King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a renewed effort to create a blockbuster franchise from the classic story – a feat that failed when Antoine Fuqua teamed up with Clive Owen in 2004. With the global fandom of Game of Thrones reaching dizzy heights, it was no surprise that the producers of King Arthur would seek to capitalise on the audience’s hunger for sword-and-sorcery, but also a precarious wager for them considering the mixed responses to films like Gods of Egypt and Warcraft. To compound the risk, they chose Guy Ritchie to direct, based – presumably – on his approach to the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Given his style as an auteur, this film could have gone either way.
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BEWARE! THE BLOB was directed by Larry Hagman (yes, of I Dream of Jeanie and Dallas fame) and his involvement in such a low-budget independent film is just as perplexing as the film itself. The story goes that he lived next door to the producer of the original and had never seen the '58 film starring Steve McQueen. When the producer showed him the film Hagman said that he could get lots of his friends together for free (because they would all want to be blobbed) and that he would direct it. Lets suppose that he had energy to burn and needed to “spaz out” a little, because it's the only explanation.
And so what he created was a film unlike any other. It isn't a sequel at all, but rather a re-imaging. It adheres to the basic premise of the previous flick but injects a heavy dose of camp, which masquerades as satire. Furthermore, his direction was strangely surreal whereby he flirted with absurdism and lunacy. Take the opening title sequence for example; the film opens with an upbeat piece of music as a kitten frolics amongst long grass. It has no purpose aside from disorientating the viewer and it makes no sense. And yet that confusion is where much of the film's charm lies.
Yes it's a bad film. It's a terrible film! But it's so damn fun. Hagman precedes each of his death sequences with insanely stupid set-ups, such as a husband camping in his lounge room while watching the original '58 movie, or a fat nude Russian man running down the highway... or a barber who refers to himself as a 'hair sculptor' and charges $400 per sculpt... and then splat, THE BLOB ATTACKS! It's total insanity! So insane that it could even be passed off as an art film.
The cast is inconsequential with a heap of Hagman's mates popping up for a scene or two. Some of them include Gerrit Graham, Dick Van Pattern, Cindy Williams, Sid Haig and Burgess Meredith, amongst others. And I could have sworn that I caught a glimpse of Paul Williams in there too.
Suffice to say that BEWARE! THE BLOB is a mixed bag of talent and mayhem. A stupid and ludicrous venture with no obvious redemption. As I already mentioned, there is definitely an element of charm, and it's the kind of schlock that you can enjoy with a puerile frame of mind. If you embrace the absurdism them you'll have a stack of fun but as far as sequels go in general (and creature-features for that matter) it is an absolute turd. No wonder Hagman never directed again.
Ridley Scott’s attempt to provide subtext to the series has, so far, seems to have proven to be a misguided ego trip, one that steered the series far from its original concept. His obsession with exploring the origins of the Xenomorph species (the Aliens) has ultimately tarnished the franchise and proven to be an exercise in style over substance. Needless to say, I did not enjoy his latest entry, the second Alien prequel, Alien: Covenant.
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Based on an acclaimed stage show by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman, the film depicts the intense psychological exchange between three people in an isolated country-house. On a cold, stormy night in an unknown location, a stranger knocks on the door of Paula and Gerardo Escobar’s (Weaver & Wilson) home. The stranger is Dr Roberto Miranda (Kingsley), whose car has broken down nearby. The Escobars invite him in, offering him a meal and a seat beside their fireplace. As the pleasantries transpire, Paula begins to withdraw, starting to suspect that Dr Miranda is in fact the very same man who tortured and raped her 15-years prior. What unfolds is an intense night of confrontation as the characters lock horns; Paula fervid for revenge and Miranda in a desperate plight of innocence.
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Then his modestly budgeted Boston-set private eye directorial debut dropped and not only was it very good, it was arguably a modern American crime classic. A morality tale that was as much about the city it was set in as it was about a missing girl and was typical of the kind of deep emotional complexities scribe Denis Lahane is famed for.
It's no surprise then, that here, in LIVE BY NIGHT, Affleck's fourth film as writer-director should also have its source with Lahane once again although it's more closely aligned with his second film THE TOWN.
In it the Square-Jawed One plays Joe Coughlin, a small-time Boston gangster and son of Police Chief Tom (Brendan Gleeson) who makes it his business to stay in the middle of the warring Irish and Italian factions that rule his town. But when Irish head-honcho Albert White (Robert Glennister) discovers Benny-Boy is banging his girl (Sienna Miller) he makes everybody's life miserable, forcing Joe in to bed with the Italians who ship him off to run their bootleg operations in Tampa where he must seize control, forge business relations, battle the Ku-Klux Klan and make a play for minor politics.
'Sprawling epic' is an overstatement but LIVE BY NIGHT's two-hour plus running time never feels stretched. It's thickly plotted but it never feels crowded. It's got remarkable breathing space and Affleck changes gears seamlessly, jarring us with explosive violence one minute and then soft intimate tear-jerky moments the next. It's also a treat to see Affleck make reaches as a director. LIVE BY NIGHT may not be the thematic juggernaut that GBG was, nor does Joe have the richness of the characters in THE TOWN, but it is certainly his most richly crafted film. Even if it does do everything you expect it to, it does them well.
This is an homage to the pulpy, hard boiled gangster tales of old replete with sharp dialogue, sharper suits and Tommy-guns. Jess Gonchor's production design is textured and elegant and is the real star of the show. It's prohibition-era aesthetic stretches from snow-covered Boston bank robberies all the way to the sun-soaked glades and speakeasies of the Florida Keys. Everything feels timely and functional, used and worn, utilitarian.
Close behind Gonchor is cinematographer Robert Richardson, hot off the back of Tarantino's famed HATEFUL EIGHT shoot, here dipping his toe again into the kind of territory he revels in; period-set, violent dramas.
So, then, not a jaw-meet-floor experience, but certainly better than the recent Kevin James release, which begs the question why did it disappear without a trace? Could it be that audiences were bored of this kind of content? Overexposure killed it before it arrived? In and out of its theatrical run in Australia in 14-days and in turn losing Universal Studios $75-million.
Five seasons of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES and Hillcoat's LAWLESS have a lot to answer for. It's a shame because LBN is sensual, visceral, violent, tender and romantic. It's not as instantly classic as GBG, but hands down better than the overwrought ARGO, it's a shame it flopped as badly as it did because it really deserves more of an audience.
Thanks to TEEN WOLF's popularity with the 80's teen audience an inevitable sequel was made two years later. And like some other sequels of the era it was given the classic “Too” moniker, in lieu of the traditional “2” (refer to SPLASH TOO, THE JERK TOO). With Michael J Fox soaring the heights of Hollywood the film was recast with a young Jason Bateman who, like Fox, had come straight from the world of television sit-com. With Bateman's father serving as the movie's producer he was an obvious choice, and a good one.
In the film Bateman plays Todd Howard – cousin to Scott (Fox) – who arrives at a new college campus on a full sports scholarship. Despite not having a sporting bone in his body he is registered to the wrestling team, following the recommendation of a teacher who taught his cousin, and discovers that his family's Lycanthrope lineage gives him super-human abilities. And so there's a new Teen Wolf in town and no one bats an eyelid. In fact no one so much as flinches when Todd transforms into a werewolf for the first time. A girl looks at him and says “oh, you're a dog!” while another girl reassures him “Everything will be fine”... how's that for tolerance, huh? Todd also earns himself a superstar status and takes the college by storm.
TEEN WOLF TOO is an inferior sequel in many ways, most notably due to a lacklustre script and an uninspired story. It repeats the formula of its predecessor but fails to re-capture the spirit. Obviously these are important qualities that the movie abandons, but all is not lost thanks to the quality of the production design and the enthusiastic performances. Despite being made for video (with a limited theatrical run in some places) the film maintains the aesthetic of the first instalment, which makes for a seamless continuation and Bateman makes for a suitable substitute for Fox, despite his on-screen presence being less energetic. He's also supported by James Hampton and Mark Holton (reprising their roles) as well as Stuart Fratkin assuming the role of Stiles and John Astin as the college dean.
The way I look at it TEEN WOLF TOO was made to be seen when you've suffered from TEEN WOLF ONE fatigue. The first movie is an undeniable classic (take note Millennials) which demands repeat viewing... but sometimes you can over do it and TEEN WOLF TOO is the alleviation you need. It's the sequel that is by no means an equal, but is – nevertheless - a supplement that maintains the dietary intake . And for added trivia, a third instalment was written only to be reshaped into a stand-alone movie called TEEN WITCH (a trilogy would have been cool).
Disregard the fact that Hallström's first English-language film was ABBA: THE MOVIE in 1977 (although that is an awesome notch to have) and consider that his contributions to cinema have included films such as WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES and THE SHIPPING NEWS. Furthermore he is no stranger to melodrama with titles like CHOCOLAT, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMIN and HATCHI: A DOG'S TALE... amongst others. And so while A DOG'S PURPOSE may be an indulgent exercise in schmaltz, it is nevertheless classy brand of schmaltz. Haters be damned. This is a delightful film.
Josh Gad plays the voice of Bailey, dog who ponders his own existence after his first life is cut short as a puppy. He is born again as a golden retriever and adopted by a young family, where he and the son become inseparable for the duration of his long and happy life. When he dies of old age Bailey is born again as a German Shepherd police dog and as the film unfolds he journeys through several lives until he finds his way home to where it all began and realises his purpose. You needn't consider that to be a spoiler, because lets face it... films like this are generally presumable.
What sets A DOG'S PURPOSE apart from the countless other cutesy dog flicks is it's humour and its charm. By having the dog's inner-thoughts narrate the story, the film not only adopts the format of the book from which it was adapted, but it also presents a relatable sense of humour that all dog owners will identify with. From adorable misunderstandings to sincere and heartfelt affections the film embraces its sentimentality without being hokey or mindless.
Gosh Gad's voice work is nicely restrained (thank God) and aside from a few idiosyncrasies most unsuspecting viewers will be oblivious to his presence... he gives Bailey a well-measured balance of fun, innocence and sincerity without relying on his usual over-the-top brand of low-brow humour. The rest of the cast play second-fiddle to Gad's lead and they include KJ Apa (hot from his lead role in RIVERDALE), John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton and Dennis Quaid. Despite being the obvious draw-card name Quaid's role is contained in the final act. His is a relatively minor role, and yet it is the most profound.
If you're a sucker for tear-jerking animal films then A DOG'S PURPOSE is a cut above the rest. And while you may have tissues on stand-by for an inevitable finale, it might be a good idea to pack more, because this cheeky movie hits you with that heart-thumper over, and over, and over again (in a good way). Cynics be damned, because this film makes no apologies for laying on the schmaltz. You know what to expect before you see it and so if you're inclined to hate, see something else instead.
There are three things that I wasn't expecting... firstly SPAGHETTIMAN makes a fundamental emotional connection with its audience, secondly it is brilliantly written, and thirdly it is hilarious! I was no further than 20-minutes into the film when I felt compelled to cook myself a bowl of ramen noodles. I put the movie into pause-mode and addressed the situation, before watching the rest of SPAGHETTIMAN with a deliciously themed meal. Rarely does a film speak to me on this level and I don't recall enjoying 'audience-participation' as much before. THIS is the type of emotional connection that even the teariest Merchant-Ivory Production struggles to make.
The movie follows the daily trials and tribulations of Clark, a dishevelled loser whose life consists of mooching off others and watching TV. When he eats a bowl of spaghetti that has been over-nuked in the microwave he suddenly develops the ability to produce spaghetti at will. Not only can he shoot spaghetti from his wrists, he can piss spaghetti too. With his newfound powers he puts a paper bag on his head and adopts the persona of “Spaghettiman”. He takes to the street saving people from peril for his own personal gain. His services are special but do not come freely, and Clark profiteers from the misfortune of others.
Some may describe the synopsis as stupid, whereas I would call it genius. It is a ludicrous concept that its creators have embraced and - in turn – created one of the funniest films of the year. Director Mark Pott's, along four co-writers, have written a clever, taut and satirical film that is concise and consistently hysterical. Potts compensates his budget restraints and technical limitations with a script that takes the piss out of the superhero genre and delivers a fun narrative that refuses to lag.
Clark/Spaghettiman is played by Winston Carter, a scruffy-looking guy making his feature-film debut, and for a bloke without much experience he certainly has a natural on-screen presence. His comprehension of the comedy and his emphatic delivery of gags are on-point, and his lethargic demeanour might suggest that a lot of his material was improvised. From his lazy and slobbish quirk to his confident and reckless hero persona, he gives to micro-budget cinema what Christopher Reeves gave to blockbusters (or more appropriately, what Toxie & SGT Kabukiman gave to Troma).
SPAGHETTIMAN might be a cheap independent film with no commercial appeal, but for those smart enough to look beyond its bare-bones production it will prove to be one of the most outrageously fun movies you will see in ages. It represents the sort of filmmaking that we need to nurture and the calibre of talent that we should champion! It is the very type of movie that people like James Gunn (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) were making before Hollywood came knocking and it will – hopefully – go on to become a cult favourite.
Do yourself a favour and watch SPAGHETTIMAN!!
SPAGHETTIMAN is now available to buy on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment.
Along the way she may also discover the truth about herself and the cloning fiasco that's haunted her since, well, forever.
With each new installment of the surprisingly resilient franchise, Anderson's imagination becomes incrementally less tethered to any kind of reality. These films have become multi-million dollar playgrounds for his imagination and a way for his wife to strut her stuff while he banks another couple million bucks.
Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but it would be nice if once in a while there was a little thought given to character. The people populating the films become afterthoughts, they become a modus of delivering new and increasingly grotesque ways of doing away with the hordes of newly designed undead baddies.
Unlike George Romero's undead series, which had clear and concise political and social commentaries, the RESIDENT EVIL films don't seem to hold that much depth. Indeed, if Anderson's pictures aspire to such lofty ideals as Romero's they're certainly a lot tougher to decipher. And that's always been the RE downfall. Unlike its other multiplex contemporaries 28 DAYS LATER and Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, as Anderson's films become more elaborate in scale and scope what little heart and soul it had becomes as lifeless as the zombies he's decapitating. He has nothing left to say.
Regulars from the series pop up again in THE FINAL CHAPTER; Ali Larter and Iain Glen, but they're no more developed than they were 3 films ago, and then there's a new batch of underdeveloped, fresh-faced cannon fodder for the masses including our very own Ruby Rose in the second of 3 major releases for her across 2016-17.
Moderately budgeted at $40-million there's no denying this, the sixth film of the series, looks like it cost twice that. The level of chaos, destruction and anarchy onscreen, even if it is mostly CG, is head-spinningly vast (an Alamo-like siege between an army of undead and humans barricaded in a ruined skyscraper is a particularly impressive sequence).
Canadian cinematographer Glen McPherson, a regular on the series since it started going 3D in AFTERLIFE, is as adept at the sun-scorched landscapes as he is at the sub-terrainian darkness. In fact, outside of Jovovich's impressive dedication to the series' constant physical demands, the way THE FINAL CHAPTER looks is one of the film's few very strong points, borrowing liberally from George Miller's MAD MAX and Stephen Norrington's BLADE... and even a sneaky nod to Paul Verhoven's ROBOCOP.
As daft as it is there's no denying that RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER is a fun ride even if it's only draw cards are its good looks and breakneck pace. Slightly more comprehensible than other chapters, it's admirable for being what it set out to be; a mad dash for the finish line that leave it all open for more. And given THE FINAL CHAPTER was the highest grossing film of the series, it wouldn't be surprising if it graced the screen one more time.
Seemingly made only for the fans of the series, those dedicated enough to have stuck with it this far (plus fun-lovin' gorehounds), it'd be a stretch for anyone else. It's a lot of things but boring isn't one of them.
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE presents a deceptively simple - yet calculated story - that relies on atmosphere and artistry. Set in the basement-morgue of a family-run mortuary the film chronicles the autopsy of an unidentified woman labeled as Jane Doe. Her body was discovered at the scene of a gruesome massacre with no identifiable connection to the other deaths. Her body is delivered in an immaculate condition and as the father & son morticians conduct their examination they begin to unravel a mystery that sets their night on a course for unadulterated horror... To reveal more is to deny you the pleasure of experiencing this wonderful film without preconception.
Norwegian director André Øvredal follows up the success of his previous film TROLL HUNTER with this unexpected American flick that sets an example to all young filmmakers of how to utilise recourses in order to conjure an effective movie. Beginning with a one-location script Øvredal embraced a self-contained concept that allowed him the freedom to flex his creativity in a more audacious way than what a larger production would have allowed. With a restless lighting design, a claustrophobic environment and a methodical story-reveal he has exploited just about every trope in the book while slathering on layers of unpredictability and originality. There are moments when the influences are obvious with one particular film coming to mind (click here for that spoiler), and yet beneath the homage lies an unforeseen narrative that will take unsuspecting viewers off guard. This is the definition of excellent filmmaking.
Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox share the lead-billing as the father and son morticians who get more than they bargained for when they take on the strange case of Jane Doe. Both are actors with a proven track record, whose resumes showcase quality and respectability, and having them headline a humble film of this nature adds immeasurable value to it. They give top-notch performances, with Cox's – in particular - being surprising, unexpected and thoroughly convincing.
With an 85-minute running time THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE never outstays its welcome. It is a concise and efficient film that is as equally intriguing as it is terrifying, and if viewed under the right conditions (at night, in the dark, up loud) it is sure to scare the living shit out of anyone who watches it.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is now available on Blu-Ray & DVD through Umbrella Entertainment.
The Swiss-French-American star has had his fair share of attempts at cracking the A-List, mind you with an oeuvre that boasts almost 90 screen appearances; everything from John Greystoke in a Tarzan adventure to a mad-monk in GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, it's no surprise, then, that one of his better titles, the 1992 Stuart Gordon-directed sci-fi actioneer FORTRESS, has one of only two recurring characters in his CV, John Brennick.
It's a campy 95-minutes set in 2015 when America has imposed a one-child policy due to its exploding population. Brennick and his wife get busted at a check-point-Charlie while trying to smuggle the pregnant woman out of Dodge to Mexico (of course) and they're sentenced to 31 years hard-time at the Men-Tel Corp's Fortress, a state-of-the-art prison that drops 33 stories into the earth and is run by Poe (Kurtwood Smith), a sadistic, by-any-means-necessary warden. There's lots of explosions, cyborgs, lasers, cyborgs with lasers, more explosions, cameras and lasers before Brennick and his posse blow the joint and leg it to freedom.
Cut to 2000 and FORTRESS 2: RE-ENTRY gets a release date and it has a (very) brief theatrical turn before dropping on to video-stores shelves around the world. Stuart Gordon stepped aside, making way for New Zealander Geoff 'FREEJACK' Murphy, hot off the back of, erm... UNDER SIEGE 2 and a made-for-cable western, THE LAST OUTLAW starring Mickey Rourke.
So, after the most outrageous escape from the most inescapable prison owned by the most powerful corporation and run by the most ruthless warden, what could be in store for Brennick now? All too often setting a sequel in space means the beginning of a severe downward spiral for the franchise. Sometimes it comes around later (FRIDAY THE 13TH 10: JASON X) rather than sooner (HELLRAISER 4: BLOODLINES or LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE) but it's rare it should come around on the second instalment but that's precisely where FORTRESS 2 went. No shit, space. Just ... skip to the end.
After a prologue set in a gorgeous wilderness lodge in the Rockies, FORTRESS 2 sees Brennick, 7 years after the events in the first film, with his rag-tag group of Rebels enduring in their continuing assault on Men-Tel. They're re-captured and sent to a MORE inescapable prison with a MORE ruthless warden where they plan a MORE outrageous escape -- In space! Daft? Yes. Ropey? You betcha. Fun? Tons. Way more than you might think. Is it good though? No. Not even close.
Like most uninspired sequels, FORTRESS 2 is essentially a remake of the first, swapping this for that and him for her and smashing rocks for zero-G space-walks. There's the expected chow-time brawl, the warden's evil right-hand-man, the muscle-head that comes around eventually and Pam Grier, popping in while riding the tail-end of her short-lived JACKIE BROWN career resurgence.
The special effects are lacklustre and the acting turns are less than adequate, so what is it that makes it so much fun? Lambert. That's pretty much it. Christopher Lambert and his inimitable charm. He has the acting capacity of an after-dinner mint and possesses less facial expressions than a overly thirsty Steven Seagal, but he holds a charm you just can't deny when he's on screen.
Had Mr Brennick gone the way of Mrs Brennick and been recast for RE-ENTRY, this follow-up would have went from bad to just downright intolerable, but luckily, thanks to Lambert, we get to pass the time in a sort of comfort. Given his history with the *ahem* 'character', and the depths his career sunk to at one point, it wouldn't be a surprise if his agent put in a call and said 'Don't worry, Christopher, if all goes wrong there's always FORTRESS 3.' Whether or not that's a good thing will remain a mystery. For now, at least.
Using the zoo's underground tunnels and animal pens, they hide their guests during the day and invite them to socialise in the house at night. The rescued guests are eventually disguised as Germans and assimilated back into society, unbeknownst to the NAZI officers who oversee the zoo's function.
Comparisons are inevitable and I am going to proclaim THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE as SCHINDLER'S LIST LITE. It is a fanciful film set against a horrific backdrop, and while it strives to tell a harrowing tale it fails to capture the true horror of the Holocaust. The bombing of Warsaw is depicted fleetingly with a few explosions, some flying debris, and the sound of air-raid sirens. And what should be a harrowing moment of subtext ends up being a lazy plot device that lacks intensity and emotion. The ghetto itself, as depicted, is little more than a fenced-off street lined with houses, and the overall persecution of the Jewish people is glazed over as though too distressful for audiences to bare. What an insult. When those inevitable war crimes are actually depicted the camera flinches and looks away, with the result being a sterilised and cowardly depiction of an important historical story.
The title of the film is unfortunate, and it overlooks the bravery the real key player. For a story titled THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE it was disappointing to learn that the character who put their life on the line most was the Zookeeper himself. While his wife was at home tending to the zoo and keeping their 'guests' quiet, it was her husband who travelled into the ghetto under the NAZI's noses and saved hundreds of lives. Nevertheless the cast is adequate with Jessica Chastain in the title role. Her performance is well measured and reaches for emotional highs, and her ability to transition from distress to composure is impressive. It is a shame, however, that she carries such a caricatured Polish accent throughout the film that I spent the entire time wishing it had been made in German with subtitles. Her husband is played by John Heldenbergh who delivers a well-measured and understated performance. His presence on the screen is certainly the film's biggest strength and he affords it a creditability where an American actor would have failed. And of course the third player is Daniel Bruhl (I know, right?)... ie that “go-to” German guy who plays a NAZI well (CAPTAIN AMERICA, IN TRANSIT, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS etc). It's fortunate that Bruhl is a great actor and serves up a consummate turn as Hitler's head zoologist, who has a crush on the Zookeeper's wife.
The film was directed by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro, whose previous films include the exceptional WHALE RIDER, NORTH COUNTRY and MCFARLAND USA. She has a great talent for storytelling and has proven herself to be reliable with heavy material. Unfortunately her attempt to tell this true forgotten story from the Holocaust has been marred by a glossy production design, heavy restraint and a blind eye. The colours are also too vibrant and her screen would have benefited from a more washed out colour palate, and a greater emphasis on the shadows.
As an entire package, the film presents a misleading cutesy title, a refusal to depict the holocaust honestly and it casts far too much light on one of history's most unfathomable moments. A massive misstep and a lacklustre film at best.
Walter Hill has a penchant for macho “beefcake” filmmaking and his reputation as an action director is undeniable, yet he made UNDISPUTED after a self imposed hiatus following the disastrous fiasco that was SUPERNOVA, and the result is a fight film without spirit. His usual budget and elaborate production design was taken away and he was left to make a cheap and undesirable movie that did NOT deserve to have a sequel made after it... and yet such a sequel (three of them, in fact) WAS made and it was superior in every sense.
UNDISPUTED II mostly ignores the original events, aside from a passing reference, but does follow the character of “The Iceman” Chambers, now played by Michael Jai White. No longer the world champion Chambers finds himself in Russia to film a Vodka commercial where he is set up by the Russian mob. They plant drugs in his apartment so that he is arrested and sent to prison and forced to compete in an illegal fight against a notorious brute. His savage opponent is Yori Boyka, played by Scott Adkins, who strikes a vicious blow and knows no mercy. Suffice to say the movie is a rehash of the first instalment and serves as a reboot.
Director Isaac Florentine is one of cinema's most undervalued action directors whose talent lingers in the direct-to-video arena. His name is not a house-hold name yet fans of contemporary fight films will know exactly who he is. He has a natural flare for action and has a unique ability to capture martial arts on a highly energised manner where every frame that he shoots is engaging. His camera is kinetic and he pulls no stops to deliver the goods. His highly choreographed fight sequences are heightened by the use of slow-motion, fast-motion, camera gymnastics and atmosphere. Every point of contact within his fights are accompanied by the spray of sweat, lashings of blood and bone-crunching sounds, and what he achieves with UNDISPUTED II is a sequel that surpasses it's predecessor.
The sterile production design of Walter Hill's first film has been replaced with a cold and unforgiving atmosphere, and the characters populating the screen are pitted against a grimy environment full of piss and shit. The mundane boxing of the original story has also been upgraded to facilitate a brutal and unruly brand of mixed martial arts, which give the story an uncompromising quality. Florentine's vision for this franchise is certainly stronger than Hill's and his execution is superb.
The cast is better too. Michael Jai White may not hold the same imposing figure as Ving Rhames but his screen-presence is better suited to the genre. He delivers the same attitude of Rhames' portrayal but offers a lot more sincerity and emotional depth. Scott Adkins steals the show as the villainous Boyka and despite having a totally stodgy Russian accent, his presence is mesmerising. He possesses an intensity and menace that is rarely seen in action movies these days and proves himself to be one of cinema's most underrated tough guys.
Of course there's a whole level of absurdity to UNDISPUTED II, whereby every character speaks English and there's an apparent lack of judicial process. The narrative structure is flimsy and the character arcs are convenient, but when it comes to this particular brand of movie none of that matters. These frailties are compensated by Florentine's signature style and his visually engaging design. He set out to make a hard-hitting fight film and delivered in spades.
Evidently these protesters never saw the film, and their aggressive campaign against its director Cassie Jaye succeeded in having the film pulled from cinemas and removed from festival programs. The simple fact that these people's ignorance and disregard for creative freedom has impeded other people's rights to engage in a discussion is outrageous and a blight on true democratic values. Shame on them, and shame on those cinema's who were too gutless to stand up to an angry minority.
To THE RED PIILL itself. Director Cassie Jaye begins the film with the pretext of herself being a feminist, with the intention of investigating the rape culture throughout American colleges. Her research quickly lead her to an online organisation called the MRM (Men's Right's Movement), which purported that men's equality was far less than that of women, and that the radical feminist movement had demonised men. Jaye initially approached the MRM as a hate group, but as she dug deeper into their rationalisation she began to sympathise with their plight, and as their arguments became more increasingly supported by facts and statistics, she found herself questioning her own beliefs and ideologies.
At no point (whatsoever) does THE RED PILL advocate sexism, misogyny or violence against women. It is simply a film that examines an alternative point of view and invites a broader discussion. Throughout the course of the documentary Cassie Jaye turns her attention to the very feminists (radical) who would later seek to destroy her film, and in giving them the platform to state their case she has ultimately exposed them to be an aggressive and irrational obstruction to free speech.
Of course as is the nature of documentary filmmaking there is always an agenda, and the filmmaker will structure their film in a way that strengthens their own position. And so there is no denying that the conflicting arguments at the crux of the film have been presented in a way that is both polarising and confrontational. Having said that, Jaye provides marker-points throughout the film to illustrate where her beliefs are challenged, and with candid confessionals along the way she is careful about how she portrays her subjects and is cautious about demonising either side. She wants an honest discussion, and it is only towards the end of the narrative that her frustrations at the behaviour of the radical feminists overwhelm her.
The film addresses various social situations that the MRM argue are unequal to the rights of women. Some of these issues include male suicide rates, workplace fatalities, military conscription and mental health. With each concern expressed Jaye follows up with her own research and fact finding, and as the MRM position becomes more and more valid she, in turn, makes a point of representing these men in a sincere, rational and straightforward way. They are not the women-hating organisation that their opponents paint them to be and – in fact – some of their members are card-carrying advocates for women's rights.
This is not a groundbreaking film by any means, but it is technically adequate. Jaye presents the film though a series of one-on-one interviews as well as visual aids such as statistics, archival footage and a narration that makes it a personal odyssey whereby her own ideologies are challenged. She has cast her attention on a taboo issue that is as equally fascinating as it is divisive and she deserves gratitude for exposing an unconventional subject.
As a male writer it feels socially precarious to be reviewing a film which examine's men's rights. And by expressing empathy towards the MRM's cause I open myself to the same criticism that the film faces. While I certainly do not agree with all of the views presented in the film I do walk away having felt engaged, as though I was part of the discussion. It is my very trepidation in siding with some of their views that actually strengthens the film's argument. Where is the harm in having an honest conversation about an important issue? And how is a person's belief a threat to another person's views? People have the choice to watch the film or to ignore it. They have the freedom to disagree with it, and they have the right to discuss it. I pity those whose who consider their own views to be virtuous above all others and I detest those whose uncivil self-righteousness effects the freedoms of others.
And so for the sake of opposing censorship and supporting freedom of speech, SEE THE RED PILL and make your own mind up. Or take the blue pill and ignore it. The choice is yours!
In it he plays ex-US federal agent Thomas McKenzie, living the quiet life in England after he and his family were relocated through the Witness Protection Agency. After a botched home invasion his Chevy Chase (face) ends up all over the telly and he finds himself evading the hitman who was sent by the baddies he was hiding from in the first place.
It's all very ho-hum. This is the kind of throw-away nonsense we've come to expect from Danny Dyer - presumably Eastenders had him too busy for this shoot - but it's the kind of fluff Adkins can do in his sleep. All that pesky plot stuff is just gap-filler until he gets his next chance to kick heads and take names... and take his shirt off. He
does that a bit too.
To that, Nunn can just barely shoot an action sequence favouring pragmatic utilitarian choices over imagination. Which is a shame because a couple at times ELIMINATORS verges on some imaginative direct-to-DVD stuff (a hand-to-hand melee in a cable-car in particular) and, were it not for Nunn, could have been another Adkins class-act up there with his NINJA films, as it is, it barely scraped through.
And we're not even going to talk about the hackneyed script and unforgivable American accents from just about everyone involved. If it's got one thing going for it its refreshing to see films of this ilk set somewhere other than the grimy streets of Somewhere-USA. The rained-out photography and cockney accents peppered with slickly choreographed ultra-violence seems to have a different kind of punch on that side of the pond.
In the end even the classy presence of Scottish hard-man James Cosmo isn't enough to take ELIMINATORS from tired to passable. Maybe next time we should get Isaac Florentine in for another collaboration, get some real wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am DTV class up in this joint.