Monday, November 7, 2011

FLICKS OF THE WEEK: October 23-29, October 30 - November 5


Attack the Block pits inner city kids against interstellar creatures, with fantastic results. Directed by first time feature filmmaker Joe Cornish, the movie moves at a steady pace and gives us an entertaining group of remarkably memorable characters. The film follows the exploits of a gang of South London youths that reside in a highrise apartment complex as they drink, rob, rhyme, and pillage, while representing their Block. One night a meteor falls from the sky and the gang decides to investigate, only to unsuspectingly come into contact with an extraterrestrial. The confrontation heats up when the leader of the group, Moses, is scratched by the alien, forcing him to deliver a beat down to the tiny creature in order to save his rep with the rest of the group. This violent act, sets in motion an epic invasion of larger scaled creatures that lay havoc on the apartment complex, forcing the youths to protect their turf against the outer space invaders.

The film is a whole hell of a lot of fun, blending a plethora of elements from horror films, science fiction films, and kid adventure films from the 80's like The Goonies, The Monster Squad, and The Lost Boys. The direction for the film was spellbinding, crafting some pretty original moments and hair raising scenes. The mixture of comedy and horror was wonderful, and it was given a sense of reality by the young cast of actors. Nick Frost even gives a fun little running cameo throughout the film, that showcases his unique comedic style. The film was just great fun overall and I'm glad that I hesitated on reading up on the film before I watched it. It was a great surprise and deserves the hype that it has been getting.

Captain America: The First Avenger, is a great throwback to those wonderful period adventures like The Rocketeer and Indiana Jones, that were steeped in that kind of pulp action adventure serial vibe that's so damn fun to visit on the screen. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid from the Bronx who has been rejected multiple times from enlisting in the fight against Hitler's Nazi Germany. After catching the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine, Rogers is picked to try out a new super serum that could have the ability to change him from a weakling weighing 98 pounds into a bad ass super hero. Of course, the experiment is a success and Captain America is born, but after a few unfortunate events, Cap. is sidelined and forced to be more of an entertainer then an action hero. This humble life, serves as a great introduction to Rogers new-found abilities and gives a great inside look on his personality and character before the action revs up and Captain America gets to bashing in Nazi skulls or the equivalent to it.

Chris Evans does a remarkable job as the titular hero, both as Steve Rogers and as Captain America himself. He really gives a great deal of depth to the character and balances both versions of the man with great equality. Director Joe Johnston gives us a film that hits all the right notes by establishing a movie that is as fun as it is intriguing. The time period and various locations are exquisitely realized and the main villain, the Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving, is as mesmerizing as he is pure evil. The film is just a down and out thrill ride, filled with some amazingly action filled moments and some somber and heartfelt connections between the characters. Loved it!

Jerry Cotton: Death and Diamonds, is George Nader's sixth attempt at playing the sneaky and suave FBI agent Jerry Cotton. In this entry, Cotton must infiltrate a gang of robbers, posing as an expert alarm specialist in order to thwart the gang and take down its mysterious leader named Stone. Cotton comes to find that they plan on lifting a large haul of diamonds that happen to be on display at a private and secretive meeting, but he is on constant observation by his dubious employers for asking too many questions about the heist and its illusive and faceless leader. To make matters more complicated, Cotton has started to fall for a dame by the name of Lana who is mixed up herself with the crew of crooks. Can Cotton put a monkey wrench in the gangs plans, while at the same time save the girl? I assumed the answer was yes before I watched the film, and after the credits rolled I found that I was right. That Jerry Cotton is one bad mutha... shut your mouth! I'm just talking about Cotton.

This was my first introduction into the Jerry Cotton crime fighting world, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Often people have compared Cotton's films to the espionage-filled realms of the Eurospy films and I'd have to agree to a certain extent that they seem like distant cousins. While the Jerry Cotton films lack the globe trotting elements found in most Eurospy films, there is a certain quality to the movie that is undeniably Eurospy-esque. The girls, the guns, and the charismatic lead are all there and the amount of fun that I had watching the film was equal to the majority of Eurospy flicks that have entered my collection. Can't wait to delve into the two other entries that I was able to pick up with this one. Bring them on!

Tuvalu is a fantastic and inspiring coming of age film that sets itself in a world that can only be imagined within the fanciful confines of the screen. This sepia infused fairy tale comes from Germany, boasting some of the most imaginative locations and characters to ever grace the cinemas wacky and wild stage. The film follows the trials and tribulations of a strange man-child named Anton, who aids his blind father and languished mother in running their broken and battered bathhouse. The normally hidden and naive Anton, one day unexpectedly meets a beautiful young girl named Eva on a random visit to the bathhouses with her father. Anton is infatuated with her and strangely enough, she seems to feel the same way. That is until her father meets an untimely death by a blow to the head from falling debris, thanks to the decrepit bathhouse's decaying roof and the help of a sinister assailant. With the affections of Eva now turning to hatred, Anton must also contend with the bathhouse being placed under investigation, spurred by a greedy landowner and his desires to bulldoze the building for more lucrative real estate. Can Anton save the bathhouse and win back Eva's heart? The answer to that question is yes, but it happens in such a way that you'd never expect, projecting this movie into such weird realms that most imaginative minds could never fathom.

This movie is a treat. It's a lost gem that begs to be discovered. The cinematic world that director Veit Helmer has created in this film is just ritualistically odd and refreshingly original. The heart and soul of the movie is its characters, especially that of Anton and Eva played by Denis Lavant and Chulpan Khamatova. The two have a spark about them that really ignites the world to life, particularly Chulpan. I've come across a number of her films on my cinematic journeys and every single one of them has been a masterpiece of cinematic wonders. Much like her roles in Luna Papa, Strana glukhikh, and The Sword Bearer, she exudes a presence that is unlike any actress that I've come across. She's vulnerable, quiet, and quaint, but fierce and wholly capable of carrying a film and Tuvalu is no exception. She takes on the role of Eva with force and makes her lovable and hypnotizing. The film in general is hypnotizing, never placating the raw and artistic nature of the cinematic realm that is has created. It's a feast for the eyes and really should be seen.


Baron Prasil is another film that is a feast for the eyes. This Czechoslovakian film is a vivid masterpiece, showcasing Baron Munchausen's color tinted adventures across time and space. After meeting a spaceman on the moon, Baron takes it upon himself to show this "Moonman" how life on earth works. They descend onto the world vie the Baron's flying ship, powered by birds of all things, and start out on one of the most absurd adventures in history. Baron Munchausen is a fanciful man, prone to boasting and bragging about his eccentric journeys and miraculous encounters, and we get to see some of these misadventures first hand. From battling an army of Turkish soldiers single handedly, to being swallowed by a giant whale whole, to riding a cannon ball across the countryside, the Baron takes the world on and he does it in style. The film is a fantastically outlandish trip into a world that might only exist inside the self centered and possibly insane Baron Munchausen's head, but it is one that is as amazingly fun to visit as you would think.

The production value on this strange film is actually quite brilliant, blending oddball animations, with flat two dimensional backdrops and silhouetted actors, there really isn't anything like this movie. Its unusual style lends a great deal to the film's originality and placement within the cinemas many varying entries. It's a bewitching experience to say the least, and you'll not soon forget your marvelous trip through the wacky adventurous life of Baron Munchausen. I don't think I can fully describe the outrageous nature of this film, so I'm just going to leave it at that. You must see this film for yourself, because it is rather special.

Black Heaven is a surreal trip into the unknown, that balances the effects of the real world with that of the digital realm of an online game called Black Hole. Seemingly named after the consuming nature of its obsessed players and their addictive tendencies, the film follows an unsuspecting young man by the name of Gaspard, who with the help of a sexy stranger named Audrey, begins to get wrapped up in a fantasy world that quickly begins to threaten to claim is life. After saving the life of a suicidal woman (Audrey), Gaspard becomes desperate in finding out anything he can about her, which leads him to the online universe of the Black Hole. In this internet world, people are not always what they appear to be and dangers sometimes make their way into the real world. His infatuation with Audrey compels him onward, ignoring the risks and warnings of his closest friends, making him change from an innocent and kind-hearted youth into something else entirely. Does a sinister plot lie at the end of Gaspard's sorted tale? You bet your sweet tattooed ass!

This tense virtual thriller is not an action packed epic, but it delivers a story that is down-right compelling and extremely mysterious. The allure of the virtual world is as intriguing to the main character of Gaspard as it is to the viewer, pulling us both into this digital realm by the reigns of this alluring woman who seems surrounded by death. The mystery of who she is and what she is all about, tugs at the viewer allowing us to partake in Gaspard's quest. I loved the parallels that the film sets up, comparing the unknown intentions of the internet avatars to the intentions of the cast of the real world. The dangers and consequences hit the viewer hard and in the closing moments of the film, we see the extent of the damage it has taken on Gaspard's life. The film is a little unknown at the present, but hopefully more people will come to find this honorable and twisted gem. I dug it and I think you might too.

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is another outstanding entry in the prestigious Kaiju series. In this film's history, Godzilla has only attacked Tokyo once, leaving the death of Godzilla from the first movie to be the last appearance from the giant behemoth. Unlucky for Japan, a new Godzilla is on the scene and he's tearing the place up. After this new Godzilla's rampage, the government decides to construct a weapon that can destroy Godzilla for good and keep the people of Japan safe. They devise a plan to construct a metallic replica of Godzilla, one that infuses his DNA that has been extracted from his newly found skeletal body at the bottom of the ocean. With MechaGodzilla fully operational, the match is set for a colossal showdown that is sure to rock Tokyo to its core. Let's get it on!

This film, like all Godzilla Toho Productions, is enjoyable to say the least. The story is a bit sentimental, with the human characters having to overcome their tragic pasts in order to realize their worth, but it's sprinkled enough over the entire breadth of the film that it doesn't take away from the main event of Goliath against Goliath, and what a show that is. The two combatants go at it with harsh aggression and there is a great deal of destruction to be seen in these climactic battles. The miniature work is good and it's blended with some nice digital effects that don't seem as cheesy as one would expect. If you're looking for a fun time and you're in the mood for some good old fashion monster destruction, then look no further then Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla. You're in for one hell of a time.

Primal is an Australian genre film that has a great concept, yet doesn't really fully realize its own potential. The movie is a blend of Cabin Fever with a hint of Lamberto Bava's Demons, but doesn't fair as good as the originators of the concept. The film follows a group of friends as they go on a camping expedition to investigate a cave painting in the remote jungles of Australia. It appears that this region of the outback is a cursed place, transforming its inhabitants into bloodthirsty demon-like creatures. Before you know it, one of campers becomes violently sick, spitting blood and teeth and wallowing in pain like a rabid animal. This feral reaction soon turns to ravenous anger as the transformed camper begins to attack the rest of the group, slowly transforming them into devilish creatures themselves. The night runs with blood, while the surviving few struggle to stay alive and find a way out of this harsh territory and dangerous company.

The concept is exciting, but the eventual demise of some of the campers leaves much to be desired. First off, the actions of some of these characters are downright stupid. I know that this is a staple of the genre, but if someone is still holding a flame for his significant other, even when that person is attacking them with razor sharp teeth and blood all over their body, then you have to say wake the fuck up man! With that said, the film does have some good elements to it like the creepiness of the location and the special effects. With a better fleshed out story and a cast of sensible characters, the film could be something of a genre favorite. Still, it isn't really all that bad, just could have been so much better.

The Spy Who Loved Flowers is an Umberto Lenzi directed Eurospy that is as fun as its title is ridiculous. The film follows secret agent Martin Stevens, played by Roger Browne, as he cleans up some loose ends from his previous mission. Stevens is ordered to hunt down three important persons that were linked to his past assignment, assassinating them at any cost. What turns out to be a routine cleanup mission, turns into a thrilling game, filled with twists and turns, revealing some surprising revelations for super spy Martin Stevens. As previously stated, the film is so much fun. Roger Browne nails the role of the charismatic mans man, as he woos the ladies and takes out the bad guys, sometimes mixing it up a bit and taking down some double crossing women.

The film takes place in a number of locations, from Paris to Geneva and then finally to the iconic scenery of Athens, Greece. There's some great moments with Stevens, amongst the monolithic ruins of Greece, and Lenzi utilizes these exotic locations to their fullest. The one great thing about Eurospy films, is that they are a living and breathing slideshow of wonderful places during a time that was stylistically unique and ultimately thrilling to view in retrospect. The Spy Who Loved Flowers supports this concept with its beautiful locations, cast, and exciting story. This film may not be one of the best examples of the Eurospy genre, but it definitely holds a memorable place in the interesting catalog of films.

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