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8/10
Heroic Bloodshed in the East End
20 March 2013
Inspired by Hong Kong 'heroic bloodshed' flicks, this hardnosed cops 'n' robbers tale certainly lives up to its name. James McAvoy's supercop exhibits a dogged intensity in his hunt for Mark Strong's antiheroic supercrim. During their heated cat-and-mouse game, the two uncover a conspiracy much bigger than their own dispute.

The two leads keep things moving along nicely with their ambiguous dynamic, with a supporting cast of familiar faces picking up back-end duties rather nicely. Special mention must go to Shane Meadows favourite Johnny Harris who, as a cold-blooded ex-military henchman, exudes a barely-restrained predatory animalism, familiar to those who saw him in This is England '86. Top performances, decent pacing, and an ending which refuses to settle it all in quite the neat and tidy way one would expect.
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Inbred (2011)
7/10
Ee bah gum!
19 March 2013
A group of young offenders and their care workers get more than they bargained for when they make an excursion to the aptly named Yorkshire village of Mortlake. On arrival, they receive a less-than-warm welcome from the inhabitants, a shambling, leering assortment of rural Northern stereotypes possessed of suspect genetics and psychotic intentions. Imagine Eli Roth directing The League of Gentlemen, or Eden Lake played for a (gruesome) laugh, and you've pretty much nailed the tenor taken here. Jo Hartley of This is England fame does a decent action heroine turn as one of the two care workers, and Seamus O'Neill's village pub patriarch proves a rather amusing antagonist with his rabble rousing and exaggeratedly provincial patois. Oh, and Emily Booth puts in a short-lived cameo, too! Sure, it's not essential viewing by any means, but, nevertheless, it proves an effective little hundred-minute diversion.
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8/10
Anyone who thinks Uwe Boll a joke of a director won't be laughing after watching this.
3 March 2013
Depicting the meeting of a Western journalist crew with some Darfuri villagers and the latter party's subsequent massacre by a Janjaweed death squad, this film does not flinch from depicting the full horror of what "ethnic cleansing" entails. From the film's pivotal halfway mark, the audience finds itself confronted with an orgy of rape, infanticide, mutilation, and racial extermination which make flicks like Men Behind the Sun look like My Little Pony. To heighten the impact of the spotlighted slaughter, he has the journalists (played by a grab bag of Hollywood prominents) interview individual Darfuri (played by actual survivors of the conflict), building them up as characters in their own right before having them hacked, fuc ked, and tortured to death. Happy times!

I challenge the viewer not to come away from this movie hating our species just a little bit (if they didn't already). We see a beleaguered but benign group of villagers butchered by a group of predators on a lebensraum trip; we see heroism presented as an purely emotionalistic and futile enterprise which yields minuscule reward; and we see those with the ability and proximity to face down savagery retreating on the rationale of following orders. At points, I even felt some contempt for the villagers as they prayed impotently to their figment of a god (who would likely use their blood and tears as masturbatory lubricant if he existed). Boll pours the misanthropy fuel, lights a match and sets the screen alight with it.

Surprisingly, most of the big names (Billy Zane, Ed Furlong, Kristanna Loken) do very little with their screen time; it falls to Scotsman David O'Hara to provide some semblance of range and dynamism, and he plays his heroic martyr role with a passion that has you rooting for him despite the overwhelming odds against his success and survival. The other major standout is Sammy Sheik's Janjaweed commander, emanating a ostensible air of nobility which makes his role in events all the more chilling. The villagers, played by actual survivors of the predations depicted, clearly need no coaching to capture the terror of a preyed-upon people.

Piercing and provocative filmmaking, Darfur left me with a perverse appreciation for the much-maligned Boll; on the strength of this and Rampage, I'm curious to see how he'll handle the Holocaust in his yet-to-be-released Auschwitz. By distancing himself from his earlier video-game-based auteurship with each original project, he may just earn the respect and kudos he's craved for so long.
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Jack Frost (1997 Video)
7/10
This ain't no Michael Keaton vehicle!
1 March 2013
A straight-to-video release, this tale of a reincarnated death row inmate turns up the trash, and, with it, the laughs. People die in comically calamitous way, prompting some of the most hilarious support cast underreactions committed to home video ("I didn't do it!"). Our eponymous villain protagonist signs off each of his kills with an appropriately punny line, and the townsfolk he terrorises run and scurry around in half-clued-up Mystery Inc. fashion. One infamous scene, featuring American Pie eye candy Shannon Elizabeth, may just be THE most inappropriately side-splitting sequence of rape-and-murder committed to camera.

If you're watching this, try not to take anything seriously - it's readily apparent none of the cast and crew did! Loud, dumb, brainless fun.
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The Woman (I) (2011)
7/10
Man vs Beast
17 February 2013
It's the usual story: bloke meets bird, captures her, locks her in the basement, and gets the family to help him "civilize" her. There's a strong gender war current running through the narrative, with males striving to conquer, confine, and control feminine energies, and the backlash that ensues from such attempts. More expansively, there's also the theme of "civilized" man being at once enthralled and repelled by the animal inside, ultimately determined to keep it held down, repressed, whitewashed, and beyond visibility; the result is something far more monstrous and chilling than a simple feral beast could ever hope to be. Some unnerving performances and delectably amusing gore add to the good, unclean family fun on offer here.
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V/H/S (2012)
8/10
A nightmare world on videotape
10 February 2013
Arranged around and within a tenuous wraparound home invasion scenario, the vignettes that comprise this shakycam shocker prove memorably effective, each lulling the viewer into a false sense of security via meanderingly mundane set-ups that abruptly shift to more unnerving, visceral territory. Old tropes such as alien interference, haunted houses, serial killers, and femmes fatales find themselves fed through the lens of the hand-held camera to rather impressive effect. The overall picture painted by these series of snuff flicks-within-a-flick is one of a world sporadically at the mercy of an otherworldly array of entities, with the glaring unremarkability of its setting serving to amplify, rather than undermine, the atmosphere of cosmic malevolence. All these elements amount to a punchy anthology which succeeds in overriding my antipathy toward the dreaded jittercam technique - no mean feat!
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8/10
A grab-bag of gore
10 February 2013
'D' is for diversity in the case of this anthology of horror shorts, put together by a plethora of known and unknown directors. As expected, it's a hit-and-miss affair (though with more of the former than the latter). Standout segments include the euthanasia-gone-wrong hijinks of A, the utterly depraved spurt-or-die set-up of L, the claymation calamity of T, the savage social commentary that is X, and the draconian dystopia of V (which begs to be developed into a fully-fledged film of its own - DO IT, ANDREWS!). Other topics, such as heroin highs, female flatulence, miscarriage, animal-abuse, and mutant dildo girls, also find free play here. There were a few stinkers thrown into the mix (and I'm not on about F), such as the slow O, the bafflingly pointless R, and the first-person filler that is G; fortunately, however, they prove to be the exception rather than the rule. Generally, the feeling created by being shipped from one gonzo set-up to another is an appealingly unsettling one, building up an anticipation swiftly rewarded.

If you fail to find at least a handful of appealing letters here, I'd advise you to stick to the rom-coms.
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7/10
The notorious rape & revenge flick gets a modern-day torture porn reworking
4 February 2013
I have to say that watching this newer, grimmer remake made me appreciate the humanity that informed the original film, flawed though that was. In the '78 version we had a heroine who was defiled yet not destroyed, a protagonist who reasserts her autonomy, and femininity, and, yes, humanity by taking revenge over her id-driven attackers. Here we have an innocent, naive girl, effectively eradicated by a more menacing, calculating crew of assailants, returning as something of a wraith (complete with visual nods to The Ring) to drag her rapists to Hell with her.

Far from regaining her autonomy, femininity, and humanity, this 2010 version of Jennifer Hills re-emerges from her ordeal as half-spectre, half-Frankenstein's gestalt, poetically mirroring the calculated cruelty and sadism of her torturers. Her victims being utterly reprehensible fu cks, the fitting punishments she inflicts on them prove both amusing and satisfying to watch; yet that haunting, final shot of her, staring blank-eyed at the camera, hammers home her reduction to a patchwork of a person, effectively recreated in the image of the same elements she set out to destroy. (A more cynical take on feminism, I wonder?) In short, this remake is a case of 'same song, different tenor' in more than just aesthetics. I recommend watching it side-by-side with the original to truly appreciate the contrasts.
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6/10
A flawed milestone
2 February 2013
Stickered, censored, and sectioned upon its release, this notorious piece of sexploitation is the quintessential rape-and-revenge flick, what with its running time being near-monopolised by both aspects of that equation. Attempts to craft a compelling narrative prove tenuous, mere threads to sew the polemically-driven action and reaction sequences together. Somewhat reminiscent of both Deliverance and The Last House on the Left, this combines the city-fish-out-of-water element of the first with the lust for vengeance animating the latter.

For better and worse, this film ticks many a "feminist" box, living up to its Day of the Woman subtitle: on the positive side, we see vengeance exacted by the victim of violation herself (à la Inez Garcia), thus affirming a message of radical personal autonomy (as opposed to the family values vibe I got from the vengeful parents in TLHotL); on the negative side, the ONLY male characters seen in the film are snap-reactive, id-enslaved predators, set off by the first slip of skirt that crosses their path (a trait which our heroine exploits with her feminine wiles, come her revenge). All I'll say is that Valerie Solanas' knickers would be soaked if she watched this one! As for the notoriously prolonged gang rape, it's amazing how the passage of time makes the once-shocking look rather ridiculous. Scenes of the sobbing, soiled lead staggering from one stage of her ordeal to the next are undermined in gravity by the cartoonishly overacted writhing of her rapists. Perhaps copious viewing of extreme cinema has "desensitized" me, but I find it laughable this film caused all the commotion it did on account of those scenes. I expect it's a case of me having to be around in '78 to take in the full impact.

All in all, despite its time-blunted edges, I'm glad I watched this rapesploitation milestone. What it lacks in certain key areas, it makes up for with a satisfying denouement featuring what's probably the most memorable closing line in cinema. Maybe one of these days I'll check out the recent remake to see whether or not it addresses its precursor's shortcomings.
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Bunraku (2010)
4/10
Pretty, Oh So Pretty. Yet Vacant.
30 January 2013
Depicting the history of man's taste for intraspecies slaughter, the rather nifty, silhouette-animated opening sequence sets up the events leading to the movie's post-apocalyptic, gun-controlled future setting. In these surroundings arise two warriors, each seeking out the villain of the piece for a reason of his own.

This star-loaded feature seems to have everything going for it: a cast of proved pedigree (including Ron Perlman done-up like Rob Zombie); a stylised comic book setting (with the use of modern-day comic heroes as "ancient" legends); and some nifty narration. Unfortunately, I found it quite difficult to give much of a shi t about the story and characters, insipid and generic as they were. The action sequences, whilst hardly the worst I've seen, fail to make much in the way of impact, and half the lines delivered are mumbled, necessitating quite a bit of frustrating backscanning. Admittedly, Harrelson's bartending mentor and Perlman's ennui-stricken Big Bad provide a smidgen of interest, but they're no match for the aesthetically-appealing mediocrity of the film they find themselves in...and can someone tell me what the point of Demi Moore's character was? In summation, a beautifully bland beat 'em-up which took up two hours too many of this viewer's life.
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9/10
More Than Meets the Eye
30 January 2013
Ostensibly, this is a slasher-cum-revenge movie about a persecuted protagonist getting even with his tormentors; watching it, it soon becomes clear that the compellingly goofy title is, to a certain degree, misleading. Whilst the title indeed describes events in the film, it (no doubt deliberately) fails to acknowledge a considerably more substantial story of second chances, paternal bonding, and the lengths a person will go to in the name of friendship. A generally sympathetic cast of characters, amusing verbal exchanges, and some hilarious scenes of murder combine with the aforementioned elements to form an endearing and engaging viewing experience. Hopefully this will emerge from relative obscurity to assume the mantle of cult classic.
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8/10
Spaghetti Southern
21 January 2013
Tarantino takes an old spaghetti western franchise and reworks it into the context of the Antebellum-era American South. This time, the protagonist is a freed slave, out to take back his love and enact a bloody revenge on those who shackled and savaged the pair of them. Jamie Foxx puts in a more-than-serviceable performance as the intense, hard-bitten Django, but he finds himself somewhat overshadowed by Christopher Waltz as his smart-tongued, soft-hearted, bounty-hunting liberator and compadre, Dr King Schultz. Samuel L. Jackson puts in a hilarious and horrifying turn as the servile-yet-sharp house slave Stephen, serving as formidable backup for Leo Di Caprio at his bastardly best as plantation-owner Calvin Candie.

Despite the close-to-three-hour running time, Tarantino avoids burdening the film with the tangential self-indulgence that marred his previous outing, Inglourious Basterds. Instead, we get a decent blend of characterisation, cameos, comedy, and carnage which come together to form a memorable slab of spaghetti southern blaxploitation. Some of Tarantino's soundtrack choices prove kinda jarring (Hip-hop...in this setting!?), and he could do with proofreading his historical accuracy at certain points, but overall, I think he got more right than wrong with this one. Give it a shot, or six.
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Drive (I) (2011)
8/10
A friend described this as "Shane in a Michael Mann skin" and I'm inclined to agree.
21 January 2013
Powered by a superficially tranquil energy, this Western-on-wheels story has much bubbling beneath its sleek, taciturn outer layers, much like its nameless protagonist. The long, subdued stretches that characterise the narrative serve to make the sparse scenes of action and romance all the more savage, stirring, and memorable when they arrive. Although the detached, resolute anti-hero speaks sparsely and softly, a lot is conveyed of him through his barely spoken affection and regard for his lone mum neighbour and the ruthless, brutal lengths he pursues to keep her from the claws of the mobsters he finds himself entangled with. As such, this film works not only as a gritty crime drama and atypically touching love story but also as an engaging character study which relies on the aforementioned elements to reveal the protagonist's (and, to a lesser extent, the support cast's) multiple layers. Is he, as the excellent synth soundtrack suggests, a "real hero", a troubled and tortured bloke hanging by a thread, or some semi-integrated blend of both?

At once haunting, arresting, and poignant, Drive is the cinematic equivalent of the very best synthpop: cool, celestial craftsmanship punctuated by harsh, pounding beats, both belying the raw, organic heart pulsing at its core.
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Dredd (2012)
9/10
Ain't no Pity in Mega-City!
20 January 2013
This adaptation of the popular Brit comic strip, whilst not quite as grim, claustrophobic, and constricted in setting as its source material, is nevertheless much, MUCH more faithful to it in spirit and detail than the accidentally hilarious 90s Stallone vehicle.

The action set pieces are pleasingly brutal and visceral, with some good, plot-relevant use of slo(w)-mo, but it's the three leads that really shine. Karl Urban plays Dredd stonefaced and curt, capturing the essence of the iconic character (even with his movie-softened edges); Olivia Thirlby portrays telepathic rookie (and popular spin-off character) Judge Anderson with an idealism and empathy which makes the viewer hope she survives her first day on the force; and Lena Heady portrays main villain(ess) Ma-Ma with a cold, predatory world-weariness, making her presence felt formidably.

Inevitably, comparisons will be made to The Raid, the Indonesian flick which shares a similar set-up (law officers storming a tower block run by crims) and release time; however, Dredd has enough elements to differentiate it from said flick, its characters and setting being somewhat more distinguished than its (nevertheless esteem-worthy) present-day-set counterpart. The strong world-building that forms the backbone of Dredd leaves open the possibility of future explorations. I'll be interested to see if (and how) Travis integrates characters like Judge Death and the Cursed Earth mutants into his universe, or explores the authoritarian implications of the Judge System via sequels. As things stand, this is THE adaptation of the dystopian comic strip and a brilliant action movie in its own right. My only regret is that I didn't see it in cinematic 3D, what with it being lauded as one of the few flicks to use the gimmick in an integral and effective fashion.
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Adam Chaplin (2011)
8/10
Haemophiliac homage
26 December 2012
A homage to hyperviolent wuxia anime, supernatural vengeance flicks, and grindhouse, this bukkake of blood delivers more splatter for the platter than the filthiest gokkun fest. The directorial and acting debut of one Emanuele De Santi, this supernatural revenger flick plays out like some twisted hybrid of The Crow and Fist of The North Star, surpassing the live-action version of the latter in terms of sheer spectacle. A colourful cast, including some monstrous yet oddly sympathetic villains, help keep things ticking over between the bloodjaculatory set pieces. A testament to the fact that one can stretch a tight budget a long way. Hopefully, this'll not be the last seen of Santi.
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Red Dawn (1984)
5/10
Red Yawn
22 October 2012
Old-school Cold War propaganda piece which does a fine job of hitting the ground running, yet forgets to pause for breath long enough to let the characters breathe. As a result of that, and the rather choppy transitions between scenes, this film has the feel of an aborted TV miniseries sliced and spliced into a cinematic clip show. The crew probably should've gone the route of the then-popular invasion series V instead: it would've done the plotting and characterisation wonders!

Nice concept; clumsy execution. Maybe the remake'll rectify the flaws of its father. A fractured mess of a movie that failed to engage me as fully as I thought it would.
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8/10
A 21st Century Die Hard.
28 May 2012
Rock-solid action from the East, via the lens of a Western (in this case, Welsh) director. This plays out like a modern day Die Hard with our protagonist, a soldier in the eternal war of cops vs crims, having to get to the top of a crim-infested apartment block and apprehend the kingpin-cum-landlord running things there. From that premise blossom a hundred minutes of bone-cracking carnage, as cops and crims alike get blown up, shot to bits, stabbed, tossed out of windows, and broken in two from great heights. After awhile, any plot considerations give way to seeing the next sadistic setpiece, which is fine with me as the whole thing is choreographed with a furious finesse befitting the pugilistic pedigree of its stars.

For fans of action and martial arts, this is indeed a must-view.
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Blood Diner (1987)
6/10
Clearly the result of imbibing acid and meth at every stage of the creative process!
26 May 2012
I'm still trying to figure out what the f uck went on in this film.

We've got a proto-Beavis and Butthead pair of brothers who, in tribute to their dead psychotic uncle, kill wanton women to serve up on their diner's menu; we've got necromancy to revive said uncle as a disembodied brain; we've also got said brain (complete with eyes) orchestrating and overseeing a plot to revive an ancient goddess with a name reminiscent of an Eighties cartoon villainess: all hail Sheetar! Did I forget to mention the rival diner owner and his sole talking puppet customer; or the vaguely grating pair of cop stereotypes? All of this got thrown into a gonzo gumbo with a varying aftertaste: sometimes, it hit the spot; other times, it left me wondering: "What the fu ck am I eating?" Perhaps I should check out Blood Feast, the slab of Sixties horror this hit 'n' miss homage pays tribute to.
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The Mist (2007)
8/10
In short, potent viewing.
25 May 2012
I really got a kick out of this one! Based on a novel by Stephen King, and filtered through the lens of the director of the Walking Dead, this feature sticks the spotlight on a group of townsfolk holed-up in a supermarket to avoid the extradimensional invaders outside. Despite the b-movie premise, this film is elevated by some memorable, enthusiastic performances (check out Marcia Gay Harden as Bible-thumping Mrs Carmody), and an excellent psychological edge which sets the townsfolk against each other. Indeed, the herd mentality and fanaticism of the townsfolk poses just as existential a threat to our protagonists as the creatures intent on eviscerating them (so much so, I hoped the invaders made chili con carne out of most of them).

Oh, yes...after two tense hours, the movie has a conclusion that kicks you in the teeth---twice!
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Twilight (I) (2008)
5/10
90210 with the Prozac pumped out of its stomach.
25 May 2012
Hades and Persephone sanitized and sterilized for the Twitter generation. The slow, almost somnambulist motion and the washed-out filters contribute to making this extended music video treatment fascinatingly lifeless. I'm sure this was an intentional cinematic reflection of Bella's obsession with the undead object of her affection; but, in my case, it kept me anticipating a change of pace never to arrive, even during the fight scenes between rival vamps. Whilst not quite as awful as its detractors declare it, it left me wondering what its t(w)eenybopper fans get so darned EXCITED about (not that trying to understand the t(w)eenybopper mind is a fruitful endeavor at the best of times).

When all's said and done, Twilight isn't a vampire movie--it's a ZOMBIE flick!
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The Avengers (2012)
9/10
Super-b!
6 May 2012
The much-hyped superhero ensemble project finally sees manifestation on the big screen: the wait has been worth it.

Ensemble projects like this always carry the risk of being bloated, or ruined by overkill; thankfully, Joss Whedon sees fit to not only give each of his superpowered protagonists ample screen time, but also effective characterisations, too. Hell, even Hawkeye and Black Widow--two characters who were treated as mere appendages in previous Marvel flicks--have a strong presence here. Tom Hiddleston, makes a mischievous antagonist, playing Loki as a megalomaniacal Jack the Lad with a potty mouth (never thought I'd hear the term "mewling quim" in a mainstream, all-ages flick); but the strongest standout, for me, has to be Mark Ruffalo's ever-on-edge performance as that big green wrecking machine, the Hulk.

Action-wise, there's no disappointment, with each set-piece giving our heroes an excuse to show off their pet powers. If the ensemble panning shot during the climactic battle doesn't win some sort of award for camera-work and direction, I'll be very surprised! The real mastery comes from the entwining of characterisation and conflict, with the course of the latter very much informed by (and informing) the former.

In short, this is a must-see as a supe move, a summer blockbuster, and an all-round great piece of action cinema.
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8/10
Enjoyably cheap Mad Max rip-off that manages to establish an identity of its own.
3 May 2012
Basic set-up: lone anti-hero protects the last remnants of civilization from the murderous mitts of a gang of psychotic (yet somewhat charismatic) would-be genocide artists named Templars. Some amusing B-movie level lines, plus some pretty impressive B-movie special effects (Templars exploding under crossbow fire - heheh ) held my attention for the running time. A pure 80s synth track proves the icing on the post-nuke mushroom cake. However the real point of stand-out in this film remains the abundance of futuristic (by 80s sci-fi standards) technology littered around the wasteland (the nuclear war takes place in 2010, nine years before the events depicted on screen). If you like trashy-yet-terrific sci-fi, post-apocalypse flicks or a good laugh, give this the once-over!
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Equilibrium (2002)
8/10
What would've happened, had 1984 taken a different turn?
2 May 2012
What would happen if 1984 turned out differently? If Winston Smith possessed enough power not only to break free of the system but to also to bring it to its knees? Find out in this rather pleasing post-apocalypse dystopia flick which pits Christian Bale (as John Preston) against the tyrannical government he was bred to serve. When Preston, a Cleric entrusted with the duty of eliminating 'sense-offenders' - those who exhibit emotion and/or possess creative works from the pre-WWIII era - forgets to take his dose of the emotional-nullifier Prozium, he gains access to an essential aspect of his existence long anaesthetized. From there proceeds a gradual unravelling from the societal fabric, leading to a head on collision with those who turn the gears of control.

This is certainly one of those films I can watch several times over - however it is not without fault. What's with the emotionality going unnoticed in some of the Clerics (i.e: Brandt (Taye Diggs) discovers Preston's emotional deviance)? How exactly did Du Pont (Angus MacFayden) orchestrate the chain of events to snare Preston? I'm sure I missed a few other plot gapes.

That said the performances in the film generally well-done, with Bale's Preston, MacFayden's Du Pont and Emily Watson's Mary standing out as high points. The inventive use of Gun Kata - the martial art created by the director - works a treat, contributing to some impressive action sequences. Also, the basic premise, whilst hardly original, always proves compelling - that of the autonomous individual fighting the tyranny of government. It helps that it's dramatized in a punchy manner as well.

There's no doubt this could have been done much better; nonetheless,despite the aforementioned flaws (and the odd ropey dash of CGI) this remains an excellent, if not quite brilliant, dystopia flick.
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Wicked City (1987)
9/10
More anime sex-demon hijinks--with schmaltz!
2 May 2012
An earlier creation from Ninja Scroll director Kawajiri, Wicked City sets the template that would contribute to the success of the former. The core Kawajiri cast of strong male, alluring-yet-deadly female, and twisted old geezer are very much in play here,; all three working to prevent another hostile takeover by the demon world.The resultant action plays out like a more refined UrotsukiDoji, with interspecies relations, body-horror and demon rape playing out across the (no doubt) Men in Black-inspiring narrative. I'm pretty sure a certain scene (hint: Venus cocktrap) inspired a recent throwaway Hollywood schlock-horror flick. Nevertheless, some solid storytelling and character development lie underneath all the hentai-esque excess - there's even some tender romance for all you lovers in the dark. A great shame this ain't available in the UK (at least not on DVD); this is certainly on par with, if not better than, Ninja Scroll. An essential watch for those with a strong constitution.
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8/10
a.k.a Magneto: The Movie.
2 May 2012
Under the direction and writing of the bloke 'n' bird who brought Kick-Ass to the big screen, the ever-enjoyable X-Men franchise gets a cinematic reboot. Like a more accomplished version of the Star Wars prequels, FS depicts the origin of the mythos' primary antagonist and his agenda of mutant separatism/supremacy. The success of the whole thing rests not only on the shoulders of Mr Vaughn and Mrs Goldman, but also those of the well-chosen cast. Standouts include Nick Hoult's clever-yet-conflicted take on Beast; January Jones playing Emma Frost with an air of detached ennui; Kevin Bacon in bastardly form as Sebastian Shaw; and James MacAvoy's roguishly idealistic Professor X. There's even an amusing precision F-bomb of a cameo from a staple member of the franchise.

Star of the show, however, has to be Michael Fassbender's steely-yet-sympathetic take on the Master of Magnetism. With a singleminded charisma he effectively takes 'n' makes the movie his own, conveying a full range of states, "between sorrow and serenity". Indeed, I found myself rooting for him over the clear-cut heroes of the piece. Even his glaring awkwardness in the final scene, whilst dressed in Magneto's trademark threads, can't diminish all that leads up to it. Also, he gets the most memorable background score in the whole film.

Is First Class a top-tier comic book adaptation? Sure. More significantly, though, it's the first of a new subgenre within that subgenre--the supervillain flick! Enjoy...
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