Tag Archives: movie review

Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank 2: High Voltage

If you took Grand Theft Auto, The Looney Toons, bath salts, nitroglycerin, raw adrenaline, a bucket of piss, a spoonful of vinegar and a few ounces of C4 and chucked them all in a blender, you’d have something almost as utterly fucked as Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank 2: High Voltage, a sequel that leaves the first film somewhat in the dust, and if you’ve seen their initial Crank effort, you can imagine what a sheer feat that is. Cheerfully racist, unapologetically sexist, hedonistic in heaps and fully committed to being as mean, sleazy and batshit as movies can get, it turns an action movie into something truly out there. Jason Statham is the invincible Chev Chelios, a contract killer who gets put through the wringer when pretty much the entire organized crime faction in Los Angeles decides they want him dead. In the first film it was adrenaline that kept him going and here it’s electricity. Saddled with a weird synthetic heart, he’s on a mad roadrunner odyssey to get his original ticker back from legions of gangsters who want to sell it on the black market or transplant into the body of a weird old goat of a Triad boss called Poon Dong, played by David ‘do anything for a paycheque’ Carradine. Statham is a trooper, getting every part of his body fully zapped by all kinds of dangerous objects, engaging in shameless public sex once again with his spunky girlfriend (Amy Smart), this time in the middle of a horse racetrack. Explaining the plot is pointless because things just sort of… happen, in their own madcap way and it’s really hard to keep up with the kind of deranged marathon this thing runs. A frenzied strip club owner (the late Corey Haim) a thoroughly psychotic Asian hooker (Bai Ling), Chev’s ever loyal off-the-books Doctor (Dwight Yoakam) and all manner of punks, freaks, mafiosos and maladjusted urban monsters make appearances. Clifton Collins Jr. is equal parts terrifying and hilarious as El Huron, a flamboyant Cholo boss hellbent on killing Chev, but not before a few sadistic sideshow games first. The real heroes here are Neveldine and Taylor, two hyperkinetic ringmasters who aren’t afraid to get absolutely mental in their filmmaking process, injecting every bit of madness, mayhem and debauchery they can stuff into the script. Strippers getting shot in the tits and leaking silicone everywhere, a Mexican vato slicing off parts of a Chinese rival gang member and gleefully saying “check it out.. sushi!”, a severed head kept alive in a fish tank and a Godzilla inspired animated interlude are all but a taste of the bizarre pitstops this film makes on its hyper-violent, coked out flight path towards breaking the sound barrier. It’s either your thing or it isn’t, I mean I wouldn’t show it to my grandparents, it’d be a monumental exercise in tolerance for anyone with views that verge on conservatism. But fuck if it ain’t impressive for just for how far past the stratosphere it goes though, it’s like the first Crank film fell asleep, had a fever dream about itself and then this thing was birthed from that vision out of the death of a neutron star, mid explosion. I’ll stop because I’m running out of adjectives for ‘crazy’.

-Nate Hill

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Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers 2

Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers 2 has the monumental task of being one of those sequels that comes around so far after the fact that it has to do something different than it did the first time around. It does that. It also has to live up to fan expectations without just retreading all the same paths and taking the easy, self derivative route. It also does that, and quite successfully too. I’ll just clear the air: I loved it, I thought it was a fucking blast, and hit all the right notes you’d expect and wish for. It’s different than the first, amping up the rowdy, maniacal tone even further and going for broke, but never exhausting itself or getting too shrill. It’s been a good long while since the first, and the gang has naturally managed to get themselves fired from their Vermont city cop gigs following an incident involving Fred Savage, who I only know as the mole guy from Goldmember. The main event here is the discovery that a small Canadian town is actually on American soil, so the Vermont governor (Wonder Woman) hires crusty Captain O’Hagen (Brian Cox, having as much of not more fun than he did the first round) to rally his troops and oversee the transfer of power, which includes a trio of buffoonish Mounties (Will Sasso, Hayes Mcarthur and Vancouver’s own Tyler Labine), a manic Rob Lowe, sexy Emanuelle Chriqui, a rogue grizzly bear, copious amounts of narcotics, throwbacks to jokes from the first that actually work, endless jabs at the metric system and all manner of… shenanigans. I think us Canadians can get an extra kick out of it seeing ourselves represented in the most hilarious, over the top fashion you can imagine, exaggerated accents and all. The three Mounties have a demented running joke regarding Danny DeVito that had me choking on my beer. Rob Lowe has an inspired gift for comedy and sending up his own image, his casting here was a brilliant move. As for Rabbit, Ramathorn, Foster, O’Hagen, Mac and ever ridiculous Farva, I got both misty eyed and nostalgic seeing them raising hell, causing shit and being the beloved idiots we remember so fondly, back to give us second helpings of their consistently funny, always surprising brand of eclectic humour. There’s a couple priceless cameos in the prologue that I won’t spoil but I’ll say that it was awesome to see ma boy Clifton “Whup ass fajitas” Collins Jr. show up in the Broken Lizard multiverse. It amazes me that they’d even need to crowdfund something by this troupe, because from the first Troopers flick to Beerfest to The Slammin Salmon, these guys are just riotous and some of my favourite comedic filmmakers in action these days, I really hope this skyrockets them to the big leagues once again.

-Nate Hill

John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 expands nicely on a mythology that we caught a glimpse of from behind the shadowy curtain of assassin’s anthropology in the first film, a fantastic meld of stylish world building and hyper violent, stunts driven action that saw Keanu Reeves come blasting back onto the big screen in probably the best role so far of his career. Chapter 2 has one big challenge to face though: the first one was driven by the fact that those fuckers killed his dog, and the man’s subsequent bloodlust over it. That was the crux, the catalyst, the reason we cheered so loudly each time he maimed or mauled someone. Now, I don’t need an excuse like that to watch an antihero slaughter people, but some might, and the dog thing just propelled him forward faster and furious…er. What’s the catalyst here? Well, they destroy his house. Not quite the emotional kick in the nuts you get from seeing a beagle murdered, but it seems to be enough to light Wick’s fuse again, so there you go. He’s faced with a figure from his past here, some fruitcake of an Italian mobster (Ricardo Scamarcio) who wants him to come out of retirement and kill his powerful sister (Claudia Geroni) to ensure his seat at a revered council table of international crime figures. It’s basically John Wick’s Eurotrip, as he treks across the pond to kill more goons and thoroughly destroy more night clubs and other such convenient set pieces than you can shake a stick at, before returning back to New York for an ultra-violent third act. John Leguizamo, the always awesome Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan and David Patrick Kelly all reprise their wicked cool roles, whilst Common, Ruby Rose, Peter Serafinowicz and Franco Nero create new characters that flesh out this fascinating world of killer’s mythology even further. The film is special though for two important reunions for Reeves that give wonderful callbacks to earlier in his career: the prologue sees Wick ferociously reclaim his stolen car from Abram Tasarov (Peter Stormare) the more gregarious brother of Viggo, villain from the first film. Reeves and Stormare played Constantine and Lucifer in the underrated 2005 comic book adaptation, where they faced off with just as much menace and charisma we see in their little bit here. It’s also a reunion for Neo and Morpheus, because Laurence Fishburne shows up as the godlike Bowery King, a rooftop dwelling, pigeon keeping derelict who runs a vast crime syndicate that all disguise themselves as dishevelled hobos. It’s wonderful references like these that pack the pedigree with solid gold and moments to remember, not to mention it’s just a worthy sequel, a slam bang screamer of an action flick and a great time all round. Bring on Chapter 3, and I request an Al Pacino villain turn so we can get nostalgic for The Devil’s Advocate all over again.

-Nate Hill

Jim Sheridan’s Dream House

Imagine the potential for a concept like Dream House, and then look at how badly, how royally they fucked up the script and eventual film that came after. It’s like someone had a really cool idea for a thriller that could have been something great in the vein of Shyamalan or Hitchcock and it just ended up a flat, lifeless, boring exercise in.. well… not much. Sadder still is the talented, first rate cast stuck in it, and when you consider the director has a heavily Oscar nominated film from back in the day under his belt, it boggles the mind. Okay, maybe the last two points are unfair, artists sometimes don’t have control over what projects cross their desk, but I would have jumped ship at the premiere if I were them, paycheque in hand. The premise is certainly interesting: a publisher from New York (Daniel Craig) moves with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two young daughters to a quaint manor in quiet New England to get away from it all. The house, naturally, has a troubled past and is sorta kinda haunted, in one of those twisty roundabout ways I can’t say without spoiling the whole deal (*cough* The Others). Craig has to solve the mystery of a brutal crime that took place in his new home, avoid freaky stalkers that seem to follow his family, and with the help of a kind, benevolent neighbour (Naomi Watts), figure out just what’s going on. There is a twist, that shows up midway through the film instead of near the end and because of that feels entirely like a silly gimmick once we know, a misjudged pacing decision if there ever was one. The thing that sucks is there are well done aspects; the acting from everyone is great, the cinematography and production design beautifully done, it’s just story that takes a nose dive, and almost right off the bat, too. The payoff and resolution for such an ‘out there’ setup just feels dry and voided of the mysticism and otherworldly spookiness that the film set you up with, and the result is you just feel cheated. Not even capable actors like Elias Koteas as a shady hitman and Marton Csokas as an even shadier businessman can bring antagonists with enough life into the fold, and their thankless presence is wasted. After this film I kind of wish I watched it again without any sound or subtitles on like a silent version, because the imagery and visual element is too good to be wasted on a script as badly drawn and executed as this.

-Nate Hill

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place surprised me by investing more in its fright flick concept than just shrieking banshee monsters and a flurry of hastily shot chase action/close calls. For a film that focuses so much on hearing and an auditory mood-scape, Krasinski is an excellent visual storyteller and as far as first time directors go, should be very proud. Not to mention the fact that he tells a human story amongst the horror, one that actually gets us feeling closer to the characters until we really give a shit when they’re being hunted by the screamers. It doesn’t hurt that he and real life wife Emily Blunt give two breathlessly alive performances that paint a dual portrait of parents who will stop at nothing to protect their children. Sometime in a desolate future, vicious predators of unknown origin (could the brief shot of a newspaper clipping claiming “meteorite hits in Mexico” have anything to do with them?) invade the world and slaughter humans en masse. They’ve got mutant ear drums that can hear a wood-bug sneezing from sixty miles out, but they’re also blinder than Stevie Wonder. Using your inside voice, or no voice at all if possible, is an imperative mantra for Krasinski and clan, as they must exist in monk worthy silence for fear of being run down by these things. The trailers tend to spoil a lot of things, and I guess marketers think that just because a sequence is in the prologue that people wouldn’t want it to still be left a surprise, but oh well. Early on there’s a tragedy that causes kind of a rift in the family, particularly between Krasinski and his deaf daughter (Millicent Simmonds, brilliant work). Flash forward a year or so and he’s built an impressive rural stronghold for his family on an abandoned farm, complete with grain silo watchtowers and a homemade electric light alarm system. It’s this innovative and careful design that sets it apart from other horror flicks that just go for the throat without and character development or world building to draw you in. Eventually the screamers do come for them, in one long extended night from hell that plays out like the most stressful chain reaction of mishaps you could imagine, with enough suspense to bring on a heart attack. I call them screamers, and I read one review on Facebook whining that they’re the same CGI clicking beasts in every other horror flick these days, but I think that’s an unfair assessment. They’re neatly rendered and have a clearly visible biology to explain their uncanny sense of sound, and I never once tuned out or felt removed from the atmosphere while watching them. The human element is well done and treated with care here, and while I can’t quite understand why they would decide to have a baby, which are notoriously loud individuals, in a world that’s gone so badly to shit (maybe they couldn’t find condoms when scavenging abandoned towns), they’re resilience and love for their children are brought fiercely to life by the two actors, who knock it well out of the park. You gotta love Marco Beltrami’s original score too, which is shadowy and ominous in one instance and switches gears quickly to orchestral catharsis when needed. A real surprise out of horror-town, this one was, and one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. Oh, and try to find a more badass, adrenaline soaked ending scene to a film so far this year, I dare ya.

-Nate Hill

Johnny English

Johnny English is kind of like James Bond, except his stairs don’t quite reach the attic. The bumbling spy comedy has seen many different iteration, from foppish Clouseau to classy but dense Get Smart, but English is my favourite of the bunch because it’s blessed with the star power of Rowan ‘Mr. Bean’ Atkinson, a man who’s so funny that he’s still hilarious when he’s not even trying, or even attempting a serious role. There’s something about his impish, mischievous, pointedly smug yet somehow friendly visage that makes him perfect for comedy. Johnny English is the Crown’s last hope, a hapless desk jockey shunted into the field of MI6 work when literally every other active agent is killed in a failed op. Atkinson plays him to a note: resoundingly confident and assured of his skill, charm and charisma, yet endlessly, unbelievably stupid in every situation he enters. Parachuting onto the wrong building, royally fucking up a London vehicular pursuit, accidentally shooting a poor secretary with a knockout serum from a ballpoint pen, the list goes on. If there’s a carefully planned mission or set piece, it exists solely for him to bumble through and screw up spectacularly, like a room full of dominoes set up for a toddler to decimate. He’s up against one of the most ridiculous villains cinema has ever seen, a ‘jumped up Frenchman’ called Pascal Sauvage, some fruitcake billionaire who wants to turn the UK into a giant prison after he’s stolen the crown jewels and quite literally the throne as well. He’s played by John Malkovich in a L’Oréal worthy wig and spluttering out a French accent that’s so terribly misguided it makes his Russian one from Rounders sound half-legit, and if you’ve seen that film you’ll know what I mean. You need a villain as idiotic as the hero in this type of thing though (McGruber understood that well), and it’s a pleasure to watch ever eccentric pompously send up his own image with good cheer. There’s also a sexy Bond girl, or rather ‘English girl’, who’s eons smarter than the man as well and played by Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia. This is silly stuff all round, non of it believable in anything but a satirical fashion, but it’s great fun, carried by Atkinson’s effortless prancing antics and some genuinely hilarious set pieces. My favourites are when he has to pretend to be retarded to get out of a sticky situation that was naturally his own fault to begin with, and when he actually flips on the palace loudspeakers for Sauvage to hear his whole plan as he whispers it to his sidekick, Malkovich’s exasperated reactions are inspired. There’s a sequel, Johnny English Reborn which is fun but not quite up to this pedigree, and a third one coming out this year that I’ll be checking out as well.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Russell Mulcahy’s Tale Of The Mummy

Russell Mulcahy’s Talos: Tale Of The Mummy is a fascinating failure of huge proportions, a well casted, unbelievable muck-up that has to be seen to be believed. When your low rent Mummy flick comes out at pretty much the same time as Stephen Sommer’s classic The Mummy, you know you have no shot at getting it out there past a few cable runs, especially when the film has been plagued by one nightmare of an editing fiasco from day one, not to mention low budget and more pacing issues than spastics in a sack race. There’s two apparent versions of it, a 115 minute international cut that was edited down to 88 minutes because of some humour that was in bad taste and aforementioned pacing problems. I saw the shorter version, and I can’t imagine the flow of the film being any worse than what I bore witness too, so maybe they should have just gone with the original cut, but who can really say. The film is essentially just two very cluttered, chaotic prologues jam packed with cameos and creaky special effects, and then one long boring extended horror sequence set in London, so you never get the feeling that they knew what they were doing before the editing process even commenced.

The opening sees archeologist Christopher Lee unearthing some ancient tomb in Egypt with his assistant (Jon Polito), both getting very quickly dispatched by some evil via a flurry of visual effects that are either really cool or really bad, jury is still out on that one for me, they’re just weird more than anything. Skip ahead some years and yet another team falls victim to this Talos Mummy thing, led by Louise Lombard, Brit tough guy Sean Pertwee and Gerard Butler of all people, in what is probably his first movie gig ever. Flash forward to London some months later, we see the Mummy thing roaming around killing people at will, and also seemingly at random. Two detectives played by Jason Scott Lee (looking very out of place in England) and Jack ‘Commodore Norrington’ Davenport investigate and the story just loses itself to nonsensical doldrums and lame ‘scares’ for the rest of the duration. Shelley Duvall bizarrely shows up as a journalist, as well as Honor Blackman and the Sean Pertwee character, now a raving madman who no one will believe when he says the Mummy is out to get them. I’m still aghast at the sheer number and variety of notable actors Mulcahy got to appear in this thing, most of them fleeting or short lived but still making hilarious impressions in a story they had to know was just plain silly. There’s a few things that work; the FX in the Christopher Lee sequence are a neat, schlocky blend of CGI and practical and work on their own scrappy terms. There’s a very brief flashback sequence to Ancient Egypt that shows how Talos became an evil creature that’s visceral and well designed, but doesn’t last long enough to boost the overall quality. Everything in London with the two cops is just laaammee though, and drags it all down the sewer. Talos there resembles a filthy shower curtain that went through a paper shredder and subsequently got carried away by a strong gust of wind, neither remotely scary nor stylish, just your average half assed B flick monster. Worth a watch simply for the odd spectacle of it all, and for research purposes.

-Nate Hill