Friday, 30 December 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews (Three Films) In A Nutshell, Vol. 2

Despite tanking at the box-office and being a fairly straightforward, predictable affair, Blood Father is a fun and entertaining genre flick. It's well-directed by Jean-Francois Richet, is technically sound and boasts a great performance from Mel Gibson, who has good chemistry with his onscreen daughter, played by Erin Moriarty. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but it's a solid romp and with an eighty-eight minute running time does everything it says on the tin without overstaying it's welcome.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.8/10

To my surprise, the second film in Adam Sandler's four-picture deal with Netflix has turned out to be one of the two good films he has made since 2010. Sandler and co-star David Spade have great chemistry, and there are some moments in the dialogue, gags and scenes that had me genuinely laughing. It isn't chopped liver, and it is in fact a bit messy, but the fact is I enjoyed the film and I think it's a good buddy comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

There are some strong sequences evoking the hazy, drug-induced atmosphere they are trying to get at, and for that the camera crews, editing department and composers of the score should be applauded. However, despite this and the strength of the central concept, the movie is a botch job, with a plot direction that is all over the place and terribly two-dimensional characters. Urge, with all it's initial promise, reaches it's conclusion (and no amount of Ashley Greene in leather can convince me otherwise), not with a bang, but with a half-hearted whimper of a non-ending. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.3/10

Well, there you have it, in a nutshell. Sorry, had to slip that one in there. No, wait, I'm not sorry, I just felt like rambling on incoherently so as to bring this to some sort of conclusion. Anywho, if I was to recommend one film out of these three I'd say go watch Blood Father, not just because of everything I said about it, but because it's one of the few times recently I've seen a successful throwback to the eighties action movies of old, when not everything had to be made for over $100 million and two-and-a-half hours long. It's a modestly-budgeted case of wham-bam thank you, Mam!

Speaking of which, here's a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger throwing a phone booth with a guy stuck inside it in Commando: Commando Phone Booth Attack Scene

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Produced by: Werner Herzog
Rupert Maconick

Written by: Werner Herzog

Music by: Mark Degli Antoni
Sebastian Steinberg

Cinematography by: Peter Zeitlinger

Editing by: Marco Capalbo

Studio(s): NetScout
Pereira & O'Dell Entertainment
Saville Productions
Skellig Rock

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures (United States)
Dogwoof Pictures (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): January 23, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)
August 19, 2016 (United States)
October 28, 2016 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 98 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: N/A

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $594, 912 (United States only)

Alrighty then, today's film up for review is Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World, the latest film by Werner Herzog, who, for those of you that don't know, I hold in high regard. There's very few people I genuinely look to, outside of my admiration for their work, as an artistic inspiration, but Herzog is one of them. From his days of slogging around Peruvian jungles while his contemporaries of the German New Wave made urban films (I just recently re-purchased Aguirre, Wrath Of God in a pristine BFI Blu-Ray edition) to his contemporary fame over the past decade since Grizzly Man. Based today primarily in Los Angeles, the great master has made quite the reputation as a documentarian, and this film, Lo And Behold, is one of two feature-length docs he has put out this year (along with Netflix original Into The Inferno). With this film, Herzog explores, in a manner not dissimilar to his stunning AT&T short From One Second To The Next (yes Sam, if you're reading, I did finally watch it!), the implications of technology's ever-increasing place in our lives. Got it? Good!

To start off with the good, at risk of sounding biased, nobody depicts non-fiction quite like Herzog. He approaches fact in the same way he approaches fiction, the only difference being that he is more explicit about the questions being asked. The Internet, robots, space exploration, all manner of technology-related things fall under the ever-watchful gaze of this unique mind, who for all of the general perception of him being a bit crazy is the only one oftentimes asking the most poignant, topical, relevant questions about what all of this really means. Not only does the film make us think, but in Herzog's oh-so elegant manner, he also entertains us with some moments of absurd humour, touch us with some of the wonderful potentialities and also to frighten and disturb with the more tragic, horrific aspects of technology. This elegance extends to the cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger, who in between talking-heads segments (or in the middle of these scenes, as evidenced by Marco Capalbo's editing), has obviously spent time gathering some wonderful pick-up footage, shooting the machines as though they are some great natural wonder. The same can be said for the music by Mark Degli Antoni and Sebastian Steinberg, whose minimal compositions let the subject speak for themselves, and fit well alongside the grandeur of Richard Wagner, whose Vorspiel from Das Rheingold is used in the film (not the first time Herzog has used it; Brownie points at play for those who can tell me where else it has been used). I don't want to say a huge amount else because I'd run the risk of giving away too many details, so I'll relate the story of how I saw it. I watched this film on a live stream broadcast of the UK premiere through the website of Dogwoof, the UK distributor of the film, who of course have put out some great movies in the past over here such as Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act Of Killing and The Look Of Silence. I had a cold at the time, so despite my being a stubborn one about 'the big screen,' I refused to let other people suffer my sneezes and sniffles, and reluctantly watched it on my laptop. Not overlooking the irony behind all of this, it also got me to thinking of the social relevance of this film, and the fact that I do feel this is a work of significance, for it was through the live stream that I was able to view the film. Heck, even this review, as with all of my back catalogue, would not find an audience without the opportunities opened up by the Internet. As such, Lo And Behold ties in marvellously with the omnipotent presence of technology in our lives.

Before you start, hear me out when I say that although I enjoyed the film and acknowledge it's significance that I do not think it is a masterpiece. Also, this is another one of those cases in which there is nothing that is particularly wrong with the film itself. As far as I'm concerned, from an objective standpoint it hits all the right beats, but I have to also take into account my subjective standpoint, which is that I didn't, for lack of a better word, connect to the subject matter as much as I with some of his other work. Fundamentally, although his work always attempts to elevate it's subject to an epic scale, a higher pantheon, to express, in his own words, the "ecstatic truth," what draws me in Herzog's work is the singular tales of extraordinary characters and people like Aguirre, Kaspar Hauser, Stroszek, Fitzcarraldo, Dieter Dengler, Klaus Kinski and Timothy Treadwell, and their interactions with the world around them. Ultimately, Lo And Behold, for all of the praiseworthy qualities, I feel is less about humans per se than a study of human behaviour. Do see it, it's a great and significant film, but that's just how I feel looking at it from a subjective angle.

Well, there you have it. While I have some reservations about my connection to the subject from a subjective angle, I feel that Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World is another great documentary from Werner Herzog. Aesthetically, it is a sound film made with real elegance, and, in true Herzogian fashion, he is able to take just about any subject he decides to look upon and deliver a potent message, in this case how technology impacts upon our lives. Not only that, it's his own unique twist on the overall scheme of things that makes a subject that in other hands could be a dreary, rather mundane work into something which is at the best of times awe-inspiring and devilishly entertaining.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - (Five Films) In A Nutshell, Vol.1

In A Nutshell is a new addition to the blog which I have done essentially to gather up clusters of movies I watch every now and again which I, frankly are films that don't require any reviewing of great substance. The films gathered here in this collection are Cyborg X, Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre, Bigfoot Vs. Zombies, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Code Of Honour, all of which I watched on a series of nightshifts. Enjoy (or not)!

Despite being a low-budget film, Cyborg X is a technically competent high-concept genre movie that works well enough within it's confines. It has a decent enough cast plus there is some good make-up, stunts and action scenes. Nothing that hasn't been done better before, but does what it says on the tin.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.1/10

Certainly piques one's interest as far as the title and concept coming straight from bizarro world. However, despite some outrageously amusing scenes, they are stretched far and between long sequences of basil-exposition nonsense. Torn between two worlds good and bad, it learns more towards the latter.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.6/10

I love low-budget exploitation cinema, but this is unfortunately one of those cases of the poster being better than the film. Sure it was probably shot on a shoestring, hence the technical limitations, but that still doesn't excuse not working around them (hide the negatives, accentuate the positives), the dreadful script and terribly hammy acting. Unlike Tommy Wiseau's The Room, a genuine phenomenon, most of those films aren't so bad they're good; they're just awful.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.8/10

With a budget estimated at $28 million, it's the film among this present crop with the highest production value. There are things to like about it, namely the design, the mise-en-scene and a strong cast at it's centre. However, for all of it's wealth of different things to draw upon, it is largely bereft of character, and indeed rather dull.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.5/10

I guess it's best till last, because for all the genre sensibilities of the others and Pride And Prejudice And Zombies' $28 million high-concept premise, I chose the $8 million Steven Seagal film as the best of the bunch. I know reception has been quite sniffy to it, but I have to say I somewhat enjoyed Code Of Honor. Sure, Seagal's nonsensical monologues on the nature of justice are almost laughable, but as an b-action flick it delivers and is a relatively enjoyable watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.6/10

Well, there you have it. Kind of a lazy article on my part, but I don't that there's really much to say of any significance on these films. Not only is it a case that none of these movies are of any significance themselves, but I don't think there's anything I myself could contribute that probably hasn't been said already. I spend a fair amount of my time watching disposable nonsense, and I've spent a lot of time in the past reviewing them. With my being busy with a number of my own creative projects now, this is a way for me to sort out the wheat from the chaff, as it were (Matthew 3:12, still got it! Once a believer...). If you are going to watch any out of this bunch, watch Code Of Honor and/or Cyborg X. Both are decent enough genre flicks from which you may derive enjoyment.

Be sure to look out for upcoming reviews of the likes of Werner Herzog's Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World, Blood Father, Doctor Strange, Takashi Miike's Yakuza Apocalypse, High-Rise, Arrival and Nic Winding Refn's The Neon Demon.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Fifty Shades Of Black

Directed by: Michael Tiddes

Produced by: Marlon Wayans
Rick Alvarez

Screenplay by: Marlon Wayans
Rick Alvarez

Starring: Marlon Wayans
Kali Hawk
Affion Crockett
Jane Seymour
Andrew Bachelor
Florence Henderson
Jenny Zigrino
Fred Willard
Mike Epps

Music by: Jim Dooley

Cinematography by: David Ortkiese

Editing by: Lawrence Jordan

Studio(s): IM Global
Baby Way Productions

Distributed by: Open Road Films

Release date(s): January 29, 2016 (United States)
March 11, 2016 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 92 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $5 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $22, 227, 514

Just as a quick preface of sorts, I'll just let you know that the size of my reviews in terms of x-number of words will vary now, depending on how much I feel needs to be said on a given film. I just think it would be good to mix up my old tried and tested format, make it more malleable to cater towards a fluid interpretation of a movie.

Today's movie up for review is Fifty Shades Of Black, a parody of the erotic literary/cinematic phenomenon Fifty Shades Of Grey (which, for sake of argument I have nothing to say about because I have neither read the book or seen the film) and the latest film developed by Marlon Wayans, who writes, stars and produces. It's directed by A Haunted House helmer Michael Tiddes (I can't unsee 'titties' when I look at that name), with Kali Hawk as Hannah Steale, a college student who considers herself unattractive, goes to interview the wealthy entrepreneur Christian Black (played by Wayans) for her roommate's school newspaper, and what do you know, she digs him, he digs her, only he's hiding a dark secret. Let's get down with it, shall we?

Now, just to clear off a couple of things, I thought Kali Hawk was decent in the lead role. Not good by any stretch, considering it's a nothing character and there's only so much an actor can do with such poor material, but she's charming, relatable and engaging. Perhaps in the future there are better things out there for her. Secondly, at ninety-two minutes it does us a small mercy of not dragging things out too long. Finally, I do have to admit that I did laugh once. Something in the film did make me laugh once, it's just a shame I can't for the life of me remember what it was.

And that's it. Yep. That's it. I've seen a lot of bad movies over the years, and while it may not be on the lower side of grot, it is still a rubbish movie. As I mentioned, Kali Hawk had a nothing character, and the same can be said for just about everyone. At most, they are two-dimension stock cardboard cutouts, tired and redundant cliches. Oh, look, there's the man-hating woman who always moans about "men...", etc, etc. As such, not a single one of the actors are able to perform and deliver any work of significance. Notwithstanding that, the gags are horrible and cringeworthy. Interspersed between 'topical' pop-culture references that allude to the likes of Kim Kardashian's 'Break The Internet' photoshoot (what has the world come to when people like that are considered part of cultural landscape?), we have dialogue that highlights the forced humour. I'm a fan of the old ZAZ-films such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun that are influences on the likes of this, but the fact is is that you don't have to try a shove a gag into every single line, especially when they aren't up to scratch and stick in your ears like a screwdriver being slowly twisted in the orifice. As I write, I'm listening to a mix of Ian Dury's work, a man who a trailblazing wordsmith who was able to make the most magnificent poetry out of outrageousness and absurdity. You've got Dury, and then drek like this film, and Fifty Shades Of Black doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. Even the attempts at gross-out/absurdist humour that act almost as spots, the big moments they want to be as belly-busters fail to do their job, drawing out past the point of welcome. It's like somebody is whispering in my ear "you know it's funny, right? This is the part you're meant to laugh at. C'mon, buddy, do it. Just laugh. Laugh, you grumpy old sod." Nope. Perhaps the worst thing about the film is that while trying to do an absurd, gross-out parody film, they're also attempting to make a legitimate statement on the recent debate of lack of proportionate racial-representation in major Hollywood films. So, in case you didn't get it, the film's called Fifty Shades Of Black, the main character is Christian Black, he's played by a black actor, and runs a business called Black Enterprises, and so there's all manner of these sort of references smattered throughout the film in visual/sight gags and the dialogue. So, that's is where we've got to, eh? In the late-eighties, you had African-American hip-hop groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy stirring the pot and challenging through their music the racial tension prevalent at the time, and young filmmakers were quick to follow. Spike Lee, John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers respectively made iconic 'hood' films Do The Right Thing, Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society, socially relevant dramas which addressed racism directly and what it meant to be young and black during that time in the United States. Now, we've got bollocks like this, which while being well-meaning, maybe, loses any relevance or pertinence to the message that it's trying to send through the dreadful writing and poor gags. It's not even a technically competent film. From a design standpoint, the film looks rather ugly, which the DP does nothing to attempt to work around, the music interjects itself on the viewer way too much, and it is full of that Editing 101 nonsense that sees us cutting back and forth between the characters in the middle of the dialogue, so as to reflect and maintain the pace of the snappy dialogue, which by this stage it is doubtless that we find fucking riveting.

I call bullshit. I have nothing else to say about this film. Yep. Seriously. I just want to be done with this one and get it out of my system. Oh, look, there it is. It's going, going, going... gone.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Flying (Bryan)