Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The One-Armed Swordsman

Title: One-Armed Swordsman
Director:  Chang Cheh
Released:  1967
Starring: Jimmy Wang, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Tien Feng, Angela Pan, Yeung Chi-hing, Tang Ti, Fan Mei-sheng, Wong Sai-git, Cheng Pooi-saan

Plot: Fang Kang (Jimmy Wang) a student at the Chi school of Golden Sword Kung Fu finds himself being driven away by a group of his fellow students in a confrontation that also cost him his arm. Developing a one armed style of swordplay he is soon called out of exile when he learns of a plot by the bandit Long Armed Devil (Yeung Chi-hing) to kill his master Qi Ru Feng (Tien Feng)

Review:  Another legendry Chang Cheh film this first “One-Armed Swordsman” movie would go on to inspire several sequels, a cross over with Zatochi while also being remade by Tsui Hark as “The Blade” in 1995. The film is equally noteworthy for being the first in a new breed of Wuxia movies which saw more of a focus on violent and frequently bloody swordplay something which this film more than delivers on. This film was also the first film to make over one million at the Hong Kong Box office.

From the start its clear that things aren’t exactly going well for Fang Kang seeing how his fellow student resent him for his poor background with his master having token him on as a student to repay Fang Kang’s father for sacrificing himself to save him during the opening attack by the bandit Long Armed Devil and his followers. Fang Kang however is as honourable as his father and makes plans to leave the school to avoid any potential trouble to his master despite the fact that Qi Ru Feng seeming has no problem with having his as a student.  

For some unknown reason Fang’s fellow student are not quite content with driving him out of the school as he runs into a trio of them while walking away from the school lead by his master’s daughter Pei Er (Angela Pan) who fail in their attempts to attack him but not before Pei Er cuts his arm off in a fit of rage. What is surprising about him losing his arm is that it’s not to the villain he will inevitably have to face in the finale but more of an accident seeing how the crucial blow is struck afer he refuses to first Pei Er.

Taken in by local peasant girl Xiao Man (Lisa Chiao Chiao) whose boat he falls into while staggering away from the fight which just cost him his arm and soon she will also proves to be the source of his redemption as he is forced into exile. Interestingly despite having every reason to set out on a quest for revenge against the student who cost him his arm Fang Kang instead chooses to focus on living a life of peace as he learns how to fish with one arm, while also with the help of a half burned manual develops a one armed swordfighting style to get him out his spiral of depression as he views himself as being a “useless cripple” which he no longer feels with this new and surprisingly stronger style while also making plans with Xiao Man to become a farmer.

Of course things don’t go to plan as Fang Kang finds himself having to rescue Pei Er from the bandits when they kidnap her, while he is ultimately set on course to return to his former school and save his master from Long Armed Devil. The twist here being that Long Armed Devil and his men have developed a sword which has a “Sword Lock” which cannot be beaten by the Golden Sword Kung Fu style. Of course Fang Kang now a left handed swordsman proves to be the one man who can defeat Long Armed Devil and his followers.

Chang Cheh once again really gives us something different with the fight scenes are these are far from frenzied hack em up’s with each fight scene being played like a violent game of chess with each competitor looking for their spots and the result gives them a much more intense feeling to them while looking stunning to watch, even if they don’t contain any of the artistic flair of a film like “Hero” while Cheh makes even the less skilled members of the cast somehow look good here.

While the plot could easily have turned this film into a simple tale of revenge, the journey which Fang Kang goes through here is really where the interesting aspects of the film lye. True the film does sag slightly in the middle and perhaps as a result it could have benefited from some trimming off the run time. Still this film’s status amongst the classics of the Shaw Bros. catalogue is well deserved and making it one certainly worth checking out.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Lake Placid 2

Title: Lake Placid 2
Director: David Flores
Released: 2007
Starring: John Schneider, Sarah Lafleur, Sam McMurray, Chad Michael Collins, Alica Ziegler, Joe Holt, Cloris Leachman

Plot: Several years after the events of the first film a new spate of crocodile attacks begin happening leaving Sheriff James Riley (Schneider) to team up with Wildlife officer Emma Warner(Lafleur) to try and track down the killer croc before it devours its next victim

Review: Coming almost 10 years after the underrated original and seemingly only churned out because the Sony and the Sci-fi Channel (always a worrying sign to seem them involved in anything) were looking for a film they could easily turn into a franchise especially considering how quickly parts 3 + 4 followed it. Shot though on a paltry budget of $2 million compared to the original films budget of $27 million while also being shot in Bulgaria though honestly I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t the same location as the first film.

Despite the title there is hardly any kind of attempt to connect to the original film outside of a passing refrence to the killer crocodile attacks and the old coot Mrs Bickerman now being replaced by her sister Sadie (Leachman) who for some unknown reason is also fond of feeding these crocodiles which have once more grown to gigantic proportions thanks to be being fed meat heavy in growth hormones aswell as the occasional out of timer who it seems are equally game for her to feed to the crocs.

If anything though this plays like a more rural version of “Alligator” not only with the growth hormone enhanced Crocodile, but also for the introduction of the great white hunter Stuthers played here by Sam McMurray who also gives us one of the worst Irish accent ever, while almost constantly berating his assistant and much more proficient hunter Ahmad (Holt).  Like all the characters the relationship between Stuthers and Ahmad is irritatingly underused as we are forced instead to settle for the same half-baked character development that everyone else in the film gets if any with many of the more disposable cast members coming off more like cutouts than real characters. This is none the more true than with the local youths that Sheriff Riley’s son Scott (Collins) heads off into the wood with to party, after being invited by local girl Kerri (Ziegler) whose lughead of a boyfriend Thad (Kesler) pretty much spells out from their first meeting what is going to happen to them.

Unlike the original film which managed to balance comedy with some great jump scares and genuine tension, this film is much more of a confused mess as the tone largely remains jokey, despite many of the characters seemingly being played seriously. Schneider meanwhile once more drags out his good-ole-boy stique as he continues his run of low budget creature features like “Shark Swarm” which I couldn’t but wonder if it’s ever got him missing those “Smallville” paychecks that would save him from this kind of dreck.

One of my major issues with this film and so many of these cookie cutter creature features that the Sci-fi channel (or Syfi as its known these days) and the Asylum continue to churn out is with the actual crocodile effects. With the original we had both practical and CGI effects used to great effect but what we get here instead is just a bunch of badly rendered CGI crocs which end up coming off laughable whenever they are on the screen, with the extensive use of CGI for the gore effects aswell only adding to the issue which is only the more frustrating when you have great moments like arms being chomped off only for them to look flat and cheap because of these cost cutting measures. It of course only begs the question as to why these production houses continue to cut corners when it comes to their marquee monsters or is it just another sign of the lowering of standards as these studios intentionally seem to be aiming to make films which are this bad, perhaps hoping to cash in on the same trash cinema appeal of the b-movie forefathers like Ed Wood and Roger Corman without realising that they were actually trying to make good films with their productions.

While pretty samey for the most part the action scenes here do throw out the occasional surprise such as a plane being randomly harpooned or one of the teens falling out of a tree he’d been hiding in and landing on one of the crocodile which he bizarrely comments as being a soft landing, which considering the leathery skin of crocodiles I have to doubt this claim slightly, though it is one of the few comedic moments which actually hits its mark. Largely though when it comes to the action we seem to have this constant cycle of ambush crocodile, shoot at it for a bit and then loose a team member with no real attempts to ever change up this plan as they constantly seem to believe that this plan will work on the 4th or 5th attempt.  

Seeing how I still have another two sequels to go not counting the recent attempts to cross over the series with “Lake Placid Vs. Anaconda” this film does not bode well for what lies ahead, especially if this film is anything to go off the standard for these spin off’s. Ultimately this is not worth checking out as it’s devoid of even the base level charms that tend to drag you though these kinds of movies, while it really only further drives home the point when even the quick flash of gratuitous nudity can’t help to relieve the tedium I felt with this one. Just rewatch the original instead.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Boxer From Shantung

Title: Boxer From Shantung
Director:  Chang Cheh, Pao Hsueh Li
Released:  1972
Starring: Chen Kuan Tai, David Chiang, Cheng Young Hip, Ching Li, Wang Ching
Plot: Ma Youngzhen (Tai) and Xiao Jiangbei are a pair of labourers from Shantung who are struggling to find ther fortune in Shanghai. However when Ma encounters the local crime lord Tan Si (Chiang) he finds himself using his fighting skills to rise through the criminal underworld ranks.

Review: When it comes to naming influential directors especially in Hong Kong Cinema, Chang Cheh should be at the top of that list especially when he directed close to 100 films for the equally  legendry Shaw Bros including many of their key titles including Five Element Ninjas, The One-Armed Swordsman and the Five Deadly Venoms.

Joining “The Sexy Killer” which memorably remade “Coffy, this film plays essentially like the kung-fu version of “Scarface” even though it was shot nine years previous to the release of that film. However unlike Tony Montana; Ma doesn’t set out with any kind of plan to be a crime boss as he refuses a hand out from the honourable crime boss Tan Si after impressing him with his fighting abilities.  In an unusual twist it’s actually his own good intensions which see him still being drawn into the dealings of the local underworld, while soon seeing Tan Si almost as a mentor figure especially when he start imitating Tan Si’s style right down to his trademark cigarette holder.

As Ma’s power and influence rises he sound finds himself being targeted by the hatchet welding mobster lead by Boss Yang whose territory Ma and his followers are moving in on, as Ma refuses to muscle in on any territories run by Tan Si out of mutual respect. This of course leads to several large scale confrontations which is where the film especially gets interesting as Chang Cheh uses some great cinemography to elevate the film being just another kung fu flick, especially when he gives us moments such as Ma being surrounded by a group of knife welding mobsters, only to turn the camera away at the key moment they strike, almost as if he is interpretating the audiences reaction and forcing them to look away from a potentially gruesome scene.  Ma of course is a martial arts powerhouse as he frequently takes on multiple opponents with little hassle.

The fight scenes throughout the film are all certainly memorable with the highlights here seeing Ma take on a towering Russian strongman while ending on an absolute high with the Tea house showdown which plays not unlike the Scarface finale with Ma taking on overwhelming odds as he battles up and down the two floors of the teahouse with most of the fight spent with a hatchet embedded in his torso in what might be one of the bloodiest fight scenes I have ever seen especially when the bodies just appear to be piling up on the floor of the teahouse, with Cheh constantly managing to find new and ever more inventive ways to maintain the hold he has over the audience as the sequence plays out.

Working with a much longer run time at two hours than your standard kung fu movie, this film also avoids the usual revenge seeking student learning new styles path to instead give us a tale of a man trying to find his way in the world and generally do the right thing which is clear from the start as we see Ma and Xiao being forced to sleep on the floor of an Inn because they can’t afford a room and yet neither of them lets their situation beat them down, despite the innkeeper certainly taking a good shot at it. Its these humble beginnings which makes Ma’s corruption from power all the more believable especially when he suddenly goes from having nothing to suddenly having a tea house and a steady stream of protection money coming in. While this plot line is perfectly satisfying, it does however never take advantage of the relationship between Ma and the tea house singer Ms. Jin played here by Ching Li whose despite having some nice scenes never feels as if she is being fully used.

While perhaps alittle overlong for your more casual viewer watching this expecting some light hearted chock socky, but for those willing to brave the run time this is a rewarding experience, while the engrossing story really ensures that the runtime really doesn’t drag more so when each of the fight scenes seems to top the last with the finale which really has to be seen. This truly is the work of a master firing on all cylinders with this film really proving a highlight of his heroic bloodshed period which would go on to inspire both John Woo and Quentin Tarantino and here the influence is certainly clear.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Revenge of the Green Dragons

Title: Revenge of the Green Dragons
Director:  Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo
Released:  2014
Starring: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Shuya Chang, Harry Shum, Jr. Kevin Wu, Billy Magnussen, Eugenia Yuan,

Plot: Childhood friends Sonny (Chon) and Steven  (Wu) are recuited by the local Chinatown gang “The Green Dragons” as they soon move up the ranks as the journey into adulthood in 1980’s New York.

Review: Yet another film based on an article (see also Pain and Gain / The Bling Ring) going into this one I was optimistic especially seeing how Andrew Lau most memorably gave us the fantastic “Infernal Affairs” trilogy which Martin Scorsese appearing here on executive producer duties adapted into his inferior yet still Oscar winning “The Departed”. An Oscar I personally felt was more for his career than the film itself with this involvement in this film perhaps being his way of thanking Lau for essentially giving him his first Best Director Oscar which as will soon become clear might be the only reason he’d want to attach himself to this film as sadly this is not a good example of either directors work, as Lau here making his second attempt to break into the Western studio system after his forgettable previous attempt with “The Flock” back in 2007. Instead what we get here instead is essentially the Triad version of “Goodfellas” as seemingly every triad cliché is thrown into the film.

Opening to Sonny and Steven as they are recruited as kids to join the Green Dragons, who are also one of the top five gangs in New York though its hard to see how this recruitment works, seeing how they are shown being chased and beaten up by the baseball jacket favouring members before suddenly becoming gang members while age certainly doesn’t seem to be for the gang as the boys are soon sent out on their first hit on a rival gang leader despite still being young boys.

Needless to say things don’t get any better for the film as it stumbles from one random plot thread to the next, with neither of our leads doing anything to really warm themselves to the audience or even make us care about their plight which really only seems to stretch as far as the gang trying to get to that next level. As to be expected this is all accomplished through gratuitous violence, macho gun play and more off putting a thankfully none to explicit gang rape of the wife and daughter of a rival ganger leader holding out on the location of his funds.

The cast are all passible enough in their roles with Leonard Wu in particular coming off especially memorable as the Dragon’s masochistic leader Chen I. Chung who thinks nothing off kidnapping, torturing and butchering a rival gang leader. Elsewhere Eugenia Yuan is wasted as the people smuggler Snakehead Mama and one of the few characters I wish had been developed further much like the two young detectives who are introduced seemingly to only highlight how little the local police department cares about the triad violence and local Asian population.  Ray Liotta meanwhile is more of a glorified cameo and whose role could easily have been cut out of the film while making you wonder if he was included to provide anything other than star power to sell to the film much to western audiences who’d more than likely skip over this film otherwise.

Despite the short runtime this one was a grind to get through, perhaps because I was expecting more than just another triad thriller and even on that level there are certainly better films such as Lau’s own “Young and Dangerous” series which essentially do what we get here better and certainly more enjoyably.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Boxset Binge #7 - Girls Und Panzer

Perhaps because it’s been awhile since I’d watched any anime that I felt myself drawn to check out this series,  which also has the distinct advantage over most other anime of being a mere 12 episodes compared to the 100+ episodes that most series seem to be stretched out currently.
Set in a world were schools are based upon converted aircraft carriers and Tankery is a class which can be taken alongside flower arranging and tea ceremonies. Now arriving at Oarai Girls Academy it’s a world that Miho is looking to escape from despite her family’s legacy with the sport as the result of an incident during a match for her previous school Kuromorimine Women’s College which left her traumatised and reluctant to compete in the sport again.  Unlike her previous school though Oarai hasn’t fielded a tankery team in over twenty years and in a case of bad luck for Miho has now decided to reboot its program despite only having a ramshackle collection of old WW2 tanks.

Now essentially forced to compete again, Miho teams up with her new friends which include the boy crazy Saori, the gentle Hana, the tank obsessed Yukari and lethargic yet genius Mako who manages to learn how to drive a tank minutes after scanning through a handy instruction manual. The other tank crews of course being none the less thrown together with each tank being fielded by a different social group including the student council, a disbanded volleyball team who give all their commands like they are on a volleyball court, a group of history buffs who all dress like different famous generals and a trio of frenzied hall monitors who perhaps take their duties alittle too seriously.  Needless to say they all manage to embrace their roles on the team, much like Miho who soon rises to become a skilled tactician as the series goes on.
This is an anime which essentially rests on the idea of its audience getting behind schoolgirls engaging in tank battles for sport if controlled ones were they strike at each with impressive looking explosions which surprisingly never kill anyone taking part. Equally this show somehow manages to switch between gentle light hearted comedy and intense drama during the tank battles especially when the girls constantly find themselves being outnumbered by the teams fielded by the rival schools especially with their seemingly being no rules on the amount of tanks any team can field in a match.
The tank battles are truly the highlight of this show with these scenes combining high angle shot with views though the tank’s rangefinder to great effect. At the same time with each opponent the girls face providing their own tactics it ensures that the battles are constantly exciting to watch, more so when they often rest on a skillfull play from Miho to gain the win. The fact that they are played so seriously only coming as more of a surprise especially when the teams are shown customising their tanks to match their personalities when they first get them, only to suddenly and without reason become uniformed as soon as they enter the Tankery tournament .
The tanks for the most part are animated with a sense of realism to them however the limitation of this are frequently thrown out of the window when required as she frequently see tanks moving with the same kind of grace and drifting skills not seen since the likes of “Dominion Tank Police”. Despite these far-fetched moments of super skilled tank driving it somehow manages to not seem to fantastical and instead only adds to the excitement of the action scenes, even if we know that there’d be zero chance of such things working in real life.  
Outside of the battles scenes the series tends to fall apart slightly with many of the characters being given little to no depth outside their surface colourful characters, with many being known better for the group they belong to or their looks than any kind of personal qualities. Elsewhere plotlines are equally less developed with Miho’s family issues being quickly wrapped up despite being introduced as a major plotline for the series. That being said the series moves at an enjoyable pace and helps to gloss over a lot of the flaws as you instead find yourself looking forward to the next battle rather than what’s happening outside of the tournament.
While everything is wrapped up in this series it still has left me interested to see more and while the recent spin off film picks up after the series, I’d still be keen to see another short series like this to further utilise these characters and unique premise. At the same time its light nature and limited episode run makes it a non-threatening starting place for the non-anime fan looking for something a little different.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Lawnmower Man

Title: The Lawnmower Man
Director:  Brett Leonard
Released: 1992
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Jeff Fahey, Austin O’Brien, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris

Plot: Dr. Laurence Angelo (Brosnan) conducts experiments on chimps using a mixture of drugs and Virtual Reality to increase their intelligence as part of  “Project 5”, while constantly fighting with his superiors and their desire to use his research for military purposes. After one of his test chimps escapes and goes on the rampage, Dr. Angelo turns his focus towards testing on humans finding the perfect subject in the slow witted gardener Jobe (Fahey) who is also the titular lawnmower man.  Starting a program of accelerated learning, with Dr. Angelo using the same drugs he had been using on the chimps only with out the aggression factors of the original drugs. Soon it is not long before Jobe’s intelligence has greatly increased to the point were he is able to perform feats such as learning Latin in two hours, while also unlocking telepathic and pyrokinetic  abilities.

Soon Dr. Angelo’s work draws the attention of his superiors who have been keeping tabs on his progress, with the Project Director soon swapping the new drugs for the original “Project 5” ones, which inturn drive Jobe insane with power and on a path of revenge against those wronged him, while searching for a way to reach his final evolutionary state in the Virtual World.

Review:  Although it might be hard believe it now, but when this film was released back in 1992 this film was pretty groundbreaking with it’s use of computer graphics and portrayal of Virtual Reality, with the film in turn sparking a whole craze for Virtual Reality, to the point were VR machines regularly popped up in arcades over charging for the experience, while consoles rushed out supposed VR titles such as “VR Racing” and the still popular “Virtual Fighter”.
Essentially a cautionary tale about why man should not play god, the film explores theories regarding the use of Virtual Reality in this case as a way of increasing human intelligence, which at the same time the film explores some pretty big Cyber punk ideas, while easily drawing comparisons with Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” with Jobe at one point even saying

“I’m sorry you hate what you created”
The other key reference point here being Daniel Keyes “Flowers for Algernon” which it probably shares the closest links to, while at the same time the theories explored here are done simply and interestingly enough so not to baffle new comers, while also making good use of the relatively new (at the time of the films release) Virtual Reality technology, which it’s safe to say hasn’t aged well in the years since it’s released, which is always the risk with any use of CGI, but here it pretty evident as what was once considered mind blowing looks painfully dated as featureless characters float in space against acid trip background with only Virtual Jobe getting any kind of characteristics. Still if your willing to take these effects with an open mind there is alot of fun to be had with the assorted uses which are not only limited to the virtual world, but soon begin leaking into the real world as the lines between the two continue to grow all the more blurred for Jobe, as he’s able to reduce men to molecules and even more randomly project himself as a giant floating head. Still interestingly enough part of the studio responsible for these effects would later become “Rockstar North” a studio best know for the “Grand Theft Auto Series”.

The two lead characters are both fascinating characters, with the pacifist Dr. Angelo constantly having to betray these beliefs to further his own research while, clearly caring about Jobe’s progress even though at times he lets his passion for progress overwhelm his compassion frequently pushing Jobe into traumatizing situations in favour of his progressing his researching while Fahey is completely convincing as the slow witted Jobe, with his childlike curiosity and friendship with the young boy Peter (O’Brien) who is essentially on the same mental level as Jobe if not higher, making their friendship seem completely natural, while Fahey naturally portrays the continually increasing intelligence of Jobe, to the point were he is able to change him from the lovable doofus to a terrifying megalomaniac as his power spirals out of control.

Despite being a cautionary tale, Jobe’s actions are frequently seen as more than an insane quest for power, especially as he seen being so frequently abused by the local bully Jake who frequently taunts him, while being even more regularly flogged for forgetting to do his chores by the sadistic priest whose shed he lives in, with both of these characters soon being targets for his revenge, while also unleashing a telepathically controlled lawnmower on Peter’s alcoholic father in one of the more laughable sequences of the film, while the majority of the other deaths at Jobe’s hands usually being the result of him being antagonised and unsurprisingly these scenes form the weaker parts of the film with the more interesting parts certainly being the Jobe’s ever increasing intelligence and Dr. Angelo intelligence enhancing experiments than Jobe’s ongoing quest for revenge and god like power.
Perhaps a better use of virtual reality would have been to film an established cyber punk classic like William Gibsons “Neuromancer”, but it did still pave the way for CGI in modern cinema by giving an example of what the effects could be used to create, while also leading the way to some abysmal attempts to follow up it’s success like “Arcade” and “Virtuosity” aswell as the ultimately superior yet more old school effects driven “eXistenZ.

“The Lawnmower Man” despite now being largely forgotten outside of sci-fi fans, grizzled VR boffins who felt that the film gave an unrealistic expectations of Virtual Reality, aswell as a brief legal case with Horror legend Stephen King, for the connection to his own short story about a man who eats what he mows (yes really) and to which this film has zero connection outside of a throw away line about part of one of Jobe’s victims being found in a birdbath and the less said about the sequel the better really, especially as the studio doubted that anyone would actually buy it so much, that they now give it away for free with this film. Still it is a film still worth giving a look even as a fun companion piece to the superior “Tron”.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Harold and Maude

Title: Harold and Maude
Director:  Hal Ashby
Released:  1971
Starring: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack, Charles Tyner, Ellen Geer, Eric Christmas, G.Wood, Judy Engles, Shari Summers, Tom Skerritt

Plot: Harold (Cort) is a privileged young man with a morbid obsession with death who finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Maude (Gordon) an anarchic 79 year old to whom he soon becomes an accomplice to.

Review: This might be one of the those films which has been on the watch list for the longest having first come to my attention on one of the Henry Rollins spoken word albums in which he talked about a project he was working on with Bud Cort. It was Rollins simple personal recommendation without even saying anything about the film which marked this film out to me as one to watch advice which only now finally sees me getting around to watching it I only wished that I hadn’t put it off for so long.

Opening to Harold hanging himself which soon turns out to be another his numerous fake and increasingly elaborate fake suicides which feature throughout the film all which are humorously ignored by his mother who carries on with whatever she is doing and ignoring the fact he son is seemingly hanging from a noose (or whatever cause of suicide he’s imitating). This morbid obsession with death of course isn’t just limited to these fake suicide attempts as Harold also enjoys attending funerals and driving around in a hearse which his mother attempts to curb by buying him a Jaguar which he retaliates by somehow turning into a sports car hearse combo.

Once Harold meets Maude who shares his morbid interest in attending funerals she immediately becomes a source of fascination for him, as he soon becomes her unwitting accomplice as she randomly steals cars and engages in high speed chases with the highway police aswell as seemingly on a whim deciding to uproot and replant a tree from a city street. Why Maude has chosen to live a life filled with such reckless rebellion is never truly clear but at the same time Gordon’s performance comes with such a lust for life that you can understand the unlikely paring of these characters with Maude teaching Harold about music and how to appreciate life in general with the bond between the two only growing stronger the more time they spend together.

While this relationship is certainly engaging and frequently amusing to watch grow at the same time director Ashby also weaves into the film the great subplot involving Harold’s mother’s attempts to save her son by marrying him off a plan which soon sees him finding ever more inventive ways to sabotage these dates as he uses them as an audience for another his fake deaths as one date see’s him appearing to set himself on fire while another he breaks up the tedium by pretending to hack off his own hand. Most amusing of these dates though is with the wannabe actress Sunshine (Geer) who after he performs a fake Seppuku (Japanese ritual disembowelment) only for her to mistake it him performing the final scene from “Romeo and Juliet” and for a change leaves Harold as the one not knowing what to do.

Further to these attempts at marrying Harold off, he has to also deal with being forced to join the army as furthered enforced by his patriotic one armed uncle, who has installed a wire in his uniform to enable his missing arm to still salute in one of the many delightfully dark moments we get from this character who is also one of the few that Maude helps Harold with when it comes to getting out of being drafted as she poses as a war protestor that Harold gets into an argument with, while attempting to freak his uncle out with an unbridled enthusiasm to see combat.

Your enjoyment of the soundtrack wil depend heavily on how much you like Cat Stevens who also puts in a cameo as a funeral goer and here provides a jaunty and upbeat soundtrack which works surprisingly well especially considering the frequent morbid humour at play throughout the film.

Shot with such a darkly comedic vein it’s hard to say if this film is for everyone, though it certainly appealed to my own warped sense of humour. At the same time both Gordon and Cort are so believable as the leads with a great chemistry  which ensures that they are constantly playing off each other, especially in the case of Gordon whose really sells the mischievous nature of Maude, despite her character being almost 80 and making the ending all the more impactful let alone unexpected.  Ultimately this film really is a celebration of embracing life, despite their characters obsession with ending theirs and the only regret I had was that I didn’t see this film sooner.  
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