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D-readful., 18 April 2014

When elderly antiques dealer Jack (Robert Forster) fakes a heart attack so that he can be alone with young Ethan Kendrick (Cody Arens), and proceeds to tell him a bizarre story about how they have a special connection, the boy doesn't turn on his heels screaming 'stranger danger', but listens attentively, despite the tale being virtually incomprehensible. Hell, he doesn't even get a Werther's for being such a good boy.

Weird old Jack's story goes something like this (possibly): every half a millennium, a Yuh-Yi-Joo is born who has the power to transform an Imoogi into a powerful celestial dragon. 500 years ago, evil Imoogi Buraki, aided by his Atrox army, a swarm of Bulcos and squadron of mighty dawdlers (I kid ye not), was narrowly thwarted by the Yuh Ji Yoo's appointed protector. Soon, Buraki will return to seek out the latest Yuh-Yi-Joo and it is up to Ethan, the new protector, to ensure that it doesn't succeed.

Fifteen years later and Ethan (now played by Jason Behr with floppy hair) has all but forgotten his strange encounter with the old man (probably on account of his story being so crap), but gradually begins to understand his destiny when the massive serpent turns up to trash the city in its hunt for a mysterious girl named Sarah (Amanda Brooks).

Written and directed by Korean Hyung-rae Shim, but starring an all-American cast, D-War is a colossal mess of a movie, a big-budget CGI-packed monster movie that throws an awful lot at the screen (including an elephant being eaten by a snake and a colossal oriental dragon) but still somehow manages to be about as exciting as an episode of The Waltons: the script is all over the place, virtually every performance is diabolical (although you have to feel for the actors wrestling with such lousy dialogue), and the huge-scale action scenes, although visually impressive, completely fail to engage the viewer due to the sheer inanity of proceedings.

Drive (2011/I)
A stylish ride., 16 April 2014

A stunt-man/mechanic who moonlights as a getaway driver lands himself in big trouble with vicious gangsters after helping out his neighbour.

It's hard to believe that any film centred around a character who drives really, really fast for a living could move so slowly, but don't take that as a negative… Drive's deliberate pacing helps to separate this tense thriller from many of its contemporaries, lending it a leisurely air of cool that is sorely missing from much of today's Hollywood output.

Gosling's deliberate central performance also adds immensely to the film's distinctive mood; his Driver is classic anti-hero material—a man of few words, calm and collected in even the most stressful of situations, but capable of extreme violence when provoked, proving just as capable in a fight as he is behind a steering wheel.

Excellent performances, a gripping plot, and several shocking outbursts of extreme violence make Drive a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining ride, with only the very ending—in which I felt Driver uncharacteristically lets his guard down— detracting somewhat from this viewer's overall enjoyment.

7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.

Not as kick ass as I had hoped., 16 April 2014

Three Hong Kong babes—gym boss Boo (the lovely Chrissie Chow), homeless cutie Miu (Dada Lo) and Boo's love rival TT (Hidy Yu)—accept an offer of work as bodyguards in Malaysia, but once abroad, they find themselves forced to participate in a brutal underground fighting tournament.

I operate on the basis that almost any film featuring really cute oriental chicks kicking ass has got to be worth a watch, but Kick Ass Girls really puts my theory to the test, the film's distinctly Asian-style humour (ie., facial mugging and silly physical gags that are not at all funny) making the whole affair far more painful than any film featuring three kung fu hotties has the right to be.

The first half of the film, which establishes its trio of attractive but tough female characters, is particularly heavy on the crap comedy and almost saw me throwing in the towel; I stuck it out, however, reasoning that things could only get better. Which they do. Marginally.

Once the action kicks in, matters prove slightly more entertaining. The martial arts scenes, in which the battling babes duke it out with some tough looking female opponents, are reasonably well choreographed and a fun finale sees the sexy girls donning S&M gear to make a bid for freedom.

Once again, cute oriental chicks kicking ass make a movie watchable. But it was a close call.

Ed Gein (2000)
For a far more entertaining (and gruesome) take on the Ed Gein story, I recommend Alan Ormsby's Deranged (1974)., 14 April 2014

Ed Gein was the seriously messed up Wisconsin individual whose nefarious activities in the 1950s—murder, dismemberment, grave-robbing, amateur furniture design, and the wearing of the skin of his victims—inspired the creation of several infamous cinematic sickos, most notably Psycho's Norman Bates and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series.

But where Gein's real-life activities should easily make for a thoroughly absorbing and disturbing biopic, this account actually proves rather dull and lacking in shocks, director Chuck Parello (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2) opting for a frustratingly reserved approach that focuses far too heavily on the more mundane aspects of Ed's life and on presenting him in a sympathetic light when it should be delivering the grisly goods.

Factually correct it may be, but Ed (convincingly played by Steve Railsback) shooting the breeze with locals in the town bar, discussing why he enjoys pork and beans for supper, and performing babysitting duties for a couple of kids hardly makes for particularly enthralling viewing, while his frequent delusional flashbacks and hallucinations are predictably staged and repetitive. Only two scenes stand out in so far as they actually manage to prove genuinely unsettling—Ed taking his skin-suit for a late-night airing and a quick glimpse of a decapitated, gutted human corpse hanging in his basement—but these are all too brief.

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.

The Raid 2 (2014)
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Wow! Just wow!, 12 April 2014

Don't go into The Raid 2 expecting the same again: you won't get it. The first film was an extremely satisfying, virtually plot-free, relentlessly brutal fight-fest that left the viewer gasping for breath, but the sequel is so much more than that—a densely plotted, visually stunning, brilliantly acted, wonderfully controlled piece of drama with richly drawn characters that gradually morphs into an insanely violent, incredibly gory (so much blood!) and utterly exhilarating stunt-packed martial-arts/action masterpiece, one that re-defines the entire genre.

Reminiscent of the Hong Kong heroic bloodshed genre (particularly those films by John Woo) and numerous Japanese Yakuza films, the plot explores the familiar themes of respect, honour and betrayal and features characters for whom the line between good and bad have become blurred. In terms of drama, it's up there with A Better Tomorrow and The Killer. However, in terms of action, it leaves these films in the dust (hard to believe, I know), with countless flawlessly executed scenes that put the viewer right in the midst of the mêlée, where each and every punch, kick, stab and slice can be experienced in extreme blood-drenched close-up.

Pitted against some of the most awesome cinematic baddies ever realised (the likes of which will have Tarantino crying into his coffee knowing that he has forever been trumped by a Welshman), Iko Uwais, as undercover cop Rama, is simply amazing—one of the most physically impressive action movie stars I have ever witnessed—while Director Gareth Evans displays an understanding of his visual medium that I find difficult to comprehend, every scene executed with the utmost of care and skill, whether it be a simple lingering shot of a leaf in a field (before the inevitable explosion of violence) or a jaw-dropping, breakneck car chase (my personal favourite moment); together, they have taken the art of the action movie to a whole new level. The Raid 2 has now become the standard by which I will measure all others.

Dafoe is da man., 12 April 2014

It is the age of the silent movie, and German expressionist director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) is determined to film his version of the Dracula story, whatever the cost to his cast and crew.

I've never really been a big fan of Nosferatu nor a particular admirer of Willem Dafoe, but this bizarre little movie has made me appreciate both much more. A fictionalised account of the making of F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent horror classic, Shadow of the Vampire toys with the notion that Nosferatu's star Max Schreck (played here by Dafoe) was actually a bona fide member of the undead.

This fanciful idea plays out a little too slowly, perhaps, but offers plenty of opportunity for dark humour, the cast delivering suitably offbeat performances that prove strangely intoxicating, with Dafoe's mesmerising turn as Shreck being the film's strongest suit, the actor's mannerisms and expressions played to perfection.

Casual movie fans who haven't seen Murnau's classic will probably wonder what the hell is going on, so I recommend seeing Nosferatu beforehand, just so that one can fully appreciate the magic of certain scenes and the brilliance of Dafoe's performance.

A change in style for Chucky., 9 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I reckon I enjoyed the previous Child's Play movie, Seed of Chucky, more than most, largely thanks to the completely bats**t bonkers approach, and I would loved to have seen the series continue in this vein; however, those behind the franchise clearly felt that a change was in order, because Curse of Chucky, the latest in the series, sees a return to basics, the film going for suspense and scares rather than outrageous OTT silliness.

In some ways, this entry works as something of a reboot for the franchise, at least in terms of style. Not only is this one far more sober in tone than the last couple of movies, but it is also much nastier in terms of realistic violence, with some truly gut-churning scenes of gore. While I still would have loved to have seen another seriously nutso Chucky movie, as a gorehound, I couldn't help but appreciate this film's vicious streak. A juicy severed head gag, a barf-worthy knife-in-the-eye, and a really nauseating axe blow to the jaw are the film's sickening highlights.

Curse of Chucky also benefits from a neat unexpected twist involving an adulterous affair, a convincing performance from first-time child actress Summer H. Howell, a memorable turn from grown-up actress Maitland McConnell (hubba, hubba!), and the welcome return of a familiar face in the film's closing moments.

7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for the excellent splatter.

A reasonably fun German slasher flick., 8 April 2014

Ten years after witnessing the brutal murder of her parents by a sickle wielding maniac in a dress, Jeanette (Valerie Niehaus) is discharged from a mental institution to take up work as a French tutor for a trio of spoilt teenagers. However, her new life becomes a nightmare once again when a mysterious killer starts to bump off those around her using a sickle as a weapon…

A forgettable title and bland DVD cover did very little to get me worked up about this film, which I only ended up watching because I wanted to gain back some much needed shelf space. But what I imagined would be just another extremely tedious, crappily directed, shot-on-video American slasher turned out to be something slightly more interesting: a predictable but surprisingly polished German slasher, based on a screenplay by Hammer legend Jimmy Sangster and atrociously dubbed into English, which delivers both bloody violence and tongue-in-cheek silliness.

Slick direction, impressive cinematography (with great use of wonderful scenery), decent performances (despite the dubbing), juicy death scenes (including the demise of several cuddly pets) and fun visual references to other horror movies all add to the entertainment factor, but sadly the farcical humour—which comes to the fore in the final act—does detract from the overall effectiveness of the film.

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for having the cojones to liquify a cat and bisect a pooch.

Biga-low on laughs., 6 April 2014

Heart-broken after the tragic death of his one-legged wife Kate, male gigolo Deuce Bigalow (Rob Schneider) is talked into taking a trip to Amsterdam by his ex-pimp TJ (Eddie Griffin), where the pair become involved in the hunt for a serial killer targeting the city's man-whores.

I loved the first Deuce Bigalow for its unashamedly tasteless low-brow humour, but this sequel tries too damned hard, not to just match the original, but to outdo it; as a result we get loads of extremely OTT and very puerile gags, few of which actually hit the mark.

Where the first movie saw Deuce's services hired by a tall woman, an obese woman, a narcoleptic, and a Tourette's sufferer, this one has the reluctant man-whore meeting an OCD sufferer, a babe with a serious hygiene problem, a 'big bitch' with a baby fetish, a hunchback, a lady with a tracheostoma, another with unfeasibly huge ears, and a Russian woman with a penis for a nose and who sneezes jizz!!!.

There are a few giggles to be had with all this nonsense, but most of the jokes are too far-fetched and fall flatter than a Dutch landscape. There is also an over-reliance on repetitive gags, especially the use of ridiculously named sex acts such as Turkish Snowcone, Belgian Steamer, Portuguese Breakfast, Chili Rainbow etc. (which are funny the first time, but soon become tiresome).

Part of me would love to believe that the film will grow on me with successive viewings, but I'm not even sure if I'm willing to test that theory.

I rate Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo a disappointing 3 out of 10, but add an extra point for lovely Kelly Brook (as the woman in Deuce's pot-induced hallucination), gorgeous Hanna Verboom as Deuce's new squeeze Eva, and the use of The Pixies on the soundtrack.

And baby if you're feeling nice, you know your man is workin' hard., 5 April 2014

Tourette's Syndrome shouldn't be funny—I'm sure it's very distressing for those inflicted—but try keeping a straight face during the Tourette's scene in Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo…. it's nigh on impossible. While this film might be totally crass and unsophisticated silliness from start to finish, and occasionally scrapes its laughs from the bottom of the barrel (or, in some cases, a water-snail tank), it still manages to be a hugely enjoyable way to waste an evening.

Rob Schneider plays Deuce, a professional fish-tank cleaner who unwittingly enters the man-whoring business after an unfortunate fish-tank related accident while house-sitting for a gigolo leaves him needing to find $6000 in the space of a few weeks. Of course, being far from an Adonis, Deuce doesn't have much of a say about the standard of his clientèle, and there we have the movie's main joke: all of his customers have something wrong with them. Narcolepsy, gigantism, obesity, uncontrollable swearing, and missing limbs: anything goes and even though it's all incredibly un-PC, it's extremely hard not to find funny.

In fact, Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo delivers so much unashamedly low-brow hilarity that I'm even willing to forgive its star Rob Schneider for his part in the Judge Dredd debacle of 1995. And that's saying something.

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