Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Divide

Title: The Divide
Director: Xavier Gens
Released: 1989
Staring: Lauren German, Iván González, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Eklund, Courtney B. Vance, Rosanna Arquette, Abbey Thickson

Plot: Opening to New York bathed in Nuclear fire, as the bombs of some unknown enemy fall on the city. Eva (German) watches from her apartment window paralyzed by what she is seeing before being grabbed by her boyfriend Sam (González) as they join the rest of the buildings residents scrambling to escape, as further explosions drive the crowd towards the buildings bomb shelter. Forcing their way into the shelter eight survivors now find themselves sealed in with the buildings superintendent aswell as resident survivalist Mickey (Biehn) while not knowing what remains of the world outside.


Review: I am very much of the opinion that there are certain movies you have to go to the cinema to enjoy such as Transformers, Independence day and generally anything directed by Michael Bay which involves him making things go boom. Equally there are movies which you have to enjoy at home, with this film very much falling in this latter category, because god only knows what sort of cinema experience this would have been like!

Directed by Xavier Gens who first burst onto the scene with his contribution to the birth of “New French Extremity” with the highly visceral “Frontiere(s)” which seemingly set out to challenge the stomachs of even the most hardened gorehounds, before soon following this achievement with his first English film “Hitman” an adaptation of the popular video game series, which would be greeted with mixed reactions for its theatrical cut, yet was released as a much more satisfying uncut version on DVD. Now with this latest film he has chosen to scale back the scope of his previous film, as he chooses instead to ramp up the claustrophobic tension by inviting his audience to spend a nerve shredding two hours in the pressure cooker which is Mickey’s bunker, as he explores what happens when humans start to revert to their most primal of instincts.

Having been thrown together in the bunker this group of survivors are a mixed bunch, yet at the same time somehow what we have come to expect from groups of survivors in these situations, for we have the meatheads Josh (Ventimiglia) and Bobby (Eklund), the wannabe peacemaker Devlin (Vance), the unhinged psycho Mickey and the token parent and child which we get with Marilyn (Arquette) and her daughter Wendy (Thickson). Meanwhile Eva, Sam and Adrien (Ashton Holmes) are left to play the wild cards who ultimately amount to little, despite the frequent attempts by Director Gens to make Eva the films heroine. However the film ultimately finds itself too spread out between so many characters, meaning she is left like so many of the characters undeveloped past surface motives and as such becomes more the observer whom the audience lives this experience through. Still despite such weak and often predictable characterisation, the real strength of the film comes from how unpredictable everything else about the film soon becomes, for we are barely settled into the groups bare and grimy surroundings before armed soldiers are bursting into the bunker dressed in biohazard suits. This decision to place such a scene so early in the film is a key example of how Gens chooses to play around with the audience’s expectations thoughout, for while we may have seen this setting in previous post apocalyptic films, he seems almost determined to still try and keep his audience off guard here. However it is only after these same soliders weld the door of the bunker shut that the real meat of the film actually starts, for now faced with seemingly no escape and quickly dwindling rations it is only a matter of time before things start to get really ugly.

Slowly cranking up the pressure Gens is not a director to be rushed, as the deadly combination of cabin fever and radiation sickness begin to take their toll on the survivors, while power struggles for the few resources available to them erupt amongst the group. Needless to say it’s not long before a divide has been drawn between the two with Josh and Bobby soon taking control of the rations stockpile, while subjecting the others to their violent whims with Marilyn soon being manipulated into obeying their frequently perverse sexual whims, she slowly beginning her decent into a haunting state of madness echoing the hysteria of “Frontiere(s)” as the film soon turns into a sort of psychosexual “Lord of The Flies”. Needless to say it’s soon left to Eve to provide the groups moral compass, atleast in theory especially as her actions frequently come with an air of self preservation than trying to turn the tide of increasingly ugly actions happening in the bunker. Sadly Gens it would seem also interprets intense as having his cast shout a lot, which at times does feel like your watching the worlds longest argument, while detracting from some scenes as it adds unneeded distraction from the real drama of the characters interactions.

 Equally frustrating is how the subplot of the true nature of the Hazmat soldiers is quickly dropped, especially when they are given such an intriguing setup. Still this is just one of numerous loose ends which are never tied up, much like what Mickey’s connection to the 9/11 attacks are, which are heavily hinted at along with a details of his wife and daughter, only to just as quickly be forgotten. Still if you like characterisation you will no doubt hate this film for the sheet lack of it on offer, as none of the character receive much if any form of background, as Gens instead focuses purely on their current actions.

Still the cast are all watchable enough if ranging wildly in terms of acting talent with the majority having had their largest roles in TV roles. Needless to say the sole big name on the cast being Biehn which will no doubt have the fans of “Aliens” renting this film for his appearance alone. Meanwhile Biehn also retains his ongoing theme of facial hair equaling crazy, for whenever he appears with any kind of facial hair it would seem his crazy side is normally close by as proven especially in “The Abyss” compares to the clean shaven sane characters he is equally remembered for as proven by his roles in both “The Terminator” and the aforementioned “Aliens”, whose fans will be equally happy to know that he seemingly hasn’t aged since then while easily giving one of his best performances in years and one which will hopefully see him in more mainstream projects.

The art direction here is absolutely first rate from the minimalist designs of the bunker, to the hazmat clad soliders who were easily one of my favourite things about this film and so distinctive is their styling I wouldn’t be surprised if these suits show up at the next comic-con. Meanwhile the survivors deteriorating conditions are realistically portrayed with some fantastic make up, which benefits heavily from Gens choosing to shoot the film in chronological order, so that the sickness ravaging their bodies can be slowly eased out, so that it becomes truly shocking how distorted this highly photogenic group becomes by the end of the film. What is surprising though is how toned down the gore quota is, especially when compared to Gens previous films which are easily amongst some of the most bloody and violent films to be released in recent years and it was interesting to see Gens still able to prove himself affective even when not painting the walls in blood and gore.

While it might be flawed it is still a watchable film, even though it’s claustrophobic nightmare of a setting and slow decent into madness and sickness might have been done better in the extremely underrated “The Hole”, but it is still a haunting viewing experience and hence one best watched at home, as no doubt viewing it in the cinema would be an experience easily comparable to watching “Schindler’s List” or “Martyrs” and possibly not the sort of fun night out you’d want from such a setting, especially with Gens vision being as bleak as it is, making it one to rent cautiously rather than buy.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Gotta Watch Them All: A Thousand and One Cult Movies

One of the most problematic issues for anyone looking to get into cult and obscure cinema, is often finding somewhere to start. Even more so when these two words cover such a varied films from a huge variety of genres, it can often seem quite daunting especially when it comes to finding the films worth watching.

Still while the “1001 Films To See Before You Die” list contains quite a few cult movies, it’s publishers would sadly only reach 101 when they compiled their list dedicated solely to cult cinema, a paltry amount and one I was sure could easily be beaten.

So teaming up with some of my favourite movie bloggers and self confessed cult cinema addicts, we set about creating a 1001 movie list of our own, only one dedicated to cult and obscure cinema, with the intention of creating a list which would not only form a great introduction to new fans of the films we loved, but also give the established fans a fun check list of titles to work though.

So after spending the last couple of months debating and arguing over what titles should make the list we finally compiled our list, which this weekend was unveiled over at “Mad,Bad, and Downright Strange: A Thousand and One Cult Movies” which has been setup to host the list.

The intention now the list has been established is to link the various titles to reviews posted by not only ourselves, but our fellow cult cinema bloggers aswell as our hope for this project being that it only further highlights the wealth of writing talent currently working within this field, while sharing the love for these movies.

So why not check out the list and see how many you have seen and maybe find some future viewing! 

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Title: Clownhouse
Director: Victor Salva
Released: 1989
Staring: Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, Sam Rockwell, Tree, Byron Weible, David C. Reinecker, Gloria Belsky

Plot: Casey (Winters) has an intense fear of clowns, which is only increased by his older brothers Geoffry (McHugh) and Randy (Rockwell) who continually play on this fear. Unluckily for Casey three escaped mental patients have murdered some travelling clowns and stolen their identity and now they are heading for the boys house.

Review: Funded by the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola after seeing director Salva’s early film “Something In The Basement”, it would mark the start of a working relationship between the two which continues even now. “Clownhouse” would be Salva's breakout film, while also being another film from my childhood, which like “Xtro 2” stuck with me after seeing the trailer as an impressionable youth, though it’s taken me until now to actually get around to watching it. It’s also safe to say its trailer really stuck with me for one reason or another over the years, in particular the dummy in the noose shown blowing in the wind. A simple yet strangely effective image, especially as it burned its way into my mind to the point were I still remembered it years later.

Right from the start it’s clear that the brothers don’t exactly have the closest of relationships, especially as they spend all their time picking on each other, with the younger brother Casey frequently being the target of these attacks. Still no doubt due to the fact that there are seemingly no other kids in the local area or any other people for that matter seeing how the only other people we see outside of the scenes set at the circus is their mum and the folks who run the local store, the boys despite their lack of sibling love for each other still spend all their time hanging out together. The boys themselves are largely undeveloped, with each of them only being given the most minimal amount of characterisation to set them apart from each other. So hence Casey is permanently neurotic and spends the film whining and crying constantly, Randy is the token arsehole brother, clearly ticked off with having to deal with Casey’s issues and frequently takes out this frustration on both Casey and Geoffrey at any given opportunity. Lastly we have Geoffrey who has taken it upon himself to stick up for Casey, though it’s left to the audience to question exactly why when Casey is so painfully annoying with his various issues. Sadly his irritancy is only heightened after he receives a prediction of his early death by possibly the most creepy sideshow fortune teller (Belsky) ever, but then you have to wonder what sort of Circus hires a fortune teller who tells their clientele that their future holds an early death!?!

Released at the end of the 80’s which have now become renown as a golden age for slashers, especially for producing slashers heavy on gore and gratuitous nudity, making this film all the more noteworthy for not featuring either and instead is shot in a similar style to John Carpenter’s legendary “Halloween”. Still this is also not to say that Director Salva doesn’t already have an advantage in dressing his psychos in clown costumes, especially as there is something undeniably creepy about clowns and by playing on such existing fears, Salva doesn’t exactly have to work hard to generate the scares even though it’s a tactic which has been used numerous times before in horror, none of these films have yet to be any good and I was curious to see if this film would be the one which finally got it right…it wasn’t.

The clown make up is surprisingly pretty ordinary even when the original clowns have been replaced with the escaped lunatics, they somehow still manage to copy their victims make up perfectly, with Salva resisting the urge to give them any kind of twisted make up, which only helps to keep them more generally creepy as he opts instead to play on most peoples natural fears instead of trying to make them more threatening.  Bizarrely once they are disguised as the clowns they suddenly start taking on the same mannerisms of the clowns they killed, even to the point were during one of the deaths one of the clowns (played by Tree. I kid you not this is actually the guys name) starts performing a balloon animal routine??

The gore on offer here is minimal to say the least with broken necks being the order of the day, but not just broken but heads twisted a full 180! Sadly though with most of the violence being directed against the clowns, it inadvertently means that it frequently comes off as just bad slapstick. Needless to say this was a film sorely in need of a few good kills which sadly never happen, as Salva instead chooses to spend most of the film playing hide and seek with his cast, though with the boys being so blasé about the fact that three crazed maniacs are trying to kill them, it frequently kills what little tension Salva manages to generate, even if he does manage to effectively use a strobe lighting effect to track one of the clowns as he lurks in the dark behind Geoffrey.

Sadly what really hangs over my opinion of this film the most is not what we see on the screen, but what was happening behind the scenes, as it was later revealed during the release of Salva’s “Powder” that he had sexually molested Winters with Salva even more sickeningly having videotaped the whole thing. Salva would as a result be sentenced to three years in prison of which he would serve 15 months before being paroled with Salva registering as a sex offender. Needless to say you have to question if the “Jeepers Creepers” films would have been so popular with the movie going masses had they known this.

Ultimately off screen scandals aside, this film struggles to live up to its strong setup, with the lacks of kills and horrible lead characters only further making it a tedious viewing experience, especially with the clowns being so painfully underused, it’s one of the few 80’s slashers I would like to see remade, only with a focus on correcting these issues, as it has the raw materials there, it’s just Salva never truly uses them to their maximum potential. The search for an effective clown slasher continues.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Big Wednesday

Title: Big Wednesday
Director: John Milius
Staring: Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey, Sam Melville, Robert Englund

Plot: Following three friends Matt (Vincent), Jack (Katt) and Leroy (Busey) over twelve years, starting with the South swell in the summer of 1962 and ending on the mythical Big Wednesday in the spring of 1974, a day prophesied by their adopted father figure and board maker Bear (Sam Melville), were the biggest and cleanest waves of all time will come. Meanwhile the boys have to deal with real life pressures as they find themselves slowly growing apart.


Review: When it comes to “Big Wednesday” I feel Quentin Tarantino put it best when he said

“I don’t like surfers. I grew up in a surfing community and I thought surfers were jerks. I love Big Wednesday so much. Surfers don’t deserve this movie.”

Like Tarantino I too grew up in a surfing community in the coastal town of Newquay, Cornwall, which you only have to ask any surfer and they will tell you it is one of the best places in England for surfing. Needless to say such information meant as a keen windsurfer, having to deal with all the egotistical surfers whom seemed to think that the sea belonged solely to them, an opinion which also seemingly stretched to the rest of the town. Now I’m not saying that all surfers are jerks, something especially shown when you had long boarders and short borders fighting for the same waves, which generally started a whole new set of arguments….alas, I digress for like Tarantino I am firmly in the mind that surfers do not deserve a movie this good, as this is a stone cold classic!

Over the years there have been plenty of surfing movies, from the classic Bruce Brown surf documentary “The Endless Summer” (1966) and it’s equally fun follow up the imaginatively titled “Endless Summer 2” (1994) to more bizarre Drive-in fare like “Beach Blanket Bingo” (1965), but “Big Wednesday” is by far one of the best and certainly most accessible to non surfer types like myself.

While essentially this is a movie about a group of surfers, this film is also so much more than that, as it’s also a story about growing up and having to face the frequently harsh realities of real life, in this case The Vietnam war which serves as the backdrop for the film, aswell as providing an amusing scene were the boys and their friends plot to get out of being drafted, with one members attempt at portraying himself as a homosexual, only lands him directly on a recruitment bus for the marines. What is most interesting to see is how they change as the years pass by, especially as the boys change in terms of their lifestyles as they get married and gain real life responsibilities, while society continues to change with aging surfer and surf board maker Bear being reduced from a boardwalk legends to a drunk garbage man by the films finale, making this a highly unpredictable ride at best, especially as Director John Milius resists the urge to give everyone a happy ending, for all though the boys reunite for the finale, there is still a sense that this reunion will only be temporary at best, until the next time the waves call them back together.

The three friends at the centre of this story are all wildly different from each other from the group joker and self confessed masochist Leroy, to the eternally laid back Jack, whose establishment-prone ways also prove to be frequently responsible for the group being divided, especially when he honorably signs up for military service rather than trying to get out. Finally we have Matt who despite being the most talented surfer in the group, to the point he has become a local surfing hero, suffers from a self destructive nature with surfing seemingly being the thing which provides his only salvation from his personal demons, while the love of surfing also seems to be the one thing which keeps the group together, especially with their wildly different personalities and individual moralistic values, which would seemingly put them in different social circles to each other if they were to not share this bond, something which also seems to apply to the roller derby community, which frequently see’s friendships being formed between skaters from radically different social circles to each other, all through a shared love of the sport.

“Big Wednesday” was a real change in direction from the usual gung-ho action movies, such as “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) and “Red Dawn” (1984) that Milius is usually associated with and to which he would return to following the weak reception the film received on it’s release. Still with Milius being a keen surfer, this almost feels like his love letter to his sport, while also recruiting surf legends from the era such as Gerry Lopez, Peter Townend, Ian Cairns and Billy Hamilton, who might not mean much to the surf brats of today, but still provide a nice nostalgic touch to the film here, while also providing some amazing surf footage, which still holds up today especially during the finale were we are taken into a tube and can actually see the sand being churned up by the water, shots which are yet to be beaten by any film which followed. Meanwhile the cast are all fantastic with the majority of them still unknown actors at the time like horror icon Robert Englund, whose appearance here is more of a cameo while he also fills a dual role as the films narrator. Gary Busey here was was coming in hot after his Oscar nominated performance in “The Buddy Holly Story” (1978) and truly embodies his character, much like Vincent and Katt who are equally believable in their roles.

There are some critics who would grumble that the film is uneven throughout, while comparing it’s use of the Vietnam war and it’s effect on society to that seen in “The Deer Hunter”, which seems like abit of a stretch when Milius seems to only want to use it as an a noteworthy event which affects the group rather than society on a whole and seems to have more of a focus on the boy’s own world changing, such as a local burger joint taking on a distinctly more hippyish theme, rather than anything resembling dramatic changes in society.

Personally I would love to see the main idea of “Big Wednesday” applied to Roller Derby, especially as the only real movie we have to represent the sport, outside of the handful of films which attempted to potray the sport such as “The Fireball” and “Kansas City Bomber”, meaning that currently all we have is “Whip It”  to represent us as a community and while it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t in turn vastly increased the number of girls strapping on a pair of quads and hunting down their local league, after seeing the film, I still believe that we deserve our own version of this film, but for now atleast the wait continues.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Bikini Girls On Ice

Title: Bikini Girls On Ice
Director: Geoff Klein
Released: 2009
Staring: Cindel Chartrand, Danielle Doetsch, William Jarand, Suzi Lorraine, Christina Sciortino, Caroline Faille, Tarek Barone, Kerri Taylor, Ivan Peric

Plot: A bus load of bikini clad ladies are on their way to a car-wash fundraiser, when their bus breaks down in front of an abandoned gas station located on the edge of town, unaware that it is home to a homicidal mechanic called Moe (Jarand)

Review: I should really know by now that any film with the word “Bikini” in the title is often going to be far from the fun times and cheap thrills which the name would misleadingly give you the impression of. Needless to say this film is no exception to this rule.

A Canadian production from first time director Klein, who also is credited with co-producing aswell as co-writing this with fellow first timer Jeff Ross who thankfully gave up on the writing after this film, which like so many of the cast remains his sole IMDB credit. Still while aiming for a cheap and fun slasher, only one of these goals is really achieved (no prizes for guessing which one they achieve).

Plot wise this one does exactly what it says on the tin, unless you’re the sort of person brought up with holiday themed ice capades shows and have entered into it expecting to see a bunch of ice skating ladies in bikinis, you might be slightly disappointed to find that it’s yet another cheapie slasher abet one with a fun title, but still sadly little else to offer.

For some reason only known to Klein, the girls have seemingly only packed their bikini’s and while it’s a cheap thrill to have a movie full of attractive young actresses wearing pretty much nothing for the whole film, it’s a thrill which soon grows old way to quick, while towards the end even pushing the boundaries of plausibility as the girls run around in the dark, giving not even a passing thought to putting on more clothes. I don’t know perhaps Canadian girls are impervious to the cold, but Klein’s determination it would seem to get as much flesh on the screen as possible only took me out of the film, which by this point was struggling to keep what was left of my attention and something really also not helped by the fact that it’s nigh impossible most of the time to see what is happening during these night time scenes.

Such cheap titillation also extends to the cast, whose characters are left largely undeveloped except when it comes to what cheap thrill they happen to bring to the film (I.E: The slutty chick, the lesbians etc) and as such are largely disposable and there to make up the body count and as such it makes it really hard to care about what happens to any of them, especially when they are so interchangeable from each other. Still working with a cast of unknowns it soon becomes clear that many of them might have been hired for how good they look, rather than their acting ability but when some of them struggle to convincingly wash a car you know the film is in trouble.

The films psycho is beyond laughable, with Jarand clearly having delusions of being the next big slasher, especially from how he tries and fails to imitate Kane Hodder’s raging bull style, he brought to Friday the 13th series from Part 7 – Jason X. Still looking like one of those deranged fans that generally turn up in videos for bands like “Slipknot”, with his greasy long hair permanently hanging over his face while contorting his face into a demented looking frown, as he comes across like the embodiment of every bad slasher cliché going. If this wasn’t bad enough, he is also lumbered with no kind of motive for his actions, so we never find out his motive for killing let alone why he is so obsessed with putting bodies into tubs of ice.

The other major failing of this film is with the gore quota which despite the films high body count is almost non existent. True we get a lot of violence with Moe swinging, hammering and stabbing away at his victims, but at the same time we don’t get to see any form of pay off, as Klein opts to keep the gore off screen and as such gives zero weight to any of the deaths, while only making Moe all the more of a laughable psycho, especially when every kill is the same as the last, with the victim stumbling into him, before falling over before he sets about doing his thing, with none of the victims providing anything resembling much of a fight. Still when we do see the aftermath of any of these kills, the damage is interchangeable with any other kill in the film, with the victim looking the same as before just now covered with buckets of fake blood, with the sole difference being the occasional slit throat. It’s this form of filming which really irks me, for on one hand Klein is trying to homage the splatter and violence of the 80’s slashers, yet at the same time under the delusion of what your not seeing is scarier, which arguably might be true and you really only need to look at the likes of “Psycho” for further proof. However this style really only works well in the hands of a master director, which it’s safe to say that Klein is not and hence is left with a bunch of weak death scenes, many of which have been done before only a lot better.

Despite having a short run time, this film still feels a lot longer than it is, which when you consider that it’s a film packed with scantily clad ladies only makes it much more worrying as it takes a real talent to make such a prospect as painful a viewing experience as Klein as here. Now normally I would recommend that movies this bad, are best enjoyed with a few cold beers, but considering the amount of alcohol required to make this a fun experience, I think you’d be best also packing a spare liver in the cooler, as it fails on even the most basic of levels, while proving once more that wall to wall cleavage does not make a movie, though perhaps more worrying is the fact that this film has spawned a sequel "Pin-up Dolls on Ice", though can't say that i'm going to be exactly rushing to see it anytime soon.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Flash Point

Title: Flash Point
Director: Wilson Yip
Released: 2007
Staring: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Lui Leung-Wai, Fan Bingbing, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Ben Lam

Plot: Set in pre-1997, Ma Jun (Yen) a cop known for beating up suspects during arrests, teams with Wilson (Koo) an undercover cop, to try to bring down three merciless Vietnamese brothers running a smuggling ring in the months before the mainland's takeover of Hong Kong. The eldest, Archer (Lui) is arrested in an operation that exposes Wilson and almost gets him killed and setting Ma Jun on course for revenge.

Review: Ever since I saw “Once Upon A Time In China: Part 2” I’ve been a big fan of Donnie Yen, especially with the climatic showdown in that particular film being easily one of my favorite all time fights and one which we would have to wait a further ten years to see the rematch in Zhang Yimou’s beautifully shot “Hero”. Needless to say Yen has gone on to make some fantastic films including my personal favorite “Iron Monkey”, yet for one reason or another it feels that it is only really now that he is truly being recognised for the highly skilled martial artist that he is.

The third film to be made with director Yip, who’d previously worked with Yen on “Kill Zone” (which this film is a prequel of sorts to) and “Dragon Tiger Gate” and it's a powerful combination that the two men form with this success together later leading them to working together on IP Man 1 & 2. With Yip directing the main meat of the film, while he entrusting the fight choreography to Yen, who uses the film essentially as a further showcase for his love of MMA, which here he integrates with his more traditional and trademark wushu and taekwondo style to devastating effect and unsurprisingly it would lead to Yen winning “Best Action Choreography” at both the Hong Kong and Golden Horse Film Awards.

Yen meanwhile ensures that the film is kept as fast paced as possible, even if he does tease out the main fight scenes until well after the halfway mark, which makes “Flash Point” for me is similar in many ways to the Bruce Lee classic “The Big Boss” in that Yen is forced to promise that he won’t beat up anymore suspects following numerous complaints regarding his heavy handed tactics, an echo almost back to Lee’s character making a similar promise to his mother and hence like that film, it does actually take a fair bit of time before Yen gets to actually fight anyone and even then it’s only really after his undercover partner is hospitalised, following his cover being blown that Yen is allowed off the leash. 

These fight sequences are nothing short of brutal with the potent style which Yen has crafted here by combining fighting styles, not only looking spectacular on screen, but frequently leaves you asking how they actually achieved some of the footage seen here. With Yen having the control he does over the fight choreography he also ensures that the maximum effect is felt with each of these scenes, with each shot carefully planned out while also clearly not working to any kind of time limit, especially with the final showdown clocking in around twenty minutes starting with John Woo style gunplay, before quickly evolving into a full blown smack down as Yen and Chou engage in a round of Kung Fu one-upmanship. Needless with Yen calling the shots for these scenes, it also makes it easier for him to portray himself as the all conquering badass.

Plot wise this film may seem alittle plodding, especially for those of you who like your Kung Fu movies more fast and furious, especially with the fight scenes appearing in the later part of the film. The first half is played out more like a crime thriller, until Ma Jun sets out on his path of vengeance and generally kicking a lot of ass. Still this first half does also have perhaps the most original assignation attempt ever, with the use of an explosives packed chicken! This first half also highlights a lot of the films weakness such as the simple storyline and lack of form of complex characterisation, especially with the badguys who are undoubtedly scumbags from the start, while the police are hindered by continual stupidity amongst the ranks which see’s witness being provided zero protection and leaving them easy pickings for the badguys, even Wilson’s girlfriend (Bingbing) is easily kidnapped in a plot device used more for a setup for the finale, rather than anything which makes logical plotting.

Despite such weak plotting, the short run time of 84 minutes means that it’s a minor complaint, especially as when you start questioning it, Yen kicks the film up a gear by exploding into action, while Chou proves a more than capable challenger especially after being one of the best parts of “The Matrix Reloaded / Revolutions” were he appeared as the white trench coat clad Seraph. Meanwhile the rest of the cast are all likable enough with Koo providing strong support as the Wilson, whose constant fear of being discovered as an undercover copy is well played throughout with the lead up to his exposure as a cop played with nerve shredding suspense.

It might not be perfect in many ways, but the sheer strength of the fight scenes on offer here, make it easy to overlook a lot of the flaws, especially as Yen continues to showcase exactly why he is one of the best martial artists currently working today. Needless to say it’s cinematic junk food for action / kung fu fans so just make sure to leave your brain at the door.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Making the Star Wars Trilogy Even more fun!!

Awhile back we saw the re-release of the original versions of the Star Wars trilogy on Blueray, meaning that fans could replace the dusty VHS & slightly less dusty DVD copies with shiny new Blueray editions. This news had some more frenzied fan boys queuing outside my local HMV for five days before the release, so that they could be the first to get their sweaty little hands on them.....guess they didn't see the pre-order sign. You also have no idea though how hard it was to just resist the urge to turn up when HMV opened and just push right in front of them.

However as much fun as the trilogy is, its fanatical fanbase also pose the great problem of having to sit in a movie theatre while the guy behind you, smarms away, quoting all the lines before they happen, while the whole experience feels like it is missing something. So between myself and several other equally fanatical fanboys and girls we devised in these screenings a way to make them even more fun, in a Rocky horror Picture show stylee, some of the steps of which I will now cover, to help bring an anarchic sense of fun to any screening.

1) Throw Salt to drive away the foulness of Jabba "the huge slug" Hutt.

2) Mimic Imperial Stormtrooper behavior by shooting a large water pistol at a person two feet away from you. And missing.

3) Hurl flaming teddy bears at the scene in disgust at the abominations that are Ewoks

4) Jettison the contents of asthmatics' inhalers in order to ease the troubled breathing of Lord Vader

5) Sing The Muppets theme tune along to Yoda's wise and venerable wafflings. ("It's time to face the dark side, it's time to get it right")

6) Shiver uncontrollably and yell, "Brrrr!" as Han is put in the freezer.

7) Hold up a Bounty Bar in honour of Boba Fett.

8) Fall asleep with excitement as Luke enters the magic tree on Dagobah

9) All Happily shout: "Over here Son! On Me 'ead!" as R2-D2 is spat out with little dignity, by the swamp monster

10) Go to the first showing of "Empire Strikes back" and come out loudly saying, while walking past those waiting for the next showing

"Who'd have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalkers dad!!"

It's almost guaranteed that some one won't have seen it and really upsets small kiddies...cruel maybe but amusing. Most definitely

The trilogy can also be turned into a fun musical experience with jolly songs such as

* Let's do the Hyperspace Jump again

* Hot Tatooine

* Dammit Jabba


* Science-Fiction dodgy Jedis

I mean what could be better than singing along with your fellow fanatics?!?

For anyone whose a "Doctor Who" fan though, you can always sit thru the trilogy pointing out bit-part actors and going,

"He was in Doctor Who....So was he....He was in it three times..."

Candidates include Michael Sheard, Julian Glover, John Collis, Don Henderson, Jeremy Bulloch, Dave Prowse, Garick Hagon and to get the Whovians really excited, Peter Cushing.

So there you have it a basic guide to making the Star Wars Trilogy a more fun interactive experience.

Now has anyone got any ideas for the prequels??

Happy Star Wars Day Everyone!!!

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