Killers


Viewed – 02 September 2014  Blu-ray

Ok, I’ll admit I like shock-cinema foreign thrillers such as Old Boy & I Saw The Devil, not just because they are usually very violent with often taboo subject-matter, but also because they’re usually directed with no end of skill and style.  This is no exception.  A serial killer is going about picking up prostitutes, then torturing and killing them, whilst filming them on camera.  He then uploads the footage to an internet website where it attracts the attention of a lonely, troubled reporter whose career and marriage have both failed.  When the reporter is mugged one night, his interest in the videos takes over and he films the two men he murders in self-defence, and proceeds to upload the footage onto the website.  This then sparks the interest of the serial killer, who starts to goad the reporter into doing further killings.

Killers

Directed by The Mo Brothers, this unflinching character study may not be pleasant viewing, and involves some pretty graphic scenes (the attack on the pimp for example) but excels at showing two complex personalities, delivered with powerful performances from the leads.  The serial killer’s inner demons surrounding the death of his sister, his inability to comfortably date the nice girl from the florists … and the reporter’s struggle to bond with his own daughter whilst hoping to reconcile his relationship with his ex … are both very well observed.  This was also a clever commentary on modern society’s obsession with documenting and filming even the horriblest of situations (who can forget how many filmed the World Trade Centre attacks?).  Also at times how we saw something from the killer’s point of view, only for it to have subtle differences when seen through someone else’s eyes was very clever.

Deviations into English language were a bit odd (the two guys seem to resort to English when speaking via webcam), and supporting characters are under-developed.  It may also explore a well-worn subject … but offered up a fresh perspective and some genuine surprises.  Not for everyone, but fans of hard-hitting thrillers with plenty to leave you thinking – this is one to check out.

Verdict:  4 /5

My Alton Towers experience


Yesterday I went to the popular theme park ‘Alton Towers’, located near Staffordshire, England.  It’s a famous and much acclaimed theme park specialising in a wide range of attractions, most notably rather extreme roller coasters.  During my time there I went on four different rides, of which I’ll detail my experience below.  In short, it was quite something … I don’t know whether the feeling was enjoyment or pure terror…for a couple of them, the latter.  I’m pretty sure at this stage I won’t be returning as the physical and psychological after-effects were pretty traumatic.  You see, I haven’t really been on many rollercoasters in my lifetime, short of ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach’ when I was a lot younger (around 12 or 13).  My memories of that time are clouded, but I remember the Avalanche I loved and went on several times (it’s sort of a bob-sleigh ride for two people) but one rollercoaster that had two loops that you went through, and then came backwards through again, was quite tough to experience with my dad.  Suffice to say I didn’t go on it a second time.

Now back to the rides I did experience at Alton Towers.

Oblivion

This at first seems like a conventional ride, you are strapped into your seats (a row of eight) and journey up the roller-coaster until you reach the top…then you dangle (literally) over the edge for a second or two, before being plummeted down a sheer sixty foot drop…into a black hole.  The experience…wow… it was extreme…g-force pushing you back in your seat as you hold on and grimace for it to be over…it’s very scary, but over quickly…the only saving grace of such rides.  It’s certainly one for the books I can tell you and very difficult to explain in words.

Nemesis

Next up was a ride that involves you strapped into a chair as usual but your legs are dangling free and you are whizzed around the rollercoaster with your feet dangling…it’s pretty mad.  The ride itself is full of some pretty violent twists and loops and once I came off it I felt like all my limbs had come loose.  Not as utterly scary as Oblivion, but a real body-shake I can tell you.

Air

Probably the only one I really liked.  It’s another mad idea, you are in a chair, but this time your legs are strapped in also, then the chair lifts up so you are hanging upside down, with the ground below you … and then the ride starts and you feel like you are flying.  It’s a fast ride but the rush is better, and the twists not quite as extreme bar some loops towards the end that made me feel sick.  Probably the only ride I would be tempted to experience again.

Rita

Nicknamed the queen of speed … imagine Oblivion but with that immense drop, the speed of it, vertical sort of like being fired out of a gun at 200 mph (possibly)… the ride itself is probably the fastest on the whole park, and the twists, although you never loop or go upside down, are pretty wild.  At the end of this ride my head was pulsing and I had wrenched a muscle in my neck.  It sort of put me off going on any more.

I think the issue I had, is that during the rides, my body would tense up to a major level, I’d lean forward involuntarily, and all my muscles would just tighten.  It maybe is related to my neck and back issues (I have a medical diagnosis of Cervical Lordosis with narrowing of disk spaces on my spine…).  So in hindsight maybe such roller-coaster fun isn’t that advisable for me.  I’m ok though and not really feeling too bad now, a day later.

It remains one of the wildest experiences of my life thus far.

Note: all videos are copyright of their respective owners on Youtube.com and I do not claim any ownership… I was too busy crapping myself!

Lucy


Viewed – 26 August 2014  Cinema

I went into this a little bit apprehensive.  For a long time now it seems I have waited for director Luc Besson to wow me again, at least on a par with his sci-fi opus The Fifth Element, even if I wasn’t quite expecting something as genre defining as Leon.  This director who in recent memory has stuck to producing and writing credits, has failed to really get his mojo back.  The trailer to this latest offering however held promise.  It had current hot property Scarlett Johansson in it, and had all the high concept cool I had grown to love about Besson’s work.

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Johansson plays Lucy, a seemingly ordinary girl with a few suspect friends, staying in Taiwan who gets unwittingly involved with a group of gangsters, headed by Old Boy star Choi Min-sik.  Before she realises what’s going on, she’s drugged and wakes up in a hotel room, quickly discovering a bandage around her mid section, and is informed she will be a human courier for an experimental drug that has been concealed inside of her(!).  However shit goes down as it normally does and soon Lucy is feeling the affects of this drug that begins to open her brain to greater than normal ability, gifting her with various super-human powers like telekinesis and the ability to transform her hair colour … to start with.

This is flashy, stylish and very much a fun ride for Johansson and it’s clear Besson loves the concept.  Johansson captures vulnerability, bad-ass toughness and out of control mania with ease, whilst delivering some very cool action ‘beats’ along the way.  Morgan Freeman is also on hand as a scientist, but doesn’t really do much out of type for him.  Stand-out moments involve a great car ride (I won’t say ‘chase’) and some trippy special effects (Lucy seeking out a telephone call by weaving her hand through the various phone signals), and that bit in the airplane toilet … wow.  However this was also a concept begging for restraint, needing the breaks applied now and then (I really wanted more of Lucy kicking ass) but Besson instead applied the accelerator and in the closing moments – it got pretty insane.  Choi Min-sik in his first American movie may lack any English dialogue but still had presence to spare … with a great entrance suitable to his legacy. 

This was very enjoyable despite shortcomings (why was Lucy chained up in that cell?), so for Scarlett Johansson fans and anyone after something a bit different – I say check this out.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Raid 2


Viewed – 21 August 2014  Blu-ray

The first Raid movie was an eye-opener of an action-flick.  A raw, uncompromising and unflinching martial arts explosion in a very claustrophobic setting.  Impeccably choreographed and made a name for it’s star Iko Uwais, as well as director Gareth Evans – a Welshman, believe it or not.  This follow-up has rookie cop Rama being persuaded to go undercover against the mob organisation he roughed up (to put it mildly) in the first movie.  Soon he’s befriending the son of a local kingpin, whilst everyone begins to double cross one another, with Rama struggling to stay alive and not get his cover blown.

The-Raid-2

The story is over-complicated and takes a bit of time to get going, but is filled with some interesting characters, especially the conflicted, power-hungry Uco (Arifin Putra).  But we’re not here for deep and meaningful characterisation, despite the scripts best efforts – we’re here for the action … and what can I say?  This is filled with some of the most violent and bone-crunching fights I have ever seen … big brawls featuring hammers to the jugular, baseball bats embedded in faces and goons being thrown, having their legs snapped and faces smashed left right and centre.  It’s very fast, and superbly filmed, edited and choreographed.  Gareth Evans certainly knows how to bleed every ounce of intensity and impact from every punch, kick and stabbing – and it’s pretty incredible.  Add to this stand-out sequences involving a duel hammer wielding girl on a subway train, and a brilliantly fast and brutal car chase – and this almost had it all.

The reliance on a twisting plot takes some of the energy away that the first movie had in spades, and every time it stopped to explain something or for more developments, I was just itching for the next confrontation.  Perhaps in it’s native language and with a lot of subtitles, I missed some of the finer details, which can happen … so I’ll let it off for the most part.  However as a full-on example of martial arts and well, action cinema without any boundaries (or subtlety) this once again nails it.  A great sequel.

Verdict:  4 /5