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Maximum Potential (1987)
A fantastic work out for various fitness levels.
Before Dolph played Frank Castle in 1989, he was a real Punisher on this video. He really puts your whole body through the wringer on this video, it will tire you but he also takes precautions to keep anyone watching it safe from harm. The warm up and cool down routines prevent soreness and are all aided by a commentary explaining the benefits of these routines and a bit of dietary advice. Although fairly brief, the cardiovascular segment is effective at getting the heart pumping and you have control over how hard you push yourself, depending on your fitness. The main segment, 'Body Sculpting' is brilliant as you can do it in a very small space and it requires no weights or props, just simply using your body weight as resistance. Kudos must go to the start of the tape as Dolph shares some of his philosophies before the work out but the 80s cheese takes over your attention, putting you in humorous spirits before you exercise.
Using this video and making slight alterations to my diet (do not despair, I still love chocolate!), I lost 4 stone (56lbs) whilst still retaining a fairly muscular physique. Thankyou Dolph, your video is awesome and I advise anyone looking for a good work out video to search this out. It cost me £10 on ebay but it's the best tenner I've ever spent.
Excellent use of imagination fronted by an excellent cast
As a big fan of Wes Anderson and Bill Murray, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was a real must see for me and I'm glad to say I really enjoyed it. As with all of Anderson's films, this is not a hilarious comedy, it opts for subtlety instead of obvious jokes which perfectly suits the pacing of the film and its context. In terms of nonsense and lunacy, Life Aquatic far outstrips Anderson's previous work which is definitely a good thing as it compensates for the lack of obvious gags. As with Royal Tennenbaums, Anderson finely balances between comedy and tragedy, making sure that all human emotions are accounted for in hope of reaching the audience on some sort of level which is achieved in this film with an immensely personal storyline that runs parallel with Tennenbaums; estranged fathers building a relationship with their offspring after they have grown up. Whilst this issue is more ambiguously approached in Life Aquatic, it is still done with sensitivity and sincerity and thickens up the crazy plot with a gentle undertone. The relationship between Zissou (Murray) and Ned (Owen Wilson) is very interesting as their relationship develops from strangers to a much closer relationship. There is a great emphasis placed on social relationships as the film not only investigates Steve and Ned's relationship but that between Steve and most of the cast. This must clearly reflect Anderson's opinion on human nature, possibly that people are shaped by their interactions with other people.
Anderson's distinctive style is all over this picture; the narrative structured out in stage play format is the most obvious aspect but it is Anderson's wild imagination and experimental set designs that make the film so enjoyable. The scene where Zissou introduces Ned and the audience to his boat is beautiful as it feels so intimate and flowing. The stop motion creatures used in the film are not especially realistic but they add to the films seemingly magical element and to the surreal context of the plot. Clearly, Anderson was given a much bigger budget for this film which sometimes ruins directors but with Life Aquatic, it has helped a director's extraordinary vision to be realised without compromise. The uniform design is very funny and the way that each crew member's red beanie has a slightly different design is another subtle quirk within the film (I now own a replica of Ned's beanie!).
Once again, Anderson has provided an all star cast who all give understated but great performances. All understated that is, with the exception of Bill Murray! Although he is not displaying his trademark sarcastic wit, he is completely wired; yelling profanities and emptying pistol clips at a rate of seconds. Murray gives such an enjoyable performance but underlying this is a vulnerable performance which garners a great deal of sympathy as a character past his prime or is he? His grief at the loss of Esteban seemed very genuine and his self loathing was portrayed very convincingly. Owen Wilson is in somewhat of a departure to his usual role as the obnoxious side character as Ned is much more sensitive and much more poignant in the film. I really liked Wilson after seeing this and You, Me and Dupree was brilliant at infusing his previous persona with this performance. Blanchett, Huston, Goldblum and Dafoe are all brilliant as the supporting cast, each adding layer upon layer on the emotionally rich plot. Dafoe's character as the fiercely loyal German who is constantly worried about his importance is an exceptional character who provides laughs and appears to be the glue holding the Belafonte together. Life Aquatic is a great example of an ensemble cast working as it showcases brilliant actors who all have so many different things to offer performance wise.
The music in the film is simply brilliant. The idea of having Su Jorge perform David Bowie songs in Portuguese was an inspired decision as it makes the audience react to the song but also is greeted with unfamiliarity as the lyrics are alien to what we're used to. It was also clever including him in the crew as it is believable that a member would bring an acoustic guitar along to provide some entertainment. The song during the boat shoot out by Iggy Pop is excellent and compliments the scene perfectly, almost as if it's the music video for the song. Also the music played in the crew's underwater earphones is simple but very enjoyable as it is just like a drum track that Zissou could well use for one of his scenes within the picture. The music seems to be part of the film, not just something to activate another one of the senses.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou wonderfully demonstrates how strong imagination can be in a director's arsenal and how simple methods can be the most effective. Wes Anderson has firmly established himself as one of today's leading directors and writers and this film must surely be his masterpiece. Murray, after the excellent Lost in Translation, has firmly re-established himself in film after a couple of years in the wilderness and, as a massive fan of his, I am so glad. Memorable in so many ways, Life Aquatic is one of the best films I watched in 2006 as it had so much to offer, strongly recommended.
Best of the trilogy, Leone at his best
By a fair margin, the greatest out of the spaghetti western films, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a cinematic triumph that will always be remembered most of all for the legendary score and stand off scene. What surprised me most of all was that a long film with quite a slow pace to it actually appeared to move quite quickly; this is thanks to Leone's superior direction and the frequent change of locations within the film. Clint Eastwood's iconic status was firmly established in this film as a bad ass desperado with compulsory cigar attached, Blondie makes Dirty Harry appear meagre in comparison! Whilst the characterisation provided by the supporting cast was over the top to an almost comic book standard, their performances and characters were still memorable and enjoyable as they provided a stark contrast to Eastwood's quiet loner.
Where a lot of westerns fall short is the plot, they tend to become a victim of style over substance but this film is an exception as it provides us with a fairly intricate plot. The way Tuco's (Wallach) murderous intentions regarding Blondie are quashed by the fact that Blondie knows the secret of the treasure, leading to Tuco fighting to keep him alive rather than kill him, is very commendable. The tie in with the American civil war is very enjoyable and provides some further tension and heightens the predicament that the main characters are in, especially considering Angle Eyes (Cleef) is a high rank in the Unionist regiment that Eastwood and Wallach have infiltrated. The tension is built up fairly well, even though it requires patience. The final stand off, for instance, takes a matter of minutes for the main characters to get in their positions with the camera ranging from extreme close ups to the characters' eyes to shots that appear to be a mile away. Whilst this sounds potentially frustrating, it induces overwhelming anticipation and once again, the music comes in to play, setting up a true piece of cinematic history.
Whilst there are no award winning performances on show, the leads are very good. Eastwood played greatly on his tough guy image and manages to tell us a lot about the character despite not saying much. Eastwood illustrates fantastically, a character devoid of trust and sentiment but also a character of great honour. It is plain to see that Blondie is world weary and he knows that it's kill or be killed. Eli Wallach is very good, probably the best performance in the film. His animated performance brings his character to life as a thoroughly dislikeable loudmouth who is too stupid to avoid trouble but greedy enough not to let his desire to kill Blondie stopping him get the treasure. Lee Van Cleef is even more dislikeable because where Wallach's Tuco is untrustworthy, Cleef's Angel Eyes is brutally honest with ruthlessness to match. The interrogation scenes in the Union camp really highlight this nature and makes sure that the audience knows he means business. The best thing about these characters is that they all flawed, it's not all black and white. Even Eastwood's 'The Good' is not all that good.
Laced with brilliant set pieces and memorable performances, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is very memorable and definitely a classic. Watching Wallach hunt Eastwood with his cigar stubs proves the film had a sense of humour but that didn't take away the fact that the film depicts a life of brutality where not even women and children are safe when they stand between power hungry men and their goal. Effective story telling mixed with macabre imagery assures this films place in cinema history and possibly even the title of the best western ever made.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
One of the most tense thrill rides ever. A truly great film!
After watching Breakfast at Tiffany's and Roman Holiday, I saw that Audrey had talent to go with the looks and I quickly garnered a near obsession for her! Wait Until Dark may not be her most attractive role, even though she is extremely gorgeous in this film, but it is definitely one of the best performances I have ever seen by anyone. Coupled with this fantastic performance is a brilliant plot build up. The scheme put together by the men looking for the doll is very clever as, although contrived, takes full advantage of Susy's blindness. Even more clever is how Susy works out their scheme, mainly by using her heightened sense of hearing, something the men did not take in to consideration. These slow, intricate developments are fascinating to watch but most importantly, lead to a climatic ending reaching Hitchcock levels of suspense. As the title of the film suggests, you really have to wait until dark to fully appreciate how well made this film is. When Susy turns the tables on Roat (Alan Arkin) by smashing all the lights, the cliff hanger is nail biting and it isn't until the very last shot that you see who comes out on top. Hepburn is especially well cast in this role as it is very unnerving to see such an icon go through such an ordeal.
As I mentioned, Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Susy Hendrix is an all time great performance. The way she depicts being blind is very convincing; the frustration at her condition is very clear to see and her mannerisms appear perfect. This is a great role for Audrey as she often was cast in lovely films that lacked edge. This, along with Charade, packs a bit more of a punch and gives her something to grind her beautiful teeth in to. It's a shame she went on a ten year hiatus because this could have been the start of a new era in her film roles. Alan Arkin is excellent as Roat. Although he should maybe leave impersonations to someone else, he is the personification of evil and comes across very well as a ruthless crook. The lack of remorse and his apparent calmness are very effective in letting the audience know what they're dealing with. Richard Crenna also puts in a good performance as the semi likable Mike. He is charming but also very impatient with regards to the doll, the only thing that Susy appears to be ignorant on.
As the film almost exclusively takes place in a flat, there is an overwhelmingly claustrophobic feel going on which does wonders with regards to the suspense build up. The director has done a great job in making Susy appear vulnerable and making you really care about what is going to happen. The low lighting levels create a very intense atmosphere that reflects the dark goings on within the film. To compliment the direction perfectly is the haunting score. The repetitive piano pounding in parts is almost numbing, as if you were losing one of your senses, and the high tempo music in the climatic finale makes it as if you can almost see what is happening even though there is no light.
This is how thrillers, should be; style and substance in equally huge doses. I can not believe how little is thought of Wait Until Dark as it easily competes with many Hitchcock films that are regarded as classics. Maybe the genre was out of fashion at the time of release but it really does deserve ample praise as it kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Superb action film made memorable by touching mother - daughter sub plot
I expected The Long Kiss Goodnight to simply be a high octane action thriller delivered at breakneck pace with lots of Samuel L. Jackson dialogue. I was right, but Long Kiss Goodnight give so much more as it included a wonderfully touching sub plot and some wonderful character transitions in Geena Davis' character, all of which she handles superbly. I notice a lot of criticism has been aimed towards this film and I really struggle to understand why there isn't more love for this film. It rates extremely high on the entertainment and, although very far fetched, the plot is conceptually fantastic and well conceived. The general plot is familiar to Timebomb with Michael Biehn and of Bourne Identity with Matt Damon but the mother daughter sub plot is what really makes this stand out as it is in extreme contrast to the violence and mayhem that is going on.
Long Kiss Goodnight begins somewhat unspectacularly with a narration containing mediocre dialogue for exposition purposes but luckily doesn't last particularly long. It would have been better of the narration occurred during the credits but after the patchy start, the film really goes off with a bang. Before you know it, you have just witnessed a car accident complete with blood, fire and a deer with a snapped neck! Harlin does a great job at illustrating the bond between Samantha (Davis) and her daughter before Samantha goes off to discover her past which makes Samantha's relentless transformation in to Charly very surprising to witness. Once Charly has fully emerged, the set pieces never stop and the audience is barely given a chance to breathe. The ending is very climatic and although at is predictable, it by no means is boring! There is also a conspiracy theory that develops throughout the film as the audience are left uninformed regarding the mysterious 'Honeymoon Project' which helps add to the tension.
Geena Davis is awesome in this film. She starts as this character with amnesia who reminded me of her character in The Fly, very friendly and happy, and then transforms in to this super sexy bad ass. She pulls off both personalities very convincingly and shows a phenomenal range within this role. People may argue that a role playing a slightly crazed government assassin is easy but the role in its entirety requires a lot of depth. I think this is Geena Davis' best role, more so than Beatlejuice and Thelma and Louise as she was the focal character on a massive scale. I like Samuel L. Jackson but I think he is a victim of his own success as writers and directors like giving him lots of cool dialogue but it often leads to him chewing scenery and taking away from the main point of the film (Pulp Fiction got away with it). Here this doesn't happen as Davis doesn't let him and his character is a lot more sensitive than his usual roles. The rapport between these characters is very effective and gives some light relief to what is going on. Craig Bierko is a great villain he has that innocent charm that makes him look like he wouldn't hurt a fly. He constantly maintains this ice cool exterior despite the fact that his past is catching up with him and disturbing his plans. Yvonne Zima as Samantha's daughter, Caitlin, puts in a very mature performance for a 7 year old and is very effective at pulling at the heart strings of the audience.
With the director of Die Hard 2 and the writer of Lethal Weapon on board, Long Kiss Goodnight had a great team behind it and this is why the action is of such great quality. The gratuitous gun play and excessive violence do not disturb at all because everything is so theatrical making it entertaining rather than shocking. There seems to be plenty of evidence of money well spent as I'd much rather see money spent on pyrotechnics and stunt scenes than on CGI. This is what makes it so disappointing that the film did so poorly in the box office.
A film that has undeservedly been overlooked, Long Kiss Goodnight is a great, sexy action thriller that has a touching human story embedded in the plot. I could definitely watch this film over and over again, especially if I skip the opening scene. Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson both deliver great performances and both give the film a massive attitude. Great film.
Very nasty! Horrible film; content and production.
There are some films that simply should never get made; Last House on Dead End Street is definitely one of them, for many reasons. I know moral boundaries are there to be broken, but they're also there for a purpose. I've always been a great advocate for freedom of speech and believe that raging psychos are a result of a lot more than just listening to Marilyn Manson and watching violent films, however, I believe Last House
has taken things too far. The low budget production makes the film appear horrifically real and almost glorifies the levels of violence being portrayed on screen. I am very glad to have watched this as I can now see the argument from the other side of the coin; an argument I once viewed as ignorant. My reaction after watching this film, asides from immense shock, was that my entire belief system had been challenged. I've watched many of Takeshi Miike's films and always found the graphic violence and disturbing nature shocking but purposeful and I think that's where Last House
falls short; there is no reasoning behind the violence, no rationale whatsoever why people would do this. Terry's psychotic nature is expressed very well and it is clear to see he is capable of committing such horrendous acts but the foundation of this being him getting thrown in prison for a year is not very believable. This film could argue that it was questioning the morals of the time by illustrating how demanding black market cinema audiences were for explicit material but if this is the case, Last House
is the antithesis of what it primarily set out to be.
Moral dilemma's aside, Last House is a pretty poor film. Clearly on a shoestring budget, which the director mainly blew on drugs apparently, the cinematography is awful. It looks as if it is being shot with a hand-held when the camera pans side to side in certain scenes and there are definite shots out of focus at some points. Despite this, the direction is actually rather good. There are some first person shots which are very effective and do very well at stepping up the horror and there some off camera goings on which seem so juxtaposed when considering what is actually being shown on screen. The insert shots, in the introductory narration, of the climatic torture scene are quite artistic and makes sure the audience know what they're in for. Roger Watkins appears to fancy himself as the Orson Welles of Grindhouse cinema and if he was the equivalent, it's of no surprise that these exploitation horrors are now near impossible to find. In some ways, I feel sorry for Watkins as he does seem to be quite visionary in his approach, but the vision is somewhat misguided. The score is very atmospheric and perfectly matches the murky scenes and low budget feel of the film. The music, despite being so simple, is probably one of the strongest aspects of the film.
As no respectable actor would want to appear in this, it is a dead cert that the acting in the film would be nothing short of dreadful. Terry Watkins pulls off the psychotic nature of Terry quite well but in all the build up scenes and when he is taunting his victims, he is awful. No charisma and no believability whatsoever. The rest of the cast I doubt have ever been in a film since and used pseudonyms for a good reason; I wouldn't want to admit to being in this film. The characterisation of the characters is very bad; four people do not just follow some psychotic moron in to making a bunch of snuff films. This probably did little to help their performances but they're not actors, they're more likely friends of the director who just wanted to help him out.
The plot is just an excuse to provide tons of gore and reveal frequent doses of female flesh, there is little substance and as a film, it suffers. There are of course millions of people who will lap this film up because they actually like to be shocked or even disturbed by the extremes of human nature; I am not one of these people. I like to see a rationalisation of nastiness and a more subtle approach to film making. The torture scene at the end is very graphic and very unpleasant to watch but the surreal, grotesque torturing of the final victim is one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable experiences I've had watching a film.
Apparently Last House is the film no one will admit to having seen; I'll admit to it as it opened my mind and expanded my view on cinema but in no way did I find it enjoyable and can't see myself watching it again. This is definitely a proud video nasty!
Furîzu mî (2000)
Director and lead actress make the film better than predicted. Very effective and well told.
Freezer is an intense story, following the journey of an engaged woman whose past has caught up with her. A man forces himself in to her flat and reveals to the audience that Chirhiro was raped by three men and it was recorded on video and reveals to her the shocking news that the other to rapists are on their way. With this startling beginning, it is very unsettling to watch a very attractive woman who seemed so happy to be thrown in to such an ordeal. Even more unsettling is when her fiancé is told about her past and he turns his back on her, making her all alone. When Chirhiro finally garners the courage to attack Hirokawa, the audience are firmly behind her. Kojima's murder is the most surprising because she is reacting to him discovering Hirokawa's body and finally Baba's murder, who is without doubt one of the most repulsively evil characters ever, is totally expected and, on Chirhiro's part, totally pre meditated. Despite this build up of murders where each one become less of a big deal for Chirhiro and the fact that she likes looking at her frozen corpses, I still had a great deal of empathy for her due to her past experiences and the fact that she felt shame and guilt over what was done to her. It isn't until the end that she goes too far with an act of madness that causes her downfall and the audience sees that every action has a subsequent reaction. Surprisingly great plot for what, on the surface, appears a mere revenge film.
The film relies heavily on Inoue Harumi as Chirhiro to carry the film as she is in every scene and the plot is centred on her character. Luckily, she is a fantastic actress who proves more than capable to lead the film. The role requires vulnerability, sex appeal, anger, madness and a desire to be happy. With so many emotions on demand, many actors could fail to deliver but Inoue achieves every level with perfection. It is just as well, she is in every scene, however, as the rest of the cast is fairly poor. Tsurumi Shingo as Kojima is very poor and Takeneka Naoto as Baba, despite being effective, gives a very over the top performance which is almost unwatchable. Kitamura Kazuki as Hirokawa gives the most decent performance out of the supporting cast as he is relentless in his approach and very nasty yet still has a slight charm about him. Mr Nogami is a completely useless character, almost as much as he is a boyfriend, who garners little sympathy from the audience and his importance is prevalent in Chirhiro but not in the film.
Coupled with Inoue Harumi's great performance is great direction from Takashi Ishii. The chase scene between Chirhiro and Hirokawa is done very well as the tension build up is very intense and all the killing scenes are fantastically brutal. As well as great direction of scenes, there are some great insert shots. For example, when Chirhiro has the power cut, there are lots of shots focused on the sun, giving a great sense of scorching heat. Also the frequent inserts of the rape video are done very well and give a great sense of delving in to Chirhiro's psyche. Also present are a couple of references to the famous Psycho shower scene which, although obvious, are much welcomed.
With an extremely well written main character and a performance to match, Freezer manages to play on the audience's emotions and with Takashi Ishii on top writing and direction form; the film also makes the grade as an entertainment piece. Definitely one of the most underrated films from Japan I've seen.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
One of the best oldies, excluding Hitchcock. Audrey is perfect!
Breakfast at Tiffany's is a touching romantic comedy which has stood the test of time very well and is now an icon due to Audrey Hepburn's beauty and mesmerising performance. Whilst the comedy has little edge and is fairly simple, it is the charm and innocence that induces laughter and the lack of political correctness is also refreshing in a time where political correctness has gone mad. The character of Mr Yunioshi is a prime example of politically incorrect humour that would probably get a film banned these days! The plot is very good as we follow a deeply narcissistic character with a very complicated background through her chaotic lifestyle which is being threatened by a serious relationship with Paul (pre A - Team George Peppard).
The acting is very good from the leads, although somewhat static compared to modern actors. Rather than static, subtle might be a more appropriate word (except for Mickey Rooney as Yunioshi) as the actors do provoke certain emotions from the audience. By any standard, Audrey Hepburn is a great actress and is someone you immediately want to fall in love with, in spite of the fact she plays such a peculiar character who is far from perfect. Every aspect of Holly Golightly is played to perfection by Hepburn as she shows a great range of emotions, each juxtaposed against one another. Despite her narcissism, she is very likable and when her usual apathy is challenged by her feelings for Paul, a great transformation is witnessed on screen. Audrey is quite simply perfect and with this film, her beauty will last forever. George Peppard gives a likable performance as the infuriated Paul. He garners a great deal of sympathy from the audience as we watch him bang his head against a wall for an hour and a half until his emotional speech at the films climax. Martin Balsam in a supporting role is also good and it is nice to see him in a more humorous role after watching him in 12 Angry Men and Psycho. His phone conversation with Paul is amusing and probably one of the 'non Audrey' highlights of the film.
Breakfast at Tiffany's won two Oscars for music and this is due to the touching score that compliments the action perfectly. Moon River is a very sad piece and this is very effective in highlighting Holly's sad past and how unhappy she actually is, despite her illusions that she is very happy. The direction is also very good as we are given a subtle film delivered at a surprisingly fast pace so it doesn't become boring for one second. As I said before, the plot is very good and the small twists, turns and sub plots do a great job at making you think. Truman Capote did a fantastic job at writing such an accomplished novel. His great story thoroughly deserved to be immortalised on the silver screen. The only question I have to ask is, how did such a screwed up guy write such a beautiful story?
Slated by some as a mere chic flick of the 60s, Breakfast at Tiffany's is much more than this as it is an emotive, thought provoking story played to perfection by the two leads and offers so much more than a couple of giggles. Never before has a cat appeared so poignant in a film (excluding of course Garfield) and it is small quirks like this that make the film so special. Audrey Hepburn made herself a legend in her role and deserved all the attention the world gave her.
The worst film I have ever seen
This movie really is the pits and is deservedly shown on 'Bad Movie Night' and other film channels of a similar ilk. What was David Oliver thinking when he constructed this mess? Judging by how much he contributed towards the production of this film, I think he wanted to be the next Orson Welles but he's more like the next Ed Wood! Luckily, Oliver realised the errors of his ways and quit the film business.
The plot had potential at some point. When you think about California Man and how funny some of the cultural clash jokes in that were, this could have been an inverted alternative. Alas, this was not the case and sadly the audience are subjected to an awful, bumbling romance between Roebuck and Thompson whilst the other cave people, mildly amusing at first, simply get really tiresome. I have to admit, Cavegirl did, unintentionally, have me laughing at some points at how bad everything was and how the plot went from bad to worst but this is not good comedy! Time travel is such an imaginative and brilliant concept when done well (see Back to the Future and Terminator) but Cavegirl is embarrassing and lacks any excitement.
The acting is laughable. Roebuck and Thompson have the only two proper roles and both are awful. Thompson is OK before she starts learning English but then she gets very bad, very quickly. This was her only starring role and was subsequently relegated to playing #2 hooker in her final film before quiting. Roebuck is remarkably even worse, yet, somehow has carved out a fairly respectable career for himself. When he got blown up in Lost, I think that was redemption for this turkey! His performance is charmless and devoid of any talent.
The worst film I have ever seen and the only film I've seen that has no redeeming features whatsoever, avoid Cavegirl at all costs unless you are a bad movie fan or there's a big group of people who can all join in on the mockery.
The Godfather (1972)
An example of how films should be made. Perfect.
There is nothing I can say about this film that hasn't been said already but that's not going to stop me praising this film. Simply put, The Godfather is one of the best films ever made and is often considered to be the best by many. For an explanation, it's impossible to pick any one reason as this is a near perfect film with all elements set perfectly in place.
A very important part of The Godfather's iconic status is Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone. His profile from the first film has provided a symbol which represents all three films, despite Brando only being in the first instalment, and an icon that commands respect. Brando appeared long finished as an actor, his looks diminishing and his status being lost but his classic performance in The Godfather put him firmly back on the acting map, where he now has a permanent place. His performance is excellent in this film, despite his mouth being crowded by moth balls! OK, so you can't hear every word he says, but you don't need to when his body language and non-verbal cues say so much for themselves. The character of Vito is very powerful, yet very frail and Brando puts these two qualities in perfect juxtaposition. A classic display, which still gets talked about 30 years on. Al Pacino whose film career was just beginning with this film, is also fantastic and ensured that wherever the film was plot wise, that powerful displays were on show at all times. His character transformation is compelling and his storyline with Diane Keaton is intriguing to give Godfather a more personal atmosphere and also to provide a much deeper plot. This film is seen as a landmark for acting, with Brando winning an Academy Award and with Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duval all receiving nominations.
Central to the films core is the plot which is so intensely dramatic, that two hours does not seem enough to justify such a story. There are dozens of relationships involved in this story and there is an assassination plot and both Michael and Vito Corleone have their own separate storyline. All of these are done fantastically, ensuring the audience can have full empathy for all the characters and also be thoroughly entertained. Mario Puzo is clearly a gifted writer and does a fantastic job of portraying criminal organisations and what goes on in these families, a true representation or not, it makes for a fantastic film. Whilst his success in film was mainly limited to The Godfather series and Superman, Puzo must be gifted to write such material and was definitely worthy of the awards he won. The Godfather is a prime example of what is missing in most of today's films; a character driven plot. This film shows that you do not need explosions and high octane chases to keep an audience gripped and that a quality script and fascinating characters are enough to amass an audience.
This is all wonderfully brought together by Francis Ford Coppola who, because of this film, has left his mark on the film world for eternity. It is the atmosphere he builds in this film that makes it so effective. Everything is dark and bleak except for when Pacino is exiled but that ends in tragedy. Coppola does brilliantly to emphasise the point that the world of criminal organisations is not a nice place and that no matter how safe you feel, your fate is waiting for you just around the corner. The film contains very little in the way of set pieces, instead everything appears very intimate, highlighting how personal the Mafia can be. The uncompromising nature of the film must have been very shocking at the time as there is a lot of violence that would have been skirted around at the time.
The classic score to The Godfather is also integral to the film as it compliments all the visual elements on the screen. The sophisticated appearance of the Mafioso for instance and the general demeanour of the higher ranked gangsters are emphasised by the slow classical music.
This film is responsible for most of the post modern approach to film making and acting and his also the landmark to which other crime movies compare themselves. The Godfather's image and style live to this day and will for generations to come. The first of a fantastic series, Godfather is an example of how films should be.
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Boring, watch Taxi Driver instead!
Bringing Out the Dead had great potential. A great cast with Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, Tom Sizemore and John Goodman and it had Martin Scorsese at the helm. What could go wrong? Quite a lot actually! Bringing Out the Dead is boring from start to finish and even though Sizemore and Goodman are both fun to watch in their segments, they can not overcome the sense of boredom this film gives you. I have no problem with slow paced films, if there is a certain amount of intelligence involved or if suspense is being built but this film can not boast either of these. With the plot surrounding a paramedic, there could have been more adrenaline rushes to give a greater sense of urgency, thus, allowing us to understand the stresses of the job more. Instead, the film gets tangled up in the main character's past and with his ambivalence towards his profession and in the end, the audience cares little for the outcome of the film.
At fault in all of this is Scorsese, a rarity indeed. This is a tarnish on his near perfect career but he only has himself to blame. He knows how to grip an audience and how to construct a good film but he fails miserably on both counts. It is visible at some points that Scorsese had a message but it never got conveyed within the plot. The fact that the screenplay was by frequent Scorsese collaborator, Paul Schrader makes it even more shocking how poor the film is. The best bits of the film probably are down to Cage and Arquette's (their characters!) relationship as it is very interesting and not the average Hollywood romance.
The actors in this didn't really put a foot wrong. All the characters are very unique, with Tom Sizemore doing his typecast psychotic role very well and with Ving Rhames playing a devoted Christian, being the pick of the supporting cast. Nicolas Cage gives one of his best performances, he is very understated in this and plays his character with great subtlety. Arquette, as always, is great but is very different to how she normally approaches her characters. The fun, bouncy Patricia is gone and we're given a much more shy and restrained character. She is very good and it could well have been this film that lead to her successful television role in Medium. If acting could save a film, Bringing Out the Dead would be superb but instead, I feel sorry for the actors wasting their talents.
This should have been a great film, but it failed miserably on most counts. Whilst not making any effort to entertain, there is also no effort to break new grounds. If you want to see a great Scorsese film that is a relatively slow, character driven piece, watch Taxi Driver. The attempt at dark comedy falls short and the plot does not possess the power to carry the film for two hours.
This film is one the great films that never were due to distribution troubles which lead to a five year gap between when the film was released in Europe and when it was released in American. Disastrous for the film but the majority of people who have seen Rampage, say it's a very good film. It is a real shame that this missed most film audiences as it is a very intense, moving and thought provoking drama.
For a film that is mainly based in the courtroom and prison, it is very fast paced. The police chase scenes involving the killer (Alex McArthur) are gripping and echo Friedkin's famous car chase scenes which made French Connection so famous. Rampage's strong point, however, lies firmly in the courtroom scenes. With these scenes, the atmosphere is so strong, that, as a witness, you can not help but be sucked in by it. Towards the end, there is a scene where the prosecutor, Anthony Fraser (Michael Biehn), stands to the jury and stands in silence for two minutes to represent how long the killer took to murder one victim. This scenes is almost uncomfortable to watch and Biehn's facial expressions tell the whole story.
The acting by Biehn and McArthur is at a very high standard. If this film had earned the recognition it deserved, Biehn would definitely have been a bigger star as the world would have seen that he doesn't just play soldiers. His performance in Rampage is genuinely moving and Fraser's inner conflict surrounding the death penalty is laid bare by Biehn. As expected, he shines in the courtroom scenes where he is shouting and passionate but the subtle moments highlight his skills as an adaptable actor. McArthur as Reese is very chilling to watch. The disturbed nature of his performance is very unnerving and his psychotic episodes are shocking yet worthy of praise. The rest of the cast give performances that do not really stand out but this is fine as it allows concentration on the main characters.
The key man in this production was William Friedkin. His style is all over this film, giving it dark undertones to highlight the evil acts being committed and to increase an already intense atmosphere. His mastery of suspense really helps the dramatic moments and even adds a small dose of surrealist imagery to make the film even more provocative. His dealings with the characters is also worthy of praise as he focuses on Fraser and his wife's history and relationship to help the audience form their impressions on the character. Also with Reese, the exploration of his relationship with his mother and with past acquaintances helps the plot to deepen and add more to the courtroom scenes.
Two important legal issues are raised in this film; firstly, the case of legal insanity. Cases of this nature can go on for a very long time with people trying to prove/ disprove insanity and it is clearly important that these life or death situations are made with the right evidence in place. Rampage does really well handling this issue, especially in the jury scene as it highlights the ambiguity of the issue and the near impossible decision people have to make regarding it. The second issue, the death penalty, is not as well handled by the film. Whilst the characters make very good arguments for and/ or against it, it appears Friedkin was uncertain and sadly left the film with an ending of ambiguity rather than closure. This could simply be a case of Friedkin illustrating that the issue will never be resolved despite the frustrations of others.
A moving and highly entertaining film, Rampage deserved so much more and film audiences deserved to see it. With superb acting from the always brilliant Michael Biehn and with William Friedkin on top form, the film had all the ingredients to be a highly popular film. Atmospheric and disturbing, Rampage proved a powerful vessel for Friedkin to air his views but sadly, the vessel never took off. One of the best courtroom dramas I've seen and one that I'll watch many more times in the future.
Hidden Agenda (2001)
Is that you Dolph?
The biggest effect this film had on me was the element of surprise at watching a Dolph Lundgren film where he doesn't possess a weapon bigger than his arm! Instead, what we see here is a more subtle Dolph, drinking champagne and smoking fine cigars.
After Johnny Mnemonic, almost every single Lundgren film has centred around him and in this effort, he proves a worthy centre piece. I've always liked Dolph, but understand his critics as he has been massively typecast. I advise his doubters to see Hidden Agenda as he gives an understated (by his standards) performance and is charismatic and charming enough to pose as a smooth operating entrepreneur. As expected, in the action scenes, Dolph is brilliant and will keep his hardcore fans happy. Support is adequate. Maxim Roy as the love interest is sexy and puts in a good performance. The supporting cast is unspectacular and simply take a backward stance to allow Lundgren to perform.
The plot is also a surprise as it is intelligent and builds up an atmosphere. When I say intelligent, I'm not talking Oldboy, Eternal Sunshine or The Abyss, but that it is not just a case of blowing stuff up. The plot has fairly predictable twists and turns but they are entertaining enough. The methodology of the identification programs is very interesting and the conspiracy theories do well to keep the audience engaged to the end.
A likable film with a surprising Lundgren in the thick of it, Hidden Agenda is a slightly above average film that is good at killing an hour and a half!
Shows the harsh realities of war very effectively
The Vietnam War has been one of the controversial wars in history and was an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Oliver Stone harnessed these experiences to make Platoon; a film where he could illustrate to everyone what Vietnam was like from his perspective.
In my opinion, this is the best war movie ever made. The sheer horror of war is captured so well in everyway. The fear of death, compatriots dying, divisions in the platoon, guilt of killing; it's all there and Stone doesn't try to disguise it. Platoon is very honestly written and it is this honesty that makes the film so great. Platoon isn't an anti war movie and it certainly does not glorify war in anyway, it is simply how war is in its entirety. There are some shocking scenes such as the one in the Vietnamese village but there are also more light hearted moments such as where the troops on Dafoe's side are partying and having a good time. On base camp, there is great contrast with the mood but on the forest, it is just fear, aggression and blood, nothing else.
Taylor's (Charlie Sheen) story is very good as he experiencing war at the same time of the audience. Before the war, he was a rich kid who loved his grandma and it is how war changes him that is truly fascinating. The character story that always receives most praise however is that between Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe) is very compelling and leads to some great scenes with them and carves an interesting divide within the camp. This film is big on character and explores many relationships but (take note Jarhead) doesn't sacrifice any action time for these scenes. Stone struck a perfect balance between action and story.
Acting from everyone involved is very good. Sheen as the naïve newcomer is very good and after this, should have done much better for himself than he did. Dafoe and Berenger, once again steal the attention off the lead. Their extreme contrasting personalities is brilliantly done and raises the standard of the film. Berenger is truly terrifying, he didn't hold back in this one. Dafoe is much more sympathetic and will speak his mind to anyone. Johnny Depp makes one of his early film appearances with a small, yet memorable role. The way Sheen is wearing Depp's bandana after Lerner (Depp) gets taken by the chopper is discretely done but touching.
Platoon is the best war movie there's ever been. Stone wrote and directed this film with such passion that it couldn't be anything but good. A great mix of characters, a great cast and such well crafted action scenes are all what you need for an exceptional war movie and they're all here. The film ends perfectly as we are given a chance to reflect and take it in before the credits start rolling. Stone, who often misses the point with his films, hit the nail on the head with this one.
Entertaining and thought provoking. A great Sci-Fi with a twist
I always believed that a film that's plot is centred around a virtual reality video game never sounds as though it's going to be anything special but eXistenZ proved I couldn't have been more wrong. This film is unbelievable and, whilst highly entertaining, offers so much more than that. From start to finish, this film has you conceptualising to the point where you can have so many ideas, you can not make a final conclusion. David Cronenberg has a talent for this as he does so many things.
eXistenZ is pure Cronenberg; the way it's written and the way it's directed is very unique to his style and that can only be a good thing. Cronenberg set himself a clear target with this film and that was to keep the audience guessing which he did with apparent ease. His fondness for the grotesque is not as predominant in this film as it is in The Fly or Naked Lunch but there are still some elements such as the game pods and how they are made that can make the audience wince. With regards to his earlier work, eXistenZ is more a combination of Videodrome and a less violent Scanners, a pretty awesome combination. Setting the film in the not too distant future was a really good decision as it allowed Cronenberg to be extremely imaginative with the films surroundings and also enabled him to visualise more concepts, allowing for less inhibited writing. It was important that the film didn't become over confusing and Cronenberg avoided this very well by keeping things relatively simple. Besides, if he wanted to make an unwatchable film, he'd know how to do it a lot better than this.
eXistenZ boasts an extremely talented cast of character actors and all perform very well. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives the standout performance as the game designer who spends more time out of reality than in to it. Leigh is sexy and commanding in her role as Allegra and she really gets her teeth in to the role. The emotional range she shows in the film is particularly impressive, making her completely believable (if you can believe anything). Jude Law is also good and is very convincing in his character's fear of implantation. The chemistry between these two is very electric and gives the film an extra bit of flavour. Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe are just two of the great actors in support who add further depth to the film with very colourful performances. The cast of the film isn't huge but eXistenZ definitely has the 'quality is better than quantity' ethic which works very well.
As well as being entertaining and thought provoking, eXistenZ touches social issues such as control and loss of self. This further demonstrates the film as an intellectual vessel and could also explain why it wasn't a huge Hollywood hit. eXistenZ has so much to offer and although it isn't to everyone's taste, those who like Cronenberg's work or who like science fiction will almost be certain to like this film. It is one of those films that needs to be watched with an open mind but it really is something special.
Mang lung (2005)
High quality and stylish. A great action film
The anticipation I had for this film sparked a major interest in Asian cinema and for that reason alone, I am glad this film exists. On finally seeing Dragon Squad, it is obvious that is not one the best written or best acted films but it is a highly entertaining, fast paced and well directed action piece. Perhaps for me, this film was a victim to my own expectations.
Dragon Squad is immensely stylish and Daniel Lee does a tremendous job to grab the audience's attention via clever use of camera wizardry. In some scenes, he overdoes the slow motion and cut backs, but overall, he is extremely impressive. The way he integrates news report like flashes within the film is very clever in terms of pace as it saves on huge chunks of exposition to explain what is happening and characters' background. Whilst it is a fresh approach, I've always been in favour of setting the scene and character development. Lee would have done well to remember that these are the basics when it comes to a good plot.
With the exception of Petros (Michael Biehn) and Ching's (Li Bing Bing) story, the character stories are somewhat neglected and rushed. Sammo Hung's relationship with his daughter could have been explored much more and would have given good contrast to the bloodshed that was occurring elsewhere in the film. There was an attempt at background explanations for the 'Dragon Squad' and although they were good and went to some length to explain the characters, there was hardly any closure on the issues. The plot as a whole however, is very good. The tale two groups chasing one man for different reasons is very compelling and the way the groups interact with each other is very good. To put it one way, Dragon Squad has a great body but not quite enough bones to hold it all together.
Negativity aside, the action in the film is brilliant. Some of the best shootout scenes I've witnessed (and that's a lot!) are on this film; it is stunning to watch. Biehn, Shawn Yue and Maggie Q all really shine in these scenes. Their weapon handling is brilliant and they do a fantastic job of adding personality to the action scenes. The sniper battles are very good as they add tension and also means the action on the ground can flourish uninterrupted. Dragon Squad really sets itself above its peers with these scenes as it doesn't stray in to the realms of nonsense like Hard Boiled did and instead, tries to remain on a more realistic level.
The cast is somewhat mixed. Shawn Yue is very good in all of his scenes, he is likable and the scenes with his paralysed brother are very touching. The rest of the 'Dragon Squad' however, are all pretty bad. Vanness Wu in particular was extremely wooden and definitely should have stuck to doing pop songs. Sammo Hung was a much needed cast member. His movement in the fight scenes was very good and he certainly shone when compared to the main characters. Michael Biehn as the lead villain was excellent. These are the kind of roles he loves and really took this one by the reigns. Biehn makes his villain a sympathetic and likable one but is also totally ruthless. This is one of Biehn's best roles in years and he was a joy to watch; definitely the stand out performance. Maggie Q was slightly underused in this film but her role was the silent but deadly sniper so she fitted perfectly in to the requirements of the character. Simon Yam was also good in his small role as the chief of police. He adds another dimension to Hung's character and gives a very generous performance.
The music in the film is brilliant. The drum score is at the heart of Dragon Squad's atmosphere and it is so effective at putting the audience on edge. This is classic Hong Kong action music and the length of time this particular sound has lasted further shows how effective it is. There is extreme contrast within the music as on one hand there are these intense instrumentals and on the other, there are slow, emotional pop songs. Lee really uses music as part of the film and it is brilliant at heightening Dragon Squad's impact.
Overall, this is a very good film despite its many flaws. With a little more attention to character development, this could have been one of the year's best films. The director, however, focused more on action set pieces and these alone take the film to a very good level. Dragon Squad has quality stamped all over it and deserves much more recognition than it's been given.
The Fly (1986)
Sci-Fi Horror at its best
David Cronenberg is up there with David Lynch as one of the top visual surrealist directors. Whilst The Fly is not a surreal like Eraserhead or Naked Lunch, it has its surreal moments and definitely crosses the boundaries in to shock cinema. Cronenberg is a director who has an obvious fascination with the grotesque there are not many more grotesque images than some shown here. The make up used on Jeff Goldblum is brilliant and changes very subtly during Brundle's transformation from man to Brundlefly. To witness the final stages of Brundlefly is particularly disturbing and Geena Davis' reactions mirror exactly how I felt when watching with disbelief. The visuals in this film, although slightly over the top, are fantastic and will never be forgotten. Cronenberg is fantastic as a director because rather than being concerned with making the film accessible, he cares more for making a good film and projecting his vision.
As well as being highly imaginative and impressive visually, The Fly has a great plot. The relationship between Goldblum and Davis is very touching and romantic. The relationship is written very effectively due to it being exaggerated to the point that the audience are prepared to believe that this woman will still love a genetically mutating man. The main plot of an inventor creating 'telepods' that accidentally become gene fusers gives the film its Sci-Fi element and the way Goldblum's character transforms after he goes through is very commendable. Whilst not the most thought provoking of plots, The Fly is intelligently written and does well to both entertain and shock.
Goldblum does fantastically in making the leap from an eccentric, somewhat childlike scientist to a mutant going crazy. He is perfect for this role in appearance, by voice and by him mannerisms. Jeff Goldblum makes Seth Brundle a unique character and definitely should be the role Goldblum is most proud of playing. Geena Davis is a great actress and does very well in this performance. Her ability at showing shock and disgust is very good but it is the more subtle parts involving her and Goldblum's character development where she really shines.
The dark mood of the film is greatly reflected by the atmosphere in the film. Most of the settings are very dark and there are not many characters in the film, helping the audience to focus on Goldblum and Davis. Howard Shore's score is extremely dramatic, slightly cliché but very well done. Cronenberg is an expert at creating moods and contrast. The contrast of a wonderful romance against all the grotesque imagery is very effective as it brings an element of reality to the film. There is also a sense of abruptness to the film; the abrupt ending reflects how quickly the fly's genes fused with Brundle's body. It is the subtle themes that really make this film standout.
A classic Sci-Fi Horror, The Fly is a great film and stands proud with many science fiction films of the 80s. The eighties is often mocked as a cultural phenomenon but with regards to this specific genre, the eighties was an immensely important decade. The Fly, along with Terminator, Aliens and The Thing went to great lengths to revolutionise the genre. Cronenberg does a fantastic job with this film. Of all of his more mainstream films, The Fly is his best effort yet.
Very funny and well written
I have always been a huge fan of South Park; it is one of the funniest and most clever cartoon TV series over the last decade. This is very impressive considering cartoons such as The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama have all been running in the same era as well. When it was announced that a film was being made, I couldn't wait and thankfully wasn't disappointed in any way.
Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady really go to great lengths to offend as many people as possible in this film which is of course making an ironic point considering the film is about a war over censorship issues. People who get caught up in moral dilemmas regarding South Park but they are morons who miss the point. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and the TV series has always observed issues and ridiculed them in an extremely funny way. People getting offended at South Park simply prove the writers' point. What is so brilliant about this film is it is like one big episode of the TV show and Trey Parker definitely went to great lengths to achieve this. As with Parker and Stone's first feature length film, Cannibal: The Musical, South Park: BLU is a musical which adds another dimension to the film and Trey Parker writes very witty lyrics. Possibly the cleverest aspect of this film is that the Terrence and Phillip movie that kicks off the plot is in fact a metaphor of the South Park movie itself.
South Park is full of hilarious characters. Sadly characters such as Butters are not used in this film but the four main characters and the adult characters are all fantastic. Cartman for instance, is one of the funniest characters there has ever been. His hypocrisy makes him such a standout character and his desire to offend as much as possible means that memorable quotes always come from his mouth. Mr Garrison is an extremely morally wrong character which, as he is a teacher, makes another very funny character. Parker and Stone's voice talents go to great use and further proves how multi talented they are as film makers.
One of the best things about this film is how it mocks the US Army. The racism shown by the army General, for example, is very funny because the film is not mocking blacks in anyway but making fun of racists and their stupidity. Also the USO show allows for more moments of hilarity and does a great job of making idiots out of all the army grunts. The war is almost prophetic considering the war against Iraq which happened some years after the film was made. Parker and Stone obviously read in to political situations very well when writing the film.
Extremely funny and very witty, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut benefits from being a cartoon because it gets away with so much more than it would have done with real people. The crude humour is immature but it works so well with South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done a terrific job with this film and deserve all the praise the film received.
Brilliant in every way. One of the most clever films you'll ever see.
Oldboy is one of Asia's most critically acclaimed films, worldwide, that has been released this millennium. On watching, it is not difficult to see why. The plot is quite simply fascinating to witness. The way it is unravelled, the narration and the direction are all fantastic; it is gripping to the point where almost two hours fly by without you even noticing. The way Chan-Wook blends past flashbacks with present goings on is very smooth and does well to further show off his obvious directing talents. The revelations at the end are extremely shocking but are done so cleverly that despite how the audience may feel about the issue in question, they must at least be impressed with how it is presented. Park Chan-Wook really does deserve an applaud for his directorial efforts in this film as it is such a stylish masterpiece and really focuses on the details, taking great care in making a great film.
Inside the amazing plot are two fascinating relationships. The main relationship is between Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), the main character, and Mido (Gang Hye-jung), a young woman who befriends Dae-su. The way they are strangers who immediately fall in love is very intriguing and their storyline develops fascinatingly. The other is between Oh Dae-su and Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae), the antagonist. The way how Oh Dae-su's quest for vengeance is only greatened by his quest for the truth from Woo-jin is understandable and Woo-jin's complex character makes him almost a sympathetic character. Add a couple of thoroughly entertaining and well choreographed fights and some shocking imagery and you have a classic Asian film in the making. The score is intensely dramatic in parts and the frequent use of a piano adds a lot of depth to the overall atmosphere of the film. All the reasons why Asian cinema is very popular beyond its own continent are prominent in this film.
The acting by the leads in Oldboy are also excellent and done extremely convincingly. Choi Min-sik is brilliant to watch and is very convincing as Oh Dae-su. Min-sik is very good as a man who has lost everything and who has lost his socialisation. His ability at displaying madness, anger, sadness, joy and ambivalence make his performance impressively versatile. Yoo Ji-tae is brilliant as Lee Woo-jin and provides a fantastic contrast against Dae-su. Ji-tae is often moving in his portrayal, despite the fact he is playing a sick and twisted game. The confidence of his display is very impressive. Gang Hye-jung is very good as the female lead. Her performance shows her character's loyalty and naivety on a very good level and her childlike looks make the audience care for her very much. The great casting really helps the characters come to life and bring the film's point across.
This film does very well at manipulating the audience's emotion and feeling empathy towards the main characters which is a very powerful quality for a film to possess. Oldboy is very courageous in the subject matter it explores and definitely benefits from not being too concerned with how the public would respond to this film.
Oldboy, at only three years old, is already a classic and is a near perfect film. Subtitles are actually a benefit because they make you concentrate more which is important to fully understand this film. Well directed and acted, Oldboy is a genuine masterpiece.
Koroshiya 1 (2001)
Genuinely disturbing and intensely shocking but very brilliant
Ichi the Killer is definitely not a film for people who have weak stomachs or who are easily offended. This film contains some of the most shocking images you'll ever see and includes some very disturbing characters that won't be forgotten in a hurry. It is always a very brave move for a film maker when they decide to adapt from a manga as manga often has aspects within it that can not be replicated in to a live picture. Takashi Miike makes the transition possible and blows away all walls of reality with an outstanding and totally unforgettable film.
The plot involves Yakuza boss Anjo going missing with a huge stash of cash, his gang members investigate and a classic game of cat and mouse is involved. This seems simple enough but what is out of the ordinary is that the leader of the investigation, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), is a major masochist and Anjo's killer, Ichi (Nao Omori) is the ultimate sadist with a tormented soul. This is where Ichi the Killer's shocking and graphic imagery really come in to force. Miike is uncompromising in his approach with regards to what he delivers on screen. There are no subtleties, no off camera goings on; it is all there for the audience to see, in full detail! The torture scenes, and their results, are especially horrific. If this film had been made in America or Europe, it would have been banned within a second of being made, it's that graphic. What disturbed me more than the disgusting imagery however, were the characters. Ichi's character I found genuinely terrifying as whilst he often comes across as a cartoonish character, there is a disturbingly real quality to his character. Ichi's childlike naivety draws many parallels to past psychotic killers that have existed in real life and his sexual excitement at causing pain and death is incredibly unsettling. Also unsettling is the character of Kakihara. His badly scarred face and clips either side of his lips immediately make him appear a scary figure and the only thing more disturbing than his pleasure for torturing others and watching their pain is his unparalleled love for being beaten and tortured himself.
What I like about many Asian films is that the acting is often very good and Ichi the Killer is no exception. Tadanobu Asano is brilliant as Kakihara. His performance is charismatic and terrifying, he does a great job of making the role his own. Nao Omori plays Ichi perfectly. The way that he can act tormented, childish and merciless all in one scene is incredible to watch and, as I said before, gives the film a genuinely disturbing edge rather than just immense gore. Alien Sun is very sexy as Karen and the way she speaks more than one language in an almost random fashion adds further mystery to this film. The fact that Karen is the only character who has Ichi's past explained to her from Jijii makes the audience able to empathise with her character more than anyone else. Shinya Tsukamoto is also very good as Jijii. His character is unravelled throughout the film and Tsukamoto is very convincing in his portrayal of what turns out to be a very complex character.
The purpose of this film is to shock and it achieves its goal to the point where you almost can not watch. With extremely graphic gore and some intense surrealist imagery that Salvador Dali himself would have been proud of, Ichi the Killer will never be forgotten and deserves to be watched by a lot more people (even if they can only watch it once!). Miike is very clever with his direction. The way he blends Kaneko's flash back sequences with the present does wonders to keep the audience's attention. The ending is also done with great style and is very effective in ending the film so it is down to interpretation of the audience.
Despite being very hard to palate, Ichi the Killer is a fantastic film. Directing, acting, writing and score are all spot on and the quality of the film is very good. Not a film I could handle watching too regularly but definitely a film I'll want to watch a few more times in the future.
BASEketball is simply one of the funniest films I've ever seen. I'm a big fan of South Park so I always knew that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would once again, have me in stitches. On the other hand, I didn't think they were going to make me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe! It's obvious that David Zucker wrote the film with Parker and Stone's audience in mind as the plot and gags are very immature, but they are also very observant and true. The American Football celebrations for instance, ring true across many other sports and in this film are simply exaggerated. The plot as a whole is actually quite good. The idea of a game made up on someone's driveway becoming a professional sport is almost inspiring and the storyline between Coop (Parker) and Remer (Stone) is done extremely well. It isn't one of the most complicated or demanding of stories but you're not expecting Shakespeare when you watch this!
The acting is anything but strong in this film but it really doesn't matter. Parker and Stone aren't bad actors, not great either but they knew what to do in this film and it works. Robert Vaughn is definitely not at his best in this film but otherwise, effective as an obstacle character. Jenny McCarthy and Yasmine Bleeth are both pretty terrible in this film but they're both in due to their looks than anything else. The best acting accolade has to go to Dian Bachar. He is quite brilliant as the guy who's the brunt of all the jokes and gets ridiculed by commentators and interviewers. The jokes are visual rather than spoken so the acting made little difference in how funny the film is.
The jokes are mainly 'gross out' comedy, especially in the psych-out scenes which are all fantastic. I'm not always impressed by 'gross out' humour but it is done very well in this film as it is very original but not too disgusting to put the audience off from watching. There is also a fair amount of slapstick involved which is a lot more intelligent than someone simply walking in to things and having things drop on their head. What this film benefits from is the mixture of humour it provides. Everybody should be able to laugh at this film even if it's only a bit of the film.
Whilst not the most mature offering the world has ever witnessed, BASEketball is a hilariously funny, well written and fast paced film that entertains very easily. It is of course an acquired taste but anyone who likes comedy and doesn't take films too seriously will absolutely love this film.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
This film has been steadily growing a cult following over the years so I thought I'd finally give Bubba Ho-Tep a try. What a film. This really is an extraordinary piece of writing that proves humorous and touching. The idea of Elvis and JFK (as a black man) still being alive is brilliant and equally brilliant is the idea of a Mummy who sucks souls from the elderly because they are an easy target. I was never a big fan of Phantasm but Don Coscarelli gets it right with this one. Whilst not as action packed as The Mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep is a much wittier alternative.
What really helps Ho-Tep is genre favourite Bruce Campbell as Elvis. What a great casting decision. After watching Campbell kick ass in Evil Dead and being run ragged in Maniac Cop, it is great to watch Campbell rely on a Zimmer frame to get around. Campbell is also great in his narration. His thoughts on Pricilla and Lisa-Marie Presly are very emotional and add an extra layer to the film. Bruce's Elvis impression is also perfect and Campbell makes sure that Elvis has aged with hilarity. Also brilliant is Ossie Davis as JFK. His geriatric performance is funny and entirely believable. Whilst having no where near the screen time that Bruce Campbell had, Davis still manages to make a great impression and contributed all he could to the film.
Bubba Ho-Tep has two things asides from a great dialogue that appeal to my sense of humour. It jokes about old people in a very truthful but non cruel way and the film also makes the occasional swipe at people from the southern states. This meant that the film always has something I can relate to. The humour did seem to die down nearer the end of the film but it gave the action a chance to build up in to one of the most surreal fights you'll ever see; men on a wheelchair against an ancient Egyptian Mummy. The make up effects on both Campbell and the Ho-Tep are magnificent and do very well to prevent the film from looking cheap and tacky. This film is even more impressive when you consider it was shot on a low budget and filmed in 6 weeks. The film is so professionally made and well directed, you'd think you were watching a big budget horror (except for this film is actually good).
Bubba Ho-Tep is a cult film in the making and has a performance that establishes Bruce Campbell as more than simply a genre actor. Packed with wit and a couple of disgusting jokes for good measure, Bubba Ho-Tep will have you chuckling all the way through and will also have you on the edge of your seat a couple of times in the action scenes. A must see.
Wild at Heart (1990)
Wild at Heart is one of David Lynch's most conventional stories, which says something about Lynch as this film is very bizarre and full of surreal elements. Inspired by the Wizard of Oz, Wild at Heart is certainly a road movie with a difference. The strongest weapon in Wild at Heart's impressive arsenal is contrast. The stark contrast of the romance between the two main characters and the graphic violence and disturbing images puts this film at both ends of the film spectrum. Disturbing and twisted imagery is, of course, Lynch's forte so it is no big surprise that Wild at Heart is as dark as they come.
No David Lynch film is complete without a collection of weird and wacky characters. There aren't many people better than Nicolas Cage at fronting a group of weirdoes and to this day, Wild at Heart remains one of Cage's best performances. Cage as Sailor is unhinged in this film. Armed with a snakeskin coat and wild eyes, Cage is very memorable. Laura Dern is brilliant at playing the hopeless romantic Lula and developed wonderfully from her performance in Blue Velvet. Dern is very sexy in her part and her and Cage are a terrific pairing. Dianne Ladd and Willem Dafoe provide excellent support. Ladd probably gives the best performance (was Oscar nominated) as the psychotic, over protective mother. Her facial movements are almost terrifying, she is that good. Dafoe is utterly revolting in this film, his sleazy demeanour is great to see. Twin Peaks and John Carpenter's Vampires star, Sheryl Lee also makes a nice cameo as The Good Witch.
Like me, Lynch loves his heavy rock music so I really enjoyed the soundtrack to this film. The crunching guitar riffs during the animalistic sex scenes are very effective as they emphasise the nature of what is occurring visually. Contrast is also a feature in the music because whilst there is all this heavy music in the background, out will pop Cage performing an Elvis number. Very bizarre but very good.
Wild at Heart is like watching Blue Velvet mixed with Wizard of Oz and it's fascinating. Lynch once again, gives the world a film to remember. A film that encourages us to use our imagination and expands our outlook on films. Wild at Heart casts a spell on anyone who dares to watch.
An example of how films should be
Identity is a very unique film that impressed me very much when I first saw it and every time I've seen it since. The story is fascinating as it is so full of suspense and it really gets your adrenal glands in overdrive. After this immense build up, the film shatters the audience's sense of reality with an incredibly clever and unpredictable twist that must surely be on a par with Memento. This is an excellent example of what is meant by on screen magic and in retrospect; it's very surprising that this film is not even more famous.
What helps to unfold the plot so magnificently is the characters. Almost every character involved has a crucial part to play and it seems that every actor was casted perfectly for their roles, most notably John Cusack and Ray Liotta. Cusack's character is probably the most demanding as he is the only character who discovers the twist except for the audience and Cusack's total shock is very convincing as it was a almost a mirror image to my reaction. One of the more enjoyable roles was Jake Busey's role as the convicted killer. Busey has definitely been typecast with more psychotic roles but in Identity, he shows us that's not such a bad thing. Amanda Peet is definitely worth a mention and is most responsible for garnering the audience's emotions. One of the best and most effective ensembles there's been in years.
The direction is outstanding. The audience is manipulated to wherever James Mangold wishes and I can speak from experience; it's one hell of a journey. Mangold shows Identity as a Jigsaw puzzle where every character has their journey to the hotel explained throughout the film via flashbacks and the mainly off screen violence ensures that everything is kept a mystery until the last minute. The constant recital of a poem throughout the film provides added mystery and atmosphere, making Identity very intense. The fact that almost the whole film is set in this one hotel gives a very claustrophobic feel which is always effective in a Thriller. Mangold definitely read the 'How to Make a Good Thriller' Manual when making this film! With all the ingredients of a good film firmly in place and a very clever plot, Identity proves a very memorable film that is definitely at the height of the genre and will hopefully have a longer shelf life than all the recent blockbusters.
and I thought Lost Highway was weird!
Being a huge fan of David Lynch, I was not surprised to witness the immensely surreal imagery that occurs in Eraserhead. What disappointed me, was that Eraserhead is a film which appears to be weird simply for the sake of being weird. What I really like about this film, is that everything is down to your own interpretation and Lynch directs you to make a decision rather than to simply think what he thinks.
This film relies almost solely on imagery, especially considering the acting is pretty poor. Some images in the film are very disturbing and Lynch definitely achieves his goal of disgusting the audience. The first sight of the deformed baby is genuinely shocking and considering this film was on a near zero budget, shows the talent of Lynch as a creative visionary. Lynch is an artist as well as a film maker and Eraserhead is a definite cross over between film and art.
Perfectly accompanying the images are a variety of industrial noises and sounds of extreme weather. This gives a wonderful sense of your head being pounded, giving the audience an idea of how John Nance's character is feeling.
By no means great, Eraserhead is definitely not for people simply looking to be entertained and is mostly suited to hardcore Lynch fans.