Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012)

I don’t get the chance to do this too often on this site, mostly because the sort of films I usually like have been written about by much cleverer people than me, but I absolutely loved this film. No ifs, no buts, it’s funny, fast, violent and silly, it praises the working class, and it’s just loads and loads of fun. Also, although I don’t remember it that way, my wife was the person to recommend this film to me, after I’d said I wasn’t bothered. She had no problem with the cockney accent, either (even though she’s American. I guess they have Eastenders on PBS or something).

The title of the film takes a lot of the heavy lifting of explaining the film to you, so I can just go light on that aspect. A couple of brothers, Terry and Andy, always getting into scrapes but basically good guys, have a plan to rob a bank in order to save the old people’s home that their grandad lives in, and stop him from being sent to Bradford. They recruit Mental Micky, who has a lot of guns, Davey Tuppence, who has already done time for armed robbery (which did not go well for him), and Katy, their cousin, who’s a lock expert. She’s played by Michelle Ryan, off of Eastenders and the US reboot of the Bionic Woman, which I liked – nothing to do with how pleasant Ms Ryan is to look at, or the fights she had with Katee Sackhof, honest missus – but which got cancelled.

Beamed in from another, slightly more serious, film

Some builders attempting to put some awful modern high rise thing in the heart of the East End disturb a tomb, sealed in 1666, and boom we have zombies. The old people’s home gets surrounded, and the bank robbery, which was going quite badly up to that point, is rescued when the police surrounding them get eaten. So, we have two groups of people fighting for their lives, with the bank robbers (now with two hostages) fighting their way across London to go and rescue their grandad.

And that’s about it for the plot. If you’re coming to this site and haven’t seen a bunch of zombie movies, then shame on you. For the rest of you, you don’t need me to tell you how these things go – there’s double-crosses, people getting bitten but saying they’re okay, romances forming, escape vehicles breaking down, heroic sacrifices, all that good stuff. The residents of the old people’s home are some of Britain’s funniest old actors – Richard Briers, Honor Blackman, the guy from Lovejoy who wasn’t Ian McShane, and Alan Ford (who has almost certainly been in at least one Guy Ritchie film, I’m not going to check).

I think this film uses language in an interesting way. Take one of the Wayans Brothers early, funny films. Some of their lines were really just people swearing or saying something not-all-that-funny but in a heavy “street” accent, and I think this film is the same, but using the Cockney accent. It’s great, and I laughed a lot (especially at Grandad’s flashback of being in World War 2, busting into a Nazi base and killing em all, while spewing “come on then, you Nazi mugs! Let’s fackin’ ave it!”), and it’s cool to see a British film unafraid to do it.

I absolutely recommend this film. It’s up there with “Severance” (coincidentally or not, written by the same person!) as one of my favourite British horror films, and hope it does well all over the world. Its digs against the rich developers moving into the East End, and its praise of the good, honest working class east end people is a breath of fresh air. It’s not perfect, by any stretch – Michelle Ryan’s dialogue isn’t all that good, she seems to be in a slightly different film to the rest of them and she’s not the world’s most convincing cockney – but all in all, it’s brilliant.

Cockneys vs. Zombies on IMDB
Buy Cockneys Vs. Zombies [DVD]

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Youtube Film Club: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

First up, don’t say I never give you anything:

Available in its entirety on Youtube, so go and watch it. Don’t worry, the rest of us will wait right here for you. I guess I’m going to have to spoil the heck out of this film, so it’s best if we’re all on the same page.

We start off with a little bit of jumping around in time. Or maybe the editor quit and no-one else could figure out how to use the machine. Camp Arawak, “Up For Sale”. Straight away, the film puts us on the back foot – given that it’s open at the beginning of the film, and open at the end, when chronologically does that “for sale” sign happen? But I can’t dwell on this! There’s so much film to talk about!

It’s a happy summer’s day, and there’s a family out in a small boat, a couple of kids towing their waterskiiing friend in a speedboat, and various assorted kids in the background. So far, so beautiful. But…if you want to blame anyone for the carnage that follows, blame the idiot girl who demands that her boyfriend lets her pilot the boat. He gives in, and almost immediately everything goes to crap – while they’re switching over, the family have capsized their little boat, and are laughing and joking about…then another man wanders over to the shore and, calmly, asks the family to hurry up, as they’re going to miss some meeting or other. Now, I’d like to think I’d express some emotion if my friend and his two kids had just capsized, even if it were just to say “would you like a hand?” But our man is remarkably stoic, which is good because, apart from ten seconds later on in the film, it’s the last we’ll ever see of him.

Anyway, the dad dies, and the two kids, who are apparently cousins (I couldn’t be bothered to find out why) are sent to live with someone who the boy, Ricky, calls “Mum” but the girl, Angela, doesn’t call anything at all. The mum is an extra-creepy overactor in the same fashion as that woman from “Troll 2” – you know the one:

I don’t want to say I have a type, but call me

They look a bit similar too. So, this unbelievably odd woman packs them off to summer camp, and after a terrible, stilted exchange, we’re at…Camp Arawak! The camera pans across buses and buses full of kids running towards the camp, full of…excitement? But the problem is, the looks on their faces and their screams make it sound like they’re running away from something very bad, not towards something good. If it was a better film, I’d be all “that’s a nice bit of foreshadowing”,but as it’s this I did not. We’re introduced to the camp counsellors and the camp workers…one of them is the worst paedophile I think we’ve ever seen on film, just openly in front of all the others talking about the fresh meat and how they can’t be too young. Rather than, I don’t know, chasing him down the street with sticks, or calling the police, they just laugh it off and go about their day. WHAT THE HELL?

I’ll try and give you a flavour of the film through the next half hour or so. One of the camp counsellors, an angry young woman, tells the rest of the kids her name is “Meg – spelled M – E – G”. How else would you spell it?…the paedophile gets a pot of boiling water over his entire body…and then the first actual murder, an idiot camp counsellor who’s been horrible to everyone, especially including Ricky and Angela. He goes inside an upturned boat and calls out to the woman he was just sexually harrassing, who’d left the lake minutes before, and never comes out. Who is the murderer, we people with head injuries who are unable to see the bloody obvious say?

The police turn up to take the body away, and the boss of the camp manages to cover it up, convincing the police it was an accident. Now, this is a problem I have with so many horror films (and one I hoped that “Scream” and its ilk had killed off forever but keeps showing up, in films like Piranha 3DD) – the people in a film acting as if their universe doesn’t have any horror films in it. When you’re at a summer camp, or a hotel, or any other enclosed space where murders are happening, CLOSE IT DOWN! There are going to be more! Also, in a notoriously litigious country such as the USA, I’d think all it’d take would be some parent suing the summer camp for keeping it open after they knew everyone was in mortal danger, and people would be paying up millions of dollars and doing some serious time.

The third death is someone getting rather gruesomely stung by a bees nest, and in the aftermath of this we reveal that this camp pretty much employs one decent Guido-type, one decent woman and a ton of psychopaths. If you were a lazy antisocial idiot, would you go and work at a summer camp? At the same time, Angela has got herself a little boyfriend, a scrawny type who seems nice enough, until he sneaks up on her and does the “hands over the eyes, guess who?” thing for the second time. Now, I’m no bleeding heart, but if there’s just been a murder, you’d have to be some massive bell-end to sneak up on an emotionally traumatised young girl.

This triggers a flashback, which is when the creepiness of the film kicks into high gear and we enter the endgame. It appears that Dad and his business partner were actually gay! This is shown by the two kids giggling behind a door while the two men lay in bed, staring into each other’s eyes (it’s obvious they didn’t pay the men enough to kiss or even get their heads fairly close together).

The camp owner finally realises, when he only has 25 kids left (it seems some of the parents were sensible enough to come and get their offspring from Camp Murder), that it might be a good time to shut up shop, but not until they’ve done their normal evening’s activities, including a social event in the main hall and a bunch of kids going camping. We reveal that there’s 10 counsellors still there, which seems like over-employment for the 25. But anyway! The bitchiest of the remaining counsellors gets stabbed through a wall, left in the shower she was in for about an hour, then falls out conveniently when someone goes looking for her. I’ve often wondered about those corpses that stay upright for extended periods of time…well, of course I haven’t, this film is just stupid.

Kids are dropping like flies now. Four of the camping kids are butchered in their sleeping bags, and for those people who’ve been living on another planet and don’t understand how human drama works, the killer is revealed. It’s Angela! But, there’s a twist in this…tale…we get another flashback, to the newly orphaned Angela going to live with her Aunt…the woman, upset at her husband being dead and / or gay (I’m not sure which one was which’s father, to be honest), wants no truck with men, and ANGELA IS ACTUALLY A LITTLE BOY!!!! The woman decides to raise Angela as a girl…I didn’t see that one coming, so kudos to you, movie. She’s found at the dockside, screaming demonically, naked, covered in blood, with her face superimposed on a teenage boy’s body. Yikes!

A girl with something extra

There’s an extra bonus for us all, though, the unbelievably creepy end credits music. A gentleman by the name of Frankie Vinci was employed to write some songs for this movie, and one of them is now being played. Because I think you might not believe me, here’s a link to the actual lyrics of this song:

http://www.lyricsmania.com/angelas_theme_youre_just_what_ive_been_looking_for_lyrics_frankie_vinci.html

Knowing the sort of girl Angela actually is, and given the fact “she” is maybe 14 or 15, what do you think of this adult man singing lines like

“You’re just what I’ve been looking for
No other boy can love you more
You’re the only girl I adore
You’re just what I’ve been looking for”

???

Well, I’ll still give this film a hearty recommendation. It’s bonkers, doesn’t slow down enough to be boring, and is well worth a watch, given it’s free. Enjoy!

Sleepaway Camp on IMDB
Buy Sleepaway Camp Trilogy [1983] [DVD]

John Carter (2012)

I was put off from watching this by the torrent of bad reviews and box office death it was subjected to, and I wish I hadn’t. The correct response at the end of this film is “huh, that was actually pretty decent! What were those assholes on about?” But more on that at the end of this review.

We have a film within a film, as it were – Edgar Rice Burroughs is going to the reading of his Uncle John’s will, where he’s named as sole beneficiary. One of the effects is a diary, telling a tale so tall as to be almost certainly untrue, but Edgar reads it anyway and we’re thrown into the film proper.

 

John Carter is a Confederate soldier, a damn good one, who’s trying to find a cave filled with gold three years after the end of the Civil War. He tries to find some, gets captured by some Union soldiers and asked to fight on their behalf, refuses (his pacifism will be a reurring theme in this film) and then escapes. Before you know it, he’s grabbed a space-medallion-thing which transports him to Mars!

 

While there, he gets involved in the war between two city-states, Helium and Zodanga, and falls in love with the beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium and super-smart scientist. There’s some cool four-armed green-skinned fellas, a fantastic monster dog (who was my favourite character in the entire movie), wild cityscapes, and tons of derring-do. John Carter is mega-strong and can jump like the Hulk on Mars – something to do with gravity, or musculature, or something. Who cares when it produces such awesomeness.

 

Yeah, okay, this bit was weird

And that’s about all you need to know. I don’t mind spoiling the crap out of bad films, but this one deserves to be watched. The story-within-a-story is clever and well-executed; the main performances are decent; and the pulpiness of the story can be attributed to its original author, Edgar Rice Burroughs himself, who was more bothered about churning out the fun, fast-paced books than he was about extremely coherent narratives and dramatic resonances. And that’s what, at its heart, this film is – a fun, fast paced pulp adventure.

It’s not perfect, by the way (just in case you’d been living under a rock). John Carter’s mega-strength seems weirdly scene-specific; and there’s probably a bit too much going on in the film (like it could have done with being minus a sub-plot, and about 20-30 minutes shorter). But there’s a lot more good than bad here.

So, we’ve got a solidly entertaining film, that died a miserable death at the box office and has effectively destroyed Taylor Kitsch’s career as a leading man, at least for a few years. What went wrong? Firstly, it had way too much money spent on it. The budget would have required a box office take of $600 million to break even, apparently, which is sort-of insane, and the details don’t add much to what should have been a B-movie level budget.

 

Secondly, the title. I’ll go and check on the story – Disney executives decided that because “Mars Needs Moms” had done so badly the previous year, the word “Mars” was box office poison, so changed its original title, “John Carter of Mars”. Now, I’m a sci-fi fan, and “John Carter of Mars” sounds pretty cool. I’ll go and see that film. “John Carter”, on the other hand, sounds like a film about a particularly dull accountant. This film is largely based on the book “Princess of Mars”, which is about a billion times cooler a title than “John Carter”. Damnit! These guys who get paid the high-six-figure wages are supposed to know this stuff.

 

A great film, with a stupid title and way too expensive. Much like “Master and Commander”, this is a film which should have spawned a series of great sequels, but instead represents a sad cinematic cul-de-sac.

John Carter on IMDB
Buy John Carter [DVD]

Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up: Thoughts on Romero’s Masterpiece

This is not a review. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ is in my opinion a perfect ten, the second best horror film of all time (You’re welcome to guess what film I consider to be the best). It is worth saying that this piece will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film already then I would advise you read no further until you do.

The first half an hour of the film still contains the most realistic reactions to a zombie apocalypse; Ben’s matter of fact instinct for survival juxtaposing with Barbra suffering from a nervous breakdown and ending up in state of shock. It is also testament to the acting abilities of Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea. Jones came to the project as an intensely serious stage actor, and provided Romero with a lot of input as to how he would like to portray Ben, and it shows. He is in control, methodical and keeps his head whilst everyone else is losing theirs.

The portrayal of Barbra has been criticized by several writers because she appears ‘hopeless’, but she simply shows the understandable reaction of fear. Barbra scares easily, and this is picked up by her brother Johnny as he fools around in the cemetery. Though I don’t think she is strictly speaking a weak woman. In most modern day Zombie films a group of disparate individuals come together and go around for a while like the ‘Scooby Gang’. In ‘Night of the Living Dead’ each survivor reacts differently to the situation. Harry Cooper is arguably more ‘hopeless’, he is a weak man, in the sense that all he wants to do is hide in the cellar until the problem goes away. His long suffering wife is irritated by his behaviour, and his cowardice jeopardizes everybody.

The film’s opening scene, where Johnny and his sister Barbra arrive at the cemetery to leave some flowers on their Father’s grave is rather campy in comparison to the frantic battle for survival that hapens in the farm house, and doesn’t really compare to the later claustrophobic horror. For some reason I believe that the person that attacks the siblings in the cemetery isn’t actually a zombie, but a local weirdo, and I think that it is later when he is turned into a zombie, as is Johnny. It’s just the way he moves in comparison to the undead horde that surround the house later in the movie that makes me believe that he isn’t dead… at least not yet. I have no idea whether or not I’m alone in this view.

The placement of the dead body at the top of the stairs in the run down farm house is also a strange move from Romero, given that the corpse doesn’t become zombified. I guess it exists for shock factor, a moment that startles the audience. For the rest of the movie after its discovery you’re waiting for the corpse to trundle down the stairs, but it never happens. Did Romero do this deliberately?

The introduction of the characters hiding in the cellar of the farmhouse, the Cooper family and the clean-cut couple Tom and Judy accelerate the film, creating the necessary combustion that leads to the survivors eventual downfall. However one wonders what might have happened if Romero had instead left the house abandoned, leaving only Barbra and Ben. There are great moments of tension in Barbra and Ben’s interactions, underlined by the point when Ben loses patience with Barbra, and literally tries to slap some sense into her. Showing an African American man striking a white woman was especially controversial in a time when America was so racially divided.

There isn’t really an end of the world feeling to the film, which gives the impression that Romero did probably have sequels in mind. The Sheriff’s posse seems to take care of the local zombies with seemingly little difficulty, although the true scale of the zombie problem is illustrated by the panic stricken nationwide media reports.

Ending as the film does, what are to read into Ben’s tragic death? Our hero, who survives and battles against the odds only to get shot by a skilled marksman from a long range, ending on such a blunt note is yet another piece of wider social commentary from Romero, in that violence doesn’t discriminate, and often in the truly clichéd sense, only the good die young.

In 1968 cinema goers were ill-prepared for an orgy of violence and cannibalism, the sight of zombies chomping on the burnt flesh of Tom and Judy at the time must have made several stomachs turn. It says a lot about our exposure to cinematic brutality that nowadays such a scene appears rather tame, and you can almost see that the blood used throughout the movie was made out from chocolate syrup. What shocked me most in the movie was Karen Cooper murdering her Mother, stabbing her repeatedly with a trowel. I couldn’t get my head around this at first, thinking that the zombified child wouldn’t have been able to kill in such a violent way, but Romero’s ‘ghouls’ were resourceful, earlier in the film you see zombies outside the house picking up blunt objects and hitting the house, trying to smash their way in, it is therefore quite possible that a child zombie, who had recently turned undead, could use a weapon to murder.

– RJW

George A. Romero on IMDB
Buy Night Of The Living Dead [DVD]

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Because any excuse to promote my own stuff, I’ve already done a review of the Asylum Entertainment mockbuster version of this film, “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”, here – https://iscfc.net/2012/06/04/13-abraham-lincoln-vs-zombies/ . Reading that back, I’ve got some bad news for fans of big budgets – on reflection, I sorta enjoyed the Asylum version more.

Luckily, I don’t need to do tons of recapping on this plot. Abe, as a kid, helps out his black best friend, and not only gets a whupping from the slaver, but causes the vampire doing the whupping to kill his Mum. He goes looking for revenge as an adult, but instead meets Henry Sturgess, a vampire hunter himself, who trains Abe up to swing that axe straight through trees, and therefore through the vampires. So far, so good! He moves to a new town to do his vampire hunting and lodges with the real person he lodged with in real life, Mr. Speed (played by Jimmi Simpson, aka one of the McPoyle clan from ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’).

He still wants revenge on the vamp who killed his Mum, though, and in the course of this comes into contact with Adam, the chief vampire, played on autopilot by Rufus Sewell, who can do these cool bad guy roles in his sleep. Young Lincoln doesn’t have the beard, and while he’s on an early hunting job, there’s maybe the most amazing bit of beard foreshadowing in film history.

And that, pretty much, is that. His advisers as president appear to be his friend from childhood and his old landlord; he keeps the secret of his other job from his wife, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead; has to kill his own son after he gets infected by a vampire and then goes after Adam right at the end.

Nice and simple. You’d think this would be the sort of film I’d love, with its genre mashup and wild ideas; but the problem is it fails like most mashups do, by expecting people to go “hey, history and vampires, this should be fun”, as if the mere fact of throwing two genres together is enough somehow. It also throws 3D into the mix, but as I was watching it at home, all I got was a bunch of stuff flying towards the screen, a profound waste of time (as is all 3D).

I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this, but it’s vaguely offensive to me that the Civil War didn’t start because of slavery, and because the Southern states wanted to subjugate blacks, but because vampires wanted easy access to food. The real Abraham Lincoln would have probably let the pre-Civil War southern states keep slavery, as long as they stayed in the Union, but they put a speech in his mouth where he insists that slavery should be abolished forever – small potatoes, in a film with vampires in it, I know, but still irritating. On the plus side, the film pretty much states that Harriet Tubman and the rest of the heroes of the Underground Railroad won the war for the North, which I liked.

The action sequences, for such a big-budget film and competent action director (Timur Bekambetov, who did Nightwatch and Wanted), are a bit crap. There’s a horseback fight scene early on which looks like it came out of a cheap computer game, and the climactic train scene at the end may have looked great in the cinema, but seemed a bit underwhelming on a TV. Also, both scenes are covered in dust and smoke, which is I guess to obscure background details and make the special effects easier to pull off, but it obviously looks like that, which is no good.

All in all, a qualified thumbs down for this one. It either needed to be more serious or more camp, and fell between two stools. Also, their choice for Abraham Lincoln wasn’t great, as his makeup looked obviously fake, and honestly the guy playing the role in the Asylum version did a better job. I know, it sounds like some asshole cult film reviewer trying to be cool, but it is what it is.

Big budget!

Pathetically miniscule budget!

ADDENDUM: There’s an amazing book about Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I recommend everyone read. It’s the great book written about a man who, for his faults, was one of the greatest leaders of modern political history.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on IMDB
Buy Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter [DVD]

9 Deaths Of The Ninja (1985)

First up, let’s get the low-hanging comedy fruit out of the way – one ninja doesn’t die 9 times, and 9 ninjas don’t die. Heck, even if they were on about the number of different ways a ninja has to kill someone, I could only count 7 different ways used in the film. There are, at the most generous possible count, 5 ninjas in this film. One of them is only seen in a flashback (and doesn’t die), one of them is the hero (and doesn’t die) and two of them are dispatched so quickly that I wouldn’t think of putting their plight in the title of the film. “3 Deaths of the Bad Ninjas” isn’t quite as punchy a title, though. The really sad thing about all this? I genuinely spent some time trying to work some aspect of the film into the confusing numbering system.

9 Deaths of the Viewer of this crap

I wanted to write notes during the course of this film, but the only pad and pen in the living room were with my wife. She told me I could only borrow them if I agreed to write “horrible” every third word. Considering we’d only seen about 4 minutes of the film at that point, her judgement was bold (but entirely accurate, as it turns out).

 

A brief summary of the career of director Godfrey Ho. He started off normal, under the banner of the great Shaw Brothers, but then branched out on his own. When coming to work at his new studio, he noticed there were lots of half-finished films lying around, where filming had stopped for any number of reasons. Why bother writing and shooting an entire film, thought Godfrey, when I can just splice in cool ninja fights with this pre-existing footage, and do a bit of dubbing to try and make sense of the whole thing? So that’s what he did, and the 1980s were incredibly prolific for the man- he claims to not remember how many films he’s directed, but taking all his alter-egos into account (to try and fool people into thinking his company employed more people) there’s at least 115.

 

It starts off bold. Sho Kosugi, whose career very briefly intersected with that of Jean Claude Van Damme early in JCVD’s career, is training. Now, most films would leave the training montage til later, but this is not most films. The basic thing I got from this scene is that if you are trying to do crimes in the vicinity of Sho Kosugi, and are made entirely from watermelon, then you’re going to have a bad time. But we don’t get time to be too baffled by this before…the opening credits! Ever wondered what the world’s stupidest James Bond credits would look like? Three women gyrate around while Sho does his kung fu stylings around them. All the while, a song called “Keep On Dancing” – an admirable idea, no doubt, but possibly not the most appropriate music to start off what promises to be a fast-paced ninja thriller.

 

On top of all this visual feast, the credits come up, and we learn that there are two awesomely-named characters in this film – “Alby the Cruel” and “Colonel Honey Hump”. It’s around this time that I started to wonder – is this supposed to be a comedy? Did Godfrey Ho decide to poke a little fun at his own genre? On reflection…probably not. There are bits we’re probably supposed to laugh at, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing.

Alby, you magnificent bastard

Anyway, on to the film. We’re introduced to a prisoner, who breaks the arm of a guard who tries to give him food and spends every other moment chuckling to himself. Then we get our heroes – Sho is swimming, while his white partner is sunning himself with a woman, in her underwear (an unusual choice for a pool party with at least one man you’re not intimate with). Perhaps because he’s all alone, Sho gets sad and then has a flashback, which I’d lay good money on being footage from an entirely different film. He’s trained as a ninja, but because of some reason or other, is told he can’t be a proper ninja and must leave the training academy.

 

But never mind those guys! We’ve got Alby the Cruel and Colonel Honey Hump coming up! Alby is simultaneously this film’s villain and its comic relief, “hilariously” overacting while getting caught in a chain used to hold his pet monkey – while Honey Hump is in charge of a bunch of hot female guards. At one point, he threatens her, and her gang hold their guns to Alby’s head…but then go back to taking orders from him. His contribution to this whole shebang seems fairly minimal, if I’m being honest, so they probably should have just bumped him off and gone through with the plan themselves.

 

Our three heroes are now on the case. There was a delay between me watching the film and writing this review, and I’ve just realised I’ve got no idea what Alby the Cruel’s endgame was. I know the big laughing idiot gets sprung from prison, but I’ve got no idea why. Is there a bomb? It’s not really important, but I know sometimes readers like this stuff. Tell you what, I’ll go and cheat off another review of this film, then I’ll get back to you in a later paragraph with the information you require.

 

Midgets! We get to see our heroes whup on some midget ass, and it’s handled every bit as sensitively as you’d imagine. Still, this almost seems sensible compared to the next scene, where Alby’s minions steal heart medication from a small child and just throw it away. Oh, the fact an elderly-ish white woman has a small Oriental daughter just isn’t commented on.

 

Next up is local police chief, former tennis superstar and son of the producer Vijay Amritaj, who was also in a James Bond film, oddly enough (it was one of the Roger Moore ones, after everyone involved had stopped caring). He helps them out…and then my notes descend into illegibility. “ Sam or Dad: poacher?” is what it looks like, and frankly I’m not prepared to watch this film again to trigger my memory. Besides, this review is already too long! Let’s get on with it!

 

This film breaks a record for the most number of shots of a helicopter landing in any film. It’s like Godfrey Ho borrowed one off his mate, who said “you can only take it 50 feet into the air”, so he just filmed it landing in a bunch of different locations. Similarly pointless is a huge chase scene between that weird laughing giant from earlier in the film and our heroes – he escapes through a whorehouse, then just wanders the streets laughing and not really being in a hurry to go anywhere.

 

The film meanders towards its conclusion after this – someone gets glued to the ground, Sho’s two real-life kids save the hostages, the heroes gleefully slaughter their way through the enemy camp…you know, the usual. Will Alby The Cruel act in a cruel manner towards anyone? Will the absolute lack of sexual tension between the white lead hero guy and the female communications officer bubble over into passion, after white hero is betrayed by his girlfriend? Will the kid who’s gone without heart medication survive? Actually, I don’t remember the last one, but I presume so.

 

In conclusion: there’s a lot of other sites who seem to have done reviews of this film, and they bothered learning the names of the characters and not losing the will to live about halfway through. Ooh, ladida, Badmovies.org! But I hope you’ve enjoyed this one, and if I’ve provided you with even a modicum of entertainment then I’ve done a better job than this film has.

 

Nine Deaths Of The Ninja on IMDB
Buy 9 Deaths Of The Ninja (1985) DVD

30 Minutes Or Less (2011)

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

It struck me as odd that this film flew in under my radar. Coming in off the relative success of Zombieland, which was directed by the same dude, and starring Danny McBride, who is justly riding the tide of awesome that is Eastbound and Down, I would have thought 30 Minutes or Less would attract a fair amount of attention from association alone. And then I considered that this might be a red flag. Maybe it’s just really, really bad, and even the popularity of the people involved wasn’t enough to save it. Eh, either way I decided I wanted to see it.

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Death Note (2006)

Directed by: Shūsuke Kaneko

Death Note is a film that I’ve been meaning to watch for some time. I think it once was on Film Four one night, a few years back, in a time when I actually owned a television, and I think I had missed the opening half an hour, so it perplexed me when I saw some Japanese kid chatting to a CGI animated ugly looking winged creature. I changed the channel and probably settled down to a shitty reality show like ‘Beauty and the Geek’.

The film opens with a series of mysterious deaths, as an assortment of petty criminals, crooked businessmen and hardened murderers suffer sudden heart attacks. Over time the people of Tokyo believe to begin this is God’s work, and praise “Kira” (loosely translated as killer), the angel of the underworld who is striking down those who’ve committed crimes against society.

We learn that it is not some metaphysical being that is striking down the evil doers. No, it’s a teenager called Light Yagami who is writing the world’s harshest shit list in a notebook he found in the street. At first glance Light is a clean cut, above average student with a pretty girlfriend, the kind of cat who is able to hustle other kids on the basketball court like an Asian mutation of Snipes and Harrelson, whilst simultaneously getting solid grades in the classroom. He’s also the son of a Police detective, and regularly hacks into the Tokyo Police’s database to get information on criminals that he believes need to be appropriately punished.

The notebook works in a certain way, you can’t for example if you were a disgruntled benefit scrounger just write ‘George Osborne’, because that might kill Mr George Osborne, the eighty year old harmless fruitcake who lives down the road, you need to picture the person’s face as you write down their name, and then they die. Light is visited by a shinigami (death God) named Ryuk, the animated creature, who looks like Ganondorf from Zelda mixed with a cyberpunk Gargoyle. Ryuk previously owned the Death Note and follows Light around, acting in some ways as his conscience. Light intends to use the Death Note to rid Japan of crime. His intentions appear noble.

The Police are baffled by the sudden deaths, and it is not until an enigmatic detective named ‘L’ joins the investigation that it is established that the deaths are perpetrated by a single individual using supernatural powers. The people of Japan are less concerned about who’s killing all the wrong-uns, because they feel that since Kira came along, justice exists. The bad guys are being eliminated, and they might end up living in a crime free cities.

Without spoiling the film any further, the rest of the film continues as L searches for the true identity of Kira. Light struggles to keep the Police off his scent, dealing with FBI agents, the fact that his own Father is one of the investigating officers, and his new nemesis L, this genius, unorthodox detective. Light also learns the hard way about the responsibilities which come from owning the Death Note.

The film has dated quite a bit in only six short years, with its mentions of the Internet, and particularly when Ryuk is introduced, this reminds me oddly of the mix of live action and animation that occurred in arguably the greatest basketball film of all time Hoop Dre… sorry, I mean Space Jam, when Bill Murray and Michael Jordan found themselves in a game of life and death, fighting evil alongside Bugs Bunny.

Kenichi Matsuyama’s performance of L is splendid. His brooding angsty demeanour recalls one of those dour Hikikomori kids who masturbate to Hentai all day in a darkened room as delirious J-Pop soundtrack their self-flagellation. L’s penchant for sweet snacks means that he is able to stay constantly alert, although his laconic, methodical approach seems to suggest that he is impervious to the effects of sugar.

I wonder if the message behind the film, and this is without having read the manga comic books, could have been better carried had Light used the Death Note to wrongly kill people who were innocent before being proven guilty. The criminals that die are all generically described, and there is little complexity in their cases. Obviously, and again this heads into spoiler territory but later in the film, it isn’t only the crooks that get bumped off, but I’d like to have seen more moral ambiguity.

There is a bizarre aspect to Death Note which I haven’t managed to figure out, and that is the use of ‘Dani California’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the closing credits. It appears to be a complete mystery as to why the song was used. Was one of the band members a fan of the original manga comic? Who knows? Can anyone explain why?

– RJW
8/10

Death Note on IMDB
Buy Death Note Complete Boxset [DVD]