Thursday, 29 July 2010

From Asgard to New Mexico - and beyond! SDCC 'Thor' trailer!

UPDATE: oh bugger, it's gone! Oh well, if you caught it within the few hours it was there, hope you enjoyed it.

Delayed in posting this as I suspected the clip, assembled for last week's San Diego Comic Con (which  - being in England - I missed, unsurprisingly), was unofficial and would be promptly deleted from the web. But as that doesn't seem to be the case just yet - heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Thor!

I like the look of it. It seems to be following on in much the same style as the existing Avengers universe movies, and the sidestep into fantasy land doesn't look like too great a leap.

But damn it all, they still should have cast Brian Blessed as Odin.

Click here for my further musings on what I'm hoping Thor will deliver.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Live la vida loca with the red-band 'Machete' trailer

Less than two months to wait (in the US, at least) for the long-awaited feature length version of the fake trailer from Grindhouse. Will the wait have been worth it?

On this evidence... quite possibly.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

God bless Youtube. It's the 160 Greatest Arnie Quotes.

Not my handiwork; just brought a smile to my face, as it should anyone who appreciates Arnie's pre-Governator days. Enjoy.

UK trailer for 'Sword With No Name'

Just got word of this new one coming to DVD from Cine-Asia:

"A young woman of noble birth embarks on a dangerous cross-country journey, where she encounters an infamous bounty-hunter. Honour-bound, he becomes her protector and against all the odds they fall in love. A few years later, to fulfill a sacred promise, she must enter the royal court and ascend to the throne as Empress, leaving her love behind. However, when aggressive Japanese forces gather against her nation, the bounty hunter will once again stand by her side as a devoted bodyguard. As the conflict escalates to all-out war, her irrepressible leadership will sustain her people and give them the hope of victory. Tragically, as her reputation spreads, she will become a target for assassination, but one man's courage will make all the difference..."

I must confess that, despite the persausive powers of Voice Over Guy, this doesn't look like much of "an epic spectacle of groundbreaking action" to me - in fact, it all looks a bit hackneyed. But I shall reserve judgement.

Sword With No Name comes to Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on 20th September. Look out for my review.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Marvel Musings #2: the gathering storm of 'Thor'

The last month or so has seen a steady leak of new images from Kenneth Branagh's Thor come spilling onto the internet, and the reaction has been, at best, mixed. Many are concerned that it all looks a bit too camp. The words Flash Gordon have been invoked, as a negative. The words Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have been invoked also, by those doubting the suitability of the director.

Here, as y'all Americans like to say, is my two cents.

What exactly should we be expecting from a superhero movie about Norse Gods? The Dark Knight?

Personally - I love that this movie looks gaudy and outlandish. I love that it looks about as rooted in reality as The Care Bears Movie. And just look at Anthony Hopkins in the picture below; that wild, pirate-ish expression that suggests he might actually be having fun here in a way he hasn't since his gloriously hammy Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula. 

(Though I still wish Brian Blessed had been cast as Odin. Truly, no man is more fit to portray the king of the Gods than he; it pains me to my guts that two movies were released in the past year that featured Zeus, and Blessed didn't get the part in either of them. Yes, the Flash Gordon comparison is no negative in my book.)

I realise that a lot of comic lovers are long since fed up with how the uninitiated tend to assume the medium to be tacky, silly and only fit for children. As such, the likes of Nolan's Batman films and Snyder's Watchmen have offered a fair amount of vindication, enabling fanboys worldwide to proclaim "see, comic book movies can be sophisticated!" much in the manner of Charley Brewster screaming about Dracula being a "truly great book" in Fright Night 2. However, while I don't want to badmouth Nolan's films (Snyder's I could say a few less than favourable words about, but some other time), I do occasionally wonder if they may have done more harm than good, as now a great many people - most worryingly the money men - assume that to be successful a comic book movie must be grittily realistic. And this simply isn't the case.

Ang Lee's Hulk demonstrated how comic book realism and kitchen sink realism can make for awkward bedfellows indeed. I think the main problem with Lee's film is that it tried to deny the inherent absurdity of the premise and play the angry green giant as seriously as possible. Subsequently, it all just came off all the sillier, especially by the absurdly over the top finale. Far better to embrace the ridiculousness from the get-go, then the movie and the audience will be on the same page immediately.

This is why Branagh is a great choice for Thor; he understands melodrama. Watch almost any of his work as an actor. By contemporary standards, he's a total cornball, screaming and flailing and carrying on in that archly theatrical fashion. (As I write this, I've just seen that Branagh may be set to portray Laurence Olivier, which makes perfect sense as Olivier was much the same in his approach.) This same ethos follows through in his directing, too. From his numerous Shakespeare movies, he's well accustomed to having his cast spit forth language that sounds completely unnatural to modern ears. But even in his non-Shakespearean work - movies like Dead Again and, yes, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - everything plays out as though the script was written entirely in block capitals, from the volume of the actors to the swoop of the camera to the bombast of the soundtrack. Thor needs this. It's about ancient Norse Gods coming to modern day America, for crying out loud.

(Incidentally, Devin Faraci wrote a great piece about this very subject last year entitled The Tyranny of Realism. Well worth a read.)

A major concern of many seems to be how comfortably the magical universe of Thor will fit with the more material world of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and soon Captain America. All I can say is: come on now, people, it's all make-believe. A guy in a robotic suit, a guy who turns into a green giant, a guy who happens to be the God of Thunder; no matter how you play it, none of it is feasible in the real world, so why worry? Personally, I welcome the prospect of a comic book movie that is unabashedly free of the trappings of reality. I hope it's every bit as brash and excessive as these early stills suggest. Will the result be a film that cannot be taken seriously? Not necessarily. It simply means it will be watched in a different way; much in the way Faraci refers to, the way we watch the likes of The Wizard of Oz. Once we accept the movie on its own terms, we allow ourselves to be sucked into that world. There will be those who take exception to this. I know plenty of people who couldn't get past the protagonists being able to fly in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and subsequently couldn't fully embrace the movie. But what's the alternative? Movies like Troy, King Arthur and by all accounts this year's Robin Hood; movies which strip away the very things that make the legends what they are, winding up soulless and frigid. To hell with that. Give me Excalibur any day. Give me Beowulf. Give me Sin City. Once again, give me Flash Gordon.

And yes, give me Thor.

And one other thing. They sure as shit better get Led Zeppellin's Immigrant Song on the soundtrack. Know what I'm saying? Just as Iron Man needed the Black Sabbath classic of the same name, Thor needs Robert Plant's viking war cry: "Hammer of the Gods... Valhalla, I am coming..."

That's right, asshole. Dolph Lundgren is 'The Killing Machine.'

I have but two words: FUCK. YEAH.

Here's the deal. I've kinda got a thing about Dolph Lundgren. I'm not ashamed to admit it. The man affects me. As such, even though I've pretty much missed any of the movies he's made in the last decade or so, this trailer rocks my world.

I love the title alone; the way 'Dolph Lundgren is' seems to be part of it, as well it should be. I love the knowing pun in the 'this man is not expendable' tagline. I love that this dude, well into his fifties, looks to be kicking ass even harder than he did twenty five years ago. I love... shit, I'll just say it, I love me some Dolph.

Just in case you need further persausion, here's the synopsis:

To his friends, family and colleagues, Edward Genn (Lundgren) is an ordinary man, a divorced father with a steady job working for an investment company. However, to others Genn is known as Icarus, a ruthless killing machine and former US sleeper agent once based in the Soviet Empire. Determined to break away and leave his dark past behind, Genn has started over with a new identity, but he soon learns you can only escape your past for so long.

When an unexpected incident in Hong Kong results in Icarus’ cover being blown, past and present collide and the one-time assassin realizes he is now the target. Worse, the people that want him dead will stop at nothing to get to him and that means going after those he cares about most—his wife and daughter.
With his life at stake, Icarus is forced to face the demons of his past in order to protect the loved ones in his present. He must fight to save the only thing he’s ever done right in his life by uncovering those who are after him and protecting his family before it’s too late.
Dolph Lundgren Is The Killing Machine comes to Region 2 DVD and Blu Ray on 16th August, courtesy of Anchor Bay. Just you try and stop me from reviewing it.

Once more - FUCK. YEAH.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Review - 'Predators'

This, without a doubt, is the second best Predator movie there has been to date. To a point, that's all it needed to be...

Does it blow open the story universe and flesh out the series mythology? No. Does it redefine the notion of what a Predator movie is? Again, no. But it's abundantly clear from the get-go that this was never the intention. By plunging an ethnically diverse bunch of gruff manly men and a tough Latina into a thick and hot jungle, and bringing them to the gradual realisation that they are being hunted, Nimrod Antal's film immediately evokes John McTiernan's classic original. However, it also seems to demand the viewer forget all about the subsequent Predator films (a little unfair on the not-that-bad Predator 2, but perhaps fair enough on the Alien Vs Predator duo). As was demonstrated by Superman Returns, such an approach doesn't always pay off.  If the filmmakers are too reverential to the earlier movie, the new movie runs the risk of failing to find an identity of its own. On first viewing, I rather feel that Predators has failed to avoid that pitfall, but even so it's agreeable enough as a bit of crash-bang-wallop entertainment.

Clearly the intent was also to craft a stand-alone movie, accessible to youngsters unfamiliar with the series (and yes, such creatures exist, which should of course make the rest of us feel old). There are nods aplenty to the original, from the first gun fired to the song that plays over the end titles, but none of it is conveyed in too showy a fashion, never does it descend into smug in-jokery. No one calls a Predator an ugly motherfucker, nor remarks that if it bleeds they can kill it, nor urges anyone to get to the chopper. Unfortunately, the lines that are delivered are nowhere near as memorable as those that were spat forth like tobacco from the mouths of the original's ensemble. And the next place where this movie seeks to stand up against the original but falls short - the ensemble themselves. They're simply nowhere near as engaging. Given the setup, the group was never going to have the same dynamic - Arnie's team were longtime buddies, whereas Adrien Brody's motley crew are total strangers. And, alas, we never quite get to know these guys that well. Brody and Alice Braga (both giving strong performances) take the spotlight so much, it's easy to forget the others are even there a lot of the time. The much lauded, supposedly secret appearance of Laurence Fishburne midway through doesn't bring a great deal to the table either.

Also, for a movie called Predators - a title which obviously evokes Aliens, a movie notable for its large number of antagonists - you'd be forgiven for expecting a few more of the big bad extra-terrestrial hunters. Alas, there are but a paltry few, not counting the addition of the ravenous, warthog-like creatures used as bloodhounds in one scene; credit where it's due, that may sound like an idiotic device worthy of a Stephen Sommers movie, but it actually works okay here. Less endearing to my mind is the new lead Predator with a shark-like lower jaw and CG red eyes. I get why every successive movie has revised the creature design - it's fair to assume that the features of the species would vary just as they do with us humans, I suppose - but all it ever really does is make the viewer pine for more of the original. Or maybe that's just me.

The ending may leave things wide open for a sequel, but I can't help but doubt whether the demand will be there. The second best Predator film it may be, but there's still only one truly great Predator movie. Yes, in many respects this really is Superman Returns all over again; all concerned clearly have their hearts in the right place, and have done their best to illustrate their love and respect for the original, but the result is still a pale shadow of what went before, and it's hard to see the new movie being as well loved and remembered two years from now as the original remains over two decades later. Still, for anyone who isn't too invested in the first film, it's an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Happy Birthday Sylvester Stallone!

This man is sixty four years old. And this is what he looks like NOW.

Well, for what it's worth Mr Stallone, Ka-Boomski! wishes you a happy birthday. And while my 80's action-reared heart may sink a little to learn The Expendables has been trimmed to get a 15 (as if Predators getting a 15 wasn't enough?! Whatever happened to the glorious 18 certificate carnage of old?!), I still thank you, Mr Stallone, for all you have done and continue to do for high-octane shoot-'em-up/beat-'em-up/blow-'em-up movies. Many happy returns.

(And hey, I can't give you too hard a time about The Expendables being a 15. Cliffhanger and Demolition Man were the first 15 movies I saw at the cinema, and I love those to this day.)

A few of the man's greatest moments:


Rambo: First Blood Part II


Tango & Cash

Demolition Man

John Rambo/Rambo IV/Rambo

'DOA: Dead Or Alive.' Yes, I love it.

This - without question my most frivolous Ka-Boomski! entry to date - is a semi-apology. A while back at B Through Z, I wrote a piece entitled Everybody Hates Paul, in which I lamented over the many failings of Paul WS Anderson. There was a vague passing reference to DOA: Dead Or Alive, which he co-produced. I dismissed it as "middle of the road." BTZ editor Jamie blasted my indifference, insisting "DOA rules."

I thought nothing of it for all this time, then ITV1 showed it last Friday night. And I watched. And...

Yes. DOA really does rule.

I'm not sure there's much else that really needs to be said on the matter. So...

No - there really isn't anything else that needs to said, is there? DOA... a modern masterpiece.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Review - 'Force of Five'

This is the story of a bunch of kids who want nothing more than what most kids want: to have a bit of fun. But with these kids, things are a little bit different. First off, they're all full-time students of Muay Thai, under the tutelage of their strict but caring grandfather. Secondly, the youngest of their number has a heart defect. And one fateful day, after a spirited remote control car race gets a bit out of hand (no, really), the young scamp finds himself hospitalised with only hours to live unless a heart transplant can be performed. A suitable donor heart is waiting at another hospital nearby, but the fates are really working against them as on this very day a group of heavily armed and pissed off terrorists have taken that particular hospital under seige. Seeing no viable alternative, the four small soldiers decide to sneak in, find the heart and take it - and woe betide anyone, no matter how big, that gets in their way. 

Alternatively known as Power Kids - a more apt title, really, as only three of the five ever show real fighting skill, and the fifth is a terminally ill infant - Force of Five is, to western eyes at least, a thrilling and fascinating oddity. Never mind the cover image of Johnny Nguyen that Cine-Asia are using on the Region 2 DVD - as the head terrorist, he's not the star of the show at all. This is all about the kids and their serious ass-kicking ability. And these kids - aged, or so I would assume, fifteen at most - really do kick ass. They're not just having schoolyard skuffles in the vein of The Karate Kid - they're holding their own against armed men twice their size. And they're doing so in a film which is clearly aimed at a similarly youthful audience. As such, it's pretty much inconcievable that a film like this would ever get made in the US or UK. We're just not comfortable with mixing kids and violence in such a way, are we? It's just not considered to be in good taste, or sending the right message to our children, is it?

Well, that's too bad for us westerners. Because, taste and decency be damned, Force of Five is some damn fine entertainment.

The real power of this movie is that, whilst it does not shelter the young characters from the horrors of violence, it does not deny the nature of childhood either. Martial arts ability aside, these really do come off as very ordinary kids; for the early part of the film, their concern is not outwitting terrorists but procuring the remote control car that the ill younger brother dreams of owning. Even when the earliest fight scenes come along, there is a certain lightness of touch to befit a more childish sensibility, with room left for their assailants to be de-bagged and pelted with flour as well as taking innumerable flying knees to the head.

But when the shit hits the fan, there's no mistaking that things are serious. Given the amount of collateral damage these terrorists leave in their wake, we're left in no doubt that they're not to be trifled with, and while it never turns into a hardcore gorefest there are still some pretty full-on deaths on show, as the 15 certificate may reflect. But as much as the terrorists mean business, the kids do too; and the most surprising moments of the movie come from the fact that - yes - it really is the kids doing this stuff: flipping through the air, breaking out amazing kicks and punches, smashing through windows. Much of this would be impressive enough from adult performers; from stars so young, it's pretty much mindblowing. And, of course, goes further to underline how a movie like this could never, ever get made in the west. (No, before you ask, Hit Girl in Kick-Ass didn't pull off anything quite as impressive as these kids do.)  

A slight problem this film might face - again in the West at least - is finding its audience. This, I suspect, is something Cine-Asia are anxious about, as might be indicated by their decision to change the title in the UK, plus sell it on the presence of Johnny Nguyen; after all, the cover image above does not give any hint whatsoever that this might be a kid's movie. But really, it is a kid's movie. Force of Five doesn't use violent kids to be shocking and subversive like Kick-Ass does, but rather to directly connect with viewers of that age group. Whether parents would be quite so keen for their young ones to watch so violent a film is another matter, and I suspect a lot of western adults might feel the movie strays a little too far out of their comfort zone. Indeed, I wouldn't go showing it to my son anytime soon, but then he's not even primary school age yet. Personally, I'd say this is absolutely fine for older kids; anyone who can handle the last Harry Potter book should be able to handle this.

Indeed, I can easily see Force of Five becoming one of those gateway movies for young viewers, giving them their first taste of Thai action cinema and pointing them in the direction of the likes of Ong Bak and Chocolate. And adult action lovers shouldn't be deterred, either. While it may get a bit reminscent of BMX Bandits at times, this is still a full-power fight flick, that's sure to strike a chord with the youngster in all of us.

Out today from Cine-Asia, Force of Five gets the Ka-Boomski! seal of approval. Check it out. And in case you missed it before, watch the trailer here.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Let's go crazy. Let's get nuts. It's 'Chanbara Striptease.'

Yup, those crazy cats responsible for Onechanbara are at it again...

There's an official synopsis for this, but in this instance it hardly seems worth repeating. Suffice to say that, as I said over at Brutal As Hell in my review of Robo-Geisha, this subgenre of Japanese cyber-splatter is getting old very quickly. Sure, I love a scantily clad Oriental woman as much as the next guy, but even so, this movie had better pull something new out of its hat to impress me.

But what the hell, here's the trailer. Manga release Chanbara Striptease to Region 2 DVD on 26 July; look out for my review before then.