Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The City of Lost Children (1995)

From the makers of Amelie comes...a movie that isn't Alien Resurrection! Thank God! Everyone can have their down moments, that's for sure!...

In an odd harbour city, a simpleminded strongman named One is looking for his kidnapped brother Grub. He soon comes across the old in-all-but-age little girl Crumb, a thief who takes pity on One and decides to aid him in his quest. They come across a whole host of weird people, from Crumb's vengeful conjoined bosses, a deranged cult of technologically enhanced whackjobs, and a near-invalid circus manager who wields mind control fleas. Meanwhile, a demented scientist named Kranck is living on a rig in the sea with four clones, a midget wife, and a talking brain in a water bowl. It's here where he conducts dual experiments on both himself and children, as he tries to steal their dreams and make himself young again...

City of Lost Children is a mixed movie. It's got some positive qualities, but overall, it's not great. Taking place in a surreal world, the film has a dreamlike tone that just barely saves the movie, by acting as an excuse for its myriad flaws such as the overabundance on dumb coincidences to further the plot, or important elements being introduced, then never seen again. One could argue that this is because such things happen in dreams, and the film is just being clever and stylish. However, just because dreams are like that, doesn't mean I like my bloody movies to be too! I actually want to see a film with a plot that isn't badly contrived!

The plot to the movie is weak in so many ways. First there are the above mentioned reasons, and then there's the Octopus thief gang storyline. They really didn't need to be in the movie, and their presence only distracts from the story the majority of film should be following, but otherwise isn't.

Speaking of that part of the film, there's one big plot hole. Why doesn't Kranck just hire a family for his experiment? It seems perfectly safe, and by hiring their services, he 1, wouldn't scare the children, so he could nail the experiment in one go, and 2, won't get in trouble with the law by kidnapping dozens of children, bringing massive unwanted attention his way. What's also infuriating is the the film isn't very clear on the fact that Kranck is rapidly aging because of his genetically-screwed condition, mainly due to the lack of aging effects on Daniel Emilfork's face. Because of this, we don't really understand much about the motivations of the film's antagonist!

Ok, onto the positives with the story now. While the start is a bit confusing, the world to City of Lost Children is established very well, the character motivations are clearly defined, for the most part, and the surreal atmosphere is quite successful, and never too in-your-face. There are also some really good scenes, such as the climactic dream. The direction in this movie is great, as you can imagine from a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film.

The characters in City of Lost Children are another weak link. The leads are proactive, but rarely successful. They're constantly needing to be rescued by others, never escape danged through their own actions, and One doesn't even contribute much in the climax! He harmlessly tosses a couple of the clones down a chute, then falls down a trapdoor, staying conked out on some railing for almost the remainder of the movie.

Irvin, the talking brain in a green fishbowl, is interesting, but his motivations are annoyingly unexplored. The original clone is a pretty decent character, but I don't like what happens with his character at the very end.

The biggest character issue with this film is that we barely see One's brother, so their relationship isn't fleshed out at all. Also, this kid's actions at numerous moments will leave you annoyed that you'll want the little brat dead! I mean, come on, you stupid kid, this base is about to EXPLODE in an orgy of fire! Can you forget about your stomach for one fucking second?! Goddamn children! Especially annoying is that this glutton is what closes out the film! Say, did you want the last frame of the movie be of a grubby kid burping in your face? No? Well too bad.

The acting is one of the good points about this movie. Some performances are more over-the-top, with mixed results, but overall, the acting is fine. Ron Perlman is good as the simpleminded One, while Judith Vittet is great as Crumb! Dominique Pinon is almost a bit annoying as the clones, but he does well, especially considering the amount of roles he has in the film! Daniel Emilfork looks as weird as he acts here, but he delivers a very good performance, even if he does overact with his face a lot. The actresses playing the Octopus twins are ok, while the remaining cast is decent.

The effects here are fantastic! The set design for this world is marvelous, and it looks wholly convincing! The aesthetic is also a sight to behold too, and it's a shame that it's not suppoerted all that well by the script. Unfortunately, the grand explosion at the end is mildly unconvincing CGI. The mind control fleas are damn good computer effects though, assuming that's what they are.

I'm not sure if I recommend The City of Lost Children. It has just as many bad qualities as it does positive. If it sounds at all interesting to you, then yeah, give it a watch. It'll at least pass the time well...

Body Melt (1994)

As an Australian, I love me some Aussie horror. While I absolutely despise my home country (because I like burning to death and/or losing all my worldly possessions as much as I like venomous snakes), it always fills me with pride seeing homegrown Aussie movies, especially of the horror variety! Unfortunately, the movie I'm talking about tonight, Body Melt, is not good, and it doesn't fill me with any positive feeling at all!...

An evil pharmaceutical company has picked out a street to send out some free samples to, which, unbeknownst to the denizens of Pebbles Court, are of a body altering drug that, due to a missing ingredient, slowly degrades the human body, causing horrific hallucinations, nightmarish contusions, and eventual gory death. It doesn't take long for the street to become a macabre testing ground as people die left right and centre, from killer placentas, mucus concussions, and ribcage explosions...

Body Melt is a dreadful piece of crap! It's a really annoying movie on multiple grounds. It has no substantial plot, and is more of a sequence of somewhat gory events. There's no cure for the drug, so everyone in Pebbles Court is already DOA, stripping the movie of any tension. We already know what's gonna happen, and it's boring watching a film with no surprises. If only the deaths had been the side-story, with a main plot following the police, then it might've had a chance of working.

The movie starts off seemingly as a surreal corporate espionage tale, but after the fifteen minute mark, it's suddenly mixed in with an out-of-nowhere plot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, only stupider! Even I can't believe I just said that! These parts of the movie are intolerable! They're incredibly annoying, ugly, and completely distract from the film we were up until now watching! These parts add up to nearly half an hour of an 80 minute film, and have nothing to do with the rest of the movie! They're only connected by the tiniest of threads, and even that's negligible! What's even worse is that these scenes lead to nothing! After a certain point, the hick family just drop out of the movie for no reason, never to be seen again.

The whole movie is one big plot hole. Why is this pharmaceutical company making killer drugs which not only blow up random people, but also themselves? Why are they using a street as a testing ground instead of kidnapping people off the street and sticking them in a cell? It's no more illegal than what they're already doing. Why aren't they doing safer trials instead of all these illegal and idiotic plans?! Worst of all is the nonsensical 'shock' ending!

Body Melt is frequently touted as a satire, but I didn't catch any. It seems like this film's only message is "Man, the pharmaceutical industry, am I right?!" without bothering to actually make an effort to satirize much of anything. Just showing death scenes thanks to a dangerous drug isn't some masterclass satire, but it rather just empty, dull, and boring!

Despite having no plot to speak of, Body Melt doesn't do its characters any justice. There's a cast of well over a dozen, and they're all wasted to an insane degree! They're either killed off quickly, underused, really annoying and overused, or just plain unexplored.

The effects in this movie are decent. The inbred hick family are unappealing, with so-so make-up, while the gore is pretty decent, albeit dumb, for the most part, and fake in others. But you know what's a 'bit' of a downfall? NO-ONE MELTS IN THIS MOVIE!

The techno score in Body Melt starts off pretty neat and quirky, even resembling the Blake Stone games, but after a while, it starts getting either dull and unremarkable, or mildly annoying.

The acting in this film is also unremarkable. It's ok, but there's nothing special, and the actors playing the hick family are really bad.

Body Melt's high spot is definitely that it includes Harold from Neighbours!...NO I DON"T WATCH NEIGHBOURS! To clarify, Ian Smith is pretty much the only likeable presence in the miserable-as-per-usual Aussie soap opera Neighbours. If you've never heard of it, well it's like Home and Away, but shitter. Seeing a likeable soap opera regular who you've seen on TV for decades playing a diabolical and deranged mad scientist is super neat! Unfortunately he's really wasted, and he's giving his all for a shitty movie, but he still turns in a very good performance. If only he did in a much better horror-comedy.

One last thing to note, just so my Aussie readers will know, Body Melt has quite the cast, with people like Andrew Daddo, Lisa McCune, Gerard Kennedy, one unmentionable (a total dick) and a few other Neighbours actors, apparently. They could actually be the ones I already mentioned for all I know, but I really don't care about Neighbours any more than I have to.

Body Melt is a bad movie! It's short, but not sweet, and I recommend you steer clear from it unless you want to be pissed of something fierce! This movie annoys me so much, and if I NEVER see it again, that will be entirely too soon!...

Maximum Choppage (2015-)

As an Australian, I am deeply sorry to the world for comedian Lawrence Leung. I gave his first show from 2009, Lawrence Leung's Choose Your Own Adventure, a chance. I really did. I watched every episode in the hope that it'd become good, but it just didn't happen. The show wasn't terrible, but it was balanced squarely in the realm of simply not funny. Not unfunny, but rather anti-funny. It was trying to be, but none of the humour really seemed to get off the ground, and Leung came across as an ineffective host, but ultimately harmless. Flashforward to 2015, and Leung has started a new show, stupidly titled Maximum Choppage. What do I think of his latest effort? Well, to put it this way, sometimes I feel bad for giving content creators more chances than they deserve!...

Simon Chan was born and bred in Cabramatta, Sydney, but for the last few years, he's been seemingly studying Kung Fu in China, training to hone his body into the perfect weapon to defend the streets of Cabramatta with, and upon his homecoming, he's deemed the protector of old Market Street. However, his friends Petal and Egg find out that not only does Simon not know a single karate move, but he's really been in Melbourne this whole time, studying at art college. Unlike Simon's martial arts prowess, the gangs in Cabramatta are very much real, and Simon must think creatively if he's to defeat them, as well as keep his secret, and all the while, the conniving mayor has his eyes set on tearing down Market Street and replacing it with a high rise carpark...

Maximum Choppage was not a show I was looking forward to, and the ads had me convinced it was no good, but since I figured that'd mean this would make for a good review, and I generally decided to be cautiously optimistic, I decided to watch it, and at first, I was pleasantly surprised! Maximum Choppage was a mildly amusing show for its first four episodes, and while more than a few jokes missed the mark, I was filled with optimism and positivity!...And then I saw the last two episodes! They are not good!

Let's discuss this show's humour. The jokes that work are pretty funny, and certainly help give the show a bit of an identity. Unfortunately, there's also plenty of really lame humour, from either unfunny jokes, to tired and cliched ones. What's especially unfunny is how the series compares being a martial artist to heterosexuality, and being a painter to being gay. It's a running joke, and seeing people treat being an artist like a rabid homophobe would someone gay is nonsensical, and it leads to a depressingly and distressingly unfunny scene in the final episode. What's worse is that nothing comes of this joke in the end, as Simon never learns to embrace his role as an artist and tell everyone on Market Street the truth, so the moral of the series is just fucked up! 'Hey kids, are you gay? Well in that case, don't ever tell your family and friends, because they will despise you. Instead, why don't you divert attention from your own homosexuality by persecuting others like you'. Jesus fucking Christ, that is genuinely Maximum Choppage's message by the end!

The stories in this show are mixed. Some are good, providing entertainment, but others are just stupid, and some don't even have much fighting in them! The last two episodes though are just all round poorly written, with idiotic plots, and badly written character decisions, among other problems! Another issue is a plot hole that pervades the entire series, and is never explained-Why isn't Petal Cabramatta's protector instead of Simon? She actually knows kung fu, and is a master with it. She's been in Cabramatta this whole time rather than abroad, and is more than willing to throw down, so why hasn't she already dealt with the gang situation?

The pacing in Maximum Choppage is good, and while it's a pretty annoying sit some of the time, it's not entirely thumbscrews. As for the final two episodes however, forget everything I just said. Those suckers are damn interminable!

A big problem hanging over Maximum Choppage is something far more problematic than it simply not being funny. No, what's really bad about it is how not only does it trivialize gang violence, but it's also treats extreme violence as a genuine answer to everything, as well as saying that gangs are fine in the end, and a fixture of any neighbourhood that should be accepted, because 'they're good boys, deep down'. What's the problem with this, you may ask? Well Cabramatta hasn't been the 'rosiest of places', due to an extremely violent history of bloody gang violence, drug dealing, assassinations, you name it. As you can imagine, this makes the show all kinds of awkward! If you took out that latter point of violence being the answer, perhaps the former could be made to work, depending on either the writing, context, or amount of time created after said events, but here, none of those factors are competently helmed enough to help the series move beyond this issue.

The characters in Maximum Choppage are annoyingly static. It's like their characters are stuck on the first episode, as they're never advanced. They stay immobile, regardless of how much that affects the show, and whatever semblances of character arcs they get are just dropped without comment. Also annoying is the out of nowhere romance subplot with Petal and Simon, who previously showed no chemistry before the last two episodes at all. And to think I actually admired the show for portraying a male and female as just friends, and not just using Petal as a cheap excuse for a love interest. Just goes to show that I should be more cynical about these things.

Lawrence Leung is a decent lead, and a capable actor. He's better here than in his previous shows because there he was playing himself, so when he was being a weak and awkward presenter, that was actually him, but here, he's playing a character, so he comes off better this time. His sense of comedy, however, is still akin to some college graduate who quickly leafed over an outdated How To book on comedy (a comparison quite a few critics have levied against Leung, which describes him perfectly). The rest of the acting in this show is sometimes decent, while other performances are pretty annoying.

By far the best member of Maximum Choppage's cast is Stephanie Son. She's a great actress, and both badass, and very funny! If only she was the star, and not Lawrence Leung! I'm willing to bet she's a better writer, too!

The locale of this show is decent, but the effects, which are used more often than you'd expect, aren't very good. Some are decent, and none are bad, but nothing is overly impressive. As for the opening credits, they're an eyesore, and will give you a seizure if you have epilepsy.

My original assumption was that this show looked bad, especially given my expectations of the lead/creator, but despite that, I gave Maximum Choppage a chance, and what I got wasn't just a weak comedy, but also a deeply problematic show on more than one level! I'm done giving Lawrence Leung chances!...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Not This Time Nayland Smith's Fourth Year Anniversary

Man, it just wouldn't be a Not This Time, Nayland Smith anniversary without me forgetting again, would it! Thankfully this time I was only off by three days again, unlike that one time where I think it took me a fortnight before I remembered.

It's always been a fun ride blogging, and I've made many online pals over the years, which is probably the best thing to come out of my reviewing efforts. I have no plans in the future of stopping, but there will be a couple of bare months in April and May, as I'll be on holiday in Europe. I'll try and post pre-written reviews if I can, but I'm not sure.

Another thing I've been planning is a schedule, where I'll do reviews two days of every week, giving me a light and orderly workload that will still amount to over a hundred reviews a year. I'm not sure if I'll get around to actually going through with that any time soon though. Maybe I will when I (possibly most likely) move to Canada in a couple of years.

Well that's enough out of me. I've got to get back to writing my stories, which at this stage is some pretty surreal stuff. As always, thanks everyone for reading, and watch Grease 2 if you can!...