Showing posts from June, 2009

Birds of America

Title: Birds of America
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama
Starring: Matthew Perry

“People need to be jolted.”

I’m sure many reading this will have a hard time coping with the fact that there is no real plot to speak of. There is no overarching storyline, meandering throughout as we explore a vast array of characters, this film defines ‘character driven’ stories, and each character has enough of an individual character to push this story for its duration. There are morals presented, but never will it be presented in an unrealistic or forced manner, each one presented through the mannerisms of the character in question.

The story revolves around the life of Morrie (Matthew Perry), who’s father died when he was 18, leaving him with a dying mother, the house, and the responsibility for looking after his 12 year old sister and 7 year old brother. Having the duties of being a father thrust upon him, it’s not a surprise they turned out a little strange. Move forward 20 years, to when the film takes place…

Baby Blues

Title: Baby Blues
Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Unknowns

It's very rare that a premise alone is enough to make me drool in anticipation, but the trailer of this film left me yearning to see what could potentially be the most disturbing and indeed horrific movie I've seen in years. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

This film is inspired by the cruel and horrific acts purpotrated by mothers who were said to be suffering from severe post-partem depression.

The film begins on a sunny day, with a family living on a farm, children playing in the sun, and their mother ominously comforting her infant in her bedroom. The husband spends much of his time working, and rarely has any time to spend alone with his kids, let alone his clearly distraught wife. After he leaves for another night on the road, the mother's instability teeters over the edge, causing her to put her own children in mortal danger.

It's hard to say where exactly this film went wrong. The acting is mostly a…

The Searchers

Title: The Searchers
Genre: Epic Western
Rating: 4.5/5
Starring: John Wayne

This film is about the story of "Ethan Edwards" (Wayne), an "American" civil war veteran, who spends years searching for his abducted niece after her family was slaughtered by "Comanche Indians". We are taken through an obsessed quest to find "Debbie" (Natalie Wood) that lets us see how revenge can drive people, and by this revenge, the theme of racism and whether it can be justified or not is examined.

To begin with, I must point out one the key factors that made this one a great one is the stunning way of how to shoot a landscape. The director (John Ford) along with the cinematographer (Winton C. Hoch) were able to show us the immensity of the lands traveled through by stressing the magnitude and vastness, creating some of the most spectacular screen shots I have ever seen! The opening shot when "Ethan" came home, the horse chases, "Ethan" standing on th…


Title: Serenity
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau

From the creator of “Buffy,” “Angel,” “Drive,” “Dr. Horrible,” and now “Dollhouse,” comes the film continuing the story of “Firefly;” A TV show cut by Fox mid-season and replaced with – ugh – “House MD” re-runs. I think I should make it readily apparent that I review this as a fan of the original TV show, so naturally my opinion of this film is presented with some bias. I will however try to approach this from a subjective point of view. Following the story of the crew of Serenity (a firefly class transport ship) they are hunted by an operative of the Alliance (think ‘The Empire’ from Star Wars) for two of their number. Siblings, both are wanted fugitives, for one of them a psychic with knowledge of a secret. The operative must recapture her before this secret can be unveiled to the universe.

The matter of genre is a difficult one to place. Often described in a derogatory fashio…

Whale Rider

Title : Whale Rider
Genre : Family Drama
Rating : 3/5
Starring : Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene

I am sure all of us have heard of traditions that seem bizarre, yet are perfectly acceptable, in other cultures. This film, which is set in "New Zealand", begins by telling us of a tradition in the "Māori" culture. In that tradition, the first born son of a family is a candidate to inherit the leadership passed down from the first ancestor "Paikea", the "Whale Rider", he who rode atop a whale from "Hawaiki". But, fate ordained that the first born of the family we are introduced to in this film is a girl. Her mother died given birth to her, and her twin brother that also died in labor. Not to forget the dislike of her grandfather, who is in charge of educating the candidates about the traditions, of the fact that the first born is not a boy. Now the chain is broken, and this is the basic key to this film.

Are traditions really an excuse to …

Sex and Death 101

Title: Sex and Death 101
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Starring: Simon Baker, Winona Ryder

"I'm certain that some very interesting things will occur this evening... your penis going into her vagina will not be one of them. But have a lovely evening."

I suppose calling this a Comedy/Drama doesn’t entirely fit. Whilst there are some truly comic moments, they aren’t featured prominently enough to feel like a comedy film. Likewise, calling it a drama doesn’t feel accurate as there isn’t really any drama to speak of, far too light in atmosphere to produce any real tension. Both terms certainly apply in the context of describing the style of film produced, but in truth this feels like something else entirely. Of all the genres I can name ‘adventure’ feels the only one fitting in a literal sense (though of course, not in the context of the established genre), relying on an interesting story to keep your interest, and with something as unusual as this it inevitably succeeds in t…

Fortress 2: Re-Entry

Title: Fortress 2: Re-Entry
Rating: 2.5/5
Genre Action, Sci-Fi
Starring: Christopher Lambert

Seeing as I recently watched the first, why not follow up with a second helping of Lambert sci-fi? As with most sequels, this one was sub-par to the original, providing more of the same old style of action with more flames, explosions, implants. In fact, everything that made the original unique has more or less been copied once again. From the bully (this time in the form of Russians), the sadistic character, the nerd, and in this case a new attractive woman in there with them. Her purpose in the film other than the shower scenes is completely lost on me.

The plot is remarkably similar. On the run from the Men-Tel corperation, he is recaptured and sent back to the new fortress. This time, in space! Escape is once again thought impossible, but this is not deter our hero as – once again – he plots his escape to return to his wife on Earth. The effects are once again excellent, though less frequent, t…


Title: Fortress
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre Action, Sci-Fi
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s show)

Whilst clearly dated now (released in ’93), this remains as possibly one of the better never-mentioned films, delivered to us by the man who also gave us 'Re-Animator.' The plot is as simple as you could want it, and the love interest is already developed so there’s no romance to get in the way of constant knuckle grazing, shovel smashing, gun-toting action. And as for the gore, well they have no problems with a good splatter of blood, and the effects remain (with one notable exception) top-notch. No blatant rubber usage and of course, this was in the days before CGI effects; explosions are done with actual explosives, flames are done with actual fire, etc.

Set in the near future, the US has banned more than one child per woman. The penalty? Maximum security prison, in this case, the ‘Fortress.’ Run by a company called the Men-Tel Corporation, they receive government fu…

Death to Smoochy

Title: Death to Smoochy
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Edward Norton, Robin Williams, Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart

“Bastard Son of Barney! Die! Die, stuffed ball of fluff! Illegitimate Teletubbie! Die, you Muppet from hell! Die, you foam motherfucker!”

Could you imagine DeVito presenting a childrens TV show? As a star and director he recruits the help of Ed Norton (Smoochy) and Robin Williams (Rainbow Randolph), to take you on a comical journey to the criminal underbelly of children’s entertainment. Following the story of Smoochy, the good-hearted Rhino striving to teach children about decent values, where he receives a crash course in learning what really happens behind the scenes; filled with Irish gangsters, cut-throat charity organisations, Nazi followers, and a more than slightly insane ex-entertainer by the name of Rainbow Randolph. Bitter at the loss of his job to Smoochy, a plot of revenge is sown to bring an abrupt end to his career, but make no mistake about…

A Dogs Breakfast

Title: A Dogs Breakfast
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Comedy
Starring: David Hewlett, Paul McGillion (both from Stargate: Atlantis)

“Ryan, you okay? Feel a little better? Less dead maybe?”

Those who know the naturally comical Hewlett from Stargate: Atlantis as Dr. McKay probably need little more convincing that this film (written by, directed and starring the man) is filled with more hilarious comic moments than you can shake a leg at. Following the story of Patrick (Hewlett), a recluse who’s only real friend is his pet dog called Mars, living in a secluded house is given a surprise when his sister introduces him to her fiancée (McGillion), a star of a (really terrible) sci-fi/soap called ‘starcrossed.’ Things don’t take long to go awry, when Ryan (the fiancée) is accidentally killed. What ensues is 90 side-splitting minutes of bodies turning up everywhere, detectives questioning, and some of the worst cover stories ever told in an attempt to prevent his sister from discovering the truth.

And who bett…

Kill Theory

Title: Kill Theory
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Taryn Manning, Agnes Bruckner, Patrick Flueger (The 4400)

Ever since the very first ‘Saw’ film arrived with a fresh idea from the tired slashers flooding the screens in abundance, it has spawned numerous sequels and films clearly ‘inspired’ by the film (and even a theme park ride near me, but don’t bother, as its not very good), most of these do little but place people in an enclosed space and have them go crazy. Now, I’d be lying if this didn’t fall under the ‘clearly inspired by’ category, but what sets them apart is that they have actually try to spin things a little differently.

The plot follows a man, recently released on parole for the second-degree murder (manslaughter if you’re from the UK) of three of his best friends, whom he was forced to kill to save himself in a climbing accident. He wants to prove others would make the same decision, so forces a group of graduating high school kids, out in a huge house in the middle of no…


Title: Skinwalkers
Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Action, Horror
Starring: Natissia Malthe, Jason Behr, Elias Koteas

This an action horror based in the fantasy setting of werewolves, or ‘skinwalkers’ as they are referred to in this film. They are incapable of controlling their change, occurring at a full moon, they transform into bi-pedal man/wolves, and have animal strength (or superhuman if you will), both in wolf form and human form. The plot revolves around two ‘clans,’ the typical good guy characters who believe it to be a disease, protecting a boy (the reason for this does later become apparent)[1] who are being hunted by the clan who treat it as a gift to be cherished. Whilst its clear which side we are meant to root for, more often than not I found myself rooting for the leather bound, long-haired, Harley-riding ‘evil’ characters.[2] Naturally, with all films of this nature we already know that there will predictably be a happy ending.[3]

The script felt pretty thin. It was a simple game of …

Dead Snow (Død Snø)

Title: Dead Snow (Død Snø)
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Language: Norwegian (Eng. Subs)

Ein! Zwei! Die!

As a huge horror genre fan(and self-confessed zombie aficionado), it was with some reservation that I approached this Norwegian entry into the horror comedy sweepstakes. The reasons for this were twofold. First of all, over the last decade, the industry has been flooded with zombie pictures (indeed, horror/comedy), and even I was suffering from a little fatigue with the sub-genre. Secondly, I knew very little of the Norwegian film scene, and was wary of a film shot in this little known industry. Well, forget all of that because this film is a stunning success, a fitting addition into the cream of zombie film lore.

The plot involves a ski trip by several medical students which is interrupted by unspeakable evil, Nazi zombies!!!! The film begins without promise, rounding the bases in terms of horror cliché. We have the standard mix of youthful characters, each representing a certain sub…


Title: Fubar
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Comedy, Music, Documentary

“I could give up liquor
And sure, it’d be hard
But giving up sex and rock and roll
Well that would break my heart”

A fictional documentary set in Calgary (Canada) following the lives of ‘headbangers’ Terry and Dean, whilst it could easily have resulted in 80 mins of drunken behaviour and bad puns (which do feature prominently), things take a turn when Dean is diagnosed with testicular cancer. With three days left before he ‘loses his right nut’ he sets out to spend his final days with the big boys getting loaded and partying. Beyond what I expected, they explore the notion of comradeship between the fellow headbangers with some success.

The camerawork, whilst a bit rudimentary and shaky fits with the documentary style aimed for, and would be capable of fooling most unaware of its fictional nature. In a similar ‘documentary’ manner, the story felt a little thin, with – on reflection - little really occurring, none of the events felt sp…


Title: Caprica
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Sci Fi
Starring: Esai Morales (NYPD Blue), Magda Apanowicz (Kyle XY)

For those of you familiar with the remake of the TV show ‘BattleStar Galactica,’ the name is probably ringing alarm bells, and rightly so. For less rampant fans, allow me to elaborate. Following the demise of BSG, the ‘sci-fi channel’ was quick to recruit writer Ronald D. Moore for a spin off, chronicling the birth of the cylon – at this stage rather akin to a ‘Terminator’ in its military purposes – closely following the Graystone family and Adama family 58 years before the start of BSG. What is presented is a drama set on Caprica exploring what gave rise to the war between man and machine. Set to debut some time next year, this 90 minute pilot episode can be considered a teaser film for what to expect in the future.

Whereas before the writers already had a framework to work with, here he is creating an entirely new situation, with new characters, and for the most part they have …

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus

Title: Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
Rating: 0.5/5
Genre: Action, Sci Fi

I’ve watch a fair few low budget films in my time, a fan of the films the ‘sci-fi channel’ create, occasionally getting something decent and fun, but also with my fair share of absolutely dire films. This quite possibly tops the list of bad films, to the extent that I question how the director manages to breathe. From the premise I was hoping for something cheesy yet fun, the same manner ‘Snakes on a Plane’ delivered what it said on the tin, but this was neither. The most polite way of putting this would be to call it a failure. So, where to begin…

I suppose the script shares a major part in the blame. In a film with such a title, you expect there to some prominent action featuring both sea monsters. Think again. It centres around the mega shark (identified as Megaladon), with the octopus appearing twice. It opens with some illegal sonar device melting the ice in the arctic (no, I didn’t make that connection either), r…


Title: Tokyo!
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Drama
Language: Japanese, French

A collection of three short films, each roughly 40mins in length, this was an independent film shown in Tokyo/Cannes film festival last year. Each piece utilises a different cast and story, with a strong surrealist approach, this has reminded me why I enjoy independent film. Whilst the budget in each case was small, it didn’t feel constrained. The use of effects was worked in such a way to appear natural, ‘hidden from view’ using simplistic techniques such as film editing to instantly change the shot and freeze frames (where its co-ordinated that everyone stops dead at the same time), it shows you don’t need expensive effects to create an effective scene. Since it was three separate short films, each deserves a short review themselves.

Interior Design: 3/5
Following the story of a young couple searching for an apartment in Tokyo, it has a heavy focus on the girlfriend of amateur film-maker, and the manner in which she copes w…

Der Baader-Meinhoff Komplex

Title: Der Baader-Meinhoff Komplex
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Action, Drama
Language: German (English Subtitles)

Now, I`m not really a guy for serious films. If someone I know invites me to the some obscure theater to see some classic art film, I`d be the type of person who`d make up an excuse so I could stay at home and work my way through the Austin Powers series. To put it simply: I am common. I don`t like dramas, I don`t tend to be very enthusiastic about "films that make you think" and I like humour that one can only find amusing when you are retarded and/or drunk.But this film! What a piece of motion-picture brilliance!

The film is based on the exploits of the Baader-Meinhoff Group or the RAF, a revolutionary group in post-WWII Germany who often made headlines with their extremist actions. The group takes it`s name from two principle members - Ulrike Meihoff and Andreas Baader - who, along with a few other rebelious youths, take on the establishment in an attempt to avoid governm…

Oneechanbara (Chanbara Beauty): The Movie

Title: Oneechanbara (Chanbara Beauty): The Movie
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Action, Horror
Language: Japanese

The best way of summing this film is perhaps ‘Bloodrayne meets Resident Evil.’ The story follows a young female assassin who spends most of her time in her underwear, wielding her trusty (and inexplicably magical) sword, hunting her sister for killing her father. Joined by a trusty overweight sidekick, who desires to see the man responsible for kidnapping his daughter and creating the zombies dead (guess the ‘twist’ there), and before too long, another, even more attractive but better dressed shotgun wielding woman (again, magical shotgun that can be fired over a dozen times in rapid succession without reloading). Now, like the films I likened this too, it is based upon a game of the same name. My expectations were not perhaps high, but if it delivered a hot woman chopping off plenty of zombie heads I’d be happy. Or so I thought.

I’m usually pretty good at suspending realism for the sake o…

DoA: Dead or Alive

Title: DoA: Dead or Alive
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Action
Starring: Holly Valence, Jaime Pressley, Devon Aoki

“[points to a sign] You don't understand. It's a sign.”

The first clue that this is not a serious film is given by the fact this is film based on a video game – a concept which rarely realistically works. A quick glance at the leading roles, two of which are ex-models, should cement the notion that if you’re looking for the faintest shred of realism, plot intricacy, or indeed anything other than ridiculous over-the-top stunts performed by talking breasts and witty one liners, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. But that – for me at least – is what action films should all be about. Something to shut off to, requiring no more thought than deciding what flavour skittle to eat next, and given this context it actually fares pretty well.

Unfortunately, they still cling to the notion that it needs a plot beyond ‘Fight Competition.’ They could have quite happily kept to the basic idea …


Title: Clerks
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob)

“This job would be great if it wasn't for the fucking customers.”

I rarely find comedies amusing. So often it feels as though it’s forced, its faked in such a way that it feels unnatural and often misses the mark. This directorial debut by Kevin Smith (Mallrats, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike back) was built on a shoestring budget of just $50K (of which over half went on acquiring the rights for the soundtrack), utilising a cast that previously could not be considered actors and entirely by accident, avoids this situation, creating a ‘sketch-show-film,’ with as many timeless classic comedy moments as the best of the Monty Python series.

Following Dante and Randall throughout their day, working in a convenience store and video store respectively, it covers everything from ‘accidental necrophilia’ to the tragedy of the deaths of the independent contractors working on the Death Star in ‘Ret…


Title: Casshern
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Language: Japanese

"At last I understand. We hurt others by our very existence. That's just the way we live."

Set late in the 21st century, following the aftermath of a long war with the European Union, the Eastern Federation consisting largely of the Asian nations emerge victorious, and the new federation of Eurasia is formed, but the war has taken its toll. The cities lie in ruins, the pollution and use of chemical, nuclear and biological warfare have left the situation so severe that the entire human race suffers, dispirited and dying from the pollution in the atmosphere. Such is the desire to extend their lives that the fate of the world lies on the research of one man: Azuma. Claiming to be capable of growing any human organ, things go awry when his research results in the creation of a new race of mutated humanoids, bitter and filled with hatred for mankind, the world is once again plunged into war, and only …

The Dreamers

Title: The Dreamers
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Drama, Romance
Starring: Michael Pitt, Eva Green

“The first time I saw a movie at the Cinématèque Française I thought, ‘Only the French... only the French would house a cinema inside a palace.’”

Directed by Bertolucci, possibly one of the few remaining directors who still treat film as an art form, and where better for an artist to explore than set against the background of the French Film Revolution in the late 1960’s. Following the story of an American tourist and his relationship with siblings Isabelle and Theo, I would be hesitant to call this a romantic film. Indeed there are romantic elements, but this is far from your standard ‘boy meets girl’ story, this succeeds in exploring the depths of a relationship between individuals that transcends stereotyped scenario’s of love, exploring everything from incest - the siblings so intertwined with one another, they feel and think as one - to the fragile nature of friendship.

Everything about this piece h…