Wild Card (2015)

Posted in Film on February 22, 2015 by Tim Lee

In an example of pun-gone-mad literal titling that I can only applaud, Jason Statham’s latest sees him play maverick Vegas bodyguard Nick WILD – a man whose only vice is playing CARDS. Actually, scratch that, he has two vices: cards and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Maybe it’s a subtle nod to the film’s pulp novel origins. Or maybe I’m overthinking it.

wild-card-poster-debutFor a mid to low budget actioner this boasts a quite stellar supporting cast and crew. Directed by Simon ‘simply the’ West (Con Air, Expendables 2 and a load of other Statham joints) and adapted from his own novel by two time Oscar winner William Goldman, it also features Sofia Vergara, Stanley Tucci, and Jason ‘George Costanza’ Alexander in inexplicably and frustratingly small cameo roles. Serenity now!!

In contrast to the unhinged majesty of films like Crank 2: High Voltage, this is one of Stathe’s more considered character pieces…

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Outcast (2014)

Posted in Film with tags on January 24, 2015 by Tim Lee

A4BD7AE7-38C1-4DC1-8E91-E85E1E57919E copy‘Almighty God, in my hour of need be with me.’

Hayden Christensen speaks for most viewers in the opening line of Nic Cage’s Crusades epic. Christensen’s Jacob and Cage’s Gallain are cutting a bloody swathe through 12th century China – this much damage hasn’t been done to East West relations since Dave Whelan and Malky Mackay went for a night out to Wigan’s Imperial Pagoda restaurant and engaged in some friendly ‘banter’ with the staff. They bloody love it.

Looking like a League 2 footballer who’s gone to Supercuts requesting an Olivier Giroud that’s gone slightly awry, Jacob is happily slashing, stabbing and decapitating his way through extras. Gallain on the other hand sports the world-weary expression of somebody who’s just clocking in and doing the bare minimum – he really isn’t getting any job satisfaction ‘spilling blood for hypocrite priests’ anymore.

Flash forward three years and the wizened emperor…

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The VRAs – Killer Nun (1979)

Posted in Film on January 18, 2015 by Tim Lee

1350424706_monahinya-ubiyca-killer-nun-suor-omicidi-1979Allegedly based on real events in a Belgian nursing home, Killer Nun was part of the thriving nunsploitation scene of the seventies – a scene that exemplifies there isn’t a single profession that men won’t try to sex up in some way. ‘They want to lock themselves away for their entire lives and swear off us all together? Gagging for it.’

Years after being responsible for one of the most iconic minor public order offences in cinema history when she turded around in a fountain in La Dolce Vita, bona fide legend and Fellini regular Anita Ekberg pitches up here as the titular NILF with a dark secret.

We open with a faceless nun ranting at length in confession about a man what done her wrong. She won’t forgive him and, pre-dating rad fem Twitter nauses by thirty-odd years, she declares that she wants to ‘kill all men.’ Todd…

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Dying Of The Light (2014)

Posted in Film on January 11, 2015 by Tim Lee

dying-of-the-light-98761-poster-xlarge-resizedNic Cage’s latest is yet another film which has been released simultaneously on VOD to stop riots in Cineworld foyers across the globe when it inevitably sells out. Dying of the Light seeks to answer an important philosophical question: how bad does a film have to be for even Nic Cage to disown it? Its troubled gestation saw director Paul Schrader and the headline cast refuse to promote it in protest at pesky studio meddling.

Cage plays CIA special ops maestro turned desk jockey and ace after dinner speaker Evan Lake.
“People think we’re all backstabbers watching porn and tapping phones!!” he booms at a nonplussed room of new recruits. He’s no Peter Ustinov, and the toastmaster makes a mental note to book Sir Steve Redgrave instead for his next motivational talk.

Lake isn’t happily coasting to retirement though – he wishes he was still out there in the field…

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2014: Days Of Poopers Past

Posted in Film on December 24, 2014 by Tim Lee

A bigger threat to Hollywood than North Korea, an in no way comprehensive round-up of every film I saw at the cinema in 2014.

American Hustle tried to make us root for a deplorable con artist trapped in a loveless marriage with Jennifer Lawrence. Much like Christian Bale’s syrup, its stylings were the combover that covered an emotionally bare pate. Much more worthy Oscar bait came in the form of 12 Years A Slave. In lesser hands it could have been as mawkish as Kit Ramsey’s Buck The Wonder-slave, though some dissenters complained that Steve McQueen is too serious – yeah, he’s SO glass half empty, why not call it 40 Years NOT A Slave, eh? The Wolf Of Wall Street saw Leo Dicaprio set his face to ‘angry poo’ as always to provide a deliriously entertaining portrait of a completely obnoxious arsehole – his drug-addled drive home was the most treacherous car journey since George Michael said ‘Fuck this, I’m off to Snappy Snaps.’

‘40 verses about crop rotation sung by a bloke with Brillo Pad hair’ – Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t do much to dispel Tommy Saxondale’s assessment of the folk music scene, but it was a witty, engaging, unsentimental take on tantalising failure at a time when every trust fund chancer with an acoustic guitar and a roll-neck was stinking out Greenwich coffee houses, rather than having a shave and getting a proper job. A terrifying glimpse into a dystopian future where everybody dresses like customers at the cereal café, Her had its moments but by the end it Black Mirrored me into submission with its single premise – ‘Ooooh, Siri. It COULD happen, yeah? It’s, y’know, the INTERNET taking over.’ Okay, I GET IT.

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Awards season over – because it feels like revising for exams sometimes – and I was free to wallow in shit, as is my wont. If you could stop being a blowhard Generation Y fanboy whining about it desecrating the original, Robocop was a compact, small-scale action film that did most things right. Liam Neeson turned all the way to page one of his stock characters book to play an air marshal with, of course, a Complicated Home Life in Non-Stop. It was the most entertaining cinematic turd outside the waterslide scene in The Inbetweeners 2 and the film which saw Lupita Nyong’o win her well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar [citation needed]. In franchises that refuse to die, Godzilla was patchy but worth watching if only for Walter White turning his acting up to 11, and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes continued where the previous film so impressively left off – I love every ape I see, from chimpan-A to chimpan-zee.

Middling superhero films continued to dispiritingly dominate the box office. X Men: Days Of Future Past was at least less of a mess than its predecessor – the 138th film in the franchise saw Wolverine go Austin Powers on everyone’s ass and go back to the 1970s to tell Tyrion Lannister and Michael Spoonbender to rack off. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence developed a slight limp. The tension was bearable. Guardians Of The Galaxy saw a ragtag band of semi-incompetent misfits come together… to write the most bafflingly overpraised film of the year. All show no tell, action in place of plot, thinly sketched characters and relationships, and the now industry standard pointless circular go nowhere banter, it was just loads of cool stuff randomly happening. At my age there was always going to be a limit to how much I would enjoy a film featuring a sassy raccoon, but I just don’t get it. In a surprise twist Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the best of the year’s Marvel offerings – it pulled off the seemingly unique trick of explaining who everyone was, what they were doing and why. Revolutionary. It still wasn’t perfect – though given more depth, Cap is still basically just a guy on steroids with a shield, and the My Chemical Bromance reject villain was pretty dull. But who was the real villain? Was it the Winter Soldier, or was it the politicians? *Russell Brand face*. It also went to town on one of the most popular cinematic tropes of the year – endless scenes of people looking serious in lifts (see also The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1).

Cardigans on and back to the arthouse now! Vampires have always been the most tedious and self-important of all the supernatural beings, but Jim Jarmusch took it up a notch by also making them analogue gear obsessed musicians at the forefront of every cultural movement of the last 400 years. Including shoegaze. Only Lovers Left Alive was quite confrontationally languorous even by this director’s standards – you want Jarmusch?! You CAN’T HANDLE Jarmusch! Meanwhile James Franco was busy trying to groom young girls, but he took time out from his hectic Instagram schedule to play a paedoriffic P.E. teacher in Gia Coppola’s directorial debut, Palo Alto. Predictably the apple didn’t fall far from the Coppola tree as a full house of Coppola tropes was racked up within the first hour. Slowmo shot of a bored teengirl in a swimming pool? Bingo! Frank told the story of a big-eyed, cartoon faced mope. But that’s enough about Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Michael Fassbender was the star turn in a film that was as funny as it was touching – a wonderful tribute to Chris Sievey.

Michael Fassbender as Frank

Nic Cage threatened a brief Recagessance in David Gordon Green’s Joe before returning to his natural habitat in the bargain bin of despair. An uncompromising, slow-burn character study, with a tough, unusually understated central performance and brilliant support – he was a lumberjack and it was okay. You can normally rely on a Cage joint to provide the most disturbing psychosexual interlude of the year, but he clearly hadn’t reckoned on Gerard Depardieu in Abel Ferrara’s Welcome To New York – a coruscating return to form for the maverick director which nonetheless featured a most upsetting range of sex grunting. If female nudity is ‘normalised’ by Keira Knightley taking her top off whereas men’s contribution is Obelix getting his helmet out, then feminism still has a long way to go.

Andre 3000 bore a striking physical resemblance to Ike Turner. Unfortunately he was playing Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is By My Side, a biopic which, apart from the fictionalised domestic abuse, was as lightweight as the legendary plank-spanker’s guitar playing was heavy. It concentrated on his early years in London but I’m sure everything worked out fine for him. Two Days, One Night featured a magnetic central peformance from Marion Cotillard, an uplifting finale, and some timely well-aimed blasts at corporate culture and the economic crisis. It did, however, become increasingly repetitive and structurally resembled Groundhog Day almost as much as the excellent Edge Of Tomorrow (yeah, I know that’s not an arthouse flick, but I’ve never refused a tenuous link before and I don’t intend to start now).

David Fincher’s Gone Girl pioneered that newest of marketing trends – the non-twist. Contrary to all the press beforehand his adaptation was as faithful as faithful can be, right down to it ending with the most brutal friendzoning in history. The resolution was still balls but fortunately he’d also kept the wit of the novel – as incisive satire of media machinations as you’re likely to see. Well, until Nightcrawler came out a few weeks later anyway. Interstellar was a frustrating mix of the brilliant and the boring, Matthew McConaughey saving the planet from the jaws of a global okra shortage (*East Dulwich breathes a sigh of relief*) in a bizarre finale which essentially saw him unlock the secrets of the universe by getting trapped inside a giant Ikea display. Expect those canny Swedes to cash in by launching their Interstellå shelving range early in 2015.

Left Behind (2014)

Posted in Film on November 30, 2014 by Tim Lee

PHiJa5lw94DHlk_1_mCashing in on the runaway success of The Leftovers, Left Behind fills in the narrative gap from that series. Whereas The Leftovers covers the tedious goings-on years after a mass disappearance, Left Behind deals with the tedious immediate aftermath. And you know a film is bad when it makes you yearn for the deft writing touch of Damon Lindelof.

This is a straightforward disaster movie, but one with sledgehammer religious overtones. The makers seem to have watched Airplane! and interpreted it not as a disaster movie spoof, but more as a ‘how to’ guide.

Nic Cage plays a pilot with the mandatory Complicated Home Life. Still inexplicably dead sexy to girls despite looking like a melting waxwork of himself from 20 years ago, he’s drifting apart from his bible bashing wife, so he consoles himself by plowing through more air hostesses than Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. Whatever works. He’s…

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Joe (2013)

Posted in Film on July 27, 2014 by Tim Lee

joe-movie-posterNearly 20 years since he won an Oscar for Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance [subs plz check] Nic Cage is probably more infamous for chain-buying castles and a hairline more unstable than the Middle East than his undoubted acting chops. Bar the brief Recagessance of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans and Kick-Ass, the combination of a crippling tax bill and the world’s least discerning agent have seen Nic mired in the bargain bin of despair in 5USA fare like Stolen, Trespass and Justice.

And after a promising early career in which film festival favourites like All The Real Girls launched a pre-fringe Zooey Deschanel on a career path where she has consistently charmed moviegoers and critics alike (SHUT UP), David Gordon Green’s C.V. has taken a similarly dispiriting turn into tiresome stoner comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) and championing the fathomless comic…

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