Let’s take a break from the Hellraiser series. No matter how much I might like some of those movies, most of them aren’t great. Barring the first, they aren’t really achievements in cinema. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of DVDs and Blu-Rays on clearance (rest in peace, HMV) and I really feel like I need to start working my way through them. So, I decided to start with one of the most highly praised films of all time.
City of God (Cidade de Deus in Brazilian Portugese) is a Brazilian (duh) crime drama set in the titular favela (rough slang for a lower class district or slum) of Rio de Janeiro that follows a large ensemble cast of characters across multiple decades of their lives. While they all grow up impoverished, their lives take different turns as they navigate the gang, drug, and violence filled City of God, a place where children are killed in the streets and you rarely make it past the age of 30 without being riddled full of bullet holes first.
While City of God follows the stories of over five main characters, the protagonist and antagonist that draw a through-line from one end of the story to the other are Rocket and Li’l Zé. Both starting the story as young kids who see the “glamorous” life of local low level street thugs, one develops a creative passion and becomes enamored with photography and journalism while the other indulges a thirst for power and blood that only violent crime can provide him. (more…)
For the uninitiated: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996).
We’ve crossed the threshold now. Currently there are nine Hellraiser films (although a tenth is allegedly on its way), so we’re over fifty percent through the franchise. Too bad we can’t just round it up and call the whole thing done.
Hellraiser V: Inferno is the first direct-to-DVD Hellraiser sequel, and a big departure from the previous films. Inferno follows Joseph Thorne, a crooked detective who discovers the Lament Configuration at the scene of a brutal crime, and after solving the puzzle box begins to have vivid and disturbing hallucinations all while more ritualistic and sadistic murders begin happening to people he knows. Thorne finds out that someone or something known as The Engineer is behind the killings and that he has kidnapped a child, leaving a severed finger at the scene of every murder. (more…)
Looper is the third feature length film from writer/ director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) who has been swallowed up by the Hollywood machine to direct Star Wars Episode VIII. Looper is a neat little time travel movie set in the not so distant future starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe: a Looper, a man who kills people who are sent back in time by a crime syndicate in the future. Apparently it’s super hard to dispose of a body in the future, so sending it to the past to be killed and left there is a sure fire way to keep things under wraps.
When Loopers sign up for this gig, they are on contract for 30 years which when up is when they are sent back in time to be killed by their past selves, closing the loop. If the loop doesn’t get closed neatly, the mob that hires out the Loopers will make sure both ends of the loop are closed off. Get it? Got it? Good. So, naturally, one day Joe happens to show up to perform a hit only to find himself face to face with an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) who is ready and willing to fight him. Older Joe escapes, and present day(ish) Joe has to track him down and kill him to close the loop before the mob closes it for him. (more…)
Action movies were the first genre of movies that really captured my imagination. When I was a wee lad, explosions, gunfire, and karate chops were the quickest ways for a movie to make it’s way into my heart. Regardless of the quality of the action, let alone the rest of the movie, if there was action to be had I would eat it up. Now that I’m a little older and a lot grumpier, action movies have to earn their respect from me. I’m a lot more critical of movies than in my youth, and shit like Tak-three-n doesn’t fly with me anymore. While I still like to think I have a childlike enamoring to big explosions and loud, dumb action in movies, the execution of these juvenile films is of equal importance to me now.
Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong action flick written and directed by the legendary John Woo (The Killer, Hard Target, Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off) starring Chow Yun-Fat (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and Tony Leung (Hero). Hard Boiled is widely considered one of the greatest action movies of all time, even being inducted into the Criterion Collection because a movie where Chow Yun-Fat soars through the air blowing up a thug on a dirt bike with a well placed shotgun blast is considered to be at the same level of cinematic brilliance that Bergman’s The Seventh Seal or Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai are.
Hard Boiled follows Inspector Tequila (yes, really) played by Yun-Fat, a gritty cop from the streets tasked with taking down a local gang of Triads. Tequila is ruthless and unorthodox in his policing, butting heads with his chief whenever he’s out on a mission. Along the way, he runs into Alan (Leung), another cop who has been deep under cover with the Triads, slowly moving his way up the ranks. Together, they team up to investigate the Triad gun smuggling operation in Hong Kong. Tequila wants the Triads dead, but Alan needs to keep his cover so that he can bring them down from the inside. Tensions rise between the police and the Triads, and many, many, many bullets are exchanged along the way.
Oh-ho! Caught you off guard didn’t I? You thought all I did was write about ’80s slasher flicks or pretentious arthouse films, didn’t you? But here I am, writing about a family movie. And a good family movie at that. Not a kids movie mind you. A family movie. A lot of people lump media for kids and media for families together, when they are completely different beasts. Sure, the two of them usually have bright colors and silly characters but when you dig in to the actual content of the film or television show or whatever, family-oriented ones usually have more to offer. A kids movie is something like the 2004 Spongebob Squarepants movie (I love this movie, but I can recognize that it’s a dumb movie for dumb kids), a movie that is made to entertain children only. The jokes are juvenile and there’s not really anything to gain from its story or characters. Parents buy the DVD or Blu-Ray or stream it on Netflix just to shut their kid up for an hour and a half while they take a nap. Family movies are movies that are meant to entertain kids and adults, and usually contain more delicate and real life themes that can actually teach kids something or spark an actual discussion afterwards. Sometimes they even throw the parents a bone, and slip some mature jokes in that would fly over a child’s head. Prime examples of movies and TV like that would include titles like:The Legend of Korra, The Lego Movie, Martyrs, and Disney’s newest box office crushing movie: Zootopia.
Zootopia is essentially a buddy cop crime drama that happens to involve goofy looking anthropomorphic animals. It was directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush, all super talented guys who have been involved with directing or writing in projects like Big Hero 6, Tangled, and The Simpsons (from ’89 to ’98 in case you were wondering).
This film is about a young, country bumpkin rabbit named Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) who moves to the bustling metropolis of Zootopia to become a cop. She’s the first ever rabbit to become an officer and being new and different to the force lends Judy to face discrimination and prejudice from the rest of her co-workers. She eventually bands together with a sly con artist fox, Nick (Jason Bateman) to solve a series of disappearances around Zootopia. Adventure ensues. (more…)