protagonists, man and wife, wander around a bit. The man becomes a cult member, then joins some bandits whilst the wife seems to stand around a lot generally not saying much, but doing an exceptional job of conveying a “oh what the fuck is he doing now, why the hell did I marry this idiot” attitude. This gives film maker Rocha an excuse for all those long confusing speeches, which are about awful life in Brazil is (was, at the time) for … well … just about everyone. Because we meet so many different people we get all sorts of different viewpoints – it means there isnt really a massively cohesive ‘this film is about’ moment – its got something to do with finding ones own place in the world, twinned with the aforementioned social commentary. I am not sure of the extent to which you could read this as allegorical for the country as a whole, I dont personally posses enough knowledge of what was going on in Brazil at the time to do this. The rather cool thing about it all though is that whilst some of this is ridiculously overt (those speeches again, that infanticide…), a lot of it is left to the viewer to fathom. The main protagionist doesnt really say much at all, perhaps because everyone else is too busy speeching all over the place, but I like to think more so the viewer can inhabit him, his motivation is never explained so it is what ever you want it to be. When he joins a quasi-religious cult early in the film he just dives right in – it might be because the leader is so charismatic, but it might equally be that he has really nice feet, everyone is pretty eager to kiss them – the film still works either way. It looks brilliant too, one chap, an erstwile Jack Sparrow does such a good job of being a sort of swashbuckling bandit that I didnt even mind that I was really stuggling to work out what he was on about, I would have joined his gang at the drop of a hat were it not for the raping of the rich folk. He played a mean piano too. Black God White Devil is two hours long, I wouldnt dismiss it, certainly if you are less ignorant of Brazilian history and culture than I am it would probably be quite interesting, even important, I just wouldnt watch it with some friends and a few beers.

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The Last Harbour

The Last Harbour was a bit like an episode of Midsomer Murders. The issue really is that Midsomer Murders is an hour long, not even including adverts and all that jazz. The Last Harbour is actually a full ten years long. Ten years is really a long time to try to spread an hours worth of material over, the spreading gets really awfully thin. There is actually quite a good mystery story stuck in there in the fine tradition of introducing a few suspects, a few ‘maybe’ moments, and a big finish. When the story is spread this thin though the ‘maybe’ moments come between years of barren, mind numbing plotlessness, and the big finish is about as satisfying as cuddling a brick. I know, you are thinking, that film was not ten years long, he is being stupid there and making things up. But the truth is, I fell asleep half way through and when I woke up all sorts of things had happened. That is, all sorts of things had happened in the real world, in the movie absolutely nothing occured at all. For all I know I slept for ten years. Governments have been ousted in less time. It happened just today. None the less, to be completist I skipped back to the place where I fell asleep. The basic premise is that someone is dead. A sort of washed up but still super macho cop has to solve the crime because he has been shipped to sleepy harbour (I cant remember the actual name, but this will do) because he did macho beating on a kid whilst he was drunk. He is so macho that sometimes when he speaks he doesnt even move his lips. Anyway he does the crime solving by generally being the most ridiculously over zealous cop ever, thats when he isnt doing an awful job of getting over his alcohol problem. He becomes a sort of caricature alcoholic, he begins producing bottles from the most ridiculous places, and for some reason everyone in the damn town keeps pushing booze his way, at one point another recovering alcoholic, who ostensibly wants to help him, offers him a beer. This makes it sound like I hated the film. If you need to fill ten years of your life I would recommend it, its absolutely un-taxing, and you can spend a year of that working out who the killer is. Clue – its exactly who you think it is. The Last Harbour will make you probably want to become an alcoholic, there are no major ramifications, unless you want to start reading the death of an person completely unrelated to the main character as somehow allegorical of … I dont know … the death of his long held dream of being clean and sober. 

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The Evil Dead

Some time last year I reviewed the remake of this film. One of the things I lamented was the lack of scares, whilst the gore was right where it needed to be, in your face, it wasnt exactly a jump inducing experience. Well it seems that I kind of forgot that the original is about as scary as a kitten in a teacup too, so my criticism seems a little unfair now. Its a film classic though, made with no budget, it launched Raimis career etc etc. Beyond this though its just a brilliant gore pic which is clearly made by some horror fan boys – even a poster for the Hills Have Eyes shows up rather incongrously in the basement of the cabin where the action (almost inevitably) takes place, next to the book which raises the dead, the one bound in human skin. The special effects match the budget, at one point what is definitely porridge comes into play for no real reason at all, and a lot of it consists of just throwing stuff in Bruce Campbells face. This is what makes it so much fun. The fact that half the film is spent watching guys beat the crap out of women with various weapons is problematic, but you kind of get the sense that the people in the film are there because they happened to be the friends who were about at the time, a couple of relatives pop up in the credits too – if Raimi had happened to have a few more guy friends to take out to his cabin location I am sure they would have got the same treatment. Anyway everyone ends up covered in blood. The plot hardly requires top flight acting skills because it is fairly obvious that more time and effort went into thinking up brilliant ways to make the undead look… well…undead. I think when it comes down to it I like this film so much because if I was going to make a horror film I would probably want it to look something like this, except mine would have an Evil Dead poster in the basement.  

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White Elephant

With City of God and the Elite Force films there isnt a shortage of angles on the South Americas slum issue, a sort of sub genre all of its own which, perhaps because of the issues involved, seems to be spawning some really heartfelt and innovative films. White Elephant is no exception. Whilst this is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, rather than Brazil, it feels familiar, it is a home to many people, a home with a mutitude of issues, but a home none the less. The characters we follow here have issues of their own, but their faith is what guides them as they try to address just some of those issues. I am certainly not one to buy into films with religious themes, but this isnt preachy and its portrayal of two priests is made somehow more tangible by their relationship with a social worker who has little interest in their world of ritual and tradition – which in itself is often used to juxtapose the violence and chaos. Its intelligently realistic, there is no helpful soliloquizing here to let you know what people are thinking. This is because it is complicated, both the situation as a whole and the situations in which the individual characters find themselves. When you watch a film with absolutely loads of title cards letting you know where the money came from it usually means one of two things, everyone lent someone 50p to make a crap movie, or everyone gave what they could because they really believed in the project. White Elephant is absolutely of the latter.

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The Omen

There seems to have been a lot of horror classics around here lately, this one was one of my absolute favorites when I was younger, and as far as I am concerned it holds up a lot better than a number of the others I have pondered lately. Hot off the heels of the Exorcist this film stuck loads of bibilical mumbo jumbo into a sort of retro ‘One Missed Call’ plot. The mumbo jumbo really is just that, unlike the Exorcist which had that “they really do this stuff?” element, absolutely everything that is supposed to be in the bible here is completely made up. All the better for it really because it is totally badass and apocalyptic. If you cant guess from the title, Damien is the son of the devil, he ends up with a ‘normal’ American family, who just happen to normally be some 70’s 1%’ers with a father who is next in line for the presidency or something. Not that you’d ever know, he runs around graveyards for half the film and no one bats an eyelid. Anyway this all means that he has heaps of cash for flying all over the place, gives precisely zero shits about his devil son for half the film (honestly, he doesnt even notice that his son is a murderous sob for like 45 mins) with the added bonus of having 70’s paparazzi follow him all over the place. This is where the fun really starts, the 70’s paparazzi consisted of one guy who looks like he should be working for playboy – he keeps noticing weird shit on the photos he takes, portents of whats to come – brilliantly conceived and executed deaths! This movie has never been re-classified as some of those older films have, as their once horrific scenes become hackneyed and cliche, the deaths here are still bloody, and awesome, and you still have to wait till you are 18 to watch it. Bloody Awesome. The original tag line for this film was: “You Have Been Warned. If Something Frightening Happens To You Today. Think About It. It May Be “The Omen.” Adverts back in the seventies must have been bloody long to get all that in, its a great line but you would have to be scared of everything for it to make any sense. “Oh no! I have locked my keys in the car…Must be the Omen”, “Goodness! A splinter! – Omen!” “My word, I am out of toothpaste, must remind myself to pick some up later ….Omen.”

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Psycho

Ah classic Hitchcock. It is an issue. Virtually the whole world, even people who have not got televisions and are struggling to find something to eat have seen all the Hitchcock films, most of them twice. It is not that the films are undeserving, they are pretty good fun and all, but too often reviews of the hitch (I put that in there to see if I could get some google hits from people looking for that film, only to find this outpouring of rubbish) are written with a sort of vaguely tongue in cheek air of superiority. See what I did there, I called my own review an outpouring of rubbish so no one could accuse me of the same thing. Anyway, these critics, and, well, everyone, they might as well be saying: “we are in the club, the thinking Hitchcock is awesome club, you know. Its a very exclusive club of people who are in on the joke. You see his films are pretty old and all like, sexist and that, and most of the time there is loads of crap in them which is absolutely hilarious, we think they are great anyway. We are going to use words like ‘master of suspense’ and ‘mcguffin’ instead of words like ‘sexist’ and ‘hilarious’ just so people want to be in the club more. We were worried that laughing at sexism made it seem like we didnt really care about it very much. So far the club has about six billion members, the only people who are not in it are the extremely young and a small tribe in the Amazon who have no contact with the outside world. Even one of them thinks Vertigo is a masterpiece.” You see? They might as well just be saying that. The dicks. So here is my review, and I wont give away the ending, because Hitchcock specifically requested that no one did, and then all those dicks went and did it, because they thought everyone was in the club. Poor Amazonians. Psycho is a rather silly story about a woman who commits a crime then gets murdered. Its silliness does not detract from how entertaining it is though, you’ll have a good time trying to work it all out, and if you are seven years old you might be scared next time you have a shower. Watch out for the shots of stuffed animals, they really add to the creepiness, and incidently are integral to the story. Fin.

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