Thursday 12 May 2011

Septuple Bill Mini Musings: Grue, Grit, Voids, Joneses, Girls, Dynamite and Hordes...

Saw VII:
After the relatively decent entry that was Saw VI (heavy emphasis on "relatively"), comes a blundering mess of a closer in the shape of the seventh, and supposedly (hopefully) final instalment of the annual torture gore-fest. Common sense is out the window. Characters who don't just scream and refuse to listen to anybody offering to save their lives are non-existent. Tenuous links to the original movie (the only highlights of Saw VII) are scattered desperately, and the plot is practically identical to Saw VI, and V, and IV, and even III (which should have been the last Saw flick).

Totally devoid of even a whiff of tension, it's nothing but 90 minutes of dimwitted cannon fodder cobbled together in the exact same way most of the movies have been, only worse. They've hardly strayed from the established visual and aural stylings of the original - pretty damn awesome and stand-out - movie, and that's a bad thing. You're shown a trap, which is impossible to escape from (what's with the 60 second time limit every time?), and you know it's going to "be teh awes0m3st!!1!!!1!" if they fail - which they invariably do. Dull, boring, uninspired, and the inevitable twist is predictable and kind of annoying ... Saw VII is a flick that preaches the view that redemption doesn't exist (surely going completely against the original purpose of Jigsaw's method). Indeed, there's little to redeem this movie, and I loved the first ... and the first two sequels weren't half-bad either.

True Grit (1969):
Straight off the bat, I can understand why this film is held in such high regard by those that love it, but without further skirting of the issue, I definitely prefer the Coen Brother's version. As has been oft-said in reviews, John Wayne was John Wayne with an eye patch - to each their own and fair enough - but Jeff Bridges became Rooster Cogburn. This first interpretation of the source novel is slow to get moving, and Mattie feels a tad sidelined by comparison to Hailee Steinfeld's, if I'm honest, superior performance. I still enjoyed it, but it was overlong, and while I can see (and respect) just why it's so beloved by many, the Coen Brother's interpretation is my preferred version.

Enter The Void:
A visual and aural experience unlike any other. While it lacks subtlety at times (the prefacing of the Tibetan Book of the Dead is blunt, to say the least), it's quite the experience. It's the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when we travel through the Monolith, smacked out on DMT. Gasper Noe's film is an hallucinatory vision that follows the disembodied, drugged-out soul, of a two-bit drug dealer working amidst the neon-lit back streets and cramped apartments of Tokyo who is shot by the cops after he's ratted out. Filled with sex, drugs and a spritzing of violence, some elements leave you cold or distanced, but the "Love Hotel" sequence simply has to be seen. Noe's hallucinogen-fuelled version of Tokyo houses a screed of undesirables, many of whom you feel nothing for, however the saving grace are the central brother and sister - a rather damaged pair who you pity, rather than sympathise for, most of the time. Definitely worth watching.

The Joneses:
It would be cool to see this movie with no prior knowledge of it, as the first Act plays out intriguingly to say the least. However you'll probably watch it knowing of the central premise, which is quite original and decidedly interesting. It's just a shame that come the final act, it goes out with somewhat of a whimsical whimper, rather than the gut-punch you might be expecting. That said it's certainly not devoid of interest - I quite enjoyed it, even if it did peter out a bit towards the end. Plot wise though, it concerns The Joneses - a family who apparently live the ideal consumer lifestyle - but they're not a real family. They've moved into the neighbourhood to sell the products in their supposed family home to their neighbours. Interesting to say the least.

Universally derided when it was originally released in 1995, I can see exactly why it was dumped on. It's filled with total bastards from start to finish, Elizabeth Berkeley's protagonist (Nomi, a troubled transient who wants to be a Vegas show dancer) is either overflowing with sudden joy, or storming out of the scene in a strop. Indeed, it's hilarious to see just how many scenes see her character make a sharp u-turn into vitriol mid-way through and close with her storming out of a room. One minute she's laughing, the next she's having a right old strop. Everybody shouts and sneers at each other. The black humour feels misjudged. It's overlong. It's sleazy in an uncomfortable way, everybody is - as I've already said, but must emphasise - a complete bastard in it, and good God it's gaudy. It could have been an enjoyable bit of exploitation, but oh dear, it's just cringe-worthy and ill-judged.

Black Dynamite:
Half-spoof, half-loving-homage, this modern day blaxploitation flick (made using period equipment) is pretty damn fun. Pinching plot devices, characters, and style from all the best blaxploitation flicks, it features the eponymous hero kicking ass all over Los Angeles to stop a conspiracy that aims to take down Black Dynamite ("Dyno-mite! Dyno-mite!") and his entire race. The shifts between homage and spoof are occasionally clunky, but the authentic look and feel wins the day. If you dig grindhouse cinema and/or blaxploitation flicks, you should definitely check it out.

The Horde:
Imagine if the videogame Left 4 Dead was turned into a movie. That's what this is. It's a mixture of that, 28 Days Later, Demons 2, and the (crappy) Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake. The 'zombies' scream like raptors and run like a wild river. A bunch of cops seek revenge on a gang in a run-down high-rise apartment block, but things quickly turn nasty and they find themselves having to work together to get the hell out of there alive. Filled with solid action and lashings of blood-splattering gore, it's a solid action horror flick with a nice look - particularly in the scenes that suggest, from afar (trapped in the high rise), that an entire war is raging in the city of Paris. The script is a bit lacking (why do they refuse to shoot them in the head, especially when they accept that they're surrounded by zombies so quickly?!) throughout, but the action and stylised grue makes up for the failings. It's not a landmark flick by any means, but it's ideal fodder for you and your mates.

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