Reviews written by registered user
|20 reviews in total|
Please join me as I wrestle with an existential crisis, religious
symbolism, Michael Paré and a rotisserie chicken:
The Shelter is the debut feature of writer, producer, actor and director John Fallon. It is a psychological and spiritual drama with a brooding horror underneath for good measure.
I would say it is the kind of film that explores the kind of themes that would only get made independently, and I say that as a huge compliment. It is one of the many reasons I am glad, as a website owner and movie reviewer, I get to see independent films: for the ideas.
It stars Michael Paré who has been garnering an incredible amount of praise for his performance, and rightfully so. It is the sort of soulful, captivating, varied and powerful performance that not only breathes every squeak of life into the script and the premise but also keeps an audience glued to their seat, unable to look away. Good thing too because Paréis on screen the whole time and, for most of it, he's alone.
The story of revolves around Paré as Thomas Jacob. He's a drinking, smoking and screwing, down on his luck hobo with twin bags of guilt and self-loathing. Showing up in an unnamed town he drifts from place to place as we slowly learn scraps of his tragic back story. Finally he winds up at an abandoned, new, white, sterile, eerie town house. Once he enters, he is unable to leave and suffers a long a night of soul challenging haunting, visions and dreams. While a little slow and definitely, frustratingly cryptic in places, the movie excels through the lead performance, the direction, the cinematography and the score. Its lush, crisp photography (by Bobby Holbrook), that makes strong use of light and iconography, and Fallon's keen eye for an interesting angle or a curious piece of intriguing symbolism, lends the whole film a rich, disturbing atmosphere.
The colour scheme is particularly effective and different. While some scenes feel realistic, others are photographed in cold blues, odd greens and moody oranges. Such thought and attention has been paid to the overall look of the film, which is wonderful because so many low budget productions forget to do so.
Keen attention has also, clearly, been placed on which film stock and even which film speed to use, especially during the fantasy segments. There are some very striking and beautiful images contained within the film and the production should be applauded for their cinematic achievements. Although kept to a pleasing minimum, the use of CGI is highly effective also.
The score by Shawn Knippelberg is a discordant, moody and different delight! It's never intrusive and always on point, helping and, sometimes, creating the atmosphere of the film. It perfectly accompanies the drama or the delirium as a good score should do. You never quite know where it's coming from, what you're hearing or even what it's being played on and this adds to your sense of unease.
Also, the juxtaposition of the re-occurring folk song is perfectly jarring and a confident stroke that could so easily fail and yet here succeeds beautifully.
A mention here, too, for the small supporting cast. As I said earlier, most of the film is a one- hander with Paré, who is excellent and not to be missed, but in the few key scenes where he is interacting with, mostly, the women in his life they are all very strong performers and distinguish themselves well. Over all the creative and talented successes in this film far outweigh its weaknesses which, for me, came down to the pacing in some places and the ambiguity of the final act. Maybe I have grown jaded on a steady diet of easily explainable and satisfactorily wrapped up Hollywood fare or maybe I don't remember the religious texts that were drilled into me back in school but I did feel that some of the film's intention and meaning was lost on me.
Maybe that was the point. The film is definitely open to interpretation. That is, also, let's be fair, utterly refreshing when compared to other, tried-and-tested, cookie cutter movies. When was the last time you were left asking questions or thinking about what it all means?
In my mind the film is dealing with themes and mostly ideas, emotions and experiences that people keep inside, hidden, gnawing away at them, picking at the thread of their subconscious. It tries its best to visualise and manifest feelings of self pity, self doubt, loss, guilt, anger, regret and everything else our, de facto, hero is carrying around with him. Its with this task that I think the film definitely succeeds. It's the religious underpinnings and possible message that maybe was lost to me but this also means the film will hold up, for me, to repeat viewings and finding new things each time. In the end though, having a satisfactory conclusion or all of your questions answered is not what it's about. It's clearly a very personal, intelligent work of art by an emerging, talented filmmaker and an aging character actor showing he has depth and range with challenging material.
Everyone will take something different from and everyone will find something they think is enjoyable, intriguing, beautiful and/or sinister. Whatever aspect of the piece grabs you then I guarantee it'll be with you a while. I know, for me, the photography, the atmosphere and some of the images will take a long while to shake off.
Well the first thing I should point out is that it's not really an
action movie, in the traditional sense. There is action in it and two
of the scenes in particular are joyous, violent, exciting, well shot,
brilliantly executed and suitably cathartic but overall I would
describe it as a character piece with a slice of crime drama and
action/revenge film tacked on for good measure. I have read tons of
reviews coming down on this movie, mostly criticising The Stath, and I
have to say that they couldn't all be more wrong. The two best things
about this movie are Statham and Simon West, the director. The third
best thing is Vegas.
First though, let's get the bad news out of the way. The one thing the other critics won't say or do is criticise the Hollywood legend William Goldman who penned this film, the book it's based on and the Burt Reynolds version of the same story Heat from 1986. I, however, am not most critics. This script, which is almost identical in places to Heat, has no structure, pretty weak dialogue and never quite delves into the character of Nick Wild in the way the movie sort of suggests it should. Let me explain that last part. The film is made up of lots of little strands of plots. A crime story involving the mob and a battered woman's revenge, a wealthy kid who hires Wild to bring him out of himself and be more of a man and, all the while, Wild wanting to leave Vegas but also never quite being able to. None of which are ultimately, really important as they are all meant to just add up to a character study of Nick Wild who, we learn, is a well liked security expert/bodyguard/problem solver with a rough exterior but a heart of gold who has a little issue gambling. It's the 'throw enough bits in a pot and you'll be able to cook something' approach to screen writing. What depth, character and moments there are to be found are brought out by the collaboration of Simon West and Jason Statham, not by anything readily apparent in the script and the pair of them are superb here. It's a difficult watch though because it's not a standard narrative. The crime story sort of has a three act structure but not really and the film, if it was a traditional film, just sort of ends.
The other thing that threw me out of the film a little was the whole world Nick inhabited was populated by famous actors but all of them just showed up for one, sometimes two small scenes. It's an interesting way to cast a film but it did leave me sitting there thinking 'what the hell are they doing in here for just 5mins? that's a bit mad' rather than fully engaging with their characters. Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander, Sofia Vergara, Hope Davis, and Anne Heche all just crop up and are gone almost as soon as they appear. They play such innocuous, nothing roles as waitresses, card dealers, a lawyer, a mobster... just random 'that guy' roles but being played by recognisable, fairly high tier, character actors. Due to the nature of the plot and the nature of the casting, when the film ends you sort of wish you could spend a lot more time in this world. I have heard this said by another critic but it's something I agree with, it's almost like a pilot for a Statham driven show on HBO or Showtime. It has that kind of plot and casting. A TV Show, I might add, I would watch every week. However as a film it does feel slightly like 90 minutes of set up and no pay off.
All that being said Vegas has never looked so 50s, shabby and cool. Simon West directs with the sure hand of an old pro while also putting in some welcome style and interesting editing. It has a 50s meets 70s feel, it's scored with groovy, slow versions of Christmas songs and it's very very cool. Nick Wild is also a great Statham character because while he can handle himself physically, and he does in some tremendously choreographed, beautifully shot, violent as all hell fight scenes, he also has a nice sense of humour, a strong moral principle and a weakness for the cards. It is only this last aspect, the gambling addiction that traps him in the purgatory of Vegas, that just doesn't come across very well. There's either not enough time spent on it, the script doesn't write it well enough or it just belongs in another movie like a "Leaving Las Vegas" style thing perhaps. Statham does his best to sell it though. If I had to pitch it to you it's Drive (the Ryan Gosling film) meets Leaving Las Vegas the TV Show pilot with Jason Statham.
I would say catch it on VOD unless you're a hardcore Stath head like I am. It does look kick ass on the big screen though, just saying.
This is a funny, charming, unique, throwback slice of Americana with a
monster in it. Don't watch this expecting scares or gore, watch this
because it is chock full of invention, humour, observation and ideas.
It's a homage to old time, small town ideals and camp fire story
telling. In this cynical, self referential, gratuity obsessed culture
it is a breath of fresh air to see this low budget, independent cast of
colourful and creative characters band together to make this movie.
When I watch it I can't keep the smile off my face but it's not a
derisive smile, it's enthralled, entertained joy.
On top of everything else it is photographed really well and there are some genuinely wonderful shots in the film. The music is an unrivalled delight, the acting is a style all of its own and although it's obviously a suit, the Riverbeast costume is terrific!
I would urge people check this and the group's previous efforts Freaky Farley and Monsters, Marriage and Murder in Manchvegas as they offer more peculiar, funny tales of the things that might be lurking in your woods!
If you're a horror and a slasher fan in particular, See No Evil 2, a sequel to an underwhelming slasher from 8 years ago, will not let you down and is definitely better made and more enjoyable than the first film. You get to spend some real time with the characters and got to learn about their various relationships and personalities, which is such a breath of fresh air in a film like this. The Soska twins know that this sort of build up is vital for a good horror film as it helps with tension and suspense, it gets the audience aware of and familiar with the surroundings the action will take place in, it makes sure the audience is rooting for the characters to survive, it allows us to feel their panic when being chased and, especially in the case of See No Evil 2, your investment in these characters really pays off in a few twists and turns the film takes later. Including one, in particular, that turns a genre convention on its head. The film, like their Sophomore effort, American Mary, is also shot very well. The use of lighting, atmosphere, shadow and texture is excellent and they also avoid that irritating, grimy greeny brown colour scheme and go for something muted but much more naturalistic. In particular the harsh blues of the florescent tube lighting, the mint green hospital walls clashing with the deep reds of the exit signs and the oranges and browns of the hot and hellish basement. The plot, much like the first film, suffers a little bit from you, the audience, thinking 'why aren't they just running out of the front of the building again?' I mean Jacob Goodnight is one, slow walking, undead, Godzilla like person in an enormous hospital, surely getting to the front door wouldn't be too much of a challenge. Part 2 at least does a better job of handling this problem though with a few inventive 'oh no he's blocked the exit' moments and the establishment that Seth is the only one with keys. Glenn's performance of Goodnight in this sequel is more destructive and powerful than he was in the first film and it's a delight to see him tearing through doors, gates, windows and walls with superhuman abandon, it adds a certain, welcome ridiculousness to the proceedings and leads to many great jump scares. The rest of the main cast, Danielle Harris, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Michael Eklund and Katharine Isabelle are very strong in their roles, which is, of course to be expected and they help to make the film fun, frightening, and even, occasionally, moving to watch. The other three main members of the ensemble are actually fairly weak and forgettable in stereotypical roles but that we get any character development or plot at all is to be commended. If there are other criticisms then it's mostly some pacing issues during the middle act and the slight generic nature that these throw back stalk n slash movies can have. The Soska's do their best to pervert and invert this at every turn though which is great but it doesn't rival the invention, atmosphere or strange uniqueness of Mary. It has throw back charm, a good sensibility of it's own, it let's the actors breathe life into their characters, it's shot brilliantly, it has some good scares, improves on the first film and is damn entertaining. Check it out!
Sabotage is a gritty crime action thriller. It is also, on the surface,
an unusual film for Schwarzenegger who, despite a slate of upcoming
sequels to his former big hits or franchises, is in the middle of a
really interesting comeback. The criminally underrated Last Stand saw
him try a little bit of an Eastwoodish turn as the old, tired, grizzled
sheriff of a small town, Escape Plan saw him having tremendous fun and
stealing the film in his supporting role and in the upcoming Maggie he
will be dipping his toe into the bloody and crowded waters of zombie
films but with Sabotage it appears to be a first for Arnold: a, mostly,
dramatic, serious performance, leading an ensemble cast, with,
comparatively minimal action.
Arnie plays a tough as nails but quietly haunted and lost DEA Agent, whose special team of hard training, hard fighting, hard drinking and hard talking undercover agents are divided by an incident and investigation surrounding a missing ten million dollars. This fills the team full of mistrust, which only grows as they, individually, start showing up dead in a series of brutal, unflinching and hard R murders. Schwarzenegger must team up with Fed Olivia Williams and work out just what the hell is going on.
Sabotage is a film that is all about appearances. It appears to be a grainy, dark, violent and adult crime film which pulls no punches with language, nudity and gore but aspects of the plot are as generic as your favourite 80s or 90s revenge action film. It's, also, a film that appears to be taking clichés from the past and turning them on their head and a film that appears to be clever, full of twists and reveals but, a few minutes out of the cinema, you have more questions than answers and any logic the script has falls away pretty quickly. This, normally, in a wham bam, 80s throwback, action film wouldn't matter but structuring it the way they have and presenting it the way they have, demands you look into it a little closer and, when you do, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
One of the good things about the movie was definitely the fact that, from the trailer, I thought it would have that shaky-cam, grainy-video style cinematography that sadly passes for so-called "realism" these days and is meant to signal you're watching something edgy and serious but it didn't. The cinematography was pretty good and the action scenes, particularly, were clear, pleasing and watchable. There were a couple of moments where the camera would suddenly and needlessly be mounted on top of a gun or something silly but apart from that, very cool. Another thing was Arnie and Olivia Williams performances, while the chemistry between them never really materialised like maybe the script called for it to, he has the presence and she has the acting chops, so that you were always pleased when the film followed them. Lastly it's violence and gore is joyously hard R, in your face, unflinching and even shocking. I just wish it was attached to more enthusiastic and pleasing action sequences.
Sadly though the movie has a lot of faults and I hate to write or report this as I really do think Arnie fans, action fans and thriller fans should go and see it, if for no other reasons but to make your own mind up and to see the Austrian oak do something very different in tone at least, if not in story. However, a couple of hours detached from the movie now and I just wish they'd told the story differently or it had been a different story. While I applaud anyone trying to come at generic material a different and new way, I don't think this did it successfully. There's a reason this kind of story has been told differently in the past, it's more satisfactory that way. Also it's full of plot holes which are covered only by the fact that, because we are meant to suspect everyone in the film, no one really has any kind of character to speak of. Their motives aren't quantified, explained or examined beyond very basic assumed reasons. The second reason Sabotage is not the film I hoped it would be, is that the team around Arnie are all horrible people and while Sam Worthington's character displays a little sensitivity and tragedy, quite well I might add, most of the time they are all obnoxious, swearing, bickering imbeciles. I couldn't believe one of them had any more elite training than a mall security guard and even if they did, not one of them seems to respect it. I understand the team in the film is meant to be divided by mistrust and devastated by the deaths of their team mates but there are more scenes of them visiting strip clubs and drinking booze than there are scenes of them kicking ass and taking names, which annoying and grating. Lastly, the film is also horribly misogynist. I can't, exactly, go into all the reasons why here but there aren't many glowing representations of women in the film, most of them are drug addled, whores or strippers. Not that the men are likable and perfect either but they don't get anywhere near the bad representation that women do in the film. It thinks it combats this claim by having Olivia Williams' seemingly strong, intelligent character in there but it really doesn't once you see what happens.
Despite all this stuff, I did enjoy the movie for what it was and it's definitely an interesting film for Arnie to have in his come-back cannon. It's nothing like I was lead to believe from the trailer though and it's not as clever as it thinks it is but disengage your brain and just go with it and there's a ton to enjoy. It's my least favourite of his films since 2010 though.
Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with this R Rated indie
comedy that sees him attempting to drop his Mr.Put-Upon-Nice-Guy
persona while starring in a film that doesn't exactly work without it.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby a foul mouthed, negative, man-child with a
savant way with words who has, through a loop-hole and with the support
of reporter Kathryn Hahn, entered the Golden Quill spelling bee much to
the chagrin of it's organisers Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall and
the parents of the children, the other participants.
The film is a short, well acted and competently directed, verbal, indie comedy. The humour is, at times, very rude, crude but pleasingly inventive and Bateman, especially, seems to be relishing the role. Good thing too as he holds the whole thing together. Which is more than can be said for the script. The tagline to the film is 'the end justifies the mean' and the fact of the matter is, it really doesn't. Whether you find spelling competitions important or not, nothing really justifies the cruelty Guy Trilby unleashes on, not only, the people directly involved in the competition but just general people in the world, funny though a lot of it is. His personal vendetta effects way more people than the actual, solitary focus of it and I guess it's just down to Bateman's like-ability as an actor, the genuinely funny dialogue and the fact that we are stuck following him for the whole movie that keeps us, the audience, dubiously 'on his side'.
There is a sub-plot about his befriending a child, a fellow contestant, and 'tearing up' the town with him in the evenings which, I suppose, is intended to endear him to us a little and play to the rebel in all of us but some of the things they do, including causing a stolen lobster to lacerate a man's genitals, seem a tad cruel for no reason, as well.
Now before you think I am taking this all too seriously, let me explain. The film IS funny. Taken on face value, if you find vicious, dark, crude humour for the sake of it funny, then you are going to love it and there was much about it I did enjoy. Films, however, whether people like it or not, have to have characters, plots and motivations that make relative sense within their presented frame work and while "it's just a comedy" may excuse a lot of illogical or unforgivably cruel behaviour, the fact that the film, ultimately, asks us to give a hoot about this selfish, arrogant arse hole of a man means that we have to, at least, buy into the story and care a little, when it doesn't give us a lot of satisfactory reasons to. Had he participated in the contest without cheating and eliminating some of his opponents in humiliating ways or had he befriended the kid, torn round the town but not hurt a man's penis with a large clawed sea creature then his character might have been a little more redeemable, while being no less funny.
There are echoes of Wes Anderson in the characters and the plot, especially Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums without, of course, it being anywhere nearly as charmingly presented or stylish.
A worthy debut, though, for Bateman as a director and interesting to see the R Rated comedy given the mumble core indie treatment.
OK, listen up, the rest of the people who have reviewed this movie are
either blithering idiots or have never watched a B Movie actioner
before. Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson directs and stars in this renegade
cop versus a drug syndicate movie which has everything you could
possibly ever want from one of these kinds of films. There is gun play,
fisticuffs, explosions, great one liners, a damn cool soundtrack and a
terrific cast having a ton of fun with the subject matter. Is it true
that it's low budget, fairly rare, shot on a lower grade film and sort
of illogical in places? yes of course, it's an action film made in the
early 80s but that's not why you watch a movie like this. You watch it
because Fred Williamson is one of the coolest men on the planet,
because The Hammer always gets his man, because the cast list reads
like a Whos Who of AWESOMENESS, because it's shot on real locations,
because it's fun and gritty and, if you need one more reason, because
there are full human body explosions in the movie!!
The Hammer plays a rough and ready, rule breaking cop who gets suspended after a drug bust gone wrong fails to turn up a million dollars in cash. Now this renegade has to clear his name and stop the bad guys who have a vendetta against him and want their money back. It doesn't disappoint. From the opening scene of Williamson undercover dressed like the smoothest pimp you've ever seen to the explosion filled ending it is a well paced, slick, fun, exciting, funny, action filled movie with a soundtrack that sets it on fire. A fairly bad copy is available on YouTube or you can buy it cheap on Amazon. I would suggest you do so. Yes this film needs to be watched and reviewed as what it is. Although the production value might not stand up against a big studio picture, considering it was probably made for 7% of the budget of say, a Beverly Hills Cop, it's a damn fine film and The Hammer knows how to get bang for his buck on screen.
Also, for the other reviewer that said that Black Caesar is the sequel to Hell up in Harlem, it's the other way round. You're on IMDb it would've taken you literally seconds to find that out.
Anyway, please ignore everyone else and give this movie a chance. It's kick ass!
The ever prolific Jason Statham is back for his third film this year!
First it was Parker, then Redemption and now, finally, the Sylvester
Stallone penned Homefront, based on the book by Chuck Logan. My reviews
of his earlier outings this year were full of pride and praise for the
guy who, despite harsh, incorrect criticism and rarely stella box
office, continues churning out diverse, yes I said it, diverse films.
This time round please take that as read because, actually, in
Homefront, Statham has delivered his most throwback, recognisable and
just down right enjoyable action film of the year. While the junkets
and interviews for this have tried to emphasise the emotion in the
story, Statham showing vulnerability as a father and talk of him trying
something different, actually this is the one movie this year that he's
made that is just a straight up, old school, actioner.
When the movie starts we see undercover agent Stath's last case gone bad when his delicate work undercover with a biker gang is shattered by the heavy and messy hand of the DEA. He resigns, his wife gets sick and dies and so his daughter (Izabela Vidovic) and him move to the Louisiana countryside that his wife loved so much. He hasn't been there long when trouble at the daughter's school escalates into confrontations with the local, strung-out hillbilly woman (an almost unrecognisable Kate Bosworth) and her no good, dentally challenged, lank haired man. Bosworth happens to be the sister of the local nut job meth dealer Gator (James Franco), who is unceremoniously banging an ex druggie biker chick (Winona Ryder) who, in turn, happens to know the old biker gang who still hold a massive grudge against our musclebound, monosyllabic, balding hero. The stage is set for all hell to break lose and for The Stath to do what he does best and clean house. Throw in a crooked but charming sheriff (The always welcome Clancy Brown), the dependable, one good man in a hick town, best friend (Omar Benson Miller) and the beautiful, red headed, more than perfect, school psychologist (Rachelle Lefevre) and you've got yourself a damn enjoyable, by the book, nostalgia tinted, kick ass action movie.
If you've seen and loved Walking Tall or Road House then you'll like this. In fact I had to chuckle when I heard the name he was using, at the beginning, as an undercover biker. You'll see what I mean...
Much has been made of the script being written by Sylvester Stallone, you know because short-term memory critics forget the man has written a ton of screenplays, was Oscar nominated and developed three of the most successful franchises of all time, but, here, again, he shows that he hasn't lost his touch. Stallone writes relatable, human and enjoyable, kick ass entertainment and he does it almost better than anyone else. That's what you get here, some pretty decent character moments, some recognisably entertaining and enjoyable interactions, the odd cool one liner and action on and off through out. There is a pause in the middle to allow for character and plot development, some father and daughter bonding scenes and a nice sense of building tension for the third act fight but Statham dispatching some lunk headed rednecks is never far away.
As for the action we get a couple of car chases, some old fashioned fisty cuffs and even an enormous explosion. Statham is an old pro at this stuff and, thankfully, there isn't too much shaky cam-itis or heavy handed editing to ruin his masterful handling of the rough and tumble, although, ideally I'd prefer my fight scenes with no added style or flash from, overly twitchy, DPs at all. The direction from Mr. Old-reliable, Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls, The Runaway Jury) is absolutely fine. He captures everything with the minimum of fuss and you're never unsure of what is going on. I imagine it would be difficult to make Louisiana look ugly but Fleder and his DP do their best to really make the surroundings pop with colour and texture.
As for the acting, the mad hodgepodge of a supporting cast do their roles pretty damn well actually. Kate Bosworth stands out in her role of the tweaker sister and it's by far the best she's been in anything I've seen her in. Franco is good, he doesn't overplay it and while he lacks overall menace, he does his best to portray the strung out Gator as a ruthless, wasted loser who could snap at any minute. Winona Ryder doesn't have a ton to do and neither does Rachelle Lefevre but Clancy Brown and Omar Benson Miller are effortlessly enjoyable and welcome whenever they're on screen.
Statham is his usual strong self, with maybe even less to say in this than in his normal roles and while he seems comfortable and it's never jarring, he does, sadly, lack great chemistry with Izabela Vidovic, the girl playing his daughter. Which is odd because in Safe he formed a very real and pleasing on screen bond with the girl in that. It is not that Izabela is no good, either, because she's a great little actress and they do have some affecting scenes together, it's just not 100% believable, not that it has to be for the film to work.
So, for all of you who don't believe Statham does anything but the same character in the same film, hopefully 2013 has proved you wrong, if it hasn't, Homefront is hardly going to go any further to change your mind, that being said, if you watched Parker and Redemption and longed for some of the wham bam, throw back days then Homefront should help stop that craving. For me, personally, I like them all. If I had to rank his last three it would be Redemption, Homefront and then Parker but there's really very little between them. They're all damn cool.
Let me start by saying that James Cullen Bressack's film 13/13/13,
released by The Asylum, has, at its core, a GREAT idea. At a time when
the Horror and Sci-fi genres seem plagued by remakes, copy cats and
irony filled shark attack films, even from so-called first time or
indie talent, 13/13/13 has this great horror sci-fi concept.
Basically it's all something to do with leap years violating the ancient Mayan calendar and all those extra days in February, over time have created an extra month and on the date of 13/13/13 everyone who wasn't born on a February 29th goes completely nuts.
It's a wonderful, end of the world scenario that allows for lots of death, destruction, mayhem and the symbolism of the "unlucky number" 13. More importantly, I hadn't really heard of much like that before and it's always nice to hear a fresh idea. Yes, OK, so behind the idea is the whole Mayan calendar hoopla that went around last year claiming that, in 2012, the world was going to end and, I'm sure that, The Asylum liked it for that reason, as they're always making B-Movie versions of big budget disaster films (or Mockbusters as I believe the affectionate term is for them) but this has a decent spin on that and actually attempts something novel with it. The idea that leap years added up would form this weird 13 month is just the kind of bonkers, surreal hokum I am drawn to. There was a bit of George A Romero's The Crazies mixed in there as well but it's, at least, a different Romero source to draw from than the interminable bad zombie films we've had to wade through lately.
The things that I enjoyed in this film were the slow build up to people going crazy, some good and, on some occasions, even darkly comic deaths, a nice, atmospheric, gory and weird hospital sequence and attempts to establish different types of craziness for different groups of people. There was a really strong bedrock here for a pretty decent end-of-the-world horror film and what the filmmakers were able to do with, what was, obviously, a limited budget was, also, very impressive.
What was a slight disappointment with the movie, for me, was the fact that, I didn't feel, the concept went anywhere or was explored as much as I would've liked. For example, it needed a crazy old professor, or someone, who knew about the old world and spouted Donald Pleasance-like doom filled one-liners. The film, definitely, could've done with some sort of further explanation of the situation or some place to go. Maybe a glimmer of hope to reverse the situation using a mystical rock, Mayan gold amulet or something, or, maybe the rising of old beings to establish their order again on earth. As it was, while it was atmospheric, gory as all hell and nicely shot, the hospital sequence went on entirely too long and once our two, Feb 29th born, protagonists finally escaped there was little time for anything but a muddled and, I felt, rushed finale back at the house.
The acting was a problem in the film. I watch a lot of amateur and low budget films so it doesn't bother me a lot but the acting was pretty stale, unfortunately, and not one character really shone in the film. A lot of that might have been the script too because, while the idea was there and the deaths, gore and action were all there, the dialogue was, in places, dreadful. I thought that more creative ways could've been used to convey the craziness other than just rage and repeated uses of the f-word said unconvincingly by actors struggling to act. Don't get me wrong, there were some creative bits of craziness, especially Quentin (Jody Barton) believing himself, suddenly, to be a Korean war general but overall the swearing and the anger felt forced in some of the performances. I liked the laughter and the random acts of violence but thought the opportunity to make that truly creepy was missed. Without a few strong, decent lines of dialogue and the odd interesting character, the film did, very slowly, become something of a slog but there was, genuinely, some nice potential here.
Trae Ireland and Erin Coker were solid enough, but neither of them had very interesting characters. Calico Cooper is Alice Cooper's daughter but sadly didn't get to do very much but what she did was fine though. Jody Barton got the showy role and was, at least, enthusiastic with it and, probably, the strongest performer of the lot. Bill Voorhees, with the name made for horror film acting, was sort of funny in the role of sidekick to Jody Barton despite it being an underwritten, obvious, slob-friend role.
While it, sadly, does go nowhere, there was lots to like in this B-Movie. One positive on the acting was that I didn't feel anybody was winking at me or playing any scenes in a lazy, half-arsed manner. I felt that everyone was trying their hardest and playing the scenes straight and true. This is important because it's become all too fashionable these days, even amongst high-profile stuff like Tarantino and Rodriguez's later work, to knowingly and lazily play every scene just for puerile, pathetic and ironic laughter and, for me, that just takes me right out of the film. While the acting isn't always strong or dynamic, I am glad to say 13/13/13 doesn't do this. The key to making a fun, enjoyable, weird, silly, wonderful, cult or B-Movie is to believe in what you're doing, no matter how ridiculous and, again, this film does succeed in that regard.
While not quite there completely I appreciated this film for it's attempt at a different, creative take on an apocalypse scenario. It was an enjoyable romp, some great scenes, some good enthusiasm and a decent idea at its core.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Belgians, Bluegrass, Beards, Tattoos, Child Cancer, Marriage, Death,
Birth, Life, Sex, Religion, Science, Politics, America, Birds, Stars
and Suicide. The Broken Circle Breakdown is about all this and more.
It's a phenomenal, brilliant, difficult, depressing, heart warming and
joyously musical movie from Belgium by writer/director Felix Van
Groeningen starring the supremely talented Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle
Baetens. Johan Heldenbergh was also a co-writer of and performer in the
original stage play and even learned to play guitar, mandolin and banjo
to perform the lead role of Didier who is fascinated by America and
The film tells the tragic story of Didier, the bearded bluegrass fanatic and passionate atheist, Elise/Alabama the head strong, mysterious, confused, emotional, sexy and lost tattoo shop owner and Maybelle their doomed daughter. The film chronicles their lives together, through the good and the bad, in a nonlinear narrative. The emotions involved and the relevant life moments, though, flow in a perfectly understandable and pleasing way. It's not unlike someone, sat round a table, telling you their life story. It wouldn't go from start to finish, there would be moments where they'd have to go back and fill in the blanks for you, that's the nature of this film. The characters meet, fall in love, find joy, get pregnant, face that hurdle, have a child, suffer that child getting leukemia and passing away and then the rest of the film shows how both Didier and Elise handle that while also taking time to cover the religious, spiritual, political and scientific ramifications of that. Didier is thrown more passionately into his steadfast belief in science and the political, religious fundamentalists who would block its exploration, while also desperately, emotionally and lovingly trying to keep his marriage and music together and Elise begins to find beauty and solace in notions of re-incarnation or the spiritual realm but also retreats from a situation she sees no remedy to and slowly, tragically abandons everything. Interspersed through all this tough life stuff is some of the most exquisite live performance of bluegrass, country and Americana roots music by a brilliant team of bearded Belgians. It's one of the best movie soundtracks of this kind, in my humble opinion, this side of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The music, overseen and, very often, written originally by Bjorn Eriksson is most definitely the soul of this film and where it really hits its stride in terms of displaying truth, beauty and raw emotion. The whole film could've been dialogue free and told in just that incredible series of performances such is the skill of the actors and musicians. It helps immensely that the two leads perform the songs themselves and so can imbue them with the emotional journey their character is taking. During the rendition of 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' We see attraction, amazement and the first flickers of love in Elise's face from the audience. During "Cowboy" Didier connects with Elise, shows off, struts, feels confident and she responds with excitement, awe and lust. During "Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn", shown in a fantastic montage that goes from Didier practicing in the caravan, passed a beautifully photographed, fireside hoedown and up to the point when Elise finally joins her man on stage, you see her blossom and Didier unable to believe his luck. You even see the band buoyed and pushed forward by the way everything is gelling. Elise's solo performance of "Wayfaring Stranger" is so powerful and perfect that it doesn't really need the intercut images of poor Maybelle's fate, as everything is on Veerle Baetens' face and in the words of the song. This continues throughout the film with everyone hitting the right note so as to make the emotions utterly raw and believable in a way that only the combination of great direction, editing, performance, music and film can. In what might be one of the most beautiful performances of the entire film, Elise joins Didier and the band on stage one last time to perform a duet version of "If I needed You". It is the point where everything shifts and the two lovers are moving apart, Didier reaching out and Elise retreating. It's so sad, awkward and stunningly simplistic.
These musical interludes and their deep, clever, subtle storytelling are not, in any way, too obvious, mawkish, sentimental, over wrought or manipulative. They are woven so perfectly into the broken narrative that they enhance the journey you're on with the cast. It helps, of course, that I am already a fan of this music and it helps too that the film is photographed, directed and edited in such a wonderful way as to make even the slightest nod of a head, or the move of a hand poetic and rich. The colours, the grain, the lighting, the sound and the shots are so full of detail, texture, shadow as to both be seemingly realistic, you can feel the warm fire in a cold farm house, and utterly artistic, vibrant and clearly a movie.
Is it a tough watch, a tad depressing and definitely melodramatic? yes. It wasn't the love story I was expecting by a long shot but whereas other films I have seen are just relentlessly dreary, depressing, slow and devoid of ideas and emotions, Broken Circle Breakdown can be watched over and over again for the depth, detail, performances and ideology it has. I took from the film that life is meant to be held on to and fought for, not given up on or run away from and while finding solace in the religious or spiritual is all very well, there is more than enough beauty, mystery, music and reason to keep living, as much as you can, day by day, on earth, no matter how hard it gets. You never know, one day you might be surrounded by awesomely talented, bearded Belgians singing bluegrass... we can all dream, right?
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