Monthly Archives: July 2014

Review: Battle Royale

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Year: 2000
Score: 7.5/10

Shamelessly excessive but wholly compelling precursor to The Hunger Games. It doesn’t necessarily all make sense, and giving the audience a coherent explanation for what’s going on hardly seems a priority for director Kinji Fukasaku, yet it’s hard not to enjoy the ultra-violence even when melodrama threatens to overwhelm.

Some of the characters are extremely cool. Some of the dialogue – such as when a dying girl tells a dying boy who she has a crush on that he “looks cool” – less so.

The music is strangely old-fashioned and derivative, as though blending together the scores of Western (as in non-Asian, not cowboys) matinee specials from decades long past. At times I thought I could hear the strains of John Williams’ Star Wars theme.

Apparently Quentin Tarantino has cited this as his favourite film, and its influence (on his work and others’) is plain to see. Look out for a yellow outfit that I assumed was one of the inspirations for Uma Thurman’s get-up in Kill Bill, though apparently the inspiration actually came from the Bruce Lee film Game of Death.

The plot gets silly at times, and in some ways I think The Hunger Games is actually an improvement (sacrilege, I know), but it’s definitely worth checking out. Just try to ignore the parts that don’t add up or tip from the good kind of over-the-top to the embarrassingly bad kind.

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Guest Review: Dredd

Director: Pete Travis
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Dammit I ALWAYS cry at the end of Titanic!

Dammit I ALWAYS cry at the end of Titanic!

I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Dredd. Tainted as the character was by the horrendous iteration that could best be described as Sylvester Stallone with a saucepan on his head, the only reason I actually watched it was because my wife fancied a film before she went to bed and we needed one of a specific length of time. With a sigh, I fired up the 95 minute long Dredd and sat back, preparing myself for what would no doubt be 45 minutes of being bored before falling asleep. As it turns out, Dredd turned out to be much better than I dared hope it would be.

In the violent near future, Judges dish out harsh and instant punishment to criminals on the street. The story follows Judge Dredd and a trainee as they find themselves trapped in a tower block, locked down by ruthless drug lord Ma-Ma. Rather than traditional coke or heroin, the drug of choice is called Slo-Mo; a futuristic reality altering psychedelic that slows down the user’s perception of time. This is cleverly utilised in a plot that builds to a crescendo as wave after wave are thrown at Dredd to try and stop him reaching the summit.

Karl Urban’s Dredd is very different to Stallone’s as there is little to no effort to try and create depth of character; he’s all about justice and PAIN. Cold and abrupt, Dredd is everything that he should be and his relentless progress through the tower block keeps you gripped and filled with suspense throughout.

Dredd feels like it could quite easily accommodate a sequel if the right plot was found; in the same way that The Raid and The Raid 2 build on each other I imagine the same could be applied here. It’s worth a gamble on if you fancy an action film, as it’s solid and it does what it says on the tin.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Director: Drew Goddard
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

"Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well."

“Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well.”

This is a very intriguing film because the horror is underlying rather than in your face, and so you find yourself almost overlooking the action that’s going on in front of you. As it happens, that’s a testament to how well the film is shot.

As a group of five friends head out to a cabin in the woods (duh), they are watched by what appears to be a team of government officials in some large complex. Once there, they find themselves set upon by zombies and, in a bid to escape, stumble across the real story that they are playing out.

The Cabin in the Woods has a very clever premise and, as mentioned above, is extremely well executed. What may have been a ten-a-penny zombie horror film is wrapped around something much darker, showing the indifference of man towards suffering when it is perceived as necessary. It’s poignant as it’s actually believable; it doesn’t feel like were the governments of the world given a similar situation this would be too far from what might happen (of course I realise this is nonsense but you know what I mean).

At no point does The Cabin in the Woods feel like a horror film, as the horror is incidental to the story. It’s absorbing and it keeps hold of you as it turns from zombie slasher to over the top government conspiracy almost seamlessly, and offers an alternative to a genre that too often becomes lazy and repetitive.

The only comment I have on it though is the clips of Japan; having finished watching it and spent some time thinking about how the plot works, not only does it not make any sense it is completely at odds with the whole premise of the plot. Why roughly 14 seconds of film incidental to the story bothered me isn’t clear, but it did. Just thought I’d mention it.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: The Great Dictator

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1940
Score: 8.5/10

Why don't you stop reading this review, google 'great dictator speech', and strap yourself in for the speech from which this still was taken. Go on, do it!

Stop reading this review, scroll to the bottom, click ‘play’ on the embedded video, and strap yourself in for the speech from which this still was taken. Go on, do it!

Unique blend of satire, comedy and deeply felt drama, the latter of which comes mostly in the form of the beautiful speech at the very end of the film. Even in isolation, that speech – embedded at the end of this review – is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Some of the sillier humour in other scenes, left over from Chaplin’s silent film days, detracts from the rest, but not enough to ruin it. All the Germanish gibberish spouted by Adenoid Hynkel is hilarious, largely because of Chaplin’s excellent performance aping Hitler. Beyond the dictator himself, there’s plenty of delicious irony and satire elsewhere in the film, such as the scene in which a Tomainian storm trooper protects a group of Jews from being attacked by a mob of his fellow storm troopers, not because he wants to, but because he’s ‘just following orders’.

It really is quite remarkable that this was made when it was, with filming commencing a week after Germany invaded Poland and the film being released before the US had joined the war. Chaplin apparently later said that he wouldn’t have made the film had he known the extent of the Holocaust (which was really only just getting started at that point), but I think the timing actually gives it greater power. It’s by far the best of the two Charlie Chaplin films I’ve seen.

Review: Modern Times

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1936
Score: 5/10

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

Hugely disappointing not-quite-but-almost silent film from Charlie Chaplin, inexplicably one of his most acclaimed.

It really didn’t work for me; I appreciated the obvious commentary on the ills of the modern industrialised world, and the ending – though abrupt – was quite nice, but the actual comedy largely fell flat.

Maybe I’m just not a fan of simplistic physical comedy? That would explain why most of the bits I laugh at in Marx Brothers movies are clever wordplay rather than slapstick humour. Speaking of which, it’s somewhat amusing that Modern Times has 100% more duck-related comedy than Duck Soup does.