The Raid (2011) dir: Gareth Evans

Or ‘The Raid: Redemption’ to those of you in the USA. This is so much more than a small indie martial arts action flick.

I’d been looking forward to this movie for ages. It had a trailer which screamed: “this is a cool film! Check me out and don’t worry I promise the film will be even better than the trailer! Trust me!!!”. And you know what? It sure is.

I’m a huge martial arts fan so tend to be less keen on Hollywood style action sequences which involve fast cutting and multiple angles – usually either attempting to generate excitement or destroying the skill of the performers involved. This is old school fighting with some modern twists – which looks dangerous (and is) – executed with huge skill – not only by the lead (Iko Uwais) but by a whole host of other performers.

The story is crisp, a swat team get trapped in a building full of bad guys trying to kill them, but what elevates the film from a good action movie to greatness is the sound design, the score, the stylish direction and the little details – such as, well that would be telling.

The combat is hardcore, such as a knife battle involving multiple knife men, and fights end in fast close up gory kills with the odd “eep!!!” moment. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s visceral, tense and exciting.

All credit must go to the writer/director, Welshman Gareth Evans, who has taken an opportunity to make a movie in Indonesia – in a language he doesn’t understand – and smash a six (or homerun) out of the stadium.


You want the trailer here:

Not some of the other bastardised ones that distributors have been putting out.


Micmacs (2009) dir: Jean Pierre Jeunet

After a quiet period I’ve managed to get in 5 movies in the last week or so with a couple more planned for next week! Hurrah! ‘Micmacs’ (‘Shenanigans’ is apparently the best english translation) is, and I quote Jean Pierre Jeunet himself here, “a stupid comedy”. But it’s so much more.

It’s the story of Bazil (Dany Boon). As a child his father was killed by a landmine built by one particular arms company and 30 years later he himself is accidentally shot in the head by a bullet made by a different rival arms company. It all sounds a bit grim but it isn’t. Bazil loses his job but is adopted by a sort of quirky magnificent seven of unusual characters who include the contortionist, the human cannon ball, the human calculator and the super strong (but very old) clockwork toy maker. They help Bazil plot a series of daring escapades to take revenge on the bosses of the arms companies.

Bringing all his visual ‘joie de vivre’ to the table, Jeunet has created a film that is not only wonderful to watch but also great fun. There’s so much delight to be taken just from his distinct visual storytelling style. And so much of the story is told to the audience with just a sequence of images – no chit chat! It makes me want to cut half the dialogue out of the film I’m working on!

There are so few really cinematic directors out there who have such a unique visual style (Tim Burton comes to mind as one) that for full affect Micmacs really deserves to be seen on a big screen.

I’m sure some critics will call it sleight but they miss the point. Bollocks to them. Yes sometimes I occasionally had absolutely no idea what was going on but it didn’t matter one jot. Absolutely marvelous stuff that will leave you with a smile on your face even though there is a serious issue at the film’s heart.

BTW. Here’s something I learned today: Jeunet wrote ‘Amelie’ for Emily Watson and even started working on it with her in London before she pulled out due to ‘personal reasons’.

Let The Right One In (2008) dir: Tomas Alfredson

I’m not going to say much about this as it’s got rave reviews pretty much everywhere and is already in imdb’s top 200 . However, you may be put off by this new take on the vampyre story because it’s in Swedish. Don’t be. The film is terrific. Don’t wait for Matt Reeve’s (Cloverfield) version!

I’m not going to say much about this as it’s got rave reviews pretty much everywhere and is already in imdb’s top 200 .

However, you may be put off by this new take on the vampyre story because it’s in Swedish.

Don’t be.

The film is terrific.

Don’t wait for Matt Reeve’s (Cloverfield) version!

Pray The Devil Back To Hell (2008) dir: Virginia Reticker

Liberia. Heard of it?

Me? Only vaguely. And I keep calling it Iberia – and that’s a European peninsula.

I now know that it’s a country in West Africa (bordering Sierra Leone), created by settlers from America in the 19th Century, some of whom had been freed from slavery. But what is truly amazing, is that until I saw this documentary I had no idea about the remarkable achievement of the woman of that country.

Liberia ticked all the boxes that is often associated with African countries and of the stories reported in the media:

Dictator. Tick. Civil war. Tick. Child soldiers. Tick. Systematic rape of women and female children. Tick. Corruption. Tick. Poverty. Tick.

I know I’m being really flippant here, but hold on a sec. Maybe it’s because it was ‘just another corrupt African country’ that this particular story seems to have been by-passed by the rest of the world, until these filmmakers came across it.

After many years of turmoil, yet another civil war, and watching their husbands forced to fight and their children die, the women of this poor country stood up and said: “Enough”.

Initially, women in Christian and Muslim churches came together to form a group to begin a peaceful protest to try and speak to the country’s leader. They demanded an end to the civil war.  As fighting continued,  the women’s group got bigger and could no longer be ignored and eventually peace talks began. (I’m making it sound easy – it wasn’t). Then the talks broke down, so the women staged a sit in – effectively blocking in the warring factions in their hotel rooms, stopping them from leaving until the peace talks could come to a successful resolution.

In 2005, when democratic elections begun to fall apart (as the UN were doing such an awful job) – the women’s group took over their organisation. Liberia is the only African country with a female president.  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Why hasn’t she been invited to the USA or UK?

This documentary is a testement to how ordinary people can make a difference and affect change through peaceful means.

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