2013 Film Review: February
We move onto February, traditionally a bit of a dead month in the States for the Box Office – so the films are a bit less, well, “Blockbustery”. I clocked 2700 words in my January post – crapping out letters like a Doberman that swallowed a Scrabble set, so I will endeavour to keep the jibber jabber down to an acceptable level. More diatribes wrenched from the hazy cesspool of my memories in 3, 2, 1…
What’s it about:
Hansel and Gretel are all grown up and now hunt witches for fun and profit.
Ever wondered what Hansel and Gretel would be like once they were all grown up? Me neither. That’s because the concept is as appealing as a dildo covered in spider eggs…which is why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed H&G: Witch Hunters.
A darkly comic and gory affair, this film is like the outcome of Sam Raimi chugging a carton of beer, huffing three cans of paint and then using his kid’s Fairy Tale book as a shooting Script.
Featuring two leather clad heroes so cool they barely give a shit, dispensing death to witches with steam punk weaponry in an onslaught of gooey violence. A huge shout out must go to Edward the Troll, an awesome practical effect movie monster and loveable companion to the heroes – who gets to shine in a scene where he comes to Gretel’s rescue – stomping bad guys into mush in the process.
The cartoonish tone of the film is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea.
I dug Renner and Arterton’s laid back approach to the material – but their non-acting style may shit you.
Not a huge amount of effort was put into the actual witches themselves, resulting in some cardboard thin villains. The final battle against a huge coven of witches is quite anticlimactic after the great fights leading up to it.
Jeremy Renner is tied into the massively successful Avengers and Bourne franchises. He’s also an Oscar nominee. Why on earth would he want to be in a film like this? “Because the preproduction art of a leather clad Hansel walking toward screen as a witch burns in the background looked really cool.” God bless you Mr Renner.
The film made back over four times it’s budget (taking in $225 mill world wide), and director Tommy Wirkola has promised a sequel to be even more bug shit crazy then the first. I’ll check it out for sure.
First though, Wirkola is releasing Dead Snow 2. The first Dead Snow was about frozen Nazi Zombie’s thawing out in the mountains of Norway. That’s an awesome premise, but the film sucks pigeon dicks.
Not really – just a few animations of weapons assembling and firing during the first 90 seconds of the credits. Your pirated download probably cut off before this part kicks in anyway.
The Final Word:
Imagine if Evil Dead 2 fucked Mother Goose without a rubber, nine months later Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters would pop out. That sentence should either entice/repulse you depending on your tastes. And how awesome you are.
What’s it about:
A drama focusing on Lincoln’s final months in office, and his mission to abolish slavery. The black community would gain their freedom but go on to experience a century of segregation, a period that noted scholars described as being “Not as bad as slavery, but still kinda shit”.
If I have to tell you that Daniel Day Lewis is a good actor, then I probably have to also teach you how to tie your shoe laces and to chew your food properly. He’s been such a power house in the last few years, it’s hard to believe he actually gave up acting in 1997 to become a shoemaker – until five years later when he woke up one day and thought “What the Sweet Mother of Fuck am I doing!?” – and returned to acting. James Spader and Tommy Lee Jones also bring the goods.
The film is well crafted, and I have to say it was quite interesting watching all of the clever antics that had to take place to ensure the abolition bill would pass. I always wondered how they got those lazy old white bastards to give up their slaves.
Buckle yourself in, because here’s where I sound like an ignorant dickhead. As interesting as this chapter of history is, I found the whole film to, well, meander. The film is locked into courtroom hijinks and back room dealings – and if that’s your bag you’re gonna dig the film, but fair warning that this style of storytelling comes with a lack of dramatic beats and a kind of inertia. I enjoyed the film, but I felt it’s two and a half hour running time.
What do you know about Abraham Lincoln? He was tall? Yes. Wore a top hat. Correct. Abolished slavery? Sure did. But did you know he liked to bail up his men with long-ass allegorical anecdotes, the way your annoying drunk Uncle does at Christmas lunch? You will know this fact if you watch the film, it happens about half a dozen times.
Liam Neeson was cast as Lincoln, but pulled out when the preproduction took too long – and he felt too old to play the part. Neeson probably went on to make another film where he was in a foreign country screaming murderous rage into a phone at whomever kidnapped his family, which I swear to fuck happened in the last eight Neeson films I watched.
Almost half of Spielberg’s film output of the last two decades has been non-fiction historical storytelling. There’s a better than bad chance of some more history lessons in the next few years.
The Final Word:
A good film no doubt. But depending on your levels of maturity and attentiveness, may feel like homework in parts.
In which an escaped drug baron flees across the States straight into a town where Schwarzenegger is the Sheriff. Yep, he’s fucked.
True Story: When an elderly security guard made a formal complaint at my work that somebody had been consistently defacing the newspapers in the staff canteen with offensively placed penises, my name came up as the prime suspect. I work in a company of 400 people – a lot of teenagers as well, and I was the prime suspect.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m not renown as the most mature fella, and a film like The Last Stand caters to my sensibilities perfectly. Let’s take a look at the ingredients:
An escaped Mexican Drug Baron fleeing across country in a souped up Sports Car. A sleepy Texas town standing in between said Baron and his freedom in Mexico. An ex-DEA living out his remaining years on the force in said town. Said Sherriff happens to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who teams up with mildly retarded Johnny Knoxville – who happens to be a gun nut with a stockpile of weapons that would make Rambo shit his pants in awe. There are also heavily armed goons trying to clear a path through the town before their boss gets there. My god, the film is like a Minestrone of awesome ingredients, how could I not enjoy this on at least a base level?
This is an action film wrenched straight from the glorious 80’s, but sadly doesn’t reach the iconic levels that some of those earlier masterpieces obtained. The film is enjoyable no doubt, but it’s lacking an unforgettable villain here, an eye catching action set piece there, and it is missing more than a few catchy one liners.
You won’t regret the 90 minutes you put into this film on a lazy arvo, you just wont cherish the memory at the same time.
Liam Neeson was originally approached to play the Sheriff, he turned the role down. Christ he’s a busy kid, no wonder he wont respond to my Farmville requests on facebook.
Shadowy drawings appear in the first 90 seconds of the credits. Meh.
The Final Word:
It’s good old fashioned popcorn fun, but not particularly memorable.
What’s it about:
A group of miscreants are hired to steal a certain VHS tape from a creepy-ass house. Once they break in, they find the house littered with tapes. They watch a few, and find the tapes to reveal unimaginable horrors. Remember when you recorded Predator 2, went to watch it a week later only to find out that your sister had taped over it with this:
It’s that kind of Terror.
There’s been a steady influx of “found footage” horror since The Blair Witch Project in 1999, and with good reason. The POV handheld approach does away with professional cinematography and lighting and so significantly reducing the cost, making it ideal for a Horror film budget. Done properly, the first person perspective can make for some incredibly creepy story telling.
The great thing about the Anthology approach, is that if a particular film doesn’t float your boat there’s only a short wait until it finishes and the next story pops up. V/H/S consists of six stories, three of which are pretty great. Those ones are:
Amateur Night – a small group of college dudes fit their buddy’s glasses with a hidden camera so that they can take drunk girls home and make an amateur porno. One of the ladies they bring back isn’t whom she appears to be. Very creepy.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger – Emily chats to her boyfriend via skype, the boyfriend spots various spooky shit behind her on the skype screen.
Four mates dressed in costumes (including a hidden nanny can on one of the costumes) head off to a Halloween Party at a friend’s house, only to arrive at the wrong place. They wander inside to find an exorcism in process in the attic. Shit goes spectacularly pear shaped.
Unfortunately, not all of the short films in the V/H/S anthology are keepers. “Found Footage” can lend itself to some pretty piss poor production and narrative techniques. Behold:
Tape 56 – this is the story about the guys stealing the tape I mentioned earlier. It is the wraparound segment that connects the films – each story is a tape the burglars are watching. Also, nefarious happenings are a foot in the house. I think. The footage is so poorly lit and unfocussed as to be damn near incomprehensible. If you stuck a disposable camera to a dead quid, and launched it into a tar pit you would retrieve better footage than this mess.
Second Honeymoon – an annoying couple are arguing their way through a vacation. The tape of their journey reveals that they aren’t the only ones using the camera. There’s a good story somewhere here, but it’s too deep beneath shoddy production values and sloppy pacing for me to give a shit.
Tuesday the 17th – Four teens hike through a forest and are hunted down by a serial killer. The killer is otherworldly causing the video to go nuts with tracking errors when he’s on screen. And yes, that makes the viewing experience even shittier than usual. Fuck this segment.
Clips from the films occur at various points throughout the credits. Kind of like watching a trailer for a film, after you’ve seen the film. So yeah, fuckin pointless.
The film had a limited release and made fuck all at the box office. Then again, it looked like it cost fuck all in the first place. Seriously, I once went shopping for groceries off my head on Vodka – and ended up buying a basket full of Kinder Surprises on a drunken whim. That grocery bill was probably more than this film cost.
Whatever the case may be – a sequel was green lit, and due to the lengthy time it took for the original to be released here in Australia, and the fact they rushed out the second film to make the Sundance deadline – the sequel comes out less than six months after this one. Kooky.
The Final Word:
The wildly fluctuating quality of each chapter makes this a film for true Horror fans only. Six short stories, three great, three crap – make this the most mathematically simple film to score so far this year. I give it 50%.