Thursday, July 27, 2023

Aaahh Belinda (2023)

Turkish remakes of foreign movies, whether official or not, are pretty commonplace, but not so much of their own. One would hope these films and actors are considered too untouchable to try and match. With this in mind, I was surprised to see a new version of Aahhh Belinda of all things! The original was a magical realist film about feminism and household roles, directed by auteur Atıf Yılmaz. How will this be updated for the modern day?...

Dilara is a stuck-up actress coasting through life. When offered a new gig as a housewife in a shampoo commercial, she is skeptical, but the director guides her through the role of Handan, insisting she not just play the role, but to be it-Be Handan. The moment Dilara opens her eyes, she finds the crew disappeared, the cameras and lights gone. She's in a real apartment, with the actors now living their roles and believing her to be Handan. After running around her old haunts, she realises the whole world has changed, and no-one recognises Dilara anymore. What is happening, and can she find a way back to the real world? Or will she have to get used to a new one?...

1986s Aahhh Belinda is a pretty good film, but not without flaws. With that in mind I could totally see it as worthy of a remake! It's still probably too recent for the 'honour', but a new version could tackle the idea, and maybe explore certain things the original didn't, or do some things better. Does 2023s effort succeed? God no! Bloody hell, I usually like modern Turkish films, but this was a pretty rough one.

Aahhh Belinda 2023 (or Oh Belinda as it's sometimes called in English, because Ah was untranslatable Turkish gobbledygook apparently) starts off with a pretty neat song-and-dance number, and quickly introduces us to our lead character. As the key to the story and development, her personality is integral. So what is she like?...She's a bitch!

Our heroine shows herself to be a rude, angry, and jaded lady, who bitches about everything. You could say this is intentional for her character growth, but she acts like this for the whole film, and never changes. Instead of being subtle, the film spells things out for us. It's not enough that she isn't the fondest of children, here she's gotta yell in the streets about how much she hates them (although this does admittedly lead to a great comeback by the mother).

This actually had me worried about the film's themes. Is this made by a chauvinist who's trying to show why feminists/outspoken women are all vapid bitches, and all they need is to be reminded of their place by a firm husband? How wild would it be if the modern version of this tale was more sexist than the original! Thankfully this doesn't turn out to be the case. In fact there were very little feminist themes to be picked up on at all.

I'm not sure if the themes of the original even transplant well to the modern era. I know Turkey is still a bit behind when it comes to gender politics, but they've had 40 years of modern women since the times of subservient housewives. If Dilara is transported to an 80s world I suppose it could make sense, but nope, this shampoo commercial world has flatscreen TV's and ipads.

The story here isn't the greatest, but it's not awful for the most part, and gets the job done. The pacing can be a bit slow, and a lot more happened in the original by certain points. The film does eventually settle down a bit, and has some good scenes. The mystery does intrigue, even if there are never answers (which works since it never promises any).

Dilara is a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. Besides the aforementioned qualities, she swears like a  fucking sailor, which fucking gets old fucking fast. Swearing can be an artform if done right. But without that care it just feels mindless, like a kid who's just learned to curse and won't stop, to show how 'cool' they are. Dilara also comes off as slutty. Not because she's having sex. Nothing wrong with that, and the lead in the original did too. But it's how she does it that feels offputting, like a grotty stripper shoving her ass in your face.

She is trapped in the role of Handan, a boring repressed housewife. Everything the outspoken, brash, and contrarian Dilara hates. Yet confusingly, before Dilara took over, Handan was having an affair, with a kinky Dominatrix side, and stole hundreds of thousands of dolla...lira! She doesn't really sound like a submissive figure.

Despite being in this new role  Dilara doesn't really do anything housewifey. Her husband is a meek guy who she can walk all over. After ranting once too many about being from another world, Dilara is briefly committed. She tries acting for the doctors to prove her story, only to be quickly sedated (thank goodness!). Here she speaks with a crazy lady, in a scene I thought was meant to be funny at first, like Dilara mistakenly thinks this inmate spouting gibberish is an important sage. But it turned out this is meant seriously.

Once she's out she tries acting again, going to her old theatre under a pseudonym. She blags her way into a job, before being fired near the end. Not sure why, when they liked her acting anyway. All that matters is she can do the job, not if she's a bank clerk with two kids. This is acknowledged, but never answered. Not really sure what any of this subplot added. Also, it is odd how Dilara meets people from the real world in this commercial one, but that was in the original too, so I can't complain.

The husband is an alright character, if slightly pathetic and possessing a creepy Joker grin. The kids are ok but severely underused. We do get a bizarrely intense bedtime story from their granny, who presumably traumatises the little munchkins with a horror story about The Sack Man. This story was in the original film, but the remake goes way overboard with it. Maybe Turkish grandma's are just really serious about scaring kids straight!

At times Aaahh Belinda almost becomes a thriller, with Handan having helped steal a load of money, and is in trouble from an unseen gang. This feels unnecessary, like the producers thought the movie wasn't interesting enough and needed extra spice. It didn't, and we see so little of this subplot, with no resolution, that it was pointless anyway.

A hyper montage is all we get showing Dilara's growing comfort with her new role. It has some amusing moments, but that's pretty much it. Dilara never seems to have any real emotional acceptance with this world. Only an exchange with her husband, which just leads to sex. And then the only reason she's so happy is because she figures out where the cache of money is hidden. We have no tender moments like with her father in the original, nor anything with the kids. In the end, Dilara doesn't transport back because of acceptance, instead doing a weird rooftop dance. I applaud the use of dancing, plus the abstract idea, but what the heck's even going on?

With Dilara back in the real world, the film has an abrupt ending. I don't mind us into getting a long wrap-up showing how everyone's doing. But I do mind not seeing how these experiences have changed her. We get a disquieting ending, with no moment of triumph or happiness. I had no idea what to make of it. Also, why is the crew wrapping up so quickly and leaving their actress in the dark?

The acting here is alright at best. Some performers do good jobs, others not so much. But my biggest criticism for the leading lady herself. I found her performance to be pretty bad! She does ok in some places, but in others she's hysterical. And how unlikeable the character is also affects her performance.

The score to Aaahh Belinda is perhaps its most interesting quality, both in a good way and bad. It's an intriguing listen, with moody synth tunes and ambient tracks. It builds up quite an ominous vibe, of something not quite right. Trouble is, it really doesn't fit the vibe this movie should be going for! It's just supposed to be about feminine self discovery, and yet the music sounds right out of Hotline Miami. The original film's  TV jingle inspired soundtrack fit way better.

The direction here is well handled. The song and dance prologue is good, and there's a nice cab nightclub shot. I liked the ending shot with title, and how the men behind the original film are credited too. The lighting is cool, with a moody colour palette of neon orange and blue streetlight tinge. It's a little ill-fitting for this story, when compared to the original's more naturalistic lighting, but it looks neat all the same.

And lastly, the film gives us a fun anthropomorphic shampoo bottle costume, which I really appreciate. It's a nice connection with the old film.

Aaahh Belinda gets off to a rocky start, improves somewhat, then has a rocky final act. I think it does have its positives, but I didn't find it a particularly satisfying movie in its own right, and especially not as a remake. As always, stick with the original...

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ad Günü-Birthday (1977)

Ali is a father who's brooding about having fallen out of touch with several old friends. With his young son's birthday fast approaching, he decides the best way of showing the kid that his dad's still got it is to get the band back together, and host a big party. This may prove easier said than done on short notice. Meanwhile, another man has mixed success with a new lady friend. Can all their problems be solved before the day is out?...

My experience with the cinema of Azerbaijan consists of its glamorous classic musicals, and social dramas (depressing or otherwise). Ad Günü (Birthday) seemed to be a mix of both. But unlike others, it's set in the present day. I was looking forward to a modern Azeri song-and-dance picture!...Well it turns out this isn't a musical at all. Just popping that bubble for anyone else who seeks it out based on that. But it was still a pretty decent watch.

The plot is divided in two, with the lion's share being given to family man Ali. He's a bit of a misery guts and worrywart. Never happy unless he's miserable, and stressing himself into a frenzy. He's basically turning his son's birthday into an excuse to get all of his own friends together. But not for selfish reasons, but to show his son he's somebody, not a friendless loser.

I like that despite his maudlin attitude, and his somewhat too forward way of broaching the subject, Ali actually succeeds in his mission. The others all agree they've become too distant, and work is only so much of an excuse. So after an absence of years, they finally let their hair down and have a big dance together, and pledge to meet more often.

Mustafa's story is a bit odd in how unrelated it is to the rest of the film, but is nice enough. He's a likeable guy, if a bit overeager, and Farida is a withdrawn homely woman, but has a soft side to her. She's also very trusting to allow this strange man up to her apartment after only a day! She's believably frosty at first, but opens up well, and the pair share a nice rapport, getting to know each-other well.

Things end on a bit of a downer though, when Farida's brother sorta shows up, and despite saying everything's ok, she suddenly feels she should shoo Mustafa away. Nuts to your bro, lady, enjoy your date! We never see any proper resolution to this story, but I guess it's nice that not everything is wrapped up in a neat bow. It's also nice that there's no forced romance, just friendship. Maybe their relationship will develop further after the film's end, but it's not here for us to see.

The two stories intersect very nicely by the end, in a way that finally breaks the remaining gloom. It's a good note to end the film on. Overall the plot here isn't anything grand, but it succeeds in just that regard, being a little slice of life.

Ad Günü does an alright job at showing off Azerbaijan of the period, and it's amusing seeing all the little 70s mod-cons. The movie is well-directed too, by noted local auteur Rasim Ojagov.

The actors here do a decent job all-around. I liked that the cast is made up of fairly normal looking people. Particularly Shafiga Mammadova, who isn't a slim and slender supermodel, but a well-built woman, yet portrayed as no less attractive.

The the score here is ok, if a bit down in places. There are also a couple of songs during the party sequence, such as regional classic Sev Kardeşim, performed by Zeynab Khanlarova (I'll probably cause an international incident by saying this, but I found her a bit harsh and loud! I prefer Emel Sayın), and a swanky Demis Roussos tune, When I'm a Kid, which fits the friendly partying atmosphere perfectly!

Ad Günü is a fairly simple down-to-earth movie, but it's decent enough, and it's not depressing! Given how social dramas, especially those of the Soviet variety could be, I feel that's almost high praise!...

Friday, July 21, 2023

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

Since Godzilla's first attack in 1954, humanity has been trying to prepare a way to fight back, while also trying to stay on top in the hunt for renewable resources. When Godzilla is attracted by nuclear energy, then plasma, they're in a race to solve the crisis. To this end the government recruits robotic scientist Kudo to create a black hole machine to permanently destroy the monster. The tests are successful, but unbeknownst to the team, a giant prehistoric dragonfly comes through the wormhole and deposits an egg cluster, which soon hatches into a swarm of monsters that may be a bigger threat than even Godzilla...

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is special in that (in Japan at least) it's the first Godzilla film of the new millennium! Appropriately the second entry in the Millennium series, it has a fun spin on classic material, with some new ideas and a new monster to enjoy. It's not the best in the series, and if I had to rank them this'd still end up pretty low, but not because it's bad. It's just your basic kaiju film. It doesn't do anything particularly new or exciting, but as a film, it delivers a good time.

The plot here is pretty standard stuff, with a few re-used elements here and there, but it's all told in a decent enough way

The government's plan here to fight Godzilla is to create a black hole gun! Certainly a novel idea! Can't say it's a smart one though! What if the slightest thing goes wrong and a giant black hole eats the earth? That may not happen, but sure enough something does go wrong, when a prehistoric monster briefly pops into our time to lay its eggs. Blame is an interesting (if unexplored) theme of the movie. Megaguirus is only wreaking havoc because of the heroes, and the kid who found and nurtured the egg. And the very monster they fear, who only shows up because of them, has to clean up their messes.

The Dimension Tide project also has good sequel potential. Although one upside to this never happening is it'd be hard overlooking just how much it's the heroes' fault. Then again, isn't that the very concept of Godzilla? Buuut it might run the risk of overtaking Godzilla in his own movie.

While longer than it probably needed to be, the film has a pretty good pace, and never slows down too much. There's a decent amount of monster action later on, though not enough in the first half. The humans keep our attention reasonably. What's weird though is the major flood that happens entirely offscreen. One of the more unique scenes is the Meganula introduction, which feels straight out of a horror movie!

As for tone, this is a fairly serious film, but occasional lightness from the humans stops things from getting too maudlin, and there are a few fun monster scenes. These are amusing, but without going overboard into farce territory. There are many awesome moments on display too, like when Kiriko engages in some Godzilla rock climbing!

The dialogue is a hoot sometimes!
"Don't forget what I told you! It may be big, but it's still just a lizard!"
"Emergency, we're being attacked by giant dragonflies!"
"What if Godzilla somehow managed to escape from the black hole we sent him into?"

While the climax is satisfying, the film has a bizarre ending. Kiriko is back to see Kudo, enlisting his help for if Godzilla resurfaces. After she playfully bumps his injured arm, Kudo = and she looks concerned, and then it just stops. No joke, just 'Ow, my arm! Oh no! The End'. We do get a post-credits scene though, bringing Jun back for a last scene, which would be good. Although this coda is odd too! I like it in theory, teasing Godzilla's return, but it's all so abrupt, it gives off the impression Jun's about to be smooshed! Obviously that's not gonna happen, but that's how it comes off! And since this would never get a direct sequel, none of it is followed up on.

The human characters are pretty good. Kiriko is a fine heroine. Like other leads in the Millennium series, she's a gorgeous young girl who's far too much of a supermodel to be believably in the military. Unlike others though, she's not brooding, but more outgoing and chipper. She still has her burden to bear, but she's not gloomy over them the whole movie. Not that that's bad, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the same archetype done differently. She's vengeful towards Godzilla, but not in a way that clouds her judgement, which is refreshing to see.

Robot scientist Kudo is alright, and gets an amusing intro, where Kiriko ruins his magic trick. That bunch of kids are shockingly unimpressed by mini robots! 'Wow, is he magical? Oh no, he's just using amazing robots. Borringgg.'

The older female scientist is ok, though underused. I was also side-eying her for the whole movie, thinking "Bitch, you act so high and mighty against Godzilla, yet you're the one using the energy that's bringing him back!", before it turned out that was another character alone. That would be head of the anti-Godzilla squad, who isn't one-dimenional, but still an ass, and gets a well-deserved punch at the end!

And last is Jun, a schoolchild with a fascination with bugs. It's he who finds the egg, ditching it in the sewers the moment it gets too gunky. Geez, kid! A point in his favour though is that he immediately goes to the authorities and tells everything once he realises what's going on. And then he disappears for the rest of the movie!

Godzilla is portrayed pretty well, though I have minor quibbles. Since this is another reboot it is a little hard to really get attached to how much of a threat he he is, when he's only attacked like twice, decades apart. Interestingly, the Godzilla here is the original! Since the Oxygen Destroyer was never created in this timeline, he was never killed at the end of that movie, so rather than being another Godzilla in his place, this is the OG kaiju.

Regarding his personality, the characters treat Godzilla like he's bad, but really he's only attracted by the nuclear power they'd use, then plasma energy. I know it's unappealing when a neighbour burns down your house because he doesn't like you having baked beans, but there's a simple solution! Godzilla gets no respect! He's forced to deal with a prehistoric insect problem of man's making, and they try and fire a black hole at him!

On that note, Godzilla survives a black hole being fired at him, for no other reason that he's awesome. Which I believe, make no mistake. It's just not a very compelling reason narratively.

While it's understandable at times given his numerous and fast airborne enemies, Godzilla's aim is in poor form! This is until the spectacular final blows however, which are glorious! He gets in some clever moves throughout the movie, which is fun to see. These make for a pretty satisfying monster rumble overall.

The mystery egg hatches into a swarm of mutant bugs, who pick off a few people before taking on bigger prey. Aside from their big introduction, they're an afterthought until their battle with Godzilla. It's a great encounter, after which the surviving Meganula retreat with the energy they gathered and give life to their queen. The rest of the swarm is written out in a believable way, leaving us with only one threat-Megaguirus. She's a good threat, and it's not only neat getting a female kaiju, but it's also great how un-female she looks, being an insectoid horror from prehistoric times. She's a sneaky customer, and uses her powers to turn invisible, and get the drop on Godzilla. But he's smart too, and gets the drop on her in some great ways.

The cast here does a good job. Misato Tanaka is a fine lead as Kiriko, and Shosuke Tanihara is fun as Kudo. Series favourite Yuriko Hoshi is a nice presence, while Suzuki Hiroyuki gives a pretty good child performance. And of course the suit actors do splendidly.

The effects in GvM are pretty standout. There are many great practical elements, from the destruction, to Godzilla himself. He is well designed, with some snazzy new features, while Megaguirus is neat, moving in a reasonably convincing way, some scenes more than others. The miniatures all look great, especially the sunken city, which is also lit gorgeously! The CGI here is more refined and less obvious than in Godzilla 2000, but there are still a few ropey moments. Mostly though it looks fine, and is also used to add some flourishes to the monster action, with mixed results.

And last up, the direction here by Masaaki Tezuka is very good, with many dynamic zoom-ins, character shots, and moments that not only highlight the size of the monsters, but a sense of claustrophobia. Locations are swept through grandly. There are a few odd touches, like frame-by-frame slow motion, but these aren't big deals.

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is a flawed but fun entry in the series, and an improvement over the last entry. Things would see a further upswing with the next film, so until then...

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Night of the Howling Beast (1975)

Waldemar Daninsky is invited by his college professor friend on an expedition to Tibet/Nepal to find the Yeti, as well as the bodies of another party that went missing on this same search. When all other paths are snowed in, Waldemar goes against advice and takes a pass feared by locals. He stumbles into a cave, where he meets a group of strange women. He realises almost too late what they are, and after an attack and narrow escape, he is left cursed to become a werewolf by the light of the moon. He may need this curse though, if he is to fight the other horrors these mountains hold...

Night of the Howling Beast is the eight (really seventh) in the Hombre Lobo series. Its title in the original Spanish translates to Curse of the Beast (not to be confused with Curse of the Devil, aka Retorno de Walpurgis), and is also known as The Werewolf and the Yeti. All good titles, and reflective of the fun horror movie this is!

The film gets off to a brisk start, setting up its story quickly, and jetting the characters from Spain to...Nepal? Or Tibet. It's unclear which they mean, and I'm not sure the writer actually knew the difference. A snowstorm cuts off all other ways to their destination. but as luck would have it it's literally only 5 seconds before someone comes with news of an alternate route.

There's some funny dialogue in this intro.
On their paths being snowed out: "It's not all that bad. We have plenty to drink, and very pleasant company."-"Oh how lucky we'd be if we all felt the same way."
And when that same jerk is droning on about how he won't risk his life trying to rescue Waldemar, Sylvia responds with: "We're not asking you to come. I'm sure that those who come with us are those who haven't forgotten the meaning of the words friendship and loyalty."

Waldemar is determined to journey along this route, even if he has to go it alone, and there's only one bearer crazy enough to guide him. And here is where the film really gets going!

Night of the Howling Beast has more of an adventure tone than previous entries, but is still horror through-and-through. While the film still has a more than satisfying body count, the werewolf kills few innocent people. Mostly bandits, monsters, and creeps. And the rest of the carnage comes courtesy of said bandits and monsters.

What's interesting is the lack of religion or lore to the werewolf curse. It's supernatural of course, but there's an absence of familiar lines about Men who are pure of heart, and A werewolf can only be killed by a woman in love with/willing to die for him. The rules are a little inconsistent too. Waldemar transforms when night falls, but then stays a wolf during the bright day, until randomly turning back for dramatic convenience.

Local guide Tiger is a good co-star, often the voice of reason, and a tough guy. I was disappointed that he dies offscreen! I was also bummed that the two temple dwellers die as well. I thought the movie had moved beyond needing to boost the bodycount. At least kill 'em onscreen, and give them that dignity! Larry gets an effective death, begging his friend to put him out of his misery, but not before Waldemar asks a few questions. The way the scene cuts away it gives the impression that Waldemar made him waffle on so long he died naturally (and painfully)! This leaves only the professor and the other girl alive beyond the two leads. She's unnecessary, and doesn't add much. Then she gets killed too! I mean, isn't everyone else dying enough? Holy crap, talk about a bloodthirsty movie!

Night of the Howling Beast has a real edge to it. Not only does the film not hold back, but you also leave with the impression that, as much as a downer as the movie's events can be, the heroes really did make an impact. They didn't just swan into a bad situation and make things worse.

There's plenty of action here, not only monster-human and monster-monster, but we get some gunfights, punch-ups, and swordplay. I laughed at the end of the bandit attack on the expedition, where the survivors thought process is basically 'We know we fought back and killed half a dozen of you, but we're out of ammo now. We surrender!'.

The climax is enjoyable. We're introduced to a young princess n this final act, and it's she and her fellow captives who take care of the witch, while Waldemar is otherwise occupied with the bandit king. It's a good fight, but the discovery of the professor's body in the same spike pit the villain is hurled into really deflates the victorious moment.

At this point you're probably wondering why the yeti hasn't been mentioned yet. Well that's because he's an afterthought until the final few minutes! After another transformation, Waldemar just happens to stumble into a yeti, and they duke it out while Sylvia does her own thing.

Like with many Hombre Lobo entries, this suffers from a problem of plenty. Night of the Howling Beast could have easily been two movies! One a violent adventure in bandit mountains, and the other about an expedition with yetis, werewolves, and witchy women. Squishing the two together doesn't do either story any favours. The werepire women die almost immediately, the witch doesn't show up till the last 20 minutes, and then there's the yeti, or lack thereof!

It's here where we mention the most unique aspect to Howling Beast-The ending. Waldemar Daninsky has a bad habit of tragically dying each movie. Just when you think he might make it out ok, a twist of fate strikes him down, and he must die to end his curse and save whatever loved ones are left alive. Here though? He survives! This really adds to the charm of the resetting continuity of the Hombre Lobo series. Just because one entry (or indeed 11 of them) have sad endings, doesn't mean they all have to! Admittedly the release of his curse has less impact when this is the 7th reboot in the series. 'At last, I'm free of the affliction that's been plaguing me for a few days!'. But this isn't a big deal.

The effects here can be cheesy, but are good! This is one of the gorier Hombre Lobo films, with several great instances. Not all convincing, but all brutal and potentially wince-inducing! The werewolf make-up is great as usual, with neat hair and great teeth! The transformations are good too, even if they cheat a couple of times. The werepire women meanwhile have a more subtle and stripped back design when they transform, but still good. And the yeti is alright, but a bit shaggier and low-rent.

The location work is great too! If you're wondering how Paul Naschy, whose productions were never given budgets as large as he'd have liked, could afford to go to Nepal, well it doesn't. The rolling mountain peaks of Spain substitute, and they look quite good! I mean, they're snowy, they're mountainous, what more do you want? There are some less Wintery areas, which might look unconvincing, but that's actually pretty true to life in places like this (which should be obvious, since this is still filmed on location in a mountain, just not that one). And as for the sets themselves, they're good, from the humble temples, to the Khan's grand palace.

The music here is very good! There are some great spooky tunes, and action-packed tracks, and the score also has some Tibetan-infused bells, which give a really immersive and authentic feel.

The cast here is a good one, and pretty big! Naschy is a fine lead, and captures the wolf man's fury very well under the make-up. Mercedes Molina is a good love interest, and Luis Induni and Silvia Solar are fun villains, despite their brief screentime. There are some brown-skinned Spaniards passing themselves off as Nepalese, and honestly not looking too unconvincing, then there are some real ones (or Asians of some kind). There are plenty of sexy babes here too, often nude, and doing great butt wiggling. Credit must go to the stuntwork too, which includes some great dives!

Night of the Howling Beast is remembered as not only one of the best in the Hombre Lobo series, but one of Paul Naschy's best films overall. I agree. It's a great time to be had for any horror fans out there!...

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Love Tactics 2 (2023)

2022s Love Tactics was an enjoyable Turkish rom-com. Imagine my surprise when last week, less than a year later, a trailer from the sequel pops out of the blue! My first reaction was astonishment. Really? A sequel to Love Tactics? Already?? My second was excitement-"Oooh, I liked that movie, hopefully this one's good!". Followed by my third-"Oh god, it'd better not be bad!"...

New couple Aslı and Kerem are helping with the wedding celebration of their friends, and discussing the topic themselves. Aslı is firmly against the concept, and Kerem is happy to hear this...sending Aslı into alarm mode. Now that her boyfriend doesn't want marriage, the game is on to win him over to the idea. Kerem meanwhile bets his friends he can turn Aslı off to the idea of marriage. Can either succeed? Or will these games only fuel the desire for something more? And what else could happen during this bet?...

I went into Love Tactics 2 with mixed expectations, not sure what to expect. Now that I've finished, I can report that it is a good movie. Not great, but it entertains. First and foremost, is it a necessary sequel? Well, frankly no, but the plot did kinda justify itself. Now that the hunt is over and the couple are together, having them both scheme about marriage is a good way of having a plot that follows on the same theme, while still exploring new territory.

As it goes on, the film has some alright gags and setpieces, like a babysitting segment that verges on gross. Then there's the arrival of Aslı's parents, whose idyllic marriage is meant to convince Kerem of the bliss of marriage...until it turns out they're in a rocky patch. There are many ways that particular scene could've gone, and while I was expecting something else, I guess it was done ok.

It's about halfway through when Love Tactics 2's most frustrating feature comes on. The action here hinges on the characters being rich. Obviously I don't mind watching rich characters on film, but this seems to almost rub it in our faces. They have cushy jobs, designer fashion, hang out on yachts, and then the movie literally stops for a ritzy party on a private island! All while droning music sings about how 'We're rich, rich, yeah, money money, we've got so much money', etc. There's wish fulfillment, then there's taking the piss!

When so much of the film is taken up by scenes like this, I began to wonder if Love Tactics 2 had any heart. The first film was snarky, and poked fun at romantic cliches despite playing out every single one. But while not bad, this sequel just didn't seem to have the same emotional and sincere moments of the original, like the hot air balloon ride, or pottery scene.

Eventually events do come to a head, with a big climactic event surprisingly early. And it is ridiculous! Kerem decides to take Aslı on a surprise plane ride, and she promptly gets high as a kite on anxiety pills, and one thing leads to another and they end up having to commandeer a plane all by themselves through a massive storm. It's so convenient and unbelievable that I honestly expected it to all be a dream! That'd be a cheat, but at least it'd make more sense!

It's from here onwards where things become more sappy and dramatic.The whole film I was wasn't sure what it was even building to. And I wondered if making marriage look bad was really the wisest move, when it might make the relationship overall look bad! Eventually the bet settles down, and the main conflict of this last act is entirely emotional. Aslı is offered a 6-month job in Dubai, and immediately thinks the worst of Kerem when he proposes. When in actuality, he wanted her to marry him, and is ok with her career move. Talk about a best of both worlds! Really makes Aslı come off poorly for doubting him so harshly.

The ending itself is a bit brief and anticlimactic, and worst of all is both weddings are offscreen! The movie seems to end abruptly at first, but keeps going through the credits, with narration giving us some final wrap-ups, and a goodbye.

The fashion here ranges from the snazzy, to the terrible, and the weird things Aslı wears at times made me think 'For god's sake, put on a real shirt!'. We also get a pretty shameless lingerie bacholorette party and song, though I'm by no means complaining, when we get to see all these gorgeous women in lingerie!

Aslı is alright, but with her unbearable or bitchy moments. She has a new job, with no mention of her blog, although I guess it did close last movie. She's a fun schemer, although her constant badmouthing of marriage gets pretty old, especially when her friend is happily getting hitched! I was grateful when her other friend gave her a good talking to. I'm not sure why Aslı even hates marriage that much! I mean, personal preference counts for a lot, but if her happily married parents were her only frame of reference...

Kerem meanwhile is a typical Turkish male, but with enough charm, good looks, and sensitive moments to never be an ass. He gets a bit less to do, and less to grow, but he still gets enough to do.

The friends are a likeable bunch once more. Tuna and Cansu are a sweet (if occasionally schmaltzy) couple, and their interplay with the others can be funny. We also get to hear more of Emir's wife, and see her. And wouldn't you know it she's a drop dead gorgeous supermodel. Because of course she is. Then there's Aslı's parents, who =.

Aslı's old schoolmate Bulut is a confusing addition in that he threatens to come between no less than three couples! But thankfully this doesn't go anywhere. He doesn't add much to the film, save for ritzy locations, and the career choice in the last act.

The direction feels a bit different this time round, but keeps some of the same stylistic choices of the first movie, so it's not too unfamiliar. I also thought the black-and-white credits were pretty neat.

The cast do a good job once again. Şükrü Özyıldız is a suave co-lead and Demet Özdemir is good, despite her character's unlikable moments, and amuses at times with her Turkish delivery, going into 'Nayir nolamaz' territory at one point. Atakan Çelik is back as Tuna, but the other actor is conspicuously absent, which the film briefly lampshades. The new guy's ok I guess, though not as good as his predecessor. The other girls are fun too.

The soundtrack here is comprised of tracks from the first film, as well as some new ones, and it's all fine. I particularly liked the rock-y rescoring over the ending, with some neat electric guitar work in there.

Overall, Love Tactics 2 isn't the best of sequels, and has its annoying qualities, but it's not bad either, and is a fun enough diversion for 90 minutes...