Short Movie Reviews: January 2015

Just to keep the blog ticking over here are some short reviews of films I saw on television recently.

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009)
The forest dwelling cannibals return… well one of them does with his son and this time they are hunting criminals and correctional officers (and a girl from the introduction stinger who survived). So this is the film where the final of the three recurring cannibal brothers dies (chronologically as the fourth in the series is a prequel and the fifth… midequal?). The characters are mostly either cardboard dull or outright unlikeable. Ironically when Three Fingers son gets killed is the only moment in the film close to eliciting any reaction although it is still very much a case of evil vs evil. Chavez is so clichéd it is borderline racial stereotyping. You don’t care if anyone lives or dies and thus it is just a process of killings which you don’t care about. The first film in the series I still now remember watching and it was fun so its very sad to see how quickly, even with inventive alternatives to ‘teens go into the woods’, they ended up just making no effort.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)
A prequel which takes place in modern times. The first film was released in 2003 and this film seems to be set in 2011… Nothing in the design or costumes suggests this is set far enough into the past that the cannibal teens seen during this film become the three recurring villains of the series except they share those character defining physical deformities. It is more aking to what the Japanese call a ‘gaidan’ i.e. side story using the same characters and perhaps setting but not connected to the rest of the series. It was incredibly low quality and poorly done. The fact that within the first 5 minutes after the stinger at the start we see most of the cast having sex together, both heterosexual and lesbian in the same room, and then the lesbian pair reprising their copulation about 15 minutes later should have told me they really had little if any good ideas to present here. The last pair get their heads cut off escaping on a snow mobile. The camera then shows a wide overhead shot showing the posts where the barbed wire would have been hung between… basically the ‘survivors’ died from stupidity. I don’t know if the creators have decided we should be vying for the cannibals to win but they seem to have missed the whole origin of this idea when it arose in the 1980s with Freddy Kruger. He had inventive ways of killing the kids in his films and many snarky remarks. Here we have grunting deformed cannibals. How this film is set about 20 years in the past before the first film escapes me. They made no effort whatsoever and even low budget amateur films have better production values that this did. This film should never have existed…

Biggles: Adventures In Time (1986)
The 80s really had an issue where if Americans made an adventure film not featuring an American hero they would shoehorn one in because they were scared their audience wouldn’t understand non-Americans could be heroes… in fact they still do if anyone watched ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ where they introduced Tom Sawyer into the British Empire orientated team of literary misfits… although that film had more issues that just that in terms of its adaption of the source material.
So here we have an American chef… yes chef… time travelling, against his will, into World War One and aiding Biggles the British flying ace with destroying a super weapon the Germans have. THEY ARE TIME TWINS. What does that mean? What is the logic of it? It’s convoluted. They have Peter Cushing play a man who sound be over one hundred years old by the time of ‘modern 1986’ but there are a lot of inconsistencies in this film. The source material had a teenage Biggles but he is in his mid to late 30s here to be more manly and heroic looking and there were no science fiction aspects to his adventures unlike this film. And no the super science secret weapon isnt something realistic such as the weapons of World War Two its a ‘sound weapon’… and no not the brown note bowel evacuating kind. In fact Biggles gets some future helicopter technology but crashes it into the sound weapon to save the day.
The action scenes are good but overall it is one of those films which doesn’t stand on its own terms and plays to wild and loose with its source material it seems like an ‘in name only’ adaption for fans of the source material. Overall it was dull. The American has vibrant blue eyes which freaked me out and the actor playing Biggles reminded me of Ollie from ‘Made in Chelsea’ to the point I had to go check they were not related. If anything this film is mildly offensive as it is Hollywood suggesting that every key event in World War two was because of American involvement. A straight Biggles film would probably not found a wide audience but at least it would have been true to the source material.

Fast Girls (2012)
A British drama about a young, working class, female athlete Shania Andrews as she competes against Lisa Temple at a local level, and follow the duo as they work their way into the British 4×100 metres relay team and compete in the World Championships. The guy who played Arthur in BBC’s Merlin played a physio in this film and I was sure the main actress was meant to be playing a teenager, though she’s clearly an adult, so it was a bit awkward. Basically this film was made to cash in on the Olympics mania of the time. It’s okay but nothing special. It’s the sort of film you say ‘oh yeh, I saw that when there was nothing on television one day’ rather than actually tell people about.

Shrek the Third (2007)
Otherwise known as ‘the one where they lost the magic suddenly’. Long story short kids don’t care for tales about a couple’s issues about having children but the creators forgot this and so the film wants to be a children’s animated film which wants too much to appeal to adults and forgets about its core audience. The baby shower scene is certainly something that wouldn’t exist, or would be much shorter, if they had remembered this. In particular I noted the music action sequences were definitely far weaker. In the second one we have been led through a story where Shrek realises that it isn’t appearance that matters and Fiona loves him not his appearance. Realising this he goes, with the aid of his friends, storming the Fairy Godmother’s party to ‘I Need a Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler. Playing out the cliched hero to the rescue story but it has built to this moment and so everything comes together in an exciting finale. In the third we get Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ where it starts off with Snow White summoning birds and then people messing about throughout the town for throw away jokes. Really it should have been Fiona leading the charge so the film doesn’t even seem that dedicated to its own narrative instead giving us the generic fairytale princesses and letting the self sufficient heroine we have come to know suddenly become very docile… The music selection in the third film doesn’t have the impact of those selected for the second and much of the humour is a re-tread or falls flat. The film, without much reason except to get the plot moving, has Fiona’s father die which just seemed arbitrary… Also Prince Charming is not an effective villain and his role in the film is made worse when you consider many would understand why he developed a vendetta against Shrek and company for killing his mother. The colour palette of the film also seems dulled in contrast to the previous adventures. Sadly this was the swansong of the series, despite the fourth films efforts to recapture the magic, when they just rehashed there previous efforts instead of playing with the setting. Also you will notice Rumpelstiltskin in this film as one of the assembled villains who in the end give up their villainous role… and yet in the fourth film we would get a new, totally different, version of this character without any explanation or knowing wink to the audience they know they hadn’t thought it through when doing the third. I think even Dreamworks wanted to just skip the events of this film afterwards…

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [for the Elderly and Beautiful] (2012)
Take respected British actors and do a story about old people moving in to a retirement home in India. If everything else can be outsourced why not residential care for the elderly? That was the concept… except everyone here is more physically active and mentally able than many of the real like care home residents so its more of a feel good film and I shouldn’t be over thinking it… There is a fake out death soon after they arrive and then a real one later once one of the characters has completed his story arc of reuniting with his former lover and reconciled. Then he suddenly has a heart attack so he is no longer the designated love interest to Judy Dench. ‘Shock! I didn’t see that coming! Wow anything could happen in this film! It’s so emotional!’ is how I imagine the pitch going and the desired reaction. It is based on a novel called ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach and the narrative’s progression is oddly similar to that of a novel. Its good and definitely well-made but I have a critical eye which makes me jaded against giving the benefit of the doubt to the ‘magical realism’ of feel good, light hearted, drama films. If I was in one of these I would no doubt be Maggie Smith’s character who initially shows complete resistance before becoming part of the hotel’s staff after being shown kindness and acceptance… except without the racism she displays at the start.

Where’s the Czech film?

O slavnosti a hostech also known in English as The Party and the Guests or A Report on the Party and the Guests

…It’s postponed indefinitely until I am in a better position to give it the attention it deserves. Go watch it though after a little knowledge of the politics of the time and you will understand how it is rated ‘universal’ / ‘for everyone’ but was permanently banned by the political authorise at the time.

[edit: I’ve lost my notes about it!]