Monday, 14 June 2010

Movie 161: Choke

Victor (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict who chokes himself on food in restaurants to trick wealthy patrons in to saving him so he can scam money from them. He does this to pay for his mother’s (Anjelica Huston) mental care. Victor struggles to over come his addiction along with his pal and colleague Denny (Brad William Henke) from a colonial reenactment park while trying to find out who is dad is with the help of his mum’s new doctor, Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald)

That sort of sums things up without spoiling the whole bloody thing. Its based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel, the guy who did Fight Club, but the term for the adaptation is apparently “loosely”.

I haven’t read it and I enjoyed the hell out of the movie. The easiest audience to recommend this to would be people who like the TV show Hung. Outside of the obvious sex theme similarity, the tone is similar as well. Lightly comedic and a bit offensive for the sensitive types. If you can’t handle sex don’t watch this, and don’t watch it with your granny.

Rockwell impresses again in this. I didn’t realise until right now that I’ve seen him in more than I thought I had but he’s a great actor in this kind of role. The likeable misfit fuckup. Anjelica Huston doesn’t need my praise or yours as she earned her chops long ago.

Kelly Macdonald is lovely here and puts in a good performance with a spot on accent. I didn’t really realise it was her until I saw the credits.

And I’d be happy to see anything that teams up Brad Henke and Sam Rockwell as they have great buddy chemistry together.

While fans of the book might moan about the changes in the movie, as far as I can tell they are numerous and it’s a lot lighter than the film, the author obviously approved as he makes a cameo. The job these guys did is fantastic. They churned this thing out in 3 weeks and it doesn’t show at all. The performances are all good, its funny, nasty and could have easily stood up to an extra chunk of running time (say a weeks more filming) though that might have ruined it.
If you like a bit of edgy indie action you could do much worse. Even if it does feel a bit like an HBO show.

Oh, and a confession to make. I fucked up royally in my head and confused Sam Rockwell and Sam Worthington. And made mention of it in Movie 113: Moon’s review. Deric left a comment pointing this out that I’ve only just seen. So as an apology to anyone with a brain I’ll link his site:

Nice to know I have more than 2 readers!

Next up: Hamlet 2

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Movie 160: The Cottage

Hardman David (Andy Serkis) and his weedy brother Peter (Reece Shearsmith) kidnap a mobsters daughter (Jennifer Ellison) for ransom money. Unfortunately she’s a bit menatal bitch with a mouth like a sailor and a head butt like a football hooligan. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Until you think more can’t go wrong. Then the deformed serial killer turns up…

Horror/thriller comedy action then. I didn’t actually know about the second half serial killer bit going in. It’s a pretty big tone shift though the comedy doesn’t go away even as the gore ratchets up. It’s also surprisingly clever at times leaving you to fill in some gaps with only small visual queues.

This is familiar territory for Reece Shearsmith as he was one of the writers/stars of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The TV show, not the shite action film. It’s got a VERY dark tone to its comedy. I don’t know if it was anywhere near as gory though as I only watched the first year. I doubt it. Anyway he fits right in here.

Andy Serkis is…..well he’s Andy Serkis. One of the best Brit character actors going, even if he does have a face like Rowan Atkinson when he wakes up from a heavy night. He’s great as hard man David who’s surrounded by bumbling idiots.

And for a scouser who came out of Brookie, Jennifer Ellison is not bad too. She’s a relatively pretty face, nice bod, who ruins any kind of attraction as soon as she opens her mouth. Plays a mighty fine bitch though.

There’s a lot of screaming, a fair bit of blood, lots of nasty stuff and a whole bunch of laughs here. Mainly front loaded in the comedy department but they manage to keep some in the more straight second half. The budget wasn’t huge but the gore, make up and set decoration are all top notch. Every penny is up there on screen.

Worth a look if you like good dark comedy, as long as you can handle the blood and guts.

Next up: Choke

Movie 159: A Force of One

Two undercover cops are killed while investigating the drug trade in a manner that didn’t give them time to defend themselves. The police conclude that it was a karate expert, and go to local champion Matt Logan (Chuck Norris) for training. Initially reluctant as he has a big match coming up, Logan decides to help and starts to investigate who the killer could be in addition to teaching the cops.

For a start the title is very misleading. I expected some kind of overblown Rambo style movie, with Chuck rampaging through enemies. This is partly down to me knowing Chuck Norris the meme more than Chuck Norris the actor. It’s not that. It’s an advert for Karate with a narcotics investigation wrapped around it, with a bit of a love story.

And it’s a bloody good advert.

We’re treated to three competition matches, or some of them anyway, and a couple of fights with some sparing/training in there for good measure. It’s not ridiculous action, only one of them is in slow mo if I recall correctly, and they’re all shot so that you can see what is happening. Good stuff, glad to see it. And Chuck has chops.

I was also glad to see that he isn’t treated like some kind of amazing action man. He takes some hits as well as giving them. This is a problem I’ve always had with Bruce Lee. He’s too damned good, or shown as too damned good anyway, so its no fun.

Chuck might not be the greatest actor in the world, but he’s passable. A little passive maybe. And he has a……uh “southern” voice (can’t remember if that joke is from the Daily Show, Colbert Report or Real Time. I mean “a bit gay”) which I didn’t fully expect. So soft spoken, don’t show emotion to extremes really, and pretty damned good at karate. I can live with that. Of course I only have the one movie to go one so far.

As for the rest of the cast, well their fine. There’s some decent banter, his secretary is constantly eating for some reason and the head of the cops is a bit like Lloyd Bridges from Airplane. I half expected him to be on drugs or something. The script and performances are a bit clunky but no more so than in other things of this ilk.

From this I would say that Chuck’s movies are worth a look at if you like this kind of nonsense. Not bad at all.

And I’m not just giving this a good review from the fear that the might Chuck will round house me through the internet. Honest.

Next up: The Cottage

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Movie 158: Outpost

DC (Ray Stevenson) and his band of mercenaries are hired by a man to lead him in to a war zone. They find an old Nazi bunker which contains one mysterious survivor, thought to be from recent ethnic cleansing, and an SS secret experiment. Why did the man hire them, and what the hell were the Nazis up to?

If I’d known that this film was about Zombie Nazi’s, kind of, I would have left it until number 200 to have some Dead Snow symmetry. This is very different to Dead Snow though as its far from a comedy and they aren’t TECHNICALLY zombies.

The Nazis make perfect fodder for horror sci fi films. Not only were they outright evil bastards, but they worked on crazy science experiments and dabbled in the occult. What you have here is a bit of a combination of the two with the SS trying to find some kind of unified theory machine that can make invincible soldiers. The science bollocks was a little vague by being overly detailed, and I’m pretty sure it wildly wrong.

Anyway it doesn’t matter as that kind of stuff is just a story explanation excuse. Like the dilithium crystals in the warp core depolarising the quantum matrix and needing an inverse tachyon field to fix them. Technobabble.

I mentioned Ray Stevenson’s name because he was the Punisher in War Zone, so he’s recognisable. The only other face that stood out for me was Michael Smiley who played Tyres, the pilled out Irish bike courier in Spaced. It was nice to see him again and he does a bang up job. All the main cast do pretty well. The band is diverse with a Welsh leader, Scottish Medic and Irish, African, Eastern European, and American soldiers. Possibly others, hard to remember. The chemistry between them is good, they have some actual back story fleshing out and the soldiering is above par for a low budget thriller. They communicate and movie like an actual squad. Makes a nice change.

An unstoppable enemy, some vague science and some well rounded characters. Can’t complain about that. While it is missing some kind of greatness to rise it up, possibly a bit slow but I honestly couldn’t put a finger on it, this is a decent way to spend 90 minutes. There are certainly worse ways.

And low budget film makers take note. They might not have had much, but its all up there on screen. As it should be.

Next up: A Force of One. My first ever Chuck Norris film (not counting Enter The Dragon or whatever Bruce Lee one he was in)!

Movie 157: Jaws 2

A few years after the events of the first film, a couple of divers then a water skier and the boat driver are killed. Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects that it’s a shark, particularly when an Orca washes up with big bites out of it. No one else believes him though, and when he spazes out on the beach he’s fired…

Probably some spoilers there. This is no where near as good as the original, but its not as terrible as it could have been.

Scheider’s Brody is a bit of a Captain Ahab character here. If Ahab had killed the white whale and they kept seeing white whales everywhere. He is right though. The problem is that we KNOW he’s right. We’ve seen the shark, we’ve seen it killing. If we hadn’t that might have improved some of the film. If we first see the shark an hour in and everything up to that was hinted but ambiguous it would have been very brave and clever. Of course we KNOW there’s a shark, or that there will be one, but did it do the stuff that the Sheriff thinks it did?

But they didn’t do that.

Jaws was the first block buster, and it shows a bit here that studios had realised they could get teen bums in seats. The main characters here really are the teenage Mike and his friends. It doesn’t really work as well. Particularly as Mike and all the guys seems to think the slightly puffy faced, weird nosed girl is incredibly hot.

What made the original work was the interplay between Quint, Scheider and Drefus. Only one of the three is present in this movie. Honestly, the star of the first one isn’t Bruce the shark. It’s the other pain in the arse from the set. Robert Shaw’s Quint is the most memorable character, a grizzled old bad ass. By setting out to net the kids the lost the heart of what made the first film work.

It’s not the worst sequel ever but it doesn’t sit in that rare category of second films that are better than the first. It happens more often than you’d think actually, particularly in the comic book genre. Tellingly it’s the last film to have Sheriff Brody in it which proves that the franchise probably had as many legs as the shark. Some film don’t need a sequel, Jaws was one of them. But if they had to make one, they could have done worse than this.

Oh, and Brody is the Macgyver of shark murder. You’ll see what I mean

Next up: Outpost. Not the Sean Connery sci fi flick.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Movie 156: The Warriors

Watched The Warriors instead. Jaws 2 is probably next, or next next. Probably next.

A conclave of gangs is called in New York, and the leader of the biggest gang announces his plan to get them all together and take over the city as they outnumber the cops 3 to 1 (or 5 to 1, cannae remember). He’s then shot by one of the Rogues, who pins it on The Warriors. The Warriors then have to make it from The Bronx to Coney Island with everyone out for their ass. 8 against the city. Shits on.

This is based on an historical event apparently, where a bunch of Greek soldiers had to get home through very hostile territory. I watched the Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD so it also has a more obvious comic book origin, which panels interspersing scenes.

I liked that, it was pretty funky. Though it was a bit obvious that this was a later edition as the comic art wasn’t really period with the making of the film

Essentially what you have here is a John Carpenter movie that John never made. The gangs are whacky weirdoes, the tension is ratched up, the score is synth a lot of the time and it looks very gritty. And it’s a lot of a fun

It’s also a lot of cheese. Gangs made up of baseball bat wielding KISS rejects, punks on roller skates and black guys in karate uniforms couldn’t be anything but cheesy really.

As you can tell I liked it, but I’m not sure I loved it. While I might have recognised a few faces it’s a cast of unknowns who went on to be not much better now as far as I can tell. They were in this, a bunch of other stuff, but can go shopping in Tesco without hassle. That’s no mark of a lack of quality really, but there’s not much to blow your socks off.

It’s a film of its time, that looks and sounds like a film of its time. And that’s fine. The late 70’s was a good time for movies. As I said a few paragraphs ago its definitely one for Carpenter fans. And obviously Walter Hill fans as its his movie. If you haven’t seen it but you have seen Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13 then go check it. You’ll dig it.

But chances are you have seen it. And you get that joke.

On a side note, I think this would make a great TV show now. Kind of like Sons of Anarchy but in a city setting. Our gangs are a bit less civilized so it couldn’t be too realistic. Watching guys shoot each other gets dull, watching KISS with baseball bats fight dudes with afros and leather vests is FUN.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Movie 155: Gargantua

After a series of tremors, widowed (that’s important) marine biologist Jack Ellway (Adam Baldwin) and his son Brandon (Emile Hirsch) go the island of Malau to see what the effect on the sea life has been. Turns out its pretty major as a trench has opened up and a bunch of DDT has made some salamanders grow. A lot. The little baby that Brandon befriends is fine, but 9ft big brother causes some problems. Which is nothing compared to what happens when mum and dad turn up…

We’re deeply in to 50’s B movie territory here. This is from 1998, and it’s a TV movie, so its not a Sci Fi original. If it was the Brandon would be a teenager and there’s be a lot of shots of women in bikini’s in it. What you have is generally a lot more innocent, and cheesy as hell.

I’m a big fan of Adam Baldwin. He’s probably my favourite Baldwin, even though he technically isn’t one (of those Baldwins). We don’t really get the Jane from Firefly/Casey from Chuck (weirdly Brandon references a dog he had called Casey like some weird cosmic in joke 9 years before anyone could possibly get it) or Animal Mother from Full Metal Jacket Adam Baldwin here though. He’s a nerd basically. His voice is even different. He has the chops to more or less pull of what is a Daniel Jackson-ish character but its slightly weird casting from the other work of his I’ve seen.

Emile Hirsch, who you may know now as he was Speed Racer and stuff, is a kid in this film. Proper kid, almost a teenager. He’s not bad for a kid really. A lot of his scenes are with an animatronic 3 foot tall puppet so there’s not a whole bunch to do, but he doesn’t suck or anything. And the two of them has a scene towards the end of the movie that literally choked me up. Because I’m a big pussy.

The whole thing is basically a big allegory of the father/son relationship of the lead characters which is relatively clever for this kind of nonsense. And it works at times without being too heavy handed at all. Kudos.

As for the special effects… Well sometimes they are actually surprisingly good. Longshots of the little monster in particular. I’m not sure if its CGI or stop motion, but its decently done. The puppets are a bit dodgy but also pretty decent with a good range of motion and occasionally good skin texture. Not Jurassic Park by any stretch, but they didn’t have the budget for that.

If you stumble across this and you like 50’s B movies you’ll probably like this. I love a cheesy old B Movie, so I enjoyed this one too. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll do just fine

Next up: Jaws 2