In it, Waxman's script has the portly action hero playing Decker, a mall security guard and ex-supercop federal agent, living in Paris, who finds himself on a collision course with a local drug King-pin after saving the gangsters girl during a spot of trouble. There's a car with $2-million in the boot, as well as some French suits and a lot of oui-oui French-chic cliches... and very little sense.
There's more inexplicable elements and plot holes than can be detailed in this brief review but suffice to say END OF THE GUN feels like something that's been churned out by a quick-buck movie making machine. To call it rote is a grande understatement.
Seagal growls his way through the ham-fisted script with a feigned southern Louisiana accent (for no explicable reason) and a lot of scowling, swearing and sitting. In fact, a lot of this film has Steven sitting in chairs. It's almost like he's...just...doing it for money and doesn't want to be there. Odd, given that needs a stuntman to get out of an arm-chair these days. Coupled with the fact that he hasn't the decency to show up for his reverse close-ups (leaving these shots to a lookalike stand in... if you squint your eyes from 200 yards), and you've got a star-role that's about as entertaining as watching a cookie gone stale.
Which would be right up Decker's alley, given he delivers the line 'I love the fuck outta cookies.' to a lingerie-clad woman with a straight face and no hint of irony or sarcasm. That's the kind of film we're dealing with here.
And so finally – almost 25 years since the series debut – the third theatrical release is upon us, the first of which to be given a legitimate, big budget Hollywood treatment. And before I give my verdict it's important to put this review into context (something that most respected film critics will fail to do). It isn't about what adults think of this new movie, but rather what its target audience think. How does POWER RANGERS play to kids, and does it succeed? The answer – YOU BET IT DOES!
The film, set in contemporary America, serves as an origin story as a means to completely reboot the franchise. It wisely ignores the expanded Power Rangers universe as established in the cluster of spin-off shows and returns to the original (and best) series of the early '90s. We are reintroduced to the original characters as ordinary, albeit troubled, teenagers who find themselves stumbling onto an ancient Alien spaceship buried beneath a mountain and being recruited by the mystical powers. The ship's occupants are an interdimensional general named Zordon who is trapped inside a super-computer, and his robot assistant Alpha-5 who have been in hibernation for millions of years following their capture of the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa. When Rita is released following the Power Rangers' recruitment, the five teens must accept their destiny and become The Power Rangers, a tight-knit band of superheroes whose powers are strengthened by their solidarity.
Aside from the original backstory of Zordon and Rita's arrival on Earth being changed, POWER RANGERS remains true to the source material, and with the benefit of modern technology has been amplified for the big screen in the best way possible. The classic cheesiness of the TV-series has been preserved, with deliberately stilted dialogue and outrageous Manga-inspired action sequences. As soon as the initial character development is established the film kicks into overdrive and pummels the screen with the sort of nonsensical battles and ludicrous setups that made the show such an enduring and beloved franchise. Fans of the series ought to lap this one up.
The casting of POWER RANGERS feels right. Each of the teen characters have been chosen carefully and represent the sort of diversity that should satisfy modern social expectations. In fact Alpha-5 even declares “Five coloured children. Five children of colour!” as a non-too-subtle double entendre. We also have one of the rangers representing the LGBT community and another identifying as autistic. Neither of these details detract from the concept and, if anything, they add a little more flavour to the ensemble. Bryan Cranston plays Zordon and his presence gives the movie a big fat dose of credibility. Cranston had an uncredited role in the first season of the original tv-series and it's only fitting that he would return to the franchise. His performance is great and there's a sense that he relished every moment. The evil Rita Repulsa is played by Elizabeth Banks, who also has fun with the material, and her character benefits from a total makeover. She is now much more malevolent with a lot less exaggeration, and Bank's performance is at times sinister while at other times frivolous. Alpha-5 has also been given a much needed make-over to keep the subterranean sequences lively.
POWER RANGERS is mostly praise from me. Aside from some really lucid and distracting cinematography, the movie delivers on its promise. It is a fun, exciting and action-packed movie for kids that reignites an old flame and never overstays its welcome. I saw it with an audience of enthusiastic nerds (of young and old) and when they erupted into a cheer at the sound of “Go Go Power Rangers” it was very clear that film criticism of such a movie seems almost irrelevant.
If the synopsis seems vaguely familiar it is because BEAUTIFUL DEVILS is a contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare's OTHELLO, as directed by James Marquand - the son of director Richard Marquand (director of RETURN OF THE JEDI and JAGGED EDGE) - and I have to confess that I struggle with Shakespeare. Fortunately, for me, in this instance the classic Shakespearian language is ignored and the emphasis is placed on adapting the story-arc into a relevant present-day environment. The result is unexpected.
Marquand has crafted a surprisingly effective drama that boasts an impressive production design, as well as sound design, which accompanies his strong ensemble of performers. The modern London setting lends the story an urban grunge aesthetic, as the cinematography captures the energy of the city's music culture in a raw and stylised way. Add the reliable story of OTHELLO at the heart of the film and there's no doubt that BEAUTIFUL DEVILS delivers a product that's far more impressive than it's modest budget ought to offer.
The cast features a company of seasoned performers, each of whom have extensive film & television credits to their name. They include Osy Ikhile (THE LEGEND OF TARZA, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA), Rachel Hurd-Wood (DORIAN GRAY, PERFUME), Steven Waddington (THE TUDORS, THE IMMITATION GAME) and Iain Glen (GAME OF THRONES, EYE IN THE SKY). Ikhile and Hurd-Wood are particularly impressive as the lovers whose lives are infected by a manipulative and jealous foe. Their on-screen presence is strong and their dynamic is tangible, and they handle the dramatic escalation brilliantly. Ikhile's descent into madness is very effective indeed.
The performance, however, that stands apart from the rest and deserves a mention of its own, belongs to Elliot James Langridge as the treacherous Ivan. His performance is both understated and audacious, and with his “evil” switched on from the very first act, he delivers every moment of maleficence with relish. While his credentials aren't as extensive as his fellow cast mates he compensates with a show-stealing performance that is horrifying to watch and earns him a rightful place at the table of classic evil motherfuckers!
I am always reluctant to draw attention to the flaws of low-budget independent films, as I feel it's more important to focus on the positives while respecting the confines and restraints that the filmmakers are dealt with. Nevertheless BEAUTIFUL DEVILS is bookended with an unnecessary scene featuring Ivan in an interrogation room. It's a pointless and miscalculated indulgence that tries to give Ivan a 'Norman Bates' air of badness where it's not warranted. He is also given a cringe-worthy throwaway line at the end that strives to cap the film off with an important social commentary, but ultimately fails to hold weight. Should the powers that be decide to remove this scene they would be doing their film a huge service. The story is powerful enough without it.
James Marquand's BEAUTIFUL DEVILS is a provocative reimagining of a classic narrative that uses it's contemporary landscape with dramatic effect and delivers a strong character-driven story. With an energetic rock n' roll soundtrack and a bang-for-buck production value, it is sure to impress its unsuspecting audience.
Needless to say that BITE is one for the gore-hounds. Body-horror is that particular sub-genre of horror that places all of its emphasis on anatomical depravity and requires a particular mindset when viewed. No film of this kind has ever surpassed David Cronenberg's THE FLY, and probably never will, and so whenever new attempts are made it is impossible to ignore the comparisons. BITE blatantly replicates some of Cronenberg's most iconic moments and moulds its story with a obvious self-awareness. Director Chad Archibald makes no apologies for his concept-theft, and he is, consequently, able to keep the viewer on side. The result is a demonstration of style over substance that also happens to be a nice little treat.
The script and its character-arc is decent enough, relying on tropes and cliches, however the dialogue is stilted and unconvincing. And so it comes as a relief to know that most of the film is atmospheric and muted. Confined to an apartment, the production design goes above and beyond in creating an interesting atmosphere that is intricately textured and as viscerally appealing as it is repulsive. The makeup and FX are brilliantly conceived along with a smorgasbord of nauseating creations. The screen is gradually overcome by a thick layer of filth that includes gelatinous body fluids, slimy pupae and decomposing human remains... it is certainly a feast for the eyes!
Forget about the story because it's irrelevant. BITE delivers the gore and proves to be a grotty and odious delight. For those looking to be grossed out it offers an entertaining 88-minutes of fun.
BITE is now available to rent or buy from Umbrella Entertainment.
We spend a day in the life of Les (John Brumpton), a pawn shop owner in the suburb of Footscray, whose customers provide a glimpse into the diversity that surrounds his small place in the world. His shop-assistant is Danny (Damiel Hill) a reserved and reticent guy who has a crush on a local book store employee. Customers come and go as Les and Danny sit behind the counter, and through their eyes we see the best and worst in people. At times heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking, the film takes on a range of influences and presents uniquely Australian portrait.
Because the film's structure is so heavily inspired, comparisons to other films are inevitable. It is a compliment to reference films like SMOKE, CLERKS and DO THE RIGHT THING, and there is no criticism when pointing out the similarities. All good art is influenced and when it comes to PAWNO, it lends from the best for maximum impact. The in-store musing about life (SMOKE), the flagrant disregard for customer service (CLERKS) and the exploration of social complexities (DO THE RIGHT THING) are all combined fluently to bring the various unrelated stories together with a common link... the pawn store.
Brumpton and Hill lead the film perfectly and share a rapport that shines through the material. Their on-screen chemistry is rock-solid and incredibly sincere, with a relationship arc that finishes miles from where it began. The supporting ensemble features Meave Dermody, Kerry Armstrong, Tony Rickards and Mark Silveira (amongst others) who all give heartfelt performances, each with their own unique emotional hit. The film's well placed comic relief comes from Malcolm Kennard and Mark Coles Smith as two street loiterers who discuss global topics that are far beyond their comprehension. Their 'Jay & Silent Bob'-eque character's are well placed throughout the film to help facilitate smooth transitions between the stories. Their hopeless existence may be familiar to any viewer who's walked the city streets, and what PAWNO does is to remove some of the stigma that homeless vagrants have, and gives them a likeable rapport.
Actor Damian Hill wrote the screenplay with Paul Ireland directing. Both men come from theatrical backgrounds and spent years developing the film which included a crowd-funding campaign. Their talent is undeniable, and the strength of the material is irrefutable, and it maddens me that filmmakers like them would need to plough the fields so feverishly without the government assistance they so clearly deserve. Nevertheless it is to their credit that they made the film and got it released to much acclaim.
Kudos to Hill and Ireland for working around the system and creating one of the best Australian films of the year. Like so many other incredible local films in recent times, they have shown a tenacity (and heart) that flips a proverbial finger to the mainstream funding-bodies and proves to up-and-coming filmmakers that what truly matters is a good idea and the brawn to make it happen.
Set in the not-too-distant future – 2029 to be exact – the film takes place in a world where mutants are on their way to extinction. There hasn't been a newborn mutant in over 20-years and those who remain live in seclusion. We catch up with Logan (aka Wolverine) as an aged and down-trodden man who is resided to an impoverished life. He drives a limousine to make ends meet while he supports a frail and diseased Charles Xavier (aka Professor X). When a young girl named Laura walks into his life Logan finds himself in a race against time to reach the Canadian border as a convoy of special-ops close in, intent to capture Laura and return her to a top-secret research facility. She is a mutant-child in search of a rumoured safe-haven where other gifted children are said to live.
Everything about LOGAN is different to the universe of the X-MEN that we have come to love. It is a gritty, dust-covered film that presents a harsh and brutal world. The characters who previously saved the day in the moderately family-friendly instalments now occupy a place where the violence is severe and gratuitous. Logan's vocabulary relies heavily on F-bombs, and to my surprise so does Xavier's. Hearing Professor X drop casual “Fucks” was a disorienting experience at first and I wasn't sure that I was prepared to except such a cultured character talking so crudely, however the rhythm of the story becomes all-consuming and eventually nothing feels out of the ordinary.
Hugh Jackman has assured his fans that LOGAN will be his final performance as Wolverine. It is a character that put him on the world stage and afforded him an A-list Hollywood status. His ongoing devotion to the role has been that of cinematic legend with him having appeared in 9 out of 10 instalments over the past 16-years. It has been an enduring legacy that has well and truly earned him a reprieve, and as his final turn LOGAN could not be more fitting. It is also his best performance within the series, which packs an emotion punch as well as being a physically demanding one. He is incredible in the role, with a clear affinity for the character, and he delivers a fierce performance that commands every since scene from beginning to end.
His supporting cast is strong with Patrick Steward relishing the opportunity to push the envelope. He shares the same loyalty to the franchise that Jackman does and together they make LOGAN a credible and poignant epilogue. Newcomer Dafne Keen comes to the film with a strong presence and a physical tenacity that sees her slaughter bad guys with a ferociousness that equals Jackman's. Most of her screen time is silent and she is able to convey most of her performance through expression and demeanour. Other players include Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant. They comprise a respectable ensemble that further strengthens the film's integrity.
With a 137-minute running time LOGAN stumbles towards the final act and what began as a fast-paced, fever-pitched action film soon dwindled into a sluggish and meandering drama. Fortunately the narrative reinvigorates itself before storming into an outstanding climax and we are treated to some of the most outstanding action and choreography put to screen for some time (at least in comic-book movie standards).
LOGAN will play well wherever it is seen, however I recommend catching it on the big screen. It is a spectacle that deserves that level of respect, and it is all the more glorious when seen with an audience. Hugh Jackman has served the series well and he has given audiences over 15-years of dedication to the character. A laudable effort if ever there was one.
It is astonishing that despite so many lives having been ruined by the heinous government policy so very few stories from the Stolen Generation have been told through the medium of cinema. Feature-films such as RABBIT PROOF FENCE and AUSTRALIA are the only two notable exceptions that come to mind, as well as documentaries like THE STOLEN GENERATION and FIRST AUSTRALIANS. And so any new attempt to examine this particular moment in history - in a properly considered manner – can only be a good thing.
Director Steven McGregor and writer/producer Mitchell Stanley take a first-person approach to the material and allow the five featured women to tell their stories in their own way. Each of them discuss their lives in a chronological manner as they recall the moment they were snatched from their parents (while unaware) and placed in the cruel care of the state. They candidly discuss the extend of the abuse inflicted upon them, including heartbreaking accounts of assault and rape, and do so with the upmost dignity. Their openness and candour provides an emotive and tangible connection for the audience to hold on to, and helps to break down the barrier that might have prevented outsiders form a greater understanding. McGregor also employs a welcome inclusion of recreations and rarely seen archival photographs, which elevate the recollections and make them easier to process.
SERVANT OR SLAVE is not a technical achievement, nor is it cinematic. It is, however, a raw and emotional account of five survivors who speak on behalf of the countless others who suffered. It avoids being overtly political and choses a course for unity over one of division, which in turn provides an easier point of entry for the rest of us. It is impossible to hear the women's stories and not be affected, and the pain in their faces speaks volumes where words cannot.
White Australia's biggest problem when it comes to understanding the Stolen Generation is that it assumes to know the full extent of it. What SERVANT OR SLAVE shows us is that we cannot possibly comprehend the severity and repercussions which the policy had on an entire race of people. It gives us another point of discussion, if even for quiet contemplation, and it provides another layer of information for us to absorb. It celebrates the courage and strength of these brave women, who in turn represent so many others like them.
SERVANT OR SLAVE is available on DVD at Umbrella Entertainment.
Never mind the fact that some “creative” thought that a second instalment was even necessary, it seems more concerning to me that Australian money has been invested in such a stagnant and arduous mess when so many deserved filmmakers are begging for funding. I guess there is some solace in the fact that a percentage of the money came from the UK.
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