Saturday, 26 June 2010

Battle League Horumo

Title: Battle League Horumo
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Released: 2009
Staring: Takayuki Yamada, Chiaki Kuriyama, Gaku Hamada, Sei Ashina, Takuya Ishida, YosiYosi Arakawa, Tamiyasu Cho

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: Participating in the ancient game called “Horumo” the Kyoto University Azure Dragons, play their part in the game in which players control sprites called “Oni”, battling against rival teams of trainers. Akria Abe (Yamada) a freshman student, falls for classmate Kyoto (Ashina) and blindly joins the club in a bid to get closer to her, while continuing to play the game as tensions with the group continue to rise.

Review: It’s hard to not get over whelmed by the whirlwind of splatter,horror, kung fu and art house movies, which seem to make up the majority of Asian cinema titles to receive releases outside of their native countries, with the movies which fall between the cracks of these genre’s occasionally turning up for an obscure showing at film festivals or art house cinemas, but rarely getting the release they deserve, which is a shame as it’s releases like “Battle League Horumo” which prove that Asian cinema is so much more, than the main genre’s which have without a doubt helped boost it’s popularity in recent years and while it's true that it might be a flawed film in places, it still makes for a refreshing change in pace, while attempting at the same time to pull of an insane premise.

I guess right from the start, it’s clear that something isn’t right about the Azure Dragons, which it's also true could be largely down to club president Makoko (Arakawa) insisting frequently that it is a “Normal club doing normal things” or perhaps it’s more to do with the huge piles of boxed raisins which line the corridors, either way things start out normal enough, with the new members being taken on nature hikes and rafting trips, with things growing slowly stranger as the newest recruits, start their training for the thousand year old ritual known as Horumo, which despite seeming strange to them at first, somehow keeps them hooked despite the majority of this training consisting of some very ropey looking disco dancing, with it’s mixture of thrusts and gestures, accompanied by various commands which explode onto the screen, every time someone shouts one. Still it’s when they are finally introduced to the Oni, that they realise the importance of these moves, essential in controlling their army of sprites as they wage battle for the entertainment of the gods.
These early training scenes provide a number of great physical comedy moments, with the majority coming from the double act of Akira and his friend Koichi (Hamada) and while the comedy is mainly over the top and physical in style and might not be to everyone’s tastes, it is certainly a style which Hamada excels at, while it also certainly helps to keep an element of fun to things, with the gods at one point taking control of Koichi's hands and forcing him to cut his hair into a top knot, as punishment for wetting himself in battle which really is just one of the numorous random moments which appear throughout, but when you look at the plot, it is probably for the best that things are kept fairly surreal, especially as how can you really make a serious movie, about high school students battling each other with adorable looking sprites? Yamada meanwhile continues to build on his reputation as the lovable loser, even if he is slightly cooler than in his previous roles such as “Train Man” (2005)

The battle scenes which after all are the main draw here are a definite highlight with the cutesy sprites, taking on the personality of the student controlling them with the nerdy Fumi’s (Kuriyama) Oni all wearing similar style thick rimmed glasses to her own, were as the dominating Mitsuru (Ishida) finds his Oni more bulked up and dressed in sleeveless shirts.
It's true in traditional folk law have more in common with the Mogwai from “Gremlins” (1984) the Oni are a far cry from this, being created by Studio Gonzo, who are probably best known for their work on “Samurai 7” (2004) and “Afro Samurai” (2007), here once again showcasing their seemingly limitless creative talent, with the Oni battles as they proceed wage war against each other under the commands of their respect trainers, with their souls being shown rising towards heaven every time one of their number falls, in a style I found heavily reminiscent of that seen in “Big Man Japan” (2007). These effects used to animate the Oni, not only help to add character to the Oni, but also make their battle scenes a clear highlight of the movie, especially when each of the sprites has been designed with so much attention to the smallest of details and while the idea of cutesy creatures hitting each other with blunt instruments, might be a major turn off for some viewers, they have still managed not to overload on the cuteness to the point were these battles loose any form of power, which could be also down the seemingly rubber nature of their skulls.

Sadly the action surround these epic miniature battles, is were the real faults of the film lye with director Motoki struggling it would seem, to fill the running time as frequent additions to the storyline pop up seemingly at random, including a love triangle whose sole purpose it would seem is to only increase tensions in the group, while despite Akira frequently pining after Kyoto, never actually attempts to act on these emotions, while the majority of these various storylines, fail to go anywhere making it at time a pretty jumbled mess of a film, as plotlines go either no where or stall completely, with Motoki leaving it to the viewer to pick out the relevant parts for themselves.

Despite being hugely flawed and feeling in need of some serious cuts to bring down it’s running time, it is still an enjoyable enough movie to watch, while also being another prime example of how to utilise CGI effects properly, which is something that western cinema especially could do with learning, in these times were more directors are moving away from old school techniques and instead opting for CGI. On the plus side it is yet another excuse to watch Kuriyama, who gives us something different from her usual psycho schoolgirl style roles, proving herself to more than versatile enough as an actress to pull off the geek chic required to play Fumi.
I wish I could like this movie more, as there are so many good moments, but sadly the sheer amount of flaws prevented me from liking it more, while at the same time possibly being a movie, which grows on me over time as I learn to forgive it for those flaws, though in the meantime it provide an enjoyable enough waste of time as well as a reminder that Asian cinema on a whole has a lot more depth, than we sometimes give it credit for.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Title: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Director: Terry Gilliam
Released: 2009
Staring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law

Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: Doctor Parnassus (Plummer) is the leader of a travelling theatre troupe and having made a deal with the devil (Waits) years before, has gained the ability to allow members of the audience to explore the wildest parts of thier imaginations, by travelling through his magic mirror. The group however is soon thrown into disarray when they rescue Tony (Ledger) who despite claiming to have amnesia, hides his own set of secrets, setting to work as a barker for the show, while meanwhile the devil returns with a new wager for Parnassus to help him save the soul of his daughter Valentina (Cole).

Review: It’s been awhile but it’s safe to say that Terry Gilliam, has finally returned to his fantastical roots, after having spent what seems like an eternity hanging around in the real world, rather than the fantastical landscapes he showed us during the early years of his career with “Time Bandits” (1981), “Brazil” (1985) and the seriously underrated “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (1988), which it could be said was responsible for Gilliam shifting his focus into the real world to begin with, especially more so when the film is frequently seen as the black mark on his career, thanks largely to numerous problems it suffered during production.
Despite this shift in focus, Gilliam has continued to make exciting an interesting films and personally I was excited to see him return to his more fantastical self, which could be said is due to the the mixed and frequently controversial reaction recived by his last film “Tideland” (2005).

Despite the film suffering a major set back, with the sudden death of Heath Ledger, an event which lead to Gilliam hiring Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to fill in the breaks in filming, which after seeing the finished film it would appear to luckily be, from what I can see, to be mainly the scenes in which Ledgers character journeys into the Imaginarium with members of the audience, acting as their guide through the fantastical world, with these three taking on his guise, but due to the way which Gilliam sets these scenes up, it’s almost as if he planned it all along, for Tony’s features to change with every trip he takes in the Imaginarium, only to return to his original face upon leaving. Still these moments also seem to mark out different aspects of Tony’s personality such as his womanising charm (Depp), his desire to raise his social profile (Law) and finally his ruthless nature (Farrell) especially when it comes to keeping his secret which is hinted at throughout. Still as creative as this idea is, it does however make the portrayal of Tony, extremely uneven with Depp and Ledger having fun with the character, while both Farrell and Law struggling to portray their respected sides, making me wish that they’d just let Depp handle these scenes, especially when he sets the bar to high for both Farrell and Law to follow, even if Farrell does provide several great moments, the more frustrated and overwhelmed he becomes during this final trip inside the Imaginarium.
The rest of the cast are none the less surprising with the casting choices, with Troyer clearly greatful to break away from being Mini me / drunk reality TV star as he embraces the chance at a rare serious role, while model turned actress Cole gives a great playful performance as Valentina as does Waits as the devil, a role it would seem he was born to play, as he lurks always in the background, teasing and playing with Parnassus while truly coming alive during his scenes in the Imaginarium, were he frequently turns up in the most unusual of places, frequently becoming part of the scenery, as he attempts to lure the souls of the visitors to the Imaginarium, as part of the on going game between himself and Parnassus.

It’s clear from the start that Gilliam is doing something for himself with this film, even more so with the Imaginarium scenes, which are almost like taking a trip inside the brain of Gilliam, especially seeing how these parts are when he truly lets his creativity loose, with each trip seemingly being tailored to suit the visitor, with a materialistic woman finding a land of over sized shoes and jewellery, while for a young box it becomes more of a giant balloon popping game. Even the real world, he has still found a way to bring some magic to the screen, with the giant lumbering horse drawn carriage, which folds out to create the stage the troupe form upon and it’s a fascinating creation, from the moment we first see it slowly moving down the streets of London, which was also when I found my first disappointment with the film, finding that the film is actually set in a modern day London, free from any form of fantastical elements, outside of the ones being brought by Parnassus and while it’s true that it makes the world inside the Imaginarium, all the more fantastical it did however feel like Gilliam wasn’t quite ready to fully to commit himself to a fully submerse world, like he did with his earlier films in particular “Brazil” which not only presented a strange and fantastical world (while also strangely playing like it was the missing Monty Python movie), but sucked you into this world allowing you to completely loose yourself in the story, were as the constant switches often prove distracting with your trip to through the imaginarium often cut short, though despite this it’s clear that Gilliam has still not lost his keen eye for the more fantastical elements.

While it might not be the last great Heath Ledger some of us were hoping for, it is still a fascinating film and nice to see Gilliam once again flexing his creative muscle, which certainly welcome, especially when the new wave of visionary directors such as Spike Jonze and David Fincher continue to become more mainstream with each film they make, it’s nice to know that Gilliam is still making films which still push visuals and storytelling in increasingly new and interesting directions and while it might not be his best work, it is thankfully a step back towards doing what he does best.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Five Things to Love about Chris Carter

Today my wife Lily is celebrating her birthday and in honour of this I thought it would be a great chance to look at the “Five Things to Love about Chris Carter”, who it’s safe to say she is a huge fan of, combining it into oh so many aspects of our life, including our engagement which just happened, to be tied in with the UK release of the second film.
Chris Carter is most notably responsible created one of the most popular and influential TV Shows ever, drawing heavy inspiration from shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” to create his legacy “The X Files” which in turn spawned two feature films and three equally great spin off shows Millennium, The Lone Gunmen and Harsh Realm, which despite none of them reaching the same benchmark set by “The X Files” still proved that there was more to this world he created than the personal odyssey of Mulder and Scully and while it might not be as highly regarded today, as it was back at the height of it’s popularity, it’s influence can still be felt even now eight years on from the final revel of “The Truth” which as the 2008 film “The X Files: I want to Believe” proved, the quest for still continues.
So allow me now to present to you, my top five reasons to love Chris Carter.

(1) The Mulder-phone
Mulder’s phone over the course of nine seasons, became kind of a inside joke for the fans of the show, seeing how it always had signal whether he was locked in vaults, lost in the woods or deep underground, he always had perfect signal which for someone like myself who can’t even get a signal in his own house, really makes me wonder what network he was on, to get such amazing coverage!

(2) He created Geek-Chic
There are some people out there who believe that “Geek-Sheek” was a creation of Josh Schwartz and in particular the portrayal of the character Seth in “The O.C” by Adam Brody, which he would then carry on to pretty much any performance from that moment on, to ever increasingly grating levels. Those who believe this are sadly wrong, for it was truly Carter who first made being a geeks cool, not only with the likes of “The Lone Gunmen” but more with “Mulder” who lets be honest is probably the biggest geek of them all, not only obsessing over the unexplained while also processing a worryingly keen interest in pornography, he is without a doubt the biggest geek in the show, with his personal knowledge proving that it’s far more than a professional interest. Still these geek out moments would provide over the years some of the most memorable moments of the show, which are still fondly remembered even now, adding to the humour and scare mix which proved such a potent formula and which would later prove equally successful for Joss Whedon and his “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” reworking.

(3) Making us root for the bad guys
It’s not an easy thing, to create a character so delightfully evil that you not only despise them, but can’t help but admire their evil ways, but from “The Cigarette Smoking Man” to “The Alien Bounty Hunter” as well as my personal favourite “Alex Krycek” if there is one thing Carter has always had an eye for when it came to characters, it would have to be said that his most interesting creations, were always those standing in the way of the truth.
Over the course of his career and through the shows he has only added to this back catalogue, though for myself Krycek will always be the one who stands out from the pack, which could largely be down to the fascinating journey his character took, from his first appearance as a goody two shoes replacement partner for Mulder, to his ever darkening persona with every setback he suffered from losing his hand to being locked in a vault, Carter used them all to add only make him even darker, memorably having Krycek use his prosthetic hand to batter a confession out of one unlucky captive.
He would prove that he hadn’t lost any of this eye for the darker characters or the ability to get into the heads of these characters, as he proved in the “The X Files: I want to Believe” bringing a whole new spin to the Frankenstein mythos, which even included a two headed dog, which alone deserves it’s own mention.

(4) The monster of the week format
One of the worst things about most series today, is the need to constantly have a running storyline, making it really frustrating to get into anything new, that you’ve missed the first few episodes off and while there might have been the main conspiracy storyline in “The X Files”, which for myself eventually became overly complicated and confusing, the episodes which I most fondly remember are the “Monster of the Week” ones which no doubt is the reason I loved the first season of “Millennium” with it’s focus on a different killer each week, while the second season focused more on the Millennium group, causing my interest to wander.
The most interesting aspect of these episodes was also how quickly Carter moved away from the traditional monsters, such as Werewolves and Vampires who in total only amassed around five episodes, throughout their various appearances in the Carter universe, with Carter and his writing team instead more interested in creating their own monsters such as the flukeman and the extreme contortionist and liver eating Eugene Tooms, which in turn only added to the scare factor, seeing how these weren’t familiar creatures but instead something new and much more unpredictable and when it comes to revisiting any of the series, it will always be one of these episode that I’m more likely to dig out, rather than anything from the main storyline, especially when it was these episodes which kept me with “The X Files” especially when it began to lose it’s way in the final seasons.

(5) Giving Wong and Morgan their break
Without a doubt the two guys responsible for more top 10 X files episodes than any other writer, they created some of the shows most memorable and effective episodes for both “The X Files” and “Millennium”, before leaving to create the sadly short-lived “Space: Above and Beyond” which in turn would prove a heavy visual influence for Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers” (1997).
Since getting their break on the show they have since moved more into film, with their credits including “Willard” (2003) and “Final Destination 1 & 3” (2000 / 2006), but it thanks to Carter that they first got this break, were it could be argued they created some of their best work.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mega Piranha

Title: Mega Piranha
Director: Eric Forsberg
Released: Paul Logan, Tiffany, Barry Williams, David Labiosa, Jude Gerard Prest, Jesse Daly
Staring: 2010

Rating: 3 / 5

Plot: A mutant strain of Piranha, escape from the Amazon eating their way to Florida and they are only growing bigger.

Review: Every year we all eagerly await the list of films, which will make up the summer blockbuster list, while at the same time there are those of us, who are quietly placing our bets on which of these titles, will be receiving the “mockbuster” treatment courtesy of “The Asylum”, a studio which has carved a name for itself in recent years not with ground breaking ideas but instead for it’s knock off versions of summer blockbusters….“Snakes on a train” anyone?? Still last year they hit paydirt, with the release of “Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus” (2009) which not only was an original film (shock horror) with no recognisable film it also turned out to be a surprising breakout hit for the company, even getting a small cinematic release on the strength of the cult following it gained from the trailer getting heavy Youtube rotation.
Still despite this success it would seem that “The Asylum” have once again focused their attentions back on the Hollywood mainstream, with the forthcoming release of Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha” remake, it’s almost to predicatable that they would churn out their own version, while also not content to just rip off this film, but also the original two films, the sequel of which “Piranha 2: The Spawning” (1981) memorably provided the questionable launch pad for James Cameron’s career, with the films not only heavily references throughout, but instead basically both films, scrapbooked together into one truly random movie, with an added dose of gigantism.

Despite the fact they actually made a popular and original film, I did wonder if it would mean that this latest release might get more of a budget, which is a theory pretty much scrapped right from the start, with an early and questionable looking attack sequence that “The Asylum” haven’t forgotten their roots, as this is once again a hodgepodge of crappy looking CGI, Z list actors and err 80’s pop stars, but then was we really expecting anything else, especially when you consider that these are truly the values the company was built upon, much like legendry cult studio Troma.
Still it would seem that this time they are clearly trying to compete with the big budget action movies, of the Hollywood system especially with Director and long term Asylum member Forsberg, using a heavy mixture of fast cuts marked with “swoosh” and “Bam” sound effects, while large writing flashing across the screen, to highlight not just locations, but pretty much any character who happens to stumble in front of the camera, be they important to the story or not, he highlights them all, while at the time even finding time to throw in an occasional split screen moment.

One the worst things about “Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus” was the prolonged scenes of dialogue, which crammed up most of the film, along with scenes of the main three characters, hanging around a lab looking puzzled, as they stared at jars of coloured water.
Thankfully this film doesn’t fall into the same trap and is instead pretty action all the way, with Paul Logan making for a suitable gruff lead, even if he does at times kind of come off like the bargain basement Adam Baldwin, in the much the same way that Nicolas Lea was the cheapy version of Hicks in “Xtro 2” (1990). Meanwhile Tiffany makes for a questionable love interest and even more questionable scientist, as once again another 80’s pop icon appearing as a scientist, following the trend started by Debbie Gibson in “Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus”, which once again making the studio casting choices none the less questionable and making me wonder who they will dig up next, when they get around to making Uber Prawn or the inevitable cross over Mega Piranha Vs. Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus.….Personally I’m hoping for Tony Basil.

As I’ve mentioned already the action quota is seriously ramped up here, with numerous attack scenes, with the scenes involving the super sized Piranha attacking a coastal town proving to be especially insane, while at the same time never explaining why the buildings are exploding, when they are hit by the flying piranha. It’s also a shame that Forsberg can’t seem to hold his wad, with the majority of the attack scenes, as they often feel over filled are far too frantic especially during the town attack, which only further to highlight the questionable CGI effects, though if you’ve made it this far in the film, you’ve no doubt gotten used to them already. It’s also interesting to see the same power station used so liberally in “Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus” once again appear here in similar style scenes, with the interior once again doubling for a submarine interior. I’m not sure what is so special about this location, but they sure get their money’s worth, seeing how it’s adapted once again, to fill so many roles.

Personally I felt that it overstayed it’s welcome towards the end and could have done with some trimming in places, but then I was attempting to watch it solo and the films of “The Asylum” always work best when watched with a few friends, some cold beers and some really low expectations, conditions under which I might have found it more enjoyable. Still in the meantime “The Asylum” machine rolls on and although they might be largely awful not only in terms of effects, but acting ability, I still at the same time have no doubt that this will not be last time I watch one of their movies, only here’s hoping next time I’m not so sober, when I try to do it!

Saturday, 12 June 2010


Title: Heathers
Director: Michael Lehmann
Released: 1989
Staring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Glenn Shadix, Lance Fenton, Patrick Labyorteaux, Carrie Lynn

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: The Heathers are the most popular social clique at their high school, spending their time making fun of Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock (Lynn) and the other social outcasts, or running stupid polls with their fellow students. Veronica (Ryder) is sick of being part of this group and longs to break free, finding her opportunity to strike back with the mysterious new boy and rebel JD (Slater).

Review: It’s funny how often to find the most interesting work of an establish actor, you have to go back to their early films, when they were more willing to task risks with their art and certainly before, they moulded themselves to fit in with the Hollywood studio system and this is especially true here for the two leads, Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, whose later years would fail repeatedly to produce anything as interesting, as they sacrificed what raw talent might be seen here, in a haze of drink, drugs, shoplifting and Uwe Boll movies, which makes you forget that either of them, had such a movie in them. Still interestingly enough the lead roles were at one point associated with both Brad Pitt (who was turned down for being too nice) and Jennifer Connolly (who just turned it down), making for an more intriguing version of the film, but still both Ryder and Slater suit their respective roles well, with Ryder portraying Veronica as kind of a lost soul, who doesn’t see herself belonging to any of the various cliques and would rather everyone just get along, while Slater as the rebellious and later utterly homicidal JD, gives us his best Jack Nicolson impression while clearly playing by his own rules, with some truly creepy scenes in which Veronica meets his dad and witnesses their role reversal style relationship, which also includes the slightest of hints to the true colours of JD.

The humour throughout is strictly dark, which is kind of unsurprising when you consider that the main focus, is on Veronica and JD killing various popular kids and making their deaths look like suicides, which might not make for the most comfortable viewing for some people, especially if you prefer you comedies a little more light hearted, than frequent musings on teenage suicide, making it in many ways a forerunner to the likes of John Waters “Serial Mom” (1994) Todd Solondz’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995). Still despite being dark, it never quite pushes the boundaries in the same way that later films would and at times, seems to be playing more with the dark humour, than fully committing itself whole heartedly to this style of humour, which becomes increasingly more evident towards the end, as Veronicas doubts increase. Still when comparing the film to the original script and the tales of failed test viewings which lead to the ending being dramatically changed, it only further eludes to the darker version we could have seen, had director Lehmann gone with his instincts, as these darker parts are definatly the stronger parts of the film, while I felt my interest waning the lighter the film got.

Throughout the film I found myself constantly questioning just how Naïve Veronica really is, seeing how she buys pretty much any bullshit that JD can spin, even after she watches him deliberately poison the ring leader of the Heathers (Doherty) by having her drink drain cleaner. Still no matter how many of the popular kids they kill, she still seems to get convinced each time that it’s all a prank, only changing her mind around the third quarter, when JD starts to really show his true colours. It is also worth questioning her amazing ability of copying other people’s handwriting, when her own writing style is so frenzied, that she might as well hold the pen between her fist to write.

It was only really while revisiting this film, that I wondered why this film is never referenced as being an influence whenever some high school kid decides to bring a gun to school, or performs some equally shocking act of violence, with the media usually targeting the music of Marilyn Manson and the more obvious film titles such as “The Matrix” (1999), with only the occasional more well watched journalist perhaps naming “The Basketball Diaries” (1995) which features it’s own school shooting daydream. Yet with “Heathers” it’s almost like a troubled youth revenge fantasy placed on the screen, as it is essentially about the bullied kids striking back at their tormentors and eventually the school, this being especially potent with it’s climax involving a plot to blow up the school along with the majority of the student body, it only makes it all the more surprising that it never receives even the slightest of mentions.

Despite Ryder constantly hinting at a sequel being made, no doubt to prop up her flagging career, it’s a film which doesn’t need a half baked sequel and says all that it needs to say with this film and certainly doesn’t need a half baked sequel to add anything to it as a film, as it’s fun but slightly disposable piece of film making, for as fun as some of the characters might be, they aren’t the kind your pretty much through being with by the time the credits roll, while at the same time hinting at what could have possibly been, with the performances given by both Slater and Ryder, for both of them it still remains a career high point.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Man On Wire

Title: Man On Wire
Director: James Marsh,
Released: 2008
Staring: Philippe Petit, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Jean-François Heckel, Annie Allix, David Forman, Alan Welner, Mark Lewis, Barry Greenhouse

Rating: 5 / 5

Plot: In 1974 tightrope walker Philippe Petit set out to tightrope walk between New York’s the twin towers of the world trade centre, in a stunt which many would later consider “The Artistic Crime of the Century”

Review: Sometimes it’s hard not to watch something and not think about how different directors might have shot it differently (personally still holding out for a David Lynch directed Bond movie) and these were my first thoughts, as I watched this facinating documentry, more so when we are first introduced to Philippe whose passion for life and his world view, couldn’t help but make me think of the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, a feeling no doubt caused by the world view of Philippe, who not only be played by Dominique Pinon, but himself is like one of their characters brought to life, as he speaks so enthusiastically about his obsession with the twin towers and his dream to tightrope walk between them, even how he tells his story, is similar to thier style, as he makes even the most mundane of situations, such as waiting in a dentists office a fascinating situation, while at the same being complemented by the re-enactments directed by Marsh, which again have that Jeunet and Caro feel to them.

Told almost like a heist movie, the story of this astonishing feat is told via a mixture of talking heads, photographs, stock footage filmed by the group and re-enactments, which make for a full picture of not only the sheer scale but the planning which went into it, while also looking at the stunts, which lead up Philippe’s twin towers stunt, which has to be noted was years before the creation of free running or Parkour, it was even before the pool draining antics of the California skaters of Dogtown.

Marsh takes painstaking attention to the details of the stunt, from the planning , aswell as attempting to get into the mind of Philippe to try and discover what exactly makes someone, want to tightrope walk between two of the tallest buildings on earth with no safety rope and zero room for error, with these moments were Philippe is left to reel off his world view, proving to be some of the most fascinating moments of the film, as you find yourself hanging on his every word, with the film following his journey to fulfilling, what becomes an almost obsession to him, from the moment he reads about the construction of the towers, as a young boy in a dentists waiting room, followed by his walk between the spires of Notre Dame in 1971, followed by his conquest of the Sidney harbour bridge, all steps on the way to the final walk, as documents are forged, a plan is forged and tensions grow between the assembled members of his crew as the day of the walk draws closer and all of this, is presented in such a way, that rivals even the most griping of heist movies, even though the only crimes being committed are in the name of Philippe’s art. Meanwhile Philippe is painted as a lovable and never mean spirited rogue, whose disregard for the rules of society and the risks he was willing to take; only providing further evidence of his obsession, even going as far as to refer to his possible failure as a “Beautiful death” if it happened. Still Philippe is certainly skilled on the wire, as it is frequently seen throughout, as he not only walks the wire, but juggles and even lies on the wire at the climax of his walks, making what is already an impressive stunt, seem all the more extrodinary, especially when we see footage of him taunting the security staff at the Twin Towers, by running back and forth on the wire, crossing between the two towers an astonishing eight times in total, with only the threat of being knocked off the wire, by a traffic copter convincing him to finally allow himself to be arrested.

Despite this clearly being Philippe’s film, the rest of his crew still get plenty of time to air their thoughts on what they were attempting and to their credit, they are a bunch of colourful and articulate people, who at times provide more than a few laughs, with one of the standout moments, being one of the American members of the team, confessing that he’d smoked dope everyday of his life for 35 years, which makes all the less surprising that there was such distrust, between the American and French members of the crew, not helped by their lack of understanding of each others native languages, which also makes you wonder how they even managed pull off such a feat.

It might seem like Marsh is ignoring the elephant in the room, by not choosing to mention the events of 9/11 at any point throughout the film, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like it is taking anything away from the film, by not even putting the briefest of references in the film, instead choosing to focus solely on the subject matter at hand, which I know annoyed a lot of people who have seen this film, but I honestly didn’t feel it was needed to be covered here and I felt glad that Marsh felt the same way it would seem, as what remainds is a film which is both beautiful and facinating to watch right until the breathtaking climax.

New Mortal Kombat on the way??

Back in the 90's when arcades were the only place to play the newest games, way before having a games console was the social norm, there were three video games which dominated my sugar addled, Godzilla obsessing childhood and they were Moonstone, Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat and despite being ultra violent and utterly amazing Moonstone was sadly forgotten by most, were as the Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, would go on to become video game legends, aswell as spawning their own movie incarnations, which to most would be viewed as cinematic trash and which in the case of Street Fighter was undoubtedly true.
Still there was somthing which grabbed me about Mortal Kombat, with it's kung fu goodness and portrayals of the iconic characters from the game, securing it's place as a guilty pleasure in my collection. Sadly this favourable opinion wasn't shared by many and despite spawning a ropey sequel and a pretty decent spin off series, the first film version was pretty much discarded as being trash like the rest of the video game movies.

Still this morning I stumbled across this trailer for a new film in the series titled "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth"

Within two days of being posted on Youtube it has received over a million views, sparking much discussion as to what it could be a trailer for? Could it be for a new game? Possibly a new movie version?

The truth is that it is a test, made by Kevin Tancharoen (yes the guy who directed "Fame") in a bid to garner studio interest in the project, which at present is still to see the film green lit, but seriously I am already excited about this film, especially in the way that he has given the game a whole new twist, by bringing its characters into the real world and reworking them into slightly less fantastical creations, in much the same way that Christopher Nolan did for Batman, which there is no doubt also opened the doorway for this latest reimagining.
True he might not be the first director to do this, seeing how Robert Rodriguez did a similar stunt, to get "Sin City" off the ground and also to secure the approval of it's creator Frank Miller, but I have to admit it's pretty darn effective and I really hope that this gets developed further, without meddling from studio bosses, who will no doubt find another amazing way of screwing up, something potentially great.

Over at "the collider" is an exclusive interview with Tancharoen, for those who want to know more, check it out here

Your thoughts please

Monday, 7 June 2010

Win Yourself Some Free Quirk Classics Stuff

To celebrate the release of Quirk Classics latest Classics Mashup "Android Karenina", the nice folks at Quirk Classics are running a competition, in which you can win yourself some great free stuff.

All you have to do, is log onto the Quirk Classics site and post the link (show below) to my review of this latest release, in the comments section of the blog entry detailing the competition...easy huh?

So first click here

And then post this link

In doing so will automatically enter you to win one of 25 Quirk Books Prize-Packs worth nearly $100, each of which includes:

o Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
o Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Journal
o How to Survive a Horror Movie by Seth Grahame-Smith

o Dracula’s Heir, an Interactive Mystery by Sam Stall
o Extreme Encounters by Greg Emmanuel
o How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is The Antichrist by Patricia Carlin
o An Android Karenina poster
o A Night of the Living Trekkies poster

The contest closes at June 14 at 5PM EST, and Quirk Classics will be announcing winners on June 17 at 12PM EST.

Good Luck!!

Android Karenina

Having established themselves as the overlords of the "classics mash up" genre, Quirk classics have been riding a wave of success, ever since launching the genre into the public conscious with the hit and miss “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, which despite stretching the joke way to thin, it planted the seeds for the genre, which has since exploded with imitators while since their first release, Quirk Classics have pretty much perfecting their formula, thanks largely to Ben H. Winters whose 70 / 30 mix of new and original material, has proven to be the saving grace for the series, as he proved with his first shot at the genre “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” seamlessly blending new material with the Austin classic, to create a truly unique take on the classic story.
Until now the literary world of Jane Austin, has been the main stomping ground of Quirk Classics, even creating a prequel to the events of “Pride and Prejudice” aswell their debut release, with Steve Hockensmith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls”, so I was glad to see them finally step away from the safety net of this world they have carved out for themselves, as Winters now returns with his second shot at the genre, this time turning his attentions to the work of legendry Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, as he sets out to give “Anna Karenina” the Quirk Classics treatment.

I should start by pointing out that I have never read the original novel, but then it is also around a thousand pages of classic Russian literature, and while I already currently working my way through Don DeLillo’s “Underworld” I wasn’t exactly overly enthused about the prospect of starting another thousand page novel, so please excuse the lack of comparisons between this adaptation and the source material, outside of the notes I have gathered to highlight a few of the notable differences, although it would seem stright away that Winters has shaved down the material slightly, with his version clocking in at just over five hundred pages.

What is most noteworthy about this adaptation is the decision to move not only away from the work of Jane Austin, but the horror genre as well with this adaptation moving move into sci-fi territory, despite the original intentions of making this a steam punk mash up, it feels alot more like a general sci-fi reworking which if it was, though if it was supposed to be steam punk, it was certainly a hell of a lot different than I thought a steam punk novel would be. Still the 1980’s Russian setting of Tolstoy’s novel suits this mash up choice well, though Russia has on a whole always worked well when put into a sci-fi setting and this is still very much the same here, no matter how outlandish the ideas become, they never seem to overwhelm the surrounds they are placed in. Meanwhile, Winters at the same time has also tied in his mash up, a whole heap of references to Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov and his "laws of robotics" (or Iron laws as they are known here), as well as the world which Winters has adapted now seeming similar to that seen in Fritz Lang’s classic film “Metropolis” (1927), while still finding time once again to reference the works of Jules Verne, who proved such a prominent influence throughout “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”.

Although from the outset it might come across as page one rewrite of the classic, fans of the original should rest easy to know, that for all the changes it is still at it’s heart the same story of the two sets of lovers Anna and (her lover) Vronsky and that of Kitty and Levin, while key scenes which shape them, are subjected to the creative whims of Winters, who once again shows unbridled imagination, once he's decided on how his newly reworked setting is going to work, with notable changes including the steeplechase race, which Vronsky takes part in, now turning into a giant mecha rumble, while Levin no longer tends to a farm but instead a Groznium mine, harvesting the wonder metal which has proved to be the backbone of this alternative society. Thankfully none of this feels pasted into place and the feel of the source novel still remains, which is always the key factor of a mash up working, as more inferior attempts have proven, with the new material standing out like a McDonalds in a slum and thankfully something which readers don’t have to worry about here, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in this world, without constantly being drawn out, by some noticeable and clumsily placed piece of new material.

While there has been much debate, over whether these mash ups are dumbing down the classics, I rather prefer to see them as an entry point, for these same works, as the majority of readers will no doubt be left, wanting to read the original books, so that they might draw comparisons between the two, which essentially is were the fun lyes with each new mash up. Still Quirk Classics have not only proven that they are still the most noteworthy name in the mash up field, but have also shown that they have a lot more scope than what might have originally been expected, with this title now opening the floodgates for a whole host of new and interesting directions, which the series can go, rather than sticking to it’s horror roots, it now just remains to see if any other members of the Quirk Classic stable will be able to replicate the success which Winters has brought to the genre, as here he provides yet another masterclass in how a mash up should truly be done and once again leaving me eger to see what direction the series will take next.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...