Monday, 31 August 2015

Tokyo Tribe

Title:  Tokyo Tribe
Director: Sion Sono
Released: 2014
Starring: Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais, Seino Nana, Ryuta Sato, Shoko Nakagawa, Yosuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Takuya Ishida, Shunsuke Daito, Yui Ichikawa, Shoto Sometani, Denden, Hideo Nakano, Bernard Ackah, Hitomi Katayama, Kokone Sasaki, Mao Mita, Yoshihiro Takayama

Plot: In an alternate vision of Tokyo, the city has been divided up by street gangs collectively known as the Tokyo Tribes who co-exist in an uneasy state of peace, one which is soon shattered by crime boss Big Buppa (Takeuchi)

Review:  While many of the original outlandish and controversial directors such as Takashi Miike have mellowed with age its kind of comforting to see that there are directors like Sion Sono who is still carving his path as a truly original voice in Asian cinema. Having previously given us suicide cults, killer hair extensions and the hooters version of a fish shop to barely scratch the surface of some of the randomness that his films to date have covered.  I guess that he would attempt a hip-hop musical version of “The Warriors” which I guess might be the best way of describing the randomness he gives us here.  

Based on the Manga series by Santa Inoue, this adaptation is shot with a combination of hip-hop excess and hyper-kinetic cinematography, its once again another unique world view that Sono gives us here, right from the opening rap which introduces this world as a grandma works the decks. It’s also in this scene that we get our first introduction to the varied gangs of this version of Tokyo with Buppa’s son Mera (Ryohei) tracing out the territories on the naked flesh of a naïve female cop who attempted to arrest him as he rakes his knife from her breast to her butt.

Unquestionably its once again a colorful group of characters that we get here, while the sheer number of players however does mean that only the most outlandish of these characters prove to be memorable as many slip into the background unless actively doing something to further the plot at that particular moment. However whenever Takeuchi is on the screen all attention is drawn straight to him, as his crime boss Buppa seems to have been inspired by every crime boss from Tony “Scarface” Montana through to Durant from  “Darkman” as seen by his cigar box of severed fingers. Here Takeuchi somehow manages to crank up his usual snarling style several more notches than his usual craziness as he commands the screen every time he’s on, whether he’s groping his amply breasted wife or jerking off with a black dildo he’s a fantastically cartoonish creation and one which Takeuchi seems to be having a ball playing.  While Buppa might have made for a suitable big baddie on his own, much of the heavy lifting required to maintain his empire is handled by equally psychotic sons the aforementioned bleached blonde Mera while his other son languishes in “A Clockwork Orange” inspired room of living furniture.

While the film might be a hip-hop musical in Japanese, a language whose suitability for the musical style is debatable, especially going off the frequently droning tone that most of the raps take here which is more worrying when you consider the amount of actual rappers amongst the cast. That being said even if you’re not a hip-hop fan it never overwhelms the film to point where it is unenjoyable for the non-fans.  That being said around the halfway point Sono seemingly loses faith in the concept and instead opts to turn the film into an all-out kung-fu spectacle as the rapping is changed out for stylised ass kicking.

Action wise if you were impressed by what he brought to the screen previously in “Why Don’t You Play In Hell” here he cranks up the energy even further to create some great set pieces including a showdown in a room which hides a giant fan which is put to great use thinning out most of the cast, while we also get a sadly too brief Bruce Lee homage and a character being turned into a human pin cushion via a dozen samurai swords to the chest. True none of these scenes are aiming for realism, as instead Sono aims to only add to his ongoing spectacle but when shot with such a sense of chaotic fun as it is here, such things hardly matter.

Perhaps due to the sheer amount of characters and muddled plotting it wasn’t until I watched this film for the second time that I was able to appreciate it, having been left with a sense of indifference after my initial viewing. Perhaps more flawed than some of his other films, this is still a highly unique film from a director who continues to prove himself as an original and exciting force in Asian cinema, making it little surprise that critics / Asian cinema fans continue to draw comparisons between him and Takashi Miike even if perhaps Sono is barely pushing the boundaries of taste in the same way that Miike did during his outlaw years. In the meantime though this is another great entry into an already impressive body of work, even if perhaps it fails to reach the same levels of some of his more recent films, this is still an experience worth having.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Dawg Fight

Title: Dawg Fight
Director: Billy Corben

Released: 2015

Plot: Documentary looking at the highly illegal world of backyard fighting


Review: West Perrine, Florida is a ghetto in the Southwest Miami-Dade County, whose population is 73% African-American, with more than a third unemployed, while most of the male population are expected to end up either dead or in prison before their 30th birthday. It is also home to Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris, who runs from his mother’s backyard, highly illegal let alone brutal bare knuckle fights which are filmed and put onto youtube, with the fighters hoping that it will provide a gateway into the big leagues of MMA.

Directed by Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys, The U, Broke) who spent two years following Dada who prior to becoming the Don King of Backyard fighting, spent a year as MMA fighter and former fellow backyard fighter Kimbo Slice’s bodyguard and whose manager refused to release footage of Dada’s fight for fear of overshadowing Kimbo’s career. Now he organises fights were the winners fight for as little as $200 and were the fights take place in a homemade 12”x12” ring, with fighters having no protection other than a mouth guard and fights using ending in knockout or a fighter quitting. Unquestionably this is brutal world which Corben chooses to focus his lense on as he fully immerses himself in this ultra-violent world, which from the outside might seem like just senseless violence, but to Dada he see’s it as a way for the fighters to support themselves and help the failing local economy. More so when a large percentage of the fighters have criminal records which prevent them from finding more traditional means of income.
It’s a belief that the local police also seem to share as they continue to allow these the fights to continue as despite the basic setup still manage to attract large crowds of not just fight fans, but also equally fired up groups of mothers and children, who climb the surrounding trees and buildings when they can’t afford the entrance fee. The fights unintentionally perhaps serving as moral boosts for the local community as they get behind their favourite fighters, while strangely unfazed by the brutality of these fights. Meanwhile grudges which might have previously have been settled on the streets are now settled in the ring, while for many the fights give them a purpose to aim for and a reason to stay away from the temptations of crime or gang life which so many fall into.
Despite his imposing size at 6’3”, 270lbs, Dada is very much a gentle giant, that’s of course as long as you’re not facing him in the ring. At the same time he is probably the last person you’d expect to be a community leader, as he commands respect from everyone around him, while proving himself a natural showman with his funny and charismatic attitude, though more surprisingly he isn’t making large amounts of money from these fights as most of the money being made is given back to the fighters, while he is shown even ensuring that an injured fighter gets paid despite not being able to finish his fight.  Of course Dada eventually by the end of the documentary he has to decide if he is to take his own shot at a professional MMA career when it is offered or to stick with his current path of running his backyard fights which appear to benefit everyone bar himself.
While Dada might be the main focus here, as the documentary progresses, several fighters also work their way into the narrative, such as the brash Treon “Trees” Johnson who are all looking to go pro though as we see the threats of the world which they come from remain ever present as seen when two of these fighters are tragically killed.
Shot with a gritty eye for detail, the fights are shot from multiple angles while Corben frequently adds artistic elements to emphases the damage these fighters inflict on each other, while even slowing down the noise of the crowd during some of the more intense moments, so that it almost seems like they are speaking in tongues, as they shout on their encouragement. Even outside of the fights there is a wealth of interesting scenes, from a group of ladies excitedly talking about their favourite fighters, kids singing along to the profanity heavy rap music which soundtracks the events through to Dada and his team giving pep talks to fighters here he manages to truly emerse the viewer inside this world.
The documentary comes with perfect timing, especially with these fights now being cracked down on let alone heavily frowned upon by the MMA world as they risk the sport being banned as a by-product of these fights, despite a number of fighters such as Kimbo Slice and Tank Abbot being recruited from the backyards leagues after their fights caught the interest of fight promoters.
An engaging documentary which limits its audience due to its gritty violence, while perhaps not looking at the conflict between the professional MMA leagues and the backyards they frequently pooled talent from. Still for MMA fans they may find much to enjoy here, while the training montages and dedication these fighters show is nothing short of inspiring, much like their fight to escape the streets which they come from and for that it is worth giving it a watch for an alternative to the usual tales of life on the streets.
**Author Note: Review originally published on The Armchair Sociologist

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Damsels In Distress

Title: Damsels In Distress
Director: Whit Stillman
Released: 2011
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Carrie MacLemore, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Hugo Becker, Ryan Metcalf, Billy Magnussen, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Jermaine Crawford, Alia Shawkat, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Woods, Taylor Nichols, Carolyn Farina, Meredith Hagner

Plot: Lily (Tipton) a newly transferred college student is taken under the wing of Violet (Gerwig), Heather (MacLemore) and Rose (Echikunwoke) who run the campus’ suicide prevention centre, while at the same time running numerous schemes to try and improve the campus.


Review:  Not only the first film I have seen by director Whit Stillman, it’s also one that I had to watch twice before I sat down to write this review as my first watch of the film left me with mixed feelings,  especially as I knew that there was something about this film I just couldn’t place what it was.

For Stillman this would be his first film after taking a thirteen year break after the release of his previous film “The Last Days of Disco”. Here he appears to have rolled into the same campus that Wes Anderson showed us in “Rushmore”, which perhaps is the best place to start especially when Violet could easily be seen as Max’s female counterpart and more so when his film which seemingly is determined to avoid being any one thing. Not that this a bad thing as the various parts are certainly interesting enough, it just makes it a pain in the ass to review.

Despite looking like a mean girl clique, this group of friends are actually nothing of the sort as they take their work at the campus’ suicide prevention centre like a job rather than a volunteer position, as they offer a sympathetic ear as well as coffee and doughnuts for those in need.  However they don’t stop here as they also date the less attractive men on campus to help boost their confidence and even attempt to clean up one of the more unhygienic dorms by giving the gifts of bars of soap. Of course this is all done in such a surreal style that some of these goals achieved can be missed out, especially when Stillman chooses to shoot the film in the same detached style that Terry Zwigoff brought to his “Ghost World" adaptation.

Unquestionably though its an original vision that Stillman crafts as the girls frequently act like they belong in the 1940’s while at the same time dancing to 90’s dance music such Real McCoy’s “Another Night” which Violet delightfully proclaims “A golden oldie”. Elsewhere the campus fraternities shun the traditional Greek letters in favour of Roman Letters and one were a random Fred and Ginger inspired dance routine can be dropped in randomly with little or no effect to the film. Stillman here like Wes Anderson manages to not only craft this world but more impressively make it believable without the usual feeling of style over substance. That being said the actual plot of the film is frustratingly hard to place in recollection with the film largely consisting of the girls dealing with one incident on campus to the next, combined with the usual issues of unsuitable boyfriends and clashes with the school newspaper amusingly titled “The Daily Complainer” and headed up perfectly by Zach Woods of “Silicon Valley” fame.

Perhaps because Stillman has assembled such a likable, let alone capable cast who embody such fun characters we are able to look past such things as the fact we have spent the last hour and a half essentially watching nothing. That being said this really is Gerwig’s flm and whose background in Mumblecore perhaps makes her more capable of adapting to such free flowing material as this. Here though free of the pretension of that cinematic movement really is able to shine as the group leader, able to motivate them effortlessly to her vision for the campus, let alone leading the campus in their newly created dance craze “The Sambola” which even comes with onscreen directions for wanting to try it for themselves.

Alas the film is not without its flaws as Adam Brody whose appearance is usually the cinematic equivalent of piles and here once more gives us yet another forgettable performance, which perhaps is only noteworthy for how less smarmy it is than normal. At the same time his character could easily have been written out, especially when he serves little purpose ultimately other than to give Gerwig a dance partner for the finale. True the film features other random characters who serve to add little to the plot, but none or given that kind of attention that Brody confusingly receives here.

Certainly an original film to say the least and one which at the same time will unquestionably divide opinions, depending on how coherent you like your storytelling, while the fact that its also a film which is an experience to watch makes it only the harder to review, leaving myself with little to do that recommend you at least give it a watch if anything I mentioned caught your interest, as this is a unique one to say the least.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Youth In Revolt.

Title: Youth In Revolt
Director: Miguel Arteta
Released: 2009
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard

Plot: Nick Twisp (Cera) in a funk: unable to find a girlfriend while belittled over his love of classic cinema and easy listening records. However after meeting Sheeni, he creates a rebellious alter-ego named Francois Dillinger to help him win her away from her boyfriend.

Review:  Another of those films like "Drive" which was horribly misold to audiences, in this films case it was as another throw away teen comedy, let alone one featuring Zach Galifianakis who at this point was still riding high on the surprise success of “The Hangover”. What we get instead is something a lot more subtle and intelligent, while Galifianakis’s contribution here is little more than a glorified cameo.

Right from the start it’s clear that things are pretty crappy for Nick, as he has to endure his oversexed mother and her string of loser boyfriends while being generally belittled for his eccentric tastes by those around him, making his connection with kindred spirit Sheeni and winning her affections only the more important, while her love of Jean-Paul Belmondo unquestioning plays it part in his creation of his alter-ego, alongside the repeated pounding he gets for a trying be a nice guy as in this world nice guys unquestionably finish last.

Played in many ways like a wilderness years version of “Fight Club” here Cera pulls double duties as Nick which sees him once again working his usual awkward charms, while also getting to play his anarchic and permanently chilled, let alone pencil thin moustache wearing Francois as he constantly switches between the two character while occasionally being both at the same time. It’s a performance that is only heightened by Cera’s dry narration let alone the sheer don’t give a shit attitude of Francois who starts off smashing Nicks records and tossing over cereal bowls to quickly moving onto arson all with little concern for the consequences, especially when they befall Nick, even if he does take a belting for him the majority of the fallout of his actions falls on Nick.

Perhaps because the film features Cera playing a much different kind of role to what have become accustomed to seeing him playing, that the film is as much fun to watch let alone the fact that Francois essentially is Nick’s version of Tyler Durdan only with less of an interest in wide spread anarchy, but instead has more interest causing chaos whenever the opportunity presents itself rather than seeking it out. Luckily here these kinds of situations frequently present themselves, making it all the more baffling that Nick is able to get away with as much as he is.  

While the tone of the movie is frequently an uncomfortable one, especially when it comes to his home life reminisant of “Napoleon Dynamite” it only makes it all the more welcome when the film moves away from these areas and instead focuses on his complex relationship with Sheeni or him being led astray by Francois which also includes him leading Nick into using some truly filthy seduction techniques, during an ill-fated attempt to visit Sheeni at her all girl French speaking boarding school. Director Arteta’s shooting style meanwhile frequently keeps the film interesting as he mixes in random moments of animation, including a fun stop motion opening charting his journey to Jerry’s trailer, while avoiding the angry sailors Jerry has just ripped off shown here as an angry three headed giant.

The downside here though is that the film draws you in with its impressive cast list, only for most of them to be little more than cameo appearance with the exception of Buscemi who is on top shouty form as Nick’s dad who could be mistaken for being a more domesticated version of Seymour from “Ghost World”. Elsewhere Fred Willard gives us his usual stique as Nick’s neighbour and whose odd nature is really worked to its maximum potential.

While wrongly sold as just another summer teen comedy, this film is a lot smarter than you’d expect and one really carried by Cera who previously unseen range demonstrated here, makes me wonder what else he might be hiding in his actor toolbox. At the same time the film has such a fun anarchic spirit which when combined with its indie styling only makes it more of a shame that this film currently remains as under the radar as it does.  True towards the end it does feel like it is spinning its wheels for time, but largely this is a fun and original dark comedy that’s worth hunting down.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Hot Girls Wanted

Title:  Hot Girls Wanted
Director: Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
Released: 2015

Plot: Documentary looking at the "Pro-am" side of the porn industry, as it follows several girls aged 18-19 and making their first films in the industry. 

Review: A source of much excitement when it received its Sundance premier, especially when it lead to the film being picked up by Netflix. who currently seem to be trying to corner the marker in documentaries about the porn industry, or so it would seem looking at how many they offer on the subject as part of their streaming catalogue. At the same time it’s not hard to understand the buzz after all here is yet another documentary looking at the porn industry in particular the “Amateur” porn industry  better known as “pro-am” as it follows several young girls aged 18-19 many of whom are making their first films in the industry.
The second film by the directing team of Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, who here don’t stray too far from the source material of their first documentary “Sexy Baby” which featured ex-porn star Nakita Kash / Nichole as one of its trio of subjects as they looked at the culture of sexuality. Now with Rashida Jones joining them as a producer they turn their lense onto what is frequently seen as the entry point into the adult entertainment world. However the documentary originally started off with the idea of exploring the amount of porn watched by male college students, only to change their original plan when they saw that most of them were watching porn featuring young women. I can’t but wonder if it actually more due to their original subject not having enough steam to warrant a documentary.  
So now we have instead a documentary which seems to be aiming for easy scandal especially when nothing gets censors as riled up as young girls doing porn. Still if this wasn’t enough we are also bombarded with factoids whose authenticity is questionable at best thanks to the notable lack of sourcing for any of it. I mean are we to believe that porn accounts for more web traffic than, Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined? Or that three of the top pro-am sites are worth an estimated $50 million? a statement in particular which seems hard to take when most porn companies are struggling to compete with the sites which offer their products for free.
Opening strongly with an overview of the changing attitude toward sexuality, as we regularly see music videos and celebrities blurring the lines between what is considered acceptable and what we consider pornographic and were the quick route to celebrity lies in leaking your sex tape in an attempt to mirror Kim Kardashians sudden rise to the top of pointless celebrity pile after her tape got mysteriously leaked much like Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton.
Focusing on a small group of girls working in the industry which include Tressa who is one month into her career, Rachel who is only a week and half in when we first meet her aswell as Jade who at two years in the industry begs the question as to what point someone can still be considered an amateur? The film also follows agent Riley, who despite being only 23 is already building himself an empire through his agency “Hussie Models” as he offers the girls a place to stay in his house, while collecting rent on top of the 10% he already claims from their work, while strangely coming off like Alien in “Spring Breakers”. Funnily enough that film isn’t far off the image these young girls project as they scoff at the idea of working low wage jobs while harbouring dreams of mansions and porn star celebrity.
The fact that the girls all live together provides several interesting moments, as they trade war stories from their lives in the industry, or joke about creampies and the size of a co-stars endowment there really is a sense of camaraderie between them. Karly meanwhile confesses that she doesn’t have sex outside of porn, due to how she was treated by an early partner and even despite the fact they are essentially in direct competition with each other as they know that the outside world still despite it supposed openness still won’t accept them for who they are because of the fact they work in porn, something seemingly only further highlighted during the scene of the girls watching interview footage or Belle Knox who paid for her college fees by doing porn, rather than raising the funds through some more socially acceptable means, regardless of the fact she is just one of numerous performers in the industry who enter porn for this reason, something the documentary never chooses to mention.  Footage from one of Knox’s scenes is later shown in the film were she proclaims herself a feminist only for the documentary to suddenly smash cut into some of the more abusive elements of the scene, leaving the viewer with a feeling that the scene in some was invalidates her beliefs because of the career choices she is choosing to make.
Another aspect of the film which was fascinating to watch unfold was the relationship between Tressa and her boyfriend Kendall, who when is his first introduced states that the fact that his girlfriend doesn’t bother him, only to radically have changed his tune as the film progresses, interestingly though it is only after one of his friends at a college frat party tries to play one of Tressa’s films for the party that he starts to change his opinion on her work, to the point where when he’s sitting on the couch with her mother he’s defiantly against her working in the industry.  Ironically when she does quit the industry she ends up working in the hooters esq “Redneck Heaven” whose scantily clad staff were memorably featured in the trashy MTV reality show “Big Tips Texas”, which he strangely doesn't seem to mind.

The main issue the documentary has, other than how tedious at time the experience felt, something that you don’t expect yourself to be writing about a documentary focusing on such subject matter, is the frequent attempts to scandalise each new piece of information it provides, with a focus on abuse porn being the direction the career of the girls will take if they want to stay relevant with no note to how these films are just one small aspect of the industry as they instead choose to play it as if there is no alternative path for these girls, with often the girls being the only ones in the film to provide any form of counter argument. At the same time it would rather have you feel that the girls are victims somehow conned into the industry, rather than adults who have made the decision to enter into this world.
While seemingly promising to give us something new, the documentary ends up giving nothing we haven’t seen in other films, only this time with added scandal and unreliable fact checking which only takes further away from the film which is as flawed as it is lacking in depth as it could have gone so much deeper and instead opts not to only making it only the weaker as a result.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Rage: Carrie 2

Title:  The Rage: Carrie 2
Director: Katt Shea
Released: 1999
Starring: Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Zachery Ty Bryan, Charlotte Ayanna,  Justin Urich, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Amy Irving

Plot: Twenty-Two years after Carrie’s psychic rampage, troubled teen and social outcast Rachel (Bergl) discovers her own psychic powers awakening and which soon are threatening to consume her when her only friend Rachel (Suvari) commits suicide after being used by the school football team.

Review:  No doubt regular readers will have heard me proclaiming my love for the golden cinema year of 1999. Sadly though it was not the case for everything released that year as this film proved. True I should have known this going in, with many fans of the original being highly dismissive of it, but then recently I’ve tried not to listen to the naysayers so much, especially when we live in these times were movies are regularly graded one star before the film has even been released….ok true some of these were Uwe Boll movies which it’s safe to say would be what these films would still be rated when they had been released anyway. Regardless I wanted to give this one the benefit of the doubt only to find out around the half way point that the detractors may have been right with this one.

The original “Carrie” was never a film that really resonated with me in seemingly the same way it did with seemingly everyone else, yes it was an enjoyable watch but certainly not the incredible experience that their rave reviews had promised. Still there was something about this film back when it had its original release which caught my curiosity even if it’s taken me until now to actually watch it.

Opening with Rachel’s schizophrenic mother being institutionalised, believing her daughter to be targeted by the devil as her awakening psychic powers cause windows and doors to open and close wildly and leading her sloppily painting a protective barrier around the room. Years later Rachel’s life hasn’t improved any as she is forced to live with her abusive foster parents, who seemingly only care more about claiming the welfare checks than actually looking after her. Things only get worse for her when the school jocks decide to target her best friend Lisa as part of their game were they award each other points for the girls they sleep with mirroring the real life events of “The Spur Posse” and leading to her throwing herself off the school roof. Of course if this wasn’t enough doom and gloom her dog also gets run over (don’t worry he survives) all adding up to quite a pile of issues she has to deal with while slightly overkill when you consider that Carrie only needed a domineering mother and a bunch of tampon throwing girls to establish her grim situation.

So how does any of this link to the original film? Well it turns out that Rachel is Carrie’s half-sister in one of the more questionable moves the film makes to tie itself to the original. The other way it attempts to do this is by bringing back Amy Irving as Sue Snell who having survived Carrie’s meltdown in the original film now works as the school guidance councillor and recognising the same signs in Rachel attempts to help her control her power before she loses control. Ultimatly her character is used to help fill in the gaps in the questionable script, while giving director Katt Shea and excuse to include footage from the original “Carrie” after Sissy Spacek turned down the chance to cameo in this film, opting perhaps more wisely to give her permission for her likeness to be used instead.

While the initial setup works well with Rachel’s fierce outsider making a nice contrast to the terminally withdrawn original Carrie, more so when her position in the school social order still makes her a suitable target for the jocks. As such here we have Rachel getting involved with Jesse (London) one of the jocks, while the film plays around with the idea of their sudden relationship being all part of the game the jocks are playing, or does he actually care for her. A plot point which ultimately is responsible for the downfall of the film as it veers away from a horror film and confusingly into being a teen romance movie and bringing the whole film to a screeching standstill until it remembers that it was supposed to be a horror film.

The jocks meanwhile are your usual knuckle draggers, able to do exactly what they want with little fear of repercussion, outside of the school coach seemingly attempting to molest them as part of his motivation techniques, as seen during a hazing heavy post game recap. Elsewhere despite one of the players facing statutory rape charges for his involvement in their ongoing game, finds all charges quickly pushed aside by the D.A due to political influence of the boys families, though it remains to be seen what political powers such a small town holds? I wasn’t sure if I should also be surprised or not that Zachery Ty Bryan is amongst these jocks, especially when he’s spent most of his career playing this role even as late as 2006 when he showed up in “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” which was also his last film of note unless you like movies made by the Sci-fi channel in which case it would have been him playing the most questionable Thor to date in “Thor: Hammer of the Gods” and that’s even including the one which showed up in “The Incredible Hulk Returns” but I digress.

Perhaps what saved this film for me is with the finale when Rachel has her own psychic meltdown and dishes out some much needed punishment on the jocks and their followers which arguably might be better than the original even if no one is getting pigs blood dumped over them. Rachel’s cheap rose tattoo however does grow covering her arms and face with thorny lines which looks pretty cool. The carnage of this finale scene though is almost enough to balance out the earlier flaws of the film and randomly has several of the jocks trying to defend themselves with spear guns for seemingly no other purpose than to setup some of the more impressive kills of this scene.

Ultimately the cons for this film outweigh the pro’s while certainly not helped by a bloated runtime which could have lost twenty minutes and perhaps been more effective as a result, while the attempts to tie this this film to the original are almost as laughable as the TV movie remake which attempted to turn the concept of Carrie into a series (still not sure how that would work). If anything this is one for completists or the curious while certainly nothing to deserve a second viewing, even if the ending is simply baffling. 

Monday, 3 August 2015


Title:  Jawbreaker
Director: Darren Stein
Released: 1999
Starring: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, Judy Greer, Ethan Erickson, Carol Kane, Pam Grier, Charlotte Ayanna, Chad Christ, Marilyn Manson

Plot: The Flawless Four” are the most popular and beautiful girls at Reagan High School, but when their leader Liz (Ayanna) is accidently killed by her fellow group members, the group are forced to recruit outcast Fern (Greer) after she stumbles across their attempts to cover up the murder. However it’s not long before their simple plan soon starts to spiral out of control.


Review: Another film from that golden year for cinema 1999, which it seems was also a golden year for teen comedies aswell, with American Pie, Go and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut all being released the same year as this film which didn’t get a big release on these rain soaked shores, but at the same time watching it now does comes with that lovely wave of nostalgia that 90’s movies tend to come with, while generally reminding me of how badly teen comedies tend to suck these days.

A black comedy in a similar vein as “Heathers” and one whose tone is established within the opening ten minutes as a seemingly harmless kidnapping prank goes horribly wrong, while at the same time making you question if it is possible to actually swallow a jawbreaker which it would seem that director Darren Stein believes to be possible judging by how Liz is left comically looking like a snake trying to swallow an ostrich egg. This dark humour though is truly carried by McGowan who is queen bitch duties as the ruthless Courtney while being constantly supported by her right hand girl Marcie (Benz) who shares Courtney’s believe that power and respect is gained via maintaining via terrorising their fellow students.

While the film would have worked well enough as a dark comedic thriller with the remaining three members of the flawless four covering up their murder of their fourth member. More so when group member Julie (Gayheart) breaks away from the guilt she feels from her part in Liz’s death, an angle which could have been further worked with her being paranoid that Courtney and Marcie might attempt to silence her. However instead we get her trying to change sides and integrating herself into the general student populous when prior to murdering one of her best friends she couldn’t have cared less about them, but hey this is nothing that a new dull as dishwater boyfriend with a Hanson haircut can’t solve, a role played here by Zack (Christ) who would be more forgettable if he wasn’t being forced on us like Stein felt this character was more likable than he is.
Stein at the same time clearly felt that the murder cover up plot wasn’t enough to hold the audiences interest and as such attempts to cram in the second plot line of Fern being brought into the group and remodelled in their image as they rebrand her as exchange student Vylette only to soon find their creation going rogue on them as her new found status goes to her head. It’s a plotline which doesn’t really do anything for the most part bar the occasional bit of amusing correction from Courtney and Marcie.

Another aspect which helps the murder cover up part of the story is Pam Grier’s appearance as the investigating detective, even if she randomly disappeared from the film a lot sooner than I would have like. On the positive side she manages to show her usual kickass side with a great monologue about jawbreakers, which she also uses as her weapon of intimidation while trying to extract information from the almost unflappable Courtney, who ultimately provides the downfall moment for Grier’s character who until this point had been shown as a tough and take no nonsense, yet she believes unquestionably the ropey story that Courtney spins her which leads to the arrest of a seemingly innocent man (here played by an unrecognisable Marilyn Manson).

My main gripe though with the film is that we never get any punishment for any member of the guilty party, even though it would seem at the finale that Courtney has been marked to take the fall for the trio, but even she doesn’t get arrested when the school find out what she did in possibly the most cliché way possible. Still the only punishment she seems to receive is to be bombarded with corsages and abuse. That’s right folks she committed murder and her punishment is to have flowers thrown at her! As such this leaves you with the general feeling that getting away with murder is fine as long as you have the right scapegoat.

A flawed film but one that still makes for a fun watch as long as you’re not questioning some of the plot mechanics, while Rose McGowan’s delightfully dark performance alone makes this a worthwhile experience especially when she is seemingly willing to do anything to get away with what she has done regardless of who gets burned in her way and perhaps for that fact alone this makes this film yet another great addition to the golden cinema year of 1999.
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