Sometimes you see things on the internet that leave you speechless…
Bizarre, creepy and surreal…
By Shane M. Dallmann
So, we start in a spooky amusement park, and I ask myself “Are we going to get the creepy carousel or the hall of mirrors?” We get the carousel. It’s all a dream, of course, but we know where we’re eventually headed.
Sharon (Adelaide Clemens), the little girl from the first film, is now about to turn eighteen, and she’s on the run with her father (Sean Bean), assuming a series of cover identities as Dad tries to protect her from “the horrible truth.” For her own protection, she refuses to make friends at her new school, but she acquires the companionship of a leather-jacketed misfit named Vince (Kit Harington) all the same. And now the visions are starting, as are the messages telling her to go to Silent Hill. Dad warns her never to do that. But we all know how well THAT’S going to work. Long story short, she goes.
Characters appear at random (including cameo appearances by the cast of the first film) and blow through all sorts of complicated backstory stuff (it might be more coherent if you’re familiar with the video game, which I’m not). And it all boils down to a truly risible Cenobite grudge match… oh, I’m sorry–did I confuse this with a HELLRAISER film? Well, the people who made THIS did, too!
So I can’t in all good conscience elevate this to the top tier. But it’s a damn shame, because this sequel (written and directed by Michael J. Bassett of SOLOMON KANE) is actually much better (not to mention much faster-paced: there’s no time-consuming subplot business here, even though a couple of cops pop up in the early going, presumably to set up the highly-unlikely third installment) than the original SILENT HILL. It has some of the scariest and most gruesome imagery in recent memory and some genuinely terrific creature effects (the mannequin monster alone more than sealed the deal for me); Malcolm McDowell is great fun while he lasts as an asylum patient (imagine that), and the film was MADE for flawless 3-D.
So, yes. See it on the big screen while you still can. Enough said.
By Shane M. Dallmann
I first became aware of The RZA when he supplied the soundtrack to the astonishing GHOST DOG: WAY OF THE SAMURAI quite some time ago–it didn’t take me long to learn about the Wu-Tang Clan and his/their fascination with Chinese martial arts movies. And I’ve enjoyed Eli Roth’s various “homage” movies all the way back to CABIN FEVER. As such, I figured the RZA/Roth screenwriting collaboration on the full-bore 70s martial arts tribute THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS as a “sure thing,” or at the very least, a “guilty pleasure.” Unfortunately, “missed opportunity” is closer to the truth.
Okay, we’ve got the Chinese village known as “Jungle,” in which a variety of animal-themed clans (Lions, Wolves, Hyenas, what have you) wage constant warfare. The latest bit of Jungle treachery (over a huge shipment of gold) has resulted in the murder of the father of one Zen Yi (Rick Yune) and set him on the vengeance trail. Also arriving in Jungle around that time are such characters as British adventurer Mr. Knife (“You can call me Jack,” says Russell Crowe in an admittedly terrific introductory scene), the Gemini Killers, Poison Dagger, and of course (as you no doubt noticed in the trailers), former WWE champion David Bautista in quite the entertaining turn as “Brass Body.” Meanwhile, Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu) observes all of the above while keeping charge of her all-important “entertainment” business. And RZA himself? He’s the weapons-forging blacksmith caught in the middle…
With all of this going on (and, of course, with Russell Crowe being there), I figured we were headed for a martial arts tournament straight out of Sam Raimi’s THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. Nothing so organized. The various characters collide and attempt to wipe each other out from the word ‘go,’ and this is acceptable enough for a while, as the film offers plenty of innovative weapons (and places to hide them) and free-flowing gore (mostly CGI, but that’s good enough for the requisite SHOGUN ASSASSIN tribute) until the whole thing grinds to a halt to make way for RZA (who also directed) to introduce himself as the ostensible main character. The problem is that he’s the least interesting character in the entire movie. Sure, the emancipated (but still fugitive) American slave who finds himself washed ashore in China could have been vital and fascinating, but here he’s given such a generic, bare-bones backstory that the cameos by Pam Grier and Gordon Liu barely even register (let alone matter) along the way.
Nevertheless, we find out where the blacksmith came from, and then it’s time to find out just what he’s going to do to resolve the chaotic storyline. And things get reasonably fun again (thanks to the “supporting” characters, especially Byron Mann as the hissably villainous Silver Lion), but never do they truly come together for the exhilarating epic this could and should have been. In short, aside from the lovingly-created period setting, there is absolutely nothing here that “presenter” Quentin Tarantino didn’t already do better in KILL BILL (both halves), and I’m far more intrigued to find out what he did with similar themes in a spaghetti-western format in DJANGO UNCHAINED next month.
If you thought GRINDHOUSE was a good drive-in double bill, then THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS would squeak by as the “weekends only” third feature. But not much else. Sorry.
By Shane M. Dallmann
The 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise already demands an event worthy of the occasion… but even if it hadn’t, QUANTUM OF SOLACE would have demanded something far more worthy of the phenomenon.
Now, I didn’t actually hate QUANTUM, but I found it the least Bond-like of all Bond films. Daniel Craig had already taken the role by force in CASINO ROYALE and was perfectly fine in said follow-up, but the herky-jerky editing and abbreviated running time never let the pure Bond effect settle into place–even when the filmmakers threw in the woman drowned in motor oil for the sake of a GOLDFINGER moment. Sorry–too obvious.
So again–SKYFALL had quite a lot riding on its shoulders… and I am more than happy to report that it lives up to all of its responsibilities–and THEN some.
Yes, the series was officially ‘rebooted’ when Craig took the role, but CASINO ROYALE established a respectful continuity with the previous films all the same by retaining Judi Dench as “M” and the use of an actual Ian Fleming story–along with such sharp rebukes as “Do I look like I give a damn?” to the classic “Shaken, not stirred.” QUANTUM used a Fleming title but almost nothing else in its apparent attempt to distance itself from the past. SKYFALL is neither a Fleming title nor a Fleming story, but it certainly acknowledges the character as created by Fleming as he might exist in today’s world… and it also graciously accepts its cinematic heritage as neither of the previous Craig films did (including a carefully shaken martini being referred to as “Perfect” by Bond).
I’m not going to get into the story as there’s so much to discover here. I will simply assure you that SKYFALL gives you absolutely everything you could want from a Bond… ANY Bond. The slamming preliminary sequence. The concept of Bond being left for dead (interestingly, part of both the book and the movie called YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, though the idea was handled completely differently in each case). The marvelous title song by Adele and the haunting title sequence. The exotic locales (including the casino in Macau). The beautiful women that may or may not be able to help Bond… and whom he may or may not be able to help himself (Naomie Harris as Eve and Berenice Marlohe as Severine). Brutal life-or-death fights, death around every corner in many a surprising form. An amazingly compelling villain (there’s already Oscar talk for Javier Bardem as Silva, who goes Sean Bean’s GOLDENEYE nemesis one better while boasting a none-too-dissimilar motivation).
And all of it in a world that often wonders why we even need a James Bond anymore–and that always expresses concern when an actor seems to be getting “too old” for the role: it’s an absolute credit to Daniel Craig that he can pull off this concern in only his third go-round–his refusal to play Bond as unflappably dapper pays off in huge dividends here as “the old ways” are contrasted with the reality of cyber-terrorism and faceless, baseless enemies. One gets the feeling that anything–absolutely anything–could happen here. (And one thing that definitely DOES happen is the first–and by my guess, only–legitimate F-bomb to be heard anywhere in the series… I will leave it for you to discover as it makes a legitimate impact and is not in the least gratuitous.)
But in the meantime, the “Bond” elements missing from the previous two entries are also starting to fall into place… as you probably saw in the trailers, we have a new, young “Q” who possesses the cyber-skills you’d expect from a stereotypical ‘nerd’ but who nevertheless knows exactly, precisely what Bond’s going to need. There will be more surprises. There will be a wonderful supporting performance by Albert Finney. And THIS time we get the GOLDFINGER moment that actually works… no spoilers here, but the moment is enhanced with the very music you need and a truly uproarious dialogue exchange between two crucial characters. This one’s for YOU, you “old-school” fan, you.
I don’t need to prove my credentials. I’ve read every Bond book and have seen every Bond film multiple times–I’m as well-versed and respectful as any fan you could name. I acknowledge highs and I acknowledge lows. As such, I can’t pronounce SKYFALL to be “better” than, for convenient example, GOLDFINGER, because SKYFALL, by its very nature, could never have existed without such heritage. I will, however, acknowledge SKYFALL to be as great a James Bond film as has EVER been made.