Short Movie Reviews: February 2015

Evil Dead (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_Dead_%282013_film%29

An interesting, but ultimately flawed, attempt to recreate something without understanding what made the originals classics of the horror genre. Directed by Fede Alvarez. It is a modern horror remake of a classic of the genre so it was always going to be difficult for it to stand on its own without severe scrutiny. Guess my reaction. As with all these remakes the original caught the zeitgeist of some aspect of society’s fears. Rosemary’s Baby did it when fears about Satanism were prevalent due to media scares (even the nice old couple next door could be part of a cult), Halloween did it when fear of serial killers in middle America’s suburban ‘white picket fence’ communities was commonplace due to more media scares (if someone goes on a killing spree you won’t be able to stop them) and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ raised fear of how powerless adults were to prevent paedophile access to their children after even more media scares (the murders being in the children’s dreams and caused by a hidden shame). Ultimately this makes me thing the next successful horror series will be about Russian radical Islamist (Chechen?) immigrant terrorists if the media scare trend is anything to go by…

The original Evil Dead was grittier, darker and more bleak than many of its contemporaries (except of course Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but the series is of course best known for Evil Dead 2 (basically the same story but with black humour) and Army of Darkness (basically a comedy adventure with horror elements). The message troughout the series overall was to revel in the absurdity of the situation which had a decidedly H P Lovecraft perspective in how there is little, if anything, you can do to fight it – except of course Ash, an everyman action hero, is placed into the scenario and thus disrupts the usual fatalist tone such stories undergo by their end.

The remake removes this figure we vie for and identify with yet retains, if not embellishes, the ‘tree rape’ scene Sam Raimi has always said he regrets. If anything the sequel is perhaps more influenced by Lovecraft’s tone of fatalism but in having over the top gore it also undermines itself. The trailers, especially the red band ones, gave away everything, and I mean everything, interesting about the film and so it was more a ‘tick the boxes’ process than something to enjoy. The only thing I can say is that applying gender studies to the film we find instead of Ash’s phallic chainsaw finale we get the gynocidal fountains of blood as Mia wrenchs her own arm off unrealistically as she was pinned under the upturned vehicle and she cleaves the demon in twain. I am not sure if the demon was meant to look like her or the girl from the introduction sequence. I swear during the introduction sequence burning the old woman is speaking Welsh. The final scene is just red on red and its hard to distinguish anything really. It’s as if the saw Kubrick’s adaption of The Shining and thoguht the elevator scene needed to be used in other scenarios.

Where the original series was in the tone of the grand guignol, leaving the audience entertained and satisfied, the remake is merely plodding scenes, impressive in their imagery but fatally flawed in their setup, where we just wait to see who survives if anyone and feel a loss of nostalgia when the stinger closes at the end of the credits with Ash speaking the phrase ‘Groovy’. Well made but not something you will bother seeing again.

The Woman In Black (2012)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woman_in_Black_%282012_film%29

A Classic ghost story masterfully told. It is directed by James Watkins, the screenplay is by Jane Goldman and is based on Susan Hill’s novel of the same name. It is made by Hammer and is a fantastic addition to their back catalogue. A classic ghost story which relies more on its atmosphere than on jump scares (though it uses a few and this is one of the few situations where they are vindicated). Daniel Radcliffe gives a fantastic performance proving he is more than capable of emerging from out of the shadow his role as Harry Potter risked overshadowing his skill. The terribly airbrushed cover photo they insist on using for the posters and DVD cover really doesn’t do this film justice. Hopefully one day they will revisit the marketing and create a more fitting image.

The cinematography is fantastic and it really shows the passion everyone involved had for the project. I have the DVD and the commentary is admittedly quite dull though they do note a few things you may miss and give some details about where they acquired the automatons from. The other extras are nice additions including Radcliffe reading the winner of a ghost story writing competition.

The Rambler (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rambler_%28film%29

Jacob’s Ladder occurring during a road movie directed by Calvin Reeder. I have the DVD which is very bare bones to the point it doesn’t even have subtitles. Either you will love it or hate it. It is not a film that will explain itself to you.

Think of Lynch or Croenburg during the 1980s and you have a good measure of what to expect. It is something you probably won’t fully appreciate on one viewing despite the impression you may get. It deserves more love and is a promising start from its director.

Whats Up Doc? (1972)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27s_Up,_Doc%3F_%281972_film%29

A screwball comedy directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It is fantastic light hearted fun and did the ‘Manic Pixie Girl’ before that was a thing with the likes of Zooey Deschanel taking on such roles. You can see how Barbara Streisand was the it girl back then.

It is one of the classics of American cinema and easy to follow. It shows how a lot of the ‘screwball comedies’ of recent years don’t quite get that the audience need to like the characters so you can’t just keep having everyone be a sociopathic man child running around causing trouble. Having one in your film works and no doubt they will be a fan favourite but too much exposure is a bad thing in such cases.

The Great Race (1965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Race

A classic directed by Blake Edwards. I didn’t know of it but caught it on TV. Fantastic fun light hearted fun. The comedic villains inspired Dick Dastardly and Muttley of the Wacky Races. Natalie Wood… speaking Russian for a brief moment 😀 Although it is a bit sad that she is meant to be a suffragette styled Gibson girl and ultimately is left running around in her stockings later on. Also yes Peter Falk (Columbo) is Max the henchman. Oddly it should be noted Max influenced Muttley and Columbo influenced Mumbly (similar to Muttley but a detective) so apparently Hanna-Barbara adored Falk…

A really entertaining film with great set pieces and I actually ended up watching it twice over two days and didn’t mind. There need to be more comedic villains like these even if it seems a bit silly by today’s standard. Good honest clean fun.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spy_Who_Loved_Me_%28film%29

‘James Bond’d Ocean Adventure’. A James Bond film starring Roger Moore. Features fan favourite henchman Jaws. Barbara Bach is the eye candy this time. This is the one that starts with the ski chase ending in Bond leaping off a cliff and using a Union Jack parachute.

A classic Bond film. What happens? Bond goes around making quips while bedding beautiful women, fighting eccentric villains, going to exotic locales, driving a car that turns into a submarine, drinking expensive drinks. I have no idea it’s a haze… It’s the ‘James Bond and the Ocean Adventure’ entry in the series.

The Wind Rises / Kaze Tachinu (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_Rises

Studio Ghibli so obviously the animation is beyond question in terms of quality. Although it is often said to be a biopic of Jiro Hirokoshi, designer of the ‘zero’ aeroplane which the Japanese used during World War II, it is more based on the fictionalised account in the short story ‘The Wind Has Risen’ by Tatsuo Hori, with a few of Hiro’s characteristics like smoking which Hirokoshi did not share.

A beautiful film, but also one that has an ongoing trace of sadness, throughout it. Hirokoshi achieved his dream of designing a world class aeroplane only to see it used as an instrument of war. As people draw parallels between this film and Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement (but he has said that before so no one believes him) maybe Miyazaki also looks wistfully at the Japnese animation industry he has been so influential in and yet perhaps is not proud of playing his part in establishing.

Moonraker (1979)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonraker_%28film%29

‘James Bond In Space’. Roger Moore as James Bond and Henchman Jaws appears again. Jaws gets a girl and presumably burns up in re-entry after the camera gives him a happy ending while elsewhere Q makes a double entendre about Band attempting re-entry as he has sex, on the monitoring system watched by military staff, with the Bond girl of the film.

I enjoyed it but it is one of the more ridiculous entries in the series but at least it realises this and has a bit of fun with the idea.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (2010)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Be_Afraid_of_the_Dark_%282010_film%29

An excellent dark fantasy film. The sort of thing that is rated for older audiences but is the sort of thing which children will enjoy a few sleepless nights over.

Influenced by Arthur Machen and Algenon Blackwood this lends itself more to the traditional style of horror story combined with fables. A classic film which will only gain more of a reputation over time. I just wish thet didnt put Guillemo DelToro’s name all over it as if it was his work alone when he is just producing it…

She’s The Man (2006)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She%27s_the_Man

An adaption of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night apparently. If you remember how ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ successfully modernised ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ with strong performances from its leads you can just forget that here.

Amanda Byrnes and the insistence on comedy over narrative lead this from bad to worse. Friends of mine, while severely drunk and not knowing what it was, went to see this in cinema when it was released and immediately regretted it. That was a more entertaining and inspiring a story in that one single line than this entire film. It won’t make people seek out Shakespeare’s work nor will anyone remember it as soon as the credits roll.

Balls Of Fury (2007)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balls_of_Fury

‘Hey guys I have this crazy idea for a film. Chinese triad death tournament but instead of fighting like in Fists of Fury they play ping pong’ that was the pitch and the reaction was ‘duuuuude pass me the roach before I lose my high’.

It has a few good low brow jokes at the start but quickly runs out of idea. Also Maggie Q’s character goes from hating the lead to being literally clinging onto him with her legs over one scene. I know it is meant to be a parody film but if the parodies fail and the narrative drive fail you are just left watching a car crash. Its a 5 minute sketch dragged out. They should have kept Christopher Walken’s involvement out of the promotions as it is too obvious who the big bad is and so the biggest joke of the film ie the xenophobic blind mentor trained a ‘gwai-lo’ as his best student is completely ruined even before seeing the film. If you want to see a film about ping-pong watch the 2002 Japanese film.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_%28film%29

Marvel make a feel good team up film with relatively unknown characters and it works. I think James Gunn worked his magic on this and made a fun film even more successful.

I think what works for it, unlike the sequels of the bigger name films, is it doesn’t take itself seriously, we don’t have expectations of the characters and while it’s never going to be on anyone’s top ten of all time films it is a fun ride which often choses to defy conventions without becoming overly involved in its own narrative mythology. It’s a feel good science fiction adventure film and to be honest what with the Star Wars prequels drowning in their inability to be satisfactory let alone good this film is not only welcome but likely to long outlast the films of Marvel’s big name characters.

Kwaidan (1965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwaidan_%28film%29

Based on 4 stories from Lafcadio Hearn’s collected Japanese ghost stories. No he isn’t a relation of mine sadly. The stories featured are The Black Hair, The Woman of the Snow, Hoichi the Earless and In A Cup of Tea.

A masterpiece of world cinema. Slow pacing to build the tone of the stories and although you could easily read the stories in a few minutes I feel the film really gives such a heightened experience. Thoroughly enjoyable. I for a long time didn’t really find anything to lure me back to Japanese cinema due to the recent pandering to certain audiences and over use of cheap CGI but this reminds me of the calibre they are capable of. The cinematography alone is worth watching this film.

Ai To Mokoto / For Love’s Sake (2012)

Directed by Takashi Miike. He is never scared of mixing it up admittedly. There isn’t a proper Wikipedia page for the film and little English language information online about it. It is based on a 1970s manga.

It parodies various famous Japanese songs and the entire thing plays up on how ridiculous the entire genre of high school love is. Does it faithfully adapt the manga or is it satirising it? I don’t know as the manga has never been translated, officially or by amateurs, so it is anyone’s guess.

It starts out great with a number of impressive scenes and musical numbers but kind of loses itself by the end with the main guy beating up a hoard of Schoolgirl gang members for about 10 minutes. Basically imagine the supercut of the American remake of The Wicker Man where Nicholas Cage goes around punching a community of women in the face endlessly and you can guess what the end of the film began to look like.

The main guy doesn’t love the main girl. She treats him more as a project to improve him from being the working class ruffian he is in comparison to her upper class privileged background. Long story short the film ends with him knifed by a teacher he punched (actually a famous Japanese wrestler in real life) and bleeds out as he goes to the girl. He dies at the end. He hates the upper class and ultimately it’s because of the girls interfering in his life he is on the verge of death and she hugs him thinking he finally loves her back. It reminded me of Memories of Matsuko… a film which to me should be renamed ‘Hey Suicide is Painless Compared to a Tragic Life’. Go watch it. Then tell me you disagree. The trailer for that is a lie…


‘Oh hey just to keep the blog running over with regular updates why don’t I do mini reviews of films I have seen recently?’

No.

Bad idea. It actually took longer than some of the more considered posts. Not that I consider them for more than a day or two and those ones are obvious. *cough*ultralongFrozenpost*cough*

Next time it will be another random topic.

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mrhearne

Poetry, theatre, literature, films, reviews and various other matters.

2 thoughts on “Short Movie Reviews: February 2015”

  1. I actually thought Daniel Radcliff was quite good in WIB, but I just can’t help thinking that I simply want to see him being good, because I like him and I’m wishing him well (hope you know what I mean, I’m not sure myself). But he did get good reviews for his performance, so..

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    1. Yes I understand exactly what you mean. I believe he has taken on quite a diverse portfolio of interesting roles in the previous few years where his ability is shining through allowing him to quickly shed the overcasting shadow of Potter. Obviously it will always be a part of his acting career, both as a boon and curse, but now its part of, not the dominant aspect, of his career fortunately. His next role is as Igor in ‘Victor Frankenstein’ (2015) based on the 1818 editions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Looks interesting.

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