Action

District B-13 (Banlieue 13)

District 13

There has got to be an easier way to get around

dir: Pierre Morel

2004

This flick has many names: Banlieue 13, Barrio 13, B-13, 13th District, Pocahontas 2: Electric Boogaloo. Whether French or English, all they stand for is this: Gallic arse-kicking of the highest order!

No, well, maybe not. This is a film of around 80 minutes length, 79 minutes of which are action scenes. The acting is mediocre, the script is leaden or generic, and there are no attractive people in the film. Also, they’re speaking French the whole time.

But the action is top notch! They used to call it parkour, and for all I know they still call it parkour, but it is also known as free running. It is considered to be a form of urban martial art, though it’s not really about kicking the crap out of people. Free running is about getting through, over, under or around elements of built up environments and streets in the fastest and most elegant manner possible. Much of this stuff was on display in the opening segment of Casino Royale, the most recent Bond film, dazzling audiences from Moe to Madagascar.

There’s substantially less money and star power on offer here, but it is no less impressive to watch primary exponents of the discipline like David Belle, perform some very impressive stunts for our benefit.

Rating: 

Hulk

dir: Ang Lee
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Ang Lee's Hulk is an incredible achievement, but not so incredible
when you consider the films the man keeps making. Upon first hearing
that Ang was making a comic-book adaptation I thought, "Great, they're
trying to turn Lee into a John Woo. Soon he'll be making Mission:
Impossible
films alongside Tom Cruise's healthy ego". I need not have
worried. Here he has made the film least likely: it's dramatically
compelling, it's incredibly well put together, it looks incredible
(which is kind of crucial for the film medium, I believe), and it
achieves a level of depth that is nothing short of amazing in a film
you were expecting to be nothing but action.

Essential to the story is the emphasis on various parent - child
dynamics, but central even more so than that is the idea that parents
can sometimes severely damage their own children unintentionally. Thus
the story focuses on two people whose fathers have left indelible
scars upon their psyches, and in one case the damage goes even deeper
than that.

Rating: 

Bulletproof Monk

dir: Paul Hunter
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People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:

"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"

But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.

Rating: 

X-Men 2: X-Men United

dir: Bryan Singer
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Nerds. Does God love them? Or hate them? Are they the saviours of this world, or are they a plague upon the rest of humanity? Are they the result of unpopular childhoods, or a genetic mutation unto themselves, blessed with incredible memories for the most trivial of data and a pathological ability to hyperfocus on the most worrying of details?

At the very least, nerds and geeks in their pupal stage (where they are invisible and mostly benign) or adult stage (where they can be lethal: look at Micro$oft Overlord Darth Bill Gates, David Letterman and Henry Rollins) are friends to capitalism. Their pool of disposable income is vast and desirable, vast because we are talking about people that will spend their last hundred bucks on a DVD boxset of The Prisoner or a Boba Fett lunch box signed by Jeremy Bulloch instead of paying the rent. They have what is known in cognitive psychology circles as "low impulse control" and a yen for collecting. They want this geeky thing, they must have this geeky thing; no amount of arguing or sex can dissuade them.

Rating: 

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

dir: Robert Rodriguez
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I am unsure as to whether Robert Rodriguez’s films are getting worse, or whether I just don’t like what he does as much as I used to. After watching this movie on DVD I spent an additional ten minutes watching a behind the scenes featurette called Fast, Cheap and In Control. I found this DVD extra more enjoyable than the movie itself. It showed various tricks and techniques used to perform and record the special effects and stunts during the film. It shows just how much an inventive and cost-effective crew can manage in a short period of time.

Ideally, such a circumstance would allow for more time to concentrate on pesky little details like a script or actual dialogue for its multitude of characters. There is precious little of that here. In fact, the movie seems to be a collection of disconnected money shots with little purpose beyond allowing Rodriguez to close off his El Mariachi trilogy, as if nations themselves were clamouring for it. Gagging for it, they were.

Rating: 

S.W.A.T

dir: Clark Johnson
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S.W.A.T. is a pointless film rendered more pointless by being a big screen version of a television series no-one needed to see again. If they’re going to remake this crap, then they need to do a remake of The A Team (which they are doing, I believe), Who’s the Boss and Touched By an Angel as well. Why the hell not? Where’s that Cheers movie everyone’s been dying for? What about Shatner making a comeback in T.J. Hooker? How about another version of Dragnet? Or Hart to Hart, with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers? The Love Boat; now that’s begging to be remade on the big screen. The list is endless. As is the amount of talentless people willing to hitch their wagon onto an unoriginal idea since they lack the ability to think up anything for themselves.

Rating: 

Transporter, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Again, I got suckered in by a goddamn tv commercial. I don't know how the marketing people keep doing it to me, but when it comes to sub-standard martial arts / gun-fu orientated films, they know just what to put in to get me interested, and there on opening day. I'm ashamed of myself.

This is a dumb film. Dumb as a box full of hammers. Dumber than a locker room full of football players. But is it big dumb fun?

The other thing that burns me about being suckered in by the trailer was the fact that there are scenes in the trailer that have been edited out of the film. And that there are obvious overdubs and cuts presumably to lower the MPAA rating as well, which is funny, though they never stooped so low as to do the "melonfarmer" substitute that I adore so much.

When the film works (which is for 30 minutes of its overall length), it's on fire. The fight scenes and various action scenes are well choreographed and Jason Statham looks suitably professionally hard when he is belting three shades of fuck out of the various bad guys. I need me some of the chewable steroids they've been feeding this guy, because he looks like a lean, corded, vicious machine. He also seems pretty good in the action sequences in terms of looking believable as a fighter.

Rating: 

Die Another Day

dir: Lee Tamahori
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There. That feeling you had in your chest. Hadn't you noticed it before? Did you think it was just that you're getting really unfit and unhealthy? Or that maybe you had tuberculosis? No, that wasn't it.

That's it. Breath out. See, what happened was, you were waiting with bated breath for my next movie review.

And what will it be: a review of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, where I kept getting funny looks from the parents who'd brought their kids along, who were wondering what a 30 year old man was doing watching a kiddies film sans kiddies? Will it be a review from an advanced screening of The Two Towers, where 700 nerds were on the verge of premature ejaculation for nearly 3 hours?

No, it's a review of the 20th sequel to a very, very tired franchise which like its title suggests, will not die any time soon.

Rating: 

The One

The One

He's not the One, he's just a very naughty boy

dir: James Wong

2001

People, by and large, watch television. Whilst watching television, they will often see commercials, being as that is the nature of the medium. These aren't necessarily the World's Funniest or Sexiest commercials, either. Quite often, those commercials will be seriously truncated theatrical trailers shortened for the gnat-like attention spans of the tv viewing audience, promoting the imminent release of another work of art
to us, the presumed great unwashed masses.

Often, but not always, a viewer could be forgiven for thinking, "Who in their right mind, based on this appalling trailer, would want to go and see this pile of drek? Who sees these films?" If there's anyone out there that has seen the commercials for The One, or Highlander 5 as I prefer to think of it as, on telly, and
wondered the same thing, solace is at hand. I have the answer for you. When pondering who watches these Desert Vampire Mars Ghost C grade sci fi shlockfests, know now that it is me. I am the audience they're aiming for, apparently because I'm there on opening day.

Even reading a stack of bad reviews the quantity of which combined together would result in a mass exceeding that of Roger "Spiderbaby" Ebert wasn't enough to dissuade me from paying my hard earned cash in order to bask in the glory of Jet Li's exponential decline as he transforms from martial arts God to the
next Van Damme. In fact, I am virtually certain this film would initially have been offered to the Musclehead from Brussels, it has that odor of cheap nastiness that you associate with the star of such masterpieces as The Quest, Wrong Bet, the very McBain-sounding Sudden Death, and of course Time Cop. Perhaps Van Damme was too busy beating up one of his girlfriends to make it. Instead the illustrious makers of this stinker, Glen Morgan and James Wong of previous X Files acclaim decided to hitch the film's success on the rapidly declining 'star' power of Li Lien Jie, better known as Jet Li.

Rating: 

Predator

Predator

80s movie posters were... something else

dir: John McTiernan

1987

Maybe I’m misremembering the reality here, but was Predator an action classic back in the day when it came out? I was still a teenager in the heady last days of the 80s when this would have shown up on tv, heavily censored, of course. I seem to remember that it was big amongst teenager boys, big like acne and premature ejaculation. I mean, we didn’t have broadband internet access or iPods to keep ourselves occupied with back then, and the closest we came to god was watching Arnie chew his way through scenery and co-workers in his wonderful moofies.

This was back when the 11th Commandment was still “Thou Shalt Watch Every Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie”, and it held for at least a little while longer. Sure, he’s the goddamn Governor of California now, but back then he could be relied on to keep teenage boys in thrall.

For reasons I can’t explain, because they’re inexplicable, of course, I felt compelled to pick up a DVD of Predator yesterday and watched it last night (10/4/2007). Twice, the second time with the director’s commentary on. I usually never listen to commentaries, because generally they either have nothing to say that I want to hear, or else-wise they ruin the experience of watching a film I love by telling me something I didn’t want to know but can’t forget. But since I watched it through, and was convinced of one particular fact so strongly I couldn’t sleep without confirmation, I wanted to watch it with the commentary on to confirm my supposition. And also, I listened to the commentary because I hoped the director would have the balls to say what a nightmare it was working with this bunch of jerks. Especially Arnie.

In vain, all is in vain.

Predator was a minor hit back in the day, at least according to Box Office Mojo, and spawned one direct and one indirect sequel. It was a pretty big deal for Arnie, who starred and pretty much owned the film, despite the roster of big men and big personalities on screen. It solidified his claim as a genuine cinematic presence, a big man with big muscles and a lot of charisma.

Rating: 

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