Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Baader Meinhof Komplex (4 Stars)

"What we need is a new morality".

When I first saw this film I was in awe. It was the best German film I had ever seen. Even after repeated viewing on DVD I praised it highly. It wasn't until watching it today that my opinion began to change. For 1 hour 55 minutes it's a work of genius. Then it begins to turn. The last half hour is disgusting propaganda for the official German bourgeoisie.

The film is based on a book by Stefan Aust, who was a friend of Andreas Baader in his early years, but then split away from him. The extended version of the film (not the version I watched today) contains a brief scene where Stefan himself appears. Evidently the break up from Andreas Baader was serious enough to cause Stefan to tell lies which have been repeated in the film.

For those who don't know the events of 1977, let me explain. In the night of October 18th, 1977 the four terrorists being held in separate cells in Germany's top security prison, Stammheim, committed suicide. Andreas Baader and Jan-Carl Raspe shot themselves. Gudrun Ensslin hanged herself. Irmgard Möller stabbed herself four times in the chest, but narrowly missed her heart and survived. To any sane thinking person it's inconceivable that prisoners could smuggle guns into their cells. Apart from this, after recovering Irmgard Möller claimed that masked men had entered her cell and stabbed her. Gudrun Ensslin's body was badly bruised as if she had been beaten. But what did the prison's security cameras show? There was a power failure that night, so the cameras weren't working. How convenient!

The film shows the lawyer smuggling guns to Andreas Baader during the trial, but there is no evidence that this ever happened. The intention of the film is to poison the minds of the viewers to accept the official story, rather than the truth. The last half hour of the film has Brigitte Mohnhaupt repeatedly stating that the imprisoned terrorists would end their lives at the time of their choice. This is pure propaganda, and the more it's repeated the more sickening it gets.

Before I finish, I'd like to point out that I don't agree that we need a new morality. It's just a quote from the film, in my eyes a very significant quote. The new morality of the Baader Meinhof group involved killing one's enemies, without paying heed to anyone else who died as collateral damage. The old morality is better.

Cabin in the Woods (4 Stars)

The Athlete. The Scholar. The Fool. The Virgin. The Whore. Which one are you?

I already wrote about this film last year. Click here for the review. It's a very good film that steers a fine line between meta-horror and parody without becoming trite. Today was only the second time I watched it. What I noticed especially was how used I am to Chris Hemsworth being Thor. Even though he's supposed to be a horny teenager, every time he speaks I expect him to pull out his hammer.

The film's concept is so good that I'd like to see a sequel, but that's not possible because the world is destroyed at the end of the film. Oops! Did I just give away a spoiler?

On a different topic, thanks to whoever bought so much from Amazon in August using my links. I don't know if it was the same person or different people because there were three separate large orders, all of them for a mixture of items: games, DVDs and kitchenware. As I've said before, making money isn't a high priority for me. I've avoided any money-making schemes that earn me money for clicks, because they would annoy my readers. I only earn money from people who actually buy things from Amazon. Having said that, my commission for the three sizeable orders in August was more than £22. Thank you.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Darjeeling Limited (3½ Stars)

Three brothers (Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman) reunite after their father's death to take a spiritual trip across India.

Bill Murray missed the train.

The brothers lose their luggage on the way home.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (5 Stars)

In my last review of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" I wrote that "the mix of action, drama, romance and beautiful cinematography makes it an all time classic". That's true, but I forgot something. The film also has a deep spirituality. It's not a dogmatic spirituality. In the opening scene Li Mu Bai arrives after spending a period of deep meditation in the Wudang temple and speaks these words:
"During my meditation I came to a place of deep silence. I was surrounded by light. Time and space disappeared. I felt I had come to a place my master had never told me about".
He denies that this was enlightenment, and continues:
"I didn't feel the bliss one should feel when enlightened. Instead, I was surrounded by an endless sorrow".
Why was this? We're given a clue, though I wouldn't be bold enough to call it a definitive answer, shortly before his death. Shu Lien encourages Li Mu Bai to meditate with his last breath, but he refuses. He claims he has wasted all his life, and instead of this he uses his last breath to tell Shu Lien that he loves her.

Does this mean that love is more important than meditation? That's a tough question to give a one-word answer to. A tough question for those of us who think spiritually, that is. For a shallow person the answer is an easy Yes. Maybe the shallow ones are right. Even a fool can sometimes make the right decision. I prefer to leave the question unanswered. In the context of the film, I see the answer elsewhere. Li Mu Bai's problem was that he meditated for the wrong reasons. Amongst other reasons, a person should meditate to find himself. Li Mu Bai meditated to escape the truth about himself that he already knew. He had known that he loved Shu Lien for many years, and he used meditation as a means to flee from this love. It could even be argued that the place he reached in his deep meditation really was enlightenment. It was revealed to him, in that perfect place, that he had nothing. This was the reason for his sorrow.

Later in the film Li Mu Bai says:
"The things we touch have no permanence. My master would say: there is nothing we can hold onto in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real".
This sounds true. But in the last moments of his life Li Mu Bai rejects the teaching of his master. He clings to Shu Lien as tightly as he can, refusing to let go.

Was this a mistake? I don't know. I'm at a position in my life where I accept nothing and question everything. The older I become, the less I know. This might sound like my life is empty, but that isn't a bad thing. Remember that only an empty glass can be filled.

One question that I asked myself after watching the film today is if spiritual enlightenment, as an inner experience, has any value at all. In the film Jade Fox denies this. She says, "Happiness is the most important thing in life, isn't it?" She is the film's most evil person, a murderess, but does she have a point?

I can relate to the words written by King Solomon of Israel, the wisest person on Earth during his lifetime, and probably one of the wisest men who has ever lived.
"The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I thought in my heart, the fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise? The wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Ecclesiastes 2:14-16)
Solomon's words are dangerously close to existentialism, a philosophy that I reject completely. The Book of Ecclesiastes holds a unique place in the Bible. Whereas the rest of the Bible purports to be the Word of God, this book is the word of a man thinking by himself, a man who only believes what he sees with his own eyes. That's probably the reason why it's so often quoted by people who don't believe in the Bible. The Book of Ecclesiastes is more accessible to non-believers.

Whether or not wisdom is worth while, it's a one-way path. A person who is on the path of wisdom might reject the teachings he's learnt, but he can't forget them. A fool can become wise, but a wise man can't become a fool; the most he can do is act like a fool.

When I was younger the words of Todd Rundgren inspired me. Amongst other things he sang, "A long, long road is behind me now. It's too late to be afraid of the choice that I have made". He was right. For me, like Todd, there is no going back.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bronson (4 Stars)

After watching this film today for the third time the main impression I got was the quality of Tom Hardy's acting. Sheer brilliance, especially when compared with his other films such as "Locke" and "Inception". For me the true mark of an actor's quality is that he's virtually unrecognisable from one film to the next. Judging by this criterion, Tom Cruise fails miserably, while Tom Hardy finishes top of his class.

Click here for a more detailed review.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Maps to the Stars (3¾ Stars)

After seeing this film in the cinema I found it difficult to review. I cheated by checking reviews written by other people, but I don't like their reviews either. I think the problem is that the film has different stories which are interlocked by sharing the same people, but actually have little to do with one another. It's the same scenario that we have in "Magnolia", except that P. T. Anderson makes a big deal of stories happening in parallel while David Cronenberg just lets them happen.

Let me attempt a partial synopsis of the film. Spoiler-free, of course. Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a psychotherapist who has become a millionaire through television appearances, self-help books and treating the Hollywood stars. His unconventional counselling techniques involve talking to the actresses -- he only has female clients? -- while massaging them. But there are several dark secrets in his life. His wife is his sister. His 13-year-old son Benjie, the star of "Bad Babysitter", has just spent four years in drug rehab. His 18-year-old daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) was sent to a mental asylum as a child after starting a fire, and he refuses to let her contact his family.

Agatha returns to Hollywood with the intention of marrying her brother. After all, she's only following the example set my her parents. She returns using a false name to avoid suspicion. At the airport she meets and grows attached to Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a young man who is working as a limo driver while trying to make it as a screenwriter. She becomes the personal assistant of Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), an aging actress and one of Dr. Weiss's patients, who is desperate to star in a film remake in which she would play the same role that her now deceased mother played 30 years earlier.

The film is a savaging attack on the Hollywood film community and the people who populate it. The teen stars that Benjie mixes with are the ugliest of all. They've entered an adult world, and they've adopted its conventions to survive. They talk bad about others behind their backs and fight their way to the top by trampling on their peers. The adults too are heartless. When the son of Havana's friend Azita (Jayne Heitmeyer) dies, Havana pretends to be sympathetic, but she's really pleased because Azita is no longer able to star in a film role that Havana wanted.

I don't think my synopsis does the film justice, even though it's better than anything else I've read so far. I've omitted many things that are going on, but it should give you a rough impression. It's a film worth seeing more than once. It confused me on first viewing, but there's a good chance I'll rate it higher next time I see it.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Most Wanted Man (4 Stars)

Ever since this film was announced a friend of mine who is a big John le Carré fan was telling me that I really must watch it. And then another friend who's an Anton Corbijn fan told me I should watch it. But I didn't need the encouragement of either of them. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in the leading role, so I would have gone to see it whoever had written or directed it.

I have never read any of John le Carré's books, but I know a little about him. He is a British author who writes books about espionage. He had the advantage of working for the British intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, which gave him insight into the way espionage works. This film is very different to spy thrillers such as the James Bond films. We don't have spectacular car chases and agents leaping from helicopters while firing their guns at people on the ground. This is a very sober story of the way secret agents really live and work. It's not all excitement being a spy, it's about investigation, paperwork and negotiations with the police and other agencies. Being a spy is a 9 to 5 job, and this film gives an insight into the job for anyone who is considering it as a career.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, the head of a small counter-terrorism unit based in Hamburg. A Chechnyan terrorist who is being sought by the Russian authorities enters Germany illegally. The German police want to arrest him immediately, but Bachmann persuades them to let him remain free, under observation, so that he can be used to gain evidence that a Moslem philanthropist, Dr. Faisal Abdullah, is secretly financing Al Qaeda.

Apart from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Willem Dafoe, who plays a banker, the film contains the top German actors Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss. The singer Herbert Grönemeyer has a small part in the film, as well as composing the film's music.

It's interesting that this is the second film I've seen in the cinema in two weeks which includes an excerpt from "The Mussolini", a 1981 hit by DAF. In "A Most Wanted Man" it's being played in a club, in "The Guest" we hear Anna Petersen listening to it in her room. DAF are a group who achieved great success in Germany, but are hardly known in other countries. It would be good to revive interest in them.

Click here for the music video of "The Mussolini".

The Legend of Bruce Lee (4½ Stars)

This film about Bruce Lee's life was made in 2010. Despite being a big fan of Bruce Lee I waited until today to watch it. The reason is that the reviews I read were so bad that I didn't think it would be worth watching. Today I finally gave in and watched it. And I'm confused. Why are the reviews so bad? Weren't the reviewers watching the same film?

This film is a perfect companion to "Young Bruce Lee", also known as "Bruce Lee, My Brother". "Young Bruce Lee" deals with his early life, from his birth to his emigration to America in 1959. "The Legend of Bruce Lee" begins in 1964 and continues up till his death in 1973, although there are flashbacks to his final years in Hong Kong.

The actor who plays Bruce Lee, Danny Chan (called by his Chinese name Chan Kwok Kwan in the poster above) is amazing. In all the films I've seen about Bruce Lee I've never seen an actor who matches Bruce's appearance so exactly. Apart from that, he's an excellent martial artist in his own right, not just an athlete mimicking fighting moves for the camera.

The film follows Bruce's determination to devise a new fighting style which combines the best elements of other styles. He came to America as an expert in Wing Chun, which he considered to be the best, but he thought it could be improved. He meets with masters of Ju Jitsu, Filipino Boxing and Taekwondo to learn from them and incorporate their best moves into his new style, which he called Jeet Kune Do.

My main criticism of the film is the awful music that breaks in at random moments. There are cheesy choruses of women singing lines such as "Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee, we adore you". It's so bad that it's embarrassing. Another mistake is that everyone in the film speaks Chinese, even people in America who evidently aren't Chinese, such as hospital surgeons and television producers.

I have a theory about this film. I've tried to find information online that verifies it, but I've had no success. In 2008-2009 there was a Chinese television series about Bruce Lee, also called "The Legend of Bruce Lee". It was made up of 50 episodes, each lasting 45 minutes. The actors in the series are the same ones who appear in the film. My theory is that the film is an abridged version of the series, a sort of "Best of the Legend of Bruce Lee", just the best three hours out of the 37 hours that the series lasted. Since the series has never been released with English subtitles, could any of my Chinese readers find this out for me please?

Incidentally, check out the newspaper report about Bruce Lee's successes that was shown in the film. Obviously, the word "miraculous" is spelt wrong. But check out the text of the article below the headline. (Click on the photo to enlarge it). It has nothing to do with Bruce Lee or any other fighters. The article is about hockey and basketball. And then there's the date, Friday, March 16th, 1971. This day was a Tuesday. Sloppy.

Added on September 27th

After doing some more research I've found confirmation that the film really is a collection of highlights from the television series, not original material.

I've also been reading reviews about the film, and now I understand the criticisms. The problem is that it claims to be a biopic about Bruce Lee, but it contains things that simply aren't true. For instance:

  1. There was nobody called Hoffman at the 1964 karate championship.
  2. Yellow-Skin (real name Wong Jackman) never broke Bruce Lee's spine in a private match.
  3. Bruce Lee did not collapse while filming "Enter the Dragon".
  4. The evil Japanese nemesis Yamamoto did not exist.
  5. Bruce Lee never became the US karate champion.

These are all significant things. I'm thankful to other reviewers for pointing them out. So it isn't a biopic about the real Bruce Lee, it's just a fantasy story that is loosely based on his life. I still enjoy the film, as a film, but as a documentary of his life it's a total failure. But then again, "failure" is the wrong word, because I doubt it was intended to present the real Bruce Lee, any more than Robin Hood films are intended to show the real historical character as he was. The problem in Bruce Lee's case is that he's a recent hero, so we're forced to compare the stories with the well-documented truth.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Killing them softly (3½ Stars)

America's not a country. It's just a business. So fucking pay me!

This is a dark crime drama against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential elections. Nobody that we see is a good person, and we end up hating them all.

A semi-retired gangster hires two small-time crooks to rob an illegal poker game being run by mobsters. One of them talks too much when he's high on drugs, so Jackie Cogan, a professional hit man, is hired to kill them. "Killing them softly" refers to his method of killing. He explains that when you kill someone face to face it's a messy business. The victim pleads and begs, he pisses himself, and his blood splashes all over the killer. Jackie prefers to kill his victims softly, as he calls it. He shoots them from a distance, so they don't know who the killer is, and if the assassination runs smoothly they're dead before they even know it. That's a nice way to die.

It's doubtlessly a good film, with first rate performances from all the actors. The problem is simply that all the characters are without redeeming qualities. When I watch a film I want to take the part of one of the protagonists. I want him to succeed. In this film I had nobody I could relate to. I hated the crooks, I hated the hit man, I hated the mob bosses, I hated everyone.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hummingbird (4 Stars)

This is the first film that was directed by Steven Knight, the screenwriter/director from my home town of Birmingham, who was also responsible for "Locke". It was renamed "Redemption" in the USA, but this name is totally wrong. As Steven Knight points out in the interview on the disc, "Joey is a character who feels he can't be forgiven, he doesn't deserve to be forgiven, and he isn't looking for forgiveness". If anything the American title should have been "No Redemption".

Joey Smith, codename Hummingbird, was a British soldier serving in Afghanistan. His squad of six soldiers was ambushed, and he was the only survivor. He reacted with an Eye For an Eye principle: "They killed five of ours, I'll kill five of theirs". Since he didn't know who had attacked his squad, he captured and executed five civilians at random. This resulted in him being sent home, where he was put into a mental hospital to be treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At some point he decided that he was mentally well again, but he didn't want to show it. The trouble was that as soon as he was deemed healthy he would have to face a court martial. So he bided his time until he had an opportunity to escape, and he went underground on the streets of London.

Joey's appearance and his way of life change. His hair grows long, he wears dirty clothes, he lives in a cardboard box on the streets, and he spends any money he gets from begging on alcohol. Drinking is a deliberate choice for him. When he's sober he does the only thing that he's good at, i.e. he fights and he kills. That's what he's been trained to do. When he's drunk he's docile and harmless.

One day in February he falls through the skylight into an apartment that will be empty until October while the owner, a successful artist, is working in New York. First he steals money, which he uses to buy more alcohol. Then he makes a large donation to the nun who runs the soup kitchen where he used to eat. She begs him to make a change in his life, so he sobers up. He changes his name to Joey Jones, and he gets a job at a Chinese restaurant. After being seen in a fight by his boss, who is also a local gangster, he is offered work as a driver and debt collector. Once more he's able to do what he's good at: fighting and killing. He begins to have romantic feelings for the nun, but a relationship isn't possible because she is, after all, a nun.

The nun wants him to stop being a gangster. Can he change? He already changed once for her, and the change made him a worse person. Is there any solution, apart from returning to the bottle?

Steven Knight says in his interview that when he did research on the homeless community in London he found out that about 10% of the homeless people are ex-soldiers. That's not what I saw when I was homeless. When I was homeless, in Birmingham, I found that about 50% of the homeless people were ex-soldiers. This is disgraceful. There should be follow up to prevent this happening to soldiers when they leave the army. It's not just a matter of them not having money. They're given an army pension, and most leave the army when they're still young enough to start a new career. It's more of a mental problem. After spending years living in barracks or tents with other soldiers they feel so lonely when they return to a so-called normal life. Sleeping alone in a room is strange. They feel more comfortable living on the streets where they can be close to others.

It's also difficult for an ex-soldier to carry out a normal job. In the army everything is about discipline. He's told what to do, and he obeys his orders to the letter. Creativity and initiative are not expected of him. All this changes in real jobs in the real world.

And then there's the killing. As I've been told by several people, some of them friends of mine, killing changes everything. It's true that soldiers are trained to kill because it's just a job, but nothing can protect a soldier from the emotional scar when he kills a person for the first time. If he carries on killing, each time he pulls the trigger it gets a bit easier. But when he leaves the army the day will come when he sits down and counts the people he has killed, and the nightmares begin.

In my opinion England's soldiers are our biggest heroes. They are the ones who put their lives at risk and abandon personal comfort to protect the rest of us. They are the ones who protect me. My father was in the Royal Air Force during World War Two, doing what he could to fight the evil forces who killed Jews. History repeats itself. Today's English soldiers are also sent abroad to fight people who are enemies of the Jews. But what happens when they come home? My father only served for four years, and he never saw active combat, so he returned home unscathed. My friend Brian Farmer returned home after 22 years in the army, and he was an emotional wreck, unable to do a normal day's work. 19 years later he was murdered in his own apartment by people he called his friends. The killers were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, but were they the only guilty ones? Those who neglected to look after him when he was alone and helpless in England share the guilt. Where were the doctors, the social workers and the army psychiatrists who could have helped him?

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Killer Inside Me (3¾ Stars)

This is a twisted, though somehow fascinating drama, set in a small town in Texas in the 1950's. It was difficult for me to rate. I can appreciate the film's quality on so many levels, such as the atmosphere, the plot and the acting. On the other hand there are scenes that disgusted me so much that I wanted to turn it off. I could have given the film any rating between 1 and 4 stars, depending on my mood.

Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is the deputy sheriff in Central City, Texas. Despite the grand sound of its name, Central City is actually only a small town in which everyone knows everyone. The only justification for its name is that it really is in the middle of Texas. Lou has a beautiful girlfriend, a school teacher called Amy (Kate Hudson), with whom he has a torrid sado-masochistic relationship, but she isn't enough for him. When he's asked by the town's biggest employer, the owner of a construction company, to run a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town who has had an affair with the employer's son, Lou begins an affair with her. Another sado-masochistic affair. Lou likes to hit women, and they enjoy it.

I personally have been involved in the S&M scene, on various levels, since I was at university. This isn't the place to describe my past in detail, but I do have fixed ideas on the subject which are rejected by many others in the scene, although I am convinced that I am right. I know that there are people, both men and women, who experience a certain amount of sexual pleasure out of being dominated, even if the domination involves being hurt. There are both men and women who act as dominants, either acting gently as loving dominants, or acting harshly as cruel dominants. In either case, especially the latter, it's the official party line of the S&M scene that whatever happens must be consensual. It's usual that in S&M relationships the submissive person has a "safe word" which he/she can use when he wants the dominant person to stop what he's doing. This has led to the commonly stated misconception that the submissive is really the one who is in control.

Based on my experience I am strongly of the opinion that men are ill-suited as dominants. Dominant men are unable to stop when they're sexually aroused and often go too far. A problem with men, both dominant and submissive, is that they consider the domination to be foreplay for sexual intercourse, whereas women can enjoy domination without sex. This means that domination by a man can frequently lead to rape. It's also my experience that dominant men tend to be below average intelligence, which further complicates the issue.

I don't know if Lou Ford is based on any real person, but to me he's a typical dominant male. Women submit to him, so he hurts them, but he's unable to stop, and the domination turns into abuse. In this film he kills the women that he's involved with, and then he's forced to kill men to hide what he's done. He's a disgusting creature.

Please leave comments if you agree or disagree with what I've written. Maybe I can go into the subject in more detail.

A Walk among the Tombstones (2 Stars)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Quas mollit optio magnam molestias filia distinctio repudiandae? Nulla quas tempora! Vitae praesentium deserunt saepe quam cupidatat voluptas do commodi, aspernatur dolore commodo, veritatis eligendi harum. Occaecat phallus aliqua iste explicabo animi distinctio. Vitae omnis aliquid minim enim aliqua mollit earum soluta repudiandae magna.

Occaecat illum aliqua saepe iste beatae at magnam, cillum incidunt tempora tempor. Harum fuga, deserunt quam magnam quisquam quaerat incidunt. Aperiam veniam ullamco blanditiis hic quaerat molestias nisi minima cum assumenda. Vitae saepe aute hic zero porro quidem vero deleniti minima quo accusantium, consequatur aliquip eius. Laboris eaque minima?

Incididunt illum error officia voluptatem ratione vero sint repudiandae exercitationem quod tempore labore. Vel unde similique at vero ex filia cillum molestiae iure nihil harum, assumenda fuga. Quibusdam expedita enim exercitation flamma aliqua perferendis zero error. Esse quia nam cumque assumenda! Nesciunt minim corrupti exercitation saepe totam, autem animi ipsum corporis nostrum cillum. Nulla aliquam tenetur Korinna corporis lorem id assumenda.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mercenaries (3½ Stars)

Today Burbank, tomorrow the world?

Christopher Ray, best known for directing shock horror films like "Two-Headed Shark Attack" and "Megashark vs. Crocosaurus", has now given the world more of what it likes to see: bad girls with guns! The American president's daughter has been captured and is being held in an unnamed Middle Eastern country that looks like Iran, though it might be a former Soviet republic. The USA military expert Mona (Cynthia Rothrock) knows that there is only one way to free her. America's top female soldiers, all currently imprisoned for going over the top in action, are assembled and sent on a mission to invade the top security prison called the Citadel.

Kristanna Loken is put at the front on the poster, since she is supposedly the film's biggest star. However, the team leader is Zoe Bell, and she's undoubtedly the best fighter in the group.

The similarity with "The Expendables" and its sequels is obvious. If not for copyright considerations the film might have been given a trashy name like "The Expendabelles" or "Expendababes", but I prefer "Mercenaries". It might be less expressive, but it's classier. From the exterior it might look like a cheap B-Film, but it's surprisingly well made and has a very good plot. Surprising, that is, if you aren't acquainted with Christopher Ray. Low budget doesn't mean low quality.

Burbank? Oh yes. "Mercenaries" won the best film award at the 2014 Burbank International Film Festival.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Mulholland Drive (5 Stars)

No hay banda!

It might interest you to know that David Lynch opposes viewers jumping to scenes in his films. Most of the DVD releases of his films, including this one, have no chapter breaks. The Blu-ray follows a different strategy. There are 56 chapters, and there's a "Scene Selection" menu. However, it isn't possible to select a precise chapter. The Blu-ray menu selects a chapter at random. As well as this, the buttons to skip a chapter forwards or backwards are disabled.

Being John Malkovich (4½ Stars)

I have been to the dark side, I have seen a world that no man should see.

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is an unemployed puppeteer in New York. He lives in a basement apartment with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and her many exotic pets, which include parrots, iguanas and chimpanzees. He takes a temporary job as a filing clerk. One evening, while working late, he finds a secret door hidden behind a filing cabinet. This door leads into John Malkovich's head. Anyone who enters can see through John Malkovich's eyes for 15 minutes, after which he's thrown out onto the grass at the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

This seemingly absurd film throws up so many philosophical questions. The first time you watch it you have to laugh. You could mistakenly think you're watching a Woody Allen film. After you see it the second time you begin to see the bigger issues. It's a film about reality, identity, gender roles and control.

When I first saw this film I gave all the credit to the writer, Charlie Kaufman. He's written several amazing films, including "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". I paid no attention to the director Spike Jonze, who has made his career directing music videos. After seeing "Her" earlier this year, which Spike Jonze both wrote and directed, I can look back and see his influence on this film.

This message appeared at the end of the credits. All the characters portrayed in the film are fictitious? That's strange. I thought that John Malkovich really existed. Wikipedia says he does, but sometimes Wikipedia lies.

What is this strange power that John Malkovich exudes?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Farewell, my Lovely (4½ Stars)

I've got a hat, a coat and a gun. That's it.

This was the first of two films in which Robert Mitchum starred as Philip Marlowe. The other film was "The Big Sleep", made three years later in 1978. The two films are very unlike one another. "The Big Sleep" has a somewhat camp nature, whereas "Farewell, my Lovely" is 100% film noir. The film is made in colour, but most of the scenes take place at night, and even the daytime scenes occur in dark and grubby neighbourhoods. The voice-over is maintained throughout the film, which we see entirely from the detective's perspective. In this film, unlike "The Big Sleep", Philip Marlowe is very human and unable to resist the deadly charms of the femme fatale, the judge's young wife Helen. After she flashes her thighs at him and then sits staring longingly at his crotch he falls helplessly into her arms. Luckily she didn't pull out her gun on him until later in the film.

The plot is much less complex than "The Big Sleep". It takes place in 1941, against the background of the War in Europe and Joe DiMaggio making baseball history. The detective is hired by Moose Malloy, an ex-convict, to find his girlfriend Velma. He's just spent seven years in prison, and the last time she visited him was six years ago. It might sound like a simple case, but as it progresses the people he asks for information are killed one by one by unknown assailants. After the first five bodies have piled up the police suspect Marlowe of murder.

Today is the first time I've watched this film. It certainly won't be the last.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Lolita from Interstellar Space (3½ Stars)

According to the splash screen, this film is based on the classic Jules Verne novel. Which one? I'm not aware of any of his books having this name. Maybe it's called something completely different. If any of my readers are Jules Verne experts they can help me out.

Lolita is a college student on a planet in a far off galaxy. Due to her grades being bad her professor, Zarren, sends her to Earth to learn about primitive alien culture. She signs up in the same college that we saw in "Strippers from another world" -- or are they just using the same set? -- and she quickly makes friends with the other students. With their help she does all the things that typical college students do: she has unprotected sex with multiple partners, she gets drunk and she commits a robbery.

I won't say what I like most about the film, but the following picture might give you a clue. If you don't recognize the girl, have you never read my blog before? If you really don't know who she is, click the picture to see her name.

Before I go to sleep (3½ Stars)

Nicole Kidman, who appears in almost every minute of the film, stars as a 40-year-old woman called Christine Lucas. When she was 26 she was the victim of a violent assault that involved blows to the head. Ever since then she's unable to retain new memories. Every day when she wakes up she has forgotten everything that happened on the previous day, and she thinks that she's 20 years younger. Every day she wakes up next to her husband Ben, who she doesn't recognise, and he has to explain who he is before leaving for work. Every day she receives a phone call from a man, Doctor Nash, who says he is trying to help her retrieve her memory. The doctor instructs her to make a video diary on a camcorder every day. Every morning she has to watch the previous recordings, and every evening she has to record the new things she has learnt during the day. As she struggles to find the truth about her past she doesn't know if she can trust the doctor, her husband or anyone at all.

The similarity with "Memento" is obvious. Rather than dwell on the similarities I'll point out the one major difference. In "Memento" the emphasis of the story is Leonard Shelby trying to find his wife's killer, despite being hampered by his repeated memory loss. In "Before I go to sleep" the emphasis is on Christine Lucas trying to regain her lost memories.

This is a good film with a solid performance by the three main actors, Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth as the husband and Mark Strong as the doctor.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Police Officer's Wife (2 Stars)

As my regular readers know, I'm a fan of German cinema, particularly films made since 1990. For that reason I'm excited whenever a German film is shown in Birmingham. It doesn't happen very often. Birmingham's alternative cinema, the Mac, often shows foreign films which can't be seen anywhere else. Today they screened "Die Frau des Polizisten" ("The Police Officer's Wife"), a film that won a special award at the Vienna Film Festival. I knew almost nothing about it, except that it lasts three hours and deals with domestic violence.

The film's style can be summed up by the first two minutes. A black screen. The inscription "Chapter One" appears. Then we see a close-up of a branch in the forest. The camera lingers on the image for what seems like an eternity. The picture goes out of focus. Then it's in focus again. Another black screen. "End of Chapter One". People in the cinema broke out in laughter. My friend sitting next to me whispered, "Now I can see why the film lasts three hours". After that the film could only get better. Couldn't it?

"Chapter Two". We see a policeman coming home. He takes off his uniform, slowly untying his shoelaces, hanging up his clothes in an orderly fashion. Eventually he walks upstairs in his underwear. "End of Chapter Two". More laughter in the audience.

"Chapter Three". A close-up of an old man's head as he stands watching a snowy field. He turns and stares into the camera for a minute. Then he turns back and stares at the field again. "End of Chapter Three". By this point nobody is laughing.

And so the film continues for 59 chapters over three hours. We see the policeman, his wife and his daughter. We have detailed views of people putting on their shoes, chopping onions and performing various other mundane tasks. The policeman's family sings children's songs. A fox searches for food in the streets. In some chapters the policeman hits his wife, and we see her bruises getting worse throughout the film.

Reviews of the film say that it highlights domestic violence. That's not the impression that I get from the film. The image that stays with me is the utter boredom of a film rambling on with random images. I'll be generous and give the film 2 stars, because the camera work is very beautiful. I've never seen such interesting close-ups of people's faces and knees. The pictures, taken individually, are stunning. The film as a whole is mind-numbingly dull.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Guest (4 Stars)

Sometimes a trailer doesn't do a film justice. I had seen "The Guest" advertised whenever I went to the cinema over the last few weeks, and I thought I knew what the film was about, but I was wrong. In particular, I didn't know what genre the film belonged to until I got to the last half hour of the film. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, so I'll restrict myself to a brief review.

Caleb Petersen was an American soldier who never returned from action in the Middle East. His family reveres him as a hero, and they try to get on with their life as best as they can. Two years later a stranger knocks on the door. David Collins tells Caleb's mother that he was her son's best friend, and that he was with him when he died. He's invited to stay overnight, but the family like him so much that they ask him to stay longer. David seems to be the film's guardian angel, protecting Caleb's parents and siblings from harm, for instance by beating up the boys who bully Caleb's younger brother in school.

Of course, we can guess that the mysterious guest isn't all he seems to be. He has a dark side, which leads Caleb's sister Anna to investigate him. This much was obvious from the trailer. However, the trailer makes the film seem like a psychological thriller, whereas it's really a horror film. That's the closest to a spoiler that I'll get.

It's obvious that the film's writer and director want to make a sequel. Things are mentioned but not explained, telling us that we have to wait for the next film to get answers. There are other typical markers of horror films preparing us for the sequel.

Maika Monroe is beautiful as Caleb's sister Anna. I hope to see a lot more of her in "The Guest 2". And "The Guest 3".....

General: My Fourth Anniversary

Today is the fourth anniversary of my blog. Was it really only four years ago that I saw "Metropolis" in the Electric Cinema and was so enthusiastic about it that I decided to write something about it? Looking back at my first review, I wrote very little. Most of my early reviews were short. As time went by I started to write more, although there are still short reviews at times. What's important to me is that I should at least list all the films that I watch, so that my blog can be an accurate film diary, recording what I watch and when. If I have a lot to say about a film I'll ramble on, and if I don't I'll just write a few lines.

So far I've written 1365 posts, which is slightly more than 6 posts a week. That doesn't mean I've watched 1365 films. I estimate that about 10% of my posts are about something other than a film, such as a TV series, an obituary to a dead actor or something totally off topic. My site still contains at least 1200 film reviews.

My number of readers fluctuates, but it averages out at about 5000 readers a month. I use the word "reader" very generously. I think that a lot of people are looking for places to download films, and they're probably annoyed when they come to my site and find it doesn't contain any download links.

I don't make any money with this blog. When I first started it I included Google's automatic advertisements, which would have earned me a small amount of money, based on the traffic, or even more for clicks. After about two weeks I removed them. The ads looked annoying to me, and I don't want to annoy my readers. The only way I can earn money is by people using my Amazon links to buy products, but very few of my readers do that.

More than anything else I want feedback from my readers. Some of my regular readers leave comments occasionally. I would like more. I want to know from you whether you agree or disagree with my opinions on films.

Here's to the next year. Or the next four years!

The Sinful Dwarf (1 Star)

What is it about dwarves in films? They're always evil, perverted, or at least downright creepy. I'm sure they can't all be so bad in real life.

This is a horrible film. I feel like I've wasted 90 minutes of my life, but at least I can do some good by writing this blog post to warn others against repeating my mistake.

A young couple, Peter and Mary, move into a cheap boarding house, where they intend to stay until Peter has found a good job. The owner is Lila Lashe, a lady who used to be a singer on stage and television until she was forced to retire by being scarred in a fire. Her son is Olaf, the dwarf in the poster above. Mary suspects something strange is happening in the house, but Peter mocks her. He should have listened to his wife's intuition. Olaf is kidnapping young women and locking them in the attic, keeping them docile by injecting them with heroin. Customers pay him to enter the attic to rape one or more of the women. Ugh.

The film is awful. If you really must watch it, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth (4 Stars)

I must be getting forgetful in my old age. I was certain I'd seen this film on television a few years ago, but within ten minutes of watching it today it became obvious that it was completely new to me.

This film continued Brendan Fraser's career as an action hero after his roles in "The Mummy" and its sequel. It's not a remake of the famous 1959 film with the same name. On the contrary, this film, made in 2008, takes a step back from the film into reality. Let me explain. Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) goes on an expedition to find his brother Max. Max believed that Jules Verne's novel, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", was not fiction, but the report of a true story. This would mean that the 1959 film, based on the book, was also true. Trevor is a sceptic, he only wants to find his brother, but he accidentally stumbles into the underground kingdom described by Jules Verne.

The film is good fun, not meant to be taken too seriously. Brendan Fraser is more of a comedian than an action hero, but who cares? He's having fun playing the role, and it shows. My only criticism of the film is the poor quality of the CGI. The film supposedly had a $60 million budget, so couldn't the dinosaurs have been made more realistic?

At the end of the film there's a hook to open the way for a sequel about a trip to Atlantis. I wonder why it was never made. "Journey to the Center of the Earth" was a huge success, earning over $240 million at the box office, which would normally make the sequel a certainty.

Dark Passage (3 Stars)

I thought I would take a look at another Lauren Bacall film that I've never seen before, and I picked this one, "Dark Passage", made in 1947. Judging by the picture on the poster I expected a film noir detective story. I'm sure that's what the poster artist intended to portray, but it's false advertising. It's not a detective story. There's no femme fatale. It's not 100% clear who's holding the gun in the poster. Judging by the angle it should be Humphrey Bogart, but it seems to be a feminine glove, so it could be Lauren Bacall. It doesn't really matter, because neither of them holds a gun at any point in the film.

At the beginning of the film a convicted murderer, Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), escapes from San Quentin prison. He's picked up by a woman, Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), who takes him back to her apartment in San Francisco because she believes he is innocent and wants to help him. This is complicated by the fact that Irene's close friend is the main witness who testified against him in the murder trial. To disguise himself while looking for the real murderer Vincent undergoes plastic surgery to change his face.

The film uses experimental cinematography. For the first 35 minutes the film is shown from a POV perspective, through Vincent's eyes. This means that we only see his arms and hands, never the rest of his body. We never see Vincent Parry's face, except in a newspaper photo. For the next 25 minutes of the film we see his face in heavy bandages after the operation. The actor is recognisable as Humphrey Bogart. but only just. After the film has been running for an hour, almost exactly to the minute, the bandages are removed and we can see his face for the last half hour of the film.

According to the featurette on the disc, the film was a flop at the box office, but not because of the film itself. In 1947 Hollywood directors and actors were forbidden to work if they were members of the Communist party. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were not Communists, but they joined an association called the Committee for the First Amendment which protested about Americans being persecuted for their political views. As far as the general public were concerned, the committee members were Communist sympathisers, so the film was widely boycotted. A few months later Humphrey and Lauren left the organisation to save their careers. Humphrey Bogart made the famous statement: "I'm no Communist. I'm just an American dope".

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sexy Warriors (3½ Stars)

3000 years before Christ the two Amazon warriors, Diana and Athena, are locked in mortal combat to win the Orb of Athos. Their legends tell that it will give them what they need most. Diana knocks Athena unconscious. Instead of slaying her fallen opponent, she stands in front of the orb and prays for her reward. She is thrown 5000 years into the future and lands in Gail's Gym in Los Angeles.

Diana assumes that she's been sent to the future because this is where she will find what she needs. The gym owner Gail, played by the delectable Christine Nguyen, tries to help her in her quest. But unknown to her Athena has also travelled to the future to pursue Diana.

This is an amusing little film with pluses and minuses. The biggest plus is the utterly awesome performance by Ted Newsom as the talk show host. The biggest minus is the lacklustre acting of Alexandre Boisvert as Mark, the horny gym member who pursues Gail and the Amazons. He has limited success with Gail, but the Amazons aren't interested in him. As for Christine Nguyen, she looks more beautiful with every film she makes.

Here are a few photos of Christine and the rest of the cast.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (5 Stars)

I avoided this film when it was released in 2011. The main reason was that I was so disappointed with the 2001 version of "Planet of the Apes", and I expected another disaster. After accidentally going to see this film's sequel, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", I thought I would give it a chance. Wow! I wasn't disappointed at all.

This film tells the story of the first intelligent apes. Unlike the original pentalogy it doesn't rely on temporal paradoxes to explain their intelligence. Dr. Will Rodman works for a company called Gen-Sys and is trying to invent a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Chimpanzees are being used for animal testing. Unknown to him one of the female chimpanzees, Bright Eyes, is pregnant when she is injected with the test drug. This results in her giving birth to an intelligent ape. When he's ordered to kill all the chimps Dr. Rodman secretly takes the baby home and calls him Caesar. Caesar is taught American sign language, in much the same way as Washoe in the 1970's.

After attacking a neighbour to protect Dr. Rodman's father, Caesar is put in an animal pound. This is his first contact with other monkeys. His intelligence is underestimated, and he easily escapes. He steals more of the experimental drug and gives it to the other monkeys. They readily acknowledge him as their leader.

The one strength of Tim Burton's 2001 film was the realistic appearance of the monkeys, but this film does it even better, thanks to the advances in computer animation. From the beginning of the film we feel for Caesar, and we take his side when he comes into conflict with humans. It's excellently written and directed. This is a franchise reboot that was worth doing.

Fans of the original pentalogy will recognise the respectful references to the original films. Caesar was the name of the leader of the monkeys in the fourth and fifth films, although he's a different character in this film with a different origin. It's amusing that Caesar's mother is called Bright Eyes. That was the name given to the astronaut played by Charlton Heston in the first film.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Off-Topic: 13th Anniversary of 9/11/2001

Today is the 13th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, the biggest terrorist attack in the history of mankind. I wanted to write something about it on the 10th anniversary, but I bit my lip and remained silent. Then on the 11th and 12th anniversaries I held myself back again. Nothing has changed. What I write today is the same that I would have written in previous years.

First let me tell you how I experienced it. On September 11th 2001 I was sitting with friends listening to the radio. The initial news reports were confused. When the plane crashed into the North Tower it was claimed that it was an accident. Then the second plane hit the South Tower, and the news reporters were talking about a "strange coincidence". Soon the British news began to speculate that it was a terror attack. As the day progressed the events became clear.

On the following day, September 12th, I received a big shock. At that time I lived in Herbert Road in Birmingham, and I could see the Chapman Road Mosque from my window. There was a big banner draped across the building with the writing "Death to all Jews and Americans". I rang the police to complain about it. I was informed that the police already knew, but they were waiting until they could get Moslem police officers to go to the scene in order to deal with it peacefully. Ironically, I discovered years later that the Chapman Road mosque is a Shia mosque. Shia Moslems are the enemies of the Sunni Moslems who form Al Qaeda.

Since 2001 I've lived in Small Heath, a part of Birmingham in which more than 90% of the population is Moslem. The western half of Small Heath, where I lived in 2001, is made up mostly of Somalian immigrants. The eastern half of Small Heath, where I've lived since 2002, is made up mostly of Pakistani immigrants. I have a lot of Pakistani friends, all of whom I would consider to be "moderate Moslems". For them the 9/11 attack was a big problem. They knew it was something bad, and they didn't know how to deal with it. One day when I walked into a chip shop one of my friends was beaming all over his face. "Mike, they explained it to us in the mosque. The terrorists were really Jews, and they attacked the World Trade Center because a lot of Moslems worked there". I was dumbstruck. I didn't even attempt to argue with him. He was willing to believe the most stupid of stories just to preserve his faith. Besides, even if I had contradicted him he wouldn't have believed me, because I'm not as intelligent as his teacher in the mosque.

But then, two years later, posters started appearing on the walls of Small Heath praising the "Magnificent 19", the 19 young men who died as martyrs in the 9/11 terror attacks. My friend became nervous and avoided the topic.

Over the years I've discussed the 9/11 attacks with many moderate Moslems, some of them friends, some of them casual acquaintances. A small number still deny the attacks were carried out by Moslems, but the majority give Al Qaeda the responsibility. The moderates admit that the Magnificent 19 were wrong, that they "made a mistake", that they "didn't act in Allah's name". But if I keep up the pressure and ask if the terrorists were evil the moderates become nervous and start stuttering around. I've tried to get moderates to admit that the 19 terrorists were evil and have gone to Hell, but they can't do it. This is the dilemma of Moderate Islam. They claim to be against terrorism, but as far as they are concerned the 19 terrorists are now in Heaven, whereas the firemen who risked their lives to save the 9/11 victims are evil men who are going to Hell.

In all conflicts there are two sorts of people. There are the ones fighting on the front line, and the ones back at home supporting them. For instance, I could never be a soldier, but I sit at home praising the efforts of the British armed forces in other countries. It's the same with Islam. The terrorists crash planes, while the moderate Moslems sit at home supporting them. Moderate Islam is a lie. The moderates are no better than the terrorists, they're just too lazy or too cowardly to join them in their attacks. The moderates pretend to be against the terrorism, and I've seen many eloquent speakers on television criticising terror attacks, but none of them would ever say that terrorists are evil men who are going to Hell. As long as they are unable to do this they are lying.

All Moslems are guilty of the 9/11 attacks. None are innocent. All Moslems deserve to be punished for their part in the 9/11 attacks.

In the "politically correct" West it's considered normal to be tolerant of other religions and ways of thought. That's a mistake, because Islam offers no tolerance in return. Islam should no longer be treated as a religion. Islam should be officially classified as a terrorist organisation, and its members should be handled accordingly. Mosques are terror cells and should be closed. Education should be offered to persuade the Moslems who are sitting on the fence to abandon their so-called religion.

A problem with Islam in the community where I live is that it's considered part of the racial identity. "Pakistanis are Moslems, white people are Christians". That's the cliché. I personally would divide the Pakistani Moslems into three groups.

  1. The radical Moslems who openly advocate terrorism.
  2. The moderate Moslems who visit the mosque, but claim to be against terrorism.
  3. The passive Moslems who never visit the mosque.

The ones in the first two groups are the evil ones. The third group might openly pretend to be Moslem by celebrating Ramadan and not eating pork, but inwardly they are unreligious. They're on a par with nominal Christians. They're the ones who just pretend to be Moslem because it's expected of them in their racial group. They need to be educated that it's acceptable to be a Pakistani atheist, or even a Pakistani Christian. When I lived in Germany I had three Lebanese friends who had converted from Islam to Christianity. One of them had even been a former PLO fighter. If you think my views are extreme you should listen to them. They utterly despise Islam and everything it stands for. I also had a Bangladeshi friend who had converted to Christianity. When he visited his father he could not stay in the house, because his father threatened to kill him.

Hating Islam should not be considered to be racism. On the contrary, white British converts to Islam are the worst Moslems of all, because they have deliberately chosen a path of evil.

If you, dear reader, feel I am being unjust in speaking to you this way, I invite you to leave a comment on this post. If you consider yourself to be a moderate Moslem and regularly visit a mosque (i.e. you're in the second group above), answer this question: Do you believe that the 19 terrorists of September 11th 2001 are evil men who are now suffering in Hell? If your answer is an unconditional Yes, I shall apologise to you personally. You are a good Moslem, and you are the proof that not all Moslems are evil.

On the other hand, if I receive no comments like this it will be proof to me that I am correct in saying that all Moslems are evil.

I shall finish with a quote from Britain's greatest leader, Winston Churchill, from his book "The River War".

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.  The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome”.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Thelma and Louise (5 Stars)

This is a brilliant film. It's constructed perfectly. The weakest point is the introductory scene to introduce Louise in the restaurant. After that the film keeps getting better, while Thelma and Louise slip deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. In the final scene, facing the police at the Grand Canyon, it's obvious that they've passed the point of no return, but the point came a lot earlier in the film. After shooting Harlan in the parking lot there was no going back to their old life.

There seem to be two lines that cross one another in the film. As the two women sink deeper, the scenery around them becomes more and more beautiful.

Click here for a more detailed review.

Man-Thing (4 Stars)

Here's a little test. When you're with your friends ask them to name the films based on Marvel comics. They'll have no trouble naming the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. Then they'll remember Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. After a while they'll remember the Punisher, and some of them might even know that Blade was a Marvel character. But how many of them would remember Man-Thing, even though the film was made in 2005, less than 10 years ago?

"Man-Thing" -- there's a hyphen in the film title which the poster designers omitted -- was originally planned as a television movie, but late in the development it was decided to release it in theatres. Obviously not everyone heard about this change of plan. It was shown in American cinemas, but in almost every other country it went straight to video.

I was reluctant to watch the film, even though I enjoyed reading the Man-Thing comics in the 1970's. I read reviews of the film, which where mostly negative. It wasn't until today, nine years later, that I finally watched it. And I was surprised at how good it is!

Okay, the Man-Thing's origin and powers have been changed, but that happens in nearly all of the Marvel films. In the comics the Man-Thing is a man, Ted Sallis, who was transformed into a monster after experiments that were supposed to make him a super-soldier. In the film the Man-Thing is a guardian of a native American tribe. In the comics the Man-Thing kills everyone in whom he senses fear; in the film he selectively kills those who have desecrated the Indian sacred grounds. In the comics the Man-Thing's body is made of slime, usually solid, but he is able to ooze through small holes if necessary. In the film his body is also made up of vines, branches and other swamp material.

Another change is that the Man-Thing has been relocated from the Florida Everglades to the swamps of Louisiana. This is a change that works well, in my opinion. An industrialist has bought land from native Americans so that he can drill for oil. Those who weren't prepared to sell their land were killed. Only the Man-Thing is able to return the land to its rightful owners, but in the process there's a lot of collateral damage.

Mama (4 Stars)

This film may have been written and directed by an Argentinian, but it's a very Japanese film. I'm sure that fans of Japanese horror films will have seen the similarity immediately. I shan't say why here, I'll invite my readers to leave me a comment and say why.

A father crashes his car into the woods with his two daughters, supposedly aged three and one, although they look older. There's a back story to why he's driving through the woods on an icy road, but it's not relevant, and the film would probably have been better omitting it. They take refuge in a cabin in the woods. The father is killed by a supernatural creature, which then adopts the two girls and looks after them as their mother.

The man's identical twin brother Luke devotes his life and his savings to finding his brother and the children. Five years later hunters stumble on the cabin and find the two girls living in a feral state. After spending three months in a hospital for psychiatric evaluation they're adopted by their Uncle Luke and his wife. But the two children have been followed by the creature that they still consider to be their "Mama".

Originally this was made as a short film, and it shows. The back story that I mentioned is unnecessary padding to make it a full length film. Then there's the matter of the brothers being identical twins, which isn't expounded on enough to make it seem more than a loose end. The five-year hunt doesn't add anything to the story. And the custody battles with Luke's sister-in-law just distract from what the film is really about: it's a very well directed horror film with an abundance of suspense.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Walk all over me (5 Stars)

When I say that Leelee Sobieski is my favourite actress most people shrug and say "Who?" They don't know her because she's never received the fame she deserves. She's played the leading role in many small films, such as "88 Minutes" and "My first Mister", and she's played small roles in big films, such as "Eyes wide shut" and "Public Enemies", but she's never played the lead role in a big film. It's difficult to say what the problem is. My guess is that it has more to do with her looks than her acting abilities. She's not a typical petite Hollywood star. She's 5'10", she has wide hips, and she walks like a man. That doesn't mean she's not attractive. She has a delightfully feminine face and large breasts, but in Hollywood voluptuous women aren't in.

On the other hand, if people have noticed her at all it's in this film, "Walk all over me". It's an independent Canadian film that was a moderate box office success when it was released in 2007, and it's still popular in DVD rental stores. Maybe it attracts potential customers for the wrong reasons; it looks like a sex film, but it isn't. It's not a typical film for Leelee, since it's the only comedy she's ever made.

Leelee Sobieski plays Alberta, a teenage girl who runs away from home after she's scared by thugs that she sees beating up her boyfriend. She goes to live in Vancouver with Celene, the woman who used to be her babysitter. She's surprised to find out that Celene is now a professional dominatrix who earns $300 an hour. Alberta gets a job in a supermarket, but she thinks that she can make more money if she impersonates Celene. She borrows one of Celene's outfits and meets a new customer, Paul. She expects it to be easy, but she soon discovers that being dominant is hard work. A further complication is that Paul is on the run from his former boss, a gangster who accuses him of stealing from his club. The boss turns up during Paul's first session with Aberta, and the fun begins.

It never ceases to amaze me how good Leelee's acting is. She plays a woman who is unsuccessfully posing as a dominatrix. It takes a lot of skill for an actor to play the part of a bad actor. You have to watch the film to see what I mean. I recommend it strongly to everyone. Just don't expect any sex, you'll be disappointed.

Monday, 8 September 2014

My son, my son, what have ye done? (4 Stars)

This is a film loosely based on a true story. A detective is called to a crime scene, where a man has murdered his mother. He can't be arrested because he has a gun and two hostages. The whole film takes place in front of the house, while the events that led up to the murder are told in flashbacks.

I enjoy the feeling and the style of the film, but there are no real explanations of how the events came about. Brad McCullam is a man who has always loved his mother, but after a vacation in Peru he becomes convinced that he has to kill her. It seems to be some sort of spiritual enlightenment that has led him to this drastic step, but it could also be madness. This is typical for the films directed by Werner Herzog. Rather than making it easy for the audience, he wants us to make up our own minds.

Warrioress (2 Stars)

This film takes place in a future world governed by myths and superstition. Boudiccu lives in a village in the south, which hosts a yearly tournament to measure strength and speed. The winner is given two swords, the Opener and the Dragon Singer, with which he has to battle the champion from a village in the north. When I say "he" I really mean "she". Men are allowed to take part in the championship, but in the future world the women are better fighters, tougher and more ruthless, cutting men down with their swords without a moment's regret.

Cecily Fay is a skilled martial artist, she's sexy, and she shows off her body in brief nude scenes. Normally that would earn a film three thumbs up from me, but not this time. The film is spoilt by poor cinematography. They really need to invest in a better camera. Most of the scenes look fuzzy, which kills any sex appeal.

A further problem with the film is that it ends on a cliffhanger. I know that they did this deliberately to prepare us for the sequel, but it's still unsatisfying to me. Will the sequel ever be made? If it is, please make sure it's filmed better. Cecily has the skill to be an internationally renowned action star. She deserves better.