Scorecard

FEBRUARY

  • Magnum Force ☆☆
  • Only God Forgives ☆☆
  • Porco Rosso ☆☆☆☆
  • Predator ☆☆☆☆
  • Samurai Princess ☆☆
  • Stacy ☆☆
  • Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer ☆☆
  • Tetsuo ☆☆☆
  • Tetsuo: The Bullet Man ☆
  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad ☆☆☆☆
  • The Terminator ☆☆☆☆
  • Thor: The Dark World ☆☆

Review Roundup - Gods & monsters

THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013) 

Apparently giving up on the far better numbered sequel system from the Iron Man series, Marvel returns with what should have been an easy job - to fix up the loose ends left between Thor and The Avengers (I don't think anyone will ever call it Avengers Assemble) and provide some light-hearted and action packed adventure moments. From the outset something never feels quite right here though, as if it's cheaper in spite the increased budget. Perhaps it's the loss of Kenneth Branagh on directorial duties, perhaps it's the new writers; in any case they never capitalise on the interesting plot developments that were available or put together a story that makes sense.

 Opening credits - Thor gives the two symbol as the camera zooms in and Ride The Lightning plays

On that subject; the plot is a nonsense mix of fantasy clich├ęs and space opera "stopping the universe being destroyed" material that really hasn't had enough thought put into it. It's simply there to serve the purpose of getting all those threads back on track - Loki returns and does his thing, Natalie Portman comes back for some more unconvincing romance, and the other characters from the first Thor movie make an appearance whether it's welcome or not. 

I would have preferred a smaller scale character based story considering what they had going, but I guess they have to up the ante each time with these, even if it means more wackiness - the simpler fish out of water comic relief is replaced by things like Stellan Skarsgard becoming a ker-azy professor (for some reason) and they give Kat Dennings more to do (for some reason). Its strange because the ideas were all set up ready to go - yet the subplot with Lady Sif and Jane clashing libidos is barely touched on and Loki doesn't actually have that much screen time considering the sibling rivalry being an integral part of the film series so far - here it gets the least use. Even Anthony Hopkins seems wasted, and just seems angry and loud whether the events of the film require it or not. To be fair, there are a few decent dramatic scenes but it's not enough to carry things. As for the villains this time around - all visual makeup and zero personality.

As a comic spectacle, it has it's moments but the action set pieces aren't that memorable. There are a couple of space ship based battles, and while it's pretty well done and Asgard seems more detailed than before there isn't anything that interesting. A showdown involving travel through portals as the fight ensues is fun but never feels as epic as the premise could have been, and it's wrapped up in an all too convenient way that never really explains what the big bad was actually planning to do besides squashing the whole galaxy just to be a jerk. It rushes to a sequel baiting finish, here's hoping next time they write a coherent story and give it more personality next time.

2/5

BONUS REVIEW

ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013)



Part dream sequence, part revenge drama, and part Tumblr gif set; the follow up to Drive presents some interesting ideas but it's a bit too cryptic and drawn out for it's own good. It gets points for the aesthetics and music, and the mother character who drops in to be weird and vulgar every so often (from what feels like a different movie) but I could have used more direct story telling. Maybe the complexities are best examined on subsequent viewings but I can't be certain when they use hints of Asian culture and Oedipus which are too vague to be satisfying.

2/5

Short Film Safari - Our RoboCop Remake

Technically this is cheating as it's longer than the film itself, but a massive number of fans collaborated to remake RoboCop with each scene done by different crews. The skits are hit and miss, but what else are you doing this afternoon.

Review Roundup - Mr Driller

TETSUO TRILOGY

A man sits waiting for a train with a plaster on his face, after finding a metal shard growing out of his cheek. He's not having a good day, as he then gets chased by a crazy female commuter whose arm has grown into a mass of scrap metal. There is no clear explanation for why this is happening, it just does. Later his own body starts to turn into a similarly grotesque collection of tubes and wires. Why? Because of reasons. Later on it gets really weird.

Tetsuo, sometimes subtitled with it's translation The Iron Man is a dark and bizarre nightmare sequence full of strange imagery and industrial sounds. It's also a lot of fun despite some disturbing sequences of sex and violence.

 

The movie itself is very engaging, with a frenetic style of camera work and a lot of dream like chase scenes and stop motion effects. The use of high contrast black and white photography is really effective and it's full of interesting angles and dirty textures. There's a hazy atmosphere about everything reminiscent of Eraserhead, though I have no idea if it influenced the filmmakers here. The cast are all hyperactive, constantly sweating and grimacing - it all adds to the waking nightmare mood.

After a hit and run accident, the protagonist, simply credited as "Man", goes through a bizarre series of events involving his girlfriend and the other male lead, apparently a "metal fetishist" again by checking the credits. Whether it's all a manifestation of his guilt, at other times a hallucination, or an outlandish commentary on society becoming over industrialised... I can't be certain. They make no attempts at logical explanations, and it's more interesting because of it. It's more of a visual experience than a story, though it's fun to discuss after.

If I had to pick out things which seem to bring the movie down, it's that by the end they exhaust the novelty of the time lapse style chases and it feels drawn out after a while as the events become less random and build towards the ending. Things are very energetic throughout, but here it get's a bit too much and there isn't enough focus. Then again I guess it's a lot like the first half. The sequels fare less well.


There are two unrelated sequels which basically lack all the interesting parts of the original. Both try and explain the transformation with some weak pseudo science fiction back stories, and it drains away the intrigue straight away. Also, neither has that stark visual look or any of the great camera work. Body Hammer has some interesting imagery and a couple of neat horror moments, but ultimately fails to recapture the same energy - as well as being in colour which means the makeup and body horror effects a lot less visceral.

The Bullet Man basically does all this over again in a retread of part 2, but makes matters worse with bad modern effects and an English script, which none of the cast are really up to the challenge of performing convincingly. Both sequels seem more interested in simply having action moments with strange gun arms and body weapons rather than being a unique experience, which is a real shame.

Tetsuo: The Ironman  3/5
Tetsuo II: Body Hammer  2/5
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man  1/5

Scorecard

JANUARY 

  • Back to the Future ☆☆☆☆
  • Battle Royale ☆☆☆☆
  • Being John Malkovich ☆☆☆☆
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark ☆☆☆☆☆
  • The Machine Girl ☆☆
  • The Mist ☆☆☆
  • Versus ☆☆☆
  • Zatoichi ☆☆☆☆

Weekend Retrospective - A Wizard Did It

THE MIRACLE OF DYNAMATION

There are a lot of fine old school movies to sit through on a miserable wet Sunday afternoon, but it remains a treat to see some of the swashbuckling adventure stories that feature the creations of effects genius Ray Harryhausen, a great loss to film fans who passed away in 2013. Harry who? I seem to remember asking this as a youngster - but realising it was that film with the cyclops in it the deal was sealed for a few hours transfixed before the television. The realistic look of physical puppets hooked me instantly, the level of movement and detail. I kind of feel bad for the directors involved but in a way it's also pretty cool to know that an artist like this got such recognition; they are his films in the memory of anyone reminiscing about this stuff. It's funny seeing all the hyperbole in the opening credits or the posters for them, a "miracle" they called it - but it feels right I guess whether they use the term "Dynamation", "SuperDynaMation" or "Dynarama". This style of hand animated effect has great appeal to me, a kind of lasting charm.


Despite the obvious look of shots that feature two layers of film; the live action and the animated characters, much of it remains very mysterious in it's methods as I watch them - there must be so much time and effort involved in sequences that become more and more elaborate in each film. The lighting gets more interesting, a sword fight with a single skeleton becomes a whole melee, and the monsters get more arms or heads as things progress. Watching The 7th Voyage of Sinbad - the first made in colour - it's also so impressive how much charm and personality some of the creatures have. A wounded cyclops seems so irritated by getting hit with a spear or having his treasure stolen, the expressive quality of the animation goes beyond the basic materials that each model is made from and brings them to life. Removing this completely has another effect - moving statues like Talos in Jason and the Argonauts and Kali from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad have no moving facial features at all, and become infinitely creepier because of it. They are cold and emotionless. The divide between which ones are straight horror creatures and which are more like real characters is a lot of fun to see in action. The final culmination of this uses both though - the last film and in many ways the most impressive creation, Medusa from Clash of the Titans. A masterclass in lighting, tense pacing and creepy design. Real magic. 


The acting may be endlessly hammy in some of these pictures, the hair and the accents are bad, and as I mentioned the double exposure techniques are dated, yes the plots are usually simple quest stories; but it makes them no less entertaining and impressive considering their age. Ray's imagination and skill levels are unlikely to get old any time soon after so many years (I recommend getting his book of illustrations and concepts here) and though his legacy is diminished slightly by modern computer graphics I can always get into a movie sequence with some stop motion, go-motion, or classic dynamation. I would have liked to see the originally conceived version of Jurassic Park, without the CGI. It's fitting that the best of his projects are all about ancient Greece, genies in bottles or undiscovered continents. Stories about myth have become cinema legend, the animation is on-screen sorcery. Now if you'll excuse me, it's getting dark outside and I have a date with The Mysterious Island...

Score Card

JANUARY

Raiders of the Lost Ark ☆☆☆☆☆
Back to the Future ☆☆☆☆
Battle Royale ☆☆☆☆
Being John Malkovich ☆☆☆☆
Zatoichi ☆☆☆☆
The Mist ☆☆☆
Versus ☆☆☆
The Machine Girl ☆☆