Sunday, 29 March 2015

God Bless America

Title: God Bless America
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Released: 2011
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Melinda Page Hamilton, Rich McDonald, Regan Burns, Aris Alvarado, Maddie Hasson, Geoff Pierson, Larry Miller, Dorie Barton

Plot: Frank (Murray) a middle-aged insurance salesman has become deluded by the current state of the world around him, which causes him to suffer from insomnia and chronic migraines. However upon being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, he soon finds himself on a quest to rid the world of those he sees as being the cause of its problems, while at the same time finding an unlikely accomplice in the 16 year old Roxy (Bar)

Review: While most might know Bobcat Goldthwait as the bio-polar and manical voiced Zed in “Police Academy” he has in recent years really carved out a niche for himself as a director with this film forming the final part of an unofficial trilogy of dark humoured comedies, which in many ways has helped to fill the bad taste void left by John Waters while we continue to wait for the long proposed “Fruitcake”.Here Goldthwait taps in the general annoyance of the population which now faces an almost continual bombardment of trashy reality TV shows, rudeness and those people whose general stupidity makes you wonder how they manage to make it through general day to day living. These are just a few of the irritancies that Goldthwait takes aim at, as he gives us essentially a funnier and certainly more violent version of “Falling Down”.

When we first meet Frank we are treated to what must be one of his daily violent fantasies, which on this occasion is how he would like to deal with his annoying next door neighbours in a scene which serves as a warning of things to come especially when the fantasy consists of violently dispatching of said neighbours via pump action shotgun. However Frank is not a psychopath but rather a guy who’s finally reached his breaking point, as he finds himself forced to work in cubicle hell while his fellow employees embrace all the things he sees as being things which will lead to the breakdown of society. A view point we see him trying to explain to one colleague who misguidedly feels that he should try and be more cheerful. Of course things only get worse when he finds himself fired for harassment after he tried to send flowers to a receptionist he had a crush on, while his issues are only added to by his terminal diagnosis given to him by his doctor who seems to care more about the car he’s buying than the sensitive news he’s supposed to be delivering.

So what starts with a simple plan to kill a “Super Sweet Sixteen” brat whose tantrum over her father buying her the wrong car on the show sparks the idea in Frank in the first place, it soon becomes clear that Frank is anything but a natural killer, especially when his plans quickly and hilariously fall apart. It’s this first death that also introduces him to Roxy who is fascinated by Frank while at the same time proposing he abandon his original suicide plans to instead embark on a murderous road trip.

Frank and Roxy despite having a noticeable age gap the pair with their shared world view they make for a great pairing especially when Roxy comes off mature for her age, while being quick to blast “Juno” and Diablo Cody’s view of how hip teenagers are portrayed. Goldthwait also ensures that he plays up on the warped comedic potential caused by the age gap, with Frank worrying about the paedophile connotations of their unusual friendship so much so that her simple request to be reassured that she is pretty throws him into a blind panic. Still their Bonnie and Clyde style relationship is frequently played up including several on the nose references, while best described by Roxy when she bemoans them as being “Plutonic spree killers”. Together this pair makes for a surprisingly good team even if they are frequently killing without any kind of fore planning and often when the situations present themselves. Surprisingly though it would seem that the local police are far from the most effective seeing how despite both Frank and Roxy being caught clearly on CCTV they are never pursued at any point nor do they ever attempt to hide their identity.

While the idea for the film could have quickly run out of steam around the halfway point, especially when it really is the loosest of plots which he hangs the film on, with the only real plot point revolving around an “American Superstar” (the films version of “American Idol”) being humiliated by the judges, only to turn into the freak of the week as those horrible auditions have the tendency of doing. Somehow though Goldthwait manages to make it all work, no doubt because of the believable friendship between Frank and Roxy which goes beyond their love of killing annoying people, especially when they share a number of touching sequences such as the impromptu teddy bear target practice session or during the finale when the two reunite.

Unquestionably this is a comedy painted in only the darkest shades, meaning that it might not sit with some but for those like myself in possession of a slightly warped sense of humour this is a film which manages to balance moments of sweetness with pitch black humour, even if the message of shooting those who don't fit in with your world view is slightly questionable, it frequently is more on target than it is off.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Killer Joe

Title: Killer Joe
Director: William Friedkin
Released: 2011
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church, Marc Macaulay

Plot: When small time drug dealer Chris (Hirsch) finds himself in debt to the local mob boss he concocts a plan to murder his mother for the insurance money. While he believes he has the perfect plan, things only get more complex when he decides to hire the services of Joe Cooper (McConaghey) a corrupt police detective with a side line in contract killing.


Review: It’s safe to say that there is a large portion of the movie going community who would like to believe that Mathew McConaughey only really became an actor of note after his Oscar winning performance in “The Dallas Buyers Clubs” or if they are alittle more indie cinema loving “Mud”. I would however question this opinion as here years earlier we have him giving a highly memorable turn as the soft spoken psychopath of the title in a role which proved that he was capable of more than just being the pretty boy leading man. For one reason or another film though it appears to have been largely forgotten by those same movie going masses, even despite having a director of Friedkin’s calibre in the director’s chair.

Based on the play by Tracy Letts who is no doubt best known to “Homeland” fans as Andrew Lockhart and who also wrote the screenplay in the second of his collaborations after the psychological horror “Bug”. While I haven’t seen the original play here he crafts with Friedkin a deliciously dark slice of southern fried American gothic with this tale of a simple plan screwed up by stupid people with bloody results.

Opening with a frustrated Chris confiding his plan with his father Ansel who is equally enthused with the idea of killing his ex-wife for a seemingly easy payday, this is of course after we have been greeted by the sight Gina Gershon’s nether regions and this is the opening five minutes! Still surprise nudity aside it soon becomes clear that none of the characters are especially nice people as they reside in grotty mobile homes and care little for anything other than their own personal agendas.

From his initial introduction McConaughey is completely mesmerising as the soft spoken psychopath of the title, whose methodical nature and list of personal rules he has created for himself makes for an interesting comparison to the other characters, who are largely disorganised and undisciplined. It’s also Chris’s failure to be able to provide the financial retainer Joe requires, which soon see his naive and childlike sister Dottie (Temple) being unwittingly drawn into the scheme when Joe takes an interest in her and takes her as his retainer instead. Dottie is also the light in this dark tale with her innocence and childlike behaviour coming off like a defence against the world around her.

The plot is largely straightforward with the occasional twist thrown in to keep things interesting with the majority of these kept for the final act, while Friedkin instead deals with the issue Chris is faced with now he has chosen to make a deal with the devil and the outcome of his actions, especially with Joe now getting involved with Dottie and showing no interest in leaving the family trailer until he gets his payment. Of course it is only further credit to McConaughey that he manages to instil such a feeling of dread whenever he is on the screen even though he isn’t doing anything more threatening than sitting at the family table.

Friedkin showed a strict dedication to his vision for the film, even going so far as to refuse to edit the film to obtain a lower rating believing that “Cutting would not have made it mass appeal” which proved to be certainly the right decision, for while the film certainly has its moments of graphic violence and a much discussed sequence involving a piece of fried chicken, it never feels as it is being done in an exploitative way. Instead here Friedkin uses his experience as a director to carefully choose his moments in which to unleash these moments, with the majority coming at the finale where he unleashes the pent up rage his characters have been building over the course of the film, the only other moment of violence coming when Chris is forced to confront the local mob boss over money owed and finds himself on the end of a cautionary beatdown. Again while intense it perfectly serves to remind the audience of the Chris’s desperation to find the required funds which forced him to concoct this ill-fated scheme in the first place.

What I really loved about this film though is that while most movies of this kind see at least one character of some intelligence orchestrating the plot, here we have a plot being carried out by a group of idiots whose lack of planning soon proves to be their undoing, while their attempts to rectify the situation only continue to make things increasingly worse, leading up to a bloody finale when everything truly reaches breaking point. Thanks to the great cast assembled here though the film never falls into the trap of becoming farcical in its portrayal of these characters and their frequently misguided decisions.  

While this film might fall outside of Friedkin’s golden period as a director which saw him helming films like The French Connection, The Exorcist and Sorcerer, here he finally appears to have found his mojo again after a worryingly long time in the directorial wilderness. Here he takes a simple tale and turns it into something truly special even if it seems that it remains one of his films to be discovered rather than treated to praise it rightfully deserves. I can only hope that this is the kind of film which finds its audience later especially when it deserves to ranked alongside the likes of “No Country For Old Men” and “Winter’s Bone”.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cat People

Title: Cat People
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Released: 1942
Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack Holt

Plot: Irena (Simon) is a Serbian fashion artist currently living in New York City, who soon finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance with marine engineer Oliver (Smith). However Irena believes that if she intimate with her new husband that an ancient curse from her homeland will turn her into a panther.


Review: Based on the short story “The Bagheeta” by the producer Val Lewton, the film is a very different experience than I expected going into this one expecting a straightforward shape shifter horror. Instead I what this film gives us instead is a much more of a psychological thriller. The film would also be the first of three low budget horror films which director Tourneur made for RKO Studios and despite the limited budget of a paltry $150,000 Tourneur still manages to produce a visually stylish and effective film, whose style has been frequently imitated making it unsurprising that Tourneur would soon be moved onto directing more mainstream projects like “Out of the Past” and “Berlin Express”.

The film moves at a pretty brisk pace when it comes to setting the scene, with Irena and Oliver meeting and getting married seemingly only days after they initially meet. However during their brief courting period it soon becomes clear that something might not be right about Irena as she shares her bizarre beliefs about her hometown, who took up devil worship and witchcraft after their village was enslaved by the Mameluks. The villagers soon being slaughtered by King John of Serbia though despite telling Oliver that she believes that cats represents evil, he still offers to buy her a kitten, a trip which soon results in the pet shop animals becoming frenzied when Irena enters the shop. Personally for myself that would have been a major warning sign that perhaps something isn’t right about her, but then the fact that she is played by the French vixen that is Simon makes me believe that I too would be willing to overlook such things.

Despite the warning signs being there, Oliver still chooses to marry Irena and even with the threat of any sign of sexual arousal threatening to turn her into a panther. To Torneur’s credit he keeps a strong focus on the triggers for her curse so much so that Oliver and Irena never even kiss or have any kind of contact throughout the film. Still its around this point the film splits off into two main threads with Irena entering into therapy with Dr. Judd (Conway) who attempts to figure out the root of her beliefs which at the same time a number of strange events begin to happen in the local area with a number or sheep being found killed with bloody paw prints turning into a woman shoe prints aswell as the most discussed scene in the film in which Oliver’s co-worker Alice believes she is being stalked by a panther at her apartment swimming pool, all the while being able to hear the animal but never being able to see it and finding her robe shredded when the lights come back on but no sign of the mystery big cat.

Despite a short run time of 73 minutes this film did kind of drag for me, perhaps because I was expecting something different than the study of female sexuality which I got instead. At the same time the film manages to pull out a few great moments of tension throughout the film, as the limited budget limits what Tourneur was able to show especially when it came to the panther whose appearances were also limited to due to the budget restrictions which also means that this is far from the most action packed of horror films. These budget limitations would also lead to the creation of the jump scare or “Lewton bus” if you wanted to be technical which would take its name from producer Lewton and in particular a scene were Alice believes that she is being stalked by a panther only to have the tension of the scene suddenly broken by the surprise arrival of a bus.

One of the main gripes I have with this is how unengaging Kent Smith is here leaving it up to the ladies to carry the film with the best scenes often happening when Simon and Randolph confront each other with their being some great scenes of tension as Irena believes (quite rightfully) that Alice is attempting to steal her husband. This of course is only heightened by mystery surround Irena’s curse. At the same time Conway as Dr. Judd seems to have come from the Vincent Price School of psychotherapy as he spends most of his time hamming thing up, while at the same time it would go a way to explaining why he also has a cane sword.

While visually and stylistically a very influential film I couldn’t help but feel that the films it inspired only improved on the formula for scares and dread here, especially when I struggled to get into it, meaning that many of the film’s most noteworthy scenes didn’t perhaps play as effectively as they could have. Still for horror historians this remains an important film in how it would shape future films in the genre and its influence is hard to fault, its just a shame that the plotting didn't grab me as much as I would have liked.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Title: Whiplash
Director: Damien Chazelle
Released: 2014
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Jayson Blair, Kavita Patil, Michael Cohen, Kofi Sirboe, Suanna Spoke, April Grace

Plot: Andrew (Teller), a promising young drummer at a prestigious music academy, finds himself drawn into a battle of wills with the highly respective, yet extremely volatile conductor Fletcher (Simmons).


Review: Allow me to start off by highlighting the fact that you could write down everything I know about drumming and jazz music on the back of a very small postage stamp. However even though this is a film based around these two key elements it didn’t stop me from getting a real kick out of this film which unsurprisingly made the end of year lists for most critics, while at the same time Simmons would rightfully have his performance as the foul mouthed and hair trigger Fletcher recognised with by the Academy as he picked up the Best Supporting Oscar.

Based on the experiences of writer/director Chazelle while studying at Princeton High School where he played in like Andrew in a “very competitive” jazz band. It would be his former band leader would form the basis for Fletcher while Chazelle spiced up the character by drawing further inspiration from other notorious band leaders such as Buddy Rich. The original script for the film he would turn into a short film first shown at 2013 Sundance Film Festival and which would lead to Chazelle securing the funding to expand it into its current feature form. If anything though this film is like “The Wrestler” in that it provides a perfect study of the drive and dedication one a character to perfect thier personal art, which in this case is Andrew's desire to make it as a drummer. A goal he is more than happy to sacrifice family and relationships to achieve, let alone drum until his hands blister and bleed all the in pursuit of perfection and recognition of his talent most importantly from Fletcher.

While Teller might not currently be the best known new talent despite appearances in box office friendly fodder like the recent remake of “Footloose” and the surprisingly quickly forgotten “Project X” here he gets to actually show his acting chops as Andrew. At the same time he manages to believably take us on a journey of drumming obsession as we see the shy and awkward freshman being plucked seemingly obscurity to join the big league players of Fletcher’s studio band. It is from here that things really get interesting as we see him quickly succumbing to the spell of Fletcher despite his far from unorthodox and frequently abusive teaching methods, there is clearly some method to Fletcher’s madness as Teller truly sells the obsession to please Fletcher and not be beaten, with the standout moment coming when Andrew’s car is t-boned by truck, yet so determined to not fail he staggers the short distance from his wrecked car splattered with blood and attempts to drum through the performance despite his body rapidly giving out on him as he struggles to hold his drum sticks.

Despite such an impressive performance from Teller it is unquestionably Simmons film as he steals every scene he’s in, reeling off prophanity laced rants, hurling chairs at his drummers or even slapping them when they disappoint him. It’s a teaching method which brought to mind Paul Green who was so memorably documented in “Rock School” and who like Fletcher was seen belittling and insulting his students yet somehow managing to produce staggering successes with the students he was tutoring. Again this is the case with Fletcher who through these verbal and psychical attacks on his student is as he observes pushing them further than they could have hoped, making it so hard to fault his methods when in some strange way they are working, even if its accompanied with self-destructive behaviour to reach the levels that Fletcher demands from his band. The band it would equally seem is the only thing that Fletcher has, though it’s never revealed if his lack of life outside of teaching has been sacrificed in favour of maintain his top spot position within the school Jazz band rankings. Simmons while it could be argued has always been a great supporting actor here he really comes into his own, as he hold the viewer’s attention whenever his is on the screen, frequently catching us off guard with his hair trigger temperament which can see him going from gentle corrections to full blown acid tinged barbs of hate with little or no warning, all the while showing zero compassion for how his methods might be affecting his students, as he sees nothing wrong with having his drummers work through the same section over and over for hours on end, before casually requesting that they wipe their blood off the kit when Andrew finally manages to drum the way he wants.

With two such commanding performances Chazelle could have chosen to shoot the film very simply and relied on the performances alone to drive the film, but instead here quick cuts meet with focused close ups of spit valves being emptied, blood splattered drum skins and ragged flesh as he captures the energy and pace of the music, while emphasising the price of dedication these musicians are willing to pay for their craft. Even if your like myself and don’t know swat about Jazz or drumming Chazelle manages to make the material accessible and easy to follow let alone gripping to watch especially as the tension is slowly cranked between Andrew and Fletcher with the final showdown between the two providing a show stopping finale.

Unquestionably this is a film which lives up to its hype and while Simons might be the main attraction here, the rest of the film holds up on its own merits to not leave you hankering for his next performance, especially when Chazelle shots the film with a vice like grip on the audience that he refuses to relinquish till the. Truly film making at its most exciting and vibrant.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Why Don't You Play In Hell

Title: Why Don’t You Play In Hell
Director: Sion Sono
Released: 2013
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino

Plot: Ten years ago, the Kitagawa yakuza clan led an assault against rival don Muto (Kunimura), which saw Muto’s wife (Tomochika) being imprisoned. The retaliation for this attack would leave the Kitagawa clan in ruins and their top hitman Ikegmai (Tsutsumi) wounded. Muto however was left more concerned that his daughter Mitsuko’s tootpaste commercial was axed due to his criminal activities being exposed. Now Ikegami has taken over the Kitagawa clan vowing revenge, while Muto is more concerned about the imminent release of his wife and for her to see Mitsuko (Nikaido) star in her first movie. Here we meet “The Fuck Bombers” and enthusiastic group of wannabe filmmakers, whose dreams stretch well beyond their means who find themselves drawn into a madcap scheme to film the climactic battle between the two Yakuza clans.


Review: Right now having read the plot for this movie, you no doubt been left scratching you head as to how any of it could possibly make any kind of sense, much like the prospect I once more found myself in how I could actually start to review this movie. This is film making not for the faint hearted while at the same time this remains too much of a fascinating film to not attempt to get some form of thoughts down.

I first heard about this film through Jess over at "French Toast Sunday" and which is based on a screenplay written by director Sion Sono 15 years ago it feels almost like a tribute to sort of Yakuza epic he perhaps dreamed of making as a younger film maker, while he describes it as “an action film about the love of 35mm” making it as much of a film about the love of film making as it is of the Yakuza dramas it parodies.

Opening with the young Misuko performing in her toothpaste commercial which it soon becomes clear as the film progresses forms the unusual epicentre of this universe, as even ten years after it was axed it remains a shared memory with characters frequently bursting into spontaneous enactments of the commercial whenever mentioned. At the same time we are also introduced to the fuck bombers led by the eternally enthusiastic Hirata (Hasegawa) whose bring a who new meaning to the word Guerrilla filmmaker as they shot on the fly, incorporating anything they find of interest into their film projects which generally resemble budget remakes of Bruce Lee movies. This is of course we see the young Mitsuko stumbling into the aftermath of a failed Yakuza attack and the bodies of the gangsters her mother has just recently dispatched off, the floor filled with blood which suddenly turns into a warped slip and slide. This essentially is the getting off point for the film as things certainly only get weirder and more random from this point onwards.

While the film is multi-threaded in its construction for the most part it resolves around Misuko who in the ten years which have passed as gone from being a sweet little girl into a rebellious teen who having run away from one film production, now heads off again picking up the wide eyed Koji (Hoshino) to play her pretend boyfriend and later to pass off to her father as the only director she will work with despite not knowing the first thing about movie making. While Sono could have easily based the film around his feisty leading lady, his ambition much like the Fuck Bombers is seemingly limitless, as he finds times to work in ample time for the various other subplots at play such as Ikegmai taking over as head of his yakuza clan who he’s changed from their tailored suits to instead favouring komodo’s through to the Fuck Bombers who are just about ready to call time on their dream as the group is faced with the reality that they aren’t going to make the masterpiece they feel they are destined to make only to soon find themselves the answer to Koji’s prayers.

The film moves with such frenzied pace it hard to believe that the film has the generous run time, while some might be a little frustrated that the film spends the first thirty minutes setting the film up only to then skip ten years into the future. Sono however shoots the film with such high energy and inventiveness it envelops you to the point where you never question the frequently illogical or more surreal moments that are scattered throughout the film. True these moments have frequently been the trademark of Soto’s films

Needless to say the real draw here is the anarchic finale which has rightfully drawn comparisons to Kill Bill’s house of blue leaves showdown, even though here it is certainly not shot with any of the artistic flair that Yuen Wo Ping brought with his fight choreography, but instead here Sono aims for frenzied enthusiasm as blood flies in arterial sprays, limbs lopped off and a body count which easily goes into double figures as he finds ever more inventive ways for the two rival yakuza to dispatch each other. While all this is going on we also have Hirata screaming directions and even stopping an opening skirmish and requesting that everyone go back to their places so that he can reshoot it. Unquestionably it’s an exciting sequence and one only held back by the use of CGI for most of the blood effects.

Easily one of the more accessible films in the directors back catalogue, this is a truly unique and high energy entry point to his work, while it stands truly on its own merits for its fierce originality as it remains another film to be experienced to truly appreciate what could certainly be considered one of the most fiercely original films of recent years.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Bird of Paradise

Title: Bird of Paradise
Director: King Vidor
Released: 1932
Starring: Dolores del Rio, Joel McCrea, John Halliday, Richard “Skeets” Gallagher, Bert Roach, Lon Chaney Jr., Wade Boteler, Arnold Grey, Reginald Simpson, Napoleon Pukui, Agosino Borgato, Sofia Ortega

Plot: When Sailor Johnny (McCrea) sails into an island chain in the South Pacific, were he soon falls for Luana (del Rio), the daughter of the tribal chief, unaware she is to be sacrificed to the island volcano god.  


Review: This film marks a first here in the blog seeing how it’s my first pre-code film I’ve reviewed here, but after being inspired by both Todd over at “Forgotten Films” (who I also had the honour of also being on his podcast after he came on the MBDS Showcase) and Kristen at “Journeys In Classic Film” I felt it was time I checked out some pre-code cinema for myself.

Okay so what is Pre-code cinema? Essentially this was an era in the American film industry from the late 1920’s through to 1934 which saw films being censored by local laws, or decided by negotiations between the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) and the studios themselves rather than following any kind of code as to what they could and not show. This in turn meant that films being produced in this era could get away with such delights as Sexual Innuendo, Miscengenation, Profanity, Illegal drug use, Promiscuity, Prostitution, Infidelity, Abortion, Intense violence and Homosexuality all which would be essentially forced out when studios would be forced to follow the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934.

One of a number of exotic adventure movies released during this era, the film would cause a fair amount of scandal for featuring Dolores del Rio swimming naked but bizarrely not for the fact that she spends pretty much the whole film topless bar a strategically placed Hawaiian Lei but this is just a small part of the many fun delights contained within such as the numerous counts of casual sexism and racism reminding us all of just how different things were back in the 30’s.

Directed by King Vidor who holds the Guinness World Record for longest career as a film director, with his career stretching from 1913 through to 1980. While he would over the course of his career be nominated for an Oscar five times he never won until he received an honorary award for his “Incomparable achievements as a cinematic creator and innovator” in 1979. However when it came to this film he had originally been tasked by RKO boss David O. Selznick with adapting the original play by Richard Walton Tully, only to like Selznick found himself unable to finish it. In the end Selznick told Vidor to just take the title and make whatever he wanted under the condition the film featured three love scenes and a finale which would see Dolores del Rio jump into a volcano at the end.

The end result is now unquestionably dated in its attitudes as we see Johnny and the crew on the yacht finding great amusement in having the local natives diving for the trinkets they throw from the deck of their boat and while these casual acts of racism exist throughout the film, undoubtedly cause the film to seem dated in placed while at the same time not to the point where it stops being an enjoyable romp.

It is this opening scene in which our pair of star-crossed lovers meet, with all these diving antics attracting possibly the smallest shark to ever be deemed a threat and who while the crew attempt to harpoon the poor creature, leads to Johnny getting his leg caught in the harpoon rope and dragged overboard with Luana soon diving to his rescue to the cut the rope. It is soon after this that Johnny and Luana are stirring up trouble for themselves, as while the tribe are more than happy to invite the sailors into their village (the huts would later be reused in “King Kong”), their chef strongly objects to his daughter getting involved with Johnny, especially when he’s arranged for her to be married off to the prince of a neighbouring island. Needless to say it is only a matter of time before Johnny aggravates the situation, by breaking up that arranged marriage when he busts into the wedding and runs off with Luana. The fact that neither speak each other’s language seems to of little concern to either of them even though Luana does randomly start speaking almost perfect English when they run off to the island.

While it might seem that Johnny is the strong leading man, Luana is a great early feisty leading lady as she clearly is more than capable of looking after herself as proven on more than one occasion while even being the one who looks after Johnny when the pair escape to a neighbouring island as she dishes out tasks for him to do, while generally taking control of their situation. Johnny meanwhile seems quite content to screw around climbing trees for coconuts and making house with Luana with the most random bit of island life for him coming during the scene in which he appears to trying to take advantage of a turtle before proceeding to body board on the poor creature before dragging it up the beach and dumping it on its back!

A simple romantic tale with a dash of the South Seas to help add an exotic element to what essentially boils down to the usual formula of boy meets girl, girl’s father disapproves, boy gets cursed and girl jumps into a volcano. Ultimately though this is a fun enough watch and an interesting reminder of how times and ideas have changed.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Title: Looper
Director: Rian Johnson
Released: 2012
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo

Plot: In 2074 time travel exists in a highly illegal form were it is used primarily by the mob to send people they want to disappear back to 2044. Here a group of contracted  hitman known as loopers, despatch of these future targets in return for the silver bars strapped to the back of their targets. When a loopers contract is ended their future self is sent back in time to face the same fate as their usual targets, while the looper receives a hefty pay off, released from their contract and left to live out their remaining thirty years in an arrangement known as “Closing the Loop”. Its an arrangement that Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is happy to live by until his future self (Willis) escapes after being sent back leading him on a manic pursuit to find him, while also on the run from his boss Abe’s (Daniels) person goon squad the “Gat Men”.


Review: For one reason or another some directors never seem to get the recognition they deserve as despite bursting onto the scene with his highly inventive high school noir “Brick” and following it with the sorely overlooked Con-Drama “The Brothers Bloom” director Rian Johnson has returned after a short absence with something not short of a bang, as he now brings his distinctive style to rework the time travel movie.

I guess in many ways it is comforting to see that in 2044 not a huge amount has really changed, sure there are a couple of jet bikes (alas ones which barely work half the time) here and there and a strange mutation has left 10% of the population with minor telekinetic powers a situation Joe dryly describes with the quote

“Everyone thought we were going to have superheroes, but all we got was a bunch of assholes at clubs floating quarters.”  

But despite this things are still pretty much the same as normal with the divide between the rich and poor only more prominent than ever. Joes life meanwhile is one of cold blooded efficiency and carefree drug abuse, while seemingly only caring for his showgirl girlfriend of sorts Suzie (Perabo), with his refusal to break the rules maintaining, what he believes to be a happy existence and one which suddenly comes crashing down around him with the sudden arrival of his future self, who is less than happy to stick to the arrangement.

Once again Johnson has taken the established ideas laid out by the genre predecessors, which in this case is largely films such as “Back To The Future”, “The Teminator” and even “12 Monkeys” and still managed to give it a fresh new spin, giving us something which we haven’t seen done a hundred times before. Meanwhile Johnson keeps things grounded in a setting drenched in familiarity that he ensures that our focus is on the story, rather than looking out for hints of what the future might hold. Infact Johnson’s future vision features more elements of 50’s Americana and 40’s gangster culture than it does anything resembling a futuristic look, with no random fashion choices or mock advertisements for “Saw 23” or “Jaws 19” in sight. Still this is not to say that Johnson doesn’t have fun with the paradox effect, as seen when another looper also loses his future self, which for what would seem to be such a well planned operation, seemingly still happens enough for them to already have a contingency plan in place, which for this looper is that he soon find himself being paid a visit by the surgeon, the effects of which we are soon witnessing on his future self as his limbs and features suddenly start disappearing only to be replaced by aged scar tissue, while the exploring the idea further as one of the main themes of the film, as future Joe attempts to monkey with the timeline himself as he heralds the warning of a mysterious figure known only as “The Rainmaker” whom he intends to stop before he becomes the figure of power he is in the future.

While perhaps not as tightly scripted as his previous films Johnson still manages to throw enough interesting ideas into the mix to hold the attention of the audience while still ensuring that even the tiniest of details ultimately serve a purpose, no matter how trivial they might seem when they first appear. At the same time he doesn’t allow the story to get bogged down in time travel jargon and theories, but instead lays out the framework for his vision of how time travel works and builds his story around these rules. Ultimately though the films rests on the performances of it’s two leads as Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to impress with yet another memorable performance rounding out an incredible year for him as he effortlessly switches between cold blooded killer and a surprisingly softer side, while with the help of a few prosthetics is a striking younger double of Bruce Willis, who gets to play to both his strengths as he growls dialogue and gets to kick ass in equal measure as he plays things like a grumpier time travelling John McClain. However it is the scenes were the two leads are acting opposite each other that the film is at it’s strongest, as they share an incredible onscreen chemistry with Gordon-Levitt more than capable of confidently holding his own with a screen veteran like Willis and made me wish that there was more scenes like this, rather than the two characters heading off on their individual paths, especially when the plotline involving Sara (Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) threatens to derails the film yet ultimately proving another essential piece of the puzzle especially in how they tie into the reoccurring themes of nature vs. nurture, family and redemption which feature throughout. Meanwhile the rest of the supporting cast are all good in varying degrees with Jeff Daniels’s surprisingly vicious turn as Abe being especially noteworthy as his presence seems to constantly be tainted with the air of violence which usually follows in his wake, either via his hammer favouring punishments or at the hands of his Gat Men.

Ultimately with this film Johnson has crafted a film with enough original ideas to stand up alongside the films which came before it, while still giving the audience plenty to think about while even more randomly he also released a directors commentary, which you can download onto your Ipod and listen to while watching the movie to clear up any grey areas. Still by scraping the usual complex science for more largely physical ideas, he has ensured that if his work wasn’t known before this film, it sure as hell will be after this, as this is bold and original film making at its best.
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