Thursday, 31 January 2013

No.169 : Werewolf : The Beast Among Us



Werewolf : The Beast Among Us on IMDb

Another ‘DVD Premiere’ bit of crap now as the ‘W Movie’ quest once again braves these films, so you don’t have to.

This effort is set in a steam punk version of 19th century eastern Europe. We open with a remote shack occupied by an excitable family. Pop locks all the doors and refuses to open even when a scantily clad lady appears. That’s how he rolls then. His caution is well founded as she turns into a crappy CGI werewolf and starts to work on his poorly pointed roof.

Dad gives his son a wolf amulet before the beast gets in and makes mincemeat of Mom and Pop. The boy offers the amulet up and the wolf stops dead - fatal mistake - as this is the only rural shack with a rope hung chandelier. The boy escapes as the wolf fries and we hope all will be well and over soon. Fat chance!

We flash forward and the boy, identified by the amulet, is a grown man with a swashbuckling dress sense and a posse of heavily armed compadres. They tour about the towns eliminating their wolf issues for a fee. His henchmen are a seemingly colourful bunch but are in fact anonymous ass-holes with gimmicks like flamethrowers and eye patches. Our hero’s main pal is a Hugh Jackman wannabe who thinks he is dashing with his waistcoat full of knives, but in reality is the biggest tit in the production; which is some going.

They arrive in a wolf plagued town and try to suss out who is doing all the killing of mainly hookers and tramps - did they think to investigate the local conservative party? After some laughable misfires, including one where an epileptic condemns a room of men to death when he has a fit, the most obvious suspect is identified.

Can our heroes stop the bloodshed or will the vested interests within the town threaten their plans? Can the CGI get any worse and will it match the dreadful dialogue and shocking acting? Rest easy dear reader, all these and less will arrive in buckets.

This film is so terrible you’d think they set out to do a ‘it’s so bad it’s funny’ production but it’s played straight and straight to video it went.

A werewolf film will always hang on its transformation scenes and these are the worst I’ve seen. At least when it’s a mask and gloves you can understand the budget limitations but here you have a cartoon wolf that isn’t even anatomically correct, prancing about as the locals feign terror. They had one decent set up when the suspect was strung up as the full moon appeared - great opportunity to profile some kick ass special effects you may think? No chance, he turns into a Day 1 of remedial CGI school reject blob and bounds off as the villagers stand back - no doubt in abject embarrassment.

The actors are dreadful from the hammy and charmless Hugh Jackman look-not-a-like to poor old Stephen Rea who really needs a harsh word with his agent. As the diabolical ‘Doc’ he is about as convincing as the wolf, although he is signalling ‘I’m doing for the cash’ throughout. We also get Nia Peebles last seen in ‘Blues Brothers 2000’, who for some reason is wearing a flamenco dress, even to the wolf hanging.

The plot, as it is, is predictable and dull and there are no surprises whatsoever - apart from me seeing it through to the end that is. As you’d probably have gathered I didn’t enjoy this at all and the ‘W Movie Blog’ hereby announces a moratorium on all straight to DVD efforts, especially those involving werewolves.

THE Tag Line - Lacks Bite - Along With Everything Else 3/23

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

No.168 : We Own the Night

We Own the Night on IMDb
It’s 1988 in New York and things are going well for club manager Joaquin Phoenix. He has girlfriend Eva Mendes getting frisky on the sofa and all the drugs his bloated frame can manage. We soon learn that he is in the employ of the Russians and as anyone who has ever seen a film knows, they must be up to some bad shit. He knocks off work early so that he and Eva can attend a police function in a church basement, a strange affair that keeps the same hours as a hot disco.

Joaquin’s brother, Marky Mark, and Father, Robert Duvall are high ranking cops and they are concerned at our hero’s erratic behaviour and the company he is keeping. The Russians are dealing drugs out of Joaquin’s club and they’d like him to do some snitching for them. The lounge lizard club boss is having none of it but reconsiders when Marky Mark narrowly escapes the attentions of an incompetent hit man.

The bad company Joaquin keeps don’t know of his family connections as he changed his Polish name to ‘Green’ to fit in. This oversight leads them to spill far too many details of their plans to control the drug trade and put a cap in the ass of poor old Robert Duvall.

With this new motivation Joaquin decides to turn squealer and infiltrates the mob’s drug factory, which is frankly rubbish next to the one in ‘Robo-Cop‘. As you’d expect the main bad guy escapes and turns his attentions, quite understandably, on Joaquin and Eva who foolishly stood by her man and indeed took the part.

With the claret flying we learn about a big drug deal going down - if only some implausible bit of deduction can lead them to the remote meeting place where they can wrap up everything neatly and just in time.

This was an OK film but nothing you haven’t seen loads of times before. A kind of low-rent ‘The Departed’ for slow people. The main issue is hanging the whole film on the acting talents of Joaquin, which must have taken some doing as they are hard to spot. His broody silences look like he’s waiting to be given his lines and his manic shouty outbursts just look ridiculous. He does get some quality time with Eva Mendes, who serves as little more than eye-candy, but I guess that’s the benefit of having a producer credit.

Marky Mark is well short of his ‘The Departed’ showing especially at the end where he takes a sudden and unheralded character twist that sets up Joaquin to be the hero. Duvall does what you’d expect but you see no chemistry at all in the family trio.

The bad guy Russians are your stereotyped tattooed psychos but exuded very little menace, even in the supposedly tense ‘wearing a wire’ scene. The action, as it was, was weak with a confusing and poorly orchestrated car chase that had me wondering what was happening. The big shoot out at the end was a damp squib and it beggared belief  the cops shouted out their appearance giving the Russians the time to tool up and flee from the rear windows.

You can see what they were going for here but the whole good son, bad son routine failed to ignite as did Joaquin’s redemption - he looked like he was having a far better time at the start! I did laugh when the police chief made Joaquin a probationary cop for the big raid and said ‘After this you’ll need to go to the Police Academy’. At last a vehicle worthy of his talents! - hope he rooms with the guy who makes computer noises!

Best Bit - Hey Eva that sofa hasn’t been Scotch guarded!
Score : 14/23

Sunday, 13 January 2013

No.167 : War Witch

The 100 ‘W’ movie blog makes a welcome return to celebrate the many, many ‘W’ films nominated for this year’s Academy awards. We’ll begin with ‘War Witch’ before moving to the lighter charms of ‘Wreck It Ralph’ and then … Well that’s it, but what a haul eh? We showed them ‘Z’ fans - ‘Zero dark Thirty’ and that’s their lot!

‘War Witch’ is nominated in the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category and I have to say that it’ll be a good film that beats it - not that I plan to trawl through the ‘W’ initial free Norwegian entry for one.

The film follows the terrible struggles of Komona who lives in a war torn, but unspecified African country. We open with the 14 year old in the late stages of a pregnancy and she relates the trials of her last two years to her unborn child.

We flashback to her as a 12 year old as rebels attack her village and seize several children, including Kamora, to fight their war. As a way of severing her ties with the village they make her machine gun her own parents. She is reluctant at first, but soon lets fly when the parents are threatened with torture. She does come round to the idea quite quickly though, and I have to wonder if the parents regret not getting her that iPad for Christmas.

The rebels soon have the kids trained with AK47s and have them lead raids against government troops. In one early battle Komora is warned of an ambush by some ghosts and is thereafter feted as a ‘war witch’, a rare prize to the superstitious guerrillas. Her new status sees her treatment improve and she soon makes a friend in Magician, a pale skinned lad who makes necklaces and charms that deflect bullets which patently don’t work.

After a brutal battle Magician and Komona escape their warlord boss and after finding the required white cockerel they are married and enjoy a brief period of happiness. Needless to say this is short-lived and before long Komora is back being all witchy and being abused by her commander. Will she be able to escape with only an avocado and a razor blade? Will she find peace and safety and be able to rest the spirits that haunt her? Let’s hope so - I need some cheering up after this!

Despite the grim subject matter and subtitles I really liked this film. It is brutal, but as most of the violence happens off screen it’s your own imagination that fills in the blanks, which is usually worse. The harrowing scenes are more or less relentless, with each chink of light mercilessly snatched away by a gun or machete.

I liked the ‘Sixth Sense’ notion of Komona being able to see dead people and although the corpses looked like they were just a bit sloppy at plastering, it was spooky to see the soldiers on a battlefield being replaced by so many ghosts.

The two leads were great with no obvious acting going on - the pain, grinding poverty and inhumanity was brutally realised and it was almost as big an ordeal to watch as they clearly had making it. There were some brief moments of levity such as them getting drunk on hallucinogenic tree resin but it was all ruined by an engineered car accident to get undeserved compensation - I’m reporting this to the ABI (or local equivalent).

For me this was a brutal and authentic slice of life, and although not enjoyable it certainly kept my interest and delivered a few choice cuts along the way. Ouch!

Best Bit : What do you like in your avacado?

'W' Rating 17/23