Friday, April 30, 2010

REVIEW: Children of Men

Children of Men
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Year 2006

Children of Men is a haunting and sweeping apocalyptic view into a world where humanity cannot birth any more children. The sheer visceral impact of this dystopian concept, comes vividly to life with the careful and skilled eye of director Alfonso Cuaron. The world that he conceptualized is frighteningly real and the grit of it gets into every fabric of the production. I wish all science fiction stories were this hardened and ingrained in their own reality, and the ones that are, really stand out as classics of the genre. This film follows in the footsteps of the great sci-fi films like Blade Runner, 1984, and Alien. They present a fictional tale of futuristic wonder and bring it down to a relatable and humanized story, building on the characters experiences to solidify its validity.

The hazy filled world of Children of Men.

The film starts out with our main character Theo Faron, played by the impeccable Clive Owen, as he grabs his morning coffee only to be rudely interrupted by a terrorist attack on his local coffee shop. The society of Children of Men is a place of constant panic and the citizens are persistently reminded of their immortality in the form of never being able to bare children. The news stations run rampant with coverage of the youngest man in the world's death, driving home the desperate notion that this may be indeed the end of humanity. It's a depressing world and the locales chosen for this film are exquisite in their loneliness and depravity.

Clive Owen remembers the old days, just
before being pelted by rocks. Damn trouble makers.

The characters of this film are remarkable though and bring about a different hue of this oppressive world. Michael Cane plays Clive Owen's friend by the name of Jasper, who is sort of an elderly hippy who lives in the middle of nowhere, far from the smoggy air of the city. His character brings a jovial sense to all of the despair and he delves a great deal into giving us a small peak into the back story that made Clive Owen's character so brooding and melancholy. Michael Caine is amazing in everything that he's in so it comes to no surprise that he does an excellent job with the character of Jasper, giving him a heart and soul.

Michael Caine thinks this movie is A Ok.

The blatantly destructive look of this film is constant, never bringing you out of the film, and never letting up as we delve deeper into the claustrophobic confines of this oppressive and over controlling world. The police presence is everywhere and the idea that our main character could be taken away at any moment by these rabid enforcers is quite real and extremely daunting to the viewer. We are given so much imagery with each scene, that we really get a great sense of how this world functions and the inhabitants that struggle to survive within its unforgiving walls. Graffiti is plastered throughout the city, shedding light on an organization called the Human Project, that as the film goes on, we find is a group of scientist trying to find the cure for the sterile population and some how repopulate the earth. There are sinister tones to this organizations motives and there are also saintly murmurs of a chance of salvation through their actions, but the ambiguity of this group is never defined only touched upon lightly.

The Human Project sounds like a kick-ass band. Not.

The world spins quickly out of control and delves into more exhaustive confusion, when Theo is abducted by a strange organization that has affiliations with the Human Project movement. They snatch him from off the street, covering his head with a black sack as they force him into a van. The group then takes him to a surreal interrogation room, where he is questioned by a mysterious woman who happens to be an old friend and lover. Julianne Moore is the leader of this rag tag group who seems to have some secret of great importance that they want Theo to help them with. I normally can't stand Julianne Moore, but she plays an interesting character in this film that has a certain intriguing quality that didn't annoy me for the duration of her screen time. The outcome of her character is quite surprising and it comes right out of left field, giving another great example of how dangerous this world truly is.

Clive Owen takes a friendly trip to Guantanamo.

One of the unorthodox techniques that Alfonso Cuaron uses in this film that really hits marks of brilliance, is his use of long drawn out takes that incapsulates all that is going on in the intricately planned action scene. This use of direction is fresh and is truly breathtaking, making you feel like your right there in the moment with these characters. There's so much emotional pull created by this technique, that it's hard not to be swept up in the flow of the narrative as you experience what they experience. The first scene where this is really shown to its fullest is during the car ambush scene, where our characters are attacked by a band of outlaws who fire upon the car and block the road with flaming barrels. It's a tremendous scene and one that creates an impact that is felt throughout the entire film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, proceeds to crap his
pants in one of the best scenes of the film.

Children of Men is without a doubt an amazing movie, and if you want to go into this film with a fairly fresh mind, I'm going to ask that you not read any more and go see it with virgin eyes. Now that's done with, lets get on to the meat and potatoes of this film.

In this film, we are given a world starved for new life in that the very idea that someone could indeed be fertile be almost legend. The set up by Cuaron to make us believe this world and all the functionality of it, is stupendous and when we find out the secret that the Human Project has been hiding from Theo, we are blown away. It seems that a pregnant woman named Kee, played by the unknown Clare-Hope Ashitey, has been found, and they are planning to transport her to the Human Project off of the shores of England and into safety. The set up for this reveal is great and quite messiah like as the scared mother stands naked in a modernized nativity scene, surrounded by farm animals in a rusty barn. The impact of this moment, brings the true nature of Theo's character to the surface and it propels him on a quest to see this woman and her unborn child to safety.

Someone put the coins on Clive Owen's eyes,
cause he sure don't believe what he is seeing.

This is where things get really confusing and out of control, because we find out that not everyone within the group has the pregnant woman's best interests at heart. These impetuous thugs see the opportunity of having the only pregnant woman in the world and see great enterprising in this venture. Theo sees this volatile situation and opts to help Kee and her baby by performing a miraculous morning escape that really gets the blood pumping with its intense moments and split second decisions. The most memorable moment of the escape is the long cut of the car slowly coasting down the driveway of the farmhouse as a dreadlocked thug runs along side the car pointing his pistol into the car. It's an explosive scene with an intimate edge that is unlike anything I've ever seen before.

Start the car! It's an albino Predator with a gun!

Alfonso Cuaron gives us some amazing imagery to look at in this film. Most of it is almost poetic in its approach to convey the overall feeling of the scene. The sense of this lost world without children and all the hope that lies with Kee and her baby is brought front and center from just a single shot of Kee swinging on an empty playground, with Theo worriedly looking off into the distance. The composition of this frame is beautiful and the location on which it's set in is perfect for the ideals that the film preaches in its overall attempt to make us believe in this world. It works and it speaks wonders for what Cuaron can accomplish with just a well planned out series of images. He definitely guides this film with a steady camera and expert eye.

Clive Owen longs for someone to invite him to the playground.

Intensity is the name of the game with this film as we're presented with one outrageous situation after another, each showing the brutality that exists in this world. Throughout the film, we lose parts of our group, some by the steely cold hands of death and others through more nefarious means. Kee's midwife is taken away by soldiers to a prison camp in an intense scene of loss and anguish as we aren't sure if our main characters will get out of this situation. It's a hard film and Alfonso never pulls his punches as he berates us with more devastating imagery and heartbreaking moments. This all leads up to an intense birthing scene that really brings a definitive moment to all that they had been struggling for.

Ok, you want me to do what?

Like with the car ambush scene, we are presented with another astonishing long take of a war torn battlefield as Theo desperately tries to find a newly kidnapped Kee and her baby. This sequence is literally breathtaking as we follow behind Theo through hell itself, with gunfire blasting and there's even a tank blowing things sky high. It's a wonder to witness and greatly appreciated for its portrayal of one of the most intense scenes that I've ever witnessed on screen. The technique of shadowing all these crazy events, never has a dull moment and you'll find yourself holding your breath as Theo makes some narrowing escapes and daring attempts to regain the hopes of mankind.

This is what happens when worlds collide.

The beauty of the closing scene of this film, is the ambiguity of it all, never giving us too much information on what the conclusion of all of their efforts are and letting us rely on hope. It's probably not the most popular way to end a film like this, but I feel it's the best way to go. It still retains the integrity of the piece without cheapening it with a happy hollywood ending or leaving it on a down note with no one surviving and humanity being cast into extinction. The ending is a perfect balance to a great film, filled with meaning and heart.

Clive Owen finds out the hard way that rowing sucks.

Children of Men is an intriguing and ambitious film that tackles some hard asked questions about humanity and sheds some light on how we as a species would react as we approach our own extinction. The novel that this film is based on is very different from Alfonso Cuaron's version, but I think what the director brought to his adaption works and I think he makes a compelling story borrowing bits and pieces from the novel and manipulating it into an intense tale of moral boundaries and human spirit. There really is nothing like this film and the credit for that feat goes to Alfonso. He infused so much of his directing style into this film, that he truly makes it his own and the film in its entirety is better for it.

Children of Men is highly recommended for those of you who enjoy your science fiction films with a much needed layer of human speculation and gritty realism that presents new and unique ways of producing set pieces that literally boggle the mind and let our imaginations run away with this thought provoking narrative. The world that Alfonso has created is as brutal as it is breathtaking and must be seen to fully appreciate its wonder.

5 out of 5       A Science Fiction Film in a League of Its Own.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

REVIEW: Dead Set

Dead Set
Director: Yann Demange
Writer: Charlie Brooker
Year 2008

Dead Set is a ferociously enjoyable British TV series that focuses on how the diverse cast of Big Brother cope with an all out zombie outbreak that has cast the entire world into a wasteland of death and despair. This unique story is brought to us by the creative writing efforts of Charlie Brooker and expertly directed by Yann Demange. At first discovering the plot of this series, I was a bit apprehensive on what the end result would look like, but my worries were quickly diminished when I actually got a copy of the entire series and sat down for a viewing. Though the Big Brother angle seems like it would be a cumbersome ordeal, seeing I can't stand the ongoing reality TV fad, it surprisingly turns out that this is less Big Brother and more good old fashion zombie goodness, with numerous homages to the great zombie library of films.

Davina McCall playing herself as she presents the
next person to be booted from the household.

The film starts out on eviction night outside the Big Brother house, where a huge seething crowd awaits the name of the cast member that is to receive the boot. The thing that stands out the most about this cast is that they are all real life counterparts of the actual show Big Brother. We are presented to Davina McCall in her host role and we're given an impressive list of Big Brother veterans to fill out the housemate cast. This should be a real treat for fans of the british version of Big Brother, but I've never seen the show myself and fortunately this never took me out of the story line. It's just a nice addition and something that could possibly center this story in reality for familiar viewers of the show and it brings a strong vibe of authenticity to the proceedings.

Andy Nyman directs the crew in fantastically prickish fashion.

One of the members of the cast that has not previously had any involvement in the world of Big Brother, is actor Andy Nyman, who plays the role of the vicious Big Brother director Patrick, spouting venomous insults from behind the one way glass of his studio booth. This character is a true asshole and one that continually shows his true colors as the series moves along. The things he does in order to save his own life are pretty brutal and cowardly in their execution. Patrick is one of those characters that you love to hate and he's a much needed ingredient in the zombie apocalyptic world, much like Night of the Living Dead's Harry Cooper or Day of the Dead's Captain Rhodes.

The zombies in this series are pissed off maniacs.

The zombies in this production are not the typical slow moving corpses of Romero's zombie infested world, but that of the more recent 28 Days/Weeks Later and Dawn of the Dead Remake variety. I see why the filmmakers made this choice, because this is a fast paced series and the entire story needed to be told in five quick episodic entries. I've always preferred the slower form to the unrelenting track star style of the new breed of zombies, but for this series I find that it works and it keeps the pace of the events that are unfolding at a constant and highly entertaining tempo.

Davina McCall makes an impressively gory death scene.

There's also a large amount of blood and gore that is nice to see, especially in a piece that was presented for television. We get blood splattered walls and torso ripping, as the flood of zombies crash the Big Brother party and begin devouring the throngs of fans as they party outside of the house. One of the most chilling moments of this initial horrific opening, is when we are presented to a zombified Davina McCall as she sprints down the hall towards the camera. She's covered in blood with piercing eyes of death and a devourish demeanor, giving it all she has in bringing terror to the audiences' heart. How someone so beautiful can look so morbidly grotesque is beyond me, but she did her job to perfection never holding back on her performance.

We are also given some great emotional performances, in part by the character of Kelly, played by Jaime Winstone, who witnesses the whole entire bloodbath from behind the scenes as she fights for her life against her now infected coworkers. The look in her eyes as she watches the news report on what has been happening outside the studio, is both chilling in its intimacy and provocative in its simplicity.

I think I'm going to barf.

This film brings some clever ideas to the table and does it with a tongue and cheek like edge. We are given some interesting shots of zombies hypnotized by what they are seeing on the many television screens that line the studio walls. They bask in the glow of the living cast members images as they go on with their regular routines, oblivious to the horrors that lie just outside of their enclosed habitat. This metaphorical image seems to comment on the zombie-like state that society seems trapped in while they voyeuristically tune in to watch ordinary nobodies live out their lives in these pseudo reality shows. I love this fun poke at reality shows and I love it even more that the show Big Brother officially attached itself to this series, even though it tends to jest at the whole idea of reality shows in general.

An interesting metaphorical shot of a zombie watching TV.

As we get to know some of the cast members of Big Brother, we find that there is a very familiar face in the crowd, well at least in my opinion. Kevin Eldon, from such classic british shows and films like World of Pub, Big Train, Look Around You, Hot Fuzz, and Hyperdrive, plays the personified generational gaped character of Joplin. He's great as the always uncomfortable older housemate who struggles to relate to the younger generation that inhabits the majority of the house. I've loved him in everything that he's appeared in and this series isn't an exception. He has some great moments that really effect the overall outcome of the show and brings about an apocalyptic conclusion that needs to be seen for its brutal disregard for its well established characters.

The Big Brother cast tries to come
to grips with what has happened.

Visually, this series is astounding, giving the feel of a full blown feature film. If all five episodes were mashed together and presented as one continuous package, you'd be hard pressed to separate this film from any other hollywood big budget production. That is one of the most interesting aspects of this series. Dead Set never feels like an episodic series, instead it flows like a feature film giving us an overall story arc that would work nicely up on the big screen. Whatever the reason is for splitting this into a five part series, the end result is simply amazing and it's a great addition to the already stellar line-up of zombie movies to come out in recent years.

Pick those knees up, you run like a girl.

The cast of characters that inhabit the Big Brother house are a perfect fit for a zombie film, with each housemate bringing something different to the forefront. We have the cowardly scared shitless character in Kevin Eldon's Joplin, the eye candy of Kathleen McDermott's Pippa, the prickish nature of Andy Nyman's Patrick, and the ass kicking innocence of Jaime Winstone's Kelly. The entire cast runs the gamut of cliched zombie character stereotypes, yet they each manage to bring something fresh to their personalities and push their personas far from those stale and retread territories. Everyone does an amazing job of playing their role and doing their part, bringing about some memorable moments and original characters.

Peek a boo you fuck you!

The sense of the zombie apocalypse is shown with great impressionable imagery and is done so effectively that it's commendable to the filmmakers abilities to stretch a budget for all it's worth. The scale of the series is epic and we get the dire feeling that there's no going back to the world that once was. The crew got the depressing zombie film feeling down and you never once doubt the fact that these characters are now stuck in a world of shit. The overbearing and frightening sight of seeing countless numbers of zombies at the studio's gates, is just one of the images in this series that will haunt you. It's spectacularly shot and tremendously effective in bringing on the doom and gloom.

The dead bastards just keep coming.

It's an interesting concept to show that in a zombie infested world, the Big Brother house is almost the safest place to be, because of its utmost security and seclusion from the rest of civilization. We're shown time and time again at how viewers from all over, can be apart of this inner television world, but the reality of it is that they are quarantined in a sense from the rest of society and only viewable through a television screen. Their far flung from the rest of the world and cast into a place of make believe that doesn't really exist among the masses. We watch as zombies cling and claw at television screens trying to get at our main cast of reality stars, only to taste the bitter electronic flavor of the lifeless idiot box as it stares back in mindless abundance. The parallels that the filmmakers make in comparing the infected zombies with the entranced television viewer is both clever and unique to the genre.

Here's looking at you kid.

If there's one thing that this series does well, it's the ability to create a bleak world without a future. The entire look of the show is gritty and honed into reality, which is a very contrasting aspect from its reality television roots. It's this concept that makes it that much more intriguing, as we start off with the glitz and glamour of the Big Brother eviction night with all of its flare and rabid fandom, to the oppressive imagery of people being ripped apart and the sight of a world turned to a wasteland. The flip from this pseudo reality of a television show to the harsh realities of a very malevolent zombie uprising is quite impressive to watch and it is great to see the characters have to adapt into that realm of thinking of their survival and not their claim to fame.

Life in a zombie apocalypse sucks.

Dead Set is a well crafted and expertly shot zombie television series which is hopefully a sign of things to come when Frank Darabont's The Walking Dead hits AMC later this year. It seems that the zombie resurgence that has struck cinemas as of recent is far from over and Dead Set is a prime example that there is still life in these lifelessly plagued stories to discover. This series combines two unorthodox and totally different subjects of reality TV and a zombie apocalypse, and perfectly molds them to create one unique and cohesive tale that just seems to fit. This british zombie series is highly recommended to anyone that loves zombie flicks and the horrifying imagery that comes with them.

4 out of 5 stars      An Epic British Zombie Series With Grit to Match.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Year 1982

Pieces is one of the most enjoyable films I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, not because of it's fine qualities, which the film does have, but because of the entertaining characters and the stupid choices they make. This is one of those films you really have to see with a group of friends, because with my circle of friends this film has become the thing of legends.

The film starts out in the 1940's, with a young boy putting together a puzzle of a naked girl. His mom busts in on this fun past time and bitch slaps him a couple of times to teach him a lesson. Well the lesson wasn't understood by the kid and he proceeds to chop up his mom with a large ax. When the cops arrive at the scene they mistaken the boy for a victim and put him into foster care, hopefully with enough sleazy puzzles to keep his insane mind occupied enough to not chop up more people. We then flash forward to 1983 at a college campus in Boston, Massachusetts, where a now grown psycho begins starting a killing spree in the otherwise peaceful university.

The rage of a young pervert is frightening. Don't mess with his nudie puzzles.

The effects in this film are gorishly frightening and deliciously sleazy in that italian slasher, giallo sense. They spare no expense for the flowing of blood and each kill is graphically displayed like a proud kid showing his first place spelling bee trophy. It may be crude and somewhat excessive to form, but for me the gore effects work and are quite well done for this time period and budget. There's nothing like seeing a headless body of some poor woman just basking in the afternoon sun. Goretastic! 

This woman was having such a nice time in the park that she lost her head.

Once the killings start to happen, the university calls on the intuitive skills of Detective Bracken, played by the great Christopher George. Christopher is no stranger to the obscure genre of horror and has starred in many classic flicks like Grizzly, Day of the Animals, and Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead, so he's somewhat of a veteran in this field. He brings a kind of swagger to his role as detective and always seems to have the answers even though he has to later enlist a young college student to help him solve the crimes. 

Christopher George is one smug son of a bitch.

As Detective Bracken searches for the identity of the person behind the murders, we are given glimpses of a few suspects that continue to show up in this baffling case. One of our main red herrings is in the form of Popeye's arch enemy Bluto and campus gardener Willard, otherwise known as Paul Smith. He keeps showing up after each one of the murders with a suspicious look on his face, the sneaky bastard. Then there's the dean of the school, played by Edmund Purdom, who seems rather put off by the reputation of the school being compromised by these grizzly murders and doesn't seemed concerned in the slightest about the well being of the other students on campus. Both of these guys are prime suspects, but there still isn't any shred of evidence to place any of them at the scene of the crime.

Bluto says, Dean you are a stupid head.

What really makes this film the ridiculous and marvelous spectacle that it is, is the introduction to one of the most annoying yet cool as shit dudes, Kendall, played by the luckiest actor in the entire world, Ian Sera. This guy is the biggest dork I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, yet he is with a different woman each scene he appears in. How this guy gets the amount of tail he gets in this film, is mind boggling and it doesn't help matters either that he has a curly headed perm and a shit eating grin glued on his face 24 hours a day. In this bizarre world the film is set in, Kendall becomes an intricate part of the ongoing investigation, even getting deputized by Detective Bracken later on in the film. It's madness yet it's so damn entertaining you can't look away.

Jesus christ, look at this guy!

The moments when Willard the gardener is caught multiple times, at the scene of the crime are just hilarious in their ludicrousness. In one of the most outrageous displays of red herringdom, Willard is seen standing by a bloody chainsaw, with blood all over his hands, and a suspicious looking grin as if saying, "Yeah I'm the killer, big woop." To make his case even worse, he fights off the police when they arrive at the scene, making him look like a mad lunatic as he throws them through doors and hulks out better then the legendary Hulk Hogan himself. When we find that he couldn't have possibly committed those crimes because he was somewhere else, the audience is given a big, "What the fuck was this whole set up of Bluto being the killer for!" If it wasn't so hilarious and enjoyable to watch I would have been pretty pissed off, but to me that is what the charm of the film is all about. It doesn't make a lick of sense and I love it for that. Plus how can I stay mad at a face like Willard's.

Just look at that suspicious expression! How are we not
supposed to suspect this guy of committing the murders.
He practically has it stapled on his large forehead!

Ok, now back to the deputizing of Kendall. For some reason, Detective Bracken has a good feeling about Kendall and doesn't suspect him of being the killer even though he's been spotted at the scene of the crime each time the killer slices up one of his victims. Bracken even goes as far as vouching for Kendall's innocence when one of his colleagues wisely mentions Kendall being a prime suspect. The detective spouts these lines of Kendall being a bright kid and the apple of his eye, or some shit like that, and deputizes him making him his partner on this case. Every time Bracken and the rest of the police force are stuck on what do to next, they give Kendall a call, and miraculously he knows what to do. I'd be crying over this horrible plot in the film if I wasn't laughing my ass off over how absurd the notion really is. These moments of Kendall praising by Detective Bracken always bring to mind the line, "Quick get Kendall", as if that silly line was this films answer to "What Would Jesus Do?" The guy is treated like the second coming of christ and he's a full blown tool, as seen in picture below. Now that's Kendall-tastic!

This is the start of their beautiful friendship. What a dream team.

Now before you forget that this is indeed a horror film, there are some brilliant set ups and tension filled scenes of the killer stalking a dancer as she practices her routine after hours at the campus. These moments are rich with voyeuristic intent and bring the old technique of the point of view camera shot into play. The scenes where this concept is used is pure 80's in tone and style and is great to see drawn out as the killer gets closer and closer to his prey. We are even treated to some creepy silhouettes of the killer as he looks through a glass opening in the studio door. Other then the over the top story line of Kendall becoming one with the police, this really is an enjoyable slasher that has a charm of its own. 

Dick Tracy even makes an appearance in this wild film.

The highlights of this film, like in all slasher movies, is when the killer makes his kill. Each murder is more brutal then the next and like I've already mentioned, the camera stays through all of the bloody details. Even chainsaw kills are seen in their entirety, as we watch limbs go flying from bodies, leaving a stream of blood to spout from their bloody stumps. It's pretty bold stuff and nothing seems scaled back or held at bay from the viewers eyes. That is something that I can truly appreciate and be proud of in this topsy turvy film.

The killer is about to take his next victim. Quick get Kendall!

As the bodies begin to pile up, the cops still don't have a clue as to who is performing the murders. The entire cast is full of red herrings and no one is excluded as being a suspect. That is unless your name is Kendall and you have the soft side of velcro on top of your bulbous head. I think we have a winner! If you think Kendall is familiar in this movie, then you might remember him in another Juan Piquer Simon film entitled, The Pod People. That shit stain of a film has the same qualities that make Pieces the entertaining gem that it is. I have only seen the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version of the film, but the movie centers around a furry creature from space that can do "magic things" and who has the nose of an ant eater and the movements of a midget with a stick up its ass. The MST3K version is actually very hilarious and I recommend you check it out, because there are some classic moments in it. Now back to 'Kendall Saves the Day'.

I must have this group photo framed in my house. Classic.

As the film goes on, we are proven that brutality is the name of the game, as we're witnesses to some gory kills all in the name of slasher cinema. It's very strange to have such a light and fluffy cast in such a heavy blood driven narrative, but that's what we are given in Pieces. You go from a corny scene where Kendall arrives just when the killer is taking his next victim, and Kendall begins ordering around the police officers and they actually listen to his stupid ass, to a graphic shot of a woman getting her skull caved in by a large kitchen knife that proceeds to jut out her mouth. Nasty stuff and to be paired with the idiot stylings of Kendall, is truly rare in any kind of film.

Holy shit! Will someone get Kendall!

I haven't really delved into the acting of this film. Well put on your shit waders, cause this is not a pretty sight. Every actor does their damnedest, but the end result is something rather amusing and entirely opposite of what they were originally trying to convey. Take the character of Mary Riggs for example, played by the lovely Lynda Day George, who also starred alongside Christopher George in Day of the Animals. In her one pivotal scene, she is supposed to be outraged by the killings and how they haven't been able to stop the murderer. She screams at the top of her lungs, "Bastard.... Bastard!", but instead of gaining an oscar worthy performance in this dramatic exposition we are given a scene that provides more laughter then heart felt sympathy for her characters plight. I for one love the scene as it is and revel in all its absurdity, but you can tell that this wasn't the intent of the director. I feel that these missteps actually add to the charm of the film and make it more memorable then if it was played straight forward and effectively came off as that.

I think Kendall is a..... Bastard! Bastard!

I really don't want to give the ending of the film away, because it really should be experience by a group of people that are all viewing the film for the first time. To say the least, it ends in a doozy of a ball busting conclusion, where one of our most beloved characters gets what was coming to him for the entire length of the movie. After this conclusion, I can stomach all the praises of Kendall in the world if it means all of this adoration leads to this moment. The only thing I'll show you is the last shot from the film, where Kendall has one of the most ridiculous expressions ever to grace the slasher movie history books. Enjoy.

Somebody quick, get Kendall's balls on ice!

Pieces is a slasher film that really is a classic in its own sense. For some reason the charm in this film has stayed with me for years and after viewing it recently, the memories have never diminished. It's a goofy but well put together 80's slasher that has all the elements that we love in these stories. It has got the interesting characters that you'd never find in any other genre, its got the lovely ladies of the era, it has the buckets of blood served fresh from the killers brutal slayings, and it has a fun quality to it that really can't be described. This unique element is what makes this film so enjoyable and one that places it in a classic status, remembered by all the good times had while viewing it with great friends. I highly recommend you get a group of friends together this weekend and pop this bad boy into your set. You won't be disappointed at how absurd this slasher film can get and how thoroughly entertaining the whole debacle is. Always remember, what would Kendall do?

4 out of 5 stars      One of the Most Entertaining Slashers Out There!

Friday, April 23, 2010

REVIEW: Dobermann

Director: Jan Kounen
Year 1997

Dobermann is a rabid and fast paced French heist film with teeth to bare, brought to us by director Jan Kounen. The film stars Vincent Cassel as a master criminal named Dobermann, who leads a group of ruthless bank robbers on various blood inducing heists. Dobermann has been a killer since birth and he obtained his first gun at his christening when only an infant. What a bad-ass. Dobermann leads his gang in a daring bank robbery that leaves bodies bleeding in the street and the cops running around like chickens with their heads cut off. This balls to the wall heist is accented all the more outrageous by the vibrant cast of interesting characters both from within the gang and from outside the group.

Cassel, being the bad-ass he was born to be.

Dobermann's main squeeze is played by the real life wife of Vincent Cassel, the gorgeous and alluring Monica Bellucci. She plays the beautiful but deadly mute Nathalie, whose pension for explosions and over the top kills is unparalleled. She has Dobermann's back full fold and takes anyone out who messes with him. This sounds like the perfect premise for a 70's grindhouse flick, and in a way it caters to the same crowd. There is enough exploitive elements of over the top violence and incisive gore that any lover of the sleazy nature of those flicks will jump for joy over this unabashed display of lead fueled bedlam.

Bellucci, being the hot bad-ass she was born to be.

There's also an array of outrageous characters pursuing Dobermann's gang within the police force. One of the most outstanding and interesting characters out of this lot is Inspecteur Sauveur Christini, played by the intense all around baddy, Tcheky Karyo. You may remember him in La Femme Nikita, Bad Boys, Goldeneye, The Patriot, and most recently the appropriately titled vampire comedy romp, Vampire Party. In Dobermann, he plays the role of Vincent Cassel's nemesis who will stop at nothing to bring Dobermann's antics to justice, even if it means killing him in the process. He brings an even harder edge to the already abundant toughness that thrives in this film.

What the hell are you looking at?

Dobermann isn't just a mindless action film focused solely on brutal gunfights and octane filled violence. It's got all of these ingredients, but it also throws some comedy into the mix, making it an even more entertaining spectacle of momentous proportions. Monica Bellucci's character cannot speak, so this sets up a few hilarious moments where she is swearing at someone using sign language or using crude motions to depict a raunchy act. It's funny as hell and a bit unorthodox for such a high caliber actress, but she pulls it off with great accord and endless amusement. Plus it's great to see her having the time of her life firing off guns that are twice her size.

Monica believes that size does matter.

The entire heist sequence is a real treat as the madness of the bank robbery unfolds and begins to spin wildly out of control. The characters cast in this predicament begin going ape shit, driving the intensity level sky high and in doing this, they give us an entertaining as hell escapade to watch. It's fun to see the carefully laid out plans that the group had put together, being cast to the wind once the whole project begins to fall apart and go astray. There is such an intense approach to these sequences and you really feel the frantic experience of bum rushing a bank and demanding they give you all of their money. Great job in the directing department by Jan Kounen, because you feel the raw power of the theft and are transported to that hectic moment.

This is a moment where the shit really does hit the fan.

Vincent Cassel shines in the title role of Dobermann and his charisma carries the film along from each set piece. He is the glue that holds this entire crew of bank robbers together and he's also the foundation that this film stands on. Vincent has always put his all in every movie that he has appeared in and he's created so many memorable characters in such films as La haine, L'appartement, Crimson Rivers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Irreversible, and Reckoning. The list goes on and on. In Dobermann, he does such an excellent job in this film that I'm really looking forward to checking out his new crime epic Public Enemy #1, where he stars as the real life french gangster Jacques Mesrine. This film looks intense and I wouldn't expect anything less from such a gifted and painstakingly cool actor.

Cassel even looks cool in a shitty junk yard.

Another memorable blood bath occurs inside a night club after the gang has successfully escaped from the bank robbery. Inspecteur Sauveur Christini and his men have surrounded the club and order a swat team to storm the building. The amount of gunfire and chaos that scatters the club in these moments is startling and awe inspiring. The whole sequence is like an acid trip with lights flashing and techno beats blaring from all angles. The director really takes charge with the movements of the camera, and we are treated to many energized tracking motions and dizzying zooms that really reflect the nature of the pulse pounding scene.

Get that camera out of my fucking face.

The soundtrack to this film is also amazing and reflects the visuals that are smashing across the screen. In this particular sequence of the cops raiding the dance club, the thriving beats are courtesy of the band Prodigy as their song Voodoo People blares over the speakers, setting the pace for the rhythmic gun fight that blasts the frame. It's beautifully shot in all its chaos and everything moves with a slick kinetic flavor, that it's virtually impossible not to be swept up in all the carnage and gunplay. This scene is definitely one of the high moments in Dobermann and the visual flare set upon this sequence is top notch and rivaled by a very few in action cinema.

Fuck the police! Fuck the police! Fuck'em!

The cinematography in this film is also rather unique, bringing a gritty stylistic realism to the look of the overall film. There's a primary use of bold colors and unique visuals that emphasize the vivid world of Dobermann and reflect the lively characters that inhabit this mad world. This is far from a stagnant world and the director does an excellent job in matching the sweeping and artistic presentation of his camera movements with the overpowering color palette that he presents before us in all its gory detail and blood filled lust. Dobermann is definitely a film that makes you sit up and take notice as you're bum rushed with one impressively graphic shot after another.

Dobermann is taking care of business.

Of course, as I've mentioned numerous times, the violence is top notch in displaying this mad cop killing world that the director has set up. We are treated to explosions that send bodies soaring into the air, bullets that hollow out criminals as their blood is splattered against filthy walls, and there is also a memorable sequence where a motorcycle cop gets his head blown clear off from a grenade that is set carefully inside his bike helmet. These unique moments and creative sequences really set this film apart from other action films of this type. What this film has over the others is that it has balls and never holds back giving the audience more of what it craves, unabashed violence with a sense of cool style.

Flying shish kabobs, courtesy of Dobermann and his crew.

Another interesting aspect of this film, is in the character of Inspecteur Sauveur Christini. He is so driven by his lust to bring Dobermann in, that he ignores police policies and procedures and pulls out all of the stops to take Dobermann down. Christini almost matches Dobermann's ruthless personality as he tries desperately to find a way to stop his crew from succeeding. What makes this so intriguing is that there really isn't any true good guy in this film. We root for Dobermann and his gang, but they are far from the hollywood archetype of a decent or morally sound character. The society labeled good guys of the cops are also far from that stereotype, all having their own vices and lust for power. It's even safe to say, by the end of the film that Inspecteur Sauveur is in fact a full fledged bad guy as he brutally enacts his own form of viscous justice. Dobermann is a hard film with a slew of hard characters to enrich its landscape.

That Inspecteur Sauveur is hard as hell!

The overall tone of this film is grim, even though it has a very Hollywood style ending with most of the main characters making it to the end of the film with their lives. The effects of what they went through though and the friends that they've lost along the way, leave a morbid overtone to the closing moments of the film. It's a great spin on the happy ending that usually creeps its way into films and this new style depressing end is much appreciated and surprisingly realistic for such a fantastically over the top film. It's just another example of how Dobermann has the balls to change the equation up a bit and never hold back from an original idea that sets it apart from its predecessors.

Cassel, still cool, yet jaded by the end of the film.

Dobermann is one of the finest and most enjoyable rides you will ever take in an action extravaganza that pushes the limits of what can be put on the screen in good taste. With all its lavishly mad characters, fantastically energetic action scenes, and pulse pounding soundtrack, this film really lays on the fun with one heavy dose to your cranium. I highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys fast paced action films that up the anti in a wild display of bullets, blood, and personality.

4 out of 5 stars    A Balls to the Wall French Action Film With Guts!