Hmmm, Robin Hood eh. If Kevin Costner taught me anything then it’s that Mr Hood was a sort of slightly moody, but ultimately out for a good time, leader of a band of drunk tree house builders. How them am I supposed to deal with Russell Crowe being a not especially moody leader of a band of drunk ground dwellers? Truly mystifying. This incarnation of the oft told myth of Robin Hood rather messes with the formula and makes it all about the French and the King and things, like a sort of not so good Game of Thrones without the boobs. I mean, no one really knows if the whole legend is a load of rubbish or not, so the film makers could basically make it all up if they like, but Robin killing people with an axe really doesn’t chime well with me. An axe! For goodness sake. It’s not a bad film really, all muddy British fields, lutes and castles and maidens and the such, pretty much everything you’d expect…except…robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Its Ridley Scott trying to inject a little originality into a story that, according to the Wikipedia, has been told over four billion times on film. It certainly isn’t shoddy film making., the problem though is that it attempts to inject a myth that is all rather good fun into a rather dense historical saga, everyone is wandering around western Europe trying to outdo each other whilst all we really want is for Robin to ride in, be badass and shoot some arrows, which takes approximately two hours to happen. It’s not snoresome, but its not awesome.
Tokyo Zombie, the second of this weeks Tokyo themed movie offerings, is entirely the more strange of the two. Evoking a kind of Mighty Boosh surrealism mashed up with all the zombie movies, its all really good fun. We follow our two heroes, workers in a fire extinguisher factory that seems to have no other employees, as they traverse a newly zombified Tokyo and the epic social changes that occur in the wake of the zombvasion, something that no other film/tv show has managed in quite such a socially scathing, but equally hilarious fashion. It might have something interesting to say about the class system, friendship, family and … perverts, but to be honest all this stuff is sort of ancillary to the martial arts. Yep, martial arts are a very significant part of the film. So is nonexistent cancer. As I said, it’s all rather surreal. Everyone has the same skewed moral compass, which makes them all the more endearing when they actually do something lovely. There is a beautiful part where one of the main characters recites a poem because what he has to say is too difficult to speak about normally, but just before you feel too sad about everything its back to martial arts. Check out Tokyo Zombie if you like Japanese comedy, zombie movies, surreal stuff, gore and, well … jiu-jitsu.
I have been lying to you. All this time, all those films. All of them were lies. It all goes back to some point last year when I accidentally told the dvd renty people that I wanted to rent every single Wim Wenders film ever made. Rather than cancel said order I just let them all come, a wave of Wim if you will. It was a good, it slightly weird time. Eventually they stopped coming, replaced with meaningless stuff like Transformers II : Age of Empires. Or whatever it was called. They never did send every single one of his films, they had apparently lied about having all of them. Anyway, about a week ago I was looking through the list of films I had previously rented, and noticed…Tokyo-Ga. It was on the list, but I never wrote about it. For all the time the ‘every’ in EFIHR has been a fraud. A lie! For this I truly am sorry. It is made all the worse by the fact that the film is so brilliant. I decided to re-watch to make it all better. There is a moment where Wenders describes the power of unplanned, unscripted film moments, the shining beacons in the gloss and manufacture of Hollywood. It is perhaps self conscious, but no less brilliant then that one of the perfect moments of Tokyo-Ga is when one young man, dancing with his friends in the park and sharing their unique take on Americana, accidentally hits another in the face. The resulting apology says as much about Japanese culture as the meeting itself. Tokyo-Ga invites these kinds of reflections. It is kind of, something like Mr Wenders ode to legendary film director Yasujiro Ozu. Its so much more than this though. Really, it is one of the most honest travelogues you’ll see. Its like poking around Tokyo with a slightly aimless, philosophical wanderer. Sometimes Wims ramblings are a little detached from the visuals, but they are universally thought provoking, and its powerfully good film making, never boring and completely visually captivating. How much is it actually about Ozo? We’ll to be honest, its not about him very much at all on the surface of things, but as you watch you realise that really he is there all the way though, like a sort of ghost. It makes the final scenes all the more heart wrenching, and moving. Finally, with the appearance of Chris Marker and Werner Herzog its a kind of whose who of philosophically grounded cinema. One day the rest of those Wenders films will turn up at my door, and I promise not to forget to write about a single one of them.
Not only does ‘Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle’ have one of the most brilliant titles ever, it’s also a stupidly good fun film as well. It comes out of the awesome woman revenge school that seems to be going great guns (pun intended) in Japan at the moment. It’s not the most original story, dystopic future, family killed by some bad guys (which may have happened in the first film, I have not seen) time to (unwillingly) get bits of your body replaced with weapons by a mad scientist and get some (bloody) revenge. Unsurprisingly, given that plot, the film clocks in at only just over an hour, more than enough time for all the fight scenes you need though. The film looks pretty good, given that it probably wasn’t funded through the roof with that title, there are some scenes outside which could easily have been from a movie with triple the CGI budget. The gore is classically executed, excessive artery squirting mayhem. All good fun. The bad guy spends a lot of time expounding the joys of being gay, which seems like a concerted effort to remind viewers that bad guys with awesome mechanical hands can be gay too, but really serves no plot purpose beyond that. The end sets up a third film as well, probably titled ‘Hard Revenge Milly : Artery squirters”.
Picture this, you are in prison, and that already sucks pretty hard, and you have this warden or prison guy in charge or whatever, and he is a complete nut case, real little man syndrome idiot. It sucks even worse. Then, get this, you do just some little infractions to wind up the asshole warden, not even big infractions like a murder or whatnot, but a pretty small one, and he sends you down the drain pipe! This is exactly what happens to poor Burt Lancaster and his buddies in Brute Force. It’s never really made that clear why they are digging in a drain pipe, but, given that everyone seems to die pretty quickly when they are down there, it doesn’t seem to be a very nice job at all. Anyway, Burt and his buddies don’t really like this one bit, understandable, and especially because they all seem like pretty stand up guys who don’t deserve to be in prison at all, they rather want to escape. They enlist the help of the prison doctor, who believes in all that ‘rehabilitation’ nonsense, he helps them all out a bit, as well as some of the nicest prison gangs you ever saw too, working for the prison newspaper, as if that is a thing. Then, at the end, spoilers alert, as the name suggests, they do a big riot, shoot the crap out of everything and generally prove that attempting to rehabilitate them would have been an awful idea because they are all clearly murder crazed lunatics.
This is a silly film. Its all too obviously an attempt to trade off the success of the many many other ‘mega … vs mega …’ movies that one cant really complain that it wasn’t obvious what we were getting into. Not least because the actual fight between said Komodo and Cobra doesn’t even happen until the very end. Anyway, basic premise, secret military laboratory, giant animals, killing everyone, bla bla bla. It has precisely one good jump moment, the cgi is awful and the acting is just what you’d expect. There are some self consciously funny moments, every gun has its ammo setting on unlimited, and the hard nosed boat captain is actually quite good fun. There is also one excellent, as far as I am concerned, running joke where a parrot squarks every time someone says a naughty word. This though is just not quite enough to save this movie from itself.
Maleficent is Disney playing around with being Disney, and it’s pretty impressive. They manage to maintain a good sense of what they have always been good at, little white princesses, whilst also managing to tie a new story around a very old one in a somewhat unexpected, but at the same time entirely predictable way. It’s a story of revenge gone awry really. I am not sure how the actual sleeping beauty fable ends, because I am a boy, but I am pretty sure this veers way off it at points. All the better for it really, the prince awakening the sleeping princess with a kiss always was rather vapid, and somewhat rapey. The movie looks very pretty indeed, there are all sorts of interesting creatures inhabiting its magical world, and whilst some very much fall into the “can’t wait to sell millions of these as soft toys” category, there are some that have a far more ethereal quality. There is probably some complex allegory in the film about losing one’s freedom and how one goes about living their life in the face of the abjectly careless world we live in, but it’s buried so deep it’s probably better to assume it is invisible. It’s a good re-working, it’s not going to make you change your whole world view, but it might make you re-consider your position when you next get dumped and someone tries to destroy your magical kingdom.
I, like most other people I think, rather enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It is an almost vomit inducing happy movie. It is all about being friends, even if your friends are homicidal cyborg type people, little furry things, and big strong guys. It is all led by a typically good looking guy with nice hair, but we’ll forgive them that – can’t stray too far from the ideals now. The story isn’t overly complicated, good looking guy has something which a lot of bad people want, and he has some chums who help him keep hold if it. There is never any real peril, even when it seems as though everyone might die they are not really that close to actually dying. Just getting a little frosty or shot or put in goo or blown up or whatnot. It’s a feel good movie that ramps up its feel good by pretending to be all irreverent and ‘Footloose’ but in reality is about vague notions of inclusivity and being nice to people, all lovely fun concepts for everyone to embrace. Fun fact, Vin Diesel plays a giant tree type guy who only says one (or two) words throughout the whole film. Must have been the best pay check ever.
Good things about Transformers : Age of Extinction
Optimus Prime and Bumblebee
Bad things about Transformers : Age of Extinction
Almost irresponsible amounts of product placement, not even inconspicuously in the background, like, actual beer bottles in the middle of a fight scene.
The moment when someone says “The Mongolian Desert” whilst gesturing at a map which clearly labels “The Mongolian Desert”.
A main female character, who is completely useless.
American football in China.
How the dinobots turn up.
Romeo and Juliet.
Beats by Dre speaker.
A secondary female character who is good at fighting.
Chinese security guards inexplicably saying one line in English.
For some inexplicable reason, the belief that Texas is the best place in the world.
Annoying fighting phrases.
Prime only says ‘Autobots roll out!’ after a load of other rubbish.
Ending not the ending.
Chicago destroyed, again.
Transformers juggling humans.
Everything in ‘China’ having way too much written on it.
All of the Transformers except for Optimus and Bumblebee.
Cigar Smoking Robot.
The character with the puns leaving after about fifteen minutes.
Calling the all spark a soul.
Nolan Batman music in a not Batman film.
Inexplicable armchair room.
Overly complicated plot lines.
Bumblebee not having an awesome body all movie.
Race car boyfriend.
Explaining every single thing in way too much detail.
Fully automated US army – Made in China.
Equally gratuitous overseas product placement.
Thousands and thousands of people die.
“Its a big magnet”…”its sucking up metal and dropping it”
Seriously, racial stereotypes
Nearly passed the Bechdel test…but didn’t
Victorias Secret Bus.
Jimmy’s Hall falls into the all too usual trap of being a film set in Ireland that is all about how terrible it is to be in Ireland. No one really seems to be interested in making a film set in Ireland that is about anything which isn’t intrinsically politicised or thematically religious, like robots, killer clowns (without political agendas) or anything like that. It is not that I don’t think these things are important, Philomena, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Jimmy’s Hall – all dealing with very important issues, but in the end all so bloody depressing. I am not saying put dinosaurs or killer clowns into those movies, I am saying that surely as a nation Ireland has more to say than how awful it is. Jimmy’s Hall does have the interesting aspect of telling the story of a social activist not aligned completely with any of the usual suspects like the Church, or the IRA, but standing for freedom of expression, freedom from oppression and a fairer society. This means that basically everyone hates him and he must try to forge some unsteady alliances to achieve his goals. None the less it’s a refreshing look at a part of history which is so frequently presented as fervently two sided. It’s not going to cheer you up though.