Monthly Archives: March 2014

Woochi : The Demon Slayer

Really, in a number of ways the eponymous Woochi is a little like Harry Potter. He is a sort of wizard, in that he can do magic and he is a young guy who doesn’t seem to have any parents. If you remember there is that scene in one of the Potter films where harry takes some luck potion and basically becomes less of a sulky asshole, Woochi is that cool all of the time. Its great. He wanders around generally doing what ever he wants, because, you know, he is magic – he does the things Ron would have done had he not been trying to get into goodie two shoes Hermiones knickers (‘goodie two shoes Hermiones knickers’ is the name of some really awful HP slash fiction dont you know) and Harry sulk face Potter had not been there having bloody great wars with dark wizards. Largely the film is predicated on Woochi turning up, people underestimating him because he doesnt look especially hard, then him kicking their butts. The start is exceptionally confusing, I had a fair idea of what was up by about the hour mark, but really I found that sitting back and letting it all wash over me was the best method of enjoying the film because there were certain aspects of it I literally had no idea about, but that were awesome anyway. The set peices look brilliant, you can really tell the cgi, but that is ok – there are some things which my copy had translated as ‘goblins’ but they were much more like giant rat things that looked like they were the unholy child of lord of the rings and that Philip Pullman book with the polar bear in. Polar Express…No….Northern Lights….whatever. Anyway, no one knows what lord of the polar express rats look like so who cares if they are a bit computery – they look as badass as buckbeak anyway and everyone still cried when his cgi head didnt get chopped off. Thats another similarity, there is some epic time travelling in the film, and unlike ridiculous time turner nonsense it actually makes sense. The time turner doesnt make sense you say? No, the time turner is a stupid device which, had anyone decided to bring it along, should have been used every single time anyone got into a spot of bother – in fact, they could have used it to set up a nice big trampoline at the bottom of the tower and saved Dumbledores life. I’m assuming the fall killed him there, not the spell. The time travel here though makes everything far more exciting, and, as far as time travel goes, it is far more rationally done. The film is maybe a tiny bit too long, the end sequences are sort of outdone by ones earlier in the film, so feel like a bit of an anti-climax, but if someone wants to make seven more films about Woochi I am definitely going along for the ride. 

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Night of the Eagle

Night of the Eagle raises a question most people will encounter in any normal relationship. What to do when it turns out that all your success is down to your other half being a dirty old witch. Seriously, it could happen to anyone. Of course, any normal person would tell them to stop being such a weirdo, burn all the witch paraphernalia and get on with their lives – any normal self respecting potential witch will probably agree that it was all rather silly and apologise profusely. What to do then when after said burning the success begins to unravel and the good fortune disappears? Watch the film and find out. The plot, which keeps you guessing for a surprisingly long time, is an added, though actually not entirely required add on to what has to be the best collection of hilarious accents I have experienced in a while. This twinned with the lead guys spectacular silk pyjamas and the awesome special effects make this one of the funnest movies in the “generally creepy goings on genre” – though it does have some strong contenders in the creepy department none of its early sixties cohort is quite as much fun, or has such pointless scenes in tombs.

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The Crow

It is difficult to disassociate the Crow from Brandon Lees on set death – a task made all the more complicated by the subject matter of the film, which is rather morbid in itself. That Lee died is a tragedy for which the film cannot be seen as worthy memorial – it really doesn’t do his performance, or itself justice and I feel that had that event not embued it with such a pervading sense of morbidity it would be entirely forgettable. The film looks great, that the dark city is so well realised is impressive, and its use of miniatures more than holds up next to ubiquitous cgi cities we see now. The storyline though is anemic, its a straight up revenge storyline which is as predictable as it is dull, that Lee’s character looks as ridiculous as the bad guys doesn’t help at all – when Iggy Pop is genuinely the scariest bad guy you have there really isn’t any sense of danger. Without anything better to recommend it the film will always be remembered secondary to the sad story which goes along with it – which perhaps if they had stopped making it, is the way it should have been all along.

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Our American Friend

Wim Wenders is one of those directors whose films are so varied and interesting that its always exciting to watch something of his with absolutely no pre-conceived notion of what it is about. Interestingly though I finished watching Our American Friend and still had the same feeling. It is not a negative thing here though. The film seemed to me like a sort of rich soup, not the type you get out of a can, but the type you make at home from left overs and cant be bothered to cut everything very small. Sure there is some overall flavour, but the film has nice big chunks. Its a sort of noirish crime story with a good dose of existential pondering thrown in for good measure – I wont give you a plot overview because I am not entirely sure its that important. Personally I felt like it was all about unlocking potential, adventure and the inherant thrill of danger and caos. On the flipside though perhaps it is about friendship, stability and doing the right thing. Who knows? Who cares? It looks great, sounds great and is interesting enough for a repeat viewing, maybe then I’ll decide if I think it needs to mean anything at all.  

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The Battle of Algiers

The all time greats, those films which are said to be masterpieces – I usually appoach these with a considerable amount of trepidation. Some are dated and boring, some are difficult to relate to, some (and these are the worst ones) were probably always crap, but somehow the wool was pulled over the eyes of the critics (these are usually the worst “masterpiece” culprits) and the idea has somehow perpetuated. The Battle of Algiers absolutely has some soundtrack issues, and a trip to wikipedia was required to remind myself of the context, but for the first time in a while one of those so called masterpieces actually lived up to expectations.  As a starting point the film looks amazing. The shots are simple though, filmed in black and white with a lot of handheld camera shots, you couldn’t mistake it for a documentary, but this does add a heightened sense of realism to proceedings. What really does it though are the settings, filmed on location, nothing seems false or staged, in sights and sounds alone there is something incredibly immersive in the general milieu of French occupied Algeria film depicts.  On top of this the acting is outstanding, there is an intensity to the performances which gives the film a gravitas that could easily have been lost in stereotypes and artifice. And so  – onto the subject matter. Much has been made of the films controversial depictions of both sides of a (probably rather regrettable, and incidently rather long) period of French intervention in Northern Africa. It depicts torture, terrorism and murder. What it doesn’t do, and this is probably where the controversy arises, is address the question of who is right and who is wrong. You could read the film in either way, perhaps the FLN are shown to be noble freedom fighters, or perhaps the it is the French military, who somehow always manage to look exceptionally sharp, who are glorified. Perhaps it is both, more likely though it is neither. The film tells us an important story, undoubtedly it is a problematic re-telling, but this is because in reality the events upon which it is based are far more problematic than the film could even hope to imply. It does an amazing job though of acknowleging (some) of those issues, without explicitly passing judgement, but also without shying away from the terrible implications of some of the descisions which were made by those involved. It is a masterpiece because it does all of this, and still manages to be a prescient and compelling today as it was when it was released.

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Escape to Victory

Escape to Victory sticks so rigidly to the formula that one of the joys of the film is cheering when something you just know will happen…happens… Every sports movie trope is in there, along with a few escape movie ones. If you have seen Mean Machine, Dodgeball, Bend it Like Beckham, basically any film which ends with some form of sporting event you’ll know exactly whats up. What makes Escape to Victory really special though is the absolutely wonkaloid casting. Whoever decided to put Stallone and Caine in a movie with a bunch of professional footballers was a genius. Pele shows up, he was the only one of the footballers I had actually heard of, him taking penalty shots at Stallone was particularly mind blowing. The fact that all the players had actually played football means that not only is the climactic game actually pretty well put together (read – vaguely believable) but their dressing room banter is as well. When I say all of the players, I am of course not including Stallone and Caine. For some reason they decided to actually keep Caine on the pitch as the team captain – thankfully they decided against having him actually ever kick a ball. I wont tell you what Stallone ends up doing because it is simply too amazing. Needless to say I am completely unsure as to why he is even in the film, at one point a commentator helpfully explains how penalty kicks work, one assumes for an American audience (no mention of the offside rule), and that seems like the only reason Stallone would be there too. The film is a ridiculous, the stereotyping is awful and frankly it makes being a P.O.W in WWII Germany look like a holiday, but you cant help but cheer at the end. The inevitable, predictable, perfect end.

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Gin Gwai

Cornea transplants! Exciting stuff! Just the concept grosses me out, generally taking bits of people out and replacing them is weird, its even weirder when you think about the currently unavoidable truth that the replacement bits came out of dead people! Creepy. I mean, bloody amazing, fantastic, life saving etc, I am absolutely for advocating putting your name of the organ donation register if you have not already, its not like you’ll need those damn corneas. I always figured if they were cutting out all my organs it would be a sure fire way to avoid being buried alive too, which is probably … a really negative experience. Anyway, the film is all about a lady who has a cornea transplant, regaining the ability to see after losing her sight as a child. However, unless you thought this was going to be a heartwarming tale of sight restored, the world she sees is not quite the world the rest of us see. It is much much creepier. To explain more would really require explaining the whole plot, which is actually far more convoluted than the “has cornea transplant, sees creepy shit” concept would imply. The creep factor ramps up in the middle then sort of fizzles out towards the end, it could have gone way further – but what it does is by no means bad. That all of the main characters are quite likable is a bonus too. I felt a bit more concerned for our leading lady because she seemed like such a nice person – the grandmother she ends up staying with whilst she recovers is great and the sister only seems like a bit of a bitch because she is so intent on babying someone she seems to have largely left alone to deal with her blindness. They all felt like great characterisations, I wouldn’t say they made the whole thing more believeable, but they definitely made it more entertaining. As entertaining as cornea transplants should be anyway.

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