Nepotism In The Film Industry

*Originally written in 2019

Nepotism. Once reserved only for Kings and Politicians, it gradually became so ingrained within the movie industry that it’s even less likely that you, glancer, will ever break into the family, should you so desire. Dreams are hard enough to chase without people born with silver spoons in their ass cutting four million places ahead of you in the line. For every kid with stardom in their eyes and a red carpet for a tongue, and for every writer with original ideas flushing from their brain, there’s a Coppola or a Redgrave or some other niece or nephew from one of Hollywood’s dynasties just waiting to stand on your neck and vomit down your gullet. There always seems to be another Fonda, another Willis, another Smith… it’s enough to make you throw it all away and become a murderous incel instead. Except, that would be a dick move, just like the dicks forcing their ofttimes unworthy glitz and glam spawn upon us.

I’m being tongue in cheek of course – many of the kids born into acting or directing or writing families are so surrounded by talent, so involved in the industry that it kind of almost makes sense that a lot of it will rub off on them and that they make the next generation of quality entertainment. On the flip side… these people are growing up with absolutely zero idea of what the real world actually is, and the stories they tell and the characters they play often bear no relation to a real human being. There’s a reason why the best movies and performers and writers and directors often come from the working class or from non-industry backgrounds. I say there is room for both, but more and more often it seems like those small parts, tailor made for a new voice, are being taken away by daddy’s little princess or mummy’s special little guy. With the calls for diversity and equality, rightly sweeping all areas of Entertainment, Sports, Business, and life in general, worrying about something so seemingly trivial as this feels like I’m pouring fuel on an already foul fire and that I should be placing my efforts towards Gender or Race Equality. Once again, I do support those things wholeheartedly, because it is only fair that everyone gets a fair shot regardless of background – and more interesting results always come from diverse opinions – whether we’re talking movies, music, politics, whatever.

I’m not outright calling Film Nepotism as something truly horrific, even if it can be, even as unfair as it is.  Some of the best people had famous industry parents, and many of the best movies would not have happened without Nepotism. I’m not saying the children of actors are going to deliver bad performances or unoriginal material – they might – but I am saying that there are issues that need to be addressed. I am saying the phenomena shows no signs of slowing down – if anything it appears to be getting more prevalent. I’m asking how many other performers out there never had a chance because they lacked the family connection? How many films never got made with a specific vision, or at all, because the person with the vision didn’t have a famous name? I’m saying – you have an audition down to two candidates for a role, and one of them is just some kid with great potential, while the other is the son of an Oscar Winner? 99% of the time, they’re going to go for the connection – keeping the family connections safe and secure, patting each other on the back, leaning on the marketing of such a name, and remaining inside an impervious bubble. Smart business, right? I’m saying, not just Hollywood, lets give someone else a shot. Businesses live and die nowadays based on diversity, and it’s not only skin colour, age, sexuality, and race we should be considering (though those are more important).

You probably know most of the aforementioned Hollywood families, but most people don’t realize just how prevalent this activity actually is. Here are some people who “only” got into the industry because of their famous family. Snowflake alert – I have no doubt that these guys are talented, but lets not pretend you got here on merit alone. Making it in any business is 5% talent, 10% hard work, 50% luck, and 90% who you know. I should know – my Maths teacher told me. This will be the first of several posts on the topic, alerting you to some of the people who may not realise had a leg up from birth.

Note – everything above and below this paragraph. was written in 2019 – 2020. I never bothered posting it because I wanted to expand the list to at least 10 entries. I got bored after the seven below and never came back to the idea. In recent weeks I’ve come to it but with a slightly different idea in mind. In my future posts on this topic, I’m either going to pick one or two of my favourite movies of a particular year and go through the entire cast to see just how many of them had a leg or two up based on their family connections, or I’m going to pick a random movie which has recently been released and do the same. Till then, try to enjoy my original post. Please. Please?

Maggie And Jake Gyllenhaal.

With a family name spreading back to Swedish nobility of the 1600s, their family members have included Ministers Of Justice for Sweden, Barons, Socialites, and various high ranking Army types. Bringing it to the 20th Century, Maggie and Jake’s father Stephen is a TV and Film Director who has worked on Family of Spies, Twin Peaks, Girl Fight, while their mother Naomi is an Oscar nominated Screenwriter for Running On Empty. With that sort of family it would be more surprising if you weren’t a worldwide success.

Julia Roberts/Eric Roberts/Emma Roberts.

Julia, Eric, and Emma are the daughter, son, and granddaughter respectively of Betty Lou Bredemus. While it’s true each of them has exceeded the matriarch in terms of fame, they probably wouldn’t have got far without her backing. She was a stage actress who worked alongside Rance Howard (more on him later) and though she kept out of the limelight, she worked on local TV and created an acting and writing workshop with great success, tutoring the children of Marin Luther King.

Ron Howard/Clint Howard/Bryce Dallas Howard/Paige Howard

If you thought the Howard clan started with Ron, you’d be ron (wrong). Rance Howard began acting in the late 40s but ironically got his major success because he starred alongside his young children Ron and Clint in hits such as Gentle Ben and The Andy Griffith Show in a weird example of… reverse nepotism? Naturally, the Matriarch was an actress too, appearing in many of Ron’s movies. Rance shows up in films such as Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, many of Ron’s movies, Ron begat Paige and Bryce, and I’m sure they won’t be the last.

Gwyneth Paltrow

With a name like Gwyneth, you just know your parents were famous eccentric types (Apple and Moses, I’m looking at you). Yes, old ‘how the hell did she win an Oscar’ is daughter to Blythe Danner – Emmy and Tony Award winning actress that you may know from those focking Fockers movies or Futureworld or The Prince Of Tides or any number of TV movies. As if that wasn’t enough, her father was director and producer Bruce Paltrow, known for St Elsewhere and The White Shadow. Oh yes, Gwyneth’s brother Jake has directed Boardwalk Empire and NYPD Blue, her uncle Harry is an opera singer and actor from Ally McBeal and The Wedding Planner, her cousin Katherine has appeared in The L Word, Ray Donovan, and other cousin Gabrielle is an Arizona Politician. Some families spread like a disease.

Jennifer Anniston

One of the true 90s Sweethearts, Anniston was a breath of fresh air (hair?) when we first saw her as Rachel in Friends. A new talent, she…. wait a minute, wasn’t she in Leprechaun? And wait, wasn’t she in Mac And Me? Man, I love that movie. Turns out Jennifer’s entry into Hollywood was through an already open door, rather than the slammed and bolted shut way us normies face. While hardly a dynasty like some others already mentioned, and while she was discouraged from a career in Cinema, her mother nevertheless was an actress – Nancy Dow appeared in various movies and TV series in the 1960s, while her Greek immigrant father John Anniston is a popular TV and Soap actor, most famous for over 2500 episodes of Day Of Our Lives. 

Joaquin Phoenix

Note – when I began writing this, I didn’t have any set format in mind. I wrote the first draft a good year before returning to it, and when I did return I decided to take a different approach. So the next names I’m looking at are recent Oscar Winners and Nominees – just to see their family connections (ha! Either that or recent releases or my own personal favourites. Or all three. Or more likely none). Joaquin Phoenix is undoubtedly one of the most revered performers of his generation. It’s a little disingenuous to include him here – his parents were not performers – but it was his mother’s work as a secretary for NBC that ensured a talent scout spotted her children and their potential. While Joaquin and River have had the most success out of the five siblings, it is only sisters Summer and Liberty who have had children of their own. There’s every chance those kids will extend the Phoenix legacy in the future.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Another child actor turned Hollywood Heavyweight, DiCaprio had a minor edge over the competition given that his father was an established writer with many acquaintances in the 70s Underground. While hardly a deal-breaker, his father’s experience in these circles undoubtedly helped Leo become the star he is today.

Let us know in the comments if you have any obvious or minor examples of Hollywood nepotism and your own thoughts on the phenomena!

The Password Is Courage

The Password is Courage original film poster | Movie Poster Studio 1184

If there’s anything to learn from The Password Is Courage it’s that Dirk Bogarde was a bad-ass. Check out any biography or discussion of his past, his own part in World War 2, and many other antics; bad. ass. The Password Is Courage was by no means the first POW movie, but it’s one of the most underrated and lesser known, with an opening 10 minutes which must rank among the most entertaining I’ve seen in the genre. Make no mistake, this is neither gruelling nor overtly political, or even particularly serious, sharing more similarities with something like The Great Escape. 

The film opens with Bogarde’s Sgt-Major Coward and cohorts already in a POW camp. We don’t get to see this camp actually being as horrific as we know they could be (there were of course limits to what movies could show and what audiences could tolerate back then) but we know the Allied soldiers want freedom. Coward consistently makes a nuisance of himself and is trying to look for ways to escape – on a forced march he slips away and hides in a farmhouse. Unfortunately for him, this farmhouse is already about to be taken over by the Germans as a hospital – luckily, the Germans are idiots and they mistake Coward for an injured German soldier and award him the Iron Cross in a particularly amusing scene. All of these antics are merely set up for his actual escape as he is quickly recaptured and sent back to his POW camp. A brave move to have a fake-out escape in the opening moments and which takes up a fair chunk of the running time.

The rest of the movie follows Coward continuing to lie, cheat, and steal his way from Camp to Camp – pissing off both Germans and Allies equally in his search for freedom. He gets a friend, he meets a pretty lady, and there are moments of both action and humour. The film never comes close to striking a serious nerve and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a jolly romp through the worst period of the 20th Century so much as offering a clearly fictional more light-hearted take on the audacity, bravado, and luck of some of those involved.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Password Is Courage!

The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

Life

Life movie review & film summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that travelling to space will either lead to jolly adventures with feisty bikini clad Princesses and furries, or gruesome/slimy/explosive death. Life explores the second option, placing the viewer in a realistic present day landscape rather than the not too distant future of Alien – one of several movies it is more than inspired by. By camping us inside the orbital real world ISS alongside a skeleton crew of cross-continental familiar faces, yet giving us fleeting glimpses of what is happening back home – births, parades, cute kids asking cute questions – Life aims to alarm us into thinking what if the guys up there right now discover something hostile?

We join our crew of six as they collect soil samples from Mars which may contain evidence of <insert title here>. Turns out there is life out there, of the single celled variety, and turns out the cell just needs a touch of glucose to get it up in the morning. One taste of sugar and the little bastard begins sprouting, stretching, and expanding. Like all babies, translucent or otherwise, it wants to explore and wreck shit. Once named (by some cute Earthlings), Calvin crushes his daddy’s hand, yeets out, and begins an adolescent rampage. While the film has rightly been called an inferior mixture of Gravity and Alien, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a retelling of every parent’s experience with a toddler ever, with more CG. Like every movie set in space, there’s a frantic race against time, lots of clamouring to solve impossible problems, and people picked off one by one as they fight for survival and try to prevent the ever growing, increasingly wobbly Calvin making his way to the good ol’ US of Earth.

It’s a fine watch from start to finish, without really offering anything new. It feels more like a case of updating every aspect of the movies it apes; updated special effects, updated creature effects, updated dialogue – everything to make the film more appealing to today’s audience. The only time the movie puts its neck on the line is with its ending – a refreshingly un-Hollywood ending but one you know is coming so that, once again, it comes as no surprise and dilutes any shock value it was meant to generate. Most attempts at fleshing out each character – and to the film’s credit it does try to do this – most of these attempts feel trite and not genuine. Rather than any individuality, the film offers a stock archetype and then gives each one a single thing which marks them as different from the other. Sanada is Japanese, and has a kid on the way. There’s the disabled dude who, for some reason, becomes obsessive at bringing Calvin to life, Gyllenhaal is calm and cold, but is perfectly happy living in Space, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds etc. Each aspect totalled up amounts to a perfectly average film – if you haven’t seen Alien or Gravity then maybe this will have more of an impact on you and for a night in it passes the time without forcing you to think or become too invested, while equally staving off the boredom.

Let us know what you think of Life in the comments!

Fanboys

Making a fan service movie, which is also about fan service/fandom, is a tricky prospect these days. Geek fandom and its associated privilege, is King. People can kick and grump and moan to force someone to lost their job, to force someone into a job, to keep dissenting voices out of fandom, or to cause enough of a stink so that the fandom eventually gets what it wants. Fandoms have always been a vague mire of toxicity and inclusive joy representing both the best and worst of humanity, and both aspects have only been exacerbated by the pervasive and all encompassing nature of social media. Fanboys was released as social media was beginning to explode, but it gets around some of these issues by setting the film in the more innocent, greener pasture of 1998.

If you were a Star Wars fan in 1997 and 1998, it was a particularly exciting time. I was a lad of 15 and a fairly large fan of the franchise – not as big as my older brother, not as rabid as others, but certainly keeping an eye online for snippets of information such as they were dispersed back then. Fanboys follows a group of typical 90s nerds – comic book and sci-fi fans, but not the entitled geeks of today, and not the bullied party avoiders of the 80s. Having recently left High School and each figuring out the trials of adulthood – whether that be living in your mom’s garage, following in your father’s footsteps, or working in a comic book store – the gang meet up at a Halloween party and reconvene in anticipation of Episode I. There is an undercurrent of anger due to one of the gang seemingly growing up and leaving his friends behind, but when it is revealed that one of the group has terminal cancer and only has a few months to live, the tension is put temporarily on ice. The main problem is that the dude wants to see Episode I before he dies, but it is due for release in six months while doctors have given him no more than four. The guys decide that the only solution is to break into the infamous Skywalker ranch and catch a pre-release copy, and so they set off on a road trip across the Country.

This being a Road Movie, it hits all of the expected trappings – every mile travelled brings a new discovery about a particular character and their coming of age, each new destination features an associated humorous interlude, and as the gang get closer to their goal they learn that the journey and those you make the journey with are often more important than the final destination. Being a movie about fandom, there are plenty of in jokes, cameos, and nerdy discussion – some more ill-advised than others – from recurring battle between Star Wars and Star Trek fans, from Billy Dee Williams appearing as a character called Judge Reinhold and cameos by William Shatner, Ray Park, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith and other, to Harry Knowles appearing as a character (played by an actor). Sadly the film became more known for its controversial re-shoots. Early buzz was positive and George Lucas was a fan, but later re-shoots attempted to add more raunchy humour and remove important character and story elements. These re-shoots were done by director Steven Brill, famous for only making shit movies, and when a genuine fan campaign was raised pleading for the original vision of the film to be released, Brill responded with a highly publicized and idiotic rant about fandom. Eventually the original vision was mostly restored, though director Kyle Newman had barely any time to complete. This seemingly resulted in a mish mash of a film, one which has fleeting moments of potential, genuine warmth, and humour, while much of the film feels a little disjointed and unsure of what it wants to be.

Star Wars fans should nevertheless get a laid back kick out of the movie. It’s harmless and has a collection of laughs to go with the decent performers from recognisable faces – Kristen Bell, Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler. Whether or not the reshoot controversy prevented the film from being a more rounded and well received movie we’ll likely never find out, but anyone looking for an underseen coming of age Road flick centred on friendship and fandom might want to give this a watch.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Fanboys!

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Collinsport Historical Society: Monster Serial: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, 1982

When you call your movie ‘The Slumber Party Massacre’, there are certain things an audience might expect; namely, a slumber party, possibly some sort of massacre, and perhaps that massacre will happen at a slumber party. The periphery information – what the theme of the Slumber Party is, who is in attendance, who is doing the massacring, and why these people are being massacred – well that’s left to the excited viewer to uncover, but presumably each of these questions would also be answered. The Slumber Party Massacre answers every one of these questions – there is a slumber party (attended by a bunch of peppy high school seniors), there is a massacre (instigated by a good old fashioned escaped crim who takes a liking to this particular group of friends), the massacre does happen at the slumber party (and a little precursor or two beforehand), the theme of the slumber party is simply to drink and get stoned and bitch about people – and some of these people even show up to be massacred too. Basically, there’s a whole lot of massacring at this slumber party.

What else should be in a film with this name? If you answered boobs, then you’re correct! Boobs should be present, and boobs are present. Quite often in fact. If you’re wondering why I’m asking all these bizarre, vaguely humours questions – it’s not merely because I’m a lazy, unfunny writer, but it’s because they’re actually relevant to the context of the movie. The film was originally written as a parody or satire of the booming slasher genre – while it was never going to be as meta as Scream, it was still designed to poke fun at the exploitative nature of the genre – the male gaze and full frontal antics, the ludicrous violence, the empty-headed characters, nonsensical plots, and the killers and their ridiculous agenda/weapons/masks/unkillability. At some point between script and filming the unthinkable happened and the film instead switched into being the exact sort of film it was meant to be satirizing. What this means is that we have a film filled with the blood, guts, bad guys, killings, and boobs of your usual sleaze’n’slash-fest, but a script with strange in-jokes, characters who seem more savvy than they should be, and some proto-feminist turns. In short, it’s fucking bizarre.

While you’re not going to highlight any of the performances as notable, everyone here is passable and entertaining, from the cannon fodder to the cannon. As bad as you’re expecting a film with this title to be, you’ll enjoy it in spite of yourself. Horror fans will enjoy the niche it owns along with the kills, the various trappings and tropes, and any non-horror fans will get a kick out of how silly it all is. On the surface it’s a typical slasher following a bunch of girls being stalked by a crazed killer and his powerdrill (shlong), and as they get picked off one by one the survivors begin to fight back in a last gasp attempt at survival. It’s just over an hour long, and as such makes for a curious and simple good time – the perfect horror party movie before moving on to something more substantial.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Slumber Party Massacre!

Blood Fest

Blood Fest (2018) – Review | Mana Pop

I seem to start a lot of posts these days with the phrase ‘if you’re a regular to this blog’, which suggests I’m covering a lot of the same topics on a loop, but if you’re a regular to this blog then you’ll know I love fiction and movies set around theme parks, fun parks, carnivals and the like. In recent years we’ve had a few films in this vein, expanding out to also cover the Escape Room craze, and in 2018 alone we confusingly had Hell Fest and Blood Fest – two films set inside the curious theme parky world of Horror-Cons.

Blood Fest begins promisingly, with a mother and son snuggled up watching horror movies on the sofa. The mum goes into the kitchen to grab more popcorn, and when she doesn’t come back the son goes to the kitchen only to find a masked killer standing over his mum’s bloodied body. Flashforward to present day and the boy is now a teenager obsessed with Horror movies, while his dad is a psychologist who argues against Horror and other violent forms of media as they lead to the sort of disorders or crimes which led to his wife’s death. It’s a decent setup, and even though all I expect or want from a movie like this is some fun chase and kill shenanigans using the location in an interesting way, this had the potential to discuss some deeper topics.

It’s odd then that the setup doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s no sense of grief within the family, there’s little real discussion on the ills, perceived or otherwise, of Horror movies on impressionable people – which is especially strange because the entire plot hinges on that exact device – and it means that I was left a little disappointed by the final product. Had a more generic setup been in place I would have taken this as a simple fun slasher, but as it suggests its going to have more depth – when it doesn’t deliver on that promise I ask what the point of it all was.

We should bear in mind though that the movie is a comedy – it’s a comedy set in the world of Horror and Horror fandom, with plenty of nods and in jokes both broad enough for casual fans to get, and more specific such as a moment recalling The Exorcist 3’s famous jump scare. There’s quite a lot of gore – of the over the top, spurting Asian variety – but there isn’t an ounce of tension or true horror here. It’s 100% in the Comedy genre, like a poor man’s Shaun Of The Dead. The teenager hero and his two friends are planning to attend Blood Fest – a celebration of all things Horror, with rides, celeb meet and greets, booze, music, and everything else you would expect from an overblown Con. The twist is that once the guests arrive, all doors are locked, all gates are electrified, and all bets are off as the Con’s host – an overly camp Owen Edgerton – wants to film the greatest Horror movie of all time by killing all of the guests throughout the different areas of the park. The park is split into different areas matching a particular Horror theme or trope – zombies, vampires, killer clowns – and each area is filled with maniacal killers or monsters. Again, there’s a cool idea in here – a Horror based Battle Royale – but we focus on our small group of survivors, and the park’s areas are only given cursory glances. I’d have enjoyed more of a thorough Running Man style chase through these areas with a sense of progress and threat and a chance to feel the different atmosphere of each. A larger group of survivors, seeing them get whittled down as they make their way towards the Exit or the centre, would have been cool.

Our heroes are not the most exciting bunch – lead horror geek, his feisty love interest, his geeky friend, the hot blonde, and ostensibly the hot blonde’s jerk boyfriend and a cowardly horror actor. They never feel like they are in any real danger, and even when they begin to get picked off we’re not given any reason to care – and the survivors don’t react much. A sharper script would have improved matters, but there’s a much better film in here as I’ve alluded to; that idea of survival in a Horror version of Disneyland, complete with cameos from famous faces from within the genre, and by all means spice it up with social commentary or meta influence. As it stands, Blood Fest is a let down on most fronts – the laughs are flat, the commentary may as well not be there, the gore is silly, the plot is uninteresting, and the location is underused and not fleshed out. Still, it’s a brief enough watch and if you’re into films set in the same sort of universe and location as this, you’ll likely get some basic enjoyment out of it.

Let us know what you thought of Blood Fest in the comments!

#Alive

Korean Thriller '#Alive' Coming To Netflix On September 8

It’s true that there is a fatigue for zombie movies at the moment. In truth, that fatigue set in over a decade ago, but that hasn’t stopped movie-makers still attempting to find a new spin on the formula or drop their own mangey undead copycat. #Alive lies somewhere in the No Man’s Land between these two camps, bringing in drones and vlogging and a different type of location, yet not really doing anything radically different from a narrative or character perspective. It’s essentially the same survivalist shtick of Night Of The Living Dead, set in a South Korean apartment block with a (mostly) single protagonist whose incompetence is his most notable trait. Luckily, the film is not overlong and is told with a certain amount of energy which compliments the youthful nature of its hero.

#Alive doesn’t take long to get to the point. A typical twenty something social media gamer type is just setting up for another day of streaming videogames with his friends and subscribers when one of his gang notices something strange on the news. As they question the validity of what they’re seeing, our protagonist hears the sudden sounds of carnage coming from outside; screams, car crashes, stampeding crowds. He looks out of his balcony to see people running and attacking each other from a few storeys below, and similar sounds are coming from right outside his door. It’s zombies, of the 28 Days Later variety. So begins the usual barricading of doors and windows, setting out food and water, and preparing weapons for an eventual attack and inevitable step outside. All the while he keeps checking his mobile, hoping for a signal, hoping for news from his family who had already left for the day when the attack began.

The Night Eats The World follows a very similar premise to this, but the two films are very different in tone and approach. #Alive is more action heavy and only half-heartedly deals with the psychological aspects of being trapped, terrified, and alone – not knowing if you’re the only person left alive in your city. The Night Eats The World is much more successful in this regard, and feels like the fresher movie even if it is the slower, more drama focused. Yoo Ah-in is perfectly serviceable as our lone survivor, suitably clumsy and naïve, yet capable of bravery when desperation calls for it. The story doesn’t truly explore his character beyond the fleeting looks at family photos or checking for texts, and I feel like the better film would have been him keeping in contact with each of the streamer friends from the start of the movie, follows their daily updates from his perspective until the power eventually goes out. The apartment location isn’t used to its full potential, at least not until the second half of the movie, and when certain reveals are made, you expect them and any twists which come along. It’s not a game-changer, but in terms of a Netflix Korean zombie movie in a contemporary setting, it manages to remain watchable without ever being scary or gruesome or particularly thought-provoking. It’s a one-off popcorn movie for people not familiar with the genre or who have a particular affinity of South Korean actors.

Let us know in the comments what you though of #Alive!

 

The Forest Of Love

The Forest of Love | Netflix Official Site

Sion Sono is one of the finest directors working today – a true auteur and one whose films never shy away from controversy. Due to this fact, his films can be an acquired taste running the gamut from tasteless to touching, from being wildly inventive to morally dubious. Forest Of Love is no different – a film (and later a longer Director’s Cut transformed into a TV series rather like Tokyo Vampire Hotel and Love Exposure) based on a real life series of crimes which… yeah, you don’t really want to read about those. Having been unaware of the crimes, or the fact that film was loosely ‘inspired’ by the story surrounding the crimes, I was left with a confusing duality in my opinion about the film. The film walks a very thin line between who we should feel sympathy for and places its antagonist in such a Patrick Bateman-esque lead, bombastic position that you can’t help but be enchanted by his presence. I imagine that was half of the point – to attempt to show just how some people can become so wrapped up in the charm and mystique of a person that they would kill or die for them. Japan has a history of such cult figures, and Sion Sono has covered this type of character and belief system in many of his films. Forest Of Love may feature his most charismatic lead yet.

If you’re not familiar with Sono’s work, Forest Of Love’s opening moments can be jarring. There’s a multitude of characters interspersed over seemingly unrelated story arcs, and he plays fast and loose with title cards, editing, and musical score. The characters we meet early on include con man Joe Murata (in a star turn by Kippei Shiina), outcast film nerd friends Jay and Fukami, virgin loser Shin, and rebellious loner Taeko. Through shared secret pasts and hopes for the future, these groups come together, but further secrets are continually revealed as individual motives bubble violently to the surface.

Murata is a bewilderingly charismatic presence, at various times through the movie appearing as a screen writer, director, professor, businessman, pop star, cultist, masochist, and more, and the viewer can’t help but enjoy his performance and character. As things become aggressively darker in the second half, we’re forced to re-evaluate or opinions. His character is not the only one to make us question our feelings, with a number of core characters twisting 180 degrees or further.  When the closing text reveals that the film was based on a true, recent series of murders we need to re-evaluate further. What is the purpose of it all?

Sono enjoys making already muddy waters even more enticing and dank, seemingly revelling in the ambiguity of his stories, characters and audience reaction. In a film dealing with all manner of violence, from self harming to suicide, from torture and murder to body disposal, he directs with a wink and a smile, and with the auteur energy of a much younger, overly enthusiastic master. It’s easy to draw parallels to far such as Man Bites Dog or Natural Born Killers, but this is very much its own thing with its own style and fog-shrouded lessons. I can’t recommend it as a good time – even as I thoroughly enjoyed it – but I can recommend it as yet another top tier engaging opus from Sono. I know Sono is branching out with Nic Cage this year, hopefully bringing his madcap skills to a new Western audience, but there’s little stopping people from jumping in the bandwagon early as this is available on Netflix for everyone now.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The Forest Of Love!

Re:born

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Greetings, Glancers! In case there was any uncertainty – this is NOT a post proclaiming some glorious rebirth of my flagging blog; no, it is merely a movie review – a review of a movie called Re:born. It’s an Asian action movie, so that means lots of kicking, punching, stabbing, and guns, characters with mysterious pasts and unknown futures, and a story which we’re not going to care about as long as it doesn’t get in the way of any of the above.

Re:born sees Tak Sakaguchi showcasing a new type of martial art (Zero Range Combat) and a lot of up-close shoulder wriggling, as he slices and dices his way through literally hundreds of faceless bad guys so that he can… protect his niece? Hide his true self? Dispatch of an old frenemy? It’s something to do with all of those things. You see, he is a bit of a myth – an ex-soldier who military types speak of in whispered camp-fire breaths – who somehow slaughtered baddies way back in Vietnam and is still at it today. He’s basically Rambo, but with less talking and a more minimalist arsenal. For unknown reasons, an old frenemy wants to draw him and and kill him, doing this by sending wave after wave of fodder for him to rip apart. His fight begins on the streets where we see just how silent, smooth, and lethal a killing machine he is, it moves to his place of work where we see that he’s not much of a fan of convenience stores (beyond their microwaveable food), and on to some random forest where him and two mates take on an entire army.

Best known for Versus and Azumi, Sakaguchi plays the well worn near-mute killer trope well, though at no point does he look to be under any real threat, no matter how many bullets are fired at him. We’re left with a tacked on story with some bonus forgettable mythos, and a bunch of fight scenes. Which is fine, because I like fight scenes. I’ve seen so many now though, that as enjoyable and brutal as they may be, other films have raised the stakes in terms of visceral and technical quality, storytelling, and emotional content. I’m never going to turn down a martial arts movie – there’s better out there than this, but plenty worse too.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Re:born!