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Posts Tagged ‘Battle Royale’

Avengers: Infinity is going to be the biggest movie of the year so there is no competition for the movie of the month.  Things aren’t that simple.  Here are the movies seen this month:

A Quiet Place – A family try to survive in dystopian near future by avoiding monsters who hunt by sound. Instead of the usual walls we see people hiding behind in other movies, the family live in a fortress of silence. What’s the point of walls and locked doors when the monsters can rip through them! Comprising of essentially just two acts, built on tension rather than horror. The slow build-up is perfectly paced to setup the excellent finalé. The ideas aren’t necessarily new or original, but they are used well; the simplest of building materials as Chekhov’s gun! The cast are all excellent from John Krasinski (who also directs and co writes – very much against type) and Emily Blunt to the kids who include Millicent Simmonds who we will be seeing later this month in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck. Keeping explanation and exposition to a minimum works in the movies favour to create a very satisfying horror thriller.A Quiet Place

Thoroughbreds – I went into this movie knowing virtually nothing about it. I hadn’t read a review or synopsis and hadn’t seen a trailer. I am really glad I saw it this way and for that reason I advise the same of anyone wishing to see it and will not give a synopsis myself. Billed as a drama/thriller, it is also darkly funny. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke have proven to be two of the most exciting young actresses in their short careers to date. Here they are perfectly cast and give stunning performances. Utilising a small cast, mainly focussing on its two leads it’s no surprise that writer-director Cory Finley conceived it as a play. Shot with confidence and visual flair, it is amazingly Finley’s first movie in any capacity. Surly a film to divide opinion, I loved it.Thoroughbreds

Ghost Stories – Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) works as a debunker of the supernatural. Things start to get a bit weird when he is asked by a fellow sceptic to investigate three cases he believes to be real. The structure makes it feel like the portmanteau horror’s that Hammer used to make, and like those movies it isn’t as satisfying as regular narrative. The overall tone is of quirky weirdness rather than horror. One of the three stories creates a real sense of dread, but the film is never scary, in fact a lot of the tension is undercut by comedy. Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman who originally produced it as a stage play, I understand this is more successful than the film version.Ghost Stories

Death Wish – The 1974 Michael Winner/Charles Bronson movie has a poor reputation; although I haven’t seen the film for over 20 years, I remember it being good and think its reputation is based more on the increasingly poor sequels. Horror director Eli Roth’s remake moves the action from New York to Chicago; Bronson’s architect becomes Bruce Willis, trauma surgeon. The characters new profession is well used within the plot. The script by Joe Carnahan really isn’t bad, its derivative and predictable but it holds up as a narrative. Willis does a good job playing Bruce Willis and the action is understated and gritty. The film fails to say anything important or original about crime, justice or, vigilantism but as a disposable genre movie it works well.Death Wish

Beast – A troubled (they always are in a film like this) young woman lives with her overpowering mother, and farther who appears to be suffering from dementia. In the shadow of the perfect life of her sister and out of step with the world, until she meets an equally troubled young man. As the “us against the world” romance blossoms the subplot of a murder mystery comes to the fore making the viewer wonder who the beast of the title actually is. First time director Michael Pearce fills the movie with metaphor, and keeps just enough mystery and ambiguity to keep the story compelling. The cast are all excellent from the young leads to the more recognisable supporting players. The setting, the Channel Island of Jersey is used to full effect creating an environment that is sometimes inviting, at others hostile, the skill that the changes are traversed belies the directors lack of experience.Beast - Still 1

Funny Cow – Told with a very effective nonlinear narrative, Maxine Peake plays a female stand up comedian in 70/80’s Northern England. Unnamed throughout the film, Peake’s character is credited as Funny Cow, a honour placed upon her by a fellow comedian. Don’t be fooled by the synopsis or title, this is far from a comedy. Dealing with abusive fathers and husbands, depression and alcoholism it is a far darker film than you would ever expect. It is however, filed with fantastic performances, particularly from Maxine Peake. There are also enough moments of brevity and levity to keep the viewer engaged. A hard film to love but a compelling one you can’t turn away from.Funny Cow

Every Day – Don’t be put off by the lukewarm reviews, there is more going on here than many are giving it credit for. A teenager wakes up in a different body every morning. He/she spends a day borrowing someone else’s form, and tries not to impact too much on the hosts life; until he starts to form a relationship with a girl. Comparisons have been made to the TV show Quantum Leap, but this character has no mission, and no self to return to giving freedom to explore many things including identity and morality. The film also has great fun playing with the tropes of teen and high-school movies. The high high-concept is let down by inconsistent pacing and a lack of focus, it is still an enjoyable watch.Every Day

Wildling – A young girl is raised by her father in isolation before being exposed to the outside world. Billed as a horror, this movie is more of an adult fairytale, but these genres are so closely linked, it really doesn’t matter. The concept is good, and the conclusion is satisfying if a little predicable. Bel Powley is excellent and perfectly cast in the lead, but Liv Tyler is given nothing to do and is totally wasted.Wildling

Avengers: Infinity – Ten years of Marvel movies have been leading up to this point, the arrival of Thanos, the franchises chosen big, bad. The series so far has introduced so many characters, it would be impossible to service them all. Amazingly the film manages to give everyone (except a few characters left on the sidelines for future use) reasonable screen time without slowing the narrative. The action scenes are fantastic and the character interactions are often devastatingly funny. The problems are with the narrative; I can’t expand on this and keep this spoiler free, beyond saying that it is most likely part of the setup for the next film, a setup that could be satisfying or infuriating.Avengers Infinity

Battle Royale & Audition – I also went to a double bill screening of these two Japanese modern classics; both are just as brilliant and messed up as I remember.Battle Royale and Audition

The obvious choice is the brilliant horror, A Quiet Place.  Beast came totally out of leftfield and has really stayed with me, on reflection, my letterboxed score was a little low.  But none of these is movie of the month, that honour goes to: Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds poster

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On episode 5 of the Film Don’t Hurt podcast Kai and Dylan talk about a list devised on The Vulture of the best 25 action movies since die hard. You can see what they came up with HERE. While I don’t disagree with any of there list (except Suppercop that I haven’t seen) I have my own ideas so thought I would come up with my own list. Die Hard is probably my favourite action movie. I have stated many times that it reinvented the genre. While this is largely true, if you look at it from a different point of view, it also killed the genre. Through the 70’s and 80’s action meant big men like Stallone, Schwarzenegger or Lundgren. With Die Hard Bruce Willis made it possible for the everyman to be an action hero. Then through the 90’s things changed with the rise of comic book movies and directors like Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich who just want to blow shit up. I like comic book movies but am a board of blowing shit up movies as reflected in my list. It was surprisingly difficult, there are at least another fifteen movies I would have liked to have included. I couldn’t decide on the order for the list. The best movies or the ones that represent the genre best. I decided to go for a chronological list, firstly for simplicity but I also think it gives an interesting overview of the changes in the genre. I used the same three simple rules:

Not every movie with action in it is an action movie. (it had to be a film that wouldn’t make any sense if you took all the action scenes out)

Only one film per franchise.

No animation.

Nikita (1990)nikita
Total Recall (1990)Total Recall
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)Terminator 2 Judgment Day
Point Break (1991)Point-Break Utah and Bodhi
Hard Boiled (1992)hard boiled
Speed (1994)Speed
The Crow (1994)The Crow
Desperado (1995)Desperado
Run Lola Run (1998)Run Lola Run
Taxi (1998)taxi
The Matrix (1999)The Matrix
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Gladiator (2000)Gladiator
Battle Royale (2000)Battle Royale
Blade II (2002)Blade 2
The Bourne Identity (2002)The Bourne Identity
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)uma thurman kill bill
District 13 (2004)District 13
Serenity (2005)river
Batman Begins (2005) (I prefer The Dark Knight but Batman Begins is more of an action film)Batman Begins
Casino Royale (2006)Casino Royale
Apocalypto (2006)Apocalypto
300 (2006)300
Doomsday (2008)Rhona Mitra Doomsday
Avengers Assemble (2012)Marvel Avengers Assemble
 

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Catching up on an old episode of The Matineecast got me thinking about movies set in dystopian futures. Ryan referred to dystopias that are not that far in the future, and via the movie Pleasantville (1998) he and his guest Sasha James Talked about how a nostalgic view of America in the 1950’s could be a dystopia for people from the present day. My first thought was that we could now be living in what would be the dystopian future that people in the 50’s feared. With dwindling natural recourses, and rising costs, losses of civil liberties and an over reliance on technology coupled with the threat of war and terrorism, we are probably closer to dystopia than utopia. With this in mind I have avoided movies set in an unrecognisable world to concentrate on dystopias that are not that different to the real world.

Movies like Gattaca (1997), V for Vendetta (2005) and In Time (2011) exist in a society that has adopted practices that oppress the masses and it is through rebellion that people are able to find a better life. There are other films like1984 (1984), Brazil (1985) and Code 46 (2003) that revel in their desperation and futility by pulling rug from under the hero, and the audience with it. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Children of Men (2006) find a happy balance where the despair is tempered by a glimmer of hope. The brilliance of Fahrenheit 451 the way we see a character comes to distrust what he has been taught to believe in and chooses to fight the system from within. We see a similar idea explored in the interesting if a little overrated Equilibrium (2002), set in a society where emotions are outlawed it also explores what it is to be human. Both these ideas are explored in the underrated and misunderstood RoboCop (1987). In there own way the characters in Rollerball (1975) and Death Race 2000 (1975). This is very different from District 13 (2004) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) whose protagonists are and remain outsiders. An interesting case is The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) whose main protagonists desire is only to escape the system but her desires bring her into the sphere of those who are trying to change things.

When you mention Mad Max many people think of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in some ways the best film in the trilogy, but the original low budget Mad Max is actually equally as good in its own way. Set in a near future world were society is crumbling and law & order has begun to break down people will do what it takes to keep moving to stay on the road. It was relevant in its day but it has found new relevance in recent years. If we think about the glue that holds society together, it is not fear of prosecution, but a moral belief of right and wrong, if you take that bond away the world as we know it will crumble. We see the early days of this in Mad Max, and the subtlety with which this idea is displayed within a violent revenge thriller is why it is possibly the best dystopian movie. This breakdown of society is in the background of neo-noir Trouble in Mind (1985) and retro-future comic book inspired Streets of Fire (1984) but lacks the despair of Mad Max. The other movie that perfectly depicts society at a tipping point is Strange Days (1995). Made in the mid 90’s with LA’s troubles fresh in the memory and set just five years in the future, now more than a decade in the past, some would argue the world is a worse place now than what was depicted. Given the reality TV obsession of the last dozen years and current distrust of media and governments, The Running Man (1987) now seems strangely prophetic. Battle Royale covers some of the same ground but is all the more shocking in the way it casts children against society.

It is human nature to try and change and shape society, but some movies have taken this to an extreme. By travelling back in time from a dystopian future to change the present and reshape the future, their present. This is handled in different ways in different movies, the hero of Twelve Monkeys (1995) is haunted by memories of his own death and with it his failure to save the future. Millennium (1989) takes a different point of view as the characters from the future battle to hide the existence in the present through fear that it will change and potentially destroy the future with the effects of the paradox of time travel. While Millennium is afraid of the effects of paradox, The Terminator (1984) exists within a paradox. It is only within an effort to kill the hero who can save the world that he is conceived. The one thing all these movies have in common is the way they only give us glimpses of the dystopian future, a future created in the present.

One thing that is clear, there are as many differences as there are similarities within the genre, but the movies that are the best and that age the best are the ones that have a deeper relevance. This can be an overt plot, a subtle subtext or just a theme that anchors the story in reality.

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Another strong decade, 2004 and 2009 only just missed out.

2000: Almost Famous, Battle Royale, The Claim, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memento

2001: Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko: Amelie, Training Day, Y Tu Mamá También

2002: City of God, 28 Days Later, Talk to Her, Hero, Punch-Drunk Love

2003: Oldboy, Kill Bill vol 1, Lost in Translation, X2, Azumi

2005: Sin City, Batman Begins, The Descent, Good Night and Good Luck, Serenity

2006: Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale, Children of Men, Miami Vice (I know I’m of about three people who like it), The Departed

2007: Juno, No Country For Old Men, The Orphanage, Death Proof, Into the Wild

2008: The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, In Bruges, Let the Right One In, Gran Torino

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I read the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs many years ago when I was at school although I enjoyed it at the time hadn’t given it a second thought until the trailers for the movie John Carter appeared a few months ago. Judging from the trailer it is a lose adaptation at best taking characters and ideas but not the plot from the novel originally published nearly a century ago (1917). Given the number of versions Edgar Rice Burroughs other creation, Tarzan it surprising to learn this is the first big screen outing for John Carter and “Barsoom” series of novels. Tomorrows releases got me thinking about other books I have read that will be hitting the cinema this year:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: From a novel I read a long time ago to one I have only just read. I saw the box set of the three Hunger Games novels while Christmas shopping last year, having seen the movie trailer I purchased the books and read them over Christmas. Although it loses its way in the third book and isn’t as good as Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale with which it will be forever compared (despite Suzanne Collins insistence that she was unaware of the Japanese novel) it is still worth reading. The casting looks to be perfect most notably Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a character with clear parallels with Ree Dolly, her Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone. Release date: 23rd March.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac: The adaptation of this seminal novel of the Beat Generation is a bittersweet one for me, I have often thought it could make an excellent movie but my anticipation is tempered by fear that it will never live up to the book. It is in short, one of my all time favourite novels. Fortunately producer Francis Ford Coppola (who has owned the rights for many years) has chosen a perfect director in the shape of Walter Salles who did a fantastic job with The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and has assembled a talented young cast. Release date: 21st September. 

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2: The startling revelation, I have read the Twilight books. As for the movies, the first and third actually aren’t bad. Depending on your point of view, spitting Breaking Dawn into two movies is the only way to do justice to the epic final novel or a cynical attempt to extort the maximum amount of cash from the franchises loyal following. I’m going for the latter. Still as with the final part of Harry potter, Part two promises to better than the dull part one. Release date: 16th November

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: With four adaptations to date do we need another? The 1974 version staring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is a good film but is somehow lacking, it fails to capture the mood and the magic of the novel that is as important to “The Lost Generation” as On the Road is to the “Beat Generation“. I was a little dubious of the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire but actually think it could work. It is a novel that deserves a great adaptation, Baz Luhrmann could be the visionary director to give it to us, but why does he have to make it in 3D? UK release TBA, USA: 25th December

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