Monthly Archives: April 2014

Float Archipelago

I used to work in a store which sold all the surf brands, behind the counter we had some screens which we played promo dvds on. This is basically feels like a really long version of one of them. Ostensibly it documents a six month quest to find perfect waves (or barrels or some such thing) but there is no real sense of this at all, certainly aside from a title about half way through which says ‘day fifty’ it could all have been shot on the same day for the difference it makes. So what you have is very pretty shots of people surfing set to music with about 120 seconds of those same people messing around on a boat in between. If you really really like watching people surf this is going to make you very happy but really I was hoping for a little more faux surf philosophy about how it feels to be at one with the ocean.

Tagged

The Train

The Train is about the French resistance and those stalwarts of World War II films, the Nazis. They always seem to pop up in those World War II films, usually as the bad guys. Given the euro centricity of those players you’ll be pleased to know that (almost) everyone is American or English and no one speaks the language that they should. Accent quality varies wildly from ‘most hilariously bad’ to ‘no effort at all’ – leading man Burt Lancaster is the main offender on that second one, and Paul Schofield does some fine work as a Colonel whose motivation is all over the place. The Nazis have decided that they need all the art. I mean all the art that France has. They load it on a train, which foolishly they let some French people drive. About 90% of what then occurs falls into the category of “cool if you don’t think about it too much”, because frankly if this was how the war was fought then its a wonder either side managed to even get out of bed in the morning. With the recent release of similarly themed film The Monuments Men one hopes you’ll get a (slightly) more realistic view of the art issue in WWII – for now though the Train offers a healthy dose of Nazi antagonizing fun with a dollop of slightly ridiculous art whore mumbo jumbo thrown in for good measure.

Tagged

Pistol Opera

Pistol Opera is a sort of quasi sequel quasi remake of Branded to Kill. Whilst that film lost director Siejun Suzuki his job at the studio where he was busy churning out b movies for being too off the wall, Pistol Opera was made a good deal of time later, when the classic status of the first film had time to become recognized. The formula, if these films could ever be said to be formulaic, is much the same here, its a hit man heavy hierarchy of killers. Our hero Miyuki is vaguely helped out by the lead from the first film (who shows up as a sort of mentor figure) as she works her way from number three in the mysterious assassins guild to number one. We get to meet more of the other assassins than in Branded to Kill, and they have much more clearly defined styles – one of them kills people in such a way that they always leave a smiling corpse. Suzuki is basically re-doing something here that was innovative and forward thinking fifty or so years ago, that he manages to pull it off without making it a pastiche of his own work is impressive. It is good fun, but basically you could go back and read my review of Branded to Kill and just replace the title.

Tagged

Branded To Kill

When we watch films we are interpreting a specific language we have all be unwittingly taught. It is a simple one, but none the less the cognitive leap that must occur to understand that times and locations can change between shots is something which must be learned. Even something as simple as showing a person getting out of bed, then in the next shot out street comes with the assumption that you will fill in the gap yourself where they got up, took a shower and a shit, got dressed and left the house. We know this because we have grown up with movies and tav shows which don’t value the shower/shit/dressing process as important with enough consistency that we can generally assume that they will not be shown, and as a consequence assume these things have occurred. Equally when time jumps around film makers usually signal this with little tricks like the shot fading into another, rather than a jump cut, or even the classic wavy lines cut from the sixties. We have learned that when we see these little cues that we are probably going to see something which occurred before the ostensible “present” of the film. What if that was all thrown away? What if a person was to walk down some stairs then in the same shot drive past in their car. What if someone could just walk out of a shootout/hostage situation because they wanted to eat at a restaurant? What if a ticking clocks hands do not move? What if? It becomes incredibly hard work. Because you have to work out that the driver of the car is the person on the stairs, and that the hostage will return dutifully when the meal is finished and that the clock…well…the clock was ticking, it all becomes something you have to think about rather more. Branded to Kill is kind of a yakuza movie. It looks like one and its about rich well dressed people who have amazing sex and say deep meaningful things – then try to kill each other within a wonky system based on honor and hierarchy. Its not a yakuza movie though, this is just sort of a framework all of the madness sits within, something to point at when you are not sure what is going on, or why. What the film does is makes you think about everything it is doing. Be it working out what means what or why something is happening or even how. Because of this though everything becomes important, you have to pay attention because you might miss one of the clues – we know the person on the stairs is in the car because they were given a ride in it earlier in the movie. As I said, its hard work, but its rewarding learning a new language – even if there are still parts that don’t make sense to you.

Tagged

Hard Boiled

At one point in this movie Chow Yun-Fat raps to a baby. The rap part might have been a little bit of a wonky subtitle translation, he certainly isn’t kicking N.W.A rhymes at a sleeping child. Its more of a lullaby vibe. This is probably the sixth or seventh most ridiculous thing that happens in this film. That says a lot for a film which is ostensibly about a cop trying to stop a crime boss from getting … well … I can’t actually remember, weapons, in a warehouse, or something. There is also a dude who lives on a boat and a woman who keeps receiving flowers that are secret song codes. You read that correctly. Secret song codes. Its all irrelevant though really. What is important is that it all leads to one of the longest, most awesome showdowns ever committed to film. None of it makes any sense because its all underpinned by ridiculous “we have come this far, its win or die time” logic but that makes it all the more fun. Plus the amount of henchmen is outstanding. Anonymous, every one of them. Do henchmen have a union? They need one for this film.

Tagged

Big Ass Spider

You don’t need a run down of the storyline? Here is one anyway. The big ass spider keeps getting bigger. Only one man can stop it. Thats pretty much it. This is no sharknado though, no slothcano. no tsunamiguana, no pirhanicane, no blizard. (That last one isn’t that great) It is better than these. It has a leading man who is
charismatic, slightly overweight and totally at one with the fact that he is in a really ridiculous situation. He also has a Mexican sidekick, which is dealt with in such a way that it almost isn’t problematic. He also has a love interest. The big ass spider isn’t actually all that important, the film would probably be as fun with a little tiny ass spider, or even no spider at all, because all these other people are such good fun to watch. Maybe it doesn’t have quite as many really silly moments as sharknado, or quite as many sloths as slothcano but at least it exists, unlike that second one there, and it really is great fun. Big Ass Spider shows that the stupid title low budget monster movie doesn’t have to be quite as dumb as a it sounds.

Tagged

Things Are Tough All Over

Racial stereotypes. They are ok right? Oh. They are not? Oh. Well … these ones don’t seem that awful. Any racial stereotype is bad? Oh. Well, at least the drug jokes are still here right! Thats a good thing. There isn’t as many of them though. Oh. Skip to the end. Tough all over is more of the same from Cheech and Chong. It has its moments, as do all of their films, and they work best here when they are making fun of themselves rather than their Arabian counterparts (or the nyphomaniacal French ladies who have an inexplicable appetite for stoners). Much like all the rest the film is a lot of skits stuck together with a pretty loose plot – its interesting to see some of the fun things these guys were doing years ago which have become, and in some cases are no longer, comedy staples. You can do worse than Cheech and Chong if you actually get stoned, or decide to get hold of some peyote, whilst you watch but really don’t expect to laugh to hard at a hairdressers confusion between herpes and hairpiece.

Tagged

We’re the Millers

Every once in a while a film so predicatable comes along that you just have to watch it for the pleasure of being able to angrily shout expletives at its predictably predictable ass. We’re the Millers is one such film. So I sat down eagerly for 110 minutes of torture and was immediately thrown, the DVD menu shocked me by giving me a completely unexpected option – Theatrical Version, or, get this, Extended Version. I mean what a question. I thought it was probably going to be something like going to a S&M dungeon – it looks like good fun on paper, but once you are there you’ll do anything to leave. Anyway I masochistically chose the extended cut, I thought “want to give everyone as much time as possible to be predictable dont we?”. Unexpected menu options aside this was as predicatable as predicted. Its a (barely) heart warming tale of family and friendship loosly shoehorned into a story about drug smuggling with a healthy dose of sexism thrown in. Sexism so rampant that the film literally acknowledges it at one point with a sly wink to camera. Its not that funny either. The saving grace is the cast, all of which are relatively, and fairly consistently likable and are really the only thing which makes the film watchable. Beyond this though its probably easier just to imagine what happens in this film, then do something else, like book yourself in for a 110 minute session at your local S&M dungeon.

Tagged

Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2

A quick non scientific survey of some of my friends from non film studies backgrounds reveals that absolutely no one has heard of this movie. Which might seem strange given the reverence with which it is discussed by critics. It is not strange though. Its completely understandable. This film is so bloody long and inpenetrable that watching it is a mental undertaking on a par with trying to understand what the large hardon collider actually does armed with nothing but the endless pretty pictures of its insides you see on the internet. Frankly, though it is undeniably a brilliant film no one but the most absolutely commited film nerd is going to run into work the next day and tell their collegues about the great film they watched last night called 8 1/2. The title says it all really, there is a meaning to it but unless you happen to be some sort of Fellini fan boy its going to require google to find out what it is. On the surface the film is about a movie director struggling with ideas/people/love/producers/existence but it diverges into the allegorical, flashback, allegorical flashback and the flashback allegory with such regularity that you really do work hard as a viewer to decipher everything. This isn’t a bad thing, its a powerful film and its so well made you could literally teach semesters of film school with it – but in a world where I can watch giant robots battle enormous Godzillas, with nary an allegory in sight, a movie which makes my brain work this hard is always going to be a hard sell.

Tagged

Revenge

To celebrate my 200th post here at every film I have rented I decided to write about a film so obscure that I cant actually find any reference to it on the internet. Thats right, the whole internet is oblivious to this film. It turns out “Revenge” is one of the most common film names ever, which rather clouds google results, but even the director doesn’t have an IMDB page – though, like a fart in crowded room, this might be one of those things no one wants to own up to. Just in case you do want to track this down, it was released in 1988 – that is all I can tell you, how the dvd came to be sent to me I have no idea, I certainly wouldn’t choose it based on its spectacular cover art or the catchy tag line “In time of peace … prepare for war” – which is not only gramatically wonky but also has barely anything to do with the film. There has been a lot of talk of virtual reality of late. If you sit really really close to the tv, I mean, exceptionally close (this isn’t widescreen) this film offers a completely immersive 1980s experience. You’ll be telling your friends “I felt like I was there!” and “I wanted to reach out and touch their hair”. Its honestly like the 80s took a shit and this film came out. That is to say, its a bad film in almost every respect. The plot revolves around some bad guys called “Strike Force!”, led by, fittingly, a bad guy called “Striker”. These shady guys are are kidnapping folks from the NSI, a weapons company that has over six employees and one security guard. The NSI has made a weapon that gives one man the power of an entire platoon, which one assumes is why they only needed one security guard. Strike Force, I think, want to get their hands on the weapon for various nefarious reasons which seem to be ‘another’ civil war or a revolution, depending how they feel. I say I think this is what they want because they seem to have access to said weapon an awful lot of the time, and dont do a great job of taking it. The worst part is where the money comes from, they are funded by, get this: The Klan, and The American Nazi Party. I mean. Come on. Dont mess with those guys, they are clearly well funded assholes. It is ok though, Jason is on hand to kill the bad guys and save the day. If that plot doesn’t sound like it quite cuts it there are a few extra layers of complexity, the Revenge of the title is for a number of wrongdoings by the Strike Force, one of which is actually pretty horrible and completely incongruous in such a ridiculous plot, and  the fact that Jason is a Vietnam vet. It turns out that a number of his old platoon still live in his area, cos this is how the army worked in the 60s and 70s you know. This leads to some of thebest lines of the film as old army buddies exchange  classics like “just one more mission man” and “kill as many as possible then leave”, by classic I mean hilarious, and by hilarious I mean absolutely shockingly bad. The film clearly wants to be Rambo so bad that it can’t even help not admitting it, at one point Jason, about to do some killin or something is told “You’re not Rambo”. Damn straight he isn’t, Rambo wouldnt have had a catch phrase, and even if he did it wouldn’t have been “Oh Fuckit”. Seriously. Also the hero brings a kitten home half way through. I have written before about how all the 80s Stallone movies feature kittens, I thought no one else had noticed! There are some really long lingering shots of the kitten. There is a completely predictable twist at the end followed by what has to be the greatest walk off camera ever by the hero. The ‘so bad its good’ aspect of all this is made so much sweeter by the complete lack of self awareness here, which when you think about it was what the 80s was all about.

Tagged