Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ax'Em (a.k.a. The Weekend It Lives)

When the first thing you see in a film is this, you know you're in trouble:

Yep, that's right, within the first second of the 'film' Ax"Em (a.k.a The Weekend It Lives), the film's final outcome is pretty much signed and sealed. For this is a film unlike any other. I thought I had seen it all with celluloid dog turds like Curse of the Zodiac, Manos: The Hands of Fate and Ben and Arthur. Oh how wrong I was. You ain't seen nothing if you haven't seen Ax'Em, a film that is below the bottom of the barrel. This is unquestionably, undeniable and unfathomably the worst film I have ever seen. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything about this...well, I wouldn't call it a film, but we'll call it that to make it easier, is so off, so wrong, so inept that I cannot even begin to describe it in words. My god. If you thought it didn't come anymore inept and misguided than The Room, then you are sorely mistaken. Ax'Em is so bad, it makes The Room look like Taxi Driver. And that's an understatement.

I don't know if I should bother telling you about the plot, since I didn't find one. From what I can gather, a group of people go away to some abandoned cottage in the woods (as you do), where there happens to be an axe murderer living there. Yeah, never seen that before. That's about as much as I could gather from the plot, and to be honest, I didn't really care. Hell, I didn't even know what any of the 'characters' names were. Nor did I give a shit.

I couldn't possibly tell you EVERYTHING that's wrong with this film, because I'd be writing a whole 5 page essay, but I'll go through the film start to finish to give you the main things that are wrong with it. Ok, here we go. So as you saw at the beginning of this review, the film starts of with opening titles that seem to be written by a first grader who's just learning English. Not only are they borderline incomprehensible, but we're given all but 2 seconds to read the damn thing, so we have to pause it and rewind to read it. Keep in mind this is all in the first 10 seconds of the film. Anyway, cut to an opening prologue where we are introduced to our characters, and by introduced I mean they all come on to the screen (there's about 7 or 8 of them), and they all decide to go away for the weekend. At least that's what I gathered. I had no idea what occurred in this scene because the audio is so goddamn terrible that I had no idea what the fuck they were saying. Not to mention the fact that the video quality was so blurry that I couldn't make out their faces. Next up is a scene which appears to be a flashback of the murderer going into a house and killing a man, and let me tell you, the sight of a 90 year old man being killed with a machete and crying out "Aw, shit" was an absolute highlight of the film. This is supposedly supposed to be our introduction to our murderer. No worries about motive or anything, we'll just accept that he goes around killing people for no reason. We then cut to an opening credits scene that is some dance battle thing that turns into a "Yo Mamma" joke battle. Oh, and this has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the plot.

So our troupe of people go off to this abandoned house in the woods, which turns out to be the house the old man was killed in! Shock, horror! Once they get there, we have to sit through not one, but two extended eating scenes that are not involving in the slightest. These scenes aren't made any better through the fact that director Michael Mfume insists on just walking around in circles around the table. We're about halfway in now, and so far, nothing has happened. I thought to myself at this point that maybe it was going for the Paranormal Activity approach. You know, how nothing happens until the second half where everything is let loose. But then I thought that this couldn't be the case, because those three films built up suspense in their first halves, and we're actually good. Ax'Em doesn't build up any suspense, and just quietly...(it isn't very good). Surprisingly, Ax'Em goes absolutely mental in its second half, and will either have you in fits of hysterical laughter or will have you absolutely shell shocked at what you're witnessing. I won't tell you what happens, although you could probably figure it out, but boy, it is INSANE.

But what's wrong with it specifically, you might be asking. Well, the audio and video quality is just non-existent. In many scenes, you can't tell what is going on or what the actors are saying, a lot of the time this is in the same scene. There is virtually no production value, but what did you expect from a film that was shot with a budget of...$650 (I'm serious). In fact, in some scenes, in particular the opening prologue, you can hear the director call cut. Speaking of the director, Michael Mfune has some of the most misguided and clueless direction I've ever seen. There are scenes that are just so poorly staged, not to mention pointless. Just look at the scene where the chick is running through the forest and falls down 4 TIMES in the space of about 25 metres. Then you have dialogue like "You phatter than a swamp possum with tha mumps - boy you so fine I could kiss yo daddy's ass." Sigh. Dialogue like this makes you swear the whole script was improvised. Which might explain the fact that there is absolutely NO characterisation whatsoever. The non-acting by the cast doesn't help the cardboard cutouts (that's a compliment) that we're presented with either. The murderer itself gets no back story (unless the opening titles were meant to be the backstory) and no motive. He sounds like a constipated cow and is a complete ripoff of Michael Myers. And the preceding 68 minutes before the ending didn't set yourself on a mass murder hunt, then ending might just make you, for it sets up room for a sequel. That's right. I'm as baffled as you are. And the title. I understand why it's called Ax'Em, but The Weekend It Lives? How the fuck does that makes sense? The Weekend what lives? First off, that's not even grammatically correct, and if you're going to use that title, then at least explain what It is.

I could go on and on, but all you really need to know is that Ax'Em is possibly the worst film ever made. It is in my opinion the worst film I've ever seen. If you're desperate to watch it, it's bloody hard to find on the internet, but just for you, I'll post a link to the website I got it from down below. If you were smart (unlike this movie), you'd avoid it at all costs. But I know you. You'll hear BAD FILM! and get sucked in. Don't give in to temptation like I did. You'll regret it. If you do decide to watch it, make sure to take some cyanide pills beforehand. It'll be so much less painful than watching this film. In summary: FUCK THIS MOVIE!!


Watch if you dare:

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate - A film so bad, it's an insult to cinema.
There are films that are so bad that they're good. Classic example: The Room. There are films that are so bad that they're just bad. Classic example: Ben and Arthur. Then there are films that are so bad, that they make you say to yourself: "What the actual fuck did I just watch?" Enter the cult classic Manos: The Hands of Fate, a film so bad that it takes you a while to actually comprehend the overall awfulness of it. I watched it more than 24 hours ago and I still haven't processed how bad it is. This film is so bad, it's a damn right insult to cinema.

I'm not gonna waste time telling you a lot about the context so I'll get straight into the 'plot'. One day, a couple and their young daughter are on a road trip. While attempting to find their accommodation, they get lost down a deserted road and end up at a shack-like place. They are welcomed in by a supposedly disabled man named Torgo, who is looking after the place while his 'master' is away. They soon learn (these people have obviously never seen a horror movie before) that they aren't allowed to leave the shack. It turns out that the 'master' is actually a Satanist (or some shit like that) who worships some being named Manos, while also collecting wives from the people who are trapped in the inn. And so you could probably guess where it goes from there.

The infamous scene where a clapper board is seen on screen.
Manos: The Hands of Fate put simply has all the hallmarks that makes a bad cult classic movie...a bad cult classic movie. The acting in this is beyond abysmally awful, ranging from the completely over-the-top shown through the Master, to the completely dull and effortless, seen through the husband Michael. This in particularly is to be expected, considering the actor playing the director and the writer of the fucking movie, which is equally as dull and effortless. The standout performance (in a hilarious way) is John Reynolds as Torgo. This is a character and a performance that has to be seen and heard to be believed. God knows what the fuck he was doing. It is an absolute continuity nightmare, as well as having next to no production value whatsoever. In fact, in one of the scenes, you actually see the clapper board being pulled away. It's that bad and low. As you'd probably expect, there is zip characterization, as well as a lack of scares and atmosphere. A bad sign when you're trying to make a horror film.

The thing that sets Manos: The Hands of Fate apart from all those other bad cult classics, is the fact that that it is so crushingly, mind-numbingly, brain-cell reducingly dumb. I could literally feel brain-cells rotting away while watching it. I mean, this is perhaps the dumbest film I've ever seen, and I've seen Transformers 2. As an indication of how dumb this film is, take a look at the title. The English translation from the Spanish word Manos is hands. Meaning that the title of this film is Hands: The Hands of Fate. Meaning that the being the Master is worshiping is named Hands. Then you realise that the Harold P. Warren, the writer/director has a weird obsession with hands. The subtitle "The Hands of Fate" is not a metaphor. It appears to be literal. I mean the Master's costume is a massive Batman cape that when opened reveals two giant orange hands. And his staff has a hand on the end of it. Hands. Hands. Hands Hands, FUCKING HANDS! EVERYWHERE! The other dumb thing about this film are the characters, who are so dumb that they are oblivious to EVERYTHING that happens around them. It gets to the point where you literally want to take a gun to the head.

The other unforgivable thing about this 'film' is that it is sooooooooo boring and slow, despite it thankfully being only 68 minutes long. For example, the first 10 minutes of the film is unnecessarily comprised of the same shot of them driving around trying to find this place, only occasionally cutting back to a downright stupid and, you guessed it, dumb subplot about a young couple kissing in their car and being followed around by police. Yuh huh. This all makes the film so much more tortuous.

If I had to praise anything about this film, I would say that the soundtrack is somewhat halfway decent, even though the audio in the film rarely synchronizes with what it should do. But when watching this film, you just get the feeling that they aren't even trying to make a film. It feels like a something a bunch of people just vomited up over the weekend. After watching this film, I made a comparison to Tommy Wiseau's The Room, and found that I was convinced that The Room was a decent film. Manos: The Hands of Fate is that bad. Although it may sound like it has entertainment value, don't be fooled. It doesn't. This would be a good, more humane weapon for torture. Avoid this like your life depended on it.


Monday, 6 February 2012

Batman Begins

 Batman Begins: A tense, dark, brooding and exciting piece of entertainment.

In a way, Batman Begins, the first of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is a game-changer. Aside from the obvious rebooting of the Batman series out of the dreaded doldrums of Batman and Robin, Begins also marked the death of the campy Bond films of the past (no more invisible cars!), and you could even say that it marked the death of your cartoonish superhero films of the past. Why? Well, Batman Begins to this day remains the prime example of how to reboot a franchise. As much as an impact as its amazing predecessor The Dark Knight has on cinema, it's most probably this film that will forever have a bigger and long lasting impact on cinema. Don't agree with me? Well, if it wasn't for the dark, brooding but fantastic Batman Begins, there would be none of the serious-minded reboots (i.e. Casino Royale) that seem to be churned out every year in Hollywood. Instead, not only all the reboots, but probably all the blockbusters too, would be mostly reduced to campy, over-the-top nonsense. Of course, leave it to the man behind one of the most ambitious, original and challenging films of recent years (Memento) to change the game.

All of this begs the question: Is Batman Begins: The Event as good as Batman Begins: The Film? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes. Batman Begins is tense, dark and violent, and perhaps as realistic a Batman film as you'll ever see, but it also works as a sublime and exciting piece of entertainment, not to mention it has a great amount of emotional depth and plot to boot. Like many of Nolan's films, it takes a while to get a full grasp of what is happening, but once you get a hold on what is going on, you are rewarding by one of the most satisfying and well-crafted blockbusters in recent times.

Overwrought with guilt and anger from his parents death as a child by a thug, billionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) decides to do something in order to vent his feelings by getting back at the scums who lurk throughout society. After training in the Far East, assisted by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), Wayne returns to Gotham to help rid of the injustices and crimes that are present throughout his city of Gotham. To do this, he develops his alter ego, Batman, who fights crime in the darkness to bring safety back to Gotham. But there lies a threat in the form of Dr. Crane (Cillian Murphy), who joins forces with the underground criminals to instill fear and panic into Gotham.

Batman Begins boasts a fantastic cast who collectively come together to create a Gotham and a world that feels realistic, but also still feels like a comic book film. Bale, quite a versatile actor, is on top form here with quite a subdued performance. Here he gets to show what he's really made of before being overshadowed by the clown prince later on, and he is more than up to the task. Whilst Dr. Crane/Scarecrow as a character isn't exactly a memorable villain, Cillian Murphy's chilling stare more than makes up for the underwritten character. Tom Wilkinson is excellent but under utilized as Carmine Falcone. Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson all round out an excellent supporting cast, who all suit their roles well. Letting the team though is Katie Holmes, who seems to really be struggling here for some reason.

This is certainly a fantastic looking film. Long-time Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister's cinematography presents a dark and looming Gotham that really feels and looks like it was ripped from the comics. Instead of going down the CG-fest route, Nolan smartly opts to use more practical effects, as he has in his other films, and the film and the action sequences work all the more better for it, creating a great sense of excitement within the film. Wisely, Nolan chooses to put the story before the action, so the film isn't as action heavy as you might think. What there is though, is a constant sense of fear, and towards the end panic. And so there should be, considering that's one of the villains motives. The fact that there isn't truckloads of action doesn't by any means signify that the film is lackluster as an action. Batman's Tumbler chase is jaw-dropping, and the final train standoff, though reminiscent of Spider-Man 2, is edge of your seat stuff. All backed to Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's ominously epic score. Awesome.

As with any film, there are shortcomings. As I mentioned before, the film doesn't have an entirely memorable villain, and considering there is more than one, that's sort of saying something. Sure, you're obviously not expecting the Joker, but you do wish for a bit more. I also felt that some of the relationships, particularly the relationship between Rachel and Bruce, were underwritten, so much so that you can't really care for them. The characters individually are well characterized, but as a couple, it doesn't exactly connect. As far as blockbuster entertainment, you couldn't really ask for anything more. This is a fantastically made, exciting and entertaining film, and would be the comic book film to beat...if it weren't for it's sequel. After this, you won't even know what Batman and Robin is.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Artist

 The Artist: The most delightful film of the decade.

It's not often that you come across a film that absolutely, unabashedly fills you with a palpable feeling of joy and delight. In the last decade, you could probably only list off a few, and most of the films on that list would comprise of Pixar's modern classics. So it's because of this that makes Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist such a joy to behold and cherish. Never before have I left the cinema on such a high, with such a spring in my step. So much so, that as I left the twin cinema I viewed this in, I walked out onto the street almost wanting to reenact the final dance scene at the end. The Artist is not only one of the best films I've seen in a while, it's possibly one of the best films I've seen period. The success of The Artist is a miracle in itself. In this day and age of overproduced, CGI laden blockbusters, comes this near silent, black and white, French made film. That it's the front runner for this year's Oscars, also speaks loads about the sheer brilliance of The Artist. This is a perfect example of the oft-discussed ideology that you don't need a massive budget or big name stars to make a crowd pleasing film, nor do you need mind blowing special effects or spectacular action. The biggest star in this film is John Goodman, and even he's a guy who has "That guy!" status.

Judging from the trailers, you'd maybe assume that The Artist is merely about two Hollywood stars who fall in love. However, you'd be wrong. Sure, love is a major factor in the film, but it's not the centerpiece of the story. The film is more about the rise and fall of Hollywood stars, which may sound a bit meh, but it has surprisingly more depth than you'd expect. Set around pre-Great Depression Hollywood, our lead character is successful silent film actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). His silent films, as we see in the opening scene, were widely beloved by audiences, but before too long, the future of movies arrives: the talkies. Determined to keep making what he loves, silent films, Valentin begins to direct and star in his own films. Despite this, people have moved on from silent films and onto the talkies, where young and upcoming star Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) is becoming the hottest star in Hollywood, while Valentin crashes and burns into nothing.

The beauty about this story is that it appeared to me to have something to say about our film industry today. Even though it's set in the late 1920's/early 1930's, the film feels as relevant today as it would have been back then. We are at a time in cinema history where formats such as 3D and Imax, and even technologies like CGI seem to be the only way. So what's left for the filmmakers who choose not to jump on the band wagon? Are they left to crash and burn like Valentin? The existence and the success of this film busts that idea. I don't think many people could have predicted that in 2012, a black and white silent film would be successful. Sure, it's not lighting up the box office like, say, Avatar or anything, but $46 million off a $15 million budget is nothing to chortle at. And it hasn't even won the Oscar yet.

Part of why The Artist works as well as it does is due to its outstanding (and now Oscar nominated) lead performances. When making a silent film, you need to have actors who live up to the task of conveying a character through expressions and body language rather than through voice work Thankfully, Dujardin (who is apparently one of France's biggest stars and will become massive in Hollywood after this) more than lives up to the task. In fact, Dujardin fully embodies the role so as to become Valentin. This is a performance that makes you smile and laugh as well as feel heartbroken and perhaps even tearful, and that's the mark of a great performance. I would love to see him get the Oscar. Whether he can steal it from Clooney is a tough one, but it might just happen. Dujardin's tour de force performance is perfectly matched by Bejo. While Valentin seems like a larger than life character with an expanded ego, Miller, thanks to Bejo, appears much more human and makes for perfect foil for Valentin. Bejo and Dujardin have such fantastic chemistry, and it really shows, particularly in the final tap dancing scene which is worthy of applause, which happened at my screening (and you don't get that often). And kudos to Uggie the dog too.

Everything in this film is so beautifully realised, from its fantastic set and costume designs, to its absolutely fantastic score by Ludovic Bource, which is an integral part of the film as it would be with any silent film. But the man you have to give the most props to is director Hazanavicius. His direction within this film is never showy, in fact it's quite the opposite. While The Artist could have slipped into something extremely and overblown and over-the-top, Hazanavicius directs with a clear and straight-forward vision, and it really serves the film well. This is the stuff that wins Oscars.

Some people have said that The Artist will not be timeless like other silent films, and that its silent film format is more of a gimmick. While it's true that it probably won't be a timeless classic, I don't find that it is a gimmick. I actually admire it for being so ambitious in this day and age. People, as they have apparently been doing, may complain that there is (nearly) no dialogue throughout the film, and may be turned off by this. But if you look past that and embrace the film for what it is, you'll be drawn in within minutes, and you'll come out feeling alive. This is a film that deserves to be cherished by all ages, from grandparents who maybe used to watch these types of films when they were younger, right down to young kids. Embrace it. Cherish it. The Artist is a hymn.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

January 2012 In Review

2012 kicked off with a bang this month with a diverse range of films. This month I witnessed some of the best films of all time (I actually got a new favourite film this month) as well as one of the worst. I was introduced this month to one of cinema's greatest artists, Mr Charles Chaplin, as well as exploring the work of a person who in my opinion IS cinema's greatest artist, Mr Ingmar Bergman, and other auteurs such as David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Jason Reitman. Another trend for this month was that of Australian films. With it being Australia Day this month, I decided to watch as many Australian films as I could, and in that sense, I did well. So without further ado, here are my ratings for the films I watched in January.

 Best film of the month: Taxi Driver
Pan’s Labyrinth 5/5
Y Tu Mama Tambien 4.5/5
Taxi Driver 5/5
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) 4/5
Up In The Air 4.5/5
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 3.5/5
Juno 4.5/5
Thank You For Smoking 4/5
Senna 4/5
Pulp Fiction 5/5
 Best film seen in the cinema: Hugo
The Room 1/5
The Game 3/5
Zodiac 4/5
Se7en 5/5
Fight Club 5/5
Panic Room  4/5
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) 4.5/5
Hugo 5/5
Modern Times 5/5
City Lights 5/5
 Biggest disappointment: Sunset Boulevard
Through A Glass Darkly 4.5/5
Winter Light 5/5
The Silence 4/5
Cape Fear 4/5
Sunset Boulevard 3/5
Drive 5/5
POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold 3/5

Biggest surprise: Run Lola Run
The Descendants 4.5/5
Horrible Bosses 3/5
Run Lola Run 4.5/5
The Kids Are All Right 4.5/5
Green Lantern 1.5/5
Black Swan 5/5
Trainspotting 5/5
 Best Australian film: Mad Max
The Book of Revelation 4/5
Wasted on the Young 4/5
Last Train To Freo 3.5/5
Somersault 4/5
Tomorrow, When The War Began 3/5
Mad Max 5/5
Australia 3/5
Beautiful Kate 4.5/5
Red Dog 4.5/5
The Black Balloon 4.5/5
 Worst film of the month: Ben and Arthur
Ben and Arthur 0/5
Beginners 4/5
Fish Tank 4/5
Submarine 4.5/5
True Grit 5/5
Underworld 2/5
Underworld: Evolution 1.5/5

Best film of the month: Taxi Driver (BEST. MOVIE. EVER!)
Worst film of the month: Ben and Arthur (WORST. MOVIE. EVER!)
Best film seen in the cinema: Hugo
Biggest surprise: Run Lola Run
Biggest Disappointment: Sunset Boulevard
Best Australian film watched this month: Mad Max

Total films watched this month: 53