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.

Update:

You want the trailer here:


http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/sony/theraidredemption/

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!

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.

Serial Lover (1998) dir: James Huth

OK. Bit of a rule breaker here. This is an old film, so I’m not going to do this often. But it was great! And you won’t have heard of it. And I’ve got a bit of time on my hands (but that’s another story).

Picture the scene:

I had to get up really early on a cold Saturday October morning to go to a seminar. It was heaving down with rain and I was grumpy. So me and these 5 other people sat down in this huge empty auditorium – 9.00am – in these uncomfortable metal chairs. The kind that are always dug out from the room marked ‘Pain’ at these sort of events. Then an announcement comes on: “Before the seminar we’d like to show you this French film.”

“God noooooo!” I’m thinking. “I’m just not in the mood for some arty farty boring subtitled film.”

(I was a bit of an idiot in those days when it came to subtitles and foreign language films. And I had no hot chocolate on me to soothe my sorrows.)

What’s more the film didn’t start off too hot neither.

35ish Claire (Michèle Laroque) has decided she needs to settle down and get married, but she’s single. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. Her biological clock is ticking.

This didn’t sound like a good setup, I knew where this was going: it was a one way trip to La Boredom. But it’s shot nicely so I’ll hang in there.

But then Claire has three male friends and she’s going to pick one to marry.

I’m shuffling in my bum-numbing seat and thinking about blowing the seminar entirely. God it’s cold in here.

So she invites them over for dinner and…

…accidentally kills them all – one by one – in entirely believable and ingenious ways.

This was now laugh out loud black comedy.  Coen brothers territory but funnier. All six of us in the audience are trying not to choke.

And it just got funnier:

After she’s killed two of her friends, and failed to hide the bodies properly, her last remaining friend discovers whats been occurring and panics. He shuts himself in her bedroom, and pushes the end of a bookcase against the door. Maybe he can save himself from this apparently deranged and psychotic woman?

He sits down, and leans back against the other end of the bookcase to keep the door from opening.

She’s banging on the door “It was an accident! I didn’t mean to kill them!…. Both times!” Or words to that affect (and in French).  I can’t remember exactly.

On top of the bookcase is an ice-skate.

Claire’s banging on the door, blokey is on the floor freaked out.

Bang, bang, bang goes the door against the bookcase.

Snick!

The ice-skate falls and embeds itself in the guy’s skull. But he’s alive – that’s not fatal.

“Are you ok?” Claire calls out from the other side of the door, now that her friend has gone quiet.

Thump, thump, thump as the door rattles against the bookcase. Very slowly Claire’s bowling ball, which we now learn she keeps on the top shelf, gently rolls off and…WHAP! Smacks the top of that ice-skate – with dire consequences.

Of course there’s no way I can do this scene justice, but the film was an absolute delight. I mean I’m banging on about it now and it was like 10 years ago when I saw it! It came out in France, during the 1998 World Cup staged where?  France. So no one went to see it. And it’s been released on DVD in Germany.

As far as I am aware, that is it.

At one time Sean Penn had the remake rights but I don’t know if that is still the case.  I met James Huth once and even he didn’t have a copy of the film.  James is doing OK though, one of his more recent films (which I haven’t seen) ‘The Brice Man’ was No. 2 in the French box office for 2005 – after Star Wars: the something or other.

If you happen to have a copy, with English subtitles, please let me know.  I’d love to see it again.

In Search Of (2008) dir: Zeke Zelker

Ok.. Let’s start with the BFI London Film Festival http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff/. You have to start somewhere, right?

In Search of.

I knew nothing about this film. Someone gave me their ticket for it so I thought I’d go. The screening must have been ultra secret as it’s not even listed on the LFF website. Anyway, this was the first public screening of this small indie film about the interweaving relationships (usually sexual) of 10 people. It was beautifully acted and quite frankly I was stunned by this little gem of a film that I knew nothing about.

It’s weird, but it has kind of spurred me to start this blog. I’ve seen a lot of fantastic (and bloody awful) films that no one gets to see or even hear of (I’m going to chuck some of those films into this blog as well at some point) – so I thought I’d write about them, and maybe if you read my blog, one day you’ll check them out. But I digress.

‘In Search Of’ was kind of like Paul Haggis’s ‘Crash’ but the links between character and story was via sex rather than race.  It’s an American film made by an American, but if it had been made by a French or Italian director, Zeke Zelker would be hailed as some new auteur. The film was that good.

I do have one criticism though. It’s the marketing. I can see that Zeke is doing it himself, as like many independent filmmakers, he doesn’t yet have a distributor for his film. But he’s getting it wrong big time. He’s kind of pushing the sex angle, in such a way, that it appears to be an exploitation pic – maybe to get bums on seats – but that’s not his audience (my blog, my opinion!). His audience for this film appreciates intelligently told, well crafted films about people, not tits and arse (though there’s absolutely nothing wrong in that – that’s just not what this film is about). If he’s not careful he’ll alienate those people who would be interested in seeing this film.

The film is about real people’s stories beautifully told, it’s quite European,  sure there’s a bit of nudity, but that’s really about it.

I’ve just googled Zeke and he has a blog on here. Well I never.