Tag Archives: Adventure

Review of Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

25 Oct

C’era una volta il West also known as Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) is an Italian western/adventure film, about a mysterious harmonica player protecting a widow of a farmer.

Directed by Sergio Leone (The Colossus of Rome (1961), Once Upon a Time in America (1984)).

Written by Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars (1964), A Fistful of Dynamite (1971)), Sergio Donati (The Sicilian Girl (2008), The Big Gundown (1966)), Dario Argento (Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012)) and Bernardo Bertolucci (The Triumph of Love (2001), The Conformist (1970)).

Starring: Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Gabriele Ferzetti, Keenan Wynn, Lionel Stander and others.

We start off with a blast to the cinematic nerves in our eyes. There’s one iconic image after another. A cowboy standing in the door-frame, with his coat flailing in the wind. Two of his associates come inside, they take over a railway station without uttering a word. They just wait for a train to arrive, doing pointless and minute things, that don’t serve any other purpose than guide us into their characters. It’s pure cinema, we enjoy what we are seeing as it is happening. We live in the moment on screen, because a few moments later the lifeless bodies of the bandits will fall to the ground and we realise, there was no tangible reason for these characters to be introduced.

The train arrives. It leaves. A man is left standing there, playing a harmonica. They watch each other, a classic suspense building excercise in westerns. The leader of the bandit speaks and soon after that they meet their sorry fates. Now maybe all the posturing wasn’t so pointless after all. If we saw these, distinct in their own bad-ass ways, bandits fall from the gunhand of this harmonica player it means something. It means he’s pretty damn bad-ass himself. I mean, it’s Charles Bronson after all.

Sergio Leone is known for his almost B-movie like, fast-paced and in some ways mocking westerns, but there’s always been something that elevated them way over some classic American westerns, with his iconoclastic approach, while developing his own style and showing incredible potential as a filmmaker. Now here we see Leone fully embracing the iconic wild west, slow pacing, almost Shakespearean themes, Tonino Delli Colli’s absurdly beautiful cinematography, Morricone’s score (now involving some wild electric guitar work), turning this in a full on spaghetti western epic.

A fact that can’t go unmentioned is Henry Fonda as Frank, the villain of the film. He shoots a man and his three kids and then shoots us with his piercing blue eyes, leaving us trembling and asking ourselves how this good guy of American cinema can now be this ruthless bastard.

Charles Bronson plays the main character named Harmonica. I guess, because he plays that harmonica so much. Although, I wouldn’t call him a good player, since he keeps playing the same bit over and over, it’s a cool sounding one, but really it’s not that hard. It’s like his own little theme song. Every hero should have one, but not so often they are played by themselves. Kind of pretentious.

I would by no means call myself an expert on westerns, my familiarity with the genre mostly comes down to Leone’s work and general knowledge of movie history. But including Leone’s films, the few other westerns I’ve seen and clips in documentaries on films, this is the most visually impressive one I’ve seen. I don’t want to constrain it to just westerns, it’s arguably among the best looking movies ever made.

The slow pace at times gets tiring, but it’s not because Leone failed to make an action movie, it certainly wasn’t his intention. He has made a tribute to westerns and that’s what makes it so cool. It’s a compilation, a distillation of the best western imagery. It’s in a way a ‘best of’. But as it sometimes happens when you try to list examples that represent the best of something, you might find it hard to stop, to know where to draw the line of what to keep in. It really is more about the silence before the storm than the storm itself. There’s these sudden bursts of violence, but each preceded by a long, suspenseful game of waiting for the exact right moment. It’s that period in a revolver duel stand-off, where two characters sweat and grimace. A lot of skill is necessary not to cut short or extend to boredom this period. If anyone can pull it off, Leone is the man.

Overall, I loved this movie. How can you not love a movie that has a line like “How can I trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”? Maybe not the best introduction to the genre, but definitely worth watching after gaining some experience in the western/spaghetti western genres. Recommended.

“Hey, have you heard this one?”
“Yes, I’ve fucking heard it, you’ve been playing it like non-stop since we met! If you’ll play it again, I’ll jam that harmonica down your throat, you repetitive fuck.”

Review of Conan the Barbarian (1982)

11 Sep

Conan the Barbarian (1982) is an adventure/fantasy/action film, based on the stories by Robert E. Howard.

Directed by John Milius (Red Dawn (1984), Dillinger (1973)).

Written by John Milius (Evel Knievel (1971), Farewell to the King (1989)) and Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Savages (2012)).

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Gerry Lopez and others.

It opens with a narrator telling us about Conan, but the way he talks, you don’t really care to listen, because it won’t really matter anyway. Then the movie finds it important to randomly show us some blacksmithing, just before kid Conan’s village is attacked and I wonder if I should care for these people I see for the first time.

Then James Earl Jones arrives on the scene and you know what? He looks ridiculous, even his epic voice (why couldn’t he narrate the movie instead?) doesn’t change the fact, that his wig of long, straight, black hair doesn’t look awesome at all. Yes, even after he decapitates Conan’s mom. And he doesn’t say a word during the whole scene, so he talks for the first time somewhere in the second half of the movie, when he appears again.

So the attackers kill everyone, except the children, which they take with them, because they’re pedophiles… or slavekeepers, I’m not sure. They make kid Conan push some rotating thing and a couple of years later he’s Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger and it doesn’t take long for Arnie to make his classic guttural “argh!” sounds.

Then we spend some time watching Conan killing people in arena fights. After becoming this champion fighter, he’s almost a celebrity, he gets whores and is allowed to read, which isn’t very barbarian-like thing to do, but don’t worry Conan isn’t smart. He just has the best possible life a slave can have, he lacks some freedom, but in every other way his life is much better than it would have been in his native village. Being an unappreciative bastard he uses the first opportunity to run away and be free, only to be instantly chased by a pack of wolves and falling into a cave to struggle with making fire and shit. If you ask me, being a slave was way better.

25 minutes into the movie we hear the main character speak for the first time and, oh dear god, where did he develop this thick Austrian accent? To think of it, 80s were a weird time, when people actually accepted his accent, this would never happen today.

He stumbles on some chick, they chat for a bit and then we get to listen to her moan out the rest of her lines, while they both are having sex. After that she turns into a horrible witch-monster, so Conan throws her into the fireplace. Who hasn’t had this first date, am I right? From this point on, it’s just Conan having various shenanigans, while searching for the man, who killed his parents. He meets a thief guy and then a  chick and they form a party of D&D characters and proceed on their adventure, which includes among other things, stabbing a huge rubber snake through the head and Conan punching a camel. There was once a time when a snake could look at least somewhat realistic and not like a CG piece of shit.

The movie is often very slow-paced. You get to see quite an amount of naked breasts. These were just two facts about the movie that sort of negate each other. The dialogue is often very clunky and not only when put into Arnold’s mouth. Some people, like Sandahl Bergman, deliver it quite well, with this rhythm, like it’s from Shakespeare, but you only half-listen to what is said. Later on they use Jones’ booming voice and he gives easily the best performance in the movie, but it doesn’t take back his absurd appearance and not having aged a day in the time when Conan became Mr. Universe.

To give credit to Arnold, he might be the only actor that sort of can pull off the Conan look, but when at one point in the movie he is disguised as a monk, he does look ridiculous, the robe failing to hide that he is a muscle-bound freak. Often I got the feeling that the script had lines, but they opted for Arnold just to stay quiet and scowl or not emote at all.

The movie has some nice gore and it’s actually kind of odd, the movie is a solid R, but it clearly appeals most to teenage boys, younger than the allowed age. Also it made me think if we really see any R rated adventure flicks nowadays. I don’t think so.

Overall, a decent, but really predictable movie for adolescents. I didn’t find it as entertaining as some later Schwarzenegger flicks, but if you’re a fan give it a watch, nothing remarkable about it. Not recommended.

Between your villain looking like a drag queen and your protagonist looking like this, I’m really not sure which side to root for.

Review of The Expendables 2 (2012)

21 Aug

The Expendables 2 (2012) is an ensemble action/adventure/…action film, a sequel to The Expendables.

Directed by Simon West (Con Air (1997), The Mechanic (2011)).

Written by Richard Wenk (16 Blocks (2006), Vamp (1986)), Sylvester Stallone (F.I.S.T (1978), The Expendables (2010)) and others.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, Nan Yu and others.

This is a movie made specifically for me. When I was growing up, most of these guys were my idols. They were my favourite actors, not because they were good actors, but because they’re bulging muscles and sweaty, snarling faces made me believe in superheroes, people, who could machine gun entire hordes of bad guys down, while standing in plain sight and not take one bullet. And then face off with the main baddie, who was really bad and after killing him, spit out some cheesy one-liner. I looked up to them, I felt protected by them. We approached the 2000’s and soon these guys went away. I was left with action stars, that looked like male models.

I couldn’t be the only person who felt disappointed. Sure, I like good acting now, but seeing Arnie jam an enormous drill into a guy, while screaming “SCREW YOU!” was something that I missed seeing in movies. And I really wasn’t the only person. When I was a kid, I would have never imagined a movie like this possible, but two years back, Stallone answered my childhood prayers and made The Expendables. If you think I could ever have enough of this you’re insane. So did I like The Expendables 2? Of course, I did.

I mean, it is NOT a good movie. The dialogue is bad, the one-liners stupid, acting silly, plot simple, action over-the-top and so on. But, this also describes most of the action movies with these guys that I loved. This is what I wanted and this is what I got. There’s no use in describing the plot, there’s nothing really specific about it, mostly coming down to Expendables shooting people and blowing shit up.

The best parts were the call-backs and references and self-aware humor. Willis and Arnold are in the movie a lot more as well, even Chuck Norris, who has maybe the smallest part does get more than one appearance. Jet Li is in the movie only for the first action scene, though and Rourke doesn’t appear at all. My favourite was definitely Dolph Lundgren, who is more of the comic-relief character here, which is interesting, since I think I liked him the most in the first one as well, when he played an asshole. They added some younger/newer faces, like Nan Yu and Liam Hemsworth, but in all the testosterone provided by the rest of the cast they got lost and forgettable.

The action is insane, but pretty well choreographed and mostly practical effects, except for additional CG gore and the more complex effects scenes. The movie opens with an action scene that is just crazy violent and over-the-top. Stallone takes down a helicopter by “driving” a bike into it. And the movie rarely slows down after that. There’s not much to say about it, except that you should know what to expect going into it.

Overall, more funny and entertaining than the first one, if you want no holds barred, balls to the wall action with some real gory mayhem and puns, if you grew up with 80’s action hero movies, definitely recommended.

Pictured: Irony, as the one who is supposedly the most bad-ass of them all, is the only one who looks and sounds like some maintenance guy.

 

Review of Barbarella (1968)

17 Aug

Barbarella (1968) is a Franco-Italian sci-fi/comedy/adventure film, based on the Barbarella comic book series by Jean-Claude Forest.

Directed by Roger Vadim (Et Dieu… créa la femme (1956), And God Created Woman (1988)).

Written by Terry Southern (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The Loved One (1965)) and Roger Vadim (Spirits of the Dead (1968),Don Juan ou Si Don Juan était une femme… (1973)) and others.

Starring: Jane Fonda, John Philip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O’Shea, Marcel Marceau, David Hemmings and others.

To be fair, I think every movie should start with a naked Jane Fonda flying around in zero gravity inside after stripping out of a spacesuit inside a spaceship, with its entire interior covered entirely in shag-carpets. Ok, maybe not, it’s enough with one movie that starts like this.

So here we are with this Barbarella chick, who is some sort of law-upholder in a very hippie-ish vision of the far future, where greeting is „love”, people aren’t ashamed to be naked (at least Jane Fonda isn’t) and there’s nothing that doesn’t scream 1960’s.

To give the film some real credit, even though it’s cheesy beyond imagination, the people involved must have been aware of it, it’s not like they tried to do some epic space opera and unintentionally created this cheese-factory.

At one point Barbarella is bitten by some creepy dolls with nutcracker mouths, then rescued by a guy who speaks an unknown language, until she adjusts her „tongue box”. I think they thought it was hilarious themselves. It is often considered a classic ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ movie, but really, it’s so tongue-in-cheek, that I don’t really consider it appropriate.

Then later on it turns out that on Earth in the future, people have sex by holding hands, which, I suppose, is the reason why it’s a peaceful, weapon-less planet now. Because everyone stops waving their dicks around while shooting from machine-guns. However, Barbarella is polite and agrees to do it „the old-fashioned way” and enjoys it quite a lot.

The movie has some really good 1960’s music, which doesn’t change, but distracts you from the plot that makes little to no sense. The set-designs are campy and as actual locations don’t make sense either, but at the same time, they’re very detailed and in a way fascinating.

The only way I could describe the plot is by summarising its structure: Barbarella goes somewhere, someone tries to kill her, she has some sexual experience and then it repeats. We even get to see the hilarious hand sex.

David Hemmings appears as a rebel leader and he is great, his scenes were the highlight of the movie, since when he’s on screen the movie starts feeling like a straight-up comedy or a spoof, but then he goes away and we’re back to weird shit, that is funny in its own ‘who came up with this?’ way, like a scene, where a bunch of chicks are smoking the „essence of man”, which is a guy boiling in a huge fishbowl.

I learnt a lot from this movie, but not one of these things are of any use. I doubt if I’ll ever have the chance to perform CPR on an angel, by cranking his wings from the back.

Overall, I got kind of bored, because the movie threw too much nonsense at me, for me to keep caring what’s going on. Might be fun with some friends and alcohol, otherwise, not recommended.

I don’t… what’s happening? I saw the movie, didn’t I?

Review of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)

27 May

Se ying diu sau also known as Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) is a Hong Kong martial arts/action/comedy film.

Directed by Woo-ping Yuen (True Legend (2010), Iron Monkey (1993)).

Written by See-Yuen Ng (No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), Drunken Master (1978)), Chi-Kuang Tsai and Shiao Loong.

Starring: Jackie Chan, Siu Tien Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek, Roy Horan, Hark-On Fung, Lung Chang and others.

So here we are, quite early in Chan’s career and his first hit movie. It’s the first of his signature action comedies and the first straight out martial arts comedy. We open up to the opening credits in front of Chan just doing various kung-fu moves with exaggerated sound effects. Spending my childhood watching action movies set me up for a huge disappointment when I saw actual fist fights, which had no punching sounds or choreography.

The fights are really good here, fast, interesting, tightly edited. Of course, the most impressive parts are not the bare-bone fist fights, but the slapstick parts, where everyday objects are used to show the most imaginative ways of using them. And the best part is that unlike modern action or fight scenes it has these long takes, so you can just enjoy the dazzling choreography and not go into an epilepsy seizure.

There’s a lot of good things about the movie, but some are just odd. First of all the scene editing sometimes makes very little sense. Or the one not-asian actor in the movie playing a bad guy who is disguised as a priest. Or an old man getting stabbed and then somehow just healing up in a couple of hours. Also for some reason when Chan sees that his mentor is stabbed he just starts picking his nose. Because, that’s what people do in a situation like that. Time is used very abstractly in this movie, Chan’s character becomes a master fighter in just one day.

The score at times goes insane. Whenever Chan is learning something, we get these trippy late 70’s techno pieces, which are really jarring in a period kung-fu flick.

It is paced in a way that you don’t have to wait very long for the next fight, because honestly that is why you’re watching a movie like this. Some of them are funny and some of them are important to the plot and serious.

The whole ending is just so incredibly absurd. Just to give you a taste of it, I can tell that I learned that pressing down on one’s head and then kicking them in the crotch, while doing cat sounds, will make the one die or maybe black out.

Overall, entertaining and very wacky, although I enjoy Chan’s 80’s films quite a bit more, still if you like him, this is one of his early career’s better movies. Recommended.

“Hey, look, I’m doing kung fu moves in a red room! There’s no reason for me to do this, except that they didn’t want the opening credits on a plain black backround, so watch!”

Review of The 39 Steps (1935)

5 May

The 39 Steps (1935) is a British mystery/thriller/romance film based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy (1972), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)).

Written by Charles Bennett (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)).

Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft, Godfrey Tearle, John Laurie Frank Cellier and others.

Here’s an early Hitchcock classic, with the familiar theme of an innocent man on the run.

Our hero is a Canadian man, who displays neither a Canadian accent or exceptional hockey skills, but other than that he is very happy-go-lucky type of guy, quite kind, jokes a lot, is totally unsuspicious and stays calm even after a woman is stabbed during the night in his apartment. This is kind of odd, since the stabbers leave after killing the woman. They probably got out of the house and were like „Oh, shit, we forgot to kill the guy! I swear, we’d forget our heads if they weren’t attached to our necks. Oh well, let’s just wait for him on the street, he’ll walk right out of there after he finds the chick with a knife in her back.”

Of course he knows he has to bail and we get a cool transition from a screaming woman, who finds the girl’s body to a train blowing it’s horn. The guy is now on train and the police gets on that train. He escapes and goes to some crofter’s house and the police find him, sure, it’s interesting that they are able to find him this quickly all the time, but even more amazing is the fact that characters keep reading about the developments of this investigation in the newspapers. Multiple times, even during one day. In 1930’s newspapers knew how to work, no wonder now printed press is dying.

Some negative aspects creep up here and there. There’s some sped-up shots during a foot chase, which look just cheesy. We also have the age-old „saved from a bullet by a book” trick, which was even getting old by the 1930’s. It’s not exactly a smart movie, but it is fast-paced and entertaining one and we still this kind of action romances today pretty often.

Robert Donat is very charismatic as the lead. He acts and looks something like a blend of Clark Gable and Brendan Fraser. Kind of goofy, but at the same time very suave and at times malicious. And he has a nice chemistry with Madeleine Carroll as the romantically reluctant female lead.

The last shot is just perfect. Not that Hitchcock’s movies lack perfect shots. Although some film critics tribute Hitchcock with calculating and polishing every single shot of his movie to perfection and knowing exactly what emotion that will bring out in the viewer. I don’t think I necessarily agree, I think it’s more that he was so talented that his intuition was what told him the exactly right way to film scenes. Of course, with years of experience he also developed masterful technique, but this movie was still made quite early in Hitchcock’s career.

Overall, I wouldn’t count this as one of Hitchcock’s definitive works, but it still is a nice little romantic man-on-the-run flick. However, I don’t recommend this as an introduction to Hitchcock’s work and suggest picking up some of his later, more refined classics.

“Shit, man! Though, it would’ve been more impressive if I hadn’t seen that War-vet missing both legs there by the punch bowl.”

Review of The Avengers (2012)

3 May

The Avengers (2012) is an action/sci-fi/adventure film, which is based on Marvel Comics’ superhero team of the same name and several previous movies featuring its members.

Directed by Joss Whedon (Serenity (2005), Firefly (2002 TV)).

Written by Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Toy Story (1995)) and Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk (2008), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)).

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and others.

This is the movie, that it’s all been leading up to. Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America together in one movie? Sounds epic? Yes, it does! Does the movie live up to all the hype? Maybe? Not really? I don’t know.

I’m really lost on all of it so I’ll just run through the characters.

Black Widow – although they tried to make her do some cool stuff, she still felt like the lamest member of The Avengers, I mean, being a spy is cool and all, but she has no powers, except looking hot. In one scene Johansson attempted to speak Russian, I’ve heard worse in movies, but if her character is Russian, she should be able to speak better, that’s just a nitpick though.

Hawkeye – not much to say about him, at first he just shoots arrows while under Loki’s control and later he shoots arrows and… well, there’s not much else to his character, but Renner does well in the role.

Loki – the villain. Hiddleston really impressed me, I thought he was ok in Thor, but here he was just great, not overly serious, just a very stubborn, arrogant jerk, at first I thought it’s not the greatest villain choice, but Hiddleston made it enjoyable.

Nick Fury – Well, it’s Samuel L. Jackson, in other words, he’s a stick with two ends, you can’t go wrong, but you can’t do anything new and interesting either.

Thor – He’s kind of whatever, I’ve never cared for his character, even after his movie, the only difference was that I could accept him as a serious character.

Captain America – Chris Evans is ok, his costume helmet looks a bit stupid, but it’s not a big deal, the waking up in a world where everyone you knew is dead and everything is different is an interesting aspect of his character, but only vaguely explored.

Iron Man – he is still sort of funny, but I’m getting tired of Downey Jr.’s shtick, his fast talking asshole genius routine is getting tiresome for me.

Hulk – I was surprised, but he was totally the best part of the movie. Mark Ruffalo was good as Banner and the Hulk was awesome. He looked as good as a green CG gorilla can look and was used correctly. There’s one beautifully hilarious moment, where Hulk goes against Loki.

The story itself is basically: bad guy has MacGuffin, good guys need it, with some ulterior motives and dire consequences thrown in. Most of the entertainment comes out of Hulk smashing and personalities clashing. It is cool that the team doesn’t really get along. That is until they get something to… (clue: the title).

The 3D is shit, it’s incredibly pointless. It was ok in the last half-hour, in the climactic action scene, which was going on at daytime New York, but the first half of the movie, takes place mostly during the night or in dark places, so it sucks. If I had watched it in 2D, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more.

Overall, it’s a fun, entertaining, lighthearted movie, it walks the line between providing fan service and fun for the common movie goer, who cares if it also loses something in both departments at the same time. Recommended for everyone who enjoys some superhero action and doesn’t mind heavy CG.

“Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking superheroes on this motherfucking plane! ”

Review of The Hunger Games (2012)

16 Apr

The Hunger Games (2012) is an action/drama/sci-fi film based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

Directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003)).

Written by Gary Ross (Big (1988), Dave (1993)), Billy Ray (The Shooter (1995), State of Play (2009)) and Suzanne Collins (Clarissa Explains It All (1991 TV), The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996 TV)) .

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and others.

So here is the movie, the marketing tried to tell us is going to be the next Twilight. And that is a fucking insult. Except for its target demographic, there’s nothing these two have in common. Twilight is a characterless romance with a gimmick and The Hunger Games is a cool action drama for young people. Another comparison that is often brought up is Battle Royale and some other similar films, but the survival reality TV wasn’t a new concept even when Battle Royale was made. Why didn’t we draw the line after The Running Man or even earlier Death Race 2000, in an age of constant idea recycling, this is not a serious offense.

And now even more than ever this satire of reality television makes sense. During the contest we get all the staples of modern reality TV, forced romances, very antagonistic characters, fake obstacles created by the producers, sleazy hosts and so on.

It’s also very stylistic movie and I think this could get an Oscar nomination for production design. It is abundant with weird anime inspired/Neo-Victorian outfits for the upper class members of the society and some early 20th century common plain clothes for the working class.

Jennifer Lawrence, who I think is one of the most promising new actresses, doesn’t disappoint here and is solid as Katniss, who volunteers for the game show, after her sister is chosen and thank god, because her sister was a total wimp, she would’ve been dead in 5 minutes. Most of the other contestants are either not given enough screen time to do much (would have loved to see more of Isabelle Fuhrman) or they are just ok.

The adult characters, however, are very fun to watch. Woody Harrelson, is a winner of the games, who now is a drunk mentor for the District 12 contestants and he’s just amazingly entertaining. Also here he looks like an older Josh Holloway. Elizabeth Banks I didn’t even recognize under a heavy layer of make-up that looks like taken straight off of Helena Bonham Carter in Alice In Wonderland. She also acts appropriately over-the-top. As does Stanley Tucci being the overacting host with blue hair, who really knows how to milk the contestants for the right emotions, both from them and audience. Seems like the director told all the adult main actors to turn their eccentricity up to eleven. Lenny Kravitz went the other way though and just put on some golden eye-liner. Donald Sutherland does what he does best, plays a cold bastard.

The main negative point was the way it was shot. At the start of the movie we get some very shaky handheld shots of static things and I didn’t suspect that it was getting me ready for some of the later way more extreme shaking. In order to get the PG-13 rating they decided to keep some of the violence in, but make it totally incoherent. Seriously, after a couple of minutes of seeing stuff that looked like it was shot handheld by Michael J. Fox trying to stand while wearing roller skates, where the wheels are replaced by rotating vibrators, I thought it’s going to be the first time I’ll get motion sickness from a movie.

Overall, a good movie, I liked it and could recommend basically to anyone.

Pictured: Jennifer Lawrence interviewed by Meryl Streep on the set of The Iron Lady.

Review of The Descent (2005)

7 Apr

The Descent (2005) is a horror/adventure/drama film about a group of women who go cave exploring only to find that the cave has been explored before them.

Directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers (2002), Centurion (2010)).

Written by Neil Marshall (Killing Time (1998), Doomsday (2008)).

Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder and others.

There’s really not many horror movies where the main cast consists solely of women, but here we are following six women, who have in my opinion one of the worst hobbies imaginable. Fucking cave exploring.

I prefer to think of myself as reasonably claustrophobic. Rides in elevators don’t bother me at all, scenes in action movies where people are crawling through vents make me feel slightly uneasy and the thought of crawling through sections of caves, where there is no possibility to turn around, stand up or be sure you won’t be squashed by some boulders is fucking terrifying to me. So I guess I’m the target audience of this particular horror movie.

The movie starts a year before the main events with the women doing some dangerous shit in the water (was it rafting?) as our main character’s husband and daughter wave to her from the shore. As they get ashore, it is important that you don’t miss some very meaningful glances between some characters as they foreshadow some tension which leads to the finale, there’s other hints sprinkled throughout the movie, some of which make sense only after seeing it.

The husband is distracted on the ride home and causes an accident, which leads to Sarah running through a hospital hall and having a Hitchcock zoom performed on her. There’s other consequences as well.

So a year goes by, the women gather to have a new adventure, because doing dangerous shit isn’t half as risky as being distracted on the ride home. And as I mentioned they go cave exploring. To spice things up, the leader of their expedition decides to fuck safety and go to the caves where allegedly no one has ever been before. What can I say, that’s the greatest idea ever. If you’re a professional team of scientists and everything, but not if you’re a bunch of chicks, who cleared out the rock climbing equipment and flashlight store.

Of course they soon start regretting they’re choice, even before they realize that they are surrounded by a bunch of flesh-eating bat-humanoid creatures, who have evolved to have great hearing, no eyesight and look like Nosferatu and Gollum had children. Seriously, the first time one of them suddenly appears I nearly shat myself. The make-up is just awesome.

The caves we see were actually built sets, but there is no way you can tell, at first I was wondering how the hell they shot it in actual caves. The few, low powered light sources really help in concealing the fact that they are not real, while also creating the atmosphere and claustrophobic feeling. But it also made it kind of hard to tell the women apart at times, the fact that they were in helmets, dirty and had different accents and names I did not manage to memorize.

The movie does raise a lot of questions, mostly about the creatures, but I enjoyed the movie enough, to let it go. I stopped worrying and learned to love The Descent.

Overall, definitely one of the best horror movies of the 2000’s, a creature feature where the creatures aren’t the only scary thing. Recommended for sure.

Evolution of crawlers explained.

Review of Project X (2012)

5 Apr

Project X (2012) is a comedy/something/nothing film, which is filmed in the popular “found footage” style.

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh, who prior to this has worked as a music video director.

Written by Matt Drake (Tully (2000)) and Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), 21 Jump Street (2012)).

Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Brady Hender, Nick Nervies and others.

I really don’t know what to say about this movie, I had fun, but on the other hand it’s not a good movie. And I don’t mean it in a so-bad-it’s-good way.

First of all the technical aspect. It was only a matter of time before they would start making found footage movies in other genres. But the problem here is that it is a total gimmick. The camera man is intentionally a non-interactive character. The whole point of handing the camera to a character is that we are presented a subjective view of the events, but here since the character doesn’t show any attitude and the other characters treat him as just a camera, it becomes pointless to use this trick. There are points where other characters use Flip cameras or other handheld cameras and they actually serve a purpose and I really don’t see why that couldn’t just be inserted into a traditionally filmed movie. I didn’t for a second feel the illusion of this being an actual „found footage”. I’d call it MTV’s found footage, where you get crystal clear sound in the midst of a thousand people party and music cuts off immediately after something sudden happens and has various party-dance montages (not surprising given the director).

It is marketed as „Superbad on crack”, which is true in the sense that the three main characters are the same ones from Superbad, they also want to get chicks and all, but here they lose sight of any sense of morality or responsibility.

After it all the main characters remark, that it was the most epic party ever and they think it was worth it. No, it wasn’t. Although the consequences of this party are just thrown in there, like an afterthought. At the end of the movie the main character has destroyed his future and bankrupted his parents in one night. What does he get out of this? He gets the girl. He gets the girl, who has been his friend since childhood and he could’ve gotten her at any point anyway. I have no sympathy for him.

I just don’t like people who are so afraid to be different, that they would do anything to fit in. Ok, maybe I don’t understand it, because I have never been the kid others make fun of, I have never tried to pretend to be someone I’m not to fit in and so on, but trust me, being an interesting person gets you better friends than a huge party.

I felt sorry for the guys parents, but then again the father was a total douchebag. At the beginning of the movie he calls his son a loser and in the end is a bit proud of him. Well, if you think that your son becoming a successful, normal person is worth less than him throwing a huge party, banging chicks and whatever, then fuck you, you deserve it all.

I don’t want to go in all the details of what is wrong with this movie, but just know that this was really an epic party, with some hilarious moments of a midget punching balls and various finger-banging techniques explained, so if you just switch you’re brain off for the duration of it, you might enjoy it.

Overall, I had fun watching it, it’s a spectacle alright, but although I laughed at most of the jokes, I also felt depressed because it might be one of the most juvenile movies I’ve ever seen. If you like sex-comedies, recommended, if not, don’t bother. Project X is like some really hardcore porn, you watch it and think “oh, yeah, that’s awesome!”, but if it really came (no pun intended) to it, you’d be like “nah, I’ll pass”.

"I seem to have wondered into the wrong movie. Could've sworn it said "Project X" on the door."