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All reviews - Movies (49)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 7 September 2011 08:14 (A review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master)

Here’s a thing I like about most of the Elm Street films, there’s a symmetry in that the majority of them have similar openings of an unseen figure crafting something. In the original we have the glove, in The Dream Warriors we have Kristen’s papier-mâché house, in The Dream Master we get creepy child drawing a chalk picture and in this we get a creepy child drawing on a sidewalk. It’s a tenuous theory but it’s a theory I’ll defend to the death.

So we have Kristen, Kincaid and Joey showing up in this film as the survivors from the last movie. It’s a nice way of establishing a timeline for the films, although you have to wonder how they all got released from the mental asylum considering they would have been found with the corpses of two of their friends and their psychiatrist following the events of the last film. Maybe some paperwork got misfiled and a judge got famous whilst some lawyers got fat. Anyways here’s the problem with Kristen, Kincaid and Joey being in the film. We know these kids, we like these kids, even if Kristen has been replaced by an actress who only looks like Patricia Arquette if Patricia Arquette had acquired a nasty case of downs syndrome, and we couldn’t give a fuck about the ‘new’ survivor kids.

That’s not entirely fair, Alice is probably my favourite reoccurring Elm Street character, but it’s interesting that this is the Elm Street film with the biggest body count (outside of Freddy vs. Jason which is like a fucking teen holocaust) and yet the actual details of these murders are almost ephemeral. Joey gets drowned, Kincaid summons Freddy by way of demon dog and then gets stabbed on a planet made of cars, one nerdy girl gets sucked dry, one guy gets murdered in a dojo and some girl, in an admittedly bravura continuation of the body horror theme, gets turned into a cockroach and dies, somehow. Conceptually they all work, but there’s no edge to them, nothing tied into the deeper narrative of the characters (unless Kincaid was REALLY scared of cars and scrap heaps) and despite sounding interesting they’re all kind of anonymous.

Written by Brian Helgeland, who has the bizarre career of any screenwriter anywhere, you can tell there’s been some thought put into the overall narrative in terms of continuing the arcs from the last film but it just seems like the director Renny Harlin doesn’t care. It’s not that he’s apathetic it’s just that he seems determined to do what he’s told. Harlin brings a certain flair to the film and it actually looks genuinely handsome at times, but it feels fluffy and disorganised and no amount of moody lighting can shake the feeling that you’re watching something that was compromised at some point. Harlin is able to achieve some genuinely iconic shots, the shot inside Freddy of all of the children he killed is genuinely unnerving, but the best thing he does in the film is use Freddy’s finger knives. By having Freddy actually cut up apples, and pick things up with the finger knives, it gives them a sense of physical presence and allows you to wile away the hours wondering how they convinced the cast to let them actually putting knives onto the end of Englund, or his stunt doubles, fingers. Now the chances are this is all special effects jiggery-pokery, but I prefer to live the lie and imagine that at some point they actually built a functional set of finger knives.

One of the funner things about watching the films in a row is watching the filmmakers desperately trying to work out how to kill a guy who is literally mythical. From Nancy denouncing his existence in Part 1 the producers tend to favour esoteric ‘power of love’ type endings with only Dream Warriors dispatching Freddy in a way that was set up earlier. Alice forcing the children’s souls to rip themselves from Freddy works on an esoteric level, but feels flimsy and it feels like the filmmakers just rushed to finish.

Also how odd is it that they replaced Kristen but didn’t change her mother at all. Kristen’s mother, in a series full of AWFUL parents, probably takes the cake for being utterly abusive and horrible. When you consider that the first film has the mother being a drunken, previously homicidal, shell of a woman and Freddy’s Dead is full of parents who are physically abusive that’s quite some feat.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 6 September 2011 03:00 (A review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)

Here’s a geeky question. Just how long after the original does this film take place? A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, it’s sequel the next year. However the sequel jumped forward five years, so is this movie set seven years after the original. As such are the Nightmare on Elm Street films actually set, by and large, in the 1990s?

Nancy’s hair says no, but my heart says yes.

Regardless of the time period something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and by Denmark I mean Patricia Arqutte’s psyche. Freddy Kruger has decided to give up his summer job as the personification of homosexual Id and get back to his first love, the brutal (and for some reason Ironic) butchery of teenagers. Whilst I wasn’t utterly scathing of Freddy’s Revenge, with the film’s reputation it’s akin to curb stomping a puppy to get all critical with it, it’s nice to see Freddy back as an actual threat to children. His comedic lunging in Part 2 whilst oddly vicious always felt like a party entertainer had gone a little method rather than a homicidal maniac had achieved corporeal form and was about to get his long awaited murder on.

Here is what is magical about Dream Warriors, it somehow manages to balance wisecracking, ironic, Freddy with scary, rapey, Freddy. This is perhaps the last film in the series in which Freddy has a sense of menace and power to him but it’s also one of the more whimsical entries in the series. Despite all of bloodletting, and tits, and tendon pup petering, the entire film is built on the kind of ‘believe in yourself and you can achieve anything’ and ‘the power of love and friendship will overcome all odds’ moralising you’d usually find in Captain Planet.

I like to think that part of the reason for this tonal tightrope actually working is Frank Darabront’s involvement at the script stage. Now I know Darabront’s no miracle worker, delude yourself all you want but his Indy 4 script wouldn’t have saved that film (then again the power of Christ couldn’t have said that film), but I think he is gifted with the kind of emotional intelligence that is really lacking in most of these films. Whilst the stuff with the dream group can get a little sappy and cheesy, it feels earned and the kids actually feel like they have three dimensions (I mean this figuratively, the kids don’t get literal three dimensions until Freddy’s Dead). As discussed earlier part of the appeal of these films, too me, is that they feel focused on actually creating likeable characters rather than just fodder. We’re given enough information and time so that we actually get to like Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey, and that kid in the wheelchair, and the junkie chick, and that smart ass who gets walked off a building. OK, so it looks bad that I don’t actually remember half of their names, but I’m pretty sure the kid in the wheelchair doesn’t even have a name. Names or not they’re still a likeable bunch, like the Breakfast Club with mental health issues, and it helps Freddy maintain a hint of a threat.

The next two films in the series will start to see the kids having their personalities scaled back (presumably for budgetary reasons) and their dream sequences becoming grand circus of ironic hilarity rather than something truly horrible. There’s elements of that mean-spiritedness here, the weird looking kid who gets smashed into a TV seems to be get way more abuse than anyone else, but in general you’re rooting for these kids and Nancy, whose now all PHD’d up and kind of looking like the Bride of Frankenstein.

Nancy’s an interesting part of the texture of the Elm Street films as she kick starts a precedent for the survivor girl appearing in the next movie, dying, and handing the reins over to the next survivor girl. As such as soon as Nancy sees Kristen you know she’s going to get all clawed up at some point.

This is the iconic Nightmare film in a lot of ways, simply because it introduces the elements people know and love about Freddy. You ask people what they think about Freddy Kruger and they’ll tell you he’s a burned dude who cracks wise whilst dragging people into crazy dream worlds. This is the film which introduces wise cracking Freddy, which introduces gauche personalised dream worlds and which subtly redesign the costume to what we know it today. Gone is the massive jumper, in is a svelte sweatshirt. Hell ,they even call him Freddy this time rather than the rather unassuming Fred of the first film.

“Fred Kruger mom! He came into my dream and advised me about my tax rebate”

In the original you dream and you go to Freddy’s weird little boiler room, it’s essentially the horror house from Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left transposed onto dream logic. With this film we start to see Freddy actively using dreams as something grand and almost operatic. Whilst the stuff with the kids gaining their dream powers is cheesy, it shows a level of ambition and a level of psychological savvy that the films never really see again. It also allows us a weird dream world where four of the kids ostensibly gain super powers (although the one black kid being able punch things REAL hard feels a little questionable) whilst the other gets a Mohawk and some flick knives. Now I’m not debating the merits of a Mohawk and flick knives, but compared to the kid whose scream can destroy matter, or the kid who can acrobatically defy physics or the kid WHO IS A FUCKING WIZARD just asking for flick knives and a hair-do seems a little reductive.

We’re also treated to some more inconsistencies with regards to Freddy’s powers. Now you see I think it’s kind of hilarious that Freddy has no hard and fast rules in regards to what he can do, but I do wonder if anyone gets seriously agitated by him flouting the rules. Anyways after killing the wizard kid and somehow overcoming the girl with the Mohawk and flick-knives Freddy is facing down our intrepid heroes when he realises something ain’t right in the material world and he fades out to possess his bones, don’t ask, and go Harryhausen all over John Saxon’s ass. Two things strike me as odd about this. One, Freddy can reanimate his bones seemingly at will but has chosen not to do despite the fact that surely an unkillable bag of bones would surely be just as an effective avatar as a whiny kid who’s so far in the closest he’s been proclaimed the king of Narnia. Two, why does Skele-Freddy have his blade glove when Nancy’s mother apparently stole it from said corpse years ago. Three, why the fuck did Nancy’s mother steal Freddy’s glove all those years ago? Did she feel that at some point down the line she’d need an appropriate visual aid to explain to her kid how she firebombed some dude for the greater good?

This film also starts the tradition of Freddy killing people fairly innocuously but going full on with the build up. He lobs one kid off of the roof of an asylum which doesn’t sound all that interesting, the main thing about this is the lead up to the actual death, with Freddy ripping out the kids veins and tendons and turning him into some squirming teen marionette. It’s painful and gooey and really effective and it sort of marks the transition from Elm Street being a slasher film (Tina and Glen in the original are, despite the theatricality, fairly standard murders) to being something halfway between body horror and slasher. Freddy lingers with his victims and often the level of violence inflicted on one person becomes almost monstrous, and that’s a part of the films odd charm. Jason and Michael have to have ever increasing body counts because they’re essentially blunt objects, Freddy can spend five minutes putting each victim through agony. Lamentably this is probably as much a progenitor of Torture Porn, and in particular the Saw films, as Last House on the Left.

One last thing to mention is the score. Now the first Nightmare film was scored by good old Charles Bernstein (who created the really fantastic main theme), the second film got Christopher (I’m a truly fantastic composer, but I don’t seem to get any credit) Young for the scoring and in the third film we get Angelo (David Lynch taught me to eschew soundtracks in favour of random buzzing sounds) Badalmenti. Badalmenti does some nice ambient stuff and seems to homage Bernstein a lot, which is nice. From this point on the Nightmare films get overtaken by tie-in heavy metal songs, a trend started by the Dokken track from this film, and that’s a shame because Bernstein, Young and Badalmenti all bring really interesting layers to the films that get lost in the later films.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 5 September 2011 02:04 (A review of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge)

Mention the second ELM STREET film to a movie geek and they’ll probably look ponderous before exclaiming ‘oh yeah, the gay one!”. The reputation is totally deserved as well, but that doesn’t make it a bad film.
A failure to provide a reasonable rationale for the actions of your main antagonist however does a good job of making it a bad film. Every horror franchise seems to have a film which breaks away from the norm and uses the thematics of the series to tell a unique, non-connected, story.

HALLOWEEN 3 completely breaks away from the story of Michael Myers, FRIDAY THE 13TH:A NEW BEGINNING has a fake Jason rampage, every HELLRAISER film after the 4th uses the Cenobites as a background element of the story. In the same way FREDDY’S REVENGE turns the series, albeit briefly, into an attempt at body horror. Freddy as a villain is kind of staggeringly inert throughout the film, slowly taking over the body of main character Jesse throughout the course of the film.

This slow transformation means that if you’re not that interested in Jesse as a character then you’re going to be mightily bored. I’m personally of the opinion that Jesse and his ‘friends’ are an interesting, engaging bunch of kids. Jesse’s relationship with his girlfriend Lisa and the antagonistic friendship he has with Ron Grady actually feel really well realised and Jesse is a diverting, if slightly whiny and creepy, lead. The problem with the film is that it focuses too much on the teenage life of these three characters. Also it’s a horror film with THREE characters. Of these three characters only one of them is actually a victim. Whilst I’m not advocating mass murder it seems odd that the film seems to actually seek to be reductive in terms of establishing characters.

The subtext to the film is interesting, particularly with the casting of Mark Patton (who had outed himself prior to starring in the film), as it’s easy to interpret the possession by Freddy as being a metaphor for Jesse’s latent homosexuality. Scenes in the film like Jesse being confronted by his kinky Gym Teacher, in full leather gear, at a gay bar and the fact the final act of the film is kicked off by Jesse being unable to make love to his girlfriend and rushing to his male friend Ron for solace seem to accentuate the problem. It’s a troublesome reading because it implies that Jesse’s latent homosexuality is destructive and that the ‘good’ ending is Lisa convincing him to abandon it for her.

Getting away from subtext Freddy is handled very oddly in the film. In terms of tone he’s perhaps nastier and seedier than he was in the original and there’s a certain inconsistency to his powers and abilities. Kruger now has power over fire, can possess places even when people aren’t awake and has organic finger knives. It’s all fan boy bullshit, but it’s so wildly inconsistent from his other appearances that it feels like Freddy has been shoehorned into another story. Kruger’s motivation also seems odd, there’s no reason for him to use Jesse as an avatar unless he doesn’t have the ability to enter dreams anymore. It feels like either this is an early draft of an ELM STREET film where Kruger has murdered all of the Elm Street kids or it’s a script for another movie retrofitted for canon. It doesn’t stop Freddy being vicious and his rampage at the end of the film (whilst kind of clumsy looking) is utterly brutal and oddly iconic, Freddy addressing the teenagers with a wall of flames behind is striking to say the least.

In terms of visual design the film is very flat looking, but it’s horror elements are really well done. Jesse’s transformation sequences are amazingly effective and certain throwaway elements (like a couple of dogs with child faces guarding Kruger at the end) are utterly nightmarish. However the fact the other films seemingly overlook the very existence of this movie seems to suggest that it’s not really viewed as being part of the overall series. When you consider that films 1,3,4, and 5 all follow the same continuity it seems odd that no mention is ever made to the film again.

As it is the film feels confused as an Elm Street film but has some great central performances, fine work from Englund, and is genuinely horrific.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 5 September 2011 02:01 (A review of A Nightmare on Elm Street)

To most fans the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is the best of the Elm Street films, whilst I’m not going to disagree with the consensus for me personally it’s a middling entry in the series. In terms of tone Wes Craven’s original film is one of the few legitimately scary Nightmare films. There’s a brutality and viciousness to Freddy’s attacks which is still legitimately unnerving and it’s interesting because this is the only film in the series that divorces Freddy’s dream attacks from their consequences in the real world.

Latter films will show Freddy dispatching someone in their dreams and then cutting to the victim spasming into death in the real world. In A Nightmare on Elm Street two of the major kills are shown completely subjectively and it makes them genuinely horrific. Tina being lifted from her bed and being dissected in mid air is terrifying and visceral because it’s so disconnected from reality. Glen being dragged into a vortex in the bed, despite it showing a little more of the cause and effect of his death, is similarly terrifying. In both cases our minds are left to do the leg work in regards to what horrible thing Freddy is doing to them in the dream world and it’s amazingly effective.

Also effective is Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger. Over the course of the season Freddy slowly starts to dominate proceedings, becoming almost an avenging jester by his fifth and sixth appearances, but in this film he is just utterly repellently evil. There’s an innate rapeyness to the character in his first appearances and it helps to create this truly loathsome character. With his grubby clothes, lecherous tongue and lustful eyes there’s a level of threat to the female victims that’s not really there in the later films. Simply put Freddy is scary and despite some shoddy effects he’s amazingly effective as a villain.

There’s an interesting thing going on with Freddy in this film in that there’s an element of masochism to the character, ostensibly he damages himself to show Tina and Nancy how powerful he is but there’s something that feels almost fetish about him slicing his body.

Faring less well are Freddy’s victims. The ELM STREET films are interesting because they never have the massive body counts that the FRIDAY and HALLOWEEN accrue in their later entries. At his most deadly Freddy kills six people, on camera, in one film. As such the ELM STREET films tend to focus on the ‘victims’ more than it’s stablemates. Because Freddy operates in such an operatic/theatric capacity we need to know a little bit about the characters for their dream sequences to work and as such there’s a genuine demand for the kids playing the victims to be interesting on screen.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET lays the groundwork for a trick that Wes Craven will play again in SCREAM in that he sets up a ‘fake survivor girl’. Tina is the first person we see on screen and is given a fair amount of attention until she’s ripped to shreds fifteen minutes into the movie. The problem is that the film only has four central victims and her death eliminates her from proceedings AND her boyfriend who largely disappears from the file until he’s killed half an hour later. As such the bulk of the films narrative falls on the characters of Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp) and Glen Lantz (played by a debuting Johnny Depp). As such we’re left with a horror film that feels like it’s been rendered inert because we know that nothing can happen to these two leads until towards the end. There’s a lot of familial strife for Nancy (terrible parents is something of a meta-theme for the ELM STREET films) and occasional agitation from Kruger but it feels poorly paced at times.

Langenkamp does an admirable job as Nancy and she seems to get way more comfortable in the role as it progresses, but there’s a certain stiffness to her which takes some getting used to. Depp does okay in his role, it’s more interesting seeing Depp playing a straight-man rather than lathering himself in quirk.

The real star of the film is the style and art direction. As the series progresses it gets more and more overt in its stylisation practically becoming a day-glo cartoon by it’s fourth outing, but this first film is filmed fairly naturalistically and it gives the dream sequences and murders a real unearthly vibe. In particular Nancy’s dream in class, scored to distorted reading of a Shakespeare package and focused around the horrific image of Tina’s bloody corpse being dragged through the school in a polythene bag, is one of the most striking elements of the film. Craven talks at lengths about his interest in nightmares and how he used his own nightmares for inspiration and you can really see that in this film, there’s a dreamy, off kilter, quality to the nightmares in the film which mark it in stark contrast to the latter films and their zany, comic booky, dream sequences. In this film the dream world is a terrifying place even before Freddy Kruger shows up to perpetrate massive harm on your psyche.

What I find interesting is that despite being the ‘first’ of the ELM STREET films it doesn’t really set up the formula for the proceeding films. Freddy undergoes massive changes over the next two movies, the tone of the series changes, the focus on the dream world and the real world shifts to favour the former. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET feels like a skeleton of an idea which the third film builds upon and establishes the thematics and conventions of the series.

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Hanna review

Posted : 6 years, 8 months ago on 21 August 2011 09:18 (A review of Hanna)

Despite Hanna's super-soldier lineage I found this to be just an amazing breath of fresh air in comparison to the glut of Superhero films which we now have in lieu of actual action movies. I'm a massive fan of Atonement so I'm not going to say this is a step-up for Joe Wright, but he's got control of the material in this film that is kind of remarkable. There are so many elements in play in this film which could dominate it (it's kinetic chase sequences, Blanchett's performance, Hollander's creepy as fuck henchman, that score, Ronan's phenomenal performance) but they all cohese together in a way that is just mind blowing. Really there's an energy and intensity to the film which is kind of amazing, and it's built on an honest to goodness emotional core. I was expecting this to be a kick-ass action film, but I was just completely drawn in by both Saorise Ronan's performance (she's now got two of my favourite performances of 2011 under her belt) and the weird meta-family relationship between Hanna, Erik and Marissa.

The visual design is amazing, in fact the sequence where Hanna is escaping from the base felt like something Spike Jonze or Michael Gondry might have cooked up. Just breathtakingly well done, in fact with the blaring (and awesome) Chemical Brothers soundtrack it reminded me a lot of this music video.

I mean I could go on for paragraphs just about the framing in this film, little touches like the camera tilting up to show Hanna leaping between containers from below, or the amazing tracking shot which shows the geography of the containers as Marissa interogattes the family, or Eric Bana's tracking shot of bone breakage. Like I wrote earlier it's just a director in complete control of a film and it's exhilirating.

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Battle Royale review

Posted : 6 years, 8 months ago on 8 August 2011 11:50 (A review of Battle Royale)

I've seen Battle Royale three times now. Once back in 2002 when the film was first released on DVD in this country. I was just getting into Asian cinema at the time, graduating from anime onto the films of John Woo and Takeshi Miike, and so was devouring everything asian I could find. I already knew a ton about Battle Royale when I finally was able to rent it on DVD, I knew that it was viewed as a new video nasty, a film of shocking, unremitting, violence and so I went in expecting some transgressive horror and because I was a 16 year old fuckhead found myself a little underwhelmed by the violence, but enraptured by the overall style of the thing. The humour, the tone, the music, the great, almost deadpan, performance by Takeshi Kitano all combined to create a film I was mesmorised by. It's a film with a deserved cult following, but I kind of loved the technical side of thing but never properly connected with it.

The second time was a HK import of the Director's Cut, which was a mistake and kind of soured me on the film in general.

The third time was tonight, on Blu-Ray (a lavishly put together thing by Arrow Productions, it's actually kind of insane how much care and thought went into their Limited Edition) and the film worked for me in a completely different way. The spectacle and technical skill of the film was still there, and looked stunning on Blu, but I got the horror of the film this time, because I'm not a sociopathic 16 year old fuckhead. Whilst the film is blackly, blacker than a moonless night, comic there's a level of pathos and horror in the brutality that I never really picked up on before.

Battle Royale kind of works as a far more effective horror movie than I ever imagined, just little things like the reveal of the 'nice' teacher and the various shots of kid corpses is done with the kind of twisted aplomb that really gets under the skin. There's a passivity at times in the film, a detached way of filming which kind of grounds the more fantastical elements of the film and makes the kids deaths really horrifying. I've often wanted to read the original novel, because there a ton of allusions to a fictional alternative history in this film that are more fleshed out in the book and I'm fascinated by that sort of thing.

One of the things I find really interesting about the film is how Fukasaku has obvious sympathy for the kids, but also isn't afraid to use them as a commentary on society at large. It's easy to see the island, and it's murderous inhabitants, as a microcosm of society in general. As such whilst the kids are in a terrible situation they're kind of viewed impassively and judged by their actions, rather than their circumstances. It's why I think it's interesting that the two survivors are the two kids who refused to take part in the game. That impassiveness is also there in the way the action sequences are staged with the music swelling, and the score is the one thing I adored this time, and the kids actually being shown to be fairly competent through their choreography kind of ties into them being defined by action rather than intent.

Random piece of minutae: Because Chiaki Kuriyama carved herself out a career, post Battle Royale, as a general psycho in movies I kind of mixed up her character and the character of Mitsuko in my memory. As such I was kind of surprised when Kuriyama DIDN'T turn out to the sickle wielding maniac and instead was kind of a bitplayer.

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Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal review

Posted : 6 years, 8 months ago on 6 August 2011 05:13 (A review of Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal)

There’s something about the languid, slow paced, opening acts of this film which transform it from being a mere revenge film into something far more interesting and complex. I had a friend describe it to me as a Korean ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ and without any more information I girded my loins for transcendental violence. As it is the film is a kind of fascinating debut picture which has far more on its mind than simple blood and guts.

Set on a remote island on Korea, seemingly just off the mainland, the film follows a young career-woman (Hae-Woon) as she returns to her childhood home following a run in with some rapists in Seoul. There’s something rotten going on in this idyllic community, with its small populace split between five families. At the centre of the community is Kim Bok-nam a young woman, Hae-Woon’s childhood friend, who along with her daughter experiences both physical and emotional abuse from every male resident of the island and veiled contempt from every female resident. For the first hour or so of the movie we essentially watch as Bok-nam is systematically abused by everyone on the island and is ostracised by even her friend. Despite a few key moments of connection Hae-Woon is largely dissociated from her friends suffering, caught up in the crowd and incapable of action. It’s a film that is designed to make you broil with anger, tinged with a fatalistic view on society. Bak-run deserves none of the abuses she receive and none of the scorn she receives for simply being the subject of abuse.

As such when the tension is wound to its tightest point and Bok-nam is reduced to her lowest ebb we understand the sudden descent into violence. This is a film which views not only the abusers, but the people who turn away, as parts of the overall problem and it at times seems to be a polemic against wider society. I can understand a lot of people being turned off by the film, largely because how much focus is put on the abuse and how fatalistic the entire movie seems, but I think that focus allows us to understand a little of the humanity in Bok-nam even she becomes monstrously terrifying towards the end.

Whilst the turn to slasher film right at the end is a little awkward, it’s easy to understand the initial flashes of violence but Bok-nam’s full on turn into disassociated bringer of mallet based destruction feels a little off, isn’t handled particularly gracefully I think the film does a great job of building suspense and tension.

It’s definitely one of the more interesting, and rewarding, films I’ve seen this year. Well worth checking out.

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Kiltro review

Posted : 6 years, 8 months ago on 6 August 2011 03:36 (A review of Kiltro)

This cribs from so many places that it's hard to see where the homage and pastiche ends and the film begins. With a handful of references to Ichi the Killer, the Shaolin Temple, Mad Max, and an outright scene swipe from 'Bad Blood' the film seems to be a product of osmosis rather than actual vision. However what the film also has is a tremendous sense of fun and a tongue firmly stuck in cheek. It’s the kind of movie which feels like it’s trying to be goofy on purpose and it actually makes the proceedings move a lot smoother. In terms of action star material Marko Zaror is the goods, but there is a lot of time between the actual action sequences and as such the film often feels like it’s wasting his talents a little. When he actually does get to do his thing he’s pretty goddamn spectacular, if a little one-note. His principal move set is various variants on an overhead spine kick. There’s a major brawl towards the end where he keeps switching up weapons which is perhaps the highlight of the film, but is over way too quickly.

What makes the film work is the energy it has in its non-action scenes. Miguel Angel De Luca is a hilariously over-the-top presence as the main villain. Starring frantically into the middle distance as he dispatches folks with his talon handled sword cane. He’s the kind of over-the-top presence the film needs and he provides a great, intense, foil to Zaror. He even handles himself really well in his final fight, managing to drag out what should be a curb stomp battle into something interesting.

I’m kind of interested in seeing other films by Ernesto Espinoza because this film sort of coasts on the enthusiasm of his direction and it’d be interesting to see if he could maintain that across multiple movies. As it stands this is a cheery, cheesy, funtime which I’m sure is a cult favourite but which I only just stumbled across after seeking out more Zaror films (following his amazing performance in Undisputed III).

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Captain America: The First Avenger review

Posted : 6 years, 8 months ago on 6 August 2011 02:04 (A review of Captain America: The First Avenger)

Really enjoyed the first act of this, but as soon as Cap stormed the factory I found myself kind of mentally checking out a bit. The first half of the film has got a really strong emotional core to it, whilst the second half feels oddly detached and almost glacial. It sort of loses a lot of it’s sense of fun once it moves into the montage and then never lets up until the finale. It means stuff that should be a ‘big moment’ like Bucky’s death just feel oddly muted.

Whilst I liked Weaving as the Red Skull, and particularly enjoyed his Dastardly and Muttley style relationship with Zoller, I never got a sense of threat from the character. He’s supposed to be an equal to Captain America in terms of strengths, and should probably be handier in a fight due to the fact that he’s actually a soldier, and yet we never get a sense of that. His big moments are moving a coffin lid and punching a shield. I guess it’s the nature of the movie, but everything kind of seemed too easy once Cap made his decision to fight. Ever sequence we see is an overwhelming victory for allied forces with minimal casualties. I’m not wanting an Inglorious Basterds style culling of main characters, but it would have been nice to see the Allied forces vaguely inconvenienced by the Red Skull and his Nazi Super-Science.

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The Tree Of Life review

Posted : 6 years, 9 months ago on 16 July 2011 05:48 (A review of The Tree Of Life)

To preface this is the year that I really got into Malick. Since January I've seen Badlands, Days of Heaven, A New World and The Thin Red Line and adored them all (The Thin Red Line, less that the others) largely because the trailer for The Tree of Life excited me so.

Usually I'm quite happy to waffle on about a movie and drop stupid analysis like no ones business, but this film just genuinely floored me. I'm not a man of faith, at all, but there's something about this film which is just amazingly spiritual. It reminds me a lot of The Last Temptation of Christ in how it serves as both an analysis of religion but also as a spiritual experience all of its own. I love the central conceit of God filtered through the eyes of a child and represented by the two parents. There's something about the continual soul searching in the film which is deeply affecting.

It's also an amazing use of subjective story telling, with the majority of the story told from the perception of Jack as a youngster. This subjective approach is fantastic and it helps to make the core conflict of the film really resonate. A lot of Malick's films tend to focus on the nature of man and man's place in nature. This film muses on this subject by having mother and father represent different ideologies. The father is a man bound by social constructs and tormented by his own failures, a person shaped by his nature. The mother describes her nature as being of the way of grace and she exists in the world almost free of those social constraints. Her world is blinkered, inward, and unsullied by external factors whilst the father is paralysed by the reaction of others. The children naturally side with the mother and as such we're presented with a very skewed vision of the father and the mother, with the mother being an almost divine force whilst the father is a constant reminder of the everyday.

The film sees to have the view that both ethoses are flawed, that both need to be in place to counteract each other. Whilst the father is portrayed as brutish and deeply resentful, the film shows that the mother isn't a parental figure with control over her children when the father isn't there. He's essentially a neccesary evil due to the mothers ideology, however because we're getting the film from the persepective of a child he's rendered almost monstrous and the mother almost angelic.

My only real complaint about the film are two specific moments where I think the film loses sight of itself. The first is the short section featuring dinosaurs. It's part of a grand sequence showing the formation of the world and most of it is framed as a 'call and response' to the narration, the dinosaur section however doesn't have any narration to frame it and as such it feels kind of untethered from the rest of the film. It's also kind of odd because the dinosaurs are literally in two sequences and one of them seems to be there purely to reinforce the Nature vs. Grace ideology. I also think the film perhaps ends a few too many times, with the metaphysics of the finale getting a tad too much. Conceptually they're fine, but it's just exhausting having these natural end points and then there being yet more of the film.

Malick's eye is amazing, his framing and composition and the way he delivers information visually are just astounding. There are a few 'Malick Moments' which feel like broad parodies of a Malick movie, constant cutaways to waterfalls and leaves which are effective 95% of the time but across a little schticky that other 5%. The score is amazing though, the use of Smetana's Ma Vlast is amazing and Deplat's score is gorgeous. Really can't wait to get a copy of it.

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are great for different reasons. Pitt manages to find a lot of humanity in a character who is rendered monstrous by the subjective point of view, whilst Chastain manages to make the dialogue absolutely sing. A don't think many other actors could make Malick's dialogue work nearly as well as Chastian does.

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