2014 / Director. Jay Martin.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
“In and out within seven minutes”. That’s the plan for three guys staging a brazen armed robbery at a local bank. Of course if the job had gone smoothly there wouldn’t be any reason to make a movie and so naturally the job goes pear shaped. Bullets fly and unexpected circumstances arise. Suddenly, what they thought was a close-knit plan, becomes an all in-affair with other persons stepping into the equation.
7 MINUTES crept up on me and took me by surprise. In fact I had never heard of it up until the point of it landing in my hands. The cover art and poster treatments were confronting and my attention was perked immediately. It is an accomplished piece of independent filmmaking from a first time director Jay Martin. He has constructed a multi-layered crime film with an intentionally disjointed narrative that uses the robbery itself as the backbone. The course of the film switches its focus from one character to the next and details each of their movements leading up to the crime itself. They each their own reason for being involved and when faced with the botched job it’s every man for himself.
The performances here are all good. Former Aussie HOME & AWAY star Luke Mitchell has made the transition to the American scene with ease and he makes a strong impression here in his first leading role. The support around him includes players such as Jason Ritter, Kevin Gage, Kris Kristofferson and Joel Murray. All give solid turns with the standout being Kevin Gage. He conjures up a terrifying and psychopathic performance that lifts the film to another level.
Technically 7 MINUTES is also savvy and skilfully structured. The cinematography is awesome with wide sweeping shots and creative angles that are never so pretentious as to be distracting. The use of slow motion with an effective score by tomandandy compliment the design and offer the movie an extra coat of polish.
Of course there are also a lot of clichés and obvious tropes exploited in the film, as well as some convenient plot holes and irrelevant explorations of character traits. Ordinarily such things would irk me but with an ensemble of solid performances paired with a concise production design and a kinetic score the film moves at a breakneck pace and never oversteps its mark. With a structure not too far removed from RESERVOIR DOGS and an atmosphere of THE TOWN meets HEAT, 7 MINUTES is a surprise crime film that ought to impress most fans of the genre.
2015 / Director. Etan Cohen
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
GET HARD is the sort of bad movie that I can’t even be bothered writing about. A wealthy hedge-fund manager is set up and convicted of fraud. To prepare his ‘white-ass’ for prison he enlists the help of the only black guy he knows (based on the assumption that he’s been to prison). What follows is one hundred minutes of race jokes. Blacks be niggers “yo” and whites be honkies “Okay”. You get the picture. Racial humour doesn’t offend me but I do take exception to terrible humour… GET HARD is awful and I've already said too much.
2015 / Director. Daniel Alfredson.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
KIDNAPPING MR HEINEKEN tells the true story of one of modern history's most infamous kidnapping cases. In 1983 five Dutch men plotted and executed the brazen abduction and kept Freddy Heineken and his chauffeur captive for a month. Heineken was one of the wealthiest men in the Europe and the plan was to claim the hefty ransom and disappear. Of course being a true story the details of the case are well known and anyone familiar with it will know the outcome. It was a case so notorious that an adaptation was inevitable and in 1987 a true crime book was written, followed by this film.
The ensemble cast is lead by Jim Sturges, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten and Anthony Hopkins as Freddy Heineken. On the billboard they appear to be a formidable line up, however in practice they're quite underwhelming. I've never been a fan of Sam Worthington however I have a lot of time for Sturges and Kwanten (and Hopkins speaks for himself). Sadly, while each of these players have their moments of clarity, their performances are lost in the fold. There is no one stand-out here and most of them may as well have phoned it in.
The director is Daniel Alfredson whose most notable films have been THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNEST'S NEST. Both good films, but neither as good as their predecessor in the series. KIDNAPPING MR HEINEKEN is his first English-speaking film and for a first crack, it's acceptable. All of the typical heist/kidnapping tropes are present and the movie looks and feels like a bunch of stuff we've already seen before (THE BANK JOB comes to mind). Where it does make good is in its production design and cinematography. The setting is beautifully captured and the dank European streets give the story an authentic atmosphere, that's very easy to watch.
I would also direct another compliment towards the decision to do away with the Dutch accents. Being set in Amsterdam the actors could have all been given accents to play with, however, a choice was made for them to use their real accents and so the onus is on the viewer to understand and accept this practice. This method allows the players to focus on their performance without the added pressure of focusing on their speech patterns. If only they had all exploited this advantage they could have delivered some sensational performances.
As it stands KIDNAPPING MR HEINEKEN is a passable true crime film. It's polished and well shot and will satisfy people who have a tolerance for style over substance. I enjoyed it but didn't love it. It's a story that fascinated me but I wish it were told better. I may return to it one day but can't see it happening soon.
2015 / Director. Joel Souza.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
GHOST SQUAD is a family-friendly horror movie that pays homage to the type of childhood adventure movies that populated the 1970's and 80s. Cinema of this nature is rarely explored any more and titles like this are few and far between. The poster art immediately caught my attention and I ventured in to the movie blindly. It kicks off with a fantastic animated credit sequence that really sets the mood and then it was off and racing... and what fun it was!
Three friends accept a dare from local bullies and spend Halloween night inside a local haunted house. They quickly realise that the place is riddled with hidden cameras and booby traps, however, unbeknownst to them the house is also haunted by an actual ghost. Their night consists of eating candy, tip-toeing with torches and having the wits scared out of them.
The movie was directed Joel Souza who previously cut his teeth on the kids treasure hunt flick, HANNA'S GOLD. As the writer and director on these movies he has a clear adoration for kid friendly adventure and this, of course, speaks to my heart. I am easily influenced when it comes to this brand of film and GHOST SQUAD definitely hit the spot.
Of course to be objective for a moment I have no problem conceding that the script is loose and could be reigned in significantly. The premise is great and with a few extra re-writes the script could have been fantastic. With that said, the movie works on a technical level. The production design is wonderful and on a modest budget they've created a dark and eerie atmosphere that is far more effective than it ought to be. Digital effects are decent when relied on but kept to a minimum. The rest of it is practical and Souza has fallen back on good old-fashioned suspense to tell his tale.
Younger viewers who haven't grown up with these sort of movies as the norm should get a real kick out of it. A similar title released recently was VICTOR AND THE SECRET OF CROCODILE MANSION. It was an exceptional film but it was also German. Few English-speaking kids would have seen it and so GHOST SQUAD is a worthy movie to take its place, stirring up their imaginations and spooking the heck out of them. Adult audiences need to keep the target demographic in mind. They would be advised to watch it as though they were kids. Think back to the FAMOUS FIVE or perhaps even THE GOONIES and remember how you responded to those. This one has nice subtle (and not so subtle) references to movies like GHOSTBUSTERS and MONSTER SQUAD and the high school is even called Joe Dante Elementary. Oh and then there's Kevin Nealon as the father. This might just be another pay day for him but he's actually quite good.
If you've got kids then watch GHOST SQUAD with them. With any luck the timing of it may be very fortunate. The big budget GOOSEBUMPS movie is right around the corner and here's hoping that an old trend is rekindled. I sure as hell would love to see more kid-friendly monster movies being made.
2015 / Directors. Jason Friedburgh and Aaron Seltzer.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
As I write this in the early hours of the morning there is a glorious full moon outside my window. Strange and unexpected things happen during a full moon and that's about the only explanation I have for how much I enjoyed SUPER FAST!
Jason Friedburg and Aaron Seltzer are the poor man's answer to the Zucker Brothers. Having cut their teeth writing SCARY MOVIE they went on to direct some the truly awful (and unfunny) slapstick titles such as DATE MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, MEET THE SPARTANS, DISASTER MOVIE, VAMPIRES SUCK and THE STARVING GAMES. For some absurd reason (possibly the decline of teenage intelligence) their movies have made money and so the studio continues to throw more at them. Their average budget is twenty millions dollars, which is ludicrous for the quality of work they deliver.
And now suddenly from out of nowhere comes SUPER FAST (...SUPER FURIOUS). Perhaps it landed in my hands at the right time and maybe it tickled my funny bone at a susceptible moment - like I said, there's a full moon outside... but damn I laughed. Taking aim at the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise (derr) this new parody seems smarter than their previous efforts. To start with they are lampooning a movie-property that is ripe for the comedic pickings. When you consider the F&F series there isn't much that cannot be parodied. From physical appearances to pimped out rides and everything in between.
Where Friedburg and Seltzer's previous movies have been little more than over-boiled crock-pots of bad jokes, SUPER FAST feels a lot more calculated and intentional. Of course there are plenty of gags that miss the mark (heck, even the Zucker Brothers threw foul balls) but the movie is packed so tight with jokes that the majority of them do hit their target. From street-racing smart-cars to well lubricated cops and dumbass lines like “It's not the car you drive, it's the driver in the car who does all the driving”... the Goddamn movie works. It just fucking does.
As I write this I am well aware how most people will respond to it. I cannot even believe it myself. But I make no apologies. If something makes me laugh as much as SUPER FAST did and it entertains me from start to finish, then I must give credit where credit is due. Friedburgh and Seltzer have finally delivered A FUNNY MOVIE. Wonders will never cease and with their next one in production (titled WHO THE F#@K STOLE MY DAUGHTER?) I can only hope that they've hit their stride.... though I highly doubt it.