Warcraft: The Beginning Review

Video games have never had their day in cinema. While some come close (Silent Hill and Tomb Raider 2, in my opinion) none have ever had widespread acclaim. Now Duncan Jones, director of the fantastic Moon and Source Code is trying his hand at adapting the massively expansive World Of Warcraft to film. Does it change the idea of video games films or is it another sad, failed attempt?

Warcraft: The Beginning stars Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, Ben Schnetzer and Paula Patton and is co-written and directed by Duncan Jones. With the Orc home-world dying, the Orcs come together to take the human realm of Azeroth for their own by force. But a young chieftain (Kebbell) wants to try and live peacefully with the humans. He tries to link up with the commander of the human army (Fimmel) in an attempt to save both his race and Azeroth.

Let’s begin with the good. The art direction for Warcraft is one of the best things about the film. While it has diluted the vibrant colours of the original world and added a more realistic look to the characters, the creatures that inhabit Azeroth are an impressive technical marvel. The detail and nuance, especially of Orc protagonist Durotan (played by Toby Kebbell, who played Koba in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) is great and shows that Jones has a care for the series. He wants to make a good film and will not settle for poor digital effects.

The merging of CGI and live-action is also another good point of the film. The characters blend seamlessly through built sets and then into green-screen battles, with very little slip-ups that break the immersion. Some of the cinematography as well, particularly the opening, an over-the-shoulder battle between Orc and Human is very nicely shot.

Sadly that’s where most of the good ends. We have to talk about the bad stuff.

The script is the biggest weak point and it brings down the rest of the film. While the film does try to set up its own new mythology and franchise, a lot of it will be confusing to people who don’t know the games, such as myself. It’s a lot of new places and people; The Fell, The Horde, The Alliance, Stormwind etcetera. It’s all dumped on us through exposition in the first half an hour and before we’ve got to grips with it our main characters are already flying away to mountain-top fortresses and we are completely lost.

The rest of the story feels like a grab-bag of clichés of fantasy storytelling and other fantasy-based films. You can see its influence, (Lord Of The Rings/Hobbit and Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes are the main ones) and since it’s just wanting to set up a new world, it falls back on the tired stereotypes of not just fantasy films but also storytelling in general. It’s such a bog-standard story, you can see the twists and turns from a mile off and with the ten or so main characters, none of them are ever developed well. The best is Kebbell’s Orc Dorutan, mainly through his family interaction that opens the film. Even at two hours, it feels rather empty; characters are dropped rather anti-climactically near the end and since Jones wants it to be a trilogy, we have a lifeless ending.

I found myself really wanting to like Warcraft. After ten years of being in development, and Blizzard Entertainment even turning down legendary hack Uwe Boll’s bid to the rights, the story of Warcraft as a film should have a happy ending. But sadly we haven’t made progress with games based films, and as someone who loves games as a medium and as an art, it makes me weary. But we still have Assassins Creed in December, let’s hope it finally changes, right?

Score: 5/10 The fans are the ones who will get enjoyment.

Eddie The Eagle Review

Everyone seems to be raving about Eddie The Eagle. it’s been getting incredibly high ratings and people are calling it the best British film and best British comedy in a long time. After putting it off for a couple of days, I finally went and watched it. Is it one of the best British films?

Eddie The Eagle stars Taron Edgerton. Hugh Jackman, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley and Tim McInnerny and is directed by Dexter Fletcher. The film follows the true story of Eddie Edwards, A British ski jumper, who entered the Winter Olympics despite coming last at every stage.

The story of Eddie Edwards is a proper underdog story. A man who proved everyone wrong and defied all the odds and went to the Olympics, not to win, but just to take part. The film dutifully recreates his story, spanning several years of his life and makes the film an all-round feel-good movie. If that’s all you really want from your film, a good old underdog story, then Eddie The Eagle is a fine choice. I’m not sure how much of the story is fabricated, but it does have some underdog sport film clichés, but you can easily overlook these. It fits perfectly into director Dexter Fletcher’s other films, such as Sunshine On Leith, he aims to make a film that will leave the audience feeling happy by the end.

The film has been billed as a comedy and the trailer was incredibly funny. Sadly most of the best jokes are given away in the trailer. There are some good moments that weren’t shown, including an extended sequence by Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s trainer Bronson describing ski jumping in comparison to spending a passionate night with film actress Bo Derek mainly from how absurd it gets. The training montage is also another good moment as the duo have some unorthodox methods as to how to prepare Eddie for the bigger jumps. Jackman and Edgerton have a good chemistry and helps to keep the film together when the jokes don’t appear. There is even a sly joke at Cool Runnings, the story of the Jamaican bobsled team who competed at the same Winter Olympics, despite Cool Runnings being the better film.

The ski jumps are created very well and are a highlight of the film. For every jump we get a point-of-view shot going down the slope, a reaction shot of the people on the ground and then a shot of the skier flying through the air, usually in slow motion so we can see it in all its glory. It’s very good and entertaining to watch, as well as been shot and edited to make them as exciting as possible. The jumpers should be getting billing next to Edgerton and Jackman, mainly due to them having to throw themselves down the hill and crash to show Eddie’s change from failure to triumph. Over and over again we see them crash and fall from the forty metre slope, it deserves praise that they are willing to be grievously injured for the film.

In the end, Eddie the Eagle is just alright. The good jokes are a bit few and far between and even at 1 hour 45 it feels a bit too overlong. Billy Elliot does the British underdog film better and Cool Runnings does the Olympic underdog story better as well. If you’re wanting to go to the cinema, pick Zootropolis instead.

Score: 5/10 Doesn’t soar as far as it could.

Grimsby Review

Sacha Baron Cohen has become one of the most recognisable comedians in the world (hence why he can’t do his old Ali G/Borat/Bruno trick anymore). I missed his last film, The Dictator, back in 2012, but I’ve heard mixed responses. How does his new film, Grimsby, line up with his earlier work?

Grimsby stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher and Penelope Cruz and is directed by Louis Leterrier. The film follows Nobby (Baron Cohen) who finds his long lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) who is now a secret agent.

Baron Cohen’s earlier work went for the shock value. While a lot of it was funny from time to time, most of the humour comes from the sheer ridiculousness of the scene. I remember several scenes from Borat and Bruno that could fit that mould. Grimsby does the same, it goes all out with the gags and it will either make you howl with laughter or want to throw up.

The story spans across the whole globe, as Nobby and his brother Sebastian go from London to Grimsby, to South Africa to Chile. The best jokes are in the first half, when the brothers are in Grimsby. I wanted the film to stay there, but as soon as the film moves to the other countries, it loses a lot of the jokes. The majority of the laughs just come from vulgar language, which I can get onboard with. I don’t need every comedy film to be Cambridge Footlights, bad language can and is funny. If you’re just looking for an hour and a half of some guys saying rude words then you’ll be happy with Nobby.

However, Baron Cohen’s shock value does jump into the film every so often, and it’s here where the film really took a dramatic turn. A scene involving poison (which was featured heavily in the trailer) starts off as a simple joke but the film then goes mad and makes it incredibly cringe-worthy. I thought it couldn’t get any worse but there is a scene around the half way mark that honestly made me feel queasy. I’m not going to divulge it here, just know that it goes on for way too long and that I had to look away from it. There are some off jokes as well, including jokes about child molestation, rape and several homophobic jokes. It’s not clever or witty, and sours the tone of the film.

My biggest question is why are there so many big name actors in this film? There are actors like Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson who I can understand being in a film like this, but why is Mark Strong here? He looks like a man who is just here for the money and is kind of embarrassed by his film choices. Penelope Cruz seems to be on a roll for “comedic” films after her stint in Zoolander 2, and here she is hardly acting, just reading the script in a bored voice. And I don’t know why Rebel Wilson was here as well but she is hardly in the film, amounting to around five minutes at most.

The film is only 83 minutes long, which is really a godsend. The story is paper-thin and bad words only go so far before becoming repetitive, but the film flies along at a record pace, hoping that you’ll be laughing enough that you won’t mind.

In the end, I must admit, I did laugh a few times in Grimsby. It wasn’t the best script or jokes, but there are a few broad ones that will make you smile. But sadly, Grimsby isn’t able to see the film through to the end, just going into toilet humour in an attempt to shock you into laughter.

Score: 5/10 A few good laughs, but nothing worth going to see in the cinema.

Zoolander 2 Review

The first Zoolander film came out all the way back in 2001 and has subsequently become a cult comedy hit, highlighting the careers of its stars. Now, fifteen years later, a sequel comes to theatres. Does Zoolander 2 recapture the comedy glory of the first film, or has it been too long for the really, really, ridiculously, good-looking male model?

Zoolander 2 stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penelope Cruz and is directed by Ben Stiller. The film follows male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller) who comes out of retirement to find his long-lost son Derek Jr. and stop a evil fashion-based cabal from killing him.

I remember hearing that Zoolander was getting a sequel and since I’m an optimist when it comes to films, I was hopeful that we would get another instantly quotable and often funny film. Sadly, I was disappointed, as it seems that in those subsequent fifteen years, no new jokes have arisen.

The majority of the jokes seem to be call-backs to the previous film, such as Will Ferrell’s Mugatu asking for his latte, or a sequence near the end where Zoolander must perfect “Blue Steel” again, this time to stop a bomb instead of a throwing star. There are a handful of jokes that are new, but most of them are hit and miss. A lot of the new material could be considered offensive or just plain unfunny, such as an extended joke by Zoolander and Hansel about how fat people are gross and untrustworthy, or another moment where the duo debate androgynous model All’s (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) gender, asking whether All has a “hot dog” or a “bun”. I wouldn’t even class it as a joke, I can’t see a punch-line anywhere in the scene.

The first film had a couple of cameo appearance by celebrities, such as Paris Hilton and a spectacular couple of minutes by David Bowie, but in Zoolander 2, the film is packed with famous people, some without any connection with the fashion industry. While Zoolander 2 has fashion creators such as Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Wintour and Alexander Wang, others are ridiculous. Susan Boyle, Kiefer Sutherland (who does a really out of place joke about miscarriages), Ariana Grande, even Neil DeGrasse Tyson pops up at one bit to say a string a swear words while describing the universe. The film even tries to redo the David Bowie scene but with Sting instead, which pales in comparison to first film. It just screams a certain type of pandering, where the actors just asked their famous friends if they wanted to do a two-second wave to the camera for a few dollars.

The first film was an over-the-top story about male model being brainwashed to be highly-trained killers. It was a story that was silly but knew it was silly, so it made the film funnier. The story in Zoolander 2 stars out pretty simple, but over the run time, more plot points and characters get piled on top of each other until it’s a mess of a story. The last ten minutes are mangled, as the film tries to ret-con the entirety of the plot up until that point, before spinning around again and saying “Oh no, we were right the first time.” Unfortunately, I was already bored by the lack of engagement on-screen, that I didn’t even care about the double twist.

I will admit though, it was nice to see the characters that we all loved back in 2001 back in Zoolander 2. Just Zoolander and Hansel standing next to each other was enough to elicit a smile from me. But the rest of the characters aren’t really that charming or entertaining. Kristen Wiig, who plays Alexanya Atoz, the head of fashion a label, is putting on a really thick accent, which makes her dialogue really hard to understand. It almost sounds like the reversed dialogue from Twin Peaks. Will Ferrell does nothing as Mugatu, just screaming and shouting instead of anything more varied. It’s all just wasted talent.

In the end I say, who asked for this film? I didn’t think there would be millions of people craving another Zoolander film and unfortunately, it’s really quite terrible. If you’re wanting a comedy to see in the cinema, just go watch Deadpool.

Score: 5/10 Just stick to the first one.

Sisters Review

Sisters looks like it’s going to be the comedy of the season. It’s written by funny people (Paula Pell from SNL), directed by funny people (Jason Moore from Pitch Perfect) and stars funny people (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler). So, does it stand up to its pedigree?

 Sisters stars Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena and is directed by Jason Moore. The film follows sisters Katie (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) as they return to their childhood home to throw one last party.

First off, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are great. The two actresses have amazing chemistry and are able to bounce well off each other throughout the entire film. The film works well when it sits back and we watch them try and catch their long lost childhood by reading their old diaries or dancing around to 80s classics. The funniest lines are the small one-liners that look they were just ad-libbed, with the rest of the script being rather witless.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some good jokes. John Cena, in his second comedy role this year, knocks it out of the park as drug-seller Pazuzu. His introductory scene, where he lists off the different drugs that he has to sell is incredibly funny. For the rest of the film he remains virtually silent, towering over the rest of the guests and throwing out death-stares to anyone who tries to talk to him, but whenever he does open his mouth, he usually has an excellent one-liner. Another good sequence in the film involves Maura’s childhood music box and a local heartthrob, James (Barinholtz) who Maura invites to the party. While the base of the joke is rather puerile, Poehler and Barinholtz manage to keep the remnant of a good joke together, although it ends rather abruptly, before leaving the film and it’s implications at the door.

The main problem is that Sisters is trying to hit so many film party staples. The BBFC lists the films as having “very strong language, strong sex references and drug use”, and while it does feature copious amounts of all three, none of them feel as good as other films that did it better or did it first. The obvious comparison is with Animal House, but there are other nods such as 21 And Over and Bad Neighbours. The film is at it’s best when it’s subverting the tropes in these films (the main difference is that all the party attendees are safely into middle age) but sadly Sisters just seems content with aping every other party film. I’m certain you could cut the montage moments from Sisters and switch them with the ones from 21 And Over and no-one would be able to see the difference.

The film builds and builds over the ridiculously long running time, but it doesn’t have the brains to keep up. Soon into the party phase, the film just goes over-board, throwing situations out and hoping one of them will get a laugh. It gets to a low point with an incongruous Scarface reference and wanton destruction that just feels really forced. Sisters tries and keeps the audience laughing by giving every character a bucketful of swear words in between the set pieces, but these soon just turn into childish attempts to seem adult. Swearing does not make a film mature. It only makes a joke funny by the set-up; randomly shouting out rude words won’t get many laughs beyond the first couple.

In summary, Sisters had a good line-up of talented people, but the script really brings down the end product. There are some good moments and jokes but not enough of them to make it a worthy watch.

Score: 5/10 Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have done much better comedy.

The Program Review

Sports biopics are a godsend to Hollywood. The story is already written for them, and it usually fits the Classic Hollywood Narrative, where the plucky underdog overcomes the obstacles to become the best in the world at his or her chosen sport. However, with the case of Lance Armstrong, since there is a large addendum to the story, how would the filmmakers make a plucky underdog story out of a cheat? Read on, and you will see.

The Program stars Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Plemons and Denis Menochet and is directed by Stephen Frears. The Program, based on the journalistic investigation by David Walsh (O’Dowd) follows Lance Armstrong (Foster) through his trials surrounding his illegitimate win of the Tour De France.

Stephen Frears has a background in biopic films. His biggest two films (which were always credited in the trailer for The Program) were The Queen and Philomena, so the man obviously knows how to craft a film around the true facts of a story. However, while his former two films were of merit and sometimes incredibly engaging, The Program just feels drab in comparison.

Talking with people about the film, some thought that because we all know how The Program would end that it spoils the film. I would disagree, for example, we all knew how Zero Dark Thirty would finish, but director Kathryn Bigelow managed to create a film so engaging we almost forgot that the film would end how it would. Unfortunately, Frears doesn’t ever seem to find that balance, where we forget how the events play out, leaving the film to just plod along until it ends rather flatly. I even fell asleep for a few minutes around the midway mark, just because I was so un-engaged by the story.

The standout of the film is Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong. As the film tracks Armstrong’s initial win, then his battle with testicular cancer and then his triumphant return, Foster’s body get’s transformed until he is almost unrecognisable, first showing the brutal challenge of chemotherapy and then the harsh training that Armstrong put himself through to go back and win the Tour. Foster also exudes the charm and charisma that Armstrong projected, which somehow manages you to almost be on his side, despite him cheating to win the races.

Foster however is the only engaging actor, with everyone else seeming incredibly bland. I was looking forward to seeing Chris O’Dowd shake off the “Nice Comedy Guy” role that he seemed to have been typecast in and into a journalist who was disgusted at Armstrong’s cheating (like the trailer showed), but instead he just came across as very disinterested in the role.

There are some great shots in the film. Foster rides his bike through the French countryside, and the camera just follows him from behind as he rides for a good two to three minutes at a time, winding round the hairpin mountain passes and climbing the immense hills that litter the Tour. Coupled with the panoramic countryside surroundings, it’s sometimes a very good-looking film.

The Program uses a lot of stock footage, seamlessly merging it with the endless shots of Foster on his bike, knitting together a film that seems to be half documentary and half biopic. However, there are a few scenes, such as Armstrong confession on the Oprah Winfrey Show or certain press conferences, where Foster just repeats Armstrong’s words and reactions verbatim, which seems odd since Frears is okay with using footage of Armstrong earlier during the races.

In conclusion, The Program just feels like a bog standard, paint-by-numbers biopic. Maybe check it out if you’re an enthusiastic biker or you’re interested in Lance Armstrong, but to everyone else, spend your money elsewhere.

Score: 5/10 Time to be “on yer bike” The Program, you’re not good enough to stick around.

(I’m immensely sorry for including that pun, but it really does fit the film.)

Regression Review

October is here (unless you are reading this at a different time of the year, it is the internet after all), and with it come a slew of films that want to be the one that you sit down to watch to get into the Halloween spirit. Several films are running for the top spot this year, including Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (no seriously, that’s its name) or Mexican horror master Guillermo Del Toro’s new film Crimson Peak, as well as Regression, the newest film from horror director Alejandro Amenabar, famous for the critically acclaimed The Others back in 2001. Despite a fourteen year gap, does Amenabar still have the horror touch?

Regression stars Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson and David Thewlis and is directed by Alejandro Amenabar. Detective Bruce Kenner (Hawke) is dragged into sinister occurrences involving satanic cults and human sacrifices, when a father confesses to abusing his teenage daughter (Watson) but has no recollection of committing the act.

The acting is a mixed bag. Ethan Hawke plays Bruce Kenner as a simple police officer, trying to do the best for the community he works in. As the film progresses we see him sink deeper and deeper in the conspiracy that could be around any corner, scratching away at his veil of calmness until he is almost a nervous wreck. David Thewlis seems to be having a fun time being psychologist Professor Raines, even though most of his dialogue seems to revolve around sighing and stroking his beard. Everyone else though feels rather caricatured, with Emma Watson seeming to do nothing but cry and whimper (in an unconvincing American accent). The rest of the small town’s inhabitants fare a little better, as their stilted acting has a semblance of the uncanny about it, giving Regression an off-kilter charm.

While the story is an original script from Amenabar, Regression feels like a collection of lots of other films and TV shows. There are elements of Twin Peaks, Silent Hill and a healthy dose of the first season of True Detective, down to the grim tone, rural surroundings and evil cults that prey on the younger citizens. Despite this, Amenabar manages to rework these overused tropes into a very taut tale of paranoia and debauchery, peeling back the mask of civilised country towns to reveal the dark corners of society.

The film starts of fairly slow and rather formulaic, as the film just potters around with police procedures and other fairly un-engaging activities on screen. Thankfully the film does pick up as the actual investigation gets underway. This is the main meat of the film, and the scares and great moments of tension seems to just start pouring out, as if Regression was trying to hold them all in during the introduction before finally letting them go. There are some excellent scary scenes here, with a standout being Kenner listening to a description of a black mass, while he pictures it on screen for us to watch. It’s intense and builds to a terrifying and gruesome finale including scenes of a human sacrifice and cannibalism.

One great thing that I love about the scares in Regression is that almost none of them are of the loud-bang variety. Each one has a build up, the tension mounting as the main character of the scene makes their way closer to the danger, with Amenabar milking the suspense for all it’s worth before finally revealing the “monster” to his character. We rarely get to see the thing that terrifies the characters, rather we watch their reaction and their futile attempts to escape. This is a great feature of Regression, where we terrify ourselves because we don’t know what is chasing the characters, scaring ourselves with what our imagination creates as a stand in.

However, the major problem that Regression has is it’s ending. With the films use of creepy subject matter, I was hoping to see a giant finale involving something akin to the ending of The Wicker Man, with Kenner finally stumbling upon a ritual or cult meeting, rather than just having nightmares about being forced into one of their ceremonies. But no, Regression ends in the most unsatisfying way, which left me thinking “REALLY? That’s how you are going to end it?” For all the great tension the film had built up over the past hour and a half, the ending demolishes any way that the film could have ended with an impact. Sadly all we get is a small amount of text at the end to try and defend the reasons why Regression ended like it did.

In conclusion, Regression has some really good scares and creepy imagery, but all that promise just gets thrown out the window when the ending pops out of nowhere with a completely different mindset from the rest of the film.

Score: 5/10 Had the potential, but not the power to see it through.

Ant Man Review

And so it begins. The start of the next five years, with the superhero genre dominating the cinemas around the globe with stories of mighty men, Norse Deities and probably a few aliens. But while you’ll have to wait a while for those films to come out, we have the Pint Sized Avenger, Ant Man to tide us over.

Ant Man stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll and is directed by Peyton Reed. The film follows Scott Lang (Rudd) as he inherits the Ant Man name and suit from Dr Hank Pym (Douglas) so that they can pull of a daring heist that may just save the world.

Ant Man had a rough start when it was first announced. Marvel Studios got a giant backlash when they revealed that acclaimed director Edgar Wright (well known for the man behind the camera of The Blood and Cornetto Trilogy) who was tipped for the director chair was not going to be directing Ant Man. However, Wright still serves as a writer on the film, and the script is one of the great points about Ant Man. While some jokes fall flat, the film does have a few good lines, with Michael Pena’s long, drawn out stories about people who help him find work. These stories, where Pena voices all the characters talking are the funniest parts of the film

The story is the same clichéd one that seemed to plague San Andreas earlier this year. As I said then, absent dad, divorced mother, a child in need, evil step dad, contrived romance, it’s copied verbatim in Ant Man. The main villain’s entrance to the film is also a cliché, easily pointing him out as the main bad guy instead of playing with the audience like Big Hero 6 did, keeping us guessing as to whether he is the bad guy or not. Despite these stereotypical plot points; the acting is still well done, with special mention going to Michael Douglas and Michael Pena, the two being the funniest characters in the film by far.

As with the other Marvel films, several hints and universe crossovers are mentioned and brought into the film, giving us one of the best scenes in the film, where Ant Man faces off against an Avenger for a piece of hardware needed for his mission. It’s the best scene of the film, and managed to rouse me from a small nap that was threatening to take me over. There are also two end credit sequences to stick around for at the end, introducing new characters and also setting up the new films, so they are well worth watching. Again, as I said in my Avengers review, you will need to think back and refer to earlier films to remember who these side characters are. I was almost lost at who one character was until I scoured my memory while writing this review. And as usual there is the required Stan Lee cameo hiding away within the last few seconds of the film. I almost thought they were going to miss it out but they got it in just before the credits rolled.

Ant Man clocks in at just under two hours, and this was one of the main problems for me. As I said previously, I was almost sent into a small nap by the lull in on screen interest. The film potters around with needless subplots and revelations that can be seen a mile off, all culminating in a film that look like it’s going to end, before going on for another quarter of an hour. The film sadly focuses more on these minor distractions rather than the dialogue between Rudd and his entourage of friends, which is the main highlight of the film.

In conclusion, Ant Man is just another superhero film. If you enjoyed the other Marvel creations over the past few years you’ll find more to love here, but it’s nothing to convert a non-watcher to the side of the superheroes.

Score: 6/10 One of the weaker films in the Marvel deck.

David Lynch Collection Review

Preface

This review has been a while in the making. I first teased this collection on my Twitter feed nearly a full month ago, but I finally thought I should start now, after finishing the last film I wanted to feature on this list. This collection review will work much like my Bruce Lee one, yet this time focussing on the director David Lynch.

I love David Lynch. I believe he is one of the best directors alive today, with his creation of epic-spanning surrealist nightmares and non-linear narratives getting him both lauded and criticised in the film world. The seven films I chose for this review are:

  • Dune
  • Eraserhead
  • Blue Velvet
  • Lost Highway
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Inland Empire
  • Wild At Heart

A brief warning, nearly all of these films contain copious amounts of swearing, violence, nudity, and a few contain some of the most unsettling and foreboding moments in cinema. Watch them at your own discretion.

Dune

Lynch’s first big-budget studio film, Dune is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel of the same name. Featuring Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, a son of the Duke of Atreides, one of the several warring partners in the empire of space. The film focuses on the struggle over the planet Dune, which is rich in the spice required for interstellar travel. Featuring a vast array of talented actors, Dune also features some impressive miniature work, with Herbert’s giant Sandworm being a standout attraction. Also be on the lookout for Lynch’s cameo and the soundtrack composed by Toto.

Score: 8/10 It’s a bit like Game of Thrones in space.

Eraserhead

Lynch’s first feature film, and one that is made of nightmares. Eraserhead is about a man named Henry (played by another Lynch regular Jack Nance), who after his wife gives birth to a deformed mutant, leaves him and the new baby to fend for themselves in the post-apocalyptic dystopia. Shot in stark black and white, this is the start of Lynch’s surrealist imagery, with stop-motion chicken breasts, gruesome body horror, and a chilling song with the famous Lynch line, “In heaven, everything is fine.” The constant crying of Henry’s child is laced throughout the film, making the film one of the most disturbing of the bunch.

Score: 7/10 Not one to watch before you go to sleep

Blue Velvet

Probably the sanest and easily to follow of the film on this list. Kyle MacLachlan returns again, this time playing Jeffrey Beaumont, who returns home after his father is hospitalised. While on a walk, Jeffrey discovers a severed ear in a field, and starts his own investigation into the mystery, when the police go nowhere with the case. Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of sadistic criminal Frank Booth is one of the most memorable villains within cinema history, while Isabella Rossellini portrayal of his abused plaything Dorothy is unnerving. Video game fans will get a kick out of several scenes within the film that were recreated in Silent Hill 2.

Score 10/10 Lynch’s best film by far.

Lost Highway

A twisting narrative of parallel lives and invasions of privacy, Lost Highway features Bill Pullman as jazz musician Fred, who keeps receiving tapes of him sleeping in is bed. Again featuring an all star cast, with an unnerving performance by Robert Blake as the Mystery Man, Lost Highway has some of the more frightening flashes of Lynch’s filmography, (viscerally similar to the hells scenes from Event Horizon), yet stumbles around the halfway mark with some rather boring story points. In the end it all comes together, but this one you might need to read several internet theories to eventually get.

Score: 5/10 Visceral and unsettling in places, but it’s not one of Lynch’s greatest works.

Mulholland Drive

After an attempted assassination/car crash on the eponymous street, a woman called Rita (Played by Laura Harring) is left with amnesia. She stumbles across aspiring actress Diane (played by Naomi Watts) and together the two set off to find what actually happened to Rita on Mulholland Drive. With several Lynch cast alumni featuring, along with an odd bit of casting in the form of Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Drive is a brainteaser that answers more and more questions with each repeat viewing, with everything drenched in symbolism. With several startling moments and foreboding imagery, it’s a feast for the senses.

Score 10/10 This is one you’ll keep coming back to.

Inland Empire

Lynch’s most recent work and also his longest, at just under three hours. Inland Empire could be considered a very loose adaptation of anime classic Perfect Blue, with Laura Dern playing actress Susan, who while filming her latest film starts to lose her grip on reality. The closest thing to a horror movie that Lynch has created, with several scenes making me jump out of my seat with fright, Inland Empire has many of Lynch’s scariest moments. The three hour run time might be a bit too long for some, along with the meandering story, which feels like it’s about to end before going on for an extra half an hour. Plow through it though and you’ll have some of the most frightening and surreal images ever committed to film burned into your psyche forever. Stick around for the credits and you’ll be treated to nearly all the cast singing and dancing to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman.

Score: 6/10 The run time kicks the legs out from Inland Empire, but it is still a clever and enjoyable (in a horror way) film.

Wild At Heart

A romantic/crime road trip based on the novel of the same name, featuring Nicolas Cage as Sailor and Laura Dern (again) as Lula. While some of the subject matter discussed and shown, including, childhood abuse, murder, shotgun injuries and a ridiculous amount of sex can be off-putting to several audience members, what is left is a darkly funny script about two people who are in love. Nicolas Cage is as crazy as usual, and extra praise should be given to the bad guy Bobby, played by Willem Dafoe, who exudes menace. Throw in a superb rock and roll soundtrack, and you got yourself a pretty good movie.

Score: 9/10 A fun neo-noir thrill ride.

Bruce Lee Collection Review

Preface

Being a film student and also a regular old cinephile, I have seen quite a few films that are part of the collective “Hong Kong Cinema”. Many people may well be familiar with popular “HKC” films, such as John Woo’s magum opus Hard Boiled, or the police/triad Infernal Affairs Trilogy (remade as The Departed in the United States). But for this review, I wanted to go through a few films that were collectively put together and published, a selection of Bruce Lee films;

  • Fist of Fury
  • Way of the Dragon
  • The Big Boss
  • Game of Death
  • Enter the Dragon

Since I won’t be able to do a full review of each film in one post, as well as the fact that they are all part of a collection, I thought I would just do a quick review of each for your entertainment. Get ready to hear Lee’s signature chicken squawks as you watch, and enjoy.

Fist of Fury

The best of the collection from a story aspect, with Lee being a kung fu student in China during the Japanese occupation. Some people may know it as the original version of the Jet Li film Fist Of Legend, the film boasts amazing choreography and fight sequences, with fights both with “Petrov”, a Russian gangster and also an entire dojo full of Karate students, with an appearance from a pair of deadly nunchuks.

Score: 8/10 A fun piece of pulp action

Way of the Dragon

Set in Italy, WOTD has Lee protecting his family by facing off against the Italian Mafia. This probably Lee’s most comedic film in this list, but the comedy is juxtaposed with some great fight sequences, including another appearance of the double nunchuks. This is the film best known for the final dramatic fight between Lee and US Karate champion Chuck Norris inside the Coliseum.

Score: 7/10 Light on story, but the fights carry the film along

The Big Boss

Lee’s first motion picture and set in Thailand, it has Lee trying to bring down an ice factory that is a front to a drug smuggling ring. The fight scenes are not as well choreographed as later films and do not come along at a frequent pace as the others. This leaves us with the story, which is quite thin, to the point where it is almost non-existent. The final fight with the Big Boss is quite interesting though, as we get to see Lee working at peak performance.

Score: 5/10 Only watch it if you’re interested to see how it all began

Game of Death

Lee’s last film before he died, it goes a bit meta in this film, as Lee plays a character called Billy Lo, who is an actor who plays Lee’s characters in Fist Of Fury and Way Of The Dragon. Be on the lookout for Bruce Lee’s body double playing Lee through most of the film, and for the yellow jumpsuit that Tarantino paid homage to in Kill Bill, along with footage from Lee’s actual funeral. Fights are littered throughout, all culminating in a pagoda containing martial arts legend Dan Inosanto and seven foot tall basketball player and Bruce Lee student Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Score: 7/10 Despite the odd story, the forty minute pagoda fight is a great part of cinema history.

Enter the Dragon

Arguably Lee’s most known and considered his best, ETD see’s Lee go into a martial arts competition to avenge both his dead sister and bring back the honour of his shaolin temple. With its basic set up of story, the film has more time to focus on the fights, which are brilliant. All choreographed by Lee himself, the fights range from the simple fists, to sticks, to the famous nunchuks and then to Wolverine-esque claws, with each fight escalating in brutality and body count. Be on the lookout for the James Bond-lite story and Ken Adam inspired sets. The final showdown in a hall of mirrors is breathtaking as well as fun.

Score 9/10 A fantastic escape into mortal combat