Archive

Monthly Archives: June 2013

Image

Troll 2Jaws: The RevengeJason XKnowing. These are just some of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Films that destroy the soul of the viewer, make them regret life and give them a reason to finally end it all, but is there a film as truly embarrassing and demoralising than Birdemic: Shock and Terror? This is just a straight up tragedy of cinema.

The story, if you can class it as one, involves our protagonist (Is he a protagonist? Is he evil?) Rod as he somehow gets the number of the mildly attractive Nathalie, portrayed by Actress 1 (I refuse to search her name, I refuse) on the very first attempt. He’s situated in a restaurant and as she leaves he runs up to her and reminds her that they went to high school together. At this moment in time I questioned the absurdity of their encounter, but it’s the simplicity that he gets her number that really blows my mind. They supposedly haven’t seen each other in years (SIDESTORY: Is Rod a conniving so-and-so preying on innocent, dumb women?) and yet he gets her number for absolutely no reason at all.

Rod then, after he enthusiastically sells some software, rings her from inside his car to tell her the news and ask about a possible date. What a coincidence is it that she’s just on her way home, too? The two discuss their clichéd, terrible lives and eventually come to a decision – DINNER! How thrilling? Anyway, Rod tells Nathalie about his incredibly boring and awful life and she falls heads over heels for the man. There’s actually a scene that had me in tears (I’m not sure of which variety) in which Nathalie tells Rod about “Alex”. Of course before it is revealed who exactly Alex is, Rod goes freaking mental, raising his voice and shouting “COME ON! LET ME SEE IT” Who is Alex, you ask? Alex is a cat. Unfortunately for the audience, and me a massive cat lover (I love you, Felix!) Alex is never introduced past his glowing photograph that our stereotypical female lead presents.

Next up is Nathalie’s mum. She’s a lovely woman it seems from her small scenes, but someone who you’d imagine may be more concerned with making sandwiches as opposed to surviving a BIRD APOCALYPSE(!!!!!!) Right now you’re asking yourself if you read that correctly. Of course the answer is yes. Rod and Nathalie, after a quite steamy encounter, end up in a motel. The motel of their dreams, a true paradise, where… BIRDS ATTACK (!!!!!!) These are not just any sort of birds; they are eagles and vultures arisen from the deeply frustrating (and predictable) global warming bullshit that our asshole protagonist is in fact informed of by a quite sweet, but shy man. Rod gets his solar panels yadda yadda, but what do they do? THEY CERTAINLY DON’T STOP THE BIRDS FROM DEVOURING HUMAN BLOOD AND SPITTING INFECTIOUS THINGS (YEAH!!!!!)

This is where Birdemic: Shock and Terror really kicks off. Hold on, something I need to say before. Can we get rid of the Shock and Terror sub-title please? It really ruins the gushing, terrifying power of the piece, almost making it into a self-parody that is only there for comedic purposes. Anyway, where was I? Birds attacking? All kicking off? So, basically, Rod and Nathalie have just got it on. They both wake up wearing the same percentage of clothes they had on previous to their steamy sequence and eagle sounds can be heard from outside.

Actually, there is this breathtaking moment of cinematic history in which we see these birds flying (floating? Yeah, it’s more like floating) and it looks for a moment like they are DROPPING BOMBS. Well, I’m about to drop a bomb right here and there: Birdemic is the most bizarre, lethal and jaw-dropping piece of cinema I’ve ever witnessed. Everything that happens after is of the mesmerising variety. We are witnessed to frantic, spine-tingling sequences of terror that will have you biting your nails and they will no doubt make your ears bleed. Ears bleed? What do you mean?

Birdemic is not the glorious piece of film-making for all its batshit-insane-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-on-earth-are-we-making-holy-shit-can-we-make-it-even-more-fucking-mental attitude; its brilliance is for the simple fact that it’s a fucking disaster technically. Audio dips and is barely audible in every sequence, lighting is inconsistent and the soundtrack…oh my god…the soundtrack is absolutely abysmal.

It is a thing of utter amazement that Birdemic kept my interest for so long. It’s largely due in part to my brain having fell out and melted by the half way mark, but still, that’s no excuse for me enjoying this steaming, lethargic piece of horse-shit. This is a disaster right from Rod’s slanted TV in his kitchen to the wind on the beach, from the AK47 onslaught to the Tree Hugger (I have no fucking idea) and back. There is simply only one word to describe Birdemic and it is atrocious. I hope I never have to sit through a film like this ever again.

This has been Lee Burke, a film fanatic, questioning not only his sanity, but the state of the world we live in. Fuck it all, fuck it.

1/100

Image

Quentin Tarantino is no doubt one of the most popular directors in the world, noted for his abrasive yet entertaining films that have all in their own right became cult classics. From the early days of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction to Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, he has established himself as a director familiar with audiences all over the world. I’m a big fan myself —Jackie Brown being my favourite work from the man– but I’ve never understood people’s claims of him being the unique and provocative filmmaker with this intense and nurtured creative streak in him. For me it’s no secret that his films play on, and are inspired, by past successes.

Lady Snowblood is the most definitive example of this. Embodying all the traits and stylistic aspects Tarantino would later utilise in his gory tale of revenge Kill Bill, this Toshiya Fujita piece from 1973 is a brilliant piece of cinema. It incorporates all the elements of past Samurai glories, but there’s a real power in Fujita’s presentation that gives it that crucial edge. There’s a dark tone to it all as it tells the story of our titular character’s journey for revenge after the brutal, savage destructive of her family as she goes out seeking retribution.

Presented via flashbacks, the story is told in an effective and astute manner, constantly showcasing the back-story and its importance to the tone and flow of the film. Lady Snowblood is quite an intimidating figure and the work from Meiko Kaji is nothing less that brilliant. She presents this tortured, and relentless soul in the most effective of manners; she is a challenging, dynamite figure of power and a true spirit of vengeance. As you would expect with a film of the sort, Lady Snowblood is gushing with sequences of blood and immersive pain, but it’s all portrayed with such a divine passion. We witness these scenes via fast cuts and close-ups, but Fujita always allows the viewer the opportunity and freedom to feel involved in the excitement, and tension-building atmosphere of the piece.

Kill Bill may be written with a wider diversity to it, but Lady Snowblood portrays an era and a mood to devastating perfection. I’ve rarely seen fight sequences as thrilling or a story as well choreographed as the ones in Lady Snowblood. This is a thrilling, roller-coaster ride of power and strength and a film that I can certainly see myself going back to time and time again. I loved it.

90/100

Image

Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, based on the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999, is one of the most harrowing and uniquely powerful films I have ever witnessed. The way Van Sant used long takes and bright, clear visuals before unleashing the most savage of bloodshed was an experience to say the least. By utilising scenes of normality as students interact and discuss their futures was an extraordinary method of building tension and the impending doom that came from it was all the more disturbing.

As unsettling as Elephant is, I’d be hard pressed to find a film that depicts such a tragedy as powerfully as Dennis Villeneuve does here with Polytechnique. The film begins with two friends chatting whilst photocopying some work before they are brutally gunned down by an unnamed assailant. It’s that shocking, startling image of pain in just that one moment that tears the world down of the viewer, bringing the shocking tragedy down to one sequence of reality. Immediately after we are introduced to the gunman, who through narration and a stark silence tells us exactly what is going to happen.

With that very moment of angst that takes place just after the startling sequence I mentioned, Polytechnique is transformed into a film that analyses its twisted soul as he unleashes the most astonishing massacre I’ve ever seen in a film. The film, which describes the events of the Montreal massacre of 1989, is a film of devastating quality and awareness of the situation it defines. Unleashing the pain one round at a time, Polytechnique’s presentation through black-and-white imagery makes it increasingly more poignant than one would expect.

People’s lives are taken in the most savage of ways as Villeneuve aspires to depict the brutal sequences that occurred right to the note, never exploiting or over saturating the sequences. Polytechnique is a film that needs to be seen to believed.

81/100

Image

While most of my favourite horrors terrify and haunt me via their vivid and stark images, it is very rare for me to feel in a state of shock and utterly disturbed by what is unfolding before my eyes. It’s hard to truly describe how a film can disturb a viewer that doesn’t relate to the gore, but indeed to the nail-biting atmosphere that formulates. Films as dark and depraved as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre andMartyrs are two of the primitive exhibits here, and two films that I will likely never forget for all the gore and mayhem I witnessed, but I cannot quite remember being as disturbed continuously by a film as I was by Frontier(s).

Frontier(s) is a not a film of unique qualities as a lot of the premise mirrors sequences you will most likely recognise from The Hills Have Eyes and Tobe Hooper’sThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that doesn’t stop the director Xavier Gens from assembling a master class of fear and depraved spirits. It’s an ungodly experience that follows the journey of four people who end up an old inn stuck in the middle of nowhere as they are terrorised and brutally manipulated by the forceful and dominating family that resides there.

The family, despite a few changes, follows in a similar fashion to that of Hooper’s classic, which it echoes constantly, but it honestly doesn’t matter one inch. Gens knows the tone he’s going for and he delivers it by providing the viewer with the existential crisis that this is more fathomable than you’d like to expect. Led by the sick and deranged father of the family known as von Geisler (whose presence may have been an influence for The Human Centipede), the family live as cannibals and seek to cause pain to anyone that happens to end up close to them.

The characters are brutal, savage and relentlessly disturbing, but it’s the atmosphere that gives Frontier(s) the power it so craves. Presented with stark, gritty visuals that work in the same vein as the earlier Haute Tension, Gens’ film challenges the viewer to sit through the turbulence and mayhem that he delivers on the screen and and as painful and grotesque as it may be, if you are prepared for it you will witness an experience unlike any other. This is a underrated film that I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

84/100

Image

The role of children in the horror genre is unmistakable, but often we forgot how terrifying the presence of children as evil can be. Take The Omen for instance. The Omen personifies the anti-Christ in the form of the 6 year old child Damien, as doesThe Exorcist in which young Regan is possessed. The Shining is another example as the way it operates Danny as a psychological distress signal. Those three examples are definitive reasons of the force of the child in the genre of horror, and the fear paradox that they create simply by screaming or performing monotonous actions such as staring or breathing heavy. Perhaps we are scared due to the fact of the unexpected power they have, but regardless, there is something about the demonic possession of a child that is disturbing.

The Children, released in 2008, is a film that shows its inspirations throughout, but the chilling atmosphere it surrounds itself prevents its comparisons from overshadowing its impact. The setting is something we’ve seen all before, in both horror and thriller: two families get together for a quiet weekend until all hell breaks loose. But it’s the delivery and unrelenting vision of director Tom Shankland that makes it quite the remarkable viewing experience it is.

One of the most extraordinary elements of The Children is the cinematography. As is commonly the case with the large majority of horrors that seek to build a dark, shadowing tension, The Children breaks the mould and instead formulates a setting of heightened exhilaration and white, glowing snow. Considering the extreme sequences that flow continuously during the film, seeing everything in the fog gives it a psychological, depraved edge that I haven’t seen in a horror for many a year.

What makes horror the primitive and channelling force it is is the provocative fear factor that it portrays and how it operates its atmosphere to truly terrify the audience. This is undeniably the case with The Children. Throughout the film there are sequences of nerve-shredding tension that build to the impending climax of one’s life that had me on the edge of my seat considering the possibilities and dreading the inevitable bloodshed.

It’s a massively astute piece of film-making that unfortunately disappeared under the radar upon release with more unique portrayals of terror such as Let The Right One In taking centre stage, but that doesn’t mean it deserves the lack of familiarity people will most likely find with it. I enjoyed this a lot.

80/100

Image

I remember many years ago as I was becoming more and more familiar with film and exploring world cinema I experienced my very first French film in the form of Francois Truffaut’s debut feature The 400 Blows. One of the most universally definitive examples of the French New Wave swarming the world at the time, it blew me away simple as that. An extraordinary tale of teenage angst, showing an ingenious desire for care and passion, it left me wanting to experience more of Truffaut’s dynamic world.

It’s took me sometime to follow up that remarkable viewing, but Shoot The Piano Player shows the development of a director. Although only released one year afterThe 400 Blows in 1960, this dark crime drama provides a different message to that seen in his debut, whilst not removing himself from the elements that made The 400 Blows the magnificent film it was. Charlie Kohler, our protagonist, is an intriguing person. We are introduced to him in the first sequence of the film as he unwillingly runs into a lamppost and discusses life with the stranger who helps him to his feet. This particular scene shows the innocent tone that Truffaut deftly approaches and with many of the sequences that unravel in the middle act of the film, there’s a more casual style to it all.

Regarding some of what Shoot The Piano Player offers as casuals may immediately be regarded as negative, but I couldn’t mean it any more positively. My main example of the approach is a scene in which Charlie and the mysterious beauty of Lena, portrayed by Marie Dubois, as they are kidnapped by two of the most careless gangsters you’re ever likely to see and they eventually escape. It’s that subtle, charming method of telling a story that makes the overall film as impressive as it becomes.

There are noir elements, there are dramatic elements as relationships build and intrigue and there are those aforementioned light moments that give Shoot The Piano Player the dynamic style a film of its breed so desires. I personally prefer the teenage rebellion mould of The 400 Blows, but this sophomore effort from Truffaut is just as likeable. It can be light and harmless, but it can also be dark and dangerous.

77/100

Image

Not in my time as a movie fan have I experienced a director as fascinating as Steven Soderbergh. I say this because I have never truly seen a filmmaker with as much unpredictability as this fine, fine man. He’s made films that are entertaining romps such as Magic Mike or Ocean’s Eleven, he’s made the explosive Traffic and then he’s truly experimented with different angles as is the case with The Girlfriend Experience and it’s that variety that makes him one of the most extraordinary filmmakers on the planet. With his impending retirement it feels perfect that he ends the final stretch of his career by challenging himself even further.

Side Effects is a psychological thriller in the simplest terms, but there is so much more to it. It channels the breakdown of the human soul by presented it via quite subtle means, but also showing the cause and consequences in the most powerful of ways. Rooney Mara, known recently for channelling the disturbed soul of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s reimagining of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, delivers his finest turn to date. In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo she is a suspicious, intelligent force and someone you can never truly predict, but here in Side Effectsshe’s even more remarkable.

In terms of psychological disturbance, Side Effects flourishes, but it’s the uneven, suspicious tone of the first act that prevents it reaching the heights the final act provides. With the final act Side Effects channels the intelligence and self-loathing of our protagonist and alongside some brilliant work from the ever consistent Jude Law, Side Effects turns into a quite devastating film. Also worth note is the true independence of the cinematography and I can’t quite remember seeing a film that utilised focus as well as Soderbergh does here. Adding to the distorting message the film manipulates, it is a vital element to the claustrophobic mood the film translates.

While I was witnessing the psychological breakdown that the film so deftly portrays I felt clear inspirations in both the tone and the setting to the work of the great Brian De Palma and the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Side Effects is a tale with a side-splitting atmosphere that had me hooked from its early moments, and it’s without a doubt some of Soderbergh’s most fascinating work to date. I just wish the first act was that bit more consistent.

80/100