Tag Archives: machine porn

Spectral (2016)

No real poster, as this is a Netflix original.
No real poster, as this is a Netflix original.

Directed by Nic Mathieu
Starring James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood and Ursula Parker

Incongruously pacifist DARPA researcher Mark Clyne (Dale) is called to war-torn Moldova to investigate a series of attacks by seemingly invisible enemies, detectable only using the hyper-spectral goggles developed by his team. The local General (Greenwood) and CIA liaison Fran Madison (Mortimer) think that the enemy insurgents are using active camouflage, while the locals blame the deaths on restless spirits. Clyne’s job is to get a decent picture of the attackers and help a Delta Force team led by Major Sessions (Mancini) to capture a sample of the active camo.

Continue reading Spectral (2016)

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Death Race (2008)

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“Get ready for a killer ride!”

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Jason Statham,  Tyrese Gibson, Joan Allen and Ian McShane

Following the complete breakdown of the US Justice System in 2012, prisons are now for-profit organisations showing pay-per-view blood sports, the most popular of which is Terminal Island Penitentiary’s Death Race.

With ratings falling and masked fan favourite Frankenstein dead, prison director Hennessy (Allen) has former driver Jensen Ames (Statham) framed for the murder of his wife in order to bring him in as the new Frankenstein. Despite his reluctance, and with the help of pit boss Coach (McShane), Ames must try to win just one race to earn his freedom, but for the prison there is no profit in the loss of their star driver.

Faced with hostility on and off the track, and the inevitable double-cross from Hennessy, Ames struggles to emerge the victor of a game with no winners.

What’s wrong with it?

Originally conceived as a remake or sequel and eventual pitched a s kind of thematic prequel to Death Race 2000, the already broad satire of the original (think of an episode of Whacky Races, but one where the course ran through populous areas and Penelope Pitstop scored points for every civilian she ran over) is boiled down to ‘they bet on people dying, yo’ under Anderson’s deft hand. In addition, by switching from a cross-country to a circuit race, the film loses much of the variety of the original, and sacrifices tension for close-up action.

Apart from the blood and rust coloured graphics of the Death Race online coverage – which kind of makes you wish they’d included form Starship Troopers-style infomercials and newsreel to break the monotony – the palette is extremely grey, and unless you’re a pretty serious gear head there isn’t much to pick between the various armoured, led-spewing cars on the track. Only Machine Gun Joe’s (Gibson) immense Dodge Ram really stands out.

The female navigators – of whom only Case (Natalie Martinez) has any character, or indeed lines – are there purely to sex things up visually, which would be bad enough, but when they are then shot, gored, crushed or burned to death during the race, they are left as nothing but voiceless, dead sex objects. A major plot point revolves around Hennessy suborning Case with the promise of her freedom, but this is not developed by giving them any scenes together, leaving the film to fail the Bechdel test on all levels.

Finally, the other drivers don’t really go much beyond stereotypes: Angry black guy, cool Chinese guy, neo-Nazi thug, crazy Latino etc.

What’s right with it?

The race scenes are okay, with the driving bits significantly better than any part where the cars are shooting at each other, where the film signally fails to present any kind of ‘dogfighting’ in favour of lots of straight lines and flying brass.

The plot, although ludicrous, is pretty consistent and, with a couple of exceptions, makes sense in its own mad world.

The main cast is well put together. Statham is typically likable as Ames, McShane’s institutionalised Coach makes for a great mentor  figure and Allen is an effective and nicely atypical villain.

How bad is it really?

There’s a fair bit of dumb fun to be had with this film, but for the most part we’ve seen it done before, and better. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t quite earn its nastier moments and the hypersexualisation of the mostly-doomed navigators is uncomfortable to say the least.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Realising that he is dead, Triad driver 14K, whose previous dialogue has all been in dubbed Chinese (which language or dialect, I could not say), lets loose with an English language ‘Fuck me’… which is subtitled into Chinese . What can I say; I like subtitle humour.

What’s up with…?

  • Case getting her release papers in advance of her betrayal? It hardly seems Hennessey’s style.
  • The sudden introduction of the Dreadnought into the race? It’s like throwing a tiger onto the ring in the middle of a heavyweight boxing match. Sure, it’ll liven things up and probably get you a short-term boost to your ratings, but it’s not going to please the fans, especially the betting public.
  • Mask aside, anyone mistaking a curvy, five-foot-eight Latina for Jason Statham?
  • Likewise, anyone not checking a package being sent to the warden of a prison from the inside, before putting the bomb on her desk?

Ratings

Production values – Moderately slick, with some good explosions, but the muted palette confuses at times. 11

Dialogue and performances – The main cast are solid, especially Allen and McShane, but the support is highly variable. The absence of dialogue of any kind for the background female characters is telling. 14

Plot and execution – The plot is extremely basic, but largely consistent. The execution falls down on the lack of variation in the race scenes and in particular the failure to do anything with the shoot-outs that isn’t having one car drive in a straight line behind another car driving in a straight line. 13

Randomness -Surprisingly sound. There are no complete left-field moments and nothing completely incomprehensible. Only Hennessy’s uncharacteristic and ultimately self-defeating generosity towards Case, and the complete failures of security in the last part of the film stand out. 12

Waste of potential – Well, the pedigree isn’t great. Death Race 2000 is a cult classic, but not all that good of a film. It is a shame that we couldn’t get more satire from such a rich vein as pay-per-view and the morality of viewing dangerous sports, but ultimately if this film has an overall sin, it is in being just okay in a much duller way than 20009

Overall 59%

From the Archive – Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

60

“Ice Cold, Hot Wired.”

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Dominic Sena.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall.

Memphis Raines (Nicholas Cage) has to steal 50 – count ’em – high-class cars in one night to save his brother’s life from Token Brit Villain Christopher “I’ll never move to Hollywood film” Eccelston.

What’s wrong with it?

Basically the film (actually a remake of a 60’s film) is terribly dated and frankly a little dull. Bruckheimer was evidently trying to capture the 80 cheese of Top Gun and Days of Thunder…But in the year 2000. Adding insult to injury, the film, pitched as a car chase movie, only contains one car chase…and that is ten minutes before the end. The rest of the film is spent with long, lingering shots of the cars (admittedly nice) and Angelina Joile (also admittedly nice), who plays the most unlikely mechanic in cinema history, with the implausible moniker of ‘Sway’.

Director Dominic Sena (responsible for other dire offerings such as the David Duchovny ass-fest Kalifornia, and the Halle Berry breast-fest Swordfish) obviously thought it was a great idea to punctuate the film with interminable pounding techno and epileptic edits…And Vinnie Jones.

Ahhhh Vinnie. 15 Minutes almost up!!! ‘Our’ Vinnie plays (wait for it) a violent thug (showing the full extent of his range) called ‘The Sphinx’ (where do they come up with these names!!!). Writer Scott Rosenberg has clearly never seen Mystery Men, or maybe he has as the previously mute Sphinx spouts some cod philosophy at the end of the film (in a very He-Man ‘all laugh together’ ending). Either way he probably misses the irony.

Finally, the whole questionable moral message of the movie (stealing cars is okay if they are expensive as the owners can afford it). Even the Maverick cop lets Nicolas Cage go despite the fact he’s just dropped a business man (admittedly British, therefore Evil!) into a vat of boiling molten metal.

What’s Good about it?

To be fair, the film has Nicolas Cage in, who always falls into the watchable category (despite Starring in Snake Eyes, 8MM, Bringing Out the Dead, Family Man…I could go on). It also features a cool car chase at the end (although followed by some sickening ‘all for a brother’s love’ moralising). Angelina Jolie disappears for half of the movie, so whether you think that’s a good or a bad point is your own lookout.

How bad is it really?

It’s just badly written by someone who on occasions has proved himself to be an able hack. It stars 3 Oscar winners, acting badly (I believe the term is ‘phoning it in’), in a film with high production values pitched to 16-year-old boys who read ‘maxpower’ magazine.

Must try harder!

Best Bit

Either the line ‘You promised your Mother you’d never steal another car again’, or Christopher Eccelston falling backwards into a pit of Molten Metal (with the obligatory terrible back projection effects).

The Cars are cool as well.

What’s up with…?

  • The Finale set in the leftover set of the steel Mill in Terminator 2?
  • Vinnie Jones philosophical psycho analysing all the main characters?
  • Nicolas Cage’s ginger toupee?

Ratings:

Production Values – High. Lots of expensive cars (some shots if them driving would have been nice though) and stars. 3

Dialogue and Performance – Pretty lame. A few decent one-liners creep into the mix, but not many. “I’m not messing with anyone who plays with dog shit” ‘quips’ a street punk. 16

Plot and Execution – The plot is more of an excuse really. The title was fairly apt. 20

Randomness – High. Subplots involving Parents splitting up, getting Cancer, Diaritic dogs and Geordie thugs are all thrown into the mix. But most bizarrely is the crapness of the car thefts, just shots of various fast cars being loaded into huge crates, then as the film goes on just shots of the crates…Obviously Jeremy Clarkson only allowed half his collection to be filmed. Also lots of techno crap about Carburettors and Tungsten fuel injection ports. 18

Waste of Potential – Unrated.

Overall: 72.5%*

* Overall rating calculated based on the percentage from the four rated categories.