Monday, September 29, 2008

Mutant Chronicles

"I'm not paid to believe, I'm paid to fuck things up"

Eloquent words, I think you'll agree. And there are plenty more where they came from in the 100 or so minutes that make up "Mutant Chronicles".

I am not going to lie to you. From the first time I saw the trailer for this film I began to anticipate its arrival, and thanks to a little good fortune I have managed to get a sneaky viewing in before the October 10th UK release date.


Loosely based upon a Swedish pen and paper role-playing game (and later board games), "Mutant Chronicles" is a tale of a dystopian Earth in the 28th century. The planet is under the complete control of four warring corporations, all of which are throwing men into battle to secure complete dominance and an overall share of "the market". However, before the plot is given a chance to develop into a diatribe of our destructive, capitalist ways, one such battle between two of the corporations just happens to uncover an ancient machine, which just so happens to reanimate and mutate the recently deceased. With bodies aplenty to drag away, the mutants begin to multiply until eventually the call is given to evacuate Earth. As the ships begin to leave it is apparent that millions will be left behind to face the rapidly encroaching hoards.

Does that sound like a lot of action to cram in? Yes? Well that is just the first act. And a clunky first act it was. Take away the flashbacks, spools of exposition and the set-up of characters you know full-well are going to eat dirt reasonably soon and you are left with very little else. But I am not the type to walk out on a film, especially one involving rampaging mutants in a futuristic dystopia.

The remaining two acts are concerned with a Monk named Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman), a member of an ancient order possessing knowledge of the mutant machine, who is on a quest to recruit soldiers to help him venture into the underground heart of the machine to bring an end to the destruction. Having found some suitably high-profile cannon-fodder (John Malkovitch has already appeared and has since buggered off again) in the form of Thomas Jane, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee and Benno F├╝rmann (Inspector detector in "Speed Racer"), Brother Samuel proceeds to show off his mute assistant with mad sword skills and then chooses to waffle about the value of faith for a little while. Eventually some characters get exploded. The end.

So, it was never going to be Shakespeare, but the Philip Eisner screenplay was ridiculous. I enjoyed Eisner's previous and much underrated big screen effort "Event Horizon", but that was way back in 1997. I believe the intention was for the writing to be "out there", but aside from some genuinely funny one-liners, there was little to salvage.

The script may not burn itself onto your mind, this is left to the visuals. The film is shot almost in its entirety in front of a blue screen and contains over 2000 effects shots, which at the time of production was a record for any British helmed and funded film (the screenplay is American, but the film was shot entirely in the UK by British director Simon Hunter). Obvious comparisons could be drawn to films such as "Sin City", however, a closer fit and slightly more dubious honour, would be to compare it to "Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow". Both films make use of digitally created retro styling in a futuristic setting. Whereas Sky Captain used an art deco aesthetic, MC opts for a much darker, steam punk variation on the early 20th century (yes, those are steam-powered flying machines in the trailer). I applaud the film makers for pushing boundaries, but as with Sky Captain, the effects failed to blend seamlessly with the action and indeed, some of the shots had the effect of looking unfinished.

All-in-all, this wasn't a brilliant piece of film-making, but it definitely isn't going to be the worst film of the year - far from it. This is, if not every ones cup of tea, is a decent popcorn action movie that takes itself too seriously, making it funnier than it is intended to be. If you disagree with that, then I hope you can at least agree that this makes Simon Hunter a director to watch out for in the future.

[SPOILER - kind of] But it did quite obviously steal the finale to "Total Recall"...Cheeky Philip Eisner.

2.5 severed limbs out of five.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chase me, chase me!

Morning folks.

On Wednesday, for the first time in ages I was gifted with a new film to check before its impending release. The film in question was "The Chaser", and having heard mostly good things, including news of a forthcoming Leonardo DiCaprio remake, it is fair to say that I was excited to get to my seat.

Let me fill in those of you who have managed to miss the hype surrounding this film.

"The Chaser" - or "Chugyeogja" in its original Korean - follows a detective-turned-pimp as he searches for the person he only knows as 4885 (from his mobile phone number), whom he believes has been kidnapping his "girls" in order to sell to other outfits.

Initially this all sounds a little high-concept, but once you get a feel for the characters then it becomes easier to stop questioning and start relating. It is then that you can appreciate this film for exactly what it is, an often harrowing, sporadically funny, very simple story that is told very well.

The one downfall of this film can be highlighted by its mildly misleading title. The initially mysterious "4885" is captured within the first half hour of the film and this is where the chasing stops, at least in a purely physical sense. The rest of the film is spread a little thin as we view the story from the three perspectives of our pimp (searching for one of his girls whom he believes to still be alive), the police (who are holding "4885", but are hindered by bureaucracy) and "Mi-Jin Kim" the last girl to be taken.

This split-perspective serves to slow down the middle of the film, and although I appreciate the inclusion of the police procedural aspects of the story, after a while it started to feel like an especially gruesome episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" that just happened to be set in the suburbs of Seoul. The up-shot to these scenes is that they have a much-needed grounding effect, which works to counterbalance the eventually cloying story of our Pimps moralistic awakening.

So in conclusion, this film was well shot, well told and something a little bit different. It is well worth the price of admission and if you can get over the rather slow second act and the clunky transition of our pimp from money-centric bastard to Korea's most feeling man you will be rewarded with a sublime finale that many will not have seen coming.

In keeping with 4885's tool of choice I award this film 3.5 Bloody Chisels out of 5.

(You have been warned).

Enjoy the original Korean Trailer for the Film (The US voice over in the Western Trailer is rubbish).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bitching Hour

Good morning world.

For a change this blog may reach people numbering in their hundreds, rather than the single figures that I am used to. Why? It is definately not because I have anything of real interest to divulge, it is merely because I have been messing with the settings in "new" facebook and discovered that you can forward blog posts from other sites so that they are published in your notes. So, essentially, this rare addition to my blog is merely a chance for me to stare in awe at the splendour of web 2.0 and all its shiny, shiny goodness.

If I ever do think of anything interesting to say then I also have the option of using Nokia's Lifeblog service (installed on my shiny new phone). I think this means that I can publish my ramblings on the move, but to be completely honest I haven't quite worked out how to use it yet. It amazes me how much a person can fascinate and indeed salivate over features such as this on a phone. I suppose it is something that is ingrained into the hearts of all geeks and tech lovers. And yet, like many of the fads of my past, my interest in this particular bell/whistle has faded. I honestly can't imagine the level of urgency involved for me to have to publish a blog whilst out and about. Surely if the news/gossip/bollocks was so important I would tell people directly rather than having to wait for them to be passing by my page on Blogger. Updates like that are reserved for the important, the interesting and the egocentric.

Now that everyone is aware of the new methods of blogging that I have available to me (but will ultimately choose to ignore), I think it is time to acknowledge the original purpose of this blog. I originally started this blog after becoming a projectionist in order to have a space in which I could post film reviews and pieces of news that I thought were of interest. And whereever news and reviews were thin on the ground I would update you on my various writing endeavours.

I have been decidedly lax when it comes to updating this blog. I will openly admit that I have been lazy and often forgetful, however, my lack of fresh self-deprecation and scattergun vitriol does not stem exclusively from these partiular character flaws. I believe that I avoid writing in my blog for such extended periods because it remids me that I could be writing something infinitley more rewarding. I could be finishing assignments on my correspondance course in creative writing, I could be completeing the book that I have been half-heartedly working on for the past 3 years, I could be submitting articles to magazines for publication. And yet I never do any of these things. So here I am at my prime blog posting slot between the hours of 0300 and 0400, finally typing something, but realising that this update is merely another distraction aimed at indefinately delaying myself from ever staring to write something with any meaning. It is an incredibly frustrating feeling, which is only made worse by the fact that I am bringing it on myself.

Maybe I will take the David Lynch route to artistic exploration and begin a programme or Transcendental Meditation. The theory and philosophy behind it is fascinating. At first glance TM has cult written all over it, but look at little deeper, past the joining fee, past the new-ageness of it all and it really starts to make sense. In fact, there is a TM run primary/secondary school in Skelmersdale (location of the TM UK headquarters) that supplements the regular curriculum with periods of meditation. The intention is to create a relaxed and open-minded learning environment. Result - Consistently good (destroying the national averages) GCSE results across the board and well rounded students with a healthy attitude towards life and learning.

I very much like the philosophy that all you need to help yourself can be found within. I believe that to have faith in oneself is a far greater thing that to have faith in any of the many deities that have come and gone over the millenia. I'll let you know how things are going if I ever decide to give it a go rather than just sitting here whining into the void.

So, once again, so long, farewell...parting is such sweet sorrow.