Xtro

Title: Xtro
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Released: 1982
Starring: Bernice Stegers, Phillip Sayer, Simon Nash, Maryam d’Abo, Danny Brainin

Plot: Three years ago Sam (Sayer) was abducted by a bright light in the sky and now returning with seemingly no memories of were he’s been, it soon becomes clear that something is not quite right with Sam as he attempts to reconnect with his family.

Review: When Ridley Scott transposed the Haunted House movie into space with Alien in 1979 it sparked a host of imitators even an unofficial Italian sequel with Alien 2: On Earth released a year later and six years before James Cameron gave us the equally legendary Aliens. Xtro would be seen as another of these imitators which also had the misfortune of coming out the came year as E.T. which left the movie going public wanting more cuddly alien encounters than what this film was offering not to mention the often baffling plot.

The first film in the Xtro series which have no connection to each other outside of the fact that all feature aliens which are genuinely nasty towards the humans they encounter, though this is certainly the most random entry in the series memorably featuring the scene of Phillip Sayer being birthed by a woman whose just been impregnated by his alien form seeing the film landing on the Section 3 list of the Video Recordings Act 1984 better known as the Video Nasties list even though the titles which we associate this this title were in Section 1.

The randomness only really continues throughout the film as Sam’s behaviour becomes increasingly more odd while passing his alien abilities onto his son Tony who is soon able to psychically start controlling his toys to carry out attacks on anyone who displeases him like the old woman in the apartment below who kills his pet snake. Tony memorably taking revenge via his soldier action figure which he turns into a full size solider and despatches to kill her.

While father and son are soon turning into some unexplained human-alien hybrid, mom Rachel is left trying to figure out whether Sam is actually who is appears to be while having the added complexity of having moved on in his absence with photographer boyfriend Joe (Brainin) leaving her questioning were her feeling are as she is torn between the feelings for her newly returned husband and her boyfriend whose filled the void in the years he was missing.

A film which throws in some gooey old school effects with a hefty dose of randomness which often leaves you wondering what exactly is supposed to be happening especially with Davenport blending kitchen sink family drama with snake egg consumption, a panther, a creepy circus clown and a toy tank on the rampage not to mention a body meltdown as the film staggers towards a non less clear conclusion which serves to wrap up nothing really than to give the film some sort of ending.

Certainly since the films release and critical savaging it has gone on to become something of a cult success though for myself I personally had more fun with the sequel Xtro 2: The Second Encounter which took on more of a sci-fi horror action slant toning back the randomness while shameless ripping off both Alien and Aliens. Still it’s random enough to warrant giving it a watch but for myself left little to warrant a second viewing.

The Driver

Title: The Driver
Director: Walter Hill
Released: 1978
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Adjani, Ronee Blakley, Matt Clark, Felice Orlandi, Joseph Walsh, Rudy Ramos, Denny Macko, Frank Bruno

Plot: The Driver (O’Neal) is a wheelman for hire whose reputation for never being caught has now put him in the sights of a detective (Dern) determined to bring him down for good

Trailer by DM Edit whose modern trailers project has produced some incredible work

Review: Written with the intention of making a stripped down genre film about a getaway driver after being pitched the idea by producer Larry Gordon when the pair were working on the Charles Bronson bare knuckle boxing movie Hard Times. The end result here being a film which features minimal plotting and characters who are named after their roles in the film I.e The Driver, The Detective or just descriptions as is the case with crooks Glasses (Walsh) and Teeth (Ramos).

Introduced assisting a pair of crooks escaping a casino heist The Driver is a man who lives by his own strict set of rules with exceptional driving skills which allow him to command a high price from those wanting to hire him. It’s a role which Ryan O’Neal really embodies as he delivers a performance as stripped down as the script hardly speaking while living out of a number of grimy hotel rooms all which help add to his mistique and certainly to the frustration of Bruce Dern’s volitile detective who is more than happy to bend the rules in the pursuit of the Driver he calls “The Cowboy”. O’Neal though was never Hill’s first choice for the role has he originally had written the role with Steve Mcqueen in mind who he’d worked with on The Getaway but not wanting to star in another car movie he turned down the role, leading to the studio pushing for Charles Bronson who also turned down the role having been unhappy with the editing of Hard Times. He would however find his leading man when approached by O’Neal’s agent for the role and now it’s hard to see anyone else in the role which would prove a key inspiration for the wheelmen of both Drive and Baby Driver.

The fact that Dern is so high strung throughout the film constantly trying to antagonise not only the Driver but anyone associated with him really provides a clash of personalities at the centre of the film and dare I say actually brings some life to the proceeding especially when characters and plot are so stripped down with Isabelle Adjani as “The Player” almost as mute as her love interest only giving Dern all the more room for a character as big as the Detective who thinks nothing of setting up bank jobs and threatening to throw suspects off a roof if they’re not willing to be his snitch.

The real draw of the film though are with the car sequences from the opening chase which Hill admits was not quite what he wanted having been forced to cut corners when an electrician was hurt falling off a roof. He however more than makes up for it with the drawn out game of vehicular cat and mouse which makes up the finale in which Hill pits the Driver’s Pick up truck against a Mustang creating some jaw dropping action in the processes much like a middle portion of stunt driving were he shows off his skills behind the wheels to a pair of crooks wanting to high him as he uses a parking structure to dismantle the car in a sequence later immortalised in the legendarly frustrating opening level of the Playstation classic Driver.

While it’s minimalist style won’t be for all tastes the car sequences alone make it worth a look as here Hill shows himself more than capable of hanging with the best and probebly the scenes your most likely to take away from the experience.

Sukiyaki Western Django

Title: Sukiyaki Western Django
Director: Takashi Miike
Released: 2007
Staring: Hideaki Ito, Koichi Sato, Yusuke Iseya, Masanobu Ando, Takaaki Ishibashi, Quentin Tarantino, Sato Koichi

Plot: A Lone unnamed gunman (Ito) rides into the town of Yuta, where two rival gangs, the Genji and Heike who are currently battling for control of the town and the treasure which it hides.

I have to be honest, that I was kind of intrigued to see this film not only due to the fact that it is a Japanese Western, an idea which hasn’t really been seen since the 60’s with films such as The Fort of Death but I especially didn’t want to pass on seeing one directed by Takashi Miike. “Sukiyaki Western Django”. Not only does he deliver here an eastern western but also one which has heavy leanings towards comedy, sporting a sense of humour that makes it easy to compare this film to the films of Stephen Chow (Shoalin Soccer) and it’s genre that Miike has rarely explored with films like The Happiness of the Katakuris and this certainly caught me off guard when I sat down to watch it, aswell the fact that this is also his first film, to shot completely in English.

Opening with the first of Tarantino’s two appearances in this film as Ringo, who is not only the sole western gunslinger in this movie but he’s also one with a tale to tell. Its clear not only from this opening sequence, but also from the painted backdrops (which are used to help, separate the flashbacks from the main story) and the kung fu style dialogue that this certainly by no means, going to be a western in the traditional sense. Still this slightly surreal opening is a gentle welcome to this less than traditional western, something of luxury when it comes to Miike, who is often happier throwing his audience head first into his films and allowing them to figure things out for themselves, as he bombards them with a stimulus overload of vivid imagery, which was especially the case with Dead of Alive which proudly still holds the title for having one of the most shocking openings committed to film!

From this surreal opening to the main story Miike wastes little time with the film bouncing along at a steady pace as he introduces us to the two gangs battling for control of the village and the treasure hidden with it and both very radically different to each other with the Genji lead by the handsome and calculating Yoshitsune (Iseya) who operate using their own version of the samurai philosophy, which is quoted to them constantly by Yoshisune, while also dressing in white and weld samurai swords, while their counterparts the brutal Heike lead by the ruthless Kiyomori (Koichi), whose personal philosophy for his gang is taken from Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” comparing the war of the roses to their own personal fight, especially more so, seeing how the red’s won. So convinced that this is fate, he even goes as far as changing his name to Henry.

It could have been very easy to get caught up in just the activities of these two gangs, but Miike still manages to find the time to introduce the varied town residents, including the split personality sheriff (Teruyuki Kagawa) who often argues with himself in high pressure situations, providing numerous humorous moments throughout the film, much like the local tavern madam Ruriko (Momoi Kaori) who might hide more than a few secrets of her own.

Despite setting out to create a Japanese western, Miike still borrows liberally from such landmark Italian Westerns of Sergio Leone, aswell as the “Acid-Westerns” of Alejandro Jodorowsky such as El Topo taking the aspects he likes from each, to create his vision

As I stated earlier in this review, while watching you can help but notice that it contains a similar sense of humour to the films of Stephen Chow, something that only continues to grow as the audience grows more accustomed to this bizarre story setting, but it never threatens to overpower the story turning it into a farce, with the moments of humour being added subtly through out such as Kiyomori hiding behind his more portly henchmen, once the shooting starts for their bullet stopping potential, something that is taken to another level by the time the final shootout begins and he is using a line of six of his henchmen, as his own personal shield. It does feel kind of weird seeing humour in a Miike film, especially seeing how the humour in his films, is usually as dark as his story setting, but here it never once feels forced or out of place.

Sukiyaki Western Django won’t be for everyone especially, those viewers who choose to bitch over the spoken English, which the standard it’s spoken at tends to vary between actors, but seeing how the majority of the actors can’t speak English anyway, it’s kind of a point quibble and it’s still a hundred times better than some of the hack dubbing jobs, which continue to plague translations. Still language issues aside it remains a fun and entertaining film, which never verges on taking itself too seriously, while also being highly accessible for non western fans such as myself. It’s strange; it’s weird but defiantly worth at least the price of rental and provides a gentle introduction, to the work of probably one of the most exciting directors, currently working in Asian cinema at present.

Ace Attorney

Title: Ace Attorney
Director: Takashi Miike
Released: 2012
Staring: Hiroki Narimiya, Mirei Kiritani, Kimiko Yo, Takumi Saito, Ryo Ishibashi, Akiyoshi Nakao

Plot: Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya) is a novice lawyer brought in to first defend Maya Fey (Mirei Kiritani) for the murder of her sister Mia (Kimiko Yo), a case which pits him against expert prosecutor Miles Edgeworth (Takumi Saito), whom he is soon called on to defend when he is charged with murder in a case which will see him having to face the legendary Mandred Von Karma (Ryo Ishibashi) who is yet to loose a case in forty years! However despite seemingly being separate cases Phoenix soon realises that the two cases may be more linked than first appeared.


Review: For one reason or another it seems that the courtroom thriller has become something of a lost artform, or at least a concept which isn’t exactly crying out box office potential or so it would seem to the studio bosses but here Miike presents his adaptation of the popular video game “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” with a film which once again shows that Miike is more than capable of adapting his visual style to any genre he chooses.

Based on the second and forth cases in the game, but rather than trying to make the usual video game adaptation mistake of trying to bring the events of the game into a real world setting, Miike here instead throws us something of a curve ball by giving us a live action version of the game, but changing none of it’s video game styling’s. So cue anime hairstyles, overly dramatic characterisation and court room proceedings like you have never seen before, as evidence isn’t just presented but blown up onto giant holographic images.

Despite the character of Phoenix Wright perhaps not having the instant recognition as a popular video game character, Miike makes the film still highly accessible to those who might not even realise that it is a video game adaptation or folks like myself who don’t own a DS and hence have not played the games, as he instead skilfully combines moments of madcap comedy within the framework of a courtroom thriller. However despite the title, when we meet Phoenix he is anything close to the “Ace Attorney” the title would have you believe he is, for while the prosecutors he faces dress like French noblemen projecting an air of unflappable confidence, Phoenix on the other hand is a lot more green as he frequently finds himself flustered by the prosecution while somehow always managing to amass a mountain of papers on his desk from seemingly nowhere. Yet despite this lack of courtroom experience he is also prone to moment of decisive genius with an eye for the most minute of details, while also receiving perhaps a slightly unfair amount of assistance from the psychic projections of Maya.

These courtroom sequences are far from dreary procedure and tedious statements, as the sci-fi edge of having the evidence shown as projections, which can be easily moved around and enlarged in the courtroom keep things fast paced and easy to follow, especially when the key points of the evidence are blown up to such gigantic scale it’s hard not to realise what is currently the point of focus in the case. Still within the Ace Attorney universe, the courts are inundated with so many cases that the Japanese legal system have turned to carrying out “bench trials” were the two attorneys are given three days to present their cases before a judge, though I’ve no idea whose random it was to have the verdicts appear in huge letters erupting out of confetti explosions!?! Still despite the surreal presentation of the cases they are still surprisingly meaty and genuinely engaging as Miike crafts a convoluted labyrinth of intrigue, surprise evidence and objections, while once again making me wonder why Asian cinema has got such an effective grasp over the use of CGI in it’s films, while Hollywood’s attempts to master this technique still continue to noticeably take the viewer out of the film rather than add to it in any way.

Still clocking in at just over two hours, the film certainly has a generous run time, which feels more than justified here, especially when it is just so much fun to spend time within this world, whether battling cases in court or just hunting for new clues in the case, which usually involves Phoenix encountering one of the random local residents, the majority of whom have been given some form of comical edge, especially when it comes to the madcap antics of Phoenix’s childhood friend Larry (Akiyoshi Nakao). We are also frequently given flashbacks to Phoenix’s school days were it would seem that the Japanese school system likes to promote mock courtroom debates early on, while more amusing is that all the characters dress exactly the same with the only difference being the fact that they are being played by child actors.

For the soundtrack Miike has once again teamed up with K?ji End?, to provide another memorable soundtrack, which takes it’s cues from the game and combining it with newly composed background music which perfectly suits the action and certainly adds the required drama and tension when required, while the colourfully named Japanese group “Porno Graffitti” who previously have provided music for both the anime series “Full metal Alchemist” and “Bleach” and here continue provide another memorable song with the theme song “Spark”.

Ultimately this film manages to combine both elements of courtroom drama with a warm sense of humour, while proving once that Miike is far more than a one trick pony, as he once more surprises us with his range as a director, while loosing none of his visual flair. This is not only a gentle introduction to his film, especially considering the splatter of his early films which made him so popular to begin with, especially with some western fans who will continue to groan with frustration as he moves further away again from his gore soaked roots. However I can safely say that this was one of the few occasions were I feel a sequel to this film cannot come quick enough.

As The Gods Will

Title: As The Gods Will
Director: Takashi Miike
Released: 2014
Starring: Sota Fukushi, Hirona Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mio Yuki, Shota Sometani, Jingi Irie, Ryosuke Yamamoto

Plot: High school student Shun Takahata finds himself forced to play alongside his fellow students a series of deadly games only no one knows the rules nor who is making them play them let alone for what reason.

Review: Based on the first arc of the Manga series of the same name by Muneyuki Kaneshiro which sees high school students being forced to complete a series of ever more random games of death with Miike wasting no time here as we open to a Daruma Doll whose version of “Red light, green light, 1-2-3,” causes student heads to explode in showers of red marbles. It’s a shocking yet surprisingly slapstick opening which really sets the tone for the film with Miike constantly ensuring that the film is kept moving forward and onto the next game before the audience gets chance to get bored.

One of the key aspects to the films success is the sheet unpredictability which even for a master of the random like Miike this film still managed to constantly surprise me with its games all hosted by a different idol like the giant cat or the equally giant snowboarding polar bear who crushes students under his giant paw if they can’t figure out who in their group is lying. Obviously these are all CGI creations but as is so often the case with CGI in asian cinema it’s got a real warmth and character to it. Sure it might be an obviously computer generated creation but compared to the use of CGI in the west it has a presence to it what western cinema still struggles to capture unless the studio is willing to spend serious money on the effects.

Of course if the constant threat of death by warped child’s games wasn’t enough to contend with we also get Ryonosuke Kamiki as the psycho Amaya who thinks nothing of killing his fellow students to win the games while generally getting to ham things up as he plays up his evil side at every opportunity like Battle Royale’s Kiriyama. I mean who when asked what their favourite food is responds with “Meat” with a sly smirk.

Running at a non-stop pace though this is another fun adaptation from Miike blending moments of splatter with slapstick, while the twisted games keep things intresting throughout even if the cliffhanger ending is only made the more frustrating by the fact that there are currently no plans to follow it up. Still for fans of Assassination Classroom or Death Bell it’s a fun time while it lasts.

Rainy Dog

Title: Rainy Dog
Director: Takashi Miike
Released: 1997
Starring: Show Aikawa, Sau Leung “Blacky” Ko, Xianmei Chen. Chang Shih, Jianqin he, Tomorowo Taguchi

Plot: Having been exiled to Taiwan by his yakuza syndicate Yuuji now makes a living a hitman for hire while trying to get back home. His problems are only added to further when his largely mute son Chen (He) is dumped on his doorstep by his ex who might also prove key to him finding a new lust for life.

Review: Sandwiched between Shinjuku Triad Society and Ley Lines this middle film in his “Black Society Trilogy” this surprisingly light drama is certainly a change in pace after the frenzied first entry in the trilogy this is almost the polar opposite with hitman Yuuji finding himself lost in Taiwan with no friends or family he battles his homesickness watching Gamera movies and obsessively listening to weather reports on his portable radio.

With his mute son dumped on his doorstep by his ex his problems only further increase though he is far from the best father as he spends most of the first half of the film ignoring his son who is left to follow after him like a lost puppy, even at one point leaving him to sleep in an alley while he shacks up with a local prostitute Lily (Chen). Surprisingly an unlikely relationship comes of this connection which leads to Yuuji finally stepping up to his parental responsibilities as the trio form a unique family unit and one which soon finds itself on the run when the brother of one of Yuuji’s hits comes looking to extract his violence on the man who killed his brother.

Shot with a minimalist style and seemingly a budget to match it’s a film which somehow manages to keep the viewers interest despite being the most action packed of film and yet there is something about following Yuuji as he travels to his hits clad in a non too subtle white trenchcoat and sunglasses combo his son trailing behind him.

Of course being a Miike film there are still a scattering of moments of violence throughout the film this is one of the lighter offerings from Miike who also peppers the film with moments of subtle magic like the trio hiding out in a WW2 beach bunker bonding over Lily teaching Chen how to read and say his name or a buried scooter on the beach which for some reason still works. Sadly the film is let down by a dawdling middle section as Yuuji holds up in a Lily’s brothel with the pair spending their time having sex and smoking all while Chen is left to hide out from the storm raging outside in a nearby alleyway and savaging from the bins. Still for Jackie Chan fans they might get a kick out of seeing “Blacky” Ko as the Brothel owner who also puts in a questionable musical moment as he sings about the rain and strums his guitar.

While perhaps not a top tier Miike title its still one of the more interesting titles of this period while it’s easy availability on Arrow Player making it worth adding to your watchlist.

Audition

Title: Audition
Director: Takashi Miike
Released: 1999
Staring: Ryo Ishibashi, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Eihi Shiina

Plot: Having lost his wife over seven years, Aoyama (Ishibashi) has spent the years since his wife’s death burying himself in his work and raising his son, who urges him to try and meet someone new. While meeting with his friend and producer Yoshikawa (Kunimura), his is presented with a plan to hold a mock Audition, as a way for Aoyama to meet a suitable new girlfriend, with the girls under the impression they are auditioning for a new film. Through these audition he meets and is immediately drawn to the soft spoken Asami (Shiina) unaware, that she hides more than a few dark secrets of her own.

Review: Okay I should start by pointing out this film should definatly be watched with only the barest information about the plot, so start reading now and go watch this film, as to read on will essentially only spoil the film…….your still here? Okay well if your lucky enough to have avoided the twist reveal so firmly ingrained in pop culture like the twists of Psycho and The Sixith Sense and inturn removing some of the power the film had one those early viewing. Still it’s only yourself to blame for any spoilers leaked from this point onwards.

Audition was one of the films along with the likes of The Ring and Battle Royale which lead the charge for the new wave of intrest in asian cinema, which not only broke the traditional ideas of the genre, but pretty much took them outside and gave them a good kicking, This film can also in one sense be seen as the film, which marked the beginning of Miike’s attempts to break away from the hyper violent Yakuza movies, which he had carved out a name for himself with with Audition seeing him began to venture into a more subtle style of film making, with this film coming towards the end of his outlaw period.

While many of his films of this era might have leaned towards shock and awe as he bombared unsupecting viewers with spatter, oddball characters and shocking moments of violence which are largely absent here for the majority of the film as Miike lures you into a false sense of security before revealing a truly memorable twist, in much the same way that Hitchcock did in Psycho which used the initial fifteen minutes to convice the audience they were watching a film about Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, only to then revel the true darker nature of the film. This somthing which Miike certainly seems to have taken his cues for with this film, dragging out the romantic melodrama of the storyline for over two thirds of the film, only to then shatter Aoyama’s (aswell as the audience) perception of Asami in a confusing fusion of flashbacks and hallucinations. Asami’s secret finally being revealed in all it’s sustained horror, which is why I tend to recommend that first time viewers go into this film blind as it’s a film which tends to prove only all the more powerful when the audience hasn’t been filled in on the dark delights which Miike has kept in reserve till this final quarter which is truly classic Miike.

It almost seems like a perfect match that the film is adapted from the novel of the same name, by the badboy of Japanese fiction Ryu Murakami, who also wrote the equally fantastic Coin Locker Babies which is currently in production at the time of writing this review and the winner of the Yomiri Literature Prize In The Miso Soup and seeing how well his writing lends itself to Miike’s directing style it makes only all the more surprising that this is the only adaptation of Murakami’s books that he has worked on. Murakami did not work on the script for the film with Miike instead bringing in Daisuke Tengan to write the script who he would also team up with for 13 Assassins and his Masters of Horror episode Imprint which seems fitting seeing how Miike’s Horror chops were only recognised because of the impact of Audition. As a fun side note Daisuke Tengan is also the son the Miike’s mentor Shohei Imamura the direcor of Black Rain and Vengeance Is Mine who would give Miike his first break as an assistant director on Zegen.

While the film might be best known for it’s torture filled finale, not to mention scenes involving Asami’s man in the sack none of these scenes seem to be placed purely for shock factor though despite his reputation for shocking material Miike had originally not wanted to take the final torture scene as far as it goes, only to be told by one of the producers to “be a man and see it through to the end.” Which ultimately turns out to be the right choice, even as shocking as it proves, it still keeps you hooked with a grim fascination, as none of these shots seems to have placed with a voyeuristic intent, even when being shown the kind of scenes which most directors would question including, in particular those involving Asami and the aforementioned man she keeps in a sack, treating him like some grotesque kind of pet as Miike slowly begins to revel the true terror of his creation.

Audition for myself is certainly one the best introductions to the films of Takashi Miike, especially for the more timid viewer daunted by the fountains of gore and violenceassociated with his earlier work of the outlaw period, while proving that his films are about more than shock and awe, emphasised here with it’s straightforward plotting and strong characterisation all making for a great starting point for a director who is without a doubt one of the most creative and exciting directors currently working in modern Asian cinema.

Guardians

Title: Guardians
Director: Sarik Andreasyan
Released: 2017

Starring: Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sabastien Sisak, Alina Lanina, Valeriya Shkirando, Vyacheslaw Razbegaev, Nikolay Shestak, Vladimir Butenko, Stanislav Shirin

Plot: During the cold war the secret organisation “Patriot” created a group of Soviet superheroes to defend the motherland against superhuman threats. Now in the present day the team are reformed to battle Professor August Kuratov (Shirin) who worked on a failed rival superhero project and now seeks revenge.

Review: With Marvel having at the time of this films release just completed the first phase of their now expansive cine-universe and superheroes once more proving to be a box office draw it was little surprise that there would be imitators keen to cash in such as The Asylum giving us their Fairytale inspired takes on both The Avengers and Suicide Squad with Avengers Grim and Sinister Squad. With Guardians though we get Russia’s take on the superhero squad and certainly the more original of these properties even more so with it being based on no existing properties.

Wasting little time Guardians unquestionably knows what it wants to do with it brief runtime, certainly a refreshing change of pace compared to the bloated output of Marvel and D.C. as here we are quickly introduced to our main villain Professor Kuratov looking a lot like if you put Michael Berryman in the Vinny Jones Juggernaut suit from X-Men: The Last Stand. Of course despite this unique look there is a weird charm to seeing this kind of character done with practical effects while his ability to control any machine only further helps him stand out. From here our team are quickly re-assembled with minimal fuss and put to work again all without a hint of angst of infighting to slow the proceedings down.

The group while small in number with only four members are backed up this world’s version of Shield staffed by beautiful model types. The group though all standout with some great unique abilities which include the ability to control rocks, the ninja like Khan with his superspeed, an invisible girl who can also control water and best of all a were-bear who can also turn into a bear. All get their moment to shine throughout the film while also getting their abilities upgraded in time for the final showdown which includes our were-bear being given a mini-gun because who doesn’t want to see that!

The action sequences throughout are fun with each of the heroes getting a chance to shine with their various abilities, while an introductory brawl between invisible girl Xenia and her former teammates has a surprising amount of fluidity to it and without being on top of it’s actors which made it more of a shame that this wasn’t a taste of things to come, as the majority of the other action scenes largely involve balaclava clad military clones being thrown around the screen. Still despite the heavy use of CGI for a lot of these powers like the electric whip of Ler it never becomes an overwheling CGI fest with director Sarik Andreasyan clearly having an eye for action direction.

Sadly while the action scenes might be fun the plotting really leaves a lot to be desired with any attempt to add depth to these characters proving plodding at best and leaving you eager to just get onto the next big set piece. At the same time the CGI while surprisingly fantastic in places like the spider legged robot tanks and a sequence involving stealing a tower using multiple helicopters and crumbling buildings all look great we also get clumsy moments such as the were-bear effects which certainly stand out. Sure it might be nothing compared to some of the CGI atrocities we’ve seen coming out of the Asylum and their SYFI channel ilk but for a key character to be so phoned in on these effect can be alittle directing to watch.

While the general consensus would have this film marked down as another Marvel rip off, it certainly has more than enough originality to not be so easily dismissed and sure while the directing leaves a lot to be desired, this was not the worst movie experience I’ve had with my time with the film certainly an enjoyable one. It’s just a shame that it’s plodding plot detracted from the experience and perhaps something that could have been improved in the long since cancelled sequel. So as such this remains a fun throwaway experience while it lasts as the kind of movie you’ll stumble across on Prime or Netflix one rainy Sunday afternoon were it will provide the perfect distraction as disposable fun at best.

Guns Akimbo

Title: Guns Akimbo
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Released: 2019
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehy, Mark Rowley, Hanako Footman, Rhys Darby, Grant Bowler, Jacqueline Lee Geurts

Plot: In an alternative near future an underground deathmatch competition between criminals and psychos called Skizm has achieved massive popularity through it’s live streams with the current champion being the coke fuelled Nix (Weaving). However when computer programer Miles (Radcliffe) decides to start criticising the Skizm viewers for encouraging violence as entertainment he finds himself feeling the wrath of the game’s organiser and crime boss Riktor (Dennehy) who bolts pistols to Miles hands and tasks him with defeating Nix to win his freedom.

Review: Continuing his run of unique indie projects much like Elijah Wood, the pair clearly enjoying the financial cushion of a blockbuster franchise and the creative freedom with the roles which have followed seeing him playing both a corpse and a Neo – Nazi and here he gets to play a man with guns bolted to his hands as director Jason Lei Howden who follows up his heavy metal flavoured horror debut Deathgasm with this hyperactive action romp.

Tapping into the same action vibe as Wanted and Crank there is little concern for subtlety much less plausibility and for the first thirty minutes or so it’s a fun time with Radcliffe’s computer programmer who spends his evenings playing the white knight battling trolls on the internet. Of course when he decides to take on the Skizm viewers he’s unwittingly thrown into the game as the latest contender. Of course credit has to be given to Radcliffe who is able to take the outlandish concept and runs the streets in his dressing down and boxers all while being pursued by the current champ Riktor who wants out of the game but needs to kill Miles to do it. This last fact alone really kills the mystique of this character and felt like more of a third act reveal and as such means your left alittle confused as to who your supposed to be rooting for as they continue their ultra violent game of cat and mouse across the city.

As Riktor Samara Weaving is all tattoos, snears and foul language while unexplainably somehow gains super human reflexes from snorting coke in the same way that Miles does from using his inhaler (because he’s a nerd….see what they did there). Still she is one of the stronger parts of the film though at times the obvious use of green screen really detracts from her character. At the same time that early reveal of her desire to leave the game defangs the character far too soon as instead of wondering if she will kill Miles it instead becomes more about when the pair will team up.

While both Weaving and Radcliffe are engaging enough, it’s a shame that the villians behind Skizm are such a cartoonish bunch of punks that it’s hard to take them serious especially one is perminatly clad in a pig bondage mask, which might explain Howden is so keen to have them be so quick to violence

Aiming for the same high energy chaos that we previous got with the likes of Crank and Shoot-Em Up the former of which it appears was the biggest inspiration, the end result with it’s flash visuals and quick cuts is an exhausting affair which burns out it’s welcome soon after it starts and with nothing to really offer the viewer to hold their attention it’s much more of a slog to finish than you would expect.

Certainly this is not the kind of film we are used to seeing from A24 best know for their more highbrow takes on horror and while I certainly hope that Radcliffe continues to take the risks with his roles, though this essentially as a fun concept with little idea how to execute it.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Title: The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Director: Jack Erick Dowdle
Released: 2007
Starring: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson, Ivar Brogger, Lou George, Amy Lyndon, Michael Lawson, Ron Harper, Kim Kenny

Plot: When the police raid a house they believe to belong to the serial killer Edward Carver, they instead find over 800 videotapes documenting his murder. The films Psudo-documentary presents the contents of the tapes as his history and evolution as a serial killer evolves over the years.

Review: While I’d known about the film for quite awhile thanks to it’s reputation for having shocking content something only further fuelled by the film being premiered in 2007and promtly shelved by MGM, later showing up on demand in 2014 before finally getting a physical release in 2018 after years of being passed around the internet in it’s rough cut form. Of course with this legacy and being the horror coward I am when it comes to extreme gore and violence it had meant that I’d put it on one side and not thought about it until it started turning up in numerous WhatCulture Horror lists that I thought it was time to finally see what the fuss was all about.

Certainly what really grabbed me about this film was the shot of the killers home movie collection were he details his crime and whose contents we will get to see parts of over the course of the film and there is something about the shot of 1000’s of VHS tapes lined up that really caught my curiosity. Of course right from the start it’s clear that Director Jack Erick Dowdle is either a fan or certainly has done his research into the structure of true crime documentaries as this film could certainly be seen as being one of those production were it not for the numerous graphic scenes shown throughout the film. What Dowdle does right though is to present this case through the lens of (fake) experts who were involved in one way or another with the case who break up the footage from this collection of tapes to interject their thoughts on what was happening at that time.

Because the majority of the footage is shot by the killer Ed Carver we certainly get a clear insight into his deranged psyche even before he’s committed his first murder as one of the first things we are shown is a girl in lingerie being forced to blow up and bounce on a balloon something we are told by the tech appears numerous times on the early tapes before we move onto his first murder. Again while he might be filming everything we never get to see his face as it’s either covered by a plague doctor style mask / bio hazard outfit or just out of frame. We do however get to hear his voice which is kind of unnerving because of Ben Messmer either sounds like or making his voice sound like Will Forte putting the idea in my head of Forte carrying out these hideous acts which is a whole other kind of horror.

As the case is unravelled we see Carver evolve as a killer all while various experts claim that he can never be tracked because somehow he is able to change his motivations and perfectly disguise his work as being carried out by different killers something which seemed overly convenient and one of the few leaps of fantasy that the director allows for himself especially as Carver goes from playing the broken down hitchhiker to playing to a fake cop over the years he’s shown active in the film.

Not to be limited to just a series of horrible murders / acts most of which are off screen or implied and possibly to either top what had been done previously with the superb Man Bites Dog the film really shows it’s nasty side with the kidnapping of Cheryl Dempsey (Chbosky) who we see being subjected to prolonged scenes of torture and psychological abuse before turning her into his living doll named slave. Needless to say violence against women is always difficult to watch and certainly this tapped into that same unease viewing that like Martyrs had me questioning what I was doing with my time. For sure these plotline does have a pay off in the end when we are faced with the rescued Cheryl unable to readjust to life outside of Carvers basement, something that so many directors aiming to shock would never bother to include but it’s these scenes which really left me with no desire to rewatch the film once the credits rolled.

While this might not be the first time we’ve seen a serial killer presented in this style with the aforementioned Man Bites Dog still being the best example alongside the much more humorous Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. However the construction of the film really is what holds your attention alongside the feeling that Dowdle has put some actual though into the film than being another director in that ever expanding list of film makers confusing shock factor and grotesque imagery for horror as we saw with the abysmal The Last Horror Movie

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