Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Deadpool, with its healing factor lead and adult-ish certificate, reads like a golden opportunity for one lucky special effects make-up house to go absolutely crazy. Picture it: teams of people spending their way through Rupert Murdoch's fortune with the express purpose of manufacturing dozens of lifecast Ryan Reynoldses in various states of shredded disrepair. Sadly, despite having created The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's savage opener (incidentally the best James Bond credit sequence since Maurice Binder passed away), director Tim Miller's ambitions lie elsewhere.

Oily, fucking machinery be damned, there are dick jokes to crack! Body horror, like everything else in Deadpool, isn't an idea to be plucked apart and reexamined on a blockbuster stage, it's an easily digestible punchline. A jabbing, weightless signpost to be recognised on the way to yet another Seth MacFarlane style gag. Deadpool is nothing but a series of listless, desperate sketches. The film pitches itself as Alfie for the superhero cycle but we're never given access to anything that has the potential to be emotionally consistent, never mind devastating. There's no sense of contradiction in Wade's incessant fourth-wall shattering either so, unfortunately, rather than something poppy and exciting, we end up with an X-Men spin-off that plays like an unending Hannibal-King-in-Blade: Trinity supercut.

Ryo Hazkui by Giannis Milonogiannis

Sunday, 18 September 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

The X-Men series hails from a different time, when superhero movies were a rarity rather than the entire tent-pole landscape. The films have grown and adapted to the ubiquity of their genre, but their tone remains rooted in a sensibility that values something other than anodyne merchandising. Bryan Singer has steered enough successful instalments that the director gets to really knuckle down on his interests, which largely seems to be the domination and penetration of hard, gleaming bodies as well as the deification of pouting youths.

X-Men: Apocalypse's story is scant, full of recycled character beats churning through remixed situations. The 1980s setting is little more than a visual affectation, an opportunity to put Olivia Munn in Chanel-ish metallic wools and Tye Sheridan in polo shirts and mall leathers. Mutants who made their bones in X-Men: First Class are still youthful, unblemished realisations of their comic book counterparts, ageless archetypes to be jammed into whichever era offers the greater pop impact.

Once again Michael Fassbender's Magneto has a reason to disconnect with humanity thrust upon him. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg acknowledges this routine development by having Mags scream at the sky, pleading with a God who doesn't answer. Why him? Is poor Erik Lehnsherr doomed to be a monster? This chaotic, cosmic idea of preordained events would seem to have textual purchase in Oscar Isaac's Egyptian ubermensch Apocalypse, unfortunately that character barely progresses beyond a credible target for teenage expulsions.

Instead it's left to Singer himself to orchestrate the annihilation, the director gamely complying with a comprehensive display of decapitations, impalements, umpteen eviscerations and even a couple of outright obliterations. The casualness of X-Men: Apocalypse's cruelty even finds expression in how these superbeings interact with the world around them. It's a given that this cataclysmic minority see themselves as something distinct from the hoi polloi. If you're in the gang it doesn't matter how many civilians you murder or which cities you reduce to all-purpose rubble, you'll always be welcome back at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

X-Men: Apocalypse then is the first film in the series in which adult perspectives feel superfluous. The power of life and mega-death is explicitly claimed by children who are defined by their isolation and eagerness to please. By remaking the same basic young adult actioner over and over again, Singer has arrived at a film that careens back-and-forth between the tree house morality of Saban's Power Rangers and the kind of deranged, body-warping violence you'd expect from an OAV based on a Toshio Maeda manga.

Seekers by Justin Masaru

Myrone - Angle of Attack

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Naofumi Hataya - Character Select / Death Adder 2

Blair Witch

Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick's The Blair Witch Project was designed as a document, ideally discovered as a dupe cassette, then experienced without knowledge of its artifice. This was filmed testimony, a narrative found and solemnly assembled out of hours and hours of hysterical footage; supernatural snuff working in concert with a dead actor PR campaign on loan from Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust. For their pass at the material, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard account for the deluge of shaky cam films that have followed, taking the same basic misadventure premise then beating in a succession of fun house zaps.

Rather than replay the original's short days, long nights structure, Barrett and Wingard transport their characters to a timeless, hostile environment that aggressively distends the situational horror. So instead of methodically building dread, Blair Witch jettisons reality, positing a more overtly supernatural enemy that now has complete dominion over every aspect of her space. The central threat is no longer an invisible prankster, she's the land itself. Thanks to Wes Robinson's vlogger, we pick up a few scraps of trivia regarding The Witch's torturous passing, and a further insinuation that she bled deep into the Earth and took hold of it. Wingard's take may lack the original's loping intensity but his film's booming sound design and harsh, corrupted cutting envelops the audience in a series of jolts that'd have William Castle grinning.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Suicide Squad

DC's Nu-Metal cover of Guardians of the Galaxy loves introductions. The film is so obsessed with the power of inauguration it keeps doing it over and over again, even when it's clear the audience is fully and firmly aware of who everybody is supposed to be. Despite some incessant jukeboxing, not to mention some strongly worded notes from Will Smith and his representation, Suicide Squad's first lead-in is its most dynamic. Director David Ayer's grubby fingers are all over a leering little sequence centred around Ike Barinholtz's spiteful interactions with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and the rest of the feature criminals.

For a few brief sketches, Suicide Squad manages to dredge up a whiff of the poisonous hysterics felt in Natural Born Killers. As in Oliver Stone's film, we see revolting, predatory men using the power conferred to them by lawful institutions to pray on the imprisoned and indentured. It's a decent, if sour opening gambit for a film that pretends it's kin to The Dirty Dozen when it's really just a live-action interpretation of the desire to collect shiny, lacquered knives in violent video games. It seems like we're being asked to root for powerful, individualistic victims while they're being poked and prodded by arrogant cops who think they're untouchable. Comeuppance should be in the mail.

These ideas are t-boned by another prologue, apparently from a completely different version of the film, in which the mission is introduced rolling and centred around the destructive relationship between Cara Delevinge's possessed backpacker and Joel Kinnaman's bland all-Ameican hero. This situation room draft may lead into an altogether less lively Suicide Squad but it does do one thing right, it gives Viola Davis' Amanda Waller, the film's most dangerous, contradictory character, a little more room to actively dominate her peers. As it turns out, Waller is the one genuinely chaotic element in a film that even manages to make unfathomable prehistoric magic seem completely routine.

Waller is capricious and terrifyingly unpredictable in a way that Jared Leto's pass at the Joker never is. He's diminished both by his ineffectual screen time and the filmmaker's (marketing department's?) peculiar choice to focus on the kind of character traits that psychopaths might deem romantic. The actor's contribution registers as fussy, overly concerned with his Martin-Shkreli-does-trap styling and a pathetic desire to treat Harley like his favourite toy. Everything about the portrayal comes across as small and self-obsessed, a rich phoney playing at being a supervillain rather than the real thing. Waller meanwhile, free of suffocating brand expectation, is allowed to be in the shit, executing colleagues the second she decides she doesn't need them. In terms of the kind of cold-blooded machinations you should hang a franchise on, it ain't even close.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sylvester Stallone in the 1980s - Lock Up

A handsome but routine amble around the prison yard. Lock Up sees Sylvester Stallone's Frank Leone dragged away from a minimally secure, weekend release haven and dumped into Gateway Prison, a mud streaked correctional facility built out of equal parts rust and tetanus. Frank's unforgivable crime? He really upset Donald Sutherland's needy Warden Drumgoole by escaping from one of Drumgoole's previous postings, thus torpedoing the brush cut WASP's career.

In its early moments Lock Up sets the stage for some sustained antagonism with Drumgoole pushing Leone to his physical and mental limits in an environment that resembles a Soviet labour camp. Rolling Thunder director John Flynn complies with this conceit, amping up the unpredictability factor by crowding his frames with genuine, weathered prison faces and real-life nutter Sonny Landham. This pressure cooker plotting quickly falls apart though, and soon enough we're stuck watching a basic incarceration narrative unspool.

Despite its adult rating, Lock Up only really proposes danger. We spend far too much time in chummy environments watching healthy, well-fed actors spitballing their idea of prison camaraderie. Stallone should be an albatross around his friend's necks but, unfortunately, most of his best buds make it into the final act relatively unscathed. Likewise, a final, suicidal confrontation between Leone and Drumgoole suggests both a glorious immolation and an opportunity for Stallone to do some death-by-cop acting. Of course, the One Noble Guard comes to the rescue, ending the film on a back-patting love-in instead.