What makes Bullet to the Head such a disappointment is how lifeless and dull it is. Particularly as it’s directed by Walter Hill. The man who gave us great classics such as 48 Hours, The Warriors, Southern Comfort, Red Heat and Streets of Fire, sadly doesn’t deliver the goods in his first film in ten years. What we have left is a plot that makes no sense while Sly mumbles one liners as he shoots a series of bad guys in the head followed by Kang repeatedly saying lines such like “You can’t do that” or ” we should have taken him in.”
The whole film smells of a troubled production and several re-writes as it has no idea of what its central concept is. With the premise of the partnership of hit-man and police man but as it’s Stallone’s show, Sung Kang is given nothing to do making his role next to redundant and pointless.
Stallone phones in the sub standard Stallone performance meanwhile Jason Momoa has fun as main villain Keegan even though it seems he’s acting in a different film. Christian Slater shows up out of nowhere in what maybe one of the greatest mis-castings I’ve seen in recent memory and as for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, well he just explains the contrived plot in a silly accent. If only Bullet to the Head was any fun at all in a hard-core 80’s throw back way. The action limp and flat and as the film lives up to its title, it’s nothing but CGI blood splatter that in the end just get tiresome
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, stepping away from his governor duties and straight back into action cinema (if you exclude the Expendables movies). Arnold plays the role of the an ageing sheriff of a small town on the border of Mexico. When a mexican drug lord is sprung out of prison and is heads for Mexico, while Forest Whitaker’s FBI agent fumbles about to stop him, it’s down to Arnold and his band of misfit deputies to kill the bad guys and re-capture the gangster.
Arnold has always been a ridiculous figure in cinema and he is at his best when he is self-aware. The Last Stand is just that, fast, loose, loud, dumb, preposterous and a ton of fun. The former governor at the ripe old age of 65, is now a shadow of his former self and it is all the more evident here, but not that Arnold has ever been convincing as anything other than a cyborg. Schwarzenegger knows this as he acknowledges his age and goes for the laughs and the fun factor over the thrills.
It is a good thing then as south korean director Kim Ji-woon gives The Last Stand a light comic-book touch that plays to the insanity on-screen. This is a film where the speed racer bad guy Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), escapes the FBI all the way from Las Vegas in a Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1. It is a film where the towns local crazy person (Johnny Knoxville) has his own armoury in his shed. This is a film where Arnie literally cuts bad guys in half with a Vickers machine gun and where old grannies fires shotguns. If you go in taking this seriously you won’t enjoy yourself, however sit back, relax and let the nostalgia of the king of american action cinema back on the big screen..
Zero Dark Thirty started life as a fictional story set against the real-life hunt for Osama bin Laden, but when U.S Navy Seals shot him dead on the 2nd of May 2011, forced Kathryn Bigelow to re-write. It is to the films credit that you would not know from watching it. The story of Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker, starts in 2003 and follows a CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her devoted the mission of capturing the notorious leader of al-Qaeda.
Following the line of real and tragic events, the plot is only fictionalised to a degree, giving us plain straight account of what happened behind the closed doors of the CIA. Some could say the Bigelow direction is too clinical and cold and there has been some accusations thrown at Zero Dark Thirty since the awards buzz, that it glorifies torture. It is simply not true. The film looks at the events in the most honest way possible, letting the audiences make up their own mines about it.
What Bigelow gives us a tense filled, slow burning plot with one foot in the land of fiction. Armed to the teeth with a rock solid cast that includes Mark Strong, Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler, Édgar Ramírez and (out of nowhere John Barrowman). This is Jessica Chastain’s show however and is fantastic in a role that starts of as shy and wet behind the ears to a determined force that will not take no as an answer. It rare that we get to see a lead character get a story arc that does not feel thrust upon you and is given time and space to grow and develop over its 157 minutes running time. It does feel too long however it is justifiable, taking its time on telling the narrative to mirror the 8 year span. The last 25 minutes make it worth the wait and makes you temporally forget how this thing will end.
The found footage horror film is a tried gimmick that is over 10 years old. When The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999, the idea was fresh and inventive, but now not a year goes by without at least three popping up each year. Only a few in recent memory (Chronicle, End of Watch) have attempted to think out of the box, but apart from the Paranormal Activity franchise, none have justified the usage of the found footage formula. It is surprising however that the idea of making an anthology of found-footage horror shorts.
The series of five stories, each helmed by different directors, are held together by the predominantly weak plot of a group of low rent criminals breaking into an abandoned house to find a certain VHS tape. Instead they find dozens of them and have to route through by watching each tape revealing each new story as they go. The premise works even if the a some of the segments are ether too weak or silly, their individual running times don’t over stay their welcome. Despite the gratuitous sex, some are more original than others, the ‘Second Honeymoon” is kind of one note and “Tuesday the 17th” is a fun slasher but makes little or no sense. The opener “Amateur Night” where three drunken men looking to make score while making their own amateur porn film and get more than they bargain for, is fun with some good effects as is the last instalment “10/31/98” The video chat segment is the most creative but V/H/S leaves you wondering how did they all end up in one place and on such a dead format.?
This the very late second episode of the Inglorious Bastnerds podcast were we discuss our personal top 10 favourite films of 2012. Apologies for the quality, as internet connection was lost mid way through.
Please be warned the Bastnerds tend to talk spoilers and this podcast is rated 18, due to Ian’s language .
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I have mixed thoughts on Django Unchained. On on hand Quentin Tarantino’s take at a spaghetti western (although set in the south of America making a southern) Opening up to the theme from the 1966 Italian western Django by Roberto Fia, it nods at the source witch inspired it while tuckering the issue of slavery. As you’d expect with a new Tarantino movie, it is largely enjoyable with its snappy dialogue, over the top violence, larger than life characters and a soundtrack made up of old school and contemporary records. One the other hand however, it is way too long and is a key example of a film maker in love with his own work. Set in 1852, two years before the American civil war when slavery was legal, Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave who’s been separated from his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Christoph Waltz’s Dr King Schultz, a bounty hunter who needs Django to identify three brothers wanted for murder, frees him and in return he will help find and reunite him with Broomhilda, who is at a plantation called Candyland owned by Calvin Candie (leonardo Dicaprio), a slave owner who forces his male slaves to fight to the death for money in a Mandingo fighting ring. The due hatch a convoluted plan and pose as potential buyers of a fighter wile offering to purchase Broomhilda in the process.
There are lots to like about Django Unchained, for one, it’s littered with great performances. Jamie Foxx is great as the title character, playing it cool as what is essentially a black Clint Eastwood. Decaprio relishes in a King Louis XIV role, ruling is fiefdom as a spoilt prince that is so bigoted and pompous. Waltz is his charismatic self keeping to the same performance he did in Inglorious Bastards as the unorthodox bounty hunter Schultz. He is charming, sophisticated and polite while deadly at the same time. Washington is solid but isn’t given much to do as does Walton Goggins as one of Candie’s cronies Billy Crash. Which in a 2 hour 45 minute movie is not given much screen time and feels like a wast of what could have been a great villein role, and that’s a shame. Samuel L. Jackson however walks away with the film as Candie’s head slave Stephen, who has nothing but love for his master and is the brains behind Candyland. It is most fully rounded complex character that Tarantino has ever written, paralleling the relationship between Django and Schultz with Stephen and Clavin. While being at Calvin’s servant, in private Stephen is more of a father figure to him and Jackson is fantastically intimating as him. The action is gloriously cartoonish and is full of fun and blood and the usage of songs from 2pac to Johnny Cash borrowing past movie scores from Morricone and Goldsmith works well. However as enjoyable these aspects are, it would be nice for Tarantino to move away from avenues he has been down before
The fIlms running length is an issue, as the story does feel stretched out with its own ideas (do we really need the german legend of Brunhilde/Broomhilda explained to us) Particularly in the middle section where our heroes take the journey to Candyland. This is mainly down to the script as it does seem that some trimming needed doing in the writing process. As the peace fits together as a whole but takes too long to do so as there are scenes that justifies one plot point at a time which bogs the film down from what it could have been an easy 2 hour flick. The use Despite the length and the pacing issues, Django Unchained is an enjoyable experience, just a drawn out one..
Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling star in Gangster Squad, a throw back to the 1950’s police-gangster films in the same vein as The Untouchables and L.A Confidential. Based on a true story set in 1949 Los Angeles, Brolin plays police officer John O’Mara paced in charge by of a secret police force by police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) with the single goal of taking out the kingpin of Hollywood, Micky Cohen played by scene chewing Sean Penn. O’Mara and his pregnant wife played by Mireille Enos, put together their team consisting of likeable actors such as Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña, Robert Patrick and a at first reluctant Gosling.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, who is known for comedies like the excellent Zombieland and the not so excellent 30 minutes or Less. This is his first venture into something more serious. Taking the look and feel of the 40’s and 50’s while adding gritty violence with a modern sheen. It sounds like it could be a fun cocktail but sadly is just plain and standard. Partly because of cleanness of it. It wants to have the grimy blood splatter that make many of these new age noir films so appealing but is settles with the CGI bullet-holes.
The cinematography by Dion Beebe has a nice glossy look that looks great but beyond that and Penn hijacking every scene he’s in a performance that wouldn’t be out-of-place in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The rest of the on-screen talent is wasted as there is nothing more than dressing up in trench coats and hats. There is a decent car chase mid-way through and it is hard not to get giddy when the tommy guns come out to play, however Gangster Squad is in need of some emotional engagement. Not even Emma Stone as Gosling’s love interest can help. It is not their fault, the talents of Brolin, Gosling and Stone just doesn’t seem to come on-screen and you find yourself not caring eater way. If only Gangster Squad had touches of humour as the main focus is playing homage to those hammy and cliché ridden gangster movies. In the end it is serious and straight-faced and as a result it is just hammy and cliché ridden itself..