Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Flashback to… F/X Murder By Illusion

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Reviews
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This week I bring you another 1986 gem.   A sadly very obscure film called F/X: Murder By Illusion.  In this film directed by Robert Mandel, starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy we are taken into the world of professional special effects.

Roland ‘Rollie’ Tyler is played by Australian born Bryan Brown (Cocktail, Australia, Gorillas in the Mist) is the best special effects man in the business who gets approached by a government agent and is asked to help them stage the murder of a high profile mob boss who is turning states witness and is being put into witness protection.

Having agreed Rollie sets about preparing everything for his stunt and executes it as asked.  He realizes something went wrong and discovers that the murder of the mob boss is being blamed on him.   He then sets out  to clear his name of the murder by using all his skills as a special effects wizard.  He recruits his friend and partner Andy (Martha Gehman) to help him and eventually joins forces with Lt. Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy), the policeman initially tasked with finding the killer of DeFranco, the mob boss.   Soon Rollie and Leo are knee deep in secrets, dirty cops and, like Rollies’ effects, nothing is truly as it seems.

F/X eventually spawned a TV series by the same name in 1996 which chronicled more cases that Leo asks Rollie to help on.  While not quite true to the movies it wasn’t a bad tie in, even though it came ten years after the first movie and 5 after the sequel.

A fun action adventure romp, F/X is well written despite one or two of the plot twists not being too surprising, and while the basic premise is not new the execution is original and entertaining.   All the actors felt well cast and play their roles very well and manage a fine equilibrium between seriousness and occasionally quite funny dry wit.


Rollie (Bryan Brown) with Rosebud (the monster) and Lipton (Cliff De Young) from the Justice department.

If you are looking for a fun movie that is slightly different from the norm then I can strongly recommend F/X Murder By Illusion.

All in all: 4 out of 5

FLASHBACK TO… TOP GUN

What do Tom Cruise, Walker Texas Ranger1, Heroes2, Batman3, China4 and The Shawshank Redemption5 have in common?

That’s right.  Top Gun.

This 1986 movie follows the hotshot pilot Pete Mitchell, call sign Maverick, and his friend and partner Nick Bradshaw, call sign Goose, as they get to take their shot at the Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, to be trained and considered as the very best fighter pilots in the navy.

During their time there Mavericks’ showboating and attitude causes a lot of problems between him and several of the other pilots but most notable with Iceman and his partner Slider.   During his time at TOPGUN Maverick also falls in love and begins a relationship with the civilian contractor, Charlotte Blackwood just referred to as Charlie, who is hired as one of their instructors.
Competition for the coveted TOPGUN trophy,  which officially labels you the best, is tight between Iceman and Maverick and during one training mission Mavericks’ plane malfunctions and during their ejection Goose is killed.  Maverick then faces the decision of staying in TOPGUN to graduate or handing in his wings for good.

Directed by Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott (Director for Blade Runner), who cut his directing teeth making advertisements and while the film is by no means bad, it does feel like a 2 hour long ad for the US Navy.

The acting is good and one can see why Tom Cruise became the A-list star he did during that period. The sound track is memorable, having tracks like Highway to the Danger zone, Dock of the bay and Take my Breath Away.
The story is not the most original or surprising and the writing is average but it still belongs into the category of sadly lover looked classics

All in all: 4 out of 5

1 Clarence Gillyard Jnr (Topgun:  Sundown.   Walker Texas Ranger: James Trivette)
2Adrian Passdar (Topgun: Chipper.   Heroes: Nathan Petrelli)
3 Val Kilmer (Topgun: Iceman.   Batman: Batman)
4http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/28/china-tv-news-top-gun
5 Tim Robbins (Topgun: Merlin.   Shawshank: Andy Dufresne)

This is the second submission into Film Cocaine Idol!

Shock tactics in a title? All right, fair play, I’ll admit that was a tad underhanded. It got your attention, though, and brings us straight to the point. If you are a Tarantino fan, you may want to skip the entire middle of this post. This is between me and Quentin, because he needs to hear this from a suburban nobody living alone in the arse-end of nowhere.

Now to start off with, I don’t think Quentin Tarantino is a bad director, far from it. He manages to break his movies out of chronological sequence to reveal a new story of remarkable power through post-modern deconstruction. At the same time, he pays homage to his child-hood love of B-movies, anime, spaghetti westerns and grindhouse film. Doing the latter might seem like a great way to be less pretentious, but this is where I start to see problems.

Your first Tarantino is often the best. Once you’re exposed to his bag of tricks, it loses its lustre the second or third time round. Then it becomes simply another trope, and if it gets done enough it becomes a cliché. His work is fantastic, and he has powerful vision, but I feel he’s been corrupted under the weight of his own hype. Compare the two Kill Bills, which were to be released as a single film, originally. Each film on its own was masterfully done, but after the set-up of Volume 1, Volume 2 is a borefest and a letdown. We can understand that you’re going in a bold new direction and enjoy fucking with audience expectations, Quentin. We know that you can do whatever you want because it’s your movies. But this borders on sacrificing the quality of your movies to sustain your own ego.

 

Acting has never been his strong point, but he insists on cameos in his movies. Having said that, I enjoyed him in Rodriguez’s Dusk Till Dawn, and I’m sure he enjoyed Salma Hayek. And, props to him, if I was getting paid lots of money to make movies I love then I’d also star in them. My favourite Tarantino was Natural Born Killers, because not only was it directed by Oliver Stone but it also had no cameo by Tarantino himself. The point I’m trying to make with this rant, is that with another director at the helm Tarantino’s excess was tempered.

You can be great, you can produce true art that’s entertaining and win the hearts of millions of audiences around the world and achieve the perfect balance between cult status and soaring revenues, with a few academy award nominations thrown in to boot. But when you start to sacrifice your art because you think your way of doings things is cool, when you teeter on the brink of excess because no one questions your greatness, that’s when you begin to lose sight of what it’s about.

It’s about making fantastic movies that people love. It’s about being the best you can be at what you are. Whether he has a few hits and misses, he will be remembered as one of the greats. I guess I’d just like him to be remembered as having reverence for the sub-genre of film he’s created.

ZANE MARC GENTIS’ WEBSITE: http://www.thechemicaldream.com/

(GO THERE AND READ WHAT THIS EXCELLENT WRITER IS ALL ABOUT. AN INSPIRING WEBSITE FOR ALL THOSE ASPIRING WRITERS OUT THERE!)

 

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In the comments below

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Film Cocaine’s first entry into Film Cocaine Idol was chosen due to the excellent command of the English language and the exciting insight into a classic film. Andre Ballot’s post was written in a presentable, fun and lively way. 

Film Cocaine received over 80 entries and only the best were chosen. A massive congratulations to Andre Ballot for becoming the first guest submission into Film Cocaine Idol.

This is Andre’s shot into the final round of submissions, if you like it, vote for it! (More on how to vote, read below)

Greetings filmlovers!

Today’s review is about my all-time favourite film and what I consider to be the last film in the Indiana Jones trilogy, before Indy turned old, Nazis turned Russian and stumbled upon the real Area 51 in “Kingdom of the Crystal-Meth”.

Many people seem to have fond childhood memories of “Last Crusade”, but I hardly ever see it in anyone’s dvd collection. I always feel that when a film is well directed with decent acting and especially set in something like the 30’s requiring little to no special effects, it ages remarkably well. We get that feeling with “Last Crusade” as the script is also jam-packed with witty one-liners and memorable dialog that you’ll no doubt want to quote to and annoy your friends constantly after watching the film twenty times.

In terms of the film itself: it feels like a clear improvement to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Temple of Doom”. Firstly, we have an objectively more important artifact to chase down for Indy: The Holy Grail. Yes, you can dominate the world with the Ark of the Covenant, but you won’t be around for long to enjoy that power. Throw in a cup that grants those who drink from it eternal life and you have a killer plot and veritable Nazi-magnet (and luckily for us also archaeologists with Batman-like fighting skills).

It also feels like Indy has matured as a character, as the starting scene in the film depicts him as a teenager in the boy scouts and reveals at long last how he came to be such a formidable badass for a college professor. His interaction with his polar opposite of a father, played by Sean Connery: the man with a voice that could turn straight men gay, who makes a first appearance in the third film, also reveals another daddy-issues dimension to Indy as they resolve demons of the past.

Besides the great acting line-up, classic dialog and cool premise, the film has a swift and natural flow to it and there is a respectable amount of both unpredictable and often funny action scenes to keep everyone happy and to top it all off, we’re constantly smirking from the disgruntled looks on the faces of the members of the Third Reich.

If you haven’t seen this timeless classic in a while, I suggest picking up a hat, whip and a cheap dvd somewhere.

ALL IN ALL: 4 out of 5

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The film dips its’ toes into a crass and predictable plot which jack knifes around stocky characterization. There is no real flesh to this film and Ivan Reitman’s (Ghostbusters) heavy directing led to scenes which were a bit too slow on the uptake.

The Plot: Adam meets Emma. They become sex friends. There is not anything more spectacular or worthy about the rest of the plot.

The Review: No Strings Attached treads a very, very thin line between chauvinistic characterization and a watered down feminist backlash. There is no real balance in the film as Natalie Portman’s character, Emma, is a hold-him-under-my-thumb  type of feminist and Ashton Kutcher’s character, Adam, lacks a sense of power and oomph which is required in order to make the plot work. It is nonsensical and blatantly treats the viewer to an appetizing trip down cliche lane.

Emma (Natalie Portman) is a bit rough around the edges and the characterization completely overpowers the plot devices which use both sexuality and awkwardness in order to obtain the sensation of pretty rom-com. The crass dialogue leaves the viewer hanging, waiting for a stronger delivery and a larger punch. No Strings Attached delved into real life dramatics and stuck its’ toe into a large pool of soppy, sloppy and sleepy cliched plot shenanigans.

It wasn’t all bad and even though No Strings Attached suffered from more faults than San Andreas, Ashton Kutcher strangely saved the day.  His performance was surprisingly less goofy and he is (extremely slowly) maturing into a dramatic actor.

The film was coincidentally released close to the hype of Black Swan where Natalie won the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film does absolutely no justice to Natalie’s career.

The only truly enjoyable feature of No Strings Attached was the wonderful and hysterical Kevin Kline as Adam’s (Ashton Kutcher) father. GREAT SCOTT!

If you’re looking for a cute rom-com, No Strings is right down your alley. Don’t expect too much and be sure to prepare yourself for the crass humour and slightly offbeat sexual plot devices.

 

ALL IN ALL – 2 OUT OF 5

Yes, it truly is a kind of funny story. This independent little film is based on a novel written by Ned Vizzini in 2006 about a seemingly depressed kid who books himself into a psychiatric hospital for a week and learns more about himself and meets the girl of his dreams (played by the splendid Emma Roberts).

The film is carried by the less than effervescent Keir Gilchrist (United States of Tara) and the exceptionally hysterical Zach Galifianakis (Hangover Films).

Craig Gilner (Gilchrist) checks himself into a psychiatric hospital one “bad night” and forces himself into a hospital with interesting characters and the “looking at oneself” mentality. The plot reads like a satire, but delivers something which is at times, more skin than bone. There are beautiful moments in this film and there are some yucky, sentimental elements which strangely do not do justice to the story.

Look, I am all for quirky attributes to a plot and intelligent dialogue, but the very essence of such a type of film was perfectly executed in the critical darling,Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. It’s A Kind Of Funny Story is not completely bad and contains some elements of youthful intelligence and clever, sardonic storytelling. The way Gilchrist, Galifianakis and Roberts carry this film deserves an applause. Watch out for the excellent musical number of Under Pressure which was a light little piece of work in an already heady and slow film.

I liken my experience of this film to eating cheap chocolates. The experience is a simulation. There was not one, direct moment in the film which I can point to that I went, “Wow, this film truly is spectacular.” No, the entire sum of this film melted into one stream of syrup. The slow characterization, the thematic content, as well as the third act, all blended into one quirky, cute film.  It isn’t a terrible film, but it lacked the very essence of what a memorable film should be, substance.

When watching this film, one feels like you’ve seen all of it before, only better. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson), writers and directors of the film, were not able to fully convey the message of the film to its’ audience and lacked the beautiful, quirky, love-ability of so many previous psychiatric ward, teenage turmoil films.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I expect audiences to watch this film and enjoy it. Do not expect to walk away feeling like you’ve witnessed something spectacular, you will most probably walk away and feel like you went on a relaxing, slightly emotional, Sunday cruise with the family.

 

3 out of 5

Secuestrados

Posted: August 11, 2011 in Reviews
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Secuestrados. Kidnapped.

A breathless (for the lack of a better word) piece of Spanish cinema. Filmed in 12 shots, yes you heard right, exactly 12, extremely agonizing shots of pure emotional torture. A film with a wonderfully simplistic plot quickly spirals into the deep recesses of personal agony as the three main protagonists of the film are held against their will by three Albanian robbers in their new home on the outskirts of a large Spanish metropolis.

The ensuing scenes are not for the faint of heart as the terror and pure brutality deepens and becomes an overwhelming quest for a glimmer of hope for the three protagonists. The viewer is left in awe and utter disgust at the seemingly incoherent violence.

The power of Kidnapped lies in that it is a more emotionally demanding torture thriller than its’ American counterparts (think Eli Roth’s equally disturbing Hostel). This is Spanish writer/director Miguel Angel Vivas’ first foray into a full length feature. Kidnapped smells like new blood from the get-go, as the fresh approach with split screens and drawn out scenes become less of a nuisance and more of a terrifying, I-need-to-look-away-now moment. Vivas uses special tricks with split screens in order to have the viewer experience dual POV’s (That is POINT OF VIEWS for the non-film enthusiasts) and to see the action happening at the same period of time in different scenes. This creates an interesting effect as is seen at the closing of the second act and the opening of the third. Vivas broke away from the mold and delivered a film which grabs onto you and digs so deep into your flesh that you’re unable to look away. It sucks the final breath from the viewer in order to witness the snuff-esque quality of this film and stay enthralled to the bitter end. The literal violence becomes unbearable at times, but somehow requires the viewer to experience this masterpiece with your eyes open, each and every agonizing scene.

I usually shy away from torture porn. I see these films as lazy re-enactments of an equally mindless and lazy society. For fear of being labelled a film snob, I decided to endure Kidnapped and follow it all the way through to the end, as objectively as possible. The resulting experience can only be described as the witnessing of a car accident. You see the body parts lying on the road, but you’re so attracted to the macabre idea of seeing a head that you drive closer to the accident. The result? No head, just hysterical people and the realization in their eyes that their life will never, ever be the same again. Kidnapped is on my must-tell-people-about list for 2011. It is one of the most powerful and violent Spanish films I have seen since the brilliant Amores Perros, the first part of the Death Trilogy by Alejandro Sans Innaritu. It digs deep into your soul and refuses to let go until the spectacular final scene, which is one of extreme and utter emotional disgust.

5 / 5