Thursday, 29 April 2010

The One I Would Save: Cpl Ferro (Aliens)

Recently Bryce over at “Things That Don’t Suck” wrote a great piece on why he would have saved Cheryl from “The Evil Dead”, who he rightfully points out probably didn’t get the greatest deal, when it came to horror victims seeing how she is not only raped by the trees surrounding the cabin, but also possessed by a demon, thrown in a fire, dumped in the cellar, before escaping and receiving further punishment as she is stabbed and shot, before finally exploding in a mixture of stop motion animation and pie filling.
Still when it comes to saving any character, for myself it will always boil down to one character time and time again and that person is the ice cool drop ship pilot Cpl. Mira Ferro in “Aliens” (1986).

“Aliens” is not only a great sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic original film “Alien” (1979), but manages to bring another great cast of characters in the form of the Colonial marines, but unlike so many other films these marines are more than just alien chowder, especially when director James Cameron takes the time to showcase each of their individual personalities, so even the lesser marines such as Crowe and Frost become instantly memorable, from the more standout members of the team such as the tough as nails Vasquez or cowardly Hudson.
Ferro is essentially one of the supporting marines seeing how she is the drop ship pilot, yet every scene she appears just oozes her ice cool demeanour, while giving the saga another tough female capable of standing on a level ground with even Vasquez who it appears to have a mutual respect for Ferro, which is certainly nothing to do rank, seeing how she shows a constant disregard for Lt. Gorman.
Seriously there is no moment in the film were she seems the slightest part fazed by the situation breaking out around her, as her fellow marines break under blind terror and panic, of thier first encounter with the Xenomorphs, which resulted largely in them either setting thier fellow marines ablaze, getting jumped in the dark or just basically firing at anything that moves, yet despite this she still keeps her focus with the mission at hand, which it could be argued is largely down to the fact she spends the whole of her time in the film with the drop ship, while being forced to hang out with her remedial co-pilot Spunkmeyer. Despite this when she sadly meets her end via way of a stowaway alien; she is still quick to react, by going for her pistol yet proving sadly a little to slow for the speedy Xenomorph.

Maybe I’m a little biased with my obsession with this character, seeing how she is after all played by the very lovely Collette Hiller, (who from what I have heard from those lucky SOBS who have caught her, on one of her rare convention appearances have told me) but Ferro remains a great character, who perhaps I wish had lasted just a little longer than she did and it’s kind of frustrating that she is not listed as one of the top choices when it comes to naming favourite marines, with most of the fanboy and girls more likely to name Hicks or Hudson as their favourite, though if I could save any character it would without a doubt be her.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Virus - An Intriguing Short Film

Virus is a short film, which I bizzarly enough stumbled across in the early hours of the morning, while channel surfing for trash, before heading out to work. For some reason since then it stuck with me, until I recently found it again and thought I'd share it with you guys to see what you all thought.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Bitch Slap

Title: Bitch Slap
Director: Rick Jacobson
Released: 2009
Staring: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Michael Hurst, William Gregory Lee, Minae Noji, Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, Zoe Bell, Ron Melendez

Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: Stripper Trixe (Voth), Business executive Hel (Cummings) and Psycho ex con Camero (Olivo), form an unlikely alliance, to steal a stash of diamonds from the mysterious crime kingpin Pinky.

Review: Honestly I was kind of unsure whether I’d get on with “Bitch Slap” especially seeing how it came off in the trailers like an indie remake of Russ Meyer’s “Faster Pussycat Kill Kill” (1965) which although it might not have turned out to be, it is still a film which clearly heavily influenced it’s creation, along with the numerous other films in the exploitation genre, with Meyer’s film (which also featured three tough ladies looking for trouble), clearly being the obvious inspiration and certainly makes it hard not to want to draw comparisons between the two, as Jacobson attempts with this film to make his own mark in the “Neo-Grindhouse” genre, which until now has been the personal playground of Tarantino since he gave the world “Kill Bill” (2003) the film which it could be said started the genre, before being expanding those ideals with his adopted brother Robert Rodriguez with their double feature whammy “Grindhouse” (2007).

It’s pretty clear from the start that this isn’t a film trying to be high art, but instead looking to provide its audience with a fun ride, as it opens with a montage of grindhouse cinema footage making up the opening credits, as it wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, hitting the ground at a breakneck speed that it never lets up for a second, as it quickly churns its self up into a whirlwind of guns, boobs and hyperviolence. Meanwhile characterisation doesn’t really stretch past the cast being turned into caricatures rather than anything resembling realistic characters, but somehow Jacobson has not only found a way of making this work, but he has done to such a degree you never really question it, unless you actually try to think too hard about what your actually watching which no doubt, you won’t be until after the credits have rolled, especially seeing how it moves at such an excitingly brutal pace, leaving you with barely a moment to reflect on what you are actually watching. This is especially helped by how each of these oddball characters are not only unique, but fun to watch with certainly no attempt at keeping things subtle, especially with characters drafted in from the Tarantino School of characterisation, with the supporting cast of characters including the killer Yo Yo welding Kinki (Noji) and the sleazy club owner Gage (Hurst), while the most fun is definitely are our trio of feisty femmes, who are not only a colourful bunch, embodying the femine character ideals of Russ Meyer by not only proving fiercely independent, but also more than capable of holding their own in a fight, as they are more than happy to prove throughout, with Zoe Bell on both acting and stunt co-ordinating duties, here helping to create some truly memorable fight scenes, helping the ladies to not only seem powerful, but also at the same time annihilating the traditional idea of a girl fight, as when these ladies brawl it is nothing short of brutal with the final fight sequence especially between Camero and Hal proving a true highlight, especially a one point also providing a whole meaning to the term “Rug Muncher”. Still the backgrounds of each of these ladies have their own interesting background, revelled slowly through the flashbacks and bringing some depth to thier characters and individual motives.

Jacobson is definatly a director used to working on a budget, especially with his background being based in television and straight to video efforts, yet he appears to have turned this experience to his advantage here, as realising that his budget wouldn’t stretch to multiple sets, instead heavily uses green screen to provide these additional sets, especially seeing how these additional sets are only required for the flashback sequences, shoting the footage, in a similar style to the old FMV games that you used to find on the PC, which despite claiming they were like playing a movie, somhow never quite lived up to this claim, yet when used to provide the flashback sequences, which these green screen scenes makes up, they have a real retro charm to them, while also allowing Jacobson to create a sin city esq world, layered with sleaze and greed, were violence is the city’s heartbeat, while the current day action is kept to it’s sole desert location.

The main problem which “Bitch Slap” has is that it suffers from constantly drawing comparisons to its source material, while perhaps not bringing enough of it’s own original ideas to the proceedings with so many of the ideas it explores all having an air of familiarity to them, especially to fans of the exploitation genre, who are the ones more likely at the same time to get this film, while folks not familiar with the genre it can come across a little over the top. Still I found it fantastic fun and care free film, which isn’t about high brow entertainment, but instead about having fun even more so when your not trying to make too much sense of what your actually watching, as this is another great entry in the Neo-Grindhouse genre, drenched in ultra violence, sex and foul language, but then I doubt it would have worked any other way.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Happy Birthday Ron Pearlman!!

Today the gravelly voiced giant Ron Pearlman turns 60, with a career that is still going strong, while also currently appearing in the fantastic “Sons of Anarchy” alongside one of my heroes for life Henry Rollins and as I sit down to write this I am still eagerly awaiting season two which is to be soon shown here in the UK.
Still the dream at the moment is that he will take on the role of Tom Waits when someone finally gets around to making his biopic, which in an idea world open with Waits himself sitting on a barstool smoking and reminiscing, before flashbacking to Perlman as Waits or even if the whole film was like this clip from “Coffee and Cigarettes” I’d personally be happy.

Still in the meantime to celebrate today, here are my top five Ron Pearlman roles.

Hellboy (2004): Honestly if there was one role he was born to play, it really is the titular role of Hellboy, the demon who was brought to earth by the Nazis during WW2 only to be recruited by the allies. Now present day he works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research (BRPD) as a paranormal investigator.
When it came to casting the role both director Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola both named Pearlman for the role and it proved to be a wise choice, as Pearlman here shines as the wisecracking demon, embodying the character and even managing to squeeze out a one liner, even when facing certain death.
It’s this world of Hellboy that Del Toro also manages to faithfully recreate; thanks to a potent combination of being a huge fanboy of the series and by using old school effects were possible, as he brings to the screen a truly memorable cast of characters.

The last supper (1995): A black humoured tale of five liberal students and the dinner parties they hold, poisoning their guest if they decide that they don’t like their views and burying their bodies in the tomato patch.
True Pearlman might only have a small role, as the controversial pundit Norman Arbuthnot (based loosely on real life pundit Rush Limbaugh) whose presence is always there in the background, usually in the snippets of interview footage which appear throughout the film, before becoming their guest at their final supper.
Its not a perfect film, but if you can look past a few minor scripting errors, it makes for dark hearted fun, while certainly providing an interesting solution for dealing with annoying dinner party guests.

City of lost children (1995): A wonderfully bizarre movie, in which Pearlman plays One, the whale harpooner turned circus strongman, who teams up with the orphan Miette, to rescue his little brother who has been kidnapped by the mad scientist Krank, who plans to steal the dreams of children, in order to help stop his rapid aging.
Packed with interesting and unusual characters which would become the calling card of the work of directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose film often present themselves as grown up fairy tales, this film is certainly no different.
As the sole American member of the French cast, Pearlman doesn’t standout as he plays the slow and almost childlike One, having learned all his lines so well, he gives a flawless performance in French which blends his performance seamlessly with the others, completing the illusion of this surreal society.

Afro samurai (2007): A fantastic exercise in genre mashing as Blaxploitation, Kung fu, Splatter flicks and Westerns meet in a head on collision, wrapped up in Japanese animation, to create the most exciting ninja anime since “Ninja Scroll” (1993) as the titular afro samurai (voiced here by Samuel L. Jackson) hunts for his fathers killer Justice voiced by Pearlman, who brings a full on western drawl to the character, who dresses anyway like he’s stumbled out of a western. Still Pearlman certainly embodies the role, making the character of Justice not, just clearly evil, but chilling in how cold and calculating he really is, especially when it comes to maintaining his spot as the number 1.
Containing some fantastically choreographed fight sequences, while never worrying about what seems plausible and what should appear in this vision of a feudal Japan, with a futuristic twist, which honestly only adds to the fun and madness and after all how bad can a film, featuring Jinno a samurai who wears a giant teddy bear head actually be??

Alien Resurrection (1997): True it might not be the most popular of the Alien saga, but it is certainly the last of the good films, before the series went to pot with its sterile “Alien vs. Predator” spin offs. Still there is a lot to like here, as visionary director Jean-Pierre Jeunet attempts to bring take his surreal visions in a more nightmarish direction with Joss Whedon appearing on scripting duties, a lot of the ideas introduced are clearly with the intention of keeping the series fresh, such as a human alien hybrid, while keeping a sense of familiarity with its setting, that the series had built up with it’s previous three films.
Pearlman here plays the muscle headed jerk Johner and its certainly the kind of role which he does well, as a character who cares mainly about saving his own hide than the fellow members of his team, while also taking great delight in taunting Vriess, by memorably dropping a knife into his paralysed legs.

So there you have it my five favourite roles portrayed by our friend Mr. Ron Pearlman, who hopefully will continue to bring even more iconic characters to the screen for even more years to come, maybe slapping on the red body paint once more to bring us, one final Hellboy adventure….well I can but wish.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Series 7: The Contenders

Title: Series 7: The Contenders
Director: Daniel Minahan
Released: 2001
Staring: Will Arnett, Brooke Smith, Michael Kaycheck, Merrit Wever, Richard Venture, Marylouise Burke, Glenn Fitzgerald, Donna Hanover, Danton Stone

Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: The Contenders is the ultimate reality TV show, were six people are picked at random by a social security number lottery, before being given a gun and forced to hunt each other down, while the cameras follow their every move. Dawn (Smith) is the currently reigning champion, having won two seasons already and only needs to win one more season to be set free, but at eight months pregnant and faced with having to hunt down her high school sweet heart Jeff (Fitzgerald). will she be able to survive this final game.

Review: Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching “The Hills” marathon most of this week on MTV (It’s more to do with there being nothing else on, than watching out of any kind of necessity), which urged me to dig this film out from the collection again, especially seeing how the film is not only shot exactly like a reality TV show, with only the barest of title cards and none of the extensive crew listing which would mark it out as being a film, so it almost feels as if you’ve popped in a pilot taping of a TV show, while the illusion is only added to by having shown in a TV marathon format.
On it’s original release it was over looked, mainly due to reality TV not being as much of a cash cow, with reality TV only in it’s infant stages, which probably explains why I found it to be a much more effective film now than I did when I first watched it, though bizarrely enough, “Series 7” originally started as an idea for TV back in 1998, when director Minaham pitched it as a fake reality TV concept, only for one TV Executive to return to Minaham asking “Can it be more sexy and less violent?”. Still it was the experience gained by working on a reality TV show which inspired Minaham to pen the film in the first place.

The contestants (or contenders as they are known) are a real mixed bunch, who Dawn has standing between her and freedom, including student Lindsey (Wever), retired conspiracy nut Franklin (Venture), ER nurse and possible angel of death Connie (Burke), the cocaine snorting unemployed asbestos remover Anthony (Kaycheck) and of course her high school sweetheart Jeff, who is also dying of testicular cancer.
Each of these contestants are very different from each other and also have their own way of attending to the task they been given, as the film constantly switches between the camera crews following each of them, with Lindsey being driven around by her family values driven parents, giving her pep talks before sending her off to kill, while Dawn takes great delight in driving to the houses of her fellow contenders and taunting them over the phone. The camera crews also acting as a source of confession, as we learn more about each of them, though a mixture of their conversations with their cameraman, creating such great moments as Lindsey talking about her boyfriend buying her a bulletproof vest, with a sense of nievity, as if he’d just bought her flowers almost unaware of the danger she is in, or Connie talking about her work in a busy ER, which constantly alludes to her darker side. These are also added to though the info bursts, which randomly appear accompanied by the dry commentary of the show narrator (Arnett), who also comments on the action, while never allowing himself to show any emotion towards any of the contestants and their actions, almost as if he is passed being shocked by the things he has seen the contenders do to each other.
The fact that all of the contenders are played by unknowns really helps, with the tension and in many cases, provides a number of nasty shocks, especially when contenders you expected to be with the show to the end, suddenly meet a grisly death at the hands of one of their other contenders, much like the general public it would seem with their occasional interactions with the contenders, who take on it would seem a similar level of fame, achieved by reality TV contestants, seen in a brief scene of a maternity nurse asking Dawn to sign her scan photos of Dawn's baby.

Despite all of the contenders being given a standard handgun by the production team, surprisingly enough none of the contenders actually use this weapon, with the deaths seen here all pretty original including a savage beating to death and lethal injection both making an appearance and certainly pushing the film past my expectations, of what I expected to see, having originally expected a film heavy on shootouts, which are absent outside of the pot-shots contenders occasionally take at each other, with several of the deaths even proving quite disturbing to watch, even for a veteran of movie violence like myself, with each death being stripped down to it’s basics with the reality TV style camera work being used, with what your not seeing only adding to the imagery you are seeing. It’s in this perticular aspect that Connie really steps into her own, having been introduced as a timid character, she is soon proving more than willing to do what it takes to get the job done, never quite slipping into a psychotic state but instead reducing her world view into a more black and white state, seeing justification in everything she does and only showing weakness when this new world she has created for herself, is confronted by her duties as a nurse to actually save lives rather than taking them away, but it would seem even this has been infused with her own personal beliefs even before the show started.

The past which Jeff and Dawn share does take over a major part of the film, while also glancing at the issue of euthanasia, seeing how Jeff is using the show as a way to for him to escape his life dominated with fighting his terminal cancer. Still their back story in a way slowed down the film a little to much for me, but that could also be down the to use of “Love will tear us apart” by Joy Division which made this scene kind of drag for me, especially as I’ve never been the biggest fan of that band (New Order were okay though). Still these scenes are not without purpose, adding not only the love interest aspect to the show (something which is certainly a popular reality TV theme) but also helping to drive the story onwards, as you’re confronted with the prospect of Dawn killing her high school sweetheart, who she very clearly still cares for much to the resentment of Jeff’s current wife.

“Series 7” makes for an interesting study of reality TV and what lengths it can be stretched to provide the audience with an ever more real experience and even though, this idea has certainly been done before, with films like “The Running Man” (1987), it still manages to carve out it’s own unique and fresh way of presenting the idea, while clearly showing that the addictive like influence that these shows can have, as it ends with a trailer for series 8, an idea which was thankfully never followed up, leaving this film an undiluted study, even if Minaham choose to return to directing TV rather than features, its almost a teasingly glimpse of someone who could have been the next big visionary director, along side the likes of Gondry and Jonze, instead leaving this as his sole feature credit and no doubt a film which will continue to be looked at, as each new generation of critics and cinema junkies hunt it out.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Xtro 2: The Second Encounter

Title: Xtro 2: The Second Encounter
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Released: 1990

Staring: Jan-Michael Vincent, Paul Koslo, Tara Buckman, Jano Frandsen, Nicholas Lea, W.F. Wadden, Rolf Reynolds, Nic Amoroso, Tracy Westerholm

Rating: 3 / 5

Plot: The Nexus project has been created with the goal of creating a way to travel through dimensions. During the first jump, communication is lost with the team, during which time sole survivor Marshall (Westerholm) returns through the gate, unknown to the Nexus team infected with an alien species, which promptly escapes forcing the facility into lockdown leaving a small team of scientists and four heavily armed mercenaries to combat this new threat to humanity.

Review: Nostalgia can be a strange thing, with so many things, turning out to not be as essential as we might like to remember them, when looked back at through the nostalgia goggles, this is especially true when it comes to revisiting the numerous films which populated my childhood, which this film actually wasn’t one of, but still somehow managed to ingrain itself into my subconscious.
I first encountered this film, at my local video shop called “The video bug” which is sadly no longer there, having closed down about five years ago. I originally hung out there, as a way of playing the latest PS1 / N64 games, which I had no way of affording on what little money I earned from my paper round. What was special about this particular video store, was the fact that they never threw out any of their VHS tapes, which would usually happen with the other video stores, who threw out old titles to make room for newer titles, were as at the video bug they simply put in more bookcases, to store their ever increasing collection of films, which really had a lot to do with the owner being such a cheap skate, that he really wanted to make sure he got the most use out of the tapes, hanging onto them even when they started to stock DVD’s.
The advantage of this meant that you could go there and rent any number of the obscure and often long forgotten films, a lot still in their original big boxes. You have to remember that this was the 90’s and long before online rentals killed off these stores and seeing how I lived in a small costal town, this was the best way for me to see all the classic 70’s & 80’s horror films, which I’d heard about normally from the kids with more liberal parents when it came to what they allowed them to watch. However being a bit of a wuss when it came to gore I missed out on a lot of titles, normally satisfying my curiosity by looking at the backs of the various films and soaking in the various gory and violent images, but knowing that the majority of them I’d never really rent. It was here that I first encountered this film, whose cover stuck with me and was one of the titles; I’d wished I’d picked up when the store was selling off all their stock. Still while I was looking for ideas for titles to write about here on the blog I remembered this film and was suddenly over come with the obsession of tracking it down, even more so after watching the trailer, which also contains a bizarrely memorable theme, which even now is still stuck in my head.

The original “Xtro” (1982) spawned quite a cult following, mainly due to its brief status on the BBFC video nasty list, thanks to a memorable graphic scene involving a woman giving birth to a fully grown man. I’ve yet to watch it, but honestly you don’t have to have seen it to watch this film, as it is merely a sequel in name only, which appears to be a running theme with the series, as apparently “Xtro 3: Watch the Skies” (1995) has nothing to do with either of these films either, which is supposedly down to Director Davenport only securing the rights to the name and not the story rights, making this in more of a cash in on the popularity of the original, than any attempt in continuing the storyline.

It’s clear quite early on that the plot is heavily borrowed from “Aliens” (prepare to here this film being mentioned a lot in this review) which is not only quite an achievement for a film with four writers, but also something that is frequently picked up upon by pretty much anyone who has seen this film, but then this isn’t just giving the occasional nod here and there, but rather tearing huge scenes and reworking them into the film, with the most glaring scenes being the chase through the ventilation, the smart gun used by the merc’s and even the shoulder cameras using the same film stock as that used in “Aliens” though of course the most standout, having to be Davenports take on the chestburster sequence, which is almost shot for shot the same, bar the fact that its Marshall writhing around on a table by herself, rather than being surround by her fellow scientists.

Thankfully once the alien changes into it’s fully grown form, it at least looks original, even though we never get to see the creature in it’s full glory, thanks to some horrible lighting, which drowns the majority of the scenes it appears in dank darkness, which might build tension, but its pretty much wasted if you can’t see what the hell is going on. Sadly the majority of the effects are equally poorly handled, with kills nearly all happening off screen followed quickly by shots of fake blood being thrown at the walls, as the creature leaves blood covered husks of it’s victims, which is quite random for a creature which is supposed to be draining the moisture from it’s victims I’d have expected them to be looking more like grey dried out husks. Still as long as the monster doesn’t move it looks impressive enough, with it’s sluggish movements making zombies look speedy in comparison, which made me wonder how it actually managed to catch anything, as it shuffled around the deserted hallways bumping off the more disposable members of the cast.
The main question I did find myself asking, while watching this film, was what the mercenaries have against inanimate objects, especially seeing how they are seen frequently firing off countless rounds at ventilation shafts, the walls and pretty much any location the monster is supposed to be, but never once actually hitting the darn thing, they are supposed to be aiming for.

The characters are interesting enough, though it is clear that this cast were assembled on a budget, especially looking at the majority of the scientists working at the facility are decidedly average looking at best. Our hero on a budget Sheppard (Vincent) is quite watchable, despite director Davenport having to reportedly shout the lines to Vincent who didn’t bother to read the script, as his character references the incident in Texas constantly, while not actually bothering to let the rest of us actually know what happened, while Buckman steps up as the tough female scientist Dr. Casserly, even though by the time she steps up to this mantle she is yet another “Aliens” character rip off, as she comes off like a slightly less tough version of Ripley.
The most noteworthy appearance amongst the cast though is Nicolas Lea, who would go on to play Krycek in “The X Files” (one of the best characters in the series despite, what my wife might want to wrongly claim) and here can be seen here playing the bargain basement version of Hicks, while Koslo is fun as Dr. Summerfield the token arsehole, though it’s a role I would have loved to have seen Michael Rooker taking on, especially for the later scenes which see an infected Summerfield mutating rapidly into an alien human hybrid, while seriously cranking up the crazy factor. Meanwhile the rest of the cast, whose characters don’t resemble copies of characters from “Aliens” are quickly lumped into roles which require the minimum amount of character development (the wiseass, the jerk) and pretty much marking themselves as characters not worth getting attached to.

It might not have been a film worth obsessing over for as long as I did, but it is still an entertaining enough film to enjoy even if it does linger in places around the ass end of okay, while ripping of “Aliens” whenever given the chance, but then isn’t this what “The Asylum” have spent the last few years doing, making this film almost a blueprint for their output ethic.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Whip It

Title: Whip It
Director: Drew Barrymore
Released: 2009
Staring: Ellen Page, Marica Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Jimmy Fallon, Eve, Zoe Bell, Andrew Wilson, Alia Shawkat, Landon Pigg

Rating: 2 / 5
Plot: Regular beauty pageant contestant Bliss (Page) is tired of her small town Texas life, especially being continually forced to compete in pageants by her mother (Harden). After discovering roller derby, she suddenly finds a new lust for life, as she begins skating for local derby team “The Hurl Scouts” under her new identity Babe Ruthless.

Review: Ever since Ellen Page pulled the indie double whammy of appearing in both “Hard Candy” (2005) and “Juno” (2007) she has been an actress whose films I tend to look forward to and this film was no different, especially seeing how it seemed for the trailer to combine the wit of Juno with the brutality and excitement of roller derby, which was also another big draw for this film, being a big fan of Roller Derby, despite the severe lack of derby teams that we have over here in the UK..... but then who doesn’t like the idea of hot punk chicks on skates?!?
The other plus this film had going for it, definitely has to be the involvement of former derby skater Shauna Cross, who wrote the original novel based on her experience on the derby circuit, aswell as adapting it into the screenplay here, bringing a certain level of authenticity to the script, which is appreciated especially seeing how sports movies are notoriously tricky creatures, with the main failings coming from the inability to replicate the same feelings and emotions associated with the sport in focus.
Sadly despite these two pluses, this is a film which falls seriously flat, proving to be a crushing disappointment, which I found even more so being a derby fan, especially as I was especially looking forward to finally getting to a great derby movie which this film really isn’t.

The subject matter of rebelling against the norm and breaking out, is certainly an obvious choice for the directorial debut of the former wild child Barrymore, though without a director with a firm grip on her reigns, she is here free to be as kooky and oddball as she wants, ultimatly meaning that she is responsible for providing one of the most irritating characters in the film “Smashley Simpson”, spending every moment she is on screen, mumbling unintelligible dialogue and overacting pretty much every scene she appears in, which thankfully is kept to a minimum. Still other supporting members of the cast fair a lot better such as stuntwoman / actress Zoe Bell turning up as “Bloody Holly” and giving another laid back performance, which it’s true might not be much of a stretch from her acting debut in “Death Proof” (2007), but doesn’t at the same time leaving her standing out, much like the brief but fun cameo by Har Mar Superstar, who shows up as the coach of the “Fight Attendants”, which could also be said of Jimmy Fallon’s role as the loud mouth announcer Johnny “Hot Tub” Rocket”, who provides various random insights as part of his sole commentry of each match.
The most noteworthy performance here though is courtesy of Juliette Lewis as “Iron Maven” who takes a special dislike to Bliss, seeing her as a threat to her top spot status and Lewis clearly relishes taking on one of the few meaty roles on offer, as she manages to be both brutal on the track, as she is with her bitchy words of the track.
Sadly Ellen Page despite still giving a good performance and remaining an actress to watch, here comes across bored, as she almost shuffles through her lines despite the trailer coming across like Juno on wheels, “Whip it” is sadly a far cry from the witty observations of Diablo Cody’s Oscar winning script and in a way it appears that the script is perhaps trying too hard to corner the indie youth market, by giving us an alternative rom-com, which is an area that it especially fails hard in, as the love interest, Skinny indie kid in a band Oliver (Pigg) provides almost as many grating moments as Barrymore, as I found myself having to endure the supposedly hip dialogue between Bliss and Oliver, which comes off more stale than anything, with almost zero chemistry between either Page or Pigg, meaning that your listening to Bliss pining after him, but from Page’s performance, you get more the feeling that she really doesn’t care, which could almost be summed up by the limp wristed slap to the face, she dishes out after discovering Oliver’s cheating ways, while at the same time also working against the tough girl image she’s been developing since joining the Hurl Scouts, which see’s her standing up the same preppy girls who are seen tormenting her at the start of this film and by the time this limp wristed slap is dished out, it kind of left me thinking why bother? I mean I would have much preferred she punch him out, or at least give it some gusto, than such a weak excuse for a slap.

Soundtrack wise it is a pretty sad state of affairs with the majority of the soundtrack, made up of dreary sounding indie tunes, with the few standout tracks, all being well known tracks by established bands like Radiohead, MGMT and The Breeders and these soundtrack choices, kind of came of a surprise seeing how grounded in the roots of punk rock the derby scene is, I was expecting more of a punk soundtrack than laidback indie, which really doesn’t work and feels like another attempt to be hip, much like the frequent references to Austin resident Daniel Johnson which pop up in the film, rather than providing anything resembling a suitable soundtrack, makinh the experience feel like your watching the film with the radio on at the same time.

“Whip it” is a film which sorely disappointed me, especially having all the build up as being something fun and different, but sadly beneath all it’s wannabe indie cool and stick on tattoos, it is just a pretty simple by the numbers coming of age flick, with a slightly interesting angle, provided by being set in the world of Roller Derby, which is sadly under used with Barrymore more keen to focus on the world outside of the derby ring, than the battles fought on the track, but lacks the sharpness in it’s script to hold the attention, especially when such a large chunk is especially being dedicated to a relationship with a thoroughly unlikeable character, making in turn parts of this film hard to sit though and certainly had me wishing for the power to just cut these scenes completely. I guess in conclusion that the wait for the great derby movie continues, as this really isn’t it, despite what it might seem on the surface.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Allow Me To Proudly Introduce My Son William

Hi all,
Just a real quick to post to announce that on monday, my wife Lily gave birth to my son William, who was born in the early hours of the morning.
So allow me to introduce to you all, my lovely readers my beautiful son William. I'm already looking forward to introducing to the same random films, that I watched growing up.


Title: Mothra
Director: Ishiro Honda
Released: 1961
Staring: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, Ken Uehara, Emi Ito, Yumi Ito, Jerry Ito

Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: A group of shipwrecked survivors are found on Infant Island, which had previously been used for nuclear testing. Believing that they were protected from the radiation by a juice given to them by the local natives, it sparks a return expedition to the island, were upon the expedition leader Nelson (Jerry Ito) finds a pair of foot high twins, which he then kidnaps with plans of putting them into a vaudeville show, unaware that their singing is actually a cry for help to Mothra, a gigantic moth worshiped by the natives.

Review: Okay I might aswell start with pointing out that I have never really liked Mothra, who I’ve always considered one of the weaker members of the Toho monster back catalogue, especially seeing how threatening can a giant moth really be?
Still it hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the best loved characters in the Godzilla series, especially by Japanese women, which also explains why she has clocked up to date more appearances in the series than any other monster in the series, while also spawning her own series of films. Still it was this film which first introduced the world to the horror of well….um a giant moth.

Honda who is once again on directing duties here for this first appearance, which is unsurprising especially when you consider that he was responsible for bringing to the screen so many of the memorable Toho creations on their debut outing including Rodan, King Ghidorah and Mantango. Honestly I was relived to see this, especially seeing how Honda knows how to properly introduce new monsters and here it is no different, even to the point were he makes even a long time Mothra hater like myself reconsider my standpoint, though perhaps this is because this time Mothra is not getting caught up in a monster rumble, but instead appearing as a creature of terror and destruction, something else that Honda really knows how to do, especially when you consider he was the one calling the shots, the first time Godzilla stomped through Tokyo in 1954. Mothra’s debut is also helped by a script written by Shinichi Sekizawa who would later go on to write further scripts for Godzilla as well as the Ultraman series, bringing an element of fun to his scripts, which is present here as well, largely coming from Sakai’s performance as the Journalist Senichiro, whose comedy timing is flawless here and never reaches a point of being irritating thankfully.

For anyone who has seen more than a couple of kaiju films will know exactly were the plot is heading, quite early on into this film, especially from the moment we see Nelson kidnapping the twins, from Infant island which it would seem shares that same trait as the island seen in “Gamera Vs. Barugon” (1966) in that it is an island once again populated by blacked up Japanese actors, who also provide their own soundtrack whenever they appear, by banging together the rocks they constantly carry with them. Still for myself the plot brought back memories especially of the British Godzilla “Gorgo” (1961) which coincidently was also released the same year.

Mothra is not normally one of the monsters that is associated with large scale destruction, usually because she is the monster of peace. Yet in this film she certainly gives even the heavy hitters of the Toyko wrecking crew like Godzilla a run for their money, as cars and trucks are tossed around like leaves in a gale. Still at it’s heart this is not a film about the horror of a giant creature attacking Tokyo, especially seeing how the damage being caused to the city is purely a by product of her search for the Shobijin, whose song draws her to them.
Still it is not just random destruction seen in this film, especially seeing how some of her city trashing moments, standout even more just because of the context they have been shot in, such as her cocoon, which she forms against the Tokyo tower, as part of her change from Larval Mothra to adult Mothra, who is her more recognisable giant moth form.

I’m still undecided whether this film was so more effective than other Mothra appearances, because of the fact that Mothra is the sole monster in the film and hence avoiding any clumsy looking fight sequences, which she tends to get involved in the Godzilla series, especially seeing how unlike so many of the other monsters, her powers of attack have never been anything spectacular, much like her fellow flying monster Rodan (that confused looking eagle creation). These powers usually appearing on screen like she is either spraying them with silly string or showering them with pixie dust, depending on which form she is in at the time, all of which is thankfully absent here, with Mothra being given a clear objective of rescuing the Shobijin from Nelson, while the majority of the storyline is filled in by the human cast, which certainly makes her a much more imposing creation to watch, even if I’m not fully convinced that a giant moth is the scariest creation, but at the same time proves to be quite the double edged sword, as you still want a creature that you could justify travelling hundreds of miles to rescue the Shobijin, which some monstrous looking creation won’t exactly work.

Although I might not exactly enjoy Mothra’s appearances in the Godzilla series, she proves more than capable of providing enough entertainment value, to justify getting her own movie. The plotting makes for a change than the usual by the numbers city trashing, giving Mothra more of a purpose than an unjustifiable thirst for vengeance, against a major city, while the human involvement in the plot, provides more than filler between the scenes of destruction and chaos.
In all she might still not be my favourite monster in the Toho catalogue, but Mothra still manages to pull off an enjoyable first entry in her own series, even for the non fans like myself.
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