With the third entry in his continuing year in review series, Owen casts a glance over the films he’s been watching throughout March 2015. As with each of the previous articles in the series, Owen will be breaking down the month by week, providing a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
I know I seem to be saying this with alarming frequency, but March really was a pretty busy month for me this year. Unusually busy, I’d say. I spent most of it planning, preparing, recording, editing and occasionally even publishing various different podcasts, which in turn influenced the kinds of films I watched. Not the worst kind of homework imaginable, but it did mean some of the films I’d have liked to have spent more time watching (including a nice set of recently purchased Fritz Lang movies on bluray and those blasted Werner Herzog films I bang on about in every article) were pushed to the wayside temporarily.
On top of this, I started the month off feeling pretty ill, then recovered somewhat, only to eventually catch the flu. The real flu. Not the “slightly bunged up”, “let’s stay at home and watch a load of daytime TV” one. This, as well as spend an evening in A&E with my wife. When I said in February that it was a hectic month for me? Well, March was doubly so. It is therefore a period in 2015 that I am very glad to now see the end of.
That said, I did see some absolutely fantastic movies during the past 31 days. Some of which were re-watches, like Desperado, A Field In England, Cyborg etc. Some of those rewatches were also seen during my Marvel Cinematic Universe-a-thon in preparation for Age of Ultron‘s release as well as our upcoming Avengers minisode podcasts. Other films I thought highly of were new releases, such as Chappie and It Follows, which I’ve already reviewed right here on the podcast at the beginning of March. There were of course stinkers, as there always are. The worst offender being Kill Keith; a film I was unceremoniously forced to endure thanks to Steve’s podcast quiz triumph. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an entirely miserable month film-wise, leaving me with quite a few I’d like to share with you now! So, on with the reviews…
Week 1 – Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 March 2015
Sunday (1) – Kill Keith (2011); Monday – It Follows (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Welcome To The Jungle (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Preservation (2015); Saturday – The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), CHAPPIE (2015); Sunday (8) – [absolutely nothing]
I had very mixed feelings going into Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction blockbuster. Trepidation, quiet optimism, maybe even a smidge of snobbishness that a director I once heralded as the saviour of intelligent sci-fi was getting a bit too self-indulgent. Alien 5? Really? Anyway. It seems I was no less sure of my own thoughts even after watching his rogue artificial intelligence Johnny-5-meets-RoboCop movie. It took a day or two of mulling it over before I felt confident enough to commit to an opinion either way, eventually settling on a very simple “well I enjoyed it” line of reasoning, with a big BUT caveat attached to it. Sharlto Copley is not a ‘big but’ (teehee) and is genuinely hilarious as the voice of our super-sentient runaway robot protagonist, with perfect comic timing in all of his fantastically well delivered lines of dialogue. The design and CGI of Chappie is also utterly spectacular. His banged up, tattered, scrap heap look matches the gritty urban South African world he inhabits exceptionally well. Both Ninja and Yolandi (of rap group Die Antwoord, for whom Blomkamp originally wrote the film), along with Jose Pablo Cantillo, were equally as entertaining, even if they are the ‘big buts’ I’m referring to. Their rough around the edges characters and performances may not be to everyone’s tastes, as they try to raise Chappie in seclusion in order to commit a heist. Sure, they’re not exactly Marlon Brando, Bette Davis and Richard Burton respectively, but it’s not like they were trying to be either. It’s clear they aren’t traditional actors but their overblown melodramatic style was apt and perfectly suited the explosive and enthralling action scenes that dominate through the final stages. Overall, the film may be a little inconsistent (here’s looking at you, Hugh Jackman) and when it is bad, it’s very flimsy and feels rather cheap in trying to bring out any emotion in the viewer. But honestly, when it’s good? It’s fucking brilliant. Bravo, Blomkamp.
Week 2 – Monday 9 – Sunday 15 March 2015
Monday – Legendary (2014), Desperado (1995), Rush Hour (1998); Tuesday – Source Code (2011), Cyborg (1989), HEATSEEKER (1995); Wednesday – A Field In England (2013); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Adrenalin (1996); Saturday – Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011); Sunday – Iron Man 3 (2013)
If you’re a fan of b-movies, it’s quite likely you’ve at least heard of Albert Pyun, if not outright adoring him. You know, aside from that failed Captain America abortion from 1990. In preparation for our upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme Corridor of Praise podcast, I rewatched Cyborg and thoroughly enjoyed it. Which then led to me seeking out (see what I did there) other Pyun films, such as Heatseeker and Adrenaline. Whilst not without their faults – the overload of male bravado on show in both, despite having strong(ish) (relatively speaking) (ok, not exactly “strong” but “prominent”) female characters, is like being slapped across the face with a tiny steroid-reduced shriveled ball sack – I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst his movies are not going to win any awards (maybe a Razzie), just like Cyborg and another favourite Nemesis, they were in fact undeniably ambitious in their concept and design. On the surface, Heatseeker sounds like it has more potential to be a load of old shite rather than a successful project. You’ve got a futuristic world where fighters gather for a tournament and can enhance their skills with cybernetic technology provided by greedy sponsors, with our protagonist being a good man who doesn’t cheat by using these implants. It could easily have gone either way! Ignoring the terrible, soft-lighting, cringe-inducing romance scenes that come across like they’re written by a 14 year old virgin, the satire of corporations who will exploit anybody to get rich is well worked into the script. As a result, the film itself is, as expected, an enjoyable (if trashy) sci-fi action film.
Week 3 – Monday 16 – Sunday 22 March 2015
Monday – Thor: The Dark World (2013); Tuesday – Run All Night (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – The Gunman (2015); Sunday (8) – THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
Later this month, we’ll be releasing a series of 10 “minisode” podcasts that are about 20-25 minutes in length, each focusing on each of the phase 1 and 2 Marvel Cinematic Universe films up to Age of Ultron. As a result, a lot of the films you’ll see listed in this article were rewatches ahead of this series. Including Louis Leterrier’s only venture in the MCU with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Now, I think The Transporter is an action film that’s as well directed as you’re ever likely to see for the genre. I didn’t even mind its sequel too much, nor Now You See Me from a couple year’s back. Alas, Clash of the Titans was a crock of shit and as it turns out, a film I’ve defended to death in the past after enjoying it upon its initial release, is also a disappointingly a mess. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned flu I was paralysed with, I actually missed this podcast recording with Steve and Brian Plank. Nevertheless…. It’s not like Leterrier intended to make a bad film. It was only the second in the franchise and it does struggle to come up with a proper identity of its own (although it is a step up from Ang Lee’s attempt with Hulk). I suppose at least it tries to have that now typical Marvel humour – a mistranslated line from Ed Norton as Bruce Banner in Brazil, “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” is cheesy yet sort of works. However, the problem is the script is almost written for a different film than the one being shot. It’s clunky, badly paced and more like being shown a flick book of Hulk scenes rather than being a coherent story. It’s now my least favourite MCU film – this rewatch was definitely not kind to it at all.
Week 4 – Monday 23 – Tuesday 31 March 2015
Monday (23) – Hitman (2007), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014); Tuesday (24) – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008); Friday – Amadeus (1984), DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED (1924); Saturday – Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924); Sunday – Fitzcarraldo (1982); Monday (30) – Avengers Assemble (2012); Tuesday (31) – [absolutely nothing]
If you made it to near the end of the latest five hour long, 150th episode of the Failed Critics podcast – firstly, well done! That is more of an achievement, I think, than it was for us record it. Secondly, you probably heard me half attempt to reveal my wild card triple bill, which was on films centered around, based on, or otherwise influenced by the opera. A medium that I am by no means educated about on even the most basic level. Hence me choosing it. A foolish decision, right? That’s kind of what struck me as I started to open my mouth and explain to the guys which three films I was about to talk about. Something that resulted in what can only be described as a GOB Bluth “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment due to how poorly received an idea it was! Oh well, you live and learn. Regardless of how much of a balls up it was on my behalf, I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone with Repo and Amadeus; and I fully expected to enjoy Fiztcarraldo as much as I ended up doing. But it was Fritz Lang’s 1925 five-hour, two-parter fantasy epic Die Nibelungen that really stood out for me. Whilst not directly adapted from an opera, rather it’s more of a retelling of an old epic poem, it did in fact take a huge amount of inspiration from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. An opera that I have since tried (and failed) to enjoy, but maybe one day I will be cultured and sophisticated, like them fancy adults wot enjoy posh stuffs liek this. Until then, I’ll stick to my silent classics from 90 years ago that have so far brought me much joy. Such as the first part of Die Nibelungen, called Sigfried, about a young ambitious man who sets out to marry a princess and bathes in dragon blood, making him invulnerable everywhere but a specific spot on his back. It’s hilariously dated in parts, as you’d expect with funny looking dragon puppets and with antiquated notions about what being a brave man is all about. However, it’s as fantastical and wondrous today as I’m sure it would’ve been back then. The set design is just astounding and the shots that Lang managed to capture are breathtaking. Whilst the epic was incredibly popular back then, following the success of The Ten Commandments, Intolerance and Cabiria some decade or so previously (all of which are worth anybody’s time if you’ve not yet seen them), Die Nibelungen in both of its parts is probably the best of the bunch that I’ve seen. And it’s a remarkable restoration job that Eureka! have done with this. They should be proud.
And that’s it! I’m done for another month. If you feel that I’ve picked the wrong film to review, or if you simply completely disagree with my review, then leave a comment below the article and I’ll argue my point until I’m blue in the face. Otherwise, I’ll see you again (hopefully) at the beginning of May as I look back at those films I’ve seen during this month.