A few short reviews here for films which wouldn’t sustain full posts on their own.
Wolf Creek 2
The first Wolf Creek was an effective and quite disturbing horror/slasher movie with a touch about it of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Half-decent horror movies generally garner a following and so it’s no surprise this one spawned a sequel. It’s not as good as the first movie but still does a reasonable job and is worth a watch for anyone who liked the first film. The best thing about the series is John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor, the consummate outback hunter, survivor, and psychopathic serial killer. The first section of the film is probably the strongest, and it goes downhill after that, but still managed to hold our attention until the end.
Apparently the next instalment in the series is going to be a six-part TV series. I’m not sure how I feel about that, as it kind of feels like the story has run its course at this point. Another movie probably would need to move away from the area depicted in the films, but then it wouldn’t be Wolf Creek anymore. I think I’ll see check the reviews before watching this one.
Ironclad starts off kind of interesting, claiming at the beginning that it will cover the events that took place after the signing of the Magna Carta. It’s more or less a work of fiction, though. It lazily follows the trope of vilifying King John, but I’m always intrigued by films which deal with distant British history and so was prepared to give it a chance.
Unfortunately, like most films dealing with medieval history, this film is pretty dismal. It has a promising cast, with James Purefoy, Brian Cox, and fan favourite Charles Dance; and features an early fight scene which is impressive in its brutality and choreography. But the film eschews the opportunity to make a halfway intelligent historical drama and instead to do the tired old ‘Magnificent Seven in a new setting’. I love it when films market themselves that way, refusing to acknowledge the Magnificent Seven was itself a remake of Seven Samurai. Anyway, Purefoy and Cox travel around the south of England recruiting out of work actors to help them tackle King John. This is where the film starts to lose steam: each new actor ‘reveal’ feels like it’s supposed to be a special moment, but this is hardly Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson we’re talking about here. At one point I was dreading they were going to introduce Simon Pegg, but thankfully they don’t. They do have one other unwatchable buffoon; one who barely has a proper line, spends the film cackling, and seems to specialize in killing people in the most degrading manner possible.
Anyway, the film descends into charmless stupidity once the band hole themselves up in Rochester Castle and await King John and his pagan Danish mercenaries. The film reaches a new low when it introduces Kate Mara–probably my second least favourite actress in the world–whose sole purpose seems to be to make eyes at James Purefoy, a celibate Knight Templar.
Although this formula has been done to death, as 13 Assassins recently made clear, it is still possible to make films like this in a fresh, exciting and intelligent way. Ironclad is the opposite. Avoid.
Under the Skin
Scarlet Johannson plays an alien who spends its time picking up progressively ugly Glaswegian men and sort of killing them in an oily pond. From its opening shot, Under the Skin goes out of its way to ram home the idea this is supposed to be a fancy, arty film. I have a lot of time for genuinely intelligent arthouse-style films, and for films which take their time. However, this isn’t one of those.
Under the Skin is a pretentious, boring, and massively overlong fiasco of a movie. The film’s stock-in-trade is long shots of Scarlet Johannson, often accompanied by various men she picks up in her white van on the streets of Glasgow, or obtuse shots of scenery. There are a few weird and disturbing images, but for the most part this is just a near two-hour film in which hardly anything happens, and which is excruciatingly tedious. You know, you could just film a person going about their daily business for two hours and it would be about a million times more interesting and profound than this, and it wouldn’t cost £8 million like this did. What a waste.
I remember when Under the Skin came out, it received rave reviews (the Guardian is particularly culpable), and I’ve been curious to see it for a while. Having now watched it, the critical reception of this film for me epitomises the pointlessness of professional film critics. Puffing up this film just seems to me a simple case of pseudo-intellectual posturing by people trying to justify their untenable existence as a professional caste. I’ve had a pop at video game journalists before, but you can’t beat a Guardian film critic for fatuousness and redundancy.