Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Action, Comedy, Movie Reviews

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It’s been awhile since we’ve had a great spy movie; not since Matt Damon’s previous incarnation of Jason Bourne in 2007’s ”The Bourne Ultimatum” can I say I’ve been particularly impressed by any that I’ve seen – and that includes the recent Bond films with Daniel Craig.  However, since that series became the phenomenon that it did, subsequent spy films have replicated its serious approach.  ”Kingsman: The Secret Service” injects the genre with some fun again: Ian Fleming’s iconic British agent and older film adaptations are the inspiration behind Matthew Vaughn’s caper; humour, flashy rodomontade and an eccentric villain hellbent on world extermination are all firmly present.  The spirit of classic Bond is alive and well.  However, much like Vaughn’s ”Kick Ass (2010)” was to superhero movies, ”Kingsman” takes the basic premise and throws in crude humour and sensational, bloody, R rated violence to crank a worn genre up a few notches.

Taron Egorton plays Gary ”Eggsy” Unwin, a down-on-his-luck petty criminal who is facing a jail sentence for stealing a vehicle from a local ruffian.  But thanks to having a father Harry ‘Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth) owes a debt to, he’s miraculously cleared of all charges and recruited to join a training camp for the shadowy secret service organization Kingsman, who are led by Arthur (Michael Caine) and his knights of the round table sworn to protect Britain (the organization members are all named after characters from the old tale).

Meanwhile, the lisping lunatic Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) – an eccentric billionaire who wants to destroy the world for its own good – is set to bring an end to mankind, because he believes people are destroying the environment.  With human existence in jeopardy, new recruit Eggsy is thrown in at the deep end to try and save the dead.

Valentine’s plan is quite brilliant: he uses sims in cell phones to trigger a satellite which turns human beings into homicidal maniacs.  It’s the type of ludicrous, out-of-the-box villain and scenario we’ve been missing for quite some time now – and it allows for the movie to break out into some scenes of over-the-top carnage.  There is one particular scene involving Colin Firth’s character, to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ”Freebird”, massacring a church full of people that’s sure to send shocks down the spines of the many middle aged housewives who’ll watch it just for him.  It’s a Colin Firth we’ve never seen before – a merciless cold blooded, killer who can more than capably perform action scenes.  Bridget Jones would soil her overgrown panties if she seen her man like this.

The movie does contain some not-so-subtle messages about Britain’s class divide, the danger of global warming and America’s role as a world domineering superpower.  Whether you agree with the political undertones or not shouldn’t derail your enjoyment of the film; it’s more parody and satire than preaching, but it won’t sit well with some.  For the entire 2 hour duration, ”Kingsman” is lighthearted fun that homages classic spy movies and throws in the crude humour and cartoon violence 21st century audiences are accustomed to. Some people may find the violence to be unnecessary to a story which didn’t need it to be enjoyable, but I loved it personally.  Despite it’s charms, it’s crudeness and occasional mean streak is a much appreciated delight. At least for me.  ”Kingsman” is one of 2015’s best thus far and I’m sure it’ll remain as such for the remainder of the year.  9/10

Directed By:

Matthew Vaughn

Written By:

Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goodman

Starring:

Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong

Genre:

Comedy, Action

Running Time:

129 min

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Movie Review: Hotel Inferno (2013)

Action, Horror, Movie Reviews

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”Hotel Inferno” is yet another slice of gore filled, brazen lunacy from Necrostormthe Italian production company who brought us ”Adam Chaplin (2011)” which I reviewed here.  Now 2 movies into my quest to complete their back catalog, I have a basic idea of what they’re all about: gore, gore and more gore – splattered all across genre pictures inspired by retro movies, comic books and video games.

In recent years, ”retro” homages to B movies of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s has become the in-thing; some are genuine love letters to their influences, where as some are hipster parodies which fail to capture the spirit of the films they’re trying to imitate.  However, Necrostorm films don’t come across as homages whatsoever; they are authentic works of cyberpunk insanity born from forward thinking creative minds, as opposed to ones seeking nostalgia, which just happen to include influences from yesteryear.

”Adam Chaplin” was like a comic book come to life in movie form.  ”Hotel Inferno”, on the other hand, adopts another approach us geeks love – first person shooters.  The movie is filmed POV from the perspective of our protagonist as he slaughters his way through hordes of deformed baddies to try and escape from a hotel that poses as a front for an occult organization.  Furthermore, the scenes between slaughter are very reminiscent of video game cut scenes, which makes for some welcome exposition to inform us on the story and mythology behind it all.

The films ”hero” is Frank Zimosa (Rayner Bourton); a contract killer hired by an organization who call themselves the ”Luman Corporation”.  His task sounds routine at first: carry out a hit on a couple of serial killers holding up in a hotel.  Frank is equipped with a pair of special sunglasses, which are used to communicate with Luman Corporation’s owner Jorge Mistrandia (Michael Howe), as well as a recording device to film his every move.  Jorge is very particular with how the executions must be carried out – and soon Frank learns his mystery employer has greater, more sinister intentions in mind.

Once Frank abandons the mission, he must fight to survive.  Violence and mayhem ensues as he shoots, hacks and slashes his way through the hotels secret corridors, pursued by zombie-like henchman, with a supernatural demonic force lying in wait.  The demon demands specific violence to appease ”Her” – or else she’ll rise from her Hellish slumber. And nobody wants that.

The acting and dialogue is akin to that of a video game as well, with interactions kept brief and to the point when the chaos is having a breather; this is only enhanced by the dubbed voices, which are over-the-top and, quite frankly, too cliched to resemble real people.  Jorge Mistrandia speaks with a posh English accent that’s eloquent and sinister.  Frank Zimosa sounds like an ape who can only blurt out vulgar slurs and repetitive phrases.  It takes you awhile to accept the awful dubbing, but once the movie gets going you find it adds to its charm, as it does feel like you’re watching a video game progress through levels before climaxing at the big boss.

”Hotel Inferno” blends digital and practical effects perfectly, but it’s the practical effects which stand out out most impressively.  These include decapitations, spines being ripped out and countless other acts of frequent artistic butchering.  The crew know what us horror fans love, and they don’t take any shortcuts unless it’s completely necessary.  The digital effects are used to create fire and explosions mostly, but they never seem out of place.

Overall, ”Hotel Inferno” is another inventive gem from the Necrostorm team.  It’s as ultra violent, dark and demented as they come, but it does so in such a gleeful manner it maintains a sense of gleeful fun throughout.  This is a company worth following; much like Astron-6 they’re a company who share a connection with genre fans who seek more than your typical, run-of-the-mill fads.  If you like your movies left field, ”Hotel Inferno” is worth checking into.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

Giulio De Santi

Starring:

Rayner Bourton, Jessica Carroll, Michael Howe

Genre:

Action, Horror

Running Time:

80 min

Movie Review: Adam Chaplin (2011)

Action, Crime, Horror, Movie Reviews

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They say we fall in love when we least expect it – and after watching ”Adam Chaplin”, I can wholeheartedly relate to this sentiment.  Every once in awhile, you stumble upon a movie that caters so well to your tastes. you think it was made just for you.  That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when watching ”Adam Chaplin”, the manic action-horror hybrid revenge story from Necrostorm – an Italian film production company who specialize in gore and insanity.  Inspired by Japanese manga and violent B movies of the 1980’s and 90’s, this self-proclaimed ”Italian gore extravaganza” is an amazing triumph of micro-budget cinema.

Set in the fictional country of Heaven Valley, the film tells the story of Adam Chaplin – a demonically possessed vigilante with superhuman strength hellbent on avenging the death of his wife, who was burnt alive at the hands of Denny, a sadistic mob boss who is impossible to touch.  With a corrupt police force and a hired killer on his case, Adam and his demon sidekick must slaughter their way through their foes before vengeance can be claimed.

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To compare ”Adam Chaplin” with other movies, I’d say it’s a combination of ”The Crow (1994)”, ”Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)”, ”Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)” and ”Fist of the North Star (1986)” to name a few.  Essentially, it’s a comic book come to life: the story is a Faustian tale of revenge, with cartoonish characters in a city ruled by crime and corruption.  The villains are grotesque, maniacal and savage, whereas Adam is a trench coat clad killing machine who can punch through faces. Visually, it’s dark and grimy, with an ever present blue flair which further enhances its comic book aesthetic; this provides a stunning contrast to all of the crimson splatter, which sprays, splurts and slithers in gallons.

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Gore is the obvious appeal of a film like ”Adam Chaplin”, and it makes sure to bring it to the forefront whenever possible – which is often as the story was tailor-made to include as much visceral carnage as possible.  Blood sprays, limbs are torn and heads are bashed; eyeballs and brains are squished and allowed to pour out from skulls and lay with rotten carcasses.  However, the plot – as thin and simple as it may be – makes for an engaging story to be told.

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The film is a showcase of practical effects, which look absolutely outstanding considering the budget they were working with – which was less than the daily catering of a Michael Bay movie.  I imagine this will be very inspiring to any up and coming horror filmmakers.  At times it is a little rough around the edges, but the sheer ambition of the project – as well as the heart and effort put in – is so incredible it blurs out its minor flaws.

”Adam Chaplin” is the type of film many horror fans yearn for: a violent, frenzy of bizarre madness that’s so off the rails you wonder if it was even on track to begin with.  It’s a balls-to-the-wall splatter fest full of non-stop action at its most hyper and deranged.  It’s style over substance at its most entertaining and a sure fire cult classic of popcorn entertainment. Necrostorm are bringing Italian splatter back to prominence in the 21st century.  And they’re doing so with style.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Emanuele De Santi

Starring:

Emanuele De Santi, Valeria Sannino, Chiara Marfella

Genre:

Action, Horror, Crime

Running Time:

84 min

Movie Review: Vendetta (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews

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First off, I’d like to issue an apology if the wrestling fan boy in me shines through in this review.  If there’s one thing I love as much as a good bloody action movie, it’s men and women rolling around in tights, performing the greatest sport mankind has ever known (even if it is pre-determined soap opera).  The reason I mention wrestling is because Vendetta is the latest movie from WWE Studios, starring the ”World’s Largest Athlete” The Big Show, alongside Superman himself, Dean Cain.  It’s the first film in WWE and Lionsgate’s ”Action Six Pack Series” and the 2nd collaboration with horror darlings The Soska Sisters.  Given WWE Studios track record for enjoyable genre movies of late, along with having the Twisted Twins at the helm, it’s suffice to say I was excited for Vendetta.

Dean Cain plays Mason, a beefy detective who gets himself incarcerated to avenge the death of his wife, who was murdered in cold blood by the hulking criminal Viktor (Paul Wight).  Once in prison, he finds getting to Viktor to be somewhat of challenge, and must fight his way through inmates and corrupt staff to reach his target.

First off, let’s discuss the good points:  the fight scenes are impressive. Each one is bloody, hard hitting and downright brutal – and there’s plenty of them.  Credit has to be given to Dean Cain for his willingness to get down and dirty in such a physical role.  According to Paul Wight, Cain didn’t have a stunt double, which is admirable and scores him points on the ”Movie Bad Ass” chart.  Speaking of Paul Wight, he was the star of the show; despite not being able to convince wrestling fans he’s a bad guy these days = due to having a stale gimmick – he does make for a mean villain with imposing screen presence and unstoppable force.

In addition to Dean Cain and Paul Wight, Michael Eklund as Warden Snyder chews scenery with glee.  Although he plays your atypical corrupt B movie prison warden, he makes the role his own and it’s lots of fun to see. Nothing about any character is new; if there’s a book out there on how to write stereotypical characters for action movies then I suspect screenwriter Justin Shady used it as his guide when penning the script.

Thus, there lies the main issue with Vendetta: it’s too predictable.  Similar movies have been just as basic but so much better.  However, for 90 minutes of adrenaline fueled entertainment that’s loaded with testosterone, it makes for a satisfying watch.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s action packed, vicious and violent; the Twins horror sensibilities give the kills an extra punch and it’s relentlessly mean spirited throughout.  Definitely worth a one-time watch.   6/10

Directed By:

Jen & Sylvia Soska

Written By:

Justin Shady

Starring:

Dean Cain, Paul Wight, Michael Eklund

Genre:

Action

Running Time:

90 min

Movie Review: The Sky Has Fallen (2009)

Action, drama, Horror, Movie Reviews

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The zombie sub-genre, for me, got stale very fast.  While I enjoy a good zombie flick, my motivation for seeking out new ones out is pretty low at this point.  However, The Sky Has Fallen isn’t just another throwaway zombie film; there’s a lot more going on here than basic survival in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the undead, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winner of Best Feature at the 2009 Freak Show Horror Film Festival and Best Horror Feature at the 2009 Indie Gathering Film Festival, as well as  nominated for Best FX at the 2012 Maverick Movie Awards, Doug Roos’ The Sky Has Fallen is a feature deserving of its accolades.  Furthermore, the fact that it’s all practical effects is sure to make it even more appealing to horror fans.  However, as good as the practical effects are (and believe me, they’re good), The Sky Has Fallen’s main strengths lie in its characters and story; both of which are well-developed and interesting.

A post-apocalyptic love story which is heavy on both drama and horror, The Sky Has Fallen follows Lance (Carey McLaren) and Rachel (Laurel Kemper); 2 strangers who meet through unfortunate circumstance, who must battle their way through the wilderness against swarms of the undead. Sound too familiar?  Well, it isn’t.  These zombies are merely puppets used for killing by a more sinister force – a mysterious clan of shadowy figures with extraordinary abilities, which happen to include raising the dead and controlling them at their whim.

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The Sky Has Fallen is a beautifully haunting story, aided by a fantastic original score which enhances its emotional impact.  Of course, without characters to root, there would be no emotional impact whatsoever, and Kemper and McLaren do a great job playing the protagonists, while possessing an on-screen chemistry which makes their relationship and quest for survival one worth rooting for – and gives the story a very human core.  If that sounds off-putting to horror fans looking for blood and guts then fear not; the best thing about this movie is how refreshingly original it is, but it never shy’s away from being gruesome when the opportunity arises.  And it’s glorious.

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By stripping things back, The Sky Has Fallen goes far.  It’s a low-budget, character driven story, rich in texture and ambitious in its storytelling.  It applies the ethos of classic Kurowasa samurai movies to modern post-Apocalyptic horror to create a haunting, yet compelling story of mystery, violence, action, loss and love – with plenty of zombies, mysterious horrors and red stuff thrown in for good measure. This is a great piece of independent filmmaking I urge you all to support. You can find a copy HERE.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Doug Roos

Starring:

Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper, Corey Knisely

Genre:

Horror, Drama, Action

Running Time:

73 min

Movie Review: San Andreas (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews

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In a battle between the forces of nature versus Dwayne Johnson, my money is on the latter every time.  In San Andreas, that’s exactly what happens: after the largest earthquake in Californian history ripples through the San Andreas coastline, destroying everything in its path, rescue pilot Ray (Johnson) must make his way to San Francisco, surviving disaster after disaster, to save his daughter (Alexandra Daddario).  It’s generic, predictable and preposterous.  We know the main characters will survive the slew of grand scale destruction being thrown at them.  Physics… what physics?  Fuck physics.  San Andreas defies your physics.  It’s obvious that it’ll turn out fine for them all in the end.  The only thing surprising about this movie is just how damn good it is, despite knowing how it’s going to turn out from the outset.

There was no chance in Hell any of the main characters were going to die, yet the scenes of suspense had me on the edge of my seat praying that they’d make it out alive.  As I sat there watching Dwayne Johnson drive a speedboat up a tsunami dodging falling ships, my heart skipped a few beats, even though the brain I left at the door knew his stunt wasn’t humanly possible; the Dwayne Johnson fan sitting on that uncomfortable theater chair knew that a tsunami was merely a small obstacle for The Rock. Watching Alexandra Daddario swimming under water in a cleavage boasting tank top, I drooled like a cartoon dog staring at a cheeseburger, while screaming to myself, ”FIND A WAY TO SAFETY, YOU PERFECT CREATION.”  I don’t believe in God; especially not during San Andreas when Paul Giamatti confirms the scientific explanations for the mass destruction; but it’s difficult not to stare at Alexandra Daddario not and come to the conclusion that she’s an angel sent from Heaven.  Furthermore, her character Blake is so well written to be likable, Hollywood dupes us into cookie cutter emotional attachment.  Damn you, Hollywood.  Damn you for making me love again.

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The central characters, are all, in fact, just that – likable.  Hence why I couldn’t help but root for them in the face of danger.  Dwayne Johnson and his award winning smile would melt the polar icecaps he might have to face some day in a sequel.  Here, he shows dramatic range that proves he’s a competent versatile actor, even if he’s not Marlon Brando.  His movie wife (played by Gugino), drops the greatest F-Bomb in the history of a PG-13 film; her obstinate nature is a perfect accomplice for Dwayne’s unstoppable force of nature which makes the earthquakes seem human in comparison. That’s why we hope they manage to settle their marital problems, which stem from losing a child they couldn’t save in the past.  Sure it’s corny, soppy and intent on making us gooey eyed; it also further bolsters the obvious fact they’ll save Blake: no way would a family friendly Hollywood blockbuster have parents lose both children.  This earthquake is more than a disaster: it’s a chance at redemption.  That being said, worked.

The suspenseful action sequences are down to Brad Peyton’s expert direction: the CGI buildings and landmarks crumbling is some of the most believable I’ve ever seen as well.  Provided you can suspend your disbelief, you might get goosebumps.  San Andreas has fun destroying great American landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge and The Hoover Dam, but it looks so damn realistic it’s intense.

San Andreas isn’t for everyone: cynics will roll their eyes at its predictability and sentiment; those who can’t check their brain out will guffaw at the crimes against science; others might just find it to be too overbearing. However, if you can accept it for what it is you’ll have a blast: not only does it successfully execute its requirements, it does so better than most disaster movies.  The generically written characters are likable enough to emotionally root for and there’s plenty of destruction to keep the adrenaline pumping throughout.  This is a perfect summer extravaganza that scores high on the Richter Scale.  8/10

Directed By:

Brad Peyton

Written By:

Carlton Cuse & Andre Fabrizio

Starring:

Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioann Gruffudd

Genre:

Action

Running Time:

114 min

Movie Review: The Golden Child (1986)

Action, Comedy, fantasy, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Chinese mysticism isn’t a prominent theme in mainstream movies; in fact it isn’t a very common theme in western movies as a whole; but in 1986 2 were released within 5 months of each other.  The first, released in July, was John Carpenter’s cult classic Big Trouble In Little China, a kung-fu neo-western that failed to make a splash at the box office and would be considered a huge commercial flop, making back a mere 11 million from a 25 million dollar budget.  The second was The Golden Child, released in December, starring Eddie Murphy riding a wave of success after Beverly Hills Cop (1984) became a huge worldwide hit.  The Golden Child, unlike Big Trouble In Little China, was a moderate box office success; but throughout the years it would become forgotten by most while Carpenter’s film would go on to become a cult classic that’s still finding audiences to this day.  Comparisons between both movies are inescapable: they share as much similarities as they do differences, with actors James Hong, Peter Kwong and Victor Wong appearing in each of them.  Furthermore, Carpenter was even attached to direct The Golden Child, but would go on to jump ship from Paramount to 20th Century Fox and speed up production on Big Trouble and beat it to release.  It would seem like both companies were in competition with each other and these movies were the product of their rivalry.  Regardless of what they have in common, I think they’re both unique in their own right.

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The original script for The Golden Child, penned by Species (1995) writer Dennis Feldman was originally supposed to be a darker movie, starring Mel Gibson as the lead.  But due to Gibson’s unavailability, Eddie Murphy was given the part and the script was rewritten to suit his comedic sensibilities. He would be joined by Charles Dance and Charlotte Lewis, who would play his Devilish nemesis and love interest respectively.

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The plot is simple: Eddie Murphy plays Chandler Jarrell, a private detective who specializes in finding missing children.  After the disappearance of The Golden Child – a young monk boy with special magical abilities who was kidnapped by an evil sorcerer – Chandler is the only one who can save him. Chandler was sought out because he’s The Chosen One; at first he thinks it’s all ridiculous, of course – but as the investigation advances he learns that supernatural forces are real and only he can put a stop to the wicked Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance) and his minions.

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Reviews weren’t kind to The Golden Child upon its release and it currently holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, suggesting that the majority of critics are joyless morons.  However, in a positive review, Roger Ebert praised it for being, ”entertaining from beginning to end.”  That sums it up perfectly; The Golden Child won’t have you laughing at loud, but its charm is infectious and it’s so well paced and entertaining you’ll never feel bored. It may not be a particularly ”funny” movie, but it’s a fun one – and it has endless rewatch value, much like its cousin Big Trouble In Little China.

The special effects are dated by modern standards, but that just adds to its charm.  They represent a passage of time and era of film that never fails to give me a huge cheesy grin.  The 80’s was the pinnacle for action, adventure, comedy, fantasy and horror for me.  If it was for you too then it doesn’t get more 80’s than this; from the music to the costumes, the action sequences and humour – this is a blast.

The Golden Child isn’t perfect; comparisons to Big Trouble are inevitable and it doesn’t come close to matching Carpenter’s classic in awesomeness; but that doesn’t mean it’s not a gem in its own right.  Do yourself a favour and give it a chance.  7/10.

Directed By:

Michael Ritchie

Written By:

Dennis Feldman

Starring:

Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, J.L. Reate

Genre:

Action, Fantasy, Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

94 min

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past week, you’ve heard the critics raving about Fury Road – as well as fans proclaiming their excitement in their drones.  This sequel/reboot/requel is the latest installment of the franchise that put Aussie filmmaking on the map – and to this day remains the Godfather of post-Apocalyptic mayhem, having stood the test of time since the previous film, Beyond Thunderdome (1985), 30 years ago.  George Miller returns to the helm where he belongs – and this time they’ve given him $150.000000 to spend along with full creative control.  Sounds like it could potentially be one of the best action movies of all time, doesn’t it?

Well it is.  Fury Road is a geeks wet dream brought to the screen.  It’s the R rated blockbuster we’ve been craving since the dawn of time.  Not only has George Miller brought us the most balls-to-the-wall carnage we’ve seen – well ever – but he’s delivered a blockbuster that’s, quite frankly, groundbreaking.  While others are content to entertain us within the parameters of the status quo, Fury Road accelerates through the super highways of tomorrow; it has its own little world in the desert wasteland, where no other movie can touch it.  Not only are the action sequences the equivalent of taking an assortment of hallucinogenic hyperactive drugs and throwing caution into a tornado only to return in the form of mass carnage; this is cinematic punk rock in every sense.  The characters are stranger than ever, with the villains spouting the most epic sounding nonsensical drivel you’ve ever heard, yet it’s befitting to their much welcomed derangement.  It’s a massive middle finger to the establishment. making other amazing summer action extravaganzas in recent years seem generic and inferior in comparison.  Sorry Furious 7, I really love you, but Fury Road just surpassed you by tenfold.

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Much to the dismay of men’s rights activists (I know, what the fuck are men’s rights activists?) who have boycotted the movie due to supposed feminist ideals, Fury Road is very empowering to its female characters, with Charlize Theron stealing the show in a spectacle that’s enriched with interesting characters; even the smallest bit part players are larger than life creations.  There was a moment where her character, Imperator Furiosa, and Max grasp hands in a show of unity: a statement declaring, that, in this world, equality of the sexes is going to be the thing that saves it.  That’s not to say the women are unstoppable killing machines, however.  Miller has no problem killing off expendables of both sexes in brutal ways.  It’s a no holds barred thrill ride that takes no prisoners.  When was the last time you saw a baby cut from a woman’s stomach in a the multiplex?

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Road Warrior, to this day, remains one of the greatest movies of all time. No hyperbole – it’s a classic that both stands the test of time and still remains fresh because there’s nothing else like it.  Fury Road might be even better.  It’s certainly on a par.  Regardless of what’s the best, Fury Road is one of the best movies I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing in my 25 years on this Earth.  11/10

Directed By:

George Miller

Written By:

George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nick Lathouris

Starring:

Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne

Genre:

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Running Time:

120 mins

Movie Review: A Lonely Place To Die (2011)

Action, Movie Review, Thriller

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A Lonely Place To Die is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover; at first glance, it could easily be mistaken for another backwoods survival horror – only set in the Scottish Highlands: a group of city slickers on a hiking expedition find a young girl trapped in a hole in the woods and must escape the wilderness to get her to safety as they’re pursued by the men who put her there.  Sounds like a fairly standard cat-and-mouse horror fare, doesn’t it?  Well I’m happy to report that it’s so much more.  It starts off like our assumptions would assume, only to unfold into a more complex crime thriller involving various parties looking for the girl.  It accelerates at cheetah pace, shifting gears like a Formula One car, to make for one hell of a suspenseful ride.

Fun story: When director Julien Gilbey set out to find funding for A Lonely Place To Die, he was given 3 million pounds to make anything, as long as it was set in the Scottish Highlands and showed lots of scenery.  Basically, he could have handed in any old piece of crap as long as it had shots of mountains and forests.  The scenery is certainly seductive; if this comprised solely of shots of Munro’s it’d still be amazing due to how stunning the North of Scotland is.  However, thankfully there’s a story to it – a very original crime story.  The scenery is used as an antagonist to give a sense of isolation and danger; mountain ridges and rapid rivers prove to be as dangerous a foe as military trained assailants with guns.  It gives off the impression that sudden death could lurk behind every rock and tree, while making it a priority to avoid the majority of genre cliches.

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For any survival thriller to be effective, the characters must have some substance, in my opinion.  The reason Eden Lake surpasses mediocrity like Preservation et al, is because the heroes are people we can empathize with.  A Lonely Place To Die’s characters aren’t perfect human beings; there are even moments where they discuss ditching the little girl to save their own keisters – like most normal people would.  The people we’re supposed to root for are far from a group of saints: Ed (played by Ed Speleers) is a selfish insensitive twat who becomes a heavily flawed anti-hero.  The lead villain, Mr. Kidd (Sean Harris, at his slimy best), is well fleshed out and not just you’re typical one dimensional gunner.  We spend quite a bit of time with every party involved, which elevates it above and beyond a formulaic thriller.  Melissa George is a likable enough lead with a good heart who shows bravery throughout.  It’s a very physical role and she nails it.

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The less you know about A Lonely Place To Die the better; it’s better if you go in knowing as little as possible and allow it to take you by surprise.  It’s on Netflix US currently, so if you have it drop everything you’re doing and watch it.  For me, it’s up there with Kill List as the best British film of the 21st century that isn’t part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.  A smart crime story with the suspense and tension of the best horror films, you’d be foolish not to give it a whirl.  10/10.

Directed By:

Julian Gilbey

Written By:

Julian Gilbey & Will Gilbey

Starring:

Melissa George, Sean Harris, Ed Speleers, Alec Newman

Genre:

Thriller

Running Time:

99 mins

Bucktown (1975)

Action, Blaxploitation, Movie Reviews

bucktown-1On paper, Bucktown is a dream come true for blaxploitation fans; although Pam Grier and ”The Hammer” Fred Williamson would go on to star in other movies together, Bucktown would mark the first time the King and Queen would share the screen.  With that being said, does a movie with such automatic high expectations deliver when it comes to living up to it’s potential?  Well fear not my funk soul brothers and sisters; not only does it live up to expectations, but it just so happens to be one of the best blaxploitations ever made.

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Bucktown opens with Duke (Fred Williamson) getting off the train in Missouri to tend his dead brothers affairs; in the will, Duke also inherited his brothers nightclub, so he decides to hang around and keep it open until he can legally sell it.  However, the cops of Bucktown are corrupt rednecks who try to extort his business for $100 a week, which only causes Duke to fight back and call in some of his friends from back in the city, led by Roy (Thalmus Rasulala).  Once Duke, Roy and the gang clear the town of the corrupt police officers all seems well and good; that’s until Roy and his friends realize the gold mine they’ve walked into and start extorting the town for more money than the cops.  Now it’s up to Duke to put a stop to the people he brought in to help him in the first place.

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In order to fully appreciate Bucktown, it’s important to leave your logic at the door, and accept that 1970’s Missouri was like The Old West; a place where the sheriffs were corrupt and outlaws could take over the town without law enforcement batting so much as an eyelid.  But we don’t watch blaxploitation for its regard for the law and consequences for breaking it; these folks are bad asses who do whatever the hell the please whenever they feel like it.  Bucktown is essentially a western; only cowboy hats have been swapped for flannel jackets and saloons have upgraded to flashy red light district nightclubs.

Pam Grier and Fred Williamson are on top form, but those used to seeing Pam as Foxy Brown (1974) or Coffy (1973) might be disappointed.  Here her role is much more subdued; opting instead to play a supporting role as Fred’s nagging love interest instead of the femme fatale killing machine we all love.  This marked a change of pace for her at the time, and she played her part with conviction still, demonstrating a versatility that would contribute to her getting the part of Jackie Brown (1997) 22 years later .  This movie is the Fred Williamson and Thalmus Rasulala show; and even though we don’t get to see as much of Pam as we’d like to, it doesn’t detriment the film at all.

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The action scenes are nice and gritty, like a 70’s action movie should be; there’s some bar fights which include pool queues being broken and bottles being smashed; the brawling is rugged and manly, with enough testosterone on show than a John Wayne movie, and a final showdown that makes you want to go build a shelf afterwards just to score man points.  Right after I watched this movie I put on a Lumberjack shirt, grabbed my axe and took to the forest to chop wood as I dreamed about being able to fight in fine clothes and bed women like Pam Grier.

So is Bucktown worth your time?  If you can track down a copy I strongly urge you to check it out.  It doesn’t break any new ground, but it delivers all the goods a gritty action movie should.  The setting of Missouri is a welcome change as well; blaxploitation movies were mostly set in cities, with the exception of a handful.  I love Bucktown and so would you.  8/10

Director:

Arthur Marks

Writer:

Bob Ellison

Starring:

Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Carl Weathers

Genre:

Action, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

94 min